Monday, October 20, 2008
With grief and frustration I announce that
Today, 21oct 2008, in the morning around 5AM I found my mail account ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ is not working, I fear its hacker’s work. So, hereby I inform you that please, stop using this mail. If you get any mail from this account stop responding. It would be appreciated to nab the culprit by any means.
I am a social worker apart from my profession as a painter and poet, I used this mail to communicate on behalf of my organization ‘Rainbow Artists and Writers Foundation’ in short RAW FOUNDATION; a social non profit registered organization for artist and writers.
I used this mail for blogging also, all my blogs defends ‘Human Rights and Freedom of Expression’
I am not from a well to do family, a freelance artist, if I work I get money and when I work for my organization my family suffer, so I have no means to own a website and secure my mail. I use public email system and internet space.
The loss of mail account ‘email@example.com’ has caused me grief and frustration.
I have used the mail last 19oct 2008.
Now I am with tense fear about other mails and blogs through which I disseminate the news of ‘Human Rights and Freedom of Expression’ .
I would request to every body please make sure after sending me any mail through my phone number and address given here.
My address: Albert Ashok,
(Postal address)165 R N Guha Road, Kolkata,India
Phone : +9133 2560 0070, 2529 9371, Mobile: 093308 58536
dont send at rawfoundation at ymail.com any more
I have created a new mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
, in place of the old ‘email@example.com’
Please use the present mail address, and cc to firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Businessman threatens to sue Davao newspaper
SOURCE: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Manila(CMFR/IFEX) -
The chief executive officer of a local mining company hasthreatened to file a P100 million (approx. US$2.13 million) libel suit against a Davao newspaper.Said Sayre, of the Dabawenyo Minerals Corporation (DMC), said he planned to file the suit against the "Mindanao Daily Mirror" after it published claims by three former DMC officials that Sayre had used falsified publicdocuments "to collect substantial amounts from entities he'd entered into contract with without authority and resolution from the DMC Board,"according to a 3 October 2008 report on the Filipino news website Sun.StarDavao. Community newspapers, which are run on shoestring budgets, may find themselves having to fold if convicted of libel and fined huge amounts.The 1 October "Mindanao Daily Mirror" story also quoted former DMC corporate secretary Rex Angelo Gabrido as saying that Sayre "wanted him dead" after he refused Sayre's offer of P500,000 (approx. US$10,500) for his shares in the company. Sayre called the report a "concocted and malicious rumor." He said the article was meant to discredit him and his firm and that Gabrido's wife worked for the newspaper. But "Mindanao Daily Mirror" editor-in-chief Marietta Siongco explained that the story was based on a complaint filed by Gabrido and two other DMC former officials. She added that the "Mirror" was willing to publish the side of Sayre "anytime he wishes," according to Sun.Star Davao.Gabrido, Habib Mahalail Hassan, former vice president of operations, andHadji Nouh Daiman, former director of operations, filed complaints against Sayre before the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 10, asking it to stop Sayre from "entering into any contract or agreement with any investors."According to the Sun.Star Davao report, Siongco also confirmed thatGabrido's wife was working in the advertising department of the paper, but added that no employee could influence her to publish the story.
For further information, contact Melinda Quintos de Jesus or Jose F.Santos, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), 2nd Floor,Ateneo Professional Schools, 130 H.V. dela Costa St., Salcedo Village,Makati City 1227, Metro Manila, Philippines, tel: +632 840 0903, +632 8941314/1326, tel/fax: +632 840 0889, e-mail: email@example.com, Internet:http://www.cmfr-phil.org/
Geneva - On 2-3 October, twelve experts from around the world, including ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard, participated in a ground-breaking seminar on freedom of expression and advocacy of religious hatred.
Organised by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR), against the background of a series of recent incidents relating to freedom of expression, including the so-called “defamation of religion” resolutions within the Human Rights Council, the meeting sought to move the acrimonious debates to a sounder international human rights basis, through a focus on articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Introduced by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and President of the Human Rights Council, Martin Uhomoibhi, and chaired by Bertrand Ramcharan, the meeting facilitated a technical reading and discussion of freedom of expression and its permissible restrictions under international human rights law. A particular focus was article 20 of the ICCPR which prohibits, among other things, advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. In Ms Pillay’s words: “Denying that freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination are universally valid and mutually reinforcing principles that transcend cultural specificities is to negate core values of humanity. Finding the appropriate ways to ensure that this set of rights is respected can only benefit from the exchange of experiences and sharp legal thinking in a multicultural setting.” Some of the key points highlighted by the experts in their presentations included:
It is essential to move the debate and discussion from the concept of “defamation of religion” to that of “incitement to religious hatred”, and to recognise and emphasise the indivisibility and interconnectedness of human rights.
It is vital to avoid any “conflict of civilisation” standpoint on the current tensions: no one “civilisation” has a prerogative over respect for freedom of expression, religion, or combating intolerance.
A recognition that incitement to hatred must be prohibited (it is an obligation placed on states) but that such restrictions must be provided in law and be necessary to a democratic society: there was a clear understanding among the experts that governments should take action in cases of advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
There is convergence between freedom of expression as per article 19 of the ICCPR, and the restrictions imposed by article 20: there is no contradiction between the two articles as highlighted by General Comments of the Human Rights Committee, and international and regional case law.
Discussion as to the role played by the criminalisation of hate speech: for some, it sets a society’s normative standards and may have an educational function. But we need to consider a range of sanctions against hate speech, not only those resulting in a restriction of freedom of expression; we need to take into account the possible misuse of criminalisation, including against religious minorities.
