Thursday, March 25, 2010

Indonesia: Human Rights NGOs Argue "Defamation of Religions" Law Contravenes Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion and Equality In Legal Brief to

Indonesia: Human Rights NGOs Argue “Defamation of Religions” Law Contravenes Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion and Equality In Legal Brief to Constitutional Court

Indonesia’s laws prohibiting and punishing the “abuse or defamation of religions” are contrary to international human rights law, according to the amicus curiae brief submitted by ARTICLE 19, Amnesty International, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights to the Indonesian Constitutional Court on 11 March 2010.

The organisations submitted the brief to the Indonesian Constitutional Court in the judicial review of Law Number 1/PNPS/1965 concerning the prevention of religious abuse and/or defamation. The 1965 law prohibits “interpretation and activities are in deviation of the basic teachings” of “a religion adhered to in Indonesia”, which includes some faiths with followers in the country but not others. The Indonesian Criminal Code imposes a five year prison sentence on anyone who publicly expresses views or engages in actions which are considered “abuse or defamation” of these religions.

In the opinion of the organisations, the laws violate Indonesia’s international human rights obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to equality. The organisations emphasise that the laws are fundamentally incompatible with the authoritative interpretation of international human rights law by international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression and on freedom of religion or belief. The organisations further argue that the laws go against regional human rights standards and practices.

The organisations have submitted the brief in the hope that the Constitutional Court will rescind Indonesia’s defamation laws as a first step towards ensuring full adherence to Indonesia’s international legal obligations, including respect for and protection of the human rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression, and ending discriminatory policies and practices against certain minority faiths.

NOTES :

• For the brief of 11 March 2010 see: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/judicial-review-of-law-number-1-pnps-1965-concerning-the-prevention-of-relig.pdf
• For the letter of 47 organisations of 11 March 2010 see: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/letters/letter-from-civil-society-organizations-to-state-representatives-defamation-.pdf
• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, sejal@article19.org or David Banisar, Senior Legal Counsel, banisar@article19.org +44 20 7324 2500; Yuval Ginbar, Legal Adviser, Amnesty International, +44 20 74135739 yginbar@amnesty.org; Jeremie Smith, Director of Geneva Officer, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies js.cihrs@gmail.com; Hossam Bahgat, Executive Director, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights hossam@eipr.org



UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 Calls On HRC Members to Vote Against Proposed Resolution On “Combating Defamation of Religions”

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by a draft resolution on “combating defamation of religions” which has been circulated by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at the current, 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council. ARTICLE 19 urges member states of the Human Rights Council to vote against the draft resolution or at least abstain in a vote on its adoption.

I Introduction

1. A draft resolution on “combating defamation of religions” (the “draft resolution”) has been tabled by Pakistan, on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic States, for consideration by the UN Human Rights Council (“the HRC”), which is currently being held in Geneva. The forty-seven member states of the Council are due to consider the draft resolution before the end of this session on 26 March 2010. The subject of the draft resolution is not new within UN human rights bodies. Since 1999, a series of resolutions on combating defamation of religions have been adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission, and the UN General Assembly. Indeed, the draft resolution expressly draws influence from earlier resolutions and also makes some changes to the resolution which was adopted by the HRC at its tenth session.

2. These changes are, however, minor in their nature and do not, in any way, diminish the criticisms which ARTICLE 19 and other groups have made against UN resolutions on “combating defamation of religions”. The purpose of this statement is to note the new features that distinguish this draft resolution from previously adopted resolutions of the HRC on the subject and to summarise ARTICLE 19’s ongoing concerns with the adoption of any UN resolution on “combating defamation of religions”.

II New features of the draft resolution

3. A number of new features distinguish the draft resolution from previously adopted resolutions on “combating defamation of religions” of the HRC. It is assumed these changes are supposed to assist in legitimising the concept of “defamation of religions” and to persuade states to adopt the draft resolution. These changes do not improve the draft resolution from an international human rights perspective or make it compatible with international human rights law. For that to happen, at the bare minimum, the very concept of “defamation of religions” itself would need to be eliminated altogether. The new features do demonstrate the clear will of the drafters to situate the draft resolution more directly within the framework of established international human rights law and UN human rights initiatives, and, in so doing, to legitimise and entrench the concept of “defamation of religions”.

4. First, the draft resolution recalls the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban in 2001, as well as the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference held in Geneva in April 2009 (paragraph 6 of the preamble). Yet the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference omitted any reference at all to the notion of “defamation of religions”.

5. Second, the draft resolution indicates that the HRC “takes note of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on possible correlation between defamation of religions and the upsurge in incitement, intolerance and hatred in many parts of the world (A/HRC/13/57) and the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/HRC/12/38) presented to the Council at its twelfth session” (paragraph 1).

6. The reliance on both reports for this draft resolution is misleading. Neither of these reports suggests that the notion of “defamation of religions” forms an accepted part of the discourse of international human rights bodies. Indeed, the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights refrains from making any conclusions which refer to “defamation of religions” and instead makes specific reference to a joint statement by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression which states that “difficulties in providing an objective definition of the term ‘defamation of religions’ at the international level make the whole concept open to abuse”. Moreover, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in his above-mentioned report reiterates the recommendation of his predecessor to “encourage a shift away from the sociological concept of the defamation of religions towards the legal norm of non-incitement to national, racial or religious hatred”.

7. Fourth, the draft resolution “trongly condemns … the ban on construction of minarets of mosques … that stand in sharp contradiction to international human rights obligations concerning freedom of religion, belief, conscience and expression” (paragraph 8). State bans on the construction of minarets and mosques may violate the rights of observant Muslims to manifest their religion in public and are contrary to the international (and regional) human rights obligations of states. However, the prohibition and punishment of forms of expression and activities which fall within the notion of “defamation of religions”, such as criticism of religious doctrine, will not assist in responding to such bans on the construction of minarets and mosques which ought to be challenged in courts on the basis of existing human rights protections.

8. Fifth, the draft resolution “ecognizes that the open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence” (paragraph 17). We are concerned about the use of the word “respectful” in this paragraph: its meaning highly subjective and open to interpretation by state authorities who may seek to inappropriately confine the nature of debates concerning the combating of religious hatred, incitement and violence. ARTICLE 19 suggests that this paragraph should reflect the UN HRC Resolution on freedom of opinion and expression adopted on 12 October 2009 which avoids such language.

9. Sixth, the draft resolution “akes note with appreciation of the High Commissioner to provide further support for the progressive development of international human rights law in respect of freedom of expression and incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence” (paragraph 19). It then “welcomes the OHCHR plans to hold a series of expert workshops to examine legislation, judicial practices and national policies in different regions, in order to assess different approaches to prohibiting incitement to hatred, as stipulated in article 20 of the ICCPR, without prejudice to the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” (paragraph 20). Both provisions refer to the High Commissioner’s Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011. However, this plan does not anywhere refer to “defamation of religions” and it is clear that the OHCHR’s work shall be based on existing provisions of international law, Articles 19 and 20 of the ICCPR.

10. Seventh, the draft resolution requests the High Commissioner to “continue to build on such initiatives, with a view to contributing concretely to the prevention and elimination of all forms of incitement and its consequences of negative stereotyping of religions and beliefs and their adherents that affects the enjoyment of human rights of concerned individuals and communities” (paragraph 20). International human rights law protects individuals and groups, but not religions or beliefs. The draft resolution’s reference to “negative stereotyping of religions and beliefs” is therefore unacceptable from an international human rights law perspective.

11. Eighth, “equests the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to report on all manifestations of “defamation of religions”, and in particular on the ongoing serious implications of Islamaphobia, on the enjoyment of all rights by their followers, to the Council at its fifteenth session” (paragraph 21). The Special Rapporteur should be requested to report on best practices to address advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

III Continuing challenges of “defamation of religions”

12. ARTICLE 19 recalls arguments it has already made against the concept of “combating defamation of religions” in previous statements.

13. The concept of “defamation of religions” is contrary to international human rights law on the right to freedom of expression, in particular. Neither provisions of international human rights treaties (including Articles 19 and 20 ICCPR) nor the UN human rights treaty-based bodies tasked with their interpretation have acknowledged or elaborated upon the meaning of “defamation of religions”. Religions and religious beliefs, ideas, ideologies and institutions do not attract protection under the provisions of international human rights law, as recognised by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief and on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Finally, the term “defamation”, however understood, encompasses expression which falls short of constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence which should be prohibited under Article 20 of the ICCPR. The draft resolution uses a variety of other terms which also fall short of that standard, such as “negative” or “deliberate” stereotyping and the “ of Islam with human rights violations and terrorism”.

14. The protection of religions, religious ideas, symbols and personalities through the application of the concept of “defamation of religions” is counterproductive to the objective of promoting equality. Intercultural understanding can only be properly addressed through open debate and dialogue involving state actors, politicians and public figures, the media and civil society organisations.

15. Furthermore, the concept of “defamation of religions” has been abusively relied upon to stifle religious dissent and criticism of religious adherents and non-believers in a number of countries around the world.


IV Conclusion

16. ARTICLE 19 supports initiatives to combat discrimination, hostility and violence perpetrated on religious grounds. However, the draft resolution is contrary to international human rights law on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion and will not be effective in promoting equality in practice. The draft resolution also misleadingly relies upon established international human rights law, in particular Articles 19 and 20, as well as the recent initiatives of the OHCHR and the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference. If adopted, this draft resolution will add to the series of previously adopted resolutions on combating “defamation of religions” adopted by UN human rights bodies – an alarming trend which should be halted immediately. We therefore urge member states of the Human Rights Council to vote against the draft resolution or at least abstain in a vote on its adoption.

Burma: Undercover reporters face multiple risks to bring stories to the world

Undercover reporters face multiple risks to bring stories to the wORLD

Correspondents living in Burma detail the dangers of undercover reporting and the layers of censorship to which approved news gathering is subjected in first-hand reports published by Mizzima News.

All publications and periodicals in Burma have to be registered with the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board under the Ministry of Information and are screened by its censorship regulations. If an article is to be published about a particular government department, it must be approved by the censorship board, and sometimes someone from the particular department will act as a second censor.

But independent journalists would only be ensuring their own imprisonment if they sent their stories to the censorship authorities. And journalists who work for exile media outlets cannot even reveal that they are journalists to interview subjects. If the person being interviewed has links to the military, he or she could have the journalist sent to jail.

Inside Burma, journalists must consider the risk to their lives as they attempt to practice their profession. Is it worth facing grave danger in order to cover a particular story? Is the story of national importance? Journalists consider the fine balance between being too daring in their coverage and knowing that if they don't take any risks, many important stories will remain in the shadows. They must "keep a low profile and work secretly" at all times.

The undercover reporter must also take photographs secretly. If a reporter is caught taking photographs of something significant, like a fire, he or she must prove that they work for an approved news group or they will be sent to jail. And there is even greater danger in attempting to photograph demonstrations, forced labour or the military.

Once the news is surreptitiously gathered, the journalist faces several more levels of risk in getting the information out of the country.

However, the resilience of Burmese journalists ensures that information is shared with the world. "Even under the regime's tight censorship and harsh control, news of major events like demonstrations against rising prices, strikes, the saffron revolution and cyclone Nargis are quickly spread to the outside world. It is the journalists that regularly expose the regime's brutal and inhumane nature," one correspondent told Mizzima.

International: International Women's Day honours the struggles of women journalists and rights defenders

10 March 2010

International Women's Day honours the struggles of women journalists and rights defenders


Last year, Nepali journalist Tika Bista was slashed with razor  blades for writing an article about the Maoists' bloody politics.  International Women's Day honours fearless women journalists worldwide.
Last year, Nepali journalist Tika Bista was slashed with razor blades for writing an article about the Maoists' bloody politics. International Women's Day honours fearless women journalists worldwide.
via CPJ

members highlighted International Women's Day on 8 March by honouring women journalists, writers and activists for their courage and tenacity in combating corrupt regimes, abuses of power and human rights violations. Many have faced arrest, beatings, imprisonment, and some have been murdered, for speaking out.

