Friday, May 15, 2009

PAKISTAN: JOURNALISTS FLEE SWAT VALLEY




Swat Valley











PAKISTAN
: JOURNALISTS FLEE SWAT VALLEY

Only a few journalists are left in Pakistan's restive Swat Valley to cover
the government's military offensive against the Taliban, according to
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as well as news reports on the website of
the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).

RSF reports that national newspapers are no longer being distributed for
safety reasons. Swat residents no longer have access to satellite
television since the Taliban damaged the district's only cable distribution
network, and journalists are fleeing the area out of fear for their safety.

The authorities have introduced a curfew in Swat and neighbouring districts
in a bid to stop the Taliban from reinforcing their positions in the
region.

"It is now impossible to get independently-sourced information about what
is happening in Swat Valley," RSF said.

Ghulam Farooq, the editor of the local daily "Shamal", told RSF, "All the
newspapers based in Swat have stopped publishing for security reasons,
because the situation is extremely dangerous. What's more, the curfew makes
it impossible for our staff to move about." According to news reports,
Farooq and his family have fled Swat.

Swat Press Club president Salahuddin Khan told reporters that journalists
had left the valley. "We are leaving Swat as we are under direct threat
from all sides," he said. Khan advised all journalists choosing to stay in
Mingora, Swat's main city, to work from home.

RSF is demanding the Pakistani authorities give journalists better
protection and permits "that allow them to circulate during curfew hours so
that they are able to do their job."

Visit these links:
- Journalists flee Swat Valley en masse (RSF):
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=31276
- PPF website: http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org/


Earlier Mosa Khankhel was reporting for GEO TV when he was killed.

IRAN: ROXANA SABERI FREED
















IRAN
: ROXANA SABERI FREED

IFEX members welcomed the release of U.S. Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi,
whose eight-year jail term for spying for the U.S. was this week reduced to
a suspended two-year sentence and a five-year ban on reporting from Iran.

Her fiancé, filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, her parents and her lawyers greeted
her as she emerged from Tehran's Evin prison on 11 May. Her father told
reporters she would be leaving the country in the coming days.

"This is excellent news," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said. "The appeal
court's decision to free her can be used as a legal precedent for other
journalists currently detained in Iran."

In a closed-door session that lasted five hours, a Tehran court heard
Saberi's appeal against her original eight-year sentence on 10 May.
Although exact details about the charges against Saberi have still not been
made public, the BBC reported that the initial charge of "passing secret
information" had been reduced to "having access to classified information,"
allowing for the commuted sentence.

Saberi's case sparked international attention. IFEX members mounted
vigorous campaigns for her release. The Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ) circulated a petition calling for Saberi's release that garnered more
than 10,000 signatures, and along with 34 other IFEX members called on
Iran's judiciary to free her. U.S. President Barack Obama was among those
who appealed on her behalf.

Saberi has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since her arrest in January.
Living in Iran since 2003, the Fargo, North Dakota native had freelanced
for several news organisations, including NPR and the BBC.

IFEX members continue to call on the Iranian government to safeguard the
rights of other journalists currently in jail. According to RSF, six
journalists and cyber-dissidents were arrested on 1 May in Tehran during
May Day demonstrations.

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/103001
- Roxana Saberi released from prison (CPJ): http://tinyurl.com/pzwkq7
- Iran frees jailed journalist (Human Rights Watch):
http://www.hrw.org/en/node/83044
- American-Iranian journalist released (WiPC): http://tinyurl.com/pjbapm


Vietnam: ARTICLE 19 Assists with Drafting Freedom of Information Law


Vietnam: ARTICLE 19 Assists with Drafting Freedom of Information Law

ARTICLE has been working with the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice, which is drafting a right to information law, to help ensure that the draft is as consistent as possible with international standards and best national practice. To this end, ARTICLE 19 has hosted a team of Vietnamese experts in London and participated in meetings in Vietnam, and is providing ongoing technical legal assistance to the drafting team.

The Government of Vietnam has made a high-level commitment to adopt right to information (freedom of information) legislation as a matter of priority and a team lead by the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice has been working on preparing a draft law. The team contacted ARTICLE 19 in January 2009 asking for assistance.

A group of eight members of the drafting team, led by Dr. Hoàng Thế Liên, First Deputy Minister of Justice, was hosted by ARTICLE 19 in the United Kingdom from 15-21 March 2009. The team visited various government departments, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Archives, as well as various non-governmental organisations and academics. The purpose of the visit was to expose the team to experiences in the United Kingdom on the right to information.

ARTICLE 19 has been providing legal drafting support to the team. A detailed analysis of an early draft of the law (which has since been revised) was produced in April 2009. ARTICLE 19 is providing ongoing legal support to the drafting team, and will continue to do so as new drafts are produced. Finally, Toby Mendel, ARTICLE 19’s Senior Legal Counsel, participated in an International Workshop on Drafting a Law on Access to Information in Vietnam from 6-7 May 2009. Participants at the Workshop included government officials, academics and representatives of civil society organisations.

ARTICLE 19 strongly supports the development by Vietnam of a right to information law. We urge the authorities to ensure that the law which is finally adopted is consistent with international standards in this area.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• The Analysis is available at: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/vietnam-memorandum-on-the-draft-law-on-access-to-information.pdf
• The English outline of the law can be found at: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/laws/vietnam-law-on-access-to-information.pdf
• For more information, please contact Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel, a19law@hfx.eastlink.ca, +1 902 431-3688.

ARTICLE 19 Wins Key Case at UN Human Rights Committee


ARTICLE 19 Wins Key Case at UN Human Rights Committee

On 19 March 2009, the UN Human Rights Committee issued its decision in the case of Mavlonov and Sa’di v. Uzbekistan, which ARTICLE lodged with the Committee in November 2004. In the case, ARTICLE 19 argued that the refusal of the Uzbek authorities to re-register the first applicant’s newspaper was a breach of his right to freedom of expression, and also a breach of the second applicant’s right as a reader of the newspaper. The Committee accepted both arguments, with important implications in terms of the right to freedom of expression.

In finding a breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Committee stated:

[The first applicant’s] ability to publish ‘Oina’ and to impart information, and [the second applicant’s] right to receive information and ideas in print, has been violated.

The Committee also found a breach of the right to culture, as protected by Article 27 of the ICCPR, given the important role of Oina, a minority language newspaper, in the Tajik community.

ARTICLE 19 applauds this decision by the UN Human Rights Committee, which is groundbreaking in several respects. The Committee held that the application of the registration procedure itself breached the right to freedom of expression. While the Committee did not specifically elaborate on what conditions registration systems must meet, the decision is important inasmuch as it clearly demonstrates that registration must not impose unreasonable barriers to the operation of media outlets. Even more important was the recognition by the Committee of the right of the second applicant, as a reader. This is an extremely significant development and potentially opens up the way to a whole new line of freedom of expression argumentation.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information, please contact Toby Mendel, ARTICLE 19 Senior Legal Counsel, a19law@hfx.eastlink.ca, +1 902 431-3688.

Mexico: Murder of Fourth Journalist in the Year Demonstrates Urgent Need for Legal Reform

Mexico: Murder of Fourth Journalist in the Year Demonstrates Urgent Need for Legal Reform

On World Press Freedom Day, Carlos Ortega Melo Samper a journalist from the newspaper El Tiempo de Durango in northern Mexico was assassinated. At the time of his death he had been undertaking investigations of alleged acts of corruption. ARTICLE 19 calls for immediate legal reforms to give the federal-level government the authority to investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.

On Sunday 3 May at 5 o’clock in the evening, a pick-up truck intercepted Carlos Ortega Melo Samper outside his home in the state of Durango in northern Mexico. The perpetrator fired his 40 caliber pistol three times from the truck, hitting Ortega in the head and killing him. The journalist had been working as a correspondent for the local newspaper El Tiempo for two years; he also worked as a lawyer in the municipality.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, Fernando Mendoza who works for El Tiempo said that: “the first line of investigation for this assassination should be for the journalistic activity of Melo Samper and in particular his recent investigation of the sanitary conditions in the municipal slaughterhouse.Mendoza added that the staff of El Tiempo had held a meeting with the Governor of the State of Durango, Ismael Alfredo Hernandez Deras, to discuss the investigation.

Melo Samper had complained about threats by local authorities as recently as two weeks prior to his death, for a story he had written on the sanitary conditions in the local state run slaughterhouse. As a result of this incident, before he died he wrote an article in which he stated that mayor of the municipality Martín Silvestre Herrera and Juan Manuel Calderón Guzmán, in charge of federal programmes and the municipal slaughterhouse, were responsible should any harm come to him. This article was in the editorial department of the paper awaiting publication at the time of his murder.

Carlos Ortega’s case sadly underscores the need of providing federal authorities with the power and the capacity to investigate and sanction aggressions against journalists, particularly in cases, such as this one, where the local authorities are known to have previously harassed or threatened the victim”, stated Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

The Mexican authorities must immediately undertake the much required legal and policy reform that would at least address the salient problem of impunity for crimes against the media”, Dr Callamard added.

The journalist had been at odds with local authorities for a number of years. In July 2005, following a formal complaint, the State Commission of Human Rights for Durango investigated high ranking members the of the local Public Security forces. The Commission concluded that elements of the public Security Forces had violated the journalist’s human rights.

Ortega was famous for his critical writing in the municipality. Since 2003, he worked on a number of local and regional newspapers, including El Sol de Torreón and El Siglo de Durango. Since 2008, he had been writing in El Tiempo as a correspondent and distributor. He contributed to the paper on a daily basis and was also writing for the weekly publication Expresión de Durango. Ortega had been living in the area for more than 10 years.

The assassination of journalists is the ultimate form of censorship. Local media and journalists play a pivotal role in informing society about subjects that are relevant to the local communities. Without a media able to operate freely and without fear, society is prevented from accessing information essential to decision-making and participating in the public life and local affairs.

ARTICLE 19 expresses its solidarity with colleagues, friends, and collaborators of the newspaper El Tiempo, and with the journalists in the region.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the authorities, in accordance with their international obligations, to investigate effectively the murder and prosecute those responsible.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information: please contact Ricardo González, Official of Program for Freedom Expresión ricardo@article19.org

Yemen: Three injured as newspaper offices attacked


Yemen: Three injured as newspaper offices attacked

This morning police surrounded and opened fire on the offices of independent daily Yemeni newspaper Al Ayyam’s, resulting in injuries to three staff.


The shooting follows sustained police harassment since 4 May and the chief editor’s refusal to be arrested by police forces. Authorities have grown uneasy about the newspaper’s independent editorial line and its coverage of the events in the south of the country. Al Ayyam has not been able to go to print and its website has been blocked.

This might be my last phone call,” says Bashraheel Bashraheel, Al Ayyam general director on the phone to ARTICLE 19. “I appeal to all freedom advocates to support us and help in lifting the siege.

According to Bashraheel, Al Ayyam employees receive death threats on a daily basis and one of its designers, Yasser Hitari, has been menaced with having his head cut off.

We have reached out to the authorities but without any response,” Bashraheel says. “On the contrary, judicial orders have been issued to arrest my father Hisham at any cost.

Since 4 May, the Yemeni authorities have increased their stranglehold on the press. Al Ayam has had lawsuits filed against it and the authorities have repeatedly intercepted distribution trucks and burned the newspapers. Bashraheel says that Al Ayyam has incurred losses amounting to US$400,000 as a result of these measures.

The authorities are said to be unhappy with Al Ayyam’s publication of photos showing clashes between government forces and opposition groups in the south of Yemen.

Surrounding a newspaper and attacking it is an extraordinary step. Only in fully fledged armed conflicts do we witness such situations,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “The attack must stop immediately. We demand that the Yemeni authorities lift the blockade on Al Ayyam and ensure the safety and security of all its staff.

Al Ayyam was established in 1958 and is based in the southern city of Aden. It is very popular and considered by many Yemenis as an independent newspaper, adding particular voice to underprivileged people.

Al Ayyam is not the only newspaper suffering harassment and censorship. A comprehensive crackdown on the media by the Yemeni authorities has included six other newspapers over the past month, thereby possibly preventing potential coverage of the conflict in the south. There has been widespread unrest in the impoverished country for several years, especially in the south, where certain groups feel they are marginalised. Tension mounted in recent months, escalating at times into armed clashes between opposition protesters and government forces.


NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information: please contact Sa’eda Kilani, sa’eda@article19.org; Tel:+962-79-9860004


Report from IFEX -------------




YEMEN: POLICE RAID PAPER, WOUND THREE

This morning (13 May) police surrounded and opened fire on the office of
Yemen's leading independent daily, the latest target of the government's
crackdown on the media, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights
Information (ANHRI), ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
and other IFEX members.

The government blames the media for fomenting unrest in the country's south
where the military has clashed with the Southern Movement opposition group.
Allegedly annoyed with "Al-Ayyam"'s coverage of the conflict and refusal to
toe the official line, police surrounded the paper's office in Aden on 13
May and opened fire, resulting in injuries to three staff members.

The shooting follows sustained police harassment since the beginning of
May, when police laid siege to the office, preventing distribution of all
70,000 copies of the paper and searching employees. The paper has not
resumed production.

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the besieged paper's offices on 4
May to protest the government's action, with the police eventually
dispersing the demonstrators, reported the "Al-Ayyam" website. On 6 May,
the authorities shut the website down.

Lawsuits have been filed against "Al-Ayyam"'s staff, and authorities have
repeatedly confiscated and burned copies of the paper as well as harassed
the paper's distribution drivers, says ARTICLE 19. Employees have also
received threatening phone calls and notes.

"This might be my last phone call," said Bashraheel Bashraheel, "Al-Ayyam"
general director on the phone to ARTICLE 19. "I appeal to all freedom
advocates to support us and help in lifting the siege."

Bashraheel says that "Al-Ayyam" has incurred losses amounting to US$400,000
as a result of the measures.

Other newspapers have suffered government harassment. Last week,
authorities barred the sale of seven other papers - "Al-Masdar",
"Al-Wattani", "Al-Diyar", "Al-Mustaqila", "Al-Nida", and "Al-Share" and
"Al-Ahali" - to prevent coverage of the conflict in the south. According to
Minister of Information Hassan Ahmed, the newspapers had published material
that worked against national unity and the country's interests and that
"spread hatred and enmity among the united people of Yemen."

The police campaign against the Yemeni press and journalists came a few
days after President Ali Abdullah Saleh voiced his anger over what he
described as "the separatists of the south."

"There is an intense and dangerous campaign of incitement against
independent newspapers," Sami Ghali, editor of "Al-Nida", told CPJ. "Imams
of Yemeni mosques received instructions to welcome the government decisions
to suspend newspapers."

In a separate incident, on 4 May, security officers arrested Fuad Rashid,
the owner and publisher of the Al-Mukalla Press website, during a raid in
Mukalla, Hadramoot and took him to an unknown location. The website had
covered the recent clashes. Blogger Yahya Barnahfud was arrested on 10 May.

In another disturbing development, CPJ reports that authorities have
announced a special court to try media and publishing offences, amid
protests from journalists and human rights defenders. Minister of Justice
Ghazi Shayef Al-Aghbari said the decision to establish this "special press
court" was "not politically motivated, but purely professional."

According to CPJ, Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani, an independent journalist who
has repeatedly been harassed by the judiciary and imprisoned, described the
court as a "huge step backward" and a "flagrant violation of the
constitution and international law."

Arafat Mudabish, chief editor of Al Tagheer news website, said leading
journalists and activists in Yemen have regarded the confiscation measure
and harassment tactics against all media as an "unprecedented massacre" on
journalism in Yemen.

"The only solution to the problems of the South is through dialogue and
addressing the origin of the problems and not through muzzling the press
and terrorising journalists," said ANHRI.

Dissatisfied groups in the south of the country have increasingly accused
authorities of marginalising the region, which merged with the north in
1990. Since early April there have been sporadic armed clashes between
government forces and armed protesters in the south of the country,
including a 27 April protest in Sana'a marking the anniversary of a failed
uprising against the government in 1994. At least 14 Yemeni troops and
civilians were killed last week in the clashes, The Associated Press
reported.

Visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/103038/
- CPJ: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/103026/
- ANHRI: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102925/
- Breaking the Chains (International Federation of Journalists), a report
that features Yemen among countries where press laws criminalise
independent reporting under the guise of national interests:
http://mena.ifj.org/en/pages/mena-press-freedom
- Yemeni police storm newspaper, wound three (AP):
http://tinyurl.com/oa9z5e

Brazil: Lula Sends Access to Information Bill to Congress

13 May 2009

Brazil: Lula Sends Access to Information Bill to Congress

Brazilian President Lula da Silva today sent the long-awaited draft Access to Information Bill to the Brazilian National Congress. This is an important development that gives concrete form to the federal government’s stated commitment to adopt specific right to information legislation. The Bill seeks to implement Article 5 of Brazilian Constitution, which guarantees the right to information.


The draft Bill fulfils a commitment made by President Lula during his campaign for re-election in 2006, as well as historical demands by a range of civil society actors that have been calling for legislation to give proper effect to the constitutional guarantee. The Bill will now be reviewed by the two houses of Congress.

The Bill includes a number of positive measures, such as a list of information that must be disseminated on a proactive basis by public bodies, an obligation to respond to requests for information within 20 days, and coverage of information held not only by the executive, but also the legislative and the judicial branches of government. However, the text could still be significantly improved. A key problem is the failure of the Bill to establish an independent administrative oversight body to handle complaints and to promote effective implementation of the new law, a measure that has proven essential to successful opening up of government in other countries. ARTICLE 19 will soon release a detailed analysis of the draft Bill.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes this initiative as an important step towards promoting greater transparency in government. At the same time, it is unfortunate that a piece of legislation designed to promote greater participation was not the subject of broad consultation with citizens and civil society organisations before being sent to Congress. ARTICLE 19 further calls on the Brazilian Congress to make sure that there is extensive consultation with the public before the Bill is passed into law. We also urge Brazilian parliamentarians to ensure that the law which is adopted complies with international standards in this area.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information: please contact Paula Martins, paula@article19.org, +55 11 3057 0042

Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi Facing Trial and Incarceration in Insein Prison


14 May 2009

Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi Facing Trial and Incarceration in Insein Prison

Burmese democracy leader and de jure prime minister Aung San Suu Kyi has early this morning been taken from her home and incarcerated in Insein Prison, on a charge of breaching the conditions of her house arrest order.

ARTICLE 19 urges the international community, and in particular India, China and ASEAN, to pressure the Burmese military government not to continue Suu Kyi’s 13-year detention on the basis of these outrageous charges. The organisation also calls on interested stakeholders to write to newspapers editors in India to call attention to the Indian government’s role in propping up the illegitimate Burmese regime.


The National League for Democracy, the Burmese political party which Suu Kyi leads, says that she faces an immediate trial on Monday 18 May. Under section 22 of the State Protection Act, Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for almost 14 of the last 19 years at her home in Rangoon. Last week, an American citizen, John William Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake and entered Suu Kyi’s house uninvited and without being stopped by guards. According to Suu Kyi’s lawyer U Kyi Win, Yettaw begged Suu Kyi not to alert her captors of his presence and allow him to stay while he recovered from a muscle strain.

According to Burmese law, it is mandatory to notify the military authorities about any overnight visitor and foreigners are not allowed to spend the night in a Burmese home. The State Protection Act is frequently used against democratic activists, and other members of Suu Kyi’s party have been imprisoned for similar offences.

Last week, Suu Kyi’s appeal against her imprisonment was rejected, even though, under the legislation used to detain her, her detention should end on 27 May 2009. The United Nations has declared that her imprisonment is not only illegal under international law, but also illegal under the Burmese military government’s own deplorable legal code, which only allows for a maximum of five-years in detention.

The Burmese military government is blaming a prisoner for somebody breaking into a prison,” comments Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “This would be laughable if it was not so unbelievably sad.

Every month that passes, we think that repression in Burma cannot get worse but it always does. The treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi by the authorities, in full sight of the country’s neighbours and various economic backers, is just sickening Worse still are the excuses and diplomatic games played by India, China and the ASEAN. By their silence and inaction, they are condoning the behaviour of the Burmese military junta. They are the walls and bars of Suu Kyi’s prison,” she adds.

Yettaw was arrested whilst swimming back across the lake and remains in Burmese prison, charged with entering a restricted area and contravening immigration regulations. His motives remain unclear, although there are reports that he is a Mormon who is writing a book about heroism and who intended to come into Suu Kyi’s house to pray with her. He is apparently not a Burma campaigner, as was originally described.

