Friday, May 18, 2012

No retreat on press freedom globally for first time in eight years, says Freedom House

9 May 2012

No retreat on press freedom globally for first time in eight years, says Freedom House


Freedom House’s 2012 press freedom map: green=free, yellow=partly free, purple=not freeFreedom House’s 2012 press freedom map: green=free, yellow=partly free, purple=not free
With authoritarian regimes crumbling in the Middle East and North Africa, freedom of the press made precarious gains in 2011, and for the first time in eight years showed no overall decline, says Freedom House in its annual global survey.

The Arab Spring unleashed the media in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, which all rose from "not free" to "partly free", according to the report.

"The newly opened media environments in countries like Tunisia and Libya, while still tenuous and far from perfect, are critical for the future of democratic development in the region and must be nurtured and protected," Freedom House's president David J. Kramer said.

China and authoritarian nations in Africa and the Middle East censored news of the Arab Spring, Freedom House said. In Uganda, Angola and Djibouti, "the authorities cracked down, sometimes violently, on journalists covering the demonstrations."

As usual, Western democracies ranked high in the report. But Freedom House marked down the ranking of the United States slightly for heavy-handed police crackdowns on journalists covering various Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.

The United Kingdom also was marked down slightly for riot-related press restrictions, and legal "super-injunctions" that bar the media from reporting even the existence of an injunction against coverage of celebrities and wealthy individuals.

Italy, a rare example of a Western Europe nation not rated as having a free press, rose slightly in Freedom House's rankings as media magnate Silvio Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister. But it is still considered only "partly free".

Although established democracies historically do quite well in Freedom House's survey, two had their status downgraded from "free" to "partly free".

"Heightened harassment of journalists trying to cover protest movements contributed to a decline in Chile's status," Freedom House said.

"And following a sharp numerical slide in 2010, Hungary was downgraded to 'partly free' due to concerted efforts by the conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to seize control over the legal and regulatory framework for media,'" the report said.

Of 197 countries surveyed on a wide variety of freedom of press issues, Freedom House found 66 nations rated "free," 72 "partly free" and 59 "not free".

Largely because of China, "which boasts the world's most sophisticated system of media repression," Freedom House found that 40.5 percent of the world's population live in a "not free" media environment, while 45 percent had a "partly free" press and just 14.5 percent live in counties with a "free press".

Freedom House listed eight nations as the "worst of the worst" for press freedom: Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 
Source : IFEX

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up

25 April 2012

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up



The full findings won't be released until 2013, but the report details how external auditors are being granted unprecedented access to the workings of the three Internet giants to see if they are ready and willing to implement GNI's principles on free expression and privacy.

Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists (which belongs to GNI) said, "Six years ago the idea that the titans of the Internet would open up their inner workings to outside scrutiny seemed a stretch."
According to the report, all three companies "need to engage more directly with human rights groups and scrutinise vendors more closely."

GNI specifically faults the tech industry as a whole for insufficient restrictions surrounding "dual-use" hardware technologies, such as routing and network equipment, that could be used for censorship and surveillance purposes.

The report also raised concerns about vendor contracts in place before GNI was established in 2008, as well as the need for tech firms to make specific disclosure to users when their data might be viewed by government authorities. It also recommends better free expression and privacy training for the board of directors.

GNI is a voluntary group of Internet companies, freedom of expression groups, progressive investors, and academics that includes IFEX members CPJ, Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship. It aims to provide a global standard for the Internet and technology sector when dealing with government requests affecting free speech and privacy.
sOURCE: IFEX

9 May 2012

Facebook joins Internet freedom group

 

Facebook has become the first official observer at the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a non-government organisation dedicated to promoting Internet freedom and privacy rights, GNI announced last week.

GNI - which counts Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! as founding members - was created in 2008 to help global Internet companies deal with government requests affecting free speech and privacy. IFEX members the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship belong to the initiative.


GNI works with independent assessors to evaluate how companies are handling challenges they face.


According to "Politico", Facebook has resisted pressure from lawmakers to join in the past, and other than the initial members, technology firms have been slow to embrace the organisation.


"The resistance is, in part, due to concern that the organisation is too focused on corporate assessments, something large companies are more apt to do than smaller ones. Critics believe GNI should be looking more at government practices around the world that constrain the Internet," said "Politico".


"Others argue that it is the role of governments to take stands on human rights not private companies," the U.S. political paper added.


Facebook's 12-month observer status means it will participate in GNI sessions but doesn't have to commit to the GNI principles, or submit to an independent assessment. After 12 months, the firm will either have to decide to join or leave GNI.


"If they walk away at the end of 12 months, it will be apparent to people they are walking away from accountability," Arvind Ganesan, a GNI board member from Human Rights Watch, told "Politico".


Meg Roggensack of Human Rights First, another GNI member, said that "because of its size and scope, Facebook is a leader [in] privacy. It's important that they be in the tent not outside of it. This doesn't put them in the tent, but it's an important step and underlines our point that companies can't go it alone."


Facebook vice president for global public policy Marne Levine said the company wants to work with GNI and its members "to promote a free and open Internet."


"Building a better understanding of the value of the open Internet, and its direct impact on job creation, education, and good governance, is critical, and precisely where the work of GNI can be useful," Levine said.


The news comes as Facebook is preparing for its initial public offering, in which the company is projected to raise US$10 billion. In order to grow, Facebook may be interested in entering China, which could present some human rights issues, says "Politico". 

 Source : IFEX

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up

25 April 2012

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up



The Global Network Initiative (GNI) has just released its annual report, which takes a critical look at how three of its founding members, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, are giving information to repressive governments or working with unscrupulous vendors.

The full findings won't be released until 2013, but the report details how external auditors are being granted unprecedented access to the workings of the three Internet giants to see if they are ready and willing to implement GNI's principles on free expression and privacy.

Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists (which belongs to GNI) said, "Six years ago the idea that the titans of the Internet would open up their inner workings to outside scrutiny seemed a stretch."

According to the report, all three companies "need to engage more directly with human rights groups and scrutinise vendors more closely."

GNI specifically faults the tech industry as a whole for insufficient restrictions surrounding "dual-use" hardware technologies, such as routing and network equipment, that could be used for censorship and surveillance purposes.

The report also raised concerns about vendor contracts in place before GNI was established in 2008, as well as the need for tech firms to make specific disclosure to users when their data might be viewed by government authorities. It also recommends better free expression and privacy training for the board of directors.

GNI is a voluntary group of Internet companies, freedom of expression groups, progressive investors, and academics that includes IFEX members CPJ, Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship. It aims to provide a global standard for the Internet and technology sector when dealing with government requests affecting free speech and privacy.

Source : IFEX

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

OAS adopts proposals that could weaken role of free expression special rapporteur

OAS adopts proposals that could weaken role of free expression special rapporteur


New proposals adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States could be used to threaten the authority of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero
New proposals adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States could be used to threaten the authority of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero
The Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council adopted the proposals of a working group that could be used to threaten the authority of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, report IFEX's Latin American and Caribbean group (IFEX-ALC), the International Press Institute (IPI) and other IFEX members.

As IFEX reported last month, those recommendations had been designed and pushed for by Ecuador, whose government has repeatedly criticised the efforts of the special rapporteur for interfering in internal affairs.

Ecuador's permanent representative to the OAS, María Isabel Salvador, stressed that her country wanted only to ensure that all eight Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) rapporteurships were being treated equally. "All rights deserve the same attention and all rapporteurships should have the same resources," she told news reporters, according to IPI.

Unlike the other rapporteurs, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression publishes an extensive stand-alone annual report and benefits from external funding. If fully implemented, Ecuador's recommendations would end both of those practices, forcing the inclusion of the annual report into a larger report about the region generally and requiring balanced funding among the rapporteurs. The third recommendation calls for a code of conduct to govern the rapporteur.

IFEX-ALC, an alliance of 16 IFEX members based in the region, along with international rights groups such as IPI, ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have spoken out in support of the rapporteur, Catalina Botero, and the office she leads.

According to the Knight Center, more than 60 NGOs and civil society representatives have alleged that the changes will damage the rapporteur's effectiveness and autonomy.

While there is still concern, IFEX-ALC members and the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information noted that there was not unanimous support for Ecuador's recommendations on the Permanent Council. They say that "an overwhelming majority" said the recommendations "should be adopted only if they would lead to a genuine strengthening of the system in place to protect human rights and the work of the special rapporteur."

Countries like Costa Rica, Uruguay and Panama strongly supported the existing role of the special rapporteur and rejected any significant reforms that could weaken its mandate, they said.

But Mexico and Colombia had ambiguous responses. The Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) criticised the Colombian representative for characterising the reforms as "positive" and for not defending the role played by the special rapporteur in guaranteeing freedom of expression in the region.

For the moment, the recommendations are non-binding. According to the Knight Center, final approval depends on the votes of the 34 member nations at the next OAS General Assembly meeting, which will be held in Bolivia in June 2012.

In the meantime, IFEX-ALC members and the Regional Alliance have written to OAS members and encouraged them to "carefully evaluate the recommendations…, only adopting those that do not negatively affect the system itself, or potential victims or users of the Inter-American Human Rights System."

Source : IFEX

Nominate the blog that best defends free expression

Nominate the blog that best defends free expression

The world's largest international blog competition is now open for entries! Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in conjunction with German media group Deutsche Welle wants you to name the blog from anywhere in the world that best defends free expression, as part of the Best of the Blogs Awards (the BOBs).

Suggest candidates in 17 categories, including the RSF award, which aims to support bloggers in countries where freedom of speech and press are limited - and goes to a blog that takes a strong stance for freedom of information all over the world.

There are also awards for Best Blog, Best Use of Technology for Social Good, Best Social Activism Campaign, Best Video Channel, and best blog in each of the BOBs' 11 contest languages.

This year the Special Topic Award puts the spotlight on culture and education, paying special attention to projects and initiatives that look at the right to education and promote intercultural dialogue.

Then, for a month starting on 2 April, look over the nominees in each category and vote for the ones you think represent the best of the best. Winners will be announced on 2 May.

Nominate your favourites here.