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) marked the day by honouring 14 women who are part of a recent campaign, "Because Writers Speak Their Minds – 50 Years of Defending Freedom of Expression," showcasing 50 writers worldwide. They include Nawal El-Saadawi, known for her feminist writings and criticism of the Egyptian government; she has been imprisoned, received death threats, and her books have been banned. WiPC commemorated Alaíde de Foppa de Solórzano, a leading Guatamalan writer and activist who ran a weekly feminist radio programme in the late 1970s and was among the thousands of disappeared. Martha Kumsa, an Ethiopian journalist and rights activist, is now in Canada after spending nine years in prison. In Russia, nine women journalists have been killed since 1992, including Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova. Among 900 writers and journalists who suffered attacks recorded by the WiPC during 2009, 52 are women.

In a statement on 8 March, ARTICLE 19 emphasised the "importance of gender equality as a key component of the right to freedom of expression," commemorating women who have fought for freedom of expression. In Nepal, Uma Singh was the first female journalist to be murdered, stabbed to death by about 15 men in January 2009. And in Brazil, Thais Corral, an expert in social communications and veteran activist for economic and social justice, created a women's radio network linking 400 women's radio programmes and their communities throughout Brazil. The network aims to empower women community leaders to develop their own radio programmes.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) produced a profile with portraits of six women, six stories emblematic of the fight for press freedom. The profiles include Bulgarian journalist Anna Zarkova, Burmese video reporter Hla Hla Win, Mexican crime reporter María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, journalist Tawakol Karman – head of the Yemeni NGO Women Journalists Without Chains, Tunisian rights activist and academic Zakia Dhifaoui and radio journalist Isha Jallow from Sierra Leone. The work of Uzbek photographer Oumida Akhmedova, who has faced harassment because the authorities do not approve of the image of the country presented in her photos, is featured on the publication's cover.

IFEX members belonging to the Tunisia Monitoring Group and the IFEX Gender Working Group sent a letter to the United Nations bringing attention to slander and abuse faced by women journalists and activists in Tunisia, which the groups say "has a long history of promoting women's rights." Smear campaigns against journalists and activists target prominent critical journalists and activists. Women are portrayed in government-backed newspapers and websites as "sexual perverts," "prostitutes," and "traitors on the payroll of foreign governments or groups."

Vocal women are constantly persecuted to stop them from doing their work. Journalists Sihem Bensedrine and Naziha Réjiba (also known as Um Ziad) of IFEX member the Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse, de L'Edition et de la Création (OLPEC) are under strict surveillance; their homes and phone lines are monitored. Journalist Faten Hamdi of Radio Kalima was hit in the face by police officers in February 2010. Blogger Fatma Riahi was arrested in November 2009, her blog censored. Family members of jailed prisoners of opinion have also been targeted by the police, including Samia Abbou, whose husband is former prisoner Mohamed Abbou, and Azza Zarrad, wife of jailed journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, who is critically ill. Many other women journalists, human rights defenders, academics and lawyers have been subjected to travel restrictions, police monitoring, assault and smear campaigns.

Freedom House also launched a new report, "Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amidst Resistance." In Iran, restrictions on free speech have led to the closure of leading women's rights publications, and women activists and journalists are routinely imprisoned, says the report. Throughout the region, women are subjected to restrictions on freedom of association and press freedom.

In Bahrain, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) brought together women journalists from 15 journalists unions from across the Arab region and the Middle East from 6-8 March. Discussions were held on gender equality and leadership in the media. IFJ reports that only 27 percent of the workforce in media outlets is women, with women making up just 21percent of the union membership. IFJ also launched its regional study, "Gender Fact Sheets on Women Journalists in the Middle East and the Arab World."

