Friday, February 20, 2009



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: "An Agenda for Change": IFEX Nepal page:, "PM Dahal asks not to doubt gov't commitment on free press":, "International Media Mission visits Nepal":
(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.
Joel Simon

Executive Director
CC:Minister for Information and Communication,

Krishna Bahadur

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:

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.
• For more information: please contact Hoda Rouhana, Programme Officer for MiddleEast and North Africa,, +44 20 7278 9292• For more information: please contact Ahmed Amran, The secretary of the executive director, Hood,, +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.

• For more information: please contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America, at, + 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.

• For more information: please contact Barbora Bukovska, Senior Legal Director, at, +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, +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.

• 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, + 55 11 30 57 00 42

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stop the Harassment of Ghada Jamsheer

Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 Calls for the End of the Harassment of Ghada Jamsheer

ARTICLE 19 has written to Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain, asking him to ensure that women’s rights activist, Ghada Jamsheer, is protected from harassment and guaranteed her right to free expression.
Jamsheer is leader of the Women’s Petition Committee which works to protect women and advocate for improved women’s rights in the country’s sharia courts. She has been repeatedly harassed in the course of her work and has been effectively banned from the country’s media since 2007. In November 2008, while attending the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) Conference in South Africa, Jamsheer’s home was reportedly entered by a state security agent and detailed photographs were taken of her residence. Her house phone, mobile phone and email account were also reportedly put under surveillance.After reporting this incident to the police, Ms Jamsheer’s 74-year-old mother and sister were then accused by the police of attacking the state security agent. They are now facing court proceedings. Rather than the legitimate process of justice, this appears to be another attempt to intimidate Ms Jamsheer.Ghada Jamsheer and her family have also received threatening text messages and have allegedly been followed by a car.

Jamsheer is unable to publish any articles or obtain any media coverage under a reported media ban issued by His Excellency Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of the Royal Court.

“The harassment campaign and the media ban against Ghada Jamsheer are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of women’s rights in Bahrain and is a clear violation of her right to freedom of expression and of the freedom of the press in Bahrain,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19. “It undermines much needed debate in Bahrain and, in particular, silences women’s voices and discourages their participation in civil society.”
In the letter to the Bahraini monarch, ARTICLE 19 expressed its concerns about the physical and psychological welfare of Ghada Jamsheer and her family, and urged the authorities to restore freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, by lifting the ban and putting a stop to all intimidation of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

• For more information, please contact Hoda Rouhana, MENA Programme Officer at or +44 20 7278 9292.

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept