Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JOURNALIST MURDERED; ANOTHER SURVIVES SHOOTING


VENEZUELA: JOURNALIST MURDERED; ANOTHER SURVIVES SHOOTING

A journalist who recently covered drug trafficking in Venezuela was assassinated last week, report the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS),the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Reporters Without Borders(RSF) and other IFEX members. He was slain just three days after the attempted murder of another journalist in southwestern Venezuela. Two men on a motorbike shot to death Orel Sambrano, the editor of the political weekly "ABC" in Valencia, Carabobo on 16 January as he was getting out of his car. Sambrano was also vice-president of the privately-owned Radio América radio station, a columnist for the regional daily "Notitarde", and a lawyer. Sambrano had recently covered several drug trafficking stories, including a case involving the Makleds, an influential family in the region and the subject of an investigation by the national prosecutor's office after 400kilograms of cocaine was found in their home last year. According to IPYS, Carabobo's National Journalists' Association decreed a state of emergency following Sambrano's murder due to the risks faced by journalists in the region. The murder of Sambrano came just three days after the attempted murder of Rafael Finol of the privately-owned daily "El Regional". Finol was grazed by a bullet on 13 January in Acarigua, southwestern Venezuela as he was leaving the office with colleagues, say IFEX members.
According to RSF, Finol said he was attacked for political reasons. "I knew this would happen after the recent interview I had with President Chávez,"he said. "It was the work of the extreme right, who want to kill me." Finolis an avowed supporter of the President. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling for a swift and thorough investigation, especially in the current political climate. Lastweek, the National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment that would allow Chávez to run for indefinite re-election. The reform will be voted onin a popular referendum as early as 15 February. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says the attacks are part of a pattern of serious violations of press freedom in Venezuela this month. According to IFJ, a young graphic reporter, Jacinto López, was killed on 1January and his partner and fellow graphic journalist Ricardo Marapacuto injured in Barquisimeto, Lara, in an attack that was blamed on general crime. IFJ blames the attitude of law enforcement authorities for their failure to act against the behaviour of violent groups, allegedly associated with government sectors that publicly declare journalists and communication professionals as military targets.

Visit these links:- IAPA: http://tinyurl.com/8uxa7y- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/938rjm- IFJ:
http://tinyurl.com/7qcquj- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30020- International PEN Writers in Prison Committee: http://tinyurl.com/a24kd7- IPYS on Sambrano: http://tinyurl.com/ad3ztf


U.S.: IFEX MEMBERS IN U.S. URGE OBAMA

U.S.: IFEX MEMBERS IN U.S. URGE OBAMA TO REAFFIRM LEADERSHIP IN HUMANRIGHTS
New U.S. President Barack Obama must retake leadership of the global agenda that has been hijacked by "spoiler" states like China, Egypt and Russia, and put human rights at the heart of it, said Human Rights Watch in issuing its annual world report. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) voiced a similar sentiment in a letter to Obama. "The Obama administration must undo the enormous damage caused by the Bush administration and begin to restore the U.S. government's reputation and effectiveness as a human rights defender," said the report. Human Rights Watch said the change must begin in Washington, with steps such as closing the Guantanamo Bay military detention centre, ending coercive interrogation of terrorism suspects and detention without trial,and seeking membership of the UN Human Rights Council. "Changing U.S. policy on how to fight terrorism is an essential place to start," said the report. "It's not only wrong but ineffectual to commit abuses in the name of fighting terrorism or to excuse abuses by repressive governments simply because they're thought to be allies in countering terror." Human Rights Watch said the "spoilers", governments opposing basic rights, such as Algeria, China, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia, had rushed to fill a vacuum left by controversial U.S. policies. These governments often "set the human rights agenda in international forums" and deflected international scrutiny away from their own or their allies' violations. Democracies are also singled out, such as South Africa for failing to address the crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe, and India for not addressing repression in Burma out of political solidarity or economic interests. The best way to successfully defend human rights is to lead by example, say Human Rights Watch and CPJ. "Journalists in many countries who risk their lives and liberty upholding the values of free expression look to the United States for support," CPJ wrote to Obama in a letter dated 12 January. "To assert moral authority we must first put our own house in order." CPJ focuses on how Obama can lead specifically in press freedom. CPJ urges Obama to end the U.S. military's practice of open-ended detention of journalists, and to investigate fully the deaths of journalists from U.S.forces' fire. According to CPJ, the detention without trial of journalists has reduced the U.S.'s standing in the world and "may have contributed to the over all global increase in jailed journalists by emboldening the many tyrants who look for pretext or justification to throw critical journalists in jail. " U.S. allies and close friends such as Azerbaijan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco and Pakistan are among the 10 countries where press freedom has most deteriorated, says CPJ. Fourteen journalists have been held for prolonged periods of time without due process in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer working for Reuters who was detained on 2 September by U.S. forces in Baghdad, is still behind bars. The practice violates the U.S. military's own commitment to review journalist cases within 36 hours of detention, says CPJ. CPJ is also hoping that the Obama administration will commit the military to fully investigate the killing of journalists at the hands of U.S.forces. According to CPJ, at least 16 journalists have died and others havebeen seriously wounded by U.S. forces' fire in Iraq since 2003. The handfulof investigations that were carried out by the U.S. military authorities exonerated the soldiers involved in each case, says CPJ. Read the letter here: http://tinyurl.com/9cqnyy
Human Rights Watch's "World Report 2009" documents ongoing human rightsabuses by states and non-state armed groups in 90 countries, including attacks on civilians in conflicts, political repression, and violations by governments trying to curb terrorism, among others.
Read the 564-page report here: http://tinyurl.com/7z7x53 Individual country reports will be uploaded to the IFEX website.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: SMEAR CAMPAIGN

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: GOVERNMENTS RESORT TO NEW TYPE OF SMEAR CAMPAIGN
Governments in the Middle East have taken their smear campaigns to a new level, planting news, adverts and paid-for editorials discrediting journalists and free expression advocates in foreign papers as well as the local press, report the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) and IFEX members. According to Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship, who is also TMG's chair, the most brazen practitioner of this kind of propaganda is Tunisia, which has unleashed a storm of such material apparently in reaction to the way Tunisia's appalling human rights record has been exposed internationally.

In the most recent case, former Tunisian diplomat Khaled Ben Said was jailed on torture charges for eight years in France in December. At the same time, one of the leading witnesses for the prosecution, journalist and free expression campaigner Sihem Bensedrine, was herself the target of a propaganda attack, says TMG. The government claimed impropriety in her funding relationships with international donors - even though her donors and partners are on public record confirming Bensedrine's due diligence. The claims appeared in state-owned and state-sponsored news organisations. But more surprisingly, international news agency United Press International (UPI) reprinted the accusations and the story was widely circulated in Arabic and French. Jayasekera says the purpose was to discredit Bensedrine, a staunch human rights defender whose magazine "Kalima" is banned in Tunisia and who has been both jailed and beaten by security forces because of her criticism of the authorities.

TMG members urged UPI "to protect its reputation by making appropriate amends, and for the agency to take steps to ensure it is not embroiled in this kind of state disinformation again.
" In Egypt the pro-government daily "Rosa al-Yousef" published a quarter-page advertisement filled with allegations defaming Bensedrine and topped by a photo of Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, reported the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

The head of ANHRI, Gamal Eid, has been defamed in the same paper. "We are used to these campaigns and attacks being waged against us," said ANHRI and 18 other Egyptian human rights groups in a joint statement."However, what angers us is how they tarnish the name of a once great media institution that… helped to create freedom of the press in Egypt." The pro-government Egyptian press has long used this tactic at home. Human rights and democracy advocates Hisham Kassem, Ayman Nour and Saad Edine Ibrahim have all been slandered after they raised Egypt's human rights record on the international stage, says Jayasekera.