Suu Kyi is in poor health and has recently been on an intravenous drip. Her doctors have repeatedly been prevented from giving her the care she requires and her personal physician was arrested a few weeks ago.

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned about the seeming disappearance of John William Yettaw and calls upon the Burmese authorities to ensure that he is afforded access to proper legal representation and a fair trial.

ARTICLE 19 is urging interested stakeholders and anybody committed to the protection of human rights to write to one of the following India newspapers asking the editor to call attention to their government’s role in propping up the illegitimate Burmese regime:


Please inform ARTICLE 19 of any actions that you may take.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org +44 20 7278 9292


From International PEN

MYANMAR: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (f), leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and writer, taken to prison


14 May 2009

RAN 29/07 - Update #1

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is outraged by the charges of ‘subversion' brought today against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), writer and Nobel Peace laureate, for allegedly breaching the conditions of her house arrest. She was taken from her Yangon home, where she has been held under house arrest for most of the past nineteen years, to Insein Prison early this morning. Earlier this month Aung San Suu Kyi was treated for dehydration and low blood pressure, and although her condition is said to have improved, concerns for her well-being are now mounting. PEN protests her detention, and calls for her immediate and unconditional release alongside all others detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to PEN's information, Aung San Suu Kyi was taken from her home, where she was being held under house arrest, to the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon early on the morning of 14 May 2009. Suu Kyi and two members of her house staff are detained under Section 22 of the State Protection Law for "subversion", following an incident in which a US citizen reportedly swam across the lake to her home and in doing so violated the ban on her meeting with anyone without prior permission. For more details go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8049187.stm

Aung San Suu Kyi is due to stand trial on 18 May 2009, and she could face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Background
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma's independence hero General Aung San, became leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in September 1988, and in 1991 led the NLD to a landslide election victory which has never been recognised by the military government. Prior to this she had lived in the UK for many years, where she raised two sons with her late husband British academic Michael Aris, who died in March 1999 of cancer. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent a large part of the past eighteen years in detention in Yangon, much of it in solitary confinement. She was held under de facto house arrest for six years from July 1989-July 1995, and again from September 2000 until May 2002, when she was released as part of UN-brokered confidential talks between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the NLD which began in October 2000. Her most recent detention began when she was taken into ‘protective custody' following violent clashes between her supporters and those of the government on 30 May 2003, and she has since been held under renewable one-year detention orders.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1991. She is the author of many books, including Freedom From Fear (1991), Letters from Burma (1997), The Voice of Hope (1997).

International PEN WiPC protests the detention of writer and opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who it considers to be detained in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call upon the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to show its commitment to political dialogue in Myanmar by securing the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all others detained in Myanmar for the peaceful expression of their views.


Please send appeals:

protesting the detention of opposition leader and writer Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and calling for her immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Expressing concerns for her health, and seeking immediate assurances of her well-being.

Appeals to:

Senior General Than Shwe
Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defence, Naypyitaw, Union of Myanmar.
Salutation: Dear General

Appeals to Myanmar (Burma) Embassies:

WiPC strongly recommends that you copy your appeal to the Burmese embassy in your country asking them to forward it to the Burmese authorities and welcoming any comments.

Letters to the press:

PEN members may consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Burma, and highlighting Aung San Suu Kyi's case to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@internationalpen.org.uk

Friday, March 13, 2009

Say “No” Vote on "Religious Defamation "

Geneva: ARTICLE 19 Campaigns for a “No” Vote on Religious Defamation at Human Rights Council

ARTICLE 19 is urging UN Human Rights Council members to vote against a resolution on “defamation of religions” at its regular session in Geneva this month.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will likely propose a resolution on combating defamation of religion during the 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2009, although it has not yet made public the text of this resolution.




ARTICLE 19 is concerned that resolutions of this type represent a step back from established principles of freedom of expression because they limit free speech and disallow criticism of a religious belief.. They go beyond the concept of group defamation, since they may even prohibit the defamation of religious ideas and doctrines and limit the possibility for free debate or criticism of religion. “The concept of defamation of religion is vague and has no basis in international law. International human rights laws protect the rights of individuals; they do not protect religions, ideologies or belief systems,” says Dr Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer for ARTICLE 19. “The resolution seeks to protect the belief, rather than the believers.”Equally, ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the concept, if passed into national legislation in some countries, may lead to persecution of those who challenge religious doctrine, as well as possible prosecution of religious minorities or a general silencing of dissenting voices. ARTICLE 19 has actively lobbied 23 countries expressing serious concerns about this proposed resolution. The last time a similar resolution came before the HRC, 21 states voted in favour, 11 against and 14 abstained. ARTICLE 19 is now lobbying states who abstained to vote against the resolution, and states who voted in favour to now abstain. Defamation of religion was first introduced into the UN system in 1999 and several resolutions have passed through the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in recent years. “ARTICLE 19 believes that the adoption of further resolutions on defamation of religions will undermine the established framework of international human rights law as well as the credibility of the Human Rights Council itself,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.Instead, ARTICLE 19 recommends that the UN must not allow the concept of “defamation of religion” to become the international standard, Instead, the countries should commit to implementing a key provision (article 20) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prohibits “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information: please contact Nicola Spurr: Nicola@article19.org; Tel: +44 2072789292; Mob: +44 7726867868• The OIC is a delegation to the UN which represents 57 countries aligned to Islamic values.


Yemen: Women Journalists Subjected to Censorship and Slanderous Attack


Under muslim laws women are degraded, it should be stopped . http://www.wluml.org/english/newsfulltxt.shtml?cmd[157]=x-157-555372

ARTICLE 19 marks International Women’s Day on 8 March with the release of a report analysing the role and representation of women in the Yemeni media.
Yemen: Women Journalists Subjected to Censorship and Slanderous Attack
It is not easy to be a woman working for the media in Yemen, according to the research findings. Female journalists who criticise the government or the country’s President are regularly subjected to public slander in rival publications. This takes the form of insults or fabricated allegations about their personal lives, often published in publications owned or controlled by the government. Public insults against women are particularly damaging in a country where women struggle to achieve prominence in public and professional life. Yemen is a conservative society which has a rigid code of “honour” and insinuations against an individual’s morality can have a devastating impact.In Yemen, the media is frequently censored and all journalists run the risk of being harassed or threatened by the state if they openly criticise the government. All broadcast media is state-owned and controlled in Yemen and, while there are several independent newspapers and magazines, they may also censor themselves for fear of attack. Yet, it seems that women journalists are exposed to much more severe forms of attack, simply because they are women.The research also found that women are severely under-represented in the Yemeni media. Less than 20 per cent of articles are written by women and less than 30 per cent of articles feature women as sources. Stories about women overwhelmingly fall into a broadly “social” category, thereby conveying the perspective that women’s roles are mostly confined to the family and home. There are very few stories that depict women in leadership, in public life and in positions of authority. In addition, 50 per cent of articles about women portray them in an extremely negative light – either as victims, as morally compromised, or as somehow responsible for social ills. “ARTICLE 19 calls on editors and media owners to protect women journalists from slanderous attack,” comments ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard, “and to ensure that stories featuring women, reflecting women’s experiences and portraying women as fully-fledged members of society are given more prominence.”ARTICLE 19 has also called upon the Yemeni government to ensure that freedom of expression is protected and enhanced, and that all means of censoring the media are immediately stopped. The research was conducted by ARTICLE 19, in collaboration with the Yemeni Female Media Forum, and forms part of a larger project working to create a supportive legal framework for the media in Yemen.

NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For the full report, please visit: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/yemen-an-analysis-of-women-in-the-media.pdf• For more information: please contact Jasmine O’Connor, ARTICLE 19 Senior Director for Development at jasmine@article19.org or +44 20 7278 9292.

Sri Lanka: Free Journalist Detained on Terrorism Charges




For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org, +44 20 7278 9292

Sri Lanka: Free Journalist Detained on Terrorism Charges
365 days after Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was detained under Anti-Terrorism legislation, ARTICLE 19 joins many people and organisations around the world calling for his immediate release.
Tissainayagam, now an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, was detained without charge on 7 March 2008. Following international calls for his release the Sri Lankan authorities finally brought charges against him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on 25 August 2008 for a series of newspaper articles. According to journalist and former Convener of the Sri Lankan Free Media Movement, Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, “Tissainayagam was considered a kind of bridge between the north and south, or the Sinhalese and the Tamils. He has written many articles concerning the ethnic situation in Sri Lanka.”Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director ARTICLE 19 adds “over the past 3 years more than 14 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka and many have escaped to India and the West, fearing for their lives. Tissainayagam’s case well demonstrates the threats that counter terrorism legislation and measures pose to freedom of the press, as they are so easily abused. His continued imprisonment for the peaceful expression of his opinion sadly constitutes one of the many violations that are common place in today’s Sri Lanka, including wide censorship, self-censorship, death threats, violence and arbitrary arrests.”Today ARTICLE 19 joins seven media rights organisations in demanding that the Sri Lankan government urgently review his case. To read the full statement, visit: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/international-press-freedom-groups-call-for-justice-for-jailed-sri-lankan-jo.pdfTo read past ARTICLE 19 statements on Tissainayagam’s case, visit:• Sri Lanka: Journalist Still in Detention After 250 Days - http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/sri-lanka-journalist-still-in-detention-after-250-days.pdf• Sri Lanka: Free Speech Indicted - http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/sri-lanka-free-speech-indicted.pdf

Journalist Tissainayagam to get “Reporters without borders” Award

http://transcurrents.com/tc/2008/12/post_104.html



Detained Sri Lankan Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam has been designated as a recipient of a prestigious award by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Tissainayagam is behind bars in Sri Lanka being the first journalist to be charged under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act for his journalistic writing.
[J.S. Tissainayagam-in Aug 2008]
The awards will be distributed on Thursday 4 December, 11 a.m., at the Espace Fondation EDF, 6 rue Récamier, in Paris, Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, will present the prize to the winners.
Tissainayagam has been given the award under Category 1 which relates to "Journalists who through their work, their principled stand or their attitude have displayed support for freedom of information".
The citation about Tissainayagam is as follows:Sri Lanka - J. S. Tissainayagam
Currently held in appalling conditions in a Colombo prison, Tamil journalist J. S. Tissainayagam was arrested in March 2008 while working on the launch of the news website Outreachlk. He was charged with terrorism on the basis of articles he wrote in 2006 in which he referred to a military offensive in the Tamil region that was accompanied, he said, by a terrible humanitarian crisis for the civilian population. This is the first time that a journalist has been held on terrorism charges because of what he wrote.
A contributor to the Sunday Times newspaper, Tissainayagam set up Outreachlk in February 2008 with funding from the German development agency GTZ. His lawyer has never been allowed to speak to him in private all the time he has been held by the anti-terrorism police in the capital. Attempts have been made to intimidate his wife and European parliamentarians had to intercede in order to get the authorities to agree to let him have the glasses he needs to read. Two other journalists are being held in connection with the case.
The 2008 nominees in the "Journalist" category in addition to Tissainayagam are :
Niger - Moussa Kaka
Syria - Michel Kilo
Russia - Natalia Morar
Vietnam - Nguyen Viet Chien
Cuba - Ricardo González Alfonso






Small Concession Masks Significant Obstruction

• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org, +44 20 7278 9292


Burma, ASEAN: Small Concession Masks Significant Obstruction

Whilst welcome news, the Burmese regime’s release of prisoners and their promises of more to come masks the forcible way in which they obstructed any development of a human rights agreement at the recent ASEAN Summit.

Over the weekend news emerged that the Burmese military regime had released 23 prisoners, including one MP from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. The release was accompanied by an announcement on Friday that 6,313 prisoners would be freed over the coming days.“ARTICLE 19 welcomes the releases and calls on the Burmese authorities to deliver on its promises to free more political prisoners. We particularly urge the authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their political opinions.” said Dr. Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. Unfortunately, the timing of these releases could not be more significant. They coincided with the Burmese authorities’ strenuous efforts to block and veto any human rights agreements on the ASEAN Summit agenda over the weekend.The Summit held in Thailand brought together the ASEAN member states, all of whom have ratified the ASEAN Charter containing a provision (Article 14) to establish a regional human rights body, similar to those already in existence in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand has been pushing for such as body to be agreed during its chairmanship of ASEAN:
“We need to make ASEAN more people-centred…Protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a key feature of our community.
”Deplorably the Burmese regime undermined any possibility for agreement on a new charter, vetoed the attendance of human rights campaigners and blocked dialogue with civil society.
“The ASEAN member states must do more for human rights protection in Burma and must do it better. The lack of courage in addressing what constitutes one of the major human rights crises in the world reflects badly on all member states and on ASEAN and does not augur well of its human rights commitment and capacities.” adds Dr. Callamard.Unsurprisingly the current draft of the human rights body leaked to The Associated Press over the weekend is similarly reportedly weak with no powers to investigate or prosecute rights abusers and complete with provisions that reject external interference.






Friday, February 20, 2009

PRESS FREEDOM DETERIORATING IN NEPAL



PRESS FREEDOM DETERIORATING IN NEPAL'S NEW DEMOCRACY, SAYS INTERNATIONAL MISSION



Last month, Uma Singh, a Nepali reporter, was stabbed repeatedly by a gang of around 15 unidentified men in her home in Janakpur, southern Nepal. To this day, no motive has been identified, although IFEX members fear she may have been targeted for her work. Some of her articles made waves in the region, particularly those in which she criticised the caste and dowry system or the ongoing violence in the Terai region, where armed groups have been fighting for the establishment of an autonomous Madhesi state.
Singh's death sparked an emergency international media mission to Nepal on 5-8 February, which found that press freedom in Nepal continues to be threatened - despite the hope that democratic rule introduced last year would improve the situation.
The International Media Mission, hosted by the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and other Nepali media organisations, called on the authorities to undertake prompt, independent and impartial investigations into Singh's case, and all cases of attacks on journalists.
According to FNJ, a staggering 342 press freedom violations were recorded in 2008, including a significant escalation in the number of physical attacks on journalists and media houses whose perpetrators go unpunished. This does not so much represent a rise in attacks on the media but a change in the nature of the attacks, more of which are being committed by non-state actors, says ARTICLE 19.
"The authorities are failing in their duty to prevent, punish and redress the harm caused by such attacks," said the mission. "The links between political parties and some of the perpetrators of these violent acts are a matter of serious concern and would indicate the acceptance, and possible complicity, of those political parties in the violence."
Take the case of journalist, Prakash Singh Thakuri, who has been missing since July 2007. Late last year the government withdrew charges against his accused kidnapper, who was released on bail.
Likewise, the mission raised its concerns over the detention of Reporters' Club President Rishi Dhamala, saying that the administration failed to adhere to proper legal procedures while detaining Dhamala and three other journalists.
The mission also reports that not a single person has been convicted for a criminal act against journalists and media houses.
The mission says the ongoing attacks are having a chilling effect on press freedom, with journalists and media being forced into self-censorship, "seriously jeopardising the peace and democratisation process currently underway in the country."
Conditions for women journalists like Singh, already seriously underrepresented in the profession, are of particular concern, says the mission, as they are more vulnerable to attack. They are being forced to leave their work and sometimes to move away from home due to such pressures.
In a meeting with the mission delegates, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal assured them that Thakuri's case would be reopened. He said the recent attacks on journalists and the culture of impunity are the legacy of the 10-year-old conflict to overthrow the institution of monarchy, and maintained that his government is committed to a free press, which will be reflected in the new constitution.
But former Prime Minister and main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) President Giirja Prasad said otherwise. In a separate meeting with the mission, he accused the current Maoist-led government of remaining "a mute-spectator to continuing attacks on the press" and said the country was no different now than under the totalitarian rule of former monarch Gyanendra Shah.
The mission is urging the government and political parties to implement its recommendations as outlined in "An Agenda for Change", a comprehensive programme for media reform in Nepal prepared by an expert panel of media professionals, legal practitioners, civil society leaders and lawmakers - a joint initiative of FNJ, ARTICLE 19 and Freedom Forum.
Some of the 60 recommendations include the guarantee of free expression and press freedom in the new constitution and in line with international human rights standards, government action to protect journalists, proper enforcement of the Right to Information Act, the abolishment of criminal defamation, and the creation of a committee to deal with reforms outlined in the document.
The International Mission is made up of 15 international organisations. On the latest visit, the mission was represented by ARTICLE 19, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), International Media Support (IMS) and UNESCO.




Visit these links:- Mission statement: http://tinyurl.com/dllaor- "An Agenda for Change": http://tinyurl.com/c9uwmb- IFEX Nepal page: http://tinyurl.com/3ykcoq- ekantipur.com, "PM Dahal asks not to doubt gov't commitment on free press": http://www.ekantipur.com/kolnews.php?&nid=179034- sindhtoday.net, "International Media Mission visits Nepal": http://www.sindhtoday.net/south-asia/60328.htm
(Photo of Uma Singh, courtesy of IPI)
(11 February 2009)

CPJ letter to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal

Nepal : 18 February 2009

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Person(s

CPJ letter to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal:
February 17, 2009
Rt. Honorable Prime Minister of Nepal,

Pushpa Kamal Dahal

Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers

Singh Durbar Kathmandu Nepal


Dear Prime Minister Dahal:
On December 29, your government signed an agreement with local press freedom group the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), ending a week of protest by journalists against a series of attacks on media outlets which peaked in late December. That agreement promised that those attacks would be addressed.
Yet nearly two months on, conditions for journalists continue to deteriorate. Your government must urgently address the climate of impunity for violence against journalists that threatens Nepal's media.
Involvement by cadres of your Maoists' Unified Communist Party of Nepal or their supporters is suspected in the 2008 murder of Janadisha editor and Maoist activist J.P. Joshi, who reported on local party disputes, and the 2007 killing of Birendra Shah in Bara district, central Nepal. Local journalists and civil society groups investigating January's brutal killing of radio and print journalist Uma Singh, in Janakpur in the Terai plains region, now suspect local Maoists had a hand in her death, too. Among other suggested motives, including a family dispute over land, Nepal's National Human Rights Commission suspects she was silenced by Maoist workers, who allegedly abducted and murdered her father and brother in 2006, according to the My Republica news Web site.
Nepal places eighth on CPJ's Impunity Index, which tallies countries that consistently fail to prosecute journalist murders. As the leader of the coalition government, and as head of your party, you have a unique responsibility for reversing this trend. We urge you to obtain justice in older murder cases, such as that of Dailekh district's state Radio Nepal correspondent Dekendra Raj Thapa, who many local journalists believe was murdered by Maoists in August 2004. Although Thapa's body was discovered and exhumed last year, his killers have not yet been brought to justice.
Non-fatal but nonetheless gravely serious attacks on the press are reported with alarming frequency by media outlets and local press freedom groups throughout Nepal. Often targeting Nepali-language media and taking place outside the capital, Kathmandu, these incidents do not always draw the attention of the international community. Fear of repetition or escalation of these attacks breeds self-censorship among journalists, who sometimes avoid publicizing violent acts beyond their local communities.
Kathmandu-based newspapers are emphasizing the climate of fear building in the media community nationwide as reports of these attacks accumulate. "Things were never this bad for the Nepali media: not in the conflict years, not even during the royal emergency," according to Kailali district FNJ leader Dirgharaj Upadhyay in a recent Nepali Times editorial. "It was much easier to fight the ham-handed autocrat king," veteran journalist Kanak Mani Dixit wrote on My Republica, highlighting "an infrastructure of impunity and absence of accountability that is more entrenched than ever before."
When your government acknowledges these incidents, it denies involvement. Yet unpunished violence by Maoist sympathizers contributes to an environment in which acts of aggression against journalists - whether overtly politicized or otherwise - appear to be sanctioned by your leadership. Both the frequency and the methods used in attacks carried out by your supporters provide a model for those undertaken by other political and criminal groups. This seriously undermines the rule of law, and negates your public efforts to negotiate peace with militant groups in the Terai region. They, in turn, embrace the same tactics.
In public comments you all but dismissed December's attack on the offices of the prominent publisher Himalmedia in Lalitpur, near Kathmandu, carried out by a group described in local news reports as Maoist trade unionists. Two days after that attack, members of a youth group belonging to the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist - a member of your coalition government - set fire to thousands of copies of Ankush daily in Parsa district, according to local news reports. The group stormed the paper's offices after it published an article about the party's local government representative. "You can't publish whatever you like," they told the staff, according to a report on the Kantipur Online Web site.
This week, a group of students followed that approach. "We could do anything against those writing and airing news against us," the students, who were not given a political affiliation in published reports, told staff at Tinau FM radio in Rupandehi district when they seized control of station offices for an hour on February 10, according to Kantipur Online. They had taken issue with a news item about a student charged with vandalism, according to Kantipur and the local branch of the Federation of Nepali Journalists. The same day, students also broke into the offices of Mechikali newspaper, where they burned 1,000 copies of the newspaper for carrying the same story, according to the reports.
"Five journalists around the country presently face credible death threats," Dixit wrote on February 2 for My Republica. His brother, Kunda Dixit, was among those targeted in the Himalmedia attack. On February 3, journalists in Saptari district in the Terai plains staged a protest against the local administration for failing to arrest an activist belonging to a local Terai armed group. Jitendra Khadka, a local correspondent for Kantipur Publications, said a person identifying himself as the activist had threatened to kill him over a report he had written about a clash between the group's supporters and local businessmen, but police did not follow up. Saptari journalists have since censored stories about armed groups, according to a My Republica report. "There [has] never been such widespread self-censorship here," according to the Republica report, published February 10 from Janakpur in the wake of Uma Singh's murder. "Panic-stricken women journalists in the region are starting to quit their profession," according to a Kantipur Online report on February 11.
Until your government takes the lead to instigate thorough investigations and prosecutions of attacks on journalists, anyone with a grievance against the media will be emboldened to terrorize news outlets and their staff. If the media succumbs to this intimidation, the country's attempts to establish democracy will have proven a failure. Justices at the Patan Appellate Court awarded 15,000 rupees (US$200) in compensation to journalist Mina Tiwari Sharma on February 10 after determining she was wrongfully held in 2002 during the state of emergency declared by the former king of Nepal, according to local news reports. The editor of Eikyavaddatha newspaper was held along with several journalists accused of links with Maoist groups. During Nepal's decade-long civil war, many news outlets strove for objectivity, incorporating the then-rebel Maoist viewpoint, to the point where it endangered their security.
Bringing justice to individual journalists who were imprisoned in the past is an appropriate way for your government to redress these wrongs. The same applies to present-day crimes against the press. Prosecute those who attack journalists, across the political and social spectrum, so that journalists who express the same objectivity today are not persecuted. We look forward to your reply.
Sincerely,
Joel Simon

Executive Director
CC:Minister for Information and Communication,

Krishna Bahadur


RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Similar appeals can be sent to:
Rt. Honorable Prime Minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal

Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers

Singh DurbarKathmandu, Nepal
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.
For further information on the agreement signed between FNJ and the government in December 2008, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99571/

Yemen: Fahd al Qarni faces charges of “insulting Yemeni President


Yemen: ARTICLE 19 and Hood Condemn Renewed Prosecution of Singer-Comedian on Charges of “Insulting the President”

Yemeni comedian and singer Fahd al Qarni is due before court tomorrow to face yet more charges of “insulting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh”. These repeated charges come following a Presidential pardon that al Qarni received in September 2008 for the exact same “crime”. The pardon quashed the previous sentence of 18 months imprisonment and a fine of YR500,000 (approximately US$2,500) pronounced on 9 July 2008.
“The targeting of Fahd al Qarni under the exact same charges again is a clear example of the censoring of artists who use their medium, in this case through songs and comedy, as a tool to criticise politics. This is a clear violation of the right of an artist to freely express him/herself through his/her art without fear of prosecution” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director ARTICLE 19. The new charges date back to September 2006 and concern cassette tapes produced by al Qarni that contain traditional folk compositions combining comedy and criticism of government policies. These compositions were not authorised by the Ministry of Culture and in July 2006, members of the Criminal Investigations Bureau arrested six vendors of al Qarni’s cassette in an effort to curtail its circulation. ARTICLE 19 and Hood strongly condemn the Yemeni authorities targeting of Fahd Al Qarni which is perceived to be a politically motivated response to his vocal stance against corruption in Yemen. ARTICLE 19 and Hood call for the repeated charges to be dropped against al Qarni in light of his presidential pardon. The presidential pardon should apply to both cases as the charges are the same. ARTICLE 19 and Hood urge the Yemeni government to reaffirm its commitment to the protection of human rights though its actions. This commitment was set out clearly in the National Reform Agenda, adopted by the government in 2006. Yemen has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and is therefore obliged as a matter of international law to respect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR. Yemen has also acceded to the Arab Charter on Human Rights which, under Article 32, guarantees the right to information and free expression.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information: please contact Hoda Rouhana, Programme Officer for MiddleEast and North Africa, hoda@article19.org, +44 20 7278 9292• For more information: please contact Ahmed Amran, The secretary of the executive director, Hood, arman@hoodonline.org, +967 1 212518• Hood is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization. It was established in 1998 by lawyers, people working in the media, and MPs, all of whom are activists in human rights issues and the law. Hood is considered one of the first frontline organizations working to defend human rights in Yemen

Mexico:Special Prosecutor of Crimes Against Journalists

Mexico: ARTICLE 19 Reports on the Ineffectiveness of the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Crimes Against Journalists
Mexico City:

ARTICLE 19 launched on 13 February 2009 an in-depth analysis of the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (FEADP).

Entitled Empty Words: the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists, the report is the product of a year of research and analysis of the workings and deficiencies of the institution. The report is a follow up to ARTICLE 19’s submission to the Human Rights Council‘s Universal Periodic Review of Mexico last week in Geneva.During the first review of Mexico by the Human Rights Council, a number of delegations raised concerns about the FEDAP – the body currently dealing with the increasingly violent situation of freedom of expression in the State. Various delegations highlighted the need to strengthen the FEADP so that it can effectively investigate the aggressions and assassinations of journalists and media workers. Since 2000, 29 journalists have been killed in Mexico and a further eight remain missing. Many more have been subjected to threats and physical aggressions. Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism in Latin America.The FEADP was established in 2006 to address these killings and aggressions. To date, the institution has achieved little, and none of the crimes against journalists have been solved. This can largely be attributed to a lack of political will, and the poor capacities of the FEADP to investigate. “Under the FEADP’s mandate, the scope of prosecution and protection are limited and ambiguous. Failure to address these issues is not only allowing impunity to prevail, but in fact promoting it.” said Darío Ramirez, Director of ARTICLE 19 in Mexico and Central America. The impunity for such crimes in Mexico is the greatest threat, not only to freedom of expression, but to human rights as a whole. ARTICLE 19’s report points the need for comprehensive reform and makes the following recommendations for the strengthening of the FEADP and clarification of its capacities, all of which require political resolve to be implemented:


To change the remit of FEADP so that it is not limited to protect freedom of the press but that it also recognises and protects the right to freedom of expression as a whole

To ensure the federal government is legally competent to investigate and sanction crimes against freedom of expression

To incorporate FEADP into the formal legal structure of the General Attorney’s Office, thereby making it directly accountable to them

To work to ensure that FEADP is meeting its obligations in the area of transparency and accountability. It must also ensure that public interest information related to the institution is proactively disclosed

To undertake to train employees of FEADP to better care for victims and cater to their needs

To explore the possibilities of taking advantage of the recent reform of the justice system to better protect the right to freedom of expression
The Mexican Government admitted in Geneva earlier this week that freedom of expression is one of the major human rights issues currently on the agenda in Mexico. In accordance with concerns expressed by the international community, ARTICLE19 calls on the Mexican State to take on board these recommendations in order to strengthen freedom of expression in the country and fight the culture of impunity that has been allowed to develop.

NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information: please contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America, at ricardo@article19.org, + 55 11 30 57 00 42

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Concerned About the ICTY Attempts to Silence its Staff


10 February 2009
ARTICLE 19 Concerned About the ICTY Attempts to Silence its Staff

ARTICLE 19 urges the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia to take international standards on freedom of expression into account and to balance concerns for confidentiality and the importance of transparency in the case against Florence Hartmann. In particular, we call on the Court not to convict her if an overriding risk of harm to the administration of justice is not established.
In February 2009, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will hear the case against Florence Hartmann, who worked from 2000-2006 as spokesperson for then ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. Hartmann is charged with “knowingly and wilfully disclosing information in knowing violation of a Court order”. In her book, Peace and Punishment, published in September 2007, Hartmann allegedly disclosed information relating to the case of Slobodan Milošević before the ICTY. The ICTY had agreed to maintain confidentiality regarding the archives of Serbia’s Supreme Defence Council related to Srebrenica massacre. Access to the archives was sought in a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). That case involved allegations by Bosnia and Herzegovina that the then Federation of Serbia and Montenegro were responsible for direct involvement in the Srebrenica massacre, which both the ICTY and the ICJ had found to constitute genocide.ARTICLE 19 recognizes that there can be tensions between the principles of freedom expression and openness, and the need for some degree of confidentiality to protect the administration of justice. A careful balance needs to be struck in these cases and any restrictions must be justified as necessary in a democratic society. The freedom of expression aspect of this case means that it cannot be based simply on whether or not Hartmann committed a formal breach of the rules. ARTICLE 19 believes that this case raises critical issues in relation to preserving this balance. The information disclosed by Hartmann relates to the role and responsibility of international bodies in bringing justice to victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is a topic of very significant public importance, which therefore warrants strong protection as an exercise of freedom of expression. At the same time, the ICTY’s interest in maintaining confidentiality in order to secure the co-operation of States is clearly a legitimate aim. In assessing the appropriate balance to be struck in this case, the ICTY should carefully assess the extent of the risk of harm involved. In particular, it should look at whether a failure to convict Hartmann really does pose a risk that other States will refuse to cooperate with it by providing sensitive information. If there is little or no solid evidence that such harm will result, the criminal measures against Hartmann cannot be justified. This case also raises an issue of conflict of interest. The ICTY is effectively standing in judgement in a case which involves its own interests and in which it is the institution aggrieved by the alleged violation. Conflict of interest issues in analogous contexts, for example in contempt of court cases, have been recognised by some national courts. At a minimum, the ICTY should recognise this implicit conflict of interest and take such measures as may be possible taken to minimise it.

NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information: please contact Barbora Bukovska, Senior Legal Director, at barbora@article19.org, +44 20 7278 9292

Brazil: Lula to Decriminalise Unlicensed Community Radios


10 February 2009
Brazil: Lula to Decriminalise Unlicensed Community Radios

In January 2009, Brazilian President Lula sent a bill to Congress which would decriminalise the operation of a community radio without a license. This is a long-standing demand by community radio associations and freedom of expression organisations in Brazil.
ARTICLE 19 has in its work repeatedly highlighted the obligation on States to promote pluralism and diversity in the media, as an aspect of the right to freedom of expression. International law recognises the important contribution that community broadcasting, along with commercial and public service broadcasters, can make to realising media pluralism. We therefore welcome this initiative. At the same time, we note that far more needs to be done to create a proper enabling environment for public interest broadcasting in Brazil. Current Brazilian regulatory policies and practices are not conducive to the development of community broadcasting. Thousands of community radios around the country are waiting to receive a license, in part due to the lengthy and inefficient licensing process, which is not adapted to their needs or situation, and in part due to the fact that an inadequate number of licences have been allocated for community radio use. Community radios still face potential civil or administrative measures for operating without a licence, which can also have a harsh impact on them. Data provided by the Federal Police in 2007 indicate that by August 2007, 1,800 community radios had been closed down and had their equipment confiscated, and many individuals have been criminally charged for operating ‘illegal’ radios. There are many accounts of intimidation and violence by police officers and other authorities relating to these closures.


ARTICLE 19 calls on the Brazilian government to undertake a comprehensive reform of the regulatory regime for broadcasting, including creating an enabling environment for community broadcasters. Urgent measures should also be taken to speed up the processing of existing licence applications.
NOTES TO EDITORS: • For more information: please contact Paula Martins at paula@article19.org, +55 11 3057 0042.

HRC recommendations on freedom of expression : Mexico


11 February 2009 -


ARTICLE 19 Welcomes the Human Rights Council’s Criticisms of Mexico’s Handling of the Aggressions and Assassinations of Journalists
On the occasion of the Human Rights Council’s examination of Mexico as part of the Universal Periodic Review, ARTICLE19 welcomes the international condemnation of the dangers facing journalists in the country.


The Mexican government, through the Minister of the Interior Fernando Gómez Mont, listed the following achievements of the Federal Government in their efforts to address issues preventing the exercise of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, in the country.



1) Decriminalisation of defamation at federal level.
2) General Attorneys Office’s Initiative to “federalize” responses to crimes against journalists
3) Security measures against organized criminal gangs, who according to the government are the principal perpetrators of crimes against journalists.


Delegations present at the HRC’s session pointed out repeatedly that the Mexican government needed to take more concrete measures to eliminate impunity in cases of aggressions against journalists and in particular that it should strengthen the body responsible for prosecuting such crimes, namely the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes against Journalists (FEADP). The delegations also recommended that Mexico thoroughly investigates the aggressions and assassinations that are currently taking place, creates programmes to effectively prevent such crimes, and works towards ensuring a federal level response (as opposed to state level) to crimes against freedom of expression as a whole.ARTICLE19 urges the Mexican Government to accept and comply with the HRC recommendations on freedom of expression and other vital human rights issues. In particular, ARTICLE 19 calls on the Mexican government to:


1) Harmonize local legislation with the federal reform on the decriminalisation of defamation. At the moment, defamation remains a criminal offence in 22 states. The gap between the federal reform and state-level law and legal practices must be addressed immediately and effectively;
2) Immediately create a programme of protection and prevention of aggressions against journalists.

Finally, ARTICLE 19 urges the Congress of the Union to federalize the crimes against freedom of expression as a whole and without delay, in order to effectively combat corruption and impunity.

NOTES TO EDITORS
• Under the Universal Periodic Review process, governments may submit a report on the fulfillment of their human rights obligations to be reviewed by the Human Rights Council. Government then participates in a dialogue with other states to present their report and answer questions from other states. Civil society organizations such as ARTICLE 19 may submit their own contributions to the UPR process to inform the review.


• For more information, please contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico, at ricardo@article19.org, + 55 11 30 57 00 42


Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
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