A range of other mechanisms and options should be considered, such as those aiming at: strengthening the participation of all minorities to the public and political life of the nation; strengthening human rights education and knowledge, including on religion; minority and community media; ethical journalism and particularly diversity reporting in a globalised and multi-cultural information world; intra-religious dialogue.
The 2001 UNESCO declaration on cultural diversity and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions should be promoted.
An agreement that there was no need for additional norm setting, but we need to concentrate instead on better interpretation and guidance of existing norms, in particular by the Human Rights Committee.
Over 200 observers from governments, other UN agencies, regional organizations, the media and non-governmental organizations also took part in the seminar. “Comments from the state delegates sadly mirrored division and polarization within the Human Rights Council, between the so-called Muslim and Western blocs. At the same time, they were an important reminder of the complex post 9/11 context within which we, the experts, were asked to provide our input,” remarked Dr. Callamard, after the meeting. “I deeply hope that the technical and legal opinions put forward by experts that came from very different legal traditions, thematic focus (anti-racism, religion or freedom of expression), and regional or national origin contributed towards instilingl some crucial human rights elements to what has become a highly divisive debate, threatening human rights.” All the participants emphasised the need to continue this kind of dialogue and exchange: follow up meetings were required to build on this first one and its key findings and preliminary learning.
Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns a newly-launched interior ministry investigation into 17 non-governmental organisations for alleged “embezzlement” and “money-laundering” and fears it could jeopardize the right to inform and the right of association, two basic constitutional rights.
“The administrative and judicial harassment of CINCO and MAM is an outrage,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Aside from the fact that the courts are being used to settle political scores, the very principle of this investigation - which is mainly targeted at NGOs dedicated to communication, human rights and women’s rights - poses a threat to the role of civil society as an arena for democratic debate.
The press freedom organisation added: “President Ortega, who is the guarantor of constitutional rights, must put an end to this campaign and to its consequences in the administrative and judicial domains.”
Chamorro, a former member of the Sandinista movement, was previously the target of a campaign of personal attacks after he accused the leadership of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) of involvement in a case of extortion. No action was taken on his allegations.
“At the time, my photo was being shown every day on Canal 4, the pro-government TV station, where I was branded as a gangster, a terrorist, a drug trafficker or a killer of peasants,” Chamorro told Reporters Without Borders. “But the courts acknowledged at the time that I had not done anything wrong. The same TV methods resumed in May and have continued until now, this time with me being labeled as a CIA agent and agent of imperialism in allusion to the fact that CINCO received 20,000 dollars from USAID this year, which is barely 1 per cent of our budget.”
Last month, the First Lady, Rosario Murillo, publicly accused CINCO, MAM and Oxfam-UK - which supervises a cooperation accord with CINCO and MAM - of “hatching a plan to destabilise the government.”
“ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned with the pattern of harassment and threats against CINCO and other non-governmental organisations due to their work on freedom of information, gender issues, and towards of the full realisation of human rights in Nicaragua. It is clear that the silencing of these organisations is a retrograde step for the promotion of gender equality and the state of freedom of expression in modern-day democracies” said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, which paves the way for the full realisation of all other human rights and the enabling of democracy. The UN General Assembly has established the right of all people to “study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”. The Vienna Declaration and Programme Action (1993) recognises that democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. In this context the full exercise of freedom of expression has proven to be essential to the progressive realisation of all human rights, including women’s rights.
For more information: please contact Ricardo González http://firstname.lastname@example.org +55 11 30 57 00 42
Salijon Abdurakhmanov is one of the few remaining independent journalists writing on controversial issues of social and economic justice, human rights and corruption in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. He has worked for UzNews.net, an independent online news agency, and freelanced for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Abdurakhmanov was arrested on 7 June 2008 after illegal drugs were found in the boot of his car. The journalist claimed that drugs were secretly placed there and he was charged with illegal drug possession A medical examination subsequently proved that Abdurakhmanov does not use drugs, but the state refused to release him. Instead, he was charged for selling illegal drugs. Today, the Tahtakupir Regional Court of Karakalpakstan found him guilty of this offense and sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment. The journalist will appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court of Karakalpakstan.
“In many countries, journalists are prosecuted for doing their jobs but in countries like Uzbekistan state authorities fabricate accusations against journalists for ordinary crimes. In both cases, the aim is to silence independent and critical voices,” stated Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “We are very concerned about the appalling situation for freedom of expression in Uzbekistan.”
ARTICLE 19 Condemns Sentencing of Uzbek Journalist to Ten Years’ Imprisonment
And urges the Supreme Court of Karakalpakstan to ensure that the appeal process for Salijon Abdurakhmanov is fair, including the thorough examination of evidence provided by all parties. ARTICLE 19 considers the charges against Abdurakhmanov to be politically motivated and calls for his release or acquittal.
For more information: please contact Oliver Charles oliver@Article19.org +44 20 7278 9292
Abdurakhmanov’s conviction is an affront to human rights and free speech in Uzbekistan. He often criticized local authorities, including law enforcement. It is clear that he is being punished for his work. Once again, the Uzbek government is showing that it will not tolerate dissent. Igor Vorontsov,
Uzbekistan researcher for Human Rights Watch
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The Saudi authorities detained one blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, for four months this year after he called for political reform.
But people are still speaking their minds online. Topics in this selection of posts include a fatwa, repressive Arab regimes, religion as empowerment, and menswear with a twist.
Ahmed Omar, an engineer from Dhahran, discusses the recent fatwa issued by his country's most senior judge. Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan said it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV channels which broadcast immoral programmes.
Even if the Saudi-owned channels stopped broadcasting the programmes in question here, what will stop people switching to other channels?