A study by the rights organisation Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence in Egypt revealed increasing human rights abuses by journalists against their own kind. The study, covering the period from February 2007 to January 2008, confirmed that "Rosa al-Yousef" was ranked first in Egypt at printing articles that intimidate and insult other newspapers and journalists. The critical paper "Al Masry El Youm" and its editor, Magdi al-Gallad, and the famous opposition weekly "Al Dustour" and its editor, Ibrahim Issa,were among the favourite targets of "Rosa al-Yousef" and other Egyptian papers known for turning their backs on journalism ethics.

See results of the study here: http://tinyurl.com/9orul9 English version: http://tinyurl.com/89lnn4

Meanwhile, in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has reported a slandering media campaign against seven human rights defenders, including former president of BCHR Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. A group of 14 youth activists, currently facing charges of planning to carry out acts of terrorism, named the seven well-known human rights defenders as the instigators and trainers of the plans. According to the youths' lawyers,the detainees showed signs of ill-treatment and torture during interrogation. But the accusations were repeated without reservation in all the major Bahrain dailies and government-owned and run TV networks. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), fears that rights defenders have been slandered to deter them from defending Shi'a minority rights, and is asking for supporters to write to the authorities expressing concern that the activists were framed.

See: http://tinyurl.com/7uyulv This strategy of blurring the lines between truthful reporting, unattributed opinion and propaganda, coordinated to serve a political objective, is also being extensively developed by the U.S. in Iraq, despite domestic legal restraints and strong ethical opposition, says Jayasekera. According to Jayasekera, the responsibility of separating truth from lies rests on journalists. "They should treat false reports with healthy scepticism and always question the motive behind the message," he says. "In today's high-volume, high-speed media environment it has never been more important to ask not only 'Is this person telling me the truth?' but also to ask 'Why is he telling me this?'"

Visit these links:- Jayasekera's op-ed, published in "The Daily Star", Lebanon: http://tinyurl.com/7o7den- TMG: http://campaigns.ifex.org/tmg/- ANHRI: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99843/- BCHR: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/2661 AFRICA

DOHA CENTRE OFFERS ASSISTANCE FOR MEDIA AT RISK

DOHA CENTRE OFFERS ASSISTANCE FOR MEDIA AT RISK

Journalists and media outlets in danger are invited to apply for support from the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, a relatively new international freedom of expression organisation based in Qatar and run by the former head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Robert Ménard.

The centre provides assistance to imprisoned journalists and their families, and to journalists who have been threatened or attacked, by offering funding, legal aid and money for medical treatment. The centre also offers advice for those facing lawsuits, including how best to defend themselves at the regional and international level. Media outlets that have been censored or persecuted, or destroyed in fighting or national disasters, can also call on the centre for help. The centre has given financial assistance to 150 journalists or media outlets so far, totalling more than US$340,000.

The Doha Centre was set up in December 2007 by a decree of Qatar's Emir, H.H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who is also the chair of Al Jazeera, and is under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned. Complete the application form online here: http://tinyurl.com/7a29ee The form can also be sent to you on request by contacting: assistance (@)dohacentre.org

For more information, see: http://www.dohacentre.org/-Assistance-.html--------------------------------------------

Friday, January 23, 2009

Amnesty International : Watch our new video First 100 days

Watch our new video First 100 days

The inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama on 20 January 2009 will be accompanied by widespread expectation of change. The world will be watching and hoping for positive outcomes on many different issues. Ahead of his inauguration, Amnesty International’s new film First 100 days is asking the President-elect to take concrete steps to demonstrate his

commitment to international human rights standards, including in the context of countering terrorism. Since the attacks on the USA on 11 September 2001, the US authorities have authorised and justified human rights violations in the name of national security: illegal transfers and detentions; enforced disappearance; torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The new administration and Congress must break with the past. President-elect Obama has already said that he will close Guantánamo and end torture. We’re not asking the impossible.
We have a checklist for President Obama’s first 100 days in office.
His first steps should be to:
announce a plan and date to close Guantánamo
ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law
ensure an independent commission of enquiry in US ‘war on terror’ abuses is set up


These things are possible and you can help.Visit www.obama100day.org today, sign the petition and support the challenge for Obama.
Thank youThe Counter Terror with Justice campaign team
http://obama100days.amnesty.org/index.html

ARTICLE 19 Laments Murder of Editor

Sri Lanka: ARTICLE 19 Laments Murder of Editor

Lasantha Wickrematunga, Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader, was murdered as he drove to work in Colombo on 8 January 2009. At least the ninth journalist to have been killed in Sri Lanka over the last two years, Lasantha’s murder signals an all-time low point for freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. The government has signally failed in its duty to bring to justice those responsible for these murders, as well as its wider duty to respect freedom of expression.