Source : IFEX 

Data Journalism Awards open for entries

7 March 2012

Data Journalism Awards open for entries

Think you can get your message across in an age of information overload? Consider applying for the Data Journalism Awards, the first international contest recognising outstanding work and editorial excellence in the field of data journalism worldwide. The deadline for submissions is 10 April 2012.

The Data Journalism Awards are organised by the Global Editors Network, Google and the European Journalism Centre.

The jury, which include representatives from "The New York Times", Thomson-Reuters and "La Nacion", will select a winner for local/regional and national/international work from each the following three categories: data-driven investigative journalism; data visualisation and storytelling; and data-driven applications.

A total of 45,000 Euros (US $57,000) is up for distribution to the winners, who will be announced at the Global News Network's World Summit in Paris on 31 May 2012.


Source: IFEX

Kurt Schork Awards now accepting submissions

11 April 2012

Kurt Schork Awards now accepting submissions



The Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism celebrate freelance journalists and local reporters who show great courage in reporting on controversial issues. The deadline for entries is 31 May 2012.

Two prizes of US$5,000 each are awarded annually, one to a freelance journalist covering international news, and the other to a local journalist covering events within their home country or region. The stories can be about conflict, human rights, cross-border issues, corruption, or any other issue of controversy in a particular country or region.

Underwritten by the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund, the prizes honour Kurt Schork, a U.S. freelance journalist who was killed in a military ambush while on assignment for Reuters in Sierra Leone in May 2000.

For more information, visit the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund awards page.


Source : IFEX

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thailand: Grandfather sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for anti-monarchy text messages

Thailand: Grandfather sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for anti-monarchy text messages

Amphon Tangnoppaku, also known as Ar Kong, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on 23 November 2011 by a Thai criminal court for sending four text messages deemed as insulting against the Queen of Thailand. This is the heaviest sentence ever handed down for a lèse-majesté case.

Amphon was convicted for violating both the lèse-majesté law (Article 112 of the Penal Code) and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, but was sentenced under the lèse-majesté law which allows for heavier penalties. Amphon is to serve, consecutively, five years imprisonment for each text message. Amphon was accused of sending these text messages to the personal secretary of ex-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva during the street protests in May 2010.

“This verdict is shocking and shows the Thai authorities’ complete disregard for freedom of expression,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “We were encouraged last month when the government admitted that the use of the lèse-majesté law can adversely affect freedom of expression, however this latest development proves those words to be empty. We are saddened for Amphon and this extreme injustice.”

During Thailand’s human rights review before the United Nations Human Rights Council last month, ARTICLE 19, and a number countries including France and Norway publicly stated that the lèse-majesté law, by its very existence, constitutes a threat to legitimate political expression and freedom of expression. Many other nations including Indonesia and Brazil expressed concerns and recommended reform of the laws.

ARTICLE 19 is also alarmed about the lack of reliable or compelling legal evidence in this conviction. Although the judge conceded that the technical evaluation of evidence could not conclusively incriminate Amphon, the court proceeded to find him guilty.

Since his arrest on 3 August 2010, Amphon has been detained without bail and will likely be moved to a high penalty prison on Friday 25 November 2011. ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about Amphon’s welfare, as he suffers from laryngeal cancer and lacks access to proper medical treatment.

ARTICLE 19 calls for the immediate reversal of Amphon’s conviction and for his immediate release. Whilst under government authority, Amphon must be given proper medical care to ensure his well-being. Furthermore, ARTICLE 19 continues to call for the lèse-majesté law to be repealed and for the Computer Crimes Act to be brought in accordance with the Thai constitution and international standards.
ARTICLE 19


60 Farringdon Road

London, England EC1R 3GA

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bahraini forces rape, kill female poet

Bahraini forces rape, kill female poet
Bahraini poet Ayat al-Ghermezi
Thursday Apr 21, 2011
A female Bahraini activist who has composed anti-government poems has been killed, after being arrested and raped by Manama forces.


Ayat al-Ghermezi, 20, had recited her poems, in which she slammed the ruling regime and Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifah Ibn Salman al-Khalifah, during protests in Pearl Square in the capital city, Manama, Fardanews reported.

Shortly afterwards, Ghermezi received an influx of insulting and intimidating letters and emails, but when she referred to the police to report the threats, she was insulted and mocked by officers, her family says.

In late March, security forces raided Ghermezi's home twice, threatening her family to reveal Ayat's whereabouts, otherwise they would “destroy the house over your heads, by the order of high-ranking officials.”

After the security forces coerced Gehrmezi's family into disclosing her hideout, the family heard no word from her, Ayat's mother said.

When the family started searching for Ayat, the police told them they have no information about Ayat and tried to force them to confirm through a letter that their daughter had gone missing.

In mid-April, an anonymous call was made to Gehrmezi's family, informing them that Ayat was in coma at an army Hospital.

At the hospital, doctors confirmed that Ayat had gone into coma after being raped for several times.
Eventually, the physicians' efforts failed to save Ayat's life and she died at the army hospital.

So far, several other women, including doctors, university professors and students, have been kidnapped or arrested by Bahraini security forces.

Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters in Bahrain have poured into the streets, calling for an end to Al-Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled the country for almost forty years.