Even if all the Arabic TV channels shut down these provocative programmes, what will stop the viewers from switching to foreign channels?
What about the internet and its content that is full of indecent material? Who can control that?
Don't people have the right to watch and then judge what they consider worthy?
In a country like Saudi Arabia, where the absence of recreational activities and space is being compensated with watching and interacting with entertainment programmes on TV, what will people do in their free time once these programmes are shut down?
How far should the authorities go in their effort to cleanse what they deem threatening to the community's values?
Fouad al-Farhan was the blogger imprisoned by Saudi authorities earlier this year. He is known as the "dean" of Saudi bloggers, as he was the first to write using his real name.
Fouad was the first Saudi blogger to write using his real name.
He joins a debate on Moroccan blogger Mohammed Erraji, who was sentenced to jail but eventually acquitted after criticising corruption and the Moroccan royal family in his blog.
Fouad suggests what options would be open to Erraji if he didn't blog:
1. Continue with his life earning a living without any hope that expressing his idea would improve reality or highlight where injustice is. This way he will be one of the millions of depressed young Arabs.
2. Rent his mind to an extremist who will ask him to carry arms and commit violence as a means to get out of this unjust Arab reality, as many young men have unfortunately done.
3. Find other avenues to express all this anger raging inside him, such as drugs ...
And he tackles Arab governments' hostility towards freedom of expression:
The problem with Arab governments with the new generation of young people is that they have not grasped that times have changed. This generation is fired up with feelings towards their nation; overflowing volcanoes of anger rush through their heads, demanding solutions for our depressing condition as Arabs...
With the internet, we now know everything that happens through satellite channels, radio stations, websites, email, Twitter and Facebook. Nothing can be hidden anymore.
If they did not want us to dream, to express our ideas and discuss our dreams, why did they allow the internet into our Arab countries? Aysha is a Saudi Arabian script writer who has recently returned to her country with her husband and child, after two years in the US.
She comments on how men try to micro-manage every aspect of their wives' lives - and what some women do about it.
Since arriving in Riyadh I've been noticing a pattern amongst a certain type of women who suddenly turn religious. Some of them are immediately transformed from being just another guest in someone's house, to women who sit at the head of a meeting to preach the word of God... Nothing shocking or sudden happened to those women. What happened, then, that might've caused this massive change in behavior and character?
I believe the gains of a transformation often explain the initial calling that has caused it.
Women whose religiousness brought power, leadership and stardom after being semi-absented, were probably yearning for what they have been lacking.
...having God at their side, could finally allow these women a word over their husband, children and the greater society.
If the husband asks them to uncover here, they tell him God said no. If he watches improper TV content they can condemn his acts and (maybe) slowly influence him.
They could challenge tradition by quoting God, the prophet and history. They could silence much of society which would not yield and adhere to them before.
Saudi Jeans is the blog of Ahmed al-Omran, a student in Riyadh. His first post was written on Saudi Arabia's national day.
23 September: On the same day two years I go, I wrote this and it has become one of my favourite posts because I felt that it says a lot about myself and the message I'm trying to deliver through this blog.
It saddens me to admit though that very little has changed since then. Have things become worse? No, because I don't think it could get any worse. The country is changing, but at a glacial pace that is leaving me and many others dejected and frustrated.
RSF now has a presence on five continents, publishes its oft-quoted annual report on press freedom, and issues around a thousand press statements a year on free expression abuses. This year Ménard was recognised by the French state when he was given the country's highest distinction, the Legion of Honour. He is succeeded by Jean-François Julliard, 35, who has been working at RSF for more than 10 years and is due to start his new role this week. "My thoughts go out to those for whom we have fought, to the families that have been scarred forever by a death or a disappearance. We cannot abandon this struggle, neither today nor tomorrow... The release of Win Tin (on 16 September), who had been imprisoned in Burma for 19 years, proves we are right. Let us go forward," said Ménard.
The "IFEX Communiqué
source : Article 19.org
Defamation law is an instrument mostly used to shut one's expression. The organisation
Article 19 has extensive research on it. below two maps show the globe at a glance-- the countries and their position and action with defamation Law. (to see better double click the map after viewing click back button) for detail on this subject click the link: http://www.article19.org/advocacy/defamationmap/map/?dataSet=defamation_legislation
• Of the 168 countries reviewed, 158 had criminal defamation laws of some sort, whilst only 10 countries had only civil defamation laws.
• At least 146 people have been imprisoned since January 2005. This can be broken down regionally as follows:
• Americas: 8
• Africa: 41
• Asia & Oceania: 35
• Europe & Central Asia: 22
• Middle East: 40
Of the African countries surveyed, only Ghana does not have any criminal defamation legislation, having taken steps to repeal its criminal defamation provisions in 2001. However, people suspected of defamation are often charged with trumped-up or related crimes such as “crimes against the state” or “destabilising the army”. Sudan, among others, often charges and detains media workers for defamation but the charges are later dropped and they are freed before a sentence is handed down or the case even reaches the courts. Although some 20 countries across the region did not imprison anyone for defamation during the period surveyed (January 2005-September 2007), other countries have continued to hand down prison sentences. The Democratic Republic of Congo holds the worst record for the number of people imprisoned in the region, having imprisoned at least 7 people since January 2005. Most African countries provide special protection for public authorities and symbols, such as Presidents, Members of Parliament and the national flag. Since January 2005, at least 41 people in Africa have served prison terms for defamation.