“The murder of Lasantha is a travesty and a grave blow for freedom of expression in Sri Lanka,” said Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel, ARTICLE 19. “This is a direct attack on The Sunday Leader, which ARTICLE 19 has defended in the past, and which is one of the most independent sources of information in Sri Lanka.”The silencing of voices through murder, the most extreme form of censorship, has become rampant in Sri Lanka in recent years. The government’s unprecedented military successes against the Tamil Tigers, and its ability to maintain strict security checkpoints around the country, stand in stark contrast to its complete failure to find and prosecute any of those guilty of these heinous crimes, which attack not only the immediate victims, but all Sri Lankans. A moving editorial published in The Sunday Leader on 11 January, a few days after Lasantha’s death, and apparently written shortly beforehand, stands as a grim testament to the reality of life for independent journalists in Sri Lanka. The editorial is clear as to who is responsible for Lasantha’s murder: “When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.”Indifference to murders of journalists is only one of many failures on the part of the Sri Lankan government to respect freedom of expression. The government has imposed a complete blanket of secrecy around its military operations. The only information on the conflict comes from official sources and the LTTE, which often provide wildly different, even diametrically opposing, views on events. Government retains firm control over the State broadcasters, no right to information law has been adopted despite numerous promises, there is no independent broadcast regulator and a number of repressive laws set strict standards for media output. A stark example of this is the case of Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainyagam, who has been in detention since March 2008 and was finally charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in August of that year.ARTICLE 19 calls on the Sri Lankan government to ensure that a proper investigation of this murder is undertaken and those responsible are brought to justice. It also calls on the international community to take effective steps to address the lack of respect for freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, and to make sure that Lasantha’s death was not totally in vain.

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

United States: New Openness Policies

United States: ARTICLE 19 and Privacy International Welcome New Openness Policies

ARTICLE 19 and Privacy International (PI) welcome US President Barack Obama’s announcement on 21 January of new policies enhancing public access to government information, in one of his first official actions as President. These changes mark a significant departure from previous policies.

The new rules revise existing controls on access to government information under the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act. They create a presumption in favour of disclosure and also encourage affirmative disclosure of information. They call for “creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government”.The Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act clearly sets out new standards that should be the benchmark for transparency:
In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.
ARTICLE 19 and PI welcome President Obama’s initiative – on his first day in office – which recognises the importance of openness and reverses years of excessive secrecy. These changes are not only important to the US but to the global community, given the US’ importance in promoting openness. Other nations should take this opportunity to reaffirm their commitments to adopting easy-to-use, effective mechanisms to allow their citizens access to information.Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, said: “ARTICLE 19 and PI welcome President Obama’s commitment to transparency and openness. That it comes on the first full day of President Obama’s administration signals a new approach to government domestically in the US. It also marks a shift towards re-establishing the US position as a global leader in promoting human rights, good governance and democracy.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information: please contact Nicola Spurr, Senior Press Officer: ARTICLE 19 at nicola@article19.org or +44 20 7278 9292 or David Banisar, Deputy Director: Privacy International at privacyint@privacy.org or +44 20 8123 7933.• Privacy International (PI) is a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations. PI is based in London, England, and has an office in Washington, D.C. We have campaigned across the world to protect people against intrusion by governments and corporations that seek to erode this fragile right. We believe that privacy forms part of the bedrock of freedoms, and our goal has always been to use every means to preserve it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reporters into the Gaza Strip not Allowed