On March 13, Saudi-led forces were dispatched to the Persian Gulf island at Manama's request to quell the countrywide protests.

According to local sources, dozens of people have been killed and hundreds arrested so far during the government clampdown on the peaceful demonstrations.

This is while the independent sources in Bahrain have not yet commented on this matter.

source : Press TV



---------------------------------

Journalist brutally assaulted by members of ruling party's youth wing

8 June 2011

source: IFEX

Journalist brutally assaulted by members of ruling party's youth wing

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - A serious incident involving an attack on a journalist has come to Freedom Forum's attention. The incident occurred on the evening of 5 June 2011 in the city of Biratnagar, southeastern Nepal.

Members of the Youth Force (YF), a sister organisation of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), attacked Khilanath Dhakal, a reporter for the "Nagarik" national daily paper. The journalist was criticised for having reported on an attack by YF cadres on a police team at the Morang district court.

Dhakal was brutally beaten by a number of YF cadres, including the driver of the group's district chairman, Parshu Ram Basnet. The reporter's nose was broken and he suffered serious injuries to his head and other parts of his body.

The attack was orchestrated by Rohit Koirala, who heads the YF in Biratnagar. He approached the journalist near the district education office and took him to a secluded area under the pretext of having a conversation. Dhakal was then surrounded by the YF cadres and brutally beaten.

Managing to escape, Dhakal was picked up by a police patrol and taken to hospital. "If the police had not come across me on time, I would have been finished off right there," the journalist was quoted as saying in "Nagarik" newspaper.

The reporter has filed a complaint with the police. On 7 June, local journalists also submitted a written complaint against Basnet and his aides, Koirala and Manoj Rai, at the Morang District Police Office.

In response, Basnet, who is the prime accused in the attack, warned the journalists of "dire consequences" if the complaint lodged against him and his two aides was not withdrawn.

"He (Basnet) called me today, saying the complaint can be withdrawn even after it lands in the office of the government attorney and warning us to take it back," journalist Gokul Parajuli told a gathering of fellow reporters on 7 June. "He said he has given us a chance to withdraw the complaint and asked us to consider this option."

The police arrested Koirala on 7 June but Basnet and Rai are still at large. The police administration has been reluctant to arrest Basnet, which suggests that the Morang district chairman has likely been given political protection.

Meanwhile, the legislature has condemned the brutal attack. Addressing a parliamentary meeting on 7 June, UCPN (Maoist) Spokesman Dinanath Sharma said, "The incident of a journalist being attacked by the members of the prime minister's own party's youth organization, the Youth Force, is very serious. The incident sends the wrong message to the people."

Freedom Forum condemns the attack on Dhakal and wishes for his speedy recovery. It strongly urges the CPN-UML, and its sister organisation the YCL, not to repeat such inhuman acts which are an assault on the free press, human rights and democracy.

Freedom Forum also condemns the threats issued against the journalists by Basnet. It urges the government and other concerned authorities to immediately arrest the prime accused and bring him to book in accordance with the law. If he is not sanctioned, impunity will prevail and journalists will face increasing insecurity. Moreover, it would be an indication that media freedom is being gagged by the weakening democracy in the country.


Source:

Freedom Forum
P.O. Box: 24292
Thapathali, Kathmandu
Nepal
info (@) freedomforum.org.np
Phone: +977 01 4102022
Fax: +977 01 40102030

Nominate someone for the Gleitsman International Activist Award

25 May 2011

Nominate someone for the Gleitsman International Activist Award

Source : IFEX
Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership is seeking out the next winner of its Gleitsman International Activist Award. Nominate individuals you believe have initiated great social change in their communities or countries. The deadline for nominations is 30 June 2011.

The award will be given in the fall of 2011 and includes a $125,000 prize and a specially commissioned sculpture designed by Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam War Memorial. Past honorees include Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Yunus, and, most recently, Karen Tse, founder of International Bridges to Justice.

Please note that the award is not presented posthumously, nor is it granted to groups or organisations. Self nominations cannot be considered.

Missing journalist found dead

8 June 2011

Missing journalist found dead; newspaper bombed


Noel López Olguín
Noel López Olguín


And in a separate attack in the northern state of Coahuila two days earlier, a grenade was thrown at the headquarters of a newspaper that exposed organised crime and corruption, report the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and other IFEX members.

A columnist for the newspaper "La Verdad de Jáltipan", López was kidnapped on 8 March by gunmen in two SUVs. His body was found after an organised crime leader arrested by the Mexican army confessed to killing the journalist.

According to RSF, the journalist had appealed to the public to report abuses by the authorities and organised crime. He had also worked for the weeklies "Noticias de Acayucan" and "Horizonte" in Veracruz. But drug-related violence has fostered a culture of fear in the region, and after he was kidnapped media outlets either denied knowing López or said he had contributed to their publications a long time ago, presumably because they feared reprisals, reports CPJ.

Veracruz is a major transit point for drugs being trafficked to the U.S. and the much-feared paramilitary group Los Zetas is said to be very active around Jáltipan, the town where López Olguín lived and worked.