On 6 March 2007, a bill was passed by the Mexican Senate to decriminalise defamation at the federal level. Defamation was previously decriminalised in the federal district of Mexico City (June 2006) and has since been decriminalised in the states of Chiapas and Sonora (July 2007) but remains in place in the other 29 states. The United States also does not have criminal defamation legislation at the federal level, although such provisions remain on the books in 17 of its 50 states.
Descato laws are a particularly pernicious breed of insult law prevalent across the Central and South American region that grant special protection for the reputations of public officials which is not available to other members of society. As recognised by the Inter-American Court, this is contrary to democratic principles where call for political and public figures to tolerate more, not less, public scrutiny and criticism. Descato laws remain in place in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Due to widespread international pressure, a number of Latin American countries have in recent years abolished descato provisions. These include Paraguay (1998), Costa Rica (2002), Peru (2003) and – with the exception of laws pertaining to the military – Chile (2001). Although other criminal defamation provisions remain in place in all four of these countries, the abolition of descato is seen as an important step for freedom of expression. Across much of Latin America, short-term prison sentences for defamation are often suspended or converted into other types of penalties if the accused is not under judgment for another crime and has not previously been convicted of a crime. With the exception of Cuba, imprisonment for defamation in the Americas is rare in comparison with other regions. Since January 2005, at least 8 people have served prison terms for defamation.
Asia and Oceania Of the 28 countries surveyed in Asia and Oceania, only New Zealand and Sri Lanka do not have criminal defamation provisions, having decriminalised in 1992 and 2002 respectively. Since January 2005, at least 35 people have been imprisoned for defamation across Asia and Oceania. The Philippines has emerged as a somewhat unlikely country in which defamation laws are roundly abused and, according to our research, it actually has the largest number of people imprisoned in Asia for defamation (at least six since January 2005), as well as a plethora of cases launched by senior public figures. For example, in 2006, the President’s husband, Mr Jose Miguel Arroyo filed ten defamation cases against a total of 48 journalists. On 3 May 2007, he promised to withdraw the suit, but he has so far not delivered on this promise. In the more repressive countries, such as China, the authorities rarely feel the need to resort to relatively ‘risky’ tools like defamation to control speech, preferring instead to use more effective direct control mechanisms such as licensing of the media, criminal penalties for vaguely defined offences against the State and so on. China nevertheless retains some of the heaviest potential penalties for defamation, with a maximum sentence of five years, and it has imprisoned at least five people for defamation since January 2005. In other countries, like Malaysia and Singapore, civil defamation has long been used as an instrument to prevent criticism. Fines are uncapped, leaving plaintiffs bankrupt and in many cases this leads to wide self-censorship, which is more effective than the threat of imprisonment provided for by criminal defamation provisions.
Europe and Central Asia
All Western European countries, with the exception of Cyprus, retain criminal defamation provisions on their books but four Eastern European countries (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine) have succeeded in abolishing them. Moldova has also abolished most provisions for criminal defamation, with the exception of defamation of judges. Some countries, namely Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, have also taken a step forward by abolishing the possibility of prison sentences in criminal defamation cases. Romania is unique in having passed a law to abolish criminal defamation in 2006, only to reintroduce it a year later after the Constitutional Court declaring the law to be unconstitutional on the basis that it resulted in insufficient protection for reputation. The vast majority of European and Central Asian countries also provide for special protection against defamation for public officials and/or symbols. In some countries, defamation of the president can result in several years’ imprisonment (for example Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan). In Eastern Europe, defamation provisions are often abused to shield the authorities from criticism. Since January 2005, at least 22 people have been imprisoned for defamation. Although there is still a long way to go, Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, can be seen as a leader in defamation reform across the globe.
Defamation is potentially criminal in every Middle Eastern country surveyed and, in most Arab countries, has been retained in the penal code as part of the legacy of the Ottoman legal system. Imprisonment is commonplace across the region; Palestine, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the only countries not to have imprisoned anyone for defamation since January 2005. At least 40 people have been imprisoned for defamation since January 2005 in the Middle East, Iran being the most prolific in the region and possibly in the whole world, having handed down at least 10 such sentences in the period surveyed. Encouragingly, the idea of protecting public officials is not a strong part of the legal culture. Between 1993 and 2006, although the plaintiffs won most private defamation cases, approximately 90% of the public officials who brought such cases lost.
Published: October 9, 2008
English PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of Uighur journalist and poet Mehbube Ablesh, who was arrested in August 2008 after posting two critical articles online. We are seeking details of any charges against her, and are calling for her immediate and unconditional release if she is being held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.
According to PEN's information, journalist and poet Mehbube Ablesh, aged twenty-nine, worked for the Xinjiang People's Radio Station, a government-run station based in the provincial capital Urumqi, until she was dismissed from her post in early August 2008 and arrested after posting critical articles online. It is thought that she is held for posting articles critical of Chinese government policy and the provincial leadership in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. She is believed to be held in Urumqi, and no details of any charges have been made public.
The Xinjiang Autonomous Region in north-west China is home to many Muslim Uighurs, some of whom have waged a low-level separatist struggle for independence from Chinese rule for decades. It is widely believed that the Chinese government has exaggerated the alleged terrorist threat in the region to suppress peaceful political and cultural expression. According to Human Rights Watch:
"Much like Tibetans, the Uighurs in Xinjiang, have struggled for cultural survival in the face of a government-supported influx by Chinese migrants, as well as harsh repression of political dissent and any expression, however lawful or peaceful, of their distinct identity. Some have also resorted to violence in a struggle for independence. Chinese authorities have not discriminated between peaceful and violent dissent, however, and their fight against "separatism" and "religious extremism" has been used to justify widespread and systematic human rights violations against Uighurs, including many involved in non-violent political, religious, and cultural activities."