Ten days after the Israeli's Supreme Court ruling on 31 December which ordered the state to allow foreign reporters into the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to block foreign media access. Each day international journalists have gone to the border crossing and have been turned away by military officials, normally on the premise that it is too dangerous and that the presence of journalists at the terminals could make them, a target for militants. Journalists have therefore not been able to talk to the Palestinians inside Gaza to gain their version of events. However, at the same time international reporters have been welcomed into Israel and have been free to interview Israeli officials on the crisis.
"The media blackout is a violation of the world's right to know what is happening in Gaza. In the absence of international media it is impossible to receive unbiased news on the situation. It is also an abuse of the right to freedom of expression for those living inside Gaza who are being prevented from telling their story to the world. Moreover, the presence of journalists on the ground can actually deter abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian law in a conflict situation. Freedom of expression and the right to access to information are necessary for building a situation of lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East,” stated Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19Preventing foreign media from reporting from inside Gaza represents a new low for press freedom in Israel. The State has historically allowed access to foreign reporters even at the height of previous conflicts. The Israeli State not only stands in violation of international human rights law but is also acting against the decision of its own highest court by which eight members of the media were to be allowed into Gaza when the Erez crossing was opened for humanitarian reasons. It should be noted that the Supreme Court’s ruling represents somewhat of a compromise between international standards and the Israeli State in that it permits the authorities to place a limitation on the number of journalists allowed entry to Gaza and only says they must consider increasing numbers once security allows. Although security is an issue for all journalists in conflict situations and it is sometimes easier to ensure the safety of small numbers, access to journalists should not be limited numerically. Limiting the numbers of journalists given access places a restriction upon the number of reports and range of opinions coming out of a conflict zone. There are currently journalists from about 30 different countries, speaking at least 10 different languages waiting in Israel to access Gaza. Even if the Israeli government were to permit the entry of 8 individuals at a time, this would clearly not be enough to serve the world’s media and right to information effectively.ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Israeli authorities to allow immediate and unrestricted foreign media access into the Gaza Strip in accordance with its international obligations on the right to freedom of expression and the right to access information, under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Israel ratified on 3 October 1991.

NOTES TO EDITORS:
For more information: please contact Jasmine O’Connor, Senior Director for Development, http://article19.org/+44 20 7278 9292





Article 19 condemns continuing media blackout of crisis in Gaza

Ten days after the Israeli's Supreme Court ruling on 31 December which ordered
the state to allow foreign reporters into the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to block
foreign media access. Each day international journalists have gone to the border crossing and have been turned away by military officials, normally on the premise that it is too dangerous and that the presence of journalists at the terminals could make them, a target for militants. Journalists have therefore not been able to talk to the Palestinians inside Gaza to gain their version of
events. However, at the same time international reporters have been welcomed into Israel and have been free to interview Israeli officials on the crisis.
"The media blackout is a violation of the world's right to know what is happening in Gaza. In the absence of international media it is impossible to receive unbiased news on the situation. It is also an abuse of the right to freedom of expression for those living inside Gaza who are being prevented from telling their story to the world. Moreover, the presence of journalists on the ground can actually deter abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian law in a conflict situation. Freedom of expression
and the right to access to information are necessary for building a situation of
lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East,” stated Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 Preventing foreign media from reporting from inside Gaza represents a new low for press
freedom in Israel. The State has historically allowed access to foreign reporters even at the height of previous conflicts. The Israeli State not only stands in violation of international human rights law but is also acting against the decision of its own highest court by which eight members of the media were to be allowed into Gaza when the Erez crossing was opened for humanitarian reasons. It should be noted that the Supreme Court’s ruling represents somewhat of a compromise between international standards and the Israeli State in that it permits the authorities to place a limitation on the number of journalists allowed entry to Gaza and only says they must consider increasing numbers once security allows. Although security is an issue for all journalists in conflict situations and it is sometimes easier to ensure the safety of small
numbers, access to journalists should not be limited numerically. Limiting the numbers of journalists given access places a restriction upon the number of reports and range of opinions coming out of a conflict zone. There are currently journalists from about 30 different countries, speaking at least 10 different languages waiting in Israel to access Gaza. Even if the Israeli government were to permit the entry of 8 individuals at a time, this would clearly not be enough to serve the world’s media and right to information effectively.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Israeli authorities to allow immediate and unrestricted foreign media access into the Gaza Strip in accordance with its international obligations on the right to freedom of expression and the right to access information, under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Israel ratified on 3 October 1991.

JOURNALISTS KILLED FOR THEIR WORK IN 2008



DOZENS OF JOURNALISTS KILLED FOR THEIR WORK IN 2008
Last year, fewer journalists were killed while doing their job than in recent years - but that should not be grounds for optimism, say IFEX members in their end of year reports.
According to its annual analysis, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recorded 41 journalists killed in direct connection to their work in 2008 - a drop from 65 in 2007. "While that's lower than the unprecedented numbers we saw over the last few years, by historical standards it's still very high," says CPJ. The lower death toll was due mainly to a sharp drop in deaths in Iraq, from 32 in 2007 to 11 last year, due to improved security conditions there, says CPJ. CPJ is still investigating further cases.
The 2008 death toll reflected a shift in global hot spots, as high numbers of deaths were reported in restive areas of Asia and the Caucasus, says CPJ. Watch CPJ's video tribute to the journalists who died in 2008:

http://tinyurl.com/7ouzyw then read the report: http://tinyurl.com/9v6kvf

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) counts 60 journalists killed in the line of duty. RSF tallies cases in which a link between the violation and the victim's work as a journalist is clearly established or very likely. But RSF says the fall in numbers of attacks on the traditional media does not mean the press freedom situation has improved - online repression is on the rise, with bloggers being imprisoned and websites being censored. RSF says cases of online censorship were recorded in 37 countries, with Syria (162 websites censored), China (93) and Iran (38) topping the list.
"The figures may be lower than last year's but this should not mask the fact that intimidation and censorship have become more widespread, including in the West, and the most authoritarian governments have been taking an even tougher line," says RSF. See:

http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=29797

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) records 68 journalists and other media workers killed last year. "Attacks on journalists throughout the world - by organised crime groups in Latin America, autocratic regimes in the Middle East, repressive governments in Africa and by combatants in war zones - pose serious threats to press freedom," said WAN in its report, with region-by-region details. See:
http://www.wan-press.org/article17943.html

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which compiles figures in cooperation with the International News Safety Institute (INSI), counts 109 journalists and media workers killed last year in 36 countries. IFJ includes all journalists killed because of their work as well as those killed in accident while on assignment or on their way to or from a story. According to IFJ, India's death toll also figured high on the list with 10 casualties, following a surge of attacks in insurgent-hit states in the country. See IFJ:

http://tinyurl.com/8juw3k and INSI: http://tinyurl.com/8suo9d
Despite the range in numbers, all agree that even though the casualties have decreased, Iraq was once again the world's most dangerous country for the press. Many of the at least 11 journalists - all Iraqi nationals working for local Iraqi news outlets - were deliberately targeted.
The next three deadliest countries for the media were Pakistan with at least seven journalists killed for doing their work, the Philippines with six killed, and Mexico, with four murdered.
In the Americas, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called 2008 "a year of contrasts." The year was marked on the one hand by violence and harassment of the media, including 13 journalists killed, and by the passing of constructive new laws on the other. IAPA blamed organised crime for the murders. IAPA notes "aggravation and threats" took place in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, while 26 journalists remain jailed in Cuba, many of them seriously ill. But the good news is that access to information improved in Chile, Guatemala, Uruguay and Nicaragua. See:

http://tinyurl.com/9bhsuh

In Mexico journalists have increasingly become the target of drug traffickers and mobsters. According to WAN, 23 have been killed since 2000, and seven others have disappeared since 2005 - cementing Mexico's position as the most dangerous country in the Americas for the media, even surpassing Colombia. Like the Philippines, Mexico is among the worst in solving these murders: none of the killers of journalists murdered in Mexico this year have been brought to justice.
The fall in the death toll in Africa, say IFEX members, is a result of many journalists opting not to work, often turning to a less dangerous trade or going into exile. WAN reports that charges of defamation, sedition and "disrupting public order" work to intimidate and silence independent and opposition media. Those that choose to report on rebellions or criticise the authorities often end up in jail - the number of arrests is particularly high in Africa, says RSF.
Even in Europe and Central Asia, death threats against or prosecution of journalists reporting on conflict zones, war crimes and organised crime are common. Journalists are at risk in an increasingly volatile political situation in the Caucasus, where at least three journalists died in just five days of fighting between Georgian, Russian and local forces over the disputed region of South Ossetia, say the members.
Some IFEX members have also put out country-specific year-end analyses.
"2008 was not a bright year for press freedom in Indonesia," says the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), especially with a slew of criminal charges against journalists and, unsurprisingly, the introduction of new laws that criminalise press offences. Those who commit defamation via the Internet face up to six years in jail, for example. See:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99600/
Safety remains the biggest concern for journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says Journalist in Danger (JED) in its 2008 annual report, "Ten years for press freedom: the situation of freedom of the press in Central Africa". JED says a decline in the number of attacks against the press is more likely attributable to censorship and self-censorship, rather than improvements to the country's press laws or the impunity that journalists' killers usually enjoy. See: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99592/

IFEX will continue to publish members' reports online as they are made available: http://www.ifex.org/




(Photo: Funeral of Shihab al-Tamimi, leader of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate who died from injuries suffered in a targeted shooting in Baghdad last year. Photo courtesy of CPJ) (7 January 2009)



Grievous blow to Sri Lankan media

By Alastair Lawson BBC News

Rights groups argue that journalists face a culture of intimidation
The murder of Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga highlights the claim often made by human rights groups that the country is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to operate.
He is the latest in a long line of Sri Lankan journalists who have been murdered or silenced over the past two decades.
Many of the victims have not met their fate in the country's war zone, because for much of the past 20 years independent journalists have been banned from reporting from the conflict areas.
Instead they have been targeted in Colombo - and nearly all of them had records of exposing official corruption or what they said was inept handling of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The war now appears to be reaching its final, crucial stage as the army continues to make in-roads into the rebels' northern stronghold.
'Iconoclastic journalist'
"Mr Wickramatunga's death is a serious blow for press freedom because he was one of the few reporters in the country who could write authoritatively about the government and Tamil Tigers' conduct of a brutal war which has claimed thousands of lives over the years but has been consistently under-reported by much of the world's media," said Priyath Liyanage, editor of the BBC's Sinhala service.

Recent coverage of the war has increased tension in the media
Campaigning groups such as Reporters Without Borders say that the targeting of journalists has worsened in recent years. Only on Tuesday, gunmen armed with grenades ransacked offices of the largest private TV broadcaster in the country.
"Sri Lanka has lost one of its more talented, courageous and iconoclastic journalists," a Reporters Without Borders statement said.
"President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his associates and the government media are directly to blame because they incited hatred against him and allowed an outrageous level of impunity to develop as regards violence against the press. Sri Lanka's image is badly sullied by this murder, which is an absolute scandal and must not go unpunished."
Amnesty International last year said that at least 10 media workers were killed over a two-year period. It said that many more were abducted, detained or had disappeared.
Last month Human Rights Watch called on the government to free prominent Tamil journalist, JS Tissainayagam. His magazine accused the government of "shamefully using anti-terror laws to silence peaceful critics".
Criminal libel
One of those reporters who steadfastly refused to be silenced was Lasantha Wickramatunga. A flamboyant and colourful character, he was not afraid to expose the perceived wrongdoings of the country's most influential politicians.
The Rajapaksas are swollen... with the pride of bloodthirsty euphoria [following the fall of Kilinochchi] and are unable to think beyond the destruction of the Tamil Tigers and its leadership
Lasantha Wickramatunga
I interviewed him in Colombo in 2000, when his paper was closed down because it mockingly avoided censorship regulations by reporting the opposite of what had really happened.
At that time the army was in retreat and the northern Jaffna peninsula was close to falling to the Tigers. The paper avoided the censor by reporting that Jaffna was safe in the government's hands and that the army was on the offensive.
On another occasion Mr Wickramatunga obtained the credit card details of a government minister to show that his bills were being illegally paid for by a foreign company eager to invest in the country.
While some of the material Mr Wickramatunga produced arguably veered towards the prurient, his "publish and be damned" attitude to journalism meant that at times he was able to expose high-profile cases of government corruption which meant that he received numerous death threats and several periods of detention.
'Flamboyant'
"I believe it is my duty not to accept anything the government tells us at face value," he told me, "and it is especially our duty not to allow the press in Sri Lanka to be brow-beaten or censored. We need to tell the outside world about the horrific nature of the war in which we are currently involved."
His work exposing government dealings in arms procurement deals - especially a recent agreement to buy MiG fighters from Russia - earned him a reputation as one of the country's most fearless reporters.