In Saltillo, Coahuila state on 30 May, a grenade was lobbed at the headquarters of an independent and prestigious newspaper, the "Vanguardia" - the oldest and largest newspaper in the city. No one was injured, but the newspaper did not report the grenade in its print or online editions due to fear of more attacks. The paper has received threats in the past for its reports.

In 2010, more than a dozen news facilities in the country were attacked with either guns or explosives. "In Mexico, organised crime continues to spread terror among members of the media without any consequence. The government of President Felipe Calderón must not tolerate criminal intimidation of the press into silence," said CPJ.

Friday, June 3, 2011

G8: New Unjustified Internet Restrictions Would Hamper Free Flow of Information

ARTICLE 19

PRESS RELEASE

May 2011

G8: New Unjustified Internet Restrictions Would Hamper Free Flow of Information
Paris 26.05.2011: ARTICLE 19 is very concerned by apparent efforts by the G8, led by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, to impose tighter controls of the Internet. ARTICLE 19 once again calls on all states, including G8 member states, not to violate their freedom of expression obligations by imposing unjustifiable restrictions on the Internet. They should instead follow the recommendations in the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom expression’s new report, which emphasise the applicability of international human right standards to the Internet.
During his address to the e-G8 Forum in Paris on 24 May 2011 - which included leaders of the world’s most powerful Internet companies but few representatives from civil society - President Sarkozy asserted that there is a “collective responsibility” upon G8 states to forge a global consensus on rules relating to the Internet. He told delegates at the meeting that the internet is not a parallel universe where legal and moral rules do not apply. Previously, he has repeatedly called for the development of a “civilized internet.” According to AFP, the G8 is reported to be developing a statement which will call on states to develop new rules to promote "respect for the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms and the protection of intellectual property.”

ARTICLE 19 strongly urges all G8 states to reject any attempt to impose stricter regulations of the Internet. To the contrary, we urge G8 states and other states to fully implement their international human rights obligations on freedom of expression with respect to Internet access according to the UN Special Rapporteur’s specific recommendations,” said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

At this time of heightened debate on Internet-based speech, ARTICLE 19 welcomes the important and timely report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, on the internet and freedom of expression, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 3 June 2011.

The UN Special Rapporteur expressed “deep concern” about “increasingly sophisticated technologies to block content, monitor and identify activists and critics, criminalisation of legitimate expression, and adoption of restrictive legislation to justify measures,” as well as the lack of transparency surrounding such measures, particularly when they appear to be used to prevent the dissemination of information that is embarrassing to governments.

ARTICLE 19 strongly endorses the UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, which stipulate that there should be as “little restriction as possible to flow of information via the Internet, except in a few, exceptional and limited circumstances.”
ENDS

NOTES :
• For media inquiries, please contact Mona Samari, Senior Press Officer, +44 (0) 7515 828 939 mona@article19.org
• For more information, please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer sejal@article19.org +44 20 7324 2500
• The G8 is meeting in Deauville, France, on 26 and 27 May 2011
• For the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue 16 May 2011 A/HRC/17/27, please click of the following link:
http://www.article19.org/pdfs/reports/report-of-the-special-rapporteur-on-the-promotion-and-protection-of-the-righ.pdf
• For ARTICLE 19’s summary of the key points of the Special Rapporteur’s report, please click on the following link:
http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/summary-report-on-internet-and-freedom-of-expression-the-report-of-the-un-sp.pdf

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Help free political artist Ai Weiwei

Help free political artist Ai Weiwei


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with his installation Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with his installation "Sunflower Seeds", at its unveiling at the Tate Modern in London, October 2010

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei disappeared into police custody on 2 April at Beijing Capital Airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Hong Kong. He has not been charged and the state has not disclosed where he is being held. The Chinese government is now attempting to erase every trace of his art and life from the Internet. Avaaz is urging you to sign a petition that calls on international galleries and artists to stop exhibiting art in China until Ai Weiwei is freed.

In his artwork, Weiwei, a leading cultural figure and political artist, has delved into the tragedy and injustice surrounding the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He tried to compile a list of all the dead children in "Missing". His installation "Remembering" used 9,000 children's backpacks to spell out a grieving mother's words: "She lived happily for seven years in this world." His studio has been trashed by authorities and he has been beaten for his investigations into the deaths of these school children, reports Index on Censorship.

An editorial in the "Southern Metropolis Daily" on 12 May remembering the victims of the earthquake and alluding to Ai Weiwei's work vanished from the newspaper's website within hours of being posted, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The editorial promised to "offer up porcelain sunflower seeds" in memory, referring to Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" exhibit of 100 million porcelain seeds, on display at the Tate Modern in London right now.

According to Human Rights Watch, the artist's detention was carefully planned. On the day of his arrest, security officers raided his art studio in Beijing and took eight staff members, his wife Lu Qing and a lawyer friend in for questioning; all were released the same day. Weiwei's prominent Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has not been able to see his client. State media were instructed to not report the case and references to Weiwei's arrest were censored on the Internet. On 6 April an article in a state-run newspaper said Weiwei would pay the price for being an activist.

"Only sustained international pressure can help Ai Weiwei now," said Human Rights Watch.