Writers and journalists are amongst those at particular risk of arrest in the region for speaking out, and the government crackdown on peaceful dissent intensified in the run-up to the Olympic Games and throughout the month of Rammadan.
For more information on Uighur rights and writers, please click here.
Please send appeals:
• Expressing serious concern about the detention of Uighur journalist and poet Mehbube Ablesh, apparently for publishing two critical articles online, and seeking details of any charges against her; • Calling for her immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory; • Seeking assurances that she is granted full access to her family and legal representation, and is treated humanely in detention.
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People's Government Nur Bekri
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu Renmin Zhengfu
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu
People's Republic of China.
Please note that fax numbers are not available for the Chinese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for China in your country to forward your appeals:
Her Excellency Mrs. Fu Ying
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
49 - 51 Portland Place
London W1B 1JL
Thursday, October 2, 2008
It was nearly 8 p.m. on January 20, 2007, when Rodolfo Rincón Taracena signed off on the final version of his piece detailing a criminal gang preying on cash-machine customers in Villahermosa, capital of the southeastern state of Tabasco. The chain-smoking 54-year-old crime reporter took a call and headed out the door, telling his editor at the state’s largest daily, Tabasco Hoy, that a source was picking him up. He would be back tomorrow, he said. He never returned.
Rincón is among seven Mexican reporters who have vanished since 2005, a tally nearly unprecedented worldwide in 27 years of documentation by CPJ. The ranks of the missing include aggressive young reporters and seasoned veterans, the owner of a tiny biweekly and a crew for a major television broadcaster. Only Russia—where seven journalists disappeared in the mid-1990s while covering an insurgent war in the republic of Chechnya—has experienced a comparable period of disappearances.
Mexico is already one of the world’s deadliest nations for journalists, with 21 killed since 2000, at least seven in direct reprisal for their work. But the spike in disappearances suggests a significant shift in the dangers facing the Mexican press. Throughout much of the decade, journalists in Mexico were shot in broad daylight on city streets or their bodies left in public plazas. Drug traffickers and criminal gangs are believed to have been behind the vast majority of these slayings and their very public message to the press was clear: Beware.
With the rise in disappearances, analysts say, either organized crime groups are changing their tactics or, more likely, a new type of perpetrator is at work. Relatives and colleagues of several victims said in interviews with CPJ that they believe local public officials played a role in the disappearances. In at least five of these cases, CPJ found, the missing reporters had investigated links between local government officials and organized crime in the weeks before they vanished. They include reporter Alfredo Jiménez Mota, who broke major stories about the web of corruption among drug runners, police, local prosecutors, and state officials in the northern city of Hermosillo.
Although the disappearances have occurred in every corner of the country, all have happened in corridors through which billions of dollars in drugs are smuggled into the United States. In these areas, corruption has permeated all levels of society. In the case of a two-man TV Azteca crew that vanished, crime reporter Gamaliel López Candanosa was publicly accused of having ties to local traffickers—a charge the station disputed. Whatever the motive, cameraman Gerardo Paredes Pérez, a last-minute fill-in, appears to have been an inadvertent victim.
All seven of the disappearances remain unresolved today, and are without any apparent leads. Initially handled by local police, most of the cases appear to have been poorly investigated in the crucial early stages, CPJ found. José Antonio García Apac, for example, an editor in Michoacán state, was widely known to have compiled a list of allegedly corrupt officials before he vanished, yet local police never looked at that angle. Three of the seven cases are now overseen by local offices of the federal attorney general; only one is being investigated by federal authorities based in Mexico City.
Relatives of the journalists live in an emotional and legal limbo, unable to bury their loved ones, delayed in settling estates, prevented from moving on with their lives. Colleagues tone down their investigative work or abandon it altogether as these cases grow cold and fear settles in. The cases include the disappearances of reporters Mauricio Estrada Zamora and Rafael Ortiz Martínez, both of whom dropped out of sight after reporting on crime and corruption.
In a meeting with CPJ in June, President Felipe Calderón promised to support legislation that would make crimes against the press federal offenses. Congress is expected to debate such measures this fall. CPJ submitted specific recommendations that, among other things, would mean the cases of missing journalists would be overseen by federal prosecutors.
“The main source of danger for journalists is organized crime—and the second is the government,” said Rep. Gerardo Priego Tapia, who heads a congressional committee on violence against the press and who supports federalization of such crimes. “The worst scenario for journalists is when organized crime and the government become partners. And in many parts of this country, they are completely intertwined.”
Forced disappearances have been prevalent throughout Latin America’s modern history, particularly during the 1970s and ’80s, an era marked by right-wing dictatorships and civil war. In Mexico, disappearances have reemerged as a national phenomenon. According to a 2008 investigative series in the Mexico City weekly Proceso, at least 600 people have gone missing nationwide since late 2006, when the newly inaugurated Calderón deployed the army and federal police to wage war on organized crime. While many are optimistic that Calderón’s efforts will generate long-term benefits, the campaign has disrupted the social balance, making corrupt officials more vulnerable to exposure and leading to a rise in both violent crime and the number of disappearances. In at least some missing-person cases, Proceso found evidence of government involvement.
Rincón was considered one of Tabasco’s more dogged crime reporters. The day before he vanished, the newspaper ran a two-page spread in which the reporter described illicit “drugstores,” or narcotiendas, run by traffickers. The story, which named several suspects, was accompanied by a map pinpointing these distribution centers and a photograph showing a family allegedly selling drugs. In his cash-machine story, Rincón specified where the criminals’ safe houses were located. “It was his typical exclusive,” said Roberto Cuitláhuac, the paper’s crime editor.
No witnesses ever emerged, and investigators’ one publicized lead—the discovery of human remains at a nearby ranch—did not take them to Rincón.
Olivia Alaniz Cornelio, his longtime girlfriend and a reporter at another Villahermosa daily, told CPJ that Rincón was accustomed to getting threats, but a call about a month before he disappeared had alarmed him. He didn’t offer details, Alaniz said, but he urged her to stay alert.
Alaniz is skeptical that Rincón’s disappearance is the work of drug traffickers alone. “It’s more common for narcos to send a message with their victims,” she said, noting that a decapitated head was once left on the doorstep of the Villahermosa-based El Correo de Tabasco. “There is no way that organized crime can become so powerful here and conduct their business without the help of corrupt officials. I think somebody set out to silence Rodolfo without a trace.”
Many of the other reporters who have vanished wrote about the possible links between local authorities and organized crime. In 2005, as drug trafficking swept Mexico’s northern border states, the editors of El Imparcial, a leading daily in Hermosillo, Sonora, recruited a young reporter who had broken stories of organized crime in the neighboring state of Coahuila.
Alfredo Jiménez Mota, (a 25-year-old reporter), a 240-pound one-time boxer, was aggressive and ambitious, said his father, also Alfredo Jiménez. He went for the big names, exposing crime rings and the public officials he said were linked to them. According to his editor, Jorge Morales, he also made plenty of enemies.
Jiménez angered officials at the state attorney general’s office by hounding them about dropped investigations, and he drew the ire of the police chief when he looked into alleged links between the department and local drug traffickers, CPJ found. Morales said he often urged Jiménez to drop his byline for safety reasons, but the reporter was insistent to the point of threatening to sue El Imparcial if the newspaper did not credit his work.
In the days before his disappearance, though, Jiménez appeared rattled, and he told several colleagues that he was being followed, Morales said. On the evening of April 2, 2005, he postponed dinner plans with a co-worker so he could meet with a “nervous source,” the editor said. His parents, who have been briefed by authorities, said they were told that Jiménez went to a burger restaurant to meet the deputy director of the local prison, Andrés Montoya García. Montoya told authorities he later gave Jiménez a ride to a convenience store, dropping him off at 10:30 p.m.
That was the last known sighting. El Imparcial said it had obtained Jiménez’s cell phone records, which show that he made calls later that night to numbers belonging to the prison official; a local deputy prosecutor named Raúl Fernando Galván Rojas; and a third person the paper could not trace.
Montoya and Galván were investigated and cleared by federal authorities, Morales said. Both resigned shortly after Jiménez disappeared and have dropped from public view. Neither could be located for comment for this story. Officials in the federal attorney general’s kidnapping unit, which has handled the case, did not respond to CPJ’s repeated requests for comment. The case is the only one of the seven that has been directly overseen by the federal attorney general in Mexico City.
The case took a startling turn in June, when Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours made public a letter that sought to link his government to the Jiménez case. Allegedly written by one of the captors, the letter details the reporter’s supposed kidnapping, torture, and murder, and implicates several local officials, as well as the governor’s brother.
Bours vehemently denied any involvement in the case and called for a new investigation. Though Morales and Jiménez’s father doubt the letter’s credibility, they do believe that Sonoran authorities could have colluded with local crime groups in the reporter’s disappearance. Jiménez wrote about drug trafficking, Morales said, “but it all led to local authorities.”
Juan Pablo Solís, director of Radio Zitácuaro and owner of a local television station based in Zitácuaro, Michoacán state, was abducted by armed men in the neighbouring town of Tuxpan.
President Felipe Calderón declared war on organised crime in a 23 January security meeting with ministers, governors, municipal presidents, military and other federal and state authorities, but the number of deaths linked to organised crime continued to rise. The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) estimated that 2,500 deaths were linked to organised crime in 2007, compared to 2,350 in 2006.
One crime analyst notes that the spike in disappearances could simply reflect a change in tactics among crime groups. “The impact of a journalist’s death has a short duration,” says Raúl Fraga Juárez, a journalist and security expert at the Universidad Iberoamericana. “But if a journalist goes missing, uncertainty will always linger.”
Others point a finger more directly at local officials. Samuel González Ruiz, a former organized-crime prosecutor for the federal attorney general’s office and a security adviser to the United Nations, believes the disappearances could reflect the entanglement of local authorities in criminal operations. “There are parts of Mexico where you can't distinguish between local police and criminals, and it has become very dangerous for journalists who report on this situation,” he said. While proof is scarce, he acknowledged, “I have no doubts that local police are involved in the disappearances of journalists.”
For her series of reports on the overall phenomenon of disappearances, Proceso reporter Gloria Leticia Díaz spoke to several people who said their loved ones had been dragged away by uniformed men they believed to be with the military or the police. Officials at the Public Ministry replied by saying that anyone could buy a uniform.
Map out the states and cities where journalists have gone missing and a clear pattern emerges. All worked in states that are key trafficking corridors for smuggling cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Colombia and Mexico into the United States. Violence in Guerrero, Michoacán, and Nuevo León—three states where journalists have gone missing—has increased as powerful criminal groups, including the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, fight for turf and retaliate against those who stand in their way, whether they are soldiers, cops, or even the doctors who attend to wounded rivals.
Until recently, in the northern state of Nuevo León and its wealthy capital, Monterrey, were considered safe. But in early 2007, violence spread as the drug gangs, including the Gulf cartel’s enforcement arm, Los Zetas, battled for control of Monterrey and its nearby drug route into Texas. The emergence of well-financed criminal groups brings with it a rise in corruption at many levels of society—including journalism. In a 2006 report, CPJ cited numerous professional sources as saying that journalists had accepted bribes, or “chayote,” to skew their reporting or spread drug traffickers’ messages to the press.
