Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yemen: Controversial Special Court sentences journalists to jail and bans them from writing

Yemen: Controversial Special Court sentences journalists to jail and bans them from writing



ARTICLE 19 expresses grave concern over prison sentences handed to two Yemeni journalists by the Special Court this week for expressing their opinion in print.


On January 17, Moaz Al-Ashihabi, a journalist for the Al Thaqafieh newspaper was taken to central prison following a Special Court sentence of one-year’s imprisonment for writing an article that “infringes on the Islamic faith”. Al–Ashihabi, is also banned from writing for one year.

A day earlier, on January 16, female writer Anisa Othman was sentenced to three months in jail for writing an article deemed offensive to state President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the weekly Al-Wasat newspaper. The court also banned Anisa from practicing journalism for one year.

The sentences were met by widespread protest and letters of condemnation from across Yemeni civil society. The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate said in a statement issued yesterday: “The ruling (against Al-Ashihabi) sets a dangerous precedent against writers and journalists. This clearly shows that the Court is merely a punitive tool used against the media.”

The controversial Special Court for Journalists was established in May 2009, following a decision by the Yemen Ministry of Information to suspend eight leading newspapers.

The government argued, through the state-run Saba news agency, that press cases necessitate experienced and specialized judges who understand the role of the press and appreciate the mission of press and journalists. It insisted that the court would be more efficient as it would try all press related cases in one place in the capital Sana’a.
However, the Special Court was a shock to the vocal Yemeni media and activists who viewed the court as another means of muzzling the press and intimidating journalists. Journalists have been staging protests demanding the abolition of the court, which they consider as unconstitutional, and the end to unjustified restrictions on freedom of expression.

“At a difficult time for Yemen, the court’s ruling is deeply disappointing,” says Dr. Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director “Journalists should not be tried in Special Courts and prison sentences should never be passed on journalists for expressing their opinion.”


NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information please contact: Sa’eda Kilani, Director – ARTICLE 19, Jordan, sa’eda@article19.org, +962-79-9860004

Vietnam: ARTICLE 19 Condemns Convictions of Pro-Democracy Activists

20 January 2010
Vietnam: ARTICLE 19 Condemns Convictions of Pro-Democracy Activists

ARTICLE 19 condemns the conviction today of four Vietnamese pro-democracy activists, including leading human rights lawyer, Le Cong Dinh. ARTICLE 19 also expresses its grave concern about increasing repression of activists and an accompanying clampdown on freedom of expression in Vietnam, ahead of the Communist Party congress due to take place next year.
Le Cong Dinh is a respected Vietnamese lawyer who has defended labour rights and democracy activists, and bloggers. He has also been an outspoken proponent of political pluralism and freedom of expression.

Dinh was joined in the dock by Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, named by the media as an internet entrepreneur, alongside Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thang Long, in a trial lasting only one day. The four were arrested last June initially under the charge of spreading anti-government propaganda; they were later charged and convicted under the more severe Article 79 of the Criminal Code that prohibits “activities aimed at subverting the people's administration”. There are signs that the authorities are increasingly using Article 79, which allows for the death penalty, to prosecute political opponents.

Thuc received the longest sentence of 16 years; Dinh and Long were each sentenced to five years, and Trung seven years.

ARTICLE 19 believes that these convictions will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Vietnam. The fate of these four men must be viewed in the context of the recent convictions of other pro-democracy advocates, the arrests of bloggers and the blocking of the social networking site Facebook.

“The ability to hold and express different political views is central to democracy,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “The abuse of criminal statutes for the prosecution of individuals who oppose the government goes against Vietnam’s stated commitment to human rights and freedom of expression, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam acceded in September 1982.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information please contact: Amy Sim, Asia Programme Officer at amy@article19.org or +44 20 7324 2511.

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
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