And on the global airwaves, the Women's International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC-WIN) celebrated on 8 March by launching a webcast that runs until 31 March, dedicated to women and gender issues. The theme is "Empowering and Celebrating Women as Agents of Recovery" with multilingual documentaries, interviews, debates, poetry and music produced by community broadcasters from Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Nigeria: Journalist almost killed by mourners; other journalists threatened by soldiers

17 March 2010

Journalist almost killed by mourners; other journalists threatened by soldiers


Nigerian journalist attacked at funeral for victims of massacre.
Nigerian journalist attacked at funeral for victims of massacre.

Nigerian radio journalist covering the mass funeral of victims of a 7 March massacre in villages in central Nigeria was brutally assaulted by mourners, report the Nigeria-based Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Journalists have also been harassed and intimidated by soldiers in the region, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The murder of hundreds of Christians appears to be in reprisal for attacks on Muslim communities that occurred in January, says Human Rights Watch. Groups of men armed with guns, machetes and knives murdered residents in villages south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State. The conflict between Yoruba and Igbo Christians and Hausa-Fulani Muslims is focused on land, resources and political posts, say local journalists.

On 8 March, after a public official at the funeral told mourners that radio journalist Murtala Sani was Hausa-Fulani, a crowd attacked him. A "Wall Street Journal" reporter who covered the funeral said: "He was inches from losing his life. They wanted to kill him and throw his body in the mass grave with the others." Police fired into the air to disperse the crowd and then took Sani to a hospital. Another journalist, Aminu Abdulla, a reporter with Agence France-Presse (AFP), was accosted; but he escaped with the help of other journalists.

In other attacks on the press in the area, three broadcast reporters were threatened with death by soldiers in Jos, Plateau State, in January, says IFJ. The soldiers promised to "waste" them if they were seen on the road again.

Two sports journalists, South African sound engineer Nic Greyling and Nigerian commentator Bowie Attamah, were abducted at gunpoint on 1 March in Imo State, but later released, reports the World Association of News and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

More than 13,500 people have died in religious or ethnic clashes since the end of military rule in 1999, reports Human Rights Watch. There have been a series of deadly incidents in and around the Plateau State.

Honduras: Two more journalists slain

Three Honduran journalists have been killed in deadly attacks this month. A radio journalist was shot and killed driving home on 11 March, report the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). And on 16 March the news editor of a television station was riddled with bullets while driving, reports C-Libre, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other IFEX members. The recent assassinations come after a journalist was murdered on 1 March.

Journalist Nahúm Palacios Artiaga, 34, was shot more than 20 times after two cars pulled alongside his vehicle in the city of Tocoa. Palacios Artiaga worked for Canal 5 television station and had reported on drug trafficking, violence, local politics, and an agrarian conflict between landowners and peasants. He received threats last week, warning him to "stop defending the poor." During the coup d'état last year, military police raided Palacios Artiaga's home, assaulted him and confiscated his equipment because of his critical coverage of the coup.

Gunmen killed journalist David Meza Montesinos, a reporter for local radio station El Patio and national broadcaster Radio América, as he was driving in the coastal city of La Ceiba. Meza Montesinos covered drug trafficking and organised crime and had recently received threats from unknown callers about his reporting. Aged 51, he had worked for El Patio for the past 30 years.

On March 1, reporter Joseph Hernández Ochoa was killed in similar circumstances in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

On 15 March, journalists held a protest in San Pedro Sula, demanding that authorities investigate the murders, says C-Libre.

Mexico: Eight journalists abducted, two killed

17 March 2010

Eight journalists abducted, two killed


Abductions and murders of journalists have created a chill on the  media.
Abductions and murders of journalists have created a chill on the media.
via
Mexico, information can be fatal. Eight journalists were abducted in separate episodes between 18 February and 3 March, report the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Three journalists were later released; one of them died as a result of being tortured. Mexican journalists in newsrooms remain silent about the kidnappings for fear of reprisals from drug traffickers. And in another part of the country also caught in the terror of drug cartels, another journalist was slain on 12 March.