When a wave of execution-style murders struck Monterrey, Gamaliel López Candanosa, a correspondent for the national broadcaster TV Azteca, sprang into action. Soon, crime reporters began noticing that López, known locally as “Gama,” always seemed to arrive first at crime scenes. In an April 2007 interview in Crucero, a local online publication, López said jealous colleagues had been spreading false rumors that he was complicit with Los Zetas.
On May 10, 2007, López and camera operator Gerardo Paredes Pérez had finished a piece on the birth of conjoined twins at Hospital Universitario in Monterrey and were scheduled to head to their next assignment, a report on abused children. No one has reported seeing the journalists or their Chevy compact, marked with the TV Azteca logo, after they wrapped up the story at the hospital.
Nuevo León Prosecutor Luis Carlos Treviño Berchelman told local legislators in November 2007 that López had gone missing as a result of the reporter’s links to organized crime. Pressed by TV Azteca to present evidence supporting the charge, Treviño retracted his statement and has never again addressed the issue.
A local journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity told CPJ that in the months prior to his disappearance, López purported to be a messenger for Los Zetas, telling reporters what to cover and what to ignore. “He told me not to worry, that these were good people who wanted to work in peace,” said the journalist. “Gamaliel told me to do as they said.”
TV Azteca managers did not return repeated calls from CPJ seeking comment for this story, and relatives of López could not be located for comment. Paredes did not ordinarily work with López, and colleagues do not believe he was a target.
In Mexico, a missing-person case is generally considered a state crime. Typically, local police handle the initial investigation and then hand the case over to the state attorney general’s missing-persons unit. As with homicides, cases can move to the federal level under certain circumstances—if the victim was a public official, if the crime involved military-style weapons, or if the disappearance was linked to organized crime. But investigations can be botched—or, worse, the crimes covered up—in the initial stages, when local police are in charge.
In early 2008, Congress approved several measures designed to overhaul the criminal justice system. Witness protection programs were created, rules were established to improve the hiring and training of police officers, and forensic equipment was designated for purchase. “These are exactly the type of changes we need,” said Macedonio Vázquez Castro, a criminal law expert at the Mexico City-based Center for Criminal Policy Studies and Penal Sciences. But the system still faces massive problems, among them the fear and intimidation that criminals instill in citizens and law enforcement officials.
Vázquez said conflicts of interest inevitably arise when local police investigate cases that involve organized crime. “The situation law enforcement officials face on the ground can be extremely challenging,” Vázquez noted. “My feeling is that if there are no positive results, if the investigation is clearly going nowhere, then there is a clash of interests somewhere. I mean, what can we expect people to do when there are criminals on the loose with their guns cocked and loaded? Corruption can result from greed—or survival.”
On July 8, 2006, Rafael Ortiz Martínez, a reporter for the daily Zócalo, based in the capital city of Monclova in the northern border state of Coahuila, was last seen leaving the newsroom at about 1 a.m. He had just finished editing material for a radio news show he hosted. Somewhere in the three-minute car ride from the paper’s offices to his apartment, Ortiz and his company vehicle, a cherry-red Nissan Tsuru sedan, vanished.
Days later, Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira Valdés announced that there was enough evidence to believe that drug traffickers had kidnapped Ortiz in retaliation for his work. But two years later, a state police official in Monclova, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to comment on investigations, told CPJ, “We have no leads.”
Sergio Cisneros, Zócalo’s editor in 2006, said Ortiz did not ordinarily investigate organized crime or drug trafficking. “For safety concerns, it is the paper’s policy not to cover those issues,” Cisneros said. But journalists in Monclova told CPJ that Ortiz had recently reported on a conflict between local taxi drivers and Los Zetas.
In Ciudad Acuña—where Ortiz worked as an investigative reporter for Radio Felicidad until six months prior to his disappearance—he detailed labor abuses in nearby mines, described the workings of local prostitution rings, and named regional drug lords, said Osiris Cantú, director of the local daily Zócalo de Acuña. Friends of the reporter, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said Ortiz received numerous death threats, some related to his criticism of a local council candidate.
Early in the investigation, authorities searched Ortiz’s home, reviewed his articles, and attempted to locate his car. But the investigation went cold. The Monclova officer claimed that Ortiz’s family and colleagues were unwilling to cooperate with investigators. Zócalo’s new editor, Pedro Pérez, put it a different way: Interviewed by police once, he said he refused to be interviewed again after the officers in charge of the investigation told him that police had lost the original case files.
Mystery also surrounds the case of Mauricio Estrada Zamora, a crime reporter for the daily La Opinión de Apatzingán, located in the western state of Michoacán. He went missing on February 12, 2008, after leaving the paper’s offices at about 10 p.m. to head home. The next morning, his car was found parked, its doors open and engine running, in the neighboring municipality of Buena Vista Tomatlán. Estrada’s laptop and camera, along with the car’s stereo, were missing.
The investigation appeared to get off to a strong start. The Michoacán state kidnapping unit dispatched a search helicopter to Buena Vista Tomatlán. Local police interviewed Estrada’s family, including his wife and brother. They spoke to the five members of the newspaper staff working when Estrada left the office. “They asked us if Estrada had ever been threatened and about the last few articles he published,” said María de la Luz Uyuela Granado, the paper’s editor-in-chief.
Soon after, according to CPJ interviews with editors of La Opinión de Apatzingán, Estrada’s family learned that the reporter had recently been involved in a disagreement with a Federal Investigations Agency (AFI) operative, someone nicknamed “El Diablo.” The investigation, by then in the hands of the local office of the federal attorney general, appeared to slow and eventually come to a halt, the editors said.
Sara Salas, a spokeswoman for the federal attorney general, said investigators could not identify an AFI agent known as “El Diablo” or make a connection between Estrada’s disappearance and a federal agent. They dismissed any link at all to a criminal group, she said, before turning the case back to local police.
In several instances, relatives have sought to investigate cases themselves, working with civic groups and organizing friends to distribute leaflets. “Families feel alone and isolated from the authorities. There is often little contact between them,” said Coordinator Alma Díaz of the Asociación Esperanza (Hope Association), a group based in the northern state of Baja California that assists families of missing people, including that of Alfredo Jiménez Mota. “The message families get is: no body, no crime,” said Díaz. She urges relatives not to stay silent. “They can’t let fear overcome them.”
In the central-western state of Michoacán, Rosa Isela Caballero, wife of missing journalist José Antonio García Apac, is pressing authorities to step up their investigation. García, founder and editor of the Tepalcatepec weekly Ecos de la Cuenca, stopped on the way home to call his family in Morelia around 8 p.m. on November 20, 2006. Could he bring home groceries, he asked. While on the phone with his son, García was overheard responding to men asking his identify and then demanding he hang up. Sounds of García being dragged away were heard before the line went dead.
García reported regularly on organized crime in Michoacán, where drug-related violence has soared in recent years. Weeks before his disappearance, Ecos de la Cuenca published articles about violence between cartels and collusion among local police and hit men working for drug traffickers.
In an interview with CPJ, Isela, the mother of García’s six children, said she has made dozens of trips to the attorney general’s office in search of answers. She asked, for example, whether calls could be traced from García’s cell phone, which he was using when he was apparently abducted. Salas, the attorney general’s spokeswoman, said phone records turned up no leads.
Sylvia Martínez, the García family lawyer, also demanded to know if officials investigated a list García had compiled of Michoacán officials he believed were linked to organized crime. Isela said that her husband took that list to the federal organized crime unit in Mexico City in May 2006 for corroboration—a move other Michoacán reporters considered very risky considering the high level of corruption within Mexican law enforcement agencies.
Isela said that Michoacán state authorities told her that line of investigation was not followed because there is no record of García’s visit to the organized crime office. Salas said federal authorities had no comment on whether the lead was pursued. Based on other, unspecified information, she said, authorities concluded that García’s case was not connected to organized crime.
In July, Isela was informed by Michoacán state authorities that García’s case had been put on hold. “I don’t want them to forget the case,” said Isela. “More than anything, I want to know whether or not he is dead.”
Isela continues to publish Ecos de la Cuenca when she can, although it now runs mostly local government news. No longer are there stories about organized crime or anything else that could trigger controversy. “Only my husband could do that type of work,” she said. Her goal is to keep the paper alive in memory of her husband. On the upper right-hand side of each edition, she runs a small black-and-white photo of García, with a caption demanding that authorities solve the case. “This is what he would want me to do,” said Isela. She lives on about $100 a month from the paper, support from her three eldest sons, and funding from the Rory Peck Foundation, a U.K.-based press freedom group.
Bit by bit, Isela is recuperating. After long bouts with insomnia, she is sleeping through the night. She is regaining the weight she lost and is beginning to run again, something she and García did together. She is also surrounded by five sons who live with her in a small house on the outskirts of Morelia, the Michoacán capital. “They are my support network and have gotten me through this,” said Isela. One of her remaining wishes is to have a special place for remembering García. She often visits her mother-in-law’s grave and imagines that García is there as well.
In other disappearances, colleagues are shaken. At Tabasco Hoy, where Rodolfo Rincón Taracena worked, the newspaper’s staff has made adjustments. On a recent afternoon, crime editor Cuitláhuac sat in the chair Rincón once used. He and his staff of four crime reporters agreed that Rincón’s investigations were dangerous, but they also said that he took precautions. He varied his routine, did not take street cabs, and used the company car whenever possible. Today, the four reporters follow the same safeguards, but they will not follow in Rincon’s investigative footsteps.
It’s unsafe enough, said Manuel Antonio Ascencio, to be alone in a car, going down some back road. Ascencio refuses to increase the risk by undertaking an investigative piece. Fellow reporter José Angel Cintro Domínguez admitted that he once liked crime reporting because it put him in the “middle of the action.” But now he stands back and watches as organized crime in Tabasco goes unreported. “The government is supposedly fighting all of this and we are supposed to cover it,” said Cintro. “Are we supposed to just leave everything unreported?”
Cuitláhuac supplied an answer. “That,” he said, “is exactly the psychological effect the criminals want.”
Monica Campbell is a freelance writer and CPJ’s Mexico City-based consultant. María Salazar is CPJ’s senior research associate for the Americas.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders
From Brownsville Texas to San Diego California and as far north as Dallas Texas Americans are being kidnapped and killed. All of this is escalating narcotics-related violence across northern Mexico; the State Department has alerted Americans of the dangers of crossing the border.
Narcotics-Related Violence — “U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico should exercise caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Violence by criminal elements affects many parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas. In the last twelve months there have been execution-style murders of Mexican officials in Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Baja California, Guerrero (particularly Acapulco), Nuevo Leon (especially in and around Monterrey), Cd. Jaurez and other states. Sophisticated Mexican groups plot abductions Organized, well-financed and violent Mexican kidnapping cells are targeting a growing number of U.S. citizens visiting Mexico.
Source: The Inter American Press Association (IAPA)
Committee to Protect Journalists