Two journalists who reported on the artist's activism have disappeared, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Furthermore, academic and documentary filmmaker Ai Xiaoming, a supporter of Weiwei, reported that her front door was recently sealed shut from the outside with superglue; she has received a hundred silent phone calls.

To sign the Free Ai Weiwei petition, which will soon be delivered at the Venice Biennale exhibition, click here.



Source : IFEX

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New UN resolution turns away from religious defamation concept


6 April 2011
New UN resolution turns away from religious defamation concept

A Christian holds a wooden cross during a rally to condemn the assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti in Lahore in March 2011. Bhatti was killed for challenging Pakistan's blasphemy law
A Christian holds a wooden cross during a rally to condemn the assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti in Lahore in March 2011. Bhatti was killed for challenging Pakistan's blasphemy law
REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

The United Nations' top human rights body has abandoned its condemnation of religious "defamation" and instead passed a resolution supporting an individual's right to freedom of belief - a move long awaited by IFEX members.

Rather than reintroducing the religious defamation resolution, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) presented a new resolution at the last Human Rights Council session that focuses on ending religious discrimination.

"Combating Discrimination and Violence", which passed unanimously on 24 March, removes all references to protecting religions from criticism and shifts the emphasis to protecting individuals from discrimination or violence, explains PEN American Center.

ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), which have led the campaign against "religious defamation", said the new resolution is a "significant breakthrough for the Human Rights Council and the international human rights system as a whole."

"This new resolution focuses on protecting an individual's freedom of religion by employing and protecting the very right 'defamation' called into question - namely, freedom of expression," said Bahey Eldin Hassan, the director of CIHRS.

Previous resolutions over the past decade backed largely by the OIC sought to criminalise any criticism of religion that believers found offensive, and the concept of religious defamation evolved into one of the UN's most polarising debates. ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS have long argued that the concept has been used to justify limits on free expression - like validating countries' blasphemy laws that have led to the jailing of religious minorities and repression of political dissidents who speak out against their government.

The new resolution advocates for concrete measures and policies to be adopted, such as developing collaborative networks and monitoring mechanisms, and training government officials to speak out against intolerance.

It stresses the importance of an "open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue [which are] among the best protections against religious intolerance," Hassan points out.

"If maintained in future UN resolutions, the shift is a momentous one that will provide an important framework to combat discrimination, while upholding existing human rights norms," said Hassan. "By adopting this text the international community has reinforced the principles of freedom that the people of Egypt and other countries in the Arab region have fought so hard to uphold."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Supporting Freedom of Speech and Wikileaks‏

Supporting Freedom of Speech and Wikileaks‏


ARTICLE 19

STATEMENT

11 April 2011

Supporting Freedom of Speech and Wikileaks

ARTICLE 19 joins free speech activists in a letter supporting Wikileaks and defending the right to publish leaked information in the public interest.

We believe that free societies everywhere are best served by journalism that holds governments and corporations to account. We assert that the right to publish is equal to, and the consequence of, the citizen’s right to know. While we believe in personal privacy and accept a need for confidentiality, we hold that disclosure in the public interest is paramount. Liberty, accountability and true democratic choice can only be guaranteed by rigorous scrutiny.

We defend the right to publish the truth responsibly without obstruction and persecution by the state. The primary duty of journalists everywhere is to advance the cause of understanding, not to assist governments and powerful interests in suppressing information, and never to defer to ingrained habits of secrecy.

With these principles in mind, we declare our support for the publication of documents released through leaks. They have cast significant light on the behaviour of governments and corporations in the modern world. Wikileaks has done the world great service. We strenuously denounce the threats of death and criminal prosecution of its director for publishing, together with many organisations throughout the world, information that is clearly in the public interest.

Those in authority routinely oppose such disclosure, as they have done since the struggle to publish the proceedings of the British parliament over 200 years ago right through to the release of the Pentagon Papers. We believe no democracy has ever been harmed by an increase in the public’s knowledge and understanding. Therefore, we, the undersigned, declare our unyielding support for the principles of journalistic inquiry and openness, and condemn the forces that threaten both.

Supported by: ARTICLE 19, English Pen, International Federation of Journalists, The Newspaper Guild, OpenDemocracy, Reporters Without Borders,


FURTHER INFORMATION:

• Signed along with many others: Lisa Appignanesi, John Berger, Fatima Bhutto, Rachel Billington, Rosie Boycott, Heather Brooke, Noam Chomsky, Patrick Cockburn, Steve Coogan, Jeremy Dear, Molly Dineen, Ariel Dorfman, David Edgar, Daniel Ellsberg, Bill Emmott, Richard Eyre, Woody Harrelson, Sue Hollick, Hugh Hudson, Will Hutton, Helena Kennedy, Imran Khan, Phillip Knightley, Hanif Kureishi, Mike Leigh, Kim Longinotto, Edward McMillan-Scott, Terry McDonell, Michael Moore, Philip Pullman, David Puttnam, Salman Rushdie, Richard Sambrook, Susan Sarandon, Alexandra Shulman, Tom Stoppard, Oliver Stone, Laura Wade, Marina Warner, AN Wilson.
• For more information please contact: Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org +44 20 7324 2500

Artist Alert: March 2011‏

Artist Alert: March 2011‏


ARTICLE 19


Artist Alert: March 2011
Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

Tunisia: Artists step into the light
The Dignity Revolution has resulted in an opening of the arts scene in Tunisia as the harsh restrictions on importing books and films came to an end on 22 January. According to Magharebia, bookshops no longer need to covertly smuggle publications into the country, and are taking orders for books on issues as previously controversial as La Régente de Carthage, on the president’s wife’s corruption.

Tunisian artists who had only been able to publish anonymously on the internet, such as rapper Hamada Ben Amor, aka The General, are now able to openly practice their art in public. Amor, who became famous for a song about corruption, ‘President, your people are dead’, was arrested on 5 January for several days during the revolution.

Pakistan: Arts council bans dancing

The Lahore Arts Council has banned all dance performances in theatres with the exception of classical dance. According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the Council made the decision in order to promote “quality” theatre. In Pakistan, scripts have to be approved first by the city’s arts council, then by the regional arts council and finally by the central Home Department. Unfortunately, rather than reject the ban outright, Commercial Theatre Producers Association chairman, Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ahmad, has instead called for the creators of such “vulgar” dances to be barred from producing more.

Heera Mandi, the famous dancing women in Lahore, have also been forced to stop their classical dancing as the police claim they can no longer provide security against attacks by violent conservative groups. The women, who, according to ActionAid, are often mistakenly believed to work in the sex trade, dance and sing usually for male clientele. The BBC reports that most music festivals, theatres performances and other artistic celebrations that Lahore was once known for, have ended.

China: Ai Weiwei still detained despite protests by international community

China’s leading artist-activist remains in the custody of the government despite pressure from the international community to release him. The Chinese government detained Ai and have since alleged the arrest was based on ‘economic crimes’. Both the United States and the European Union have raised concerns over the detention of Ai, claiming his arrest came as a response to the artist’s criticism toward the Chinese government’s violation of human rights. In particular, Ai said that the government used the 2008 Olympic games as “propaganda” and he blasted the country’s “disgusting political conditions”. The Chinese foreign ministry claimed that his arrest “had nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”.

United Arab Emirates: Festival denies claims of censorship

The Sharjah Art Foundation has denied claims of “unwarranted censorship” after it dropped controversial documentary by American-Iranian film director Caveh Zahed, according to a report in The National. The film, Plot for a Biennal, was set to screen at the festival in mid-March but was banned because the foundation’s lawyers believed it might promote blasphemy. One scene showed children dancing and throwing their shoes in the air, overdubbed with the call to prayer. Another showed the children kneeling for prayer to the sound of a Bollywood song. Jack Persekian, the foundation director, supported the decision to drop the film, claiming “scenes juxtaposing shots of children with an inappropriate soundtrack would offend Muslims”. Zahed countered the claims and argued that the foundation’s decision was a violation of artistic freedom.

In addition, according to reports in the New York Times, Sheik Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of the emirate Sharjah, has ordered Persekin, to be fired. The orders came as a result of numerous complaints about the artwork, “It Has No Importance” by Mustapha Benfodil, displayed in a public square. The work featured a group of headless mannequins with sexually explicit “Arabic slogans and poetry, some making reference to Allah”. The curators who chose the work defended Persekian, who was not involved in the selection of the piece and denied it was meant to offend. They told the New York Times the words in the work “borrowed the voice of the victims of rape at the hands of religious extremists in Algeria (...) who used religious texts to justify their crime.”

Germany: Performance photography banned

A court in Germany has ruled that a display of performance photos in Museum Schloss Moyland was “an incorrect deformation of the original performance”. According to a report by The Art Newspaper, the court ruled in favour of the widow of performance artist, Joseph Beuys, who claimed that the original piece, which was staged during a television show, should not be represented through photos. However, photographer Manfred Tischer’s images remain the only visual record. The museum’s director, Bettina Paust, argued that the decision “abolishes the medium of ‘performance photography’ as now every photograph of a happening is a ‘deformation of the original’.”

United States: Homosexuality censored and un-censored

A United States supermarket, Harps, covered with a ‘family shield’ a magazine showing a picture of Elton John and his husband with their newborn child. Following complaints from shoppers, a Harps store manager deemed the picture to be “offensive” and put a protective shield on it to stop customers from looking through the magazine in January. Harps representatives defended their decision, claiming that the decision was in response to the complaints of the customers and did not reflect the point of view of the store. After receiving scrutiny from international organisations, the store management reversed their decisions and uncensored the magazine.

Fred Zinnemann’s 1953 film about soldiers in Pearl Harbour, From Here to Eternity will be reissued digitally in May. The re-release will feature the gay scenes in James Jones’ 1951 novel which had been originally edited out of the film. One scene includes Private Angelo Maggio - played by singer Frank Sinatra – who reveals that he is paid to have oral sex with another man. The film also covers a military investigation into a case of homosexuality.

Spain: YouTube censors art depicting young Europeans enjoying life

YouTube deleted a documentary in February about the Spanish artist Juan Francisco Casas saying that it “violated company policy relating to nudity and sexual content”. The film, entitled “10 things about Juan Francisco Casas”, showed screen shots of Casas’ work, some of which depicted young adults being partially naked. Casas declared that his work reflects a carefree and hedonistic European generation that “thrives on organising parties and exploring their sexuality”.

United Kingdom: Wrexham Council bans ‘sensitive’ Cameron-Clegg artwork

Wrexham Council has decided to ban a print of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy-Prime Minister Nick Clegg dressed as partially naked cowboys amid concerns it is “politically sensitive”, says a report by the BBC. The print, set to be featured at the Oriel Wrecsam gallery at the end of March, was deemed to be “inappropriate”. The council said the decision was made as they had to “follow strict guidelines prior to an election”, which take place on May 5th 2011. The artist, Brian Jones, responded to the gallery’s decision by claiming they were practicing censorship. “It’s not party political, I’m not on a mission to topple the government, it’s just the backdrop to what’s going on with job losses, prices going up and cuts,” Jones told the BBC.


NOTES :

• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org, +44 20 7324 2500
• ARTICLE 19 is part of the Coalition for Arts, Human Rights and Social Justice, www.artsrightsjustice.net

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vote for your favourite free expression blog

30 March 2011

Vote for your favourite free expression blog



The search is on for best blog! Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in conjunction with German media group Deutsche Welle wants you to vote for your favourite blog from anywhere in the world that defends free expression, as part of the Best of the Blogs Awards (the BOBs). Hurry, voting closes on 11 April.

This year, choose the winner in 17 categories, including the RSF award, which aims to support bloggers in countries where freedom of speech and press are limited - and goes to a blog that takes a strong stance for freedom of information all over the world.

There are also awards for Best Blog, Best Use of Technology for Social Good, Best Social Activism Campaign, Best Human Rights Blog, Best Video Channel, and best blog in each of the BOBs' 11 contest languages.

Jury members have already pared down the 2,101 blogs, social media projects and social good campaigns you submitted to the BOBS to just 11 finalists per category. Kudos to IFEX member the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Indonesia, whose blog has made the cut for the RSF award.

So get voting! The blogs and projects with the most votes will be named the winners of the BOBs User Prizes on 12 April.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize open for nominations

12 January 2011

UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize open for nominations


Guillermo Cano
Guillermo Cano
UNESCO


Organisations working in the field of journalism and free expression are invited to submit nominations for the 2011 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The deadline for submissions is 15 February 2011.

Named in tribute to the Colombian journalist who was killed in 1986 for criticising the country's drug lords, the US$25,000 award honours a journalist or organisation that has made a notable contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially if this involved risk.

Last year's award went to Chilean journalist Mónica González Mujica, who investigated human rights violations of General Augusto Pinochet and his family, and was imprisoned and tortured for her work from 1984 to 1985.

The award will be presented on 3 May 2011 in Washington D.C. on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. This year's theme is 21st century media.

Human Rights Watch accuses UN of being soft on abuse

26 January 2011

Human Rights Watch accuses UN of being soft on abuse

Human Rights Watch's annual report on human rights has faulted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other major leaders for taking a soft approach of "quiet dialogue" and "cooperation" to avoid publicly singling out countries that abuse human rights.

The 649-page "World Report 2011" accuses Ban, who is up for re-election later this year, of acting timidly in dealing with powerful Security Council members like China, even portraying oppressive governments in a "positive light" to avoid controversy.

"In recent years the use of dialogue and cooperation in lieu of public pressure has emerged with a vengeance at the UN, from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to many members of the Human Rights Council," wrote executive director Kenneth Roth in the introduction.

As an example, Human Rights Watch cites Ban's failure to congratulate Liu Xiaobo, the choice for the Nobel Peace Prize that enraged Chinese officials, or to call for his release from jail. Ban has, however, espoused the value of "quiet diplomacy" in approaching leaders like President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Burmese leader Senior General Than Shwe.

His soft approach echoes through the system, with United Nations country teams reticent to speak out on abuses in places like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, the report says.

Other organisations and leaders besides the UN are criticised. For instance, Human Rights Watch says, the European Union is a regular offender of trying for "constructive dialogues."

"Even when the EU issues a statement of concern on human rights, it is often not backed by a comprehensive strategy for change," says Human Rights Watch. The report also points to the EU's unwillingness to address rights abuses by its own member states, especially in the face of rising intolerance against migrants and inadequate access to asylum.

U.S. President Barack Obama's "famed eloquence ... has sometimes eluded him when it comes to defending human rights.," says the report. The U.S. has been mute on human rights abuses with important bilateral partners like China, India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, it contends.

Emerging powers like South Africa, Brazil and India have also developed "quiet demarches" to countries like Burma and Sri Lanka, the report says.

"Dialogue and cooperation have their place, but the burden should be on the abusive government to show a genuine willingness to improve," Roth says. "In the absence of the demonstrated political will by abusive governments to make change, governments of good will need to apply pressure to end repression."

Human Rights Watch's 21st annual review of human rights practices around the globe summarises major human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide.

Click here to access "World Report 2011".

Source : IFEX

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
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