Many Sri Lankan journalists say they are being gagged by the govenrment
At the same time it also earned him a reputation as being one of the strongest critics and bitterest enemies of the governing People's Alliance party.
Few reporters would dare write what he did in his most recent editorial - in which he referred to the president's "bloodthirsty euphoria" following the fall of the Tamil Tiger-held town of Kilinochchi last week.
"Should we fail meaningfully to address the aspirations of the Tamil people that survive this holocaust, we can be sure as night follows day that history will repeat itself... and all the bloodshed and all the sacrifice made to bring the war to a conclusion will have been in vain," he said.
While there is little evidence to suggest Mr Wickramatunga was unduly partisan in his reporting, his position was perhaps undermined by his known support for the opposition United National Party, for whom he once stood as a parliamentary candidate.
BBC Sinhala editor, Priyath Liyanage, says Mr Wickramatunga "was one of Sri Lanka's most flamboyant, brave and outspoken journalists".
"His death is a further grievous blow to press freedom in a country where few openly dare to question the government's handling of the war."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7823729.stm


Thousands mourn Sri Lanka editor

Mr Wickramatunga was shot last Thursday by unidentified gunmen
Thousands of mourners have attended the funeral of a leading Sri Lankan newspaper editor and fierce government critic who was shot dead last week.
Security was tight in Colombo as crowds paid their last respects to Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga.
Reports say some 10,000 people attended a Christian service ahead of a burial ceremony at Colombo's main cemetery.
Journalists in Sri Lanka have suffered a string of attacks as the war with Tamil Tiger rebels has intensified.
Media freedom groups say intimidation and violence make it one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to report.
Death threats Mourners packed the Assembly of God church in Colombo on Monday afternoon for the service for Lasantha Wickramatunga. His burial was to take place later at Colombo General Cemetery, the city's main burial ground

Police are investigating the attack
Mr Wickramatunga was shot last Thursday by unidentified gunmen as he drove to work. He died from head wounds after nearly three hours of surgery, doctors said.
Police have yet to make any arrests.
Correspondents say Mr Wickramatunga had numerous run-ins with the government. His killing was one of two major attacks on the media in Sri Lanka last week. On Tuesday, gunmen armed with grenades ransacked offices of the MBC group, the largest private TV broadcaster in the country. Mr Wickramatunga worked for the channel as a presenter on a weekly current affairs programme. MBC had been criticised by the government for its coverage of the war against the Tamil Tigers. Mr Wickramatunga, 52, and his newspaper had been highly critical of government policy and the war with the Tamil Tiger rebels. He received numerous death threats throughout his career and was detained on several occasions because of the controversial nature of his stories. He also fought a number of libel cases.
'Intimidation'
Amnesty International said in November that at least 10 media employees had been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006.
Some reporters say the intimidation has got worse as the war has intensified with the Tamil Tigers.
The Sri Lankan government has been accused of encouraging violence against the media by branding reporters seen as critical as rebel-sympathisers and enemies of the state. The government has condemned the incidents and ordered full police investigations. President Rajapaksa said he was "grieved and shocked" by Mr Wickramatunga's killing.



Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
Loading...