The abducted journalists work for both print and broadcast media and were kidnapped in Reynosa, northern Tamaulipas State. Sources declined to name the victims or file complaints with authorities due to fear of retaliation or further endangering the victims' lives. The abductions come at a time of bloody clashes between two drug cartels in the Reynosa border area, and the press has been intimidated into not reporting on the violence. Local journalists say the cartels are behind the kidnappings and corrupt police are protecting them. "An escalating internal dispute among drug cartel members has claimed over 200 lives in 14 days and contributed to a media blackout," reports the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Reporter Jorge Rábago Valdez, 49, who worked for the Reynosa-based daily "La Prensa" and broadcasters Radio Rey and Reporteros en la Red, was abducted on 19 February. He was dumped on a highway less than two weeks later, and was found alive, but unconscious with signs of torture. He died in a hospital on 2 March. Miguel Angel Domínguez Zamora, a reporter for the Reynosa-based "El Mañana", has been missing since 1 March.

Two reporters from the Milenio media group were assigned to cover drug-related violence in Reynosa. They were abducted on 3 March and freed the next day. A top editor at Milenio, Ciro Gómez Leyva, wrote an op-ed saying they had been injured and their abductors had warned them to avoid any reporting on them. "Journalism in Reynosa is dead. I have nothing more to say," he said.

"As drug trafficking, violence, and lawlessness take hold," said CPJ, "the Mexican media are forced into silence. This pervasive self-censorship is causing severe damage to Mexican democracy."

In a separate incident, Mexican reporter Evaristo Pacheco Solís was found shot to death last week in Chilpancingo, Guerrero State - another area convulsed with open warfare between drug gangs, report RSF, CPJ and the International Press Institute (IPI). A reporter with the weekly "Visión Informativa", Pacheco Solís is the second journalist killed in Guerrero this year. According to press reports, at least 15 people died in a series of violent attacks in Guerrero last week.

"As journalist after journalist is slain there, the Mexican population - who stand at the forefront of the government's violent conflict with drug cartels - are being deprived of their right to information, and courageous Mexican journalists are being brutally deprived of their right to inform," said IPI.

Dow Chemicals Needs to Clean Up Its Act in Bhopal

SVAW - UN Agency (en)
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Dow Chemicals Needs to Clean Up Its Act in Bhopal


The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) is trying to clean up its image while it should really be cleaning up its act in Bhopal.

Dow is sponsoring Dow Live Earth Run for Water – a 6 km run on April 18, in different cities around the world, to start a movement to address the water crisis. But this flies in the face of what happened in Bhopal where tens of thousands of people are still suffering the consequences of the catastrophic 1984 gas leak. Union Carbide, whose subsidiary owned the pesticide plant at the time of the explosion, walked away from Bhopal, without decontaminating the site properly. Union Carbide is today wholly owned by Dow.

Shortly before midnight, on 2 December 1984, thousands of tonnes of deadly chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal. Nearly half a million people were exposed. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and a further 15,000 people over the next 20 years.

Stop mining and refinery projects from devastating communities in  India

Dow should contribute to the clean-up

After 25 years, the Indian government is finally carrying out a full scientific assessment of the depth and spread of the contamination, as required by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Once the assessment is complete, Dow should make a substantial contribution towards the clean up operation, as previously requested by the Indian government.

No company can be allowed to evade responsibility for the adverse impacts of its operations. Dow must cooperate with the Indian government to address the outstanding liability of Union Carbide and ensure the site and surrounding areas are fully decontaminated.

If Dow cares so much about water why is it running away from Bhopal?

Put pressure on Dow to clean up its act in Bhopal by taking action here.

Take action Now

Thanks for your continued support and commitment to human rights.

Online Communities Team
Alaphia, Buddha, Jennifer and Jeremy

Venezuela: Media worker kidnapped; protest criminalised

24 March 2010

Media worker kidnapped; protest criminalised


Venezuelan police fired tear gas at demonstrators and detained journalists covering protests in Aragua State, and a news editor was kidnapped in another part of the country, reports Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS). And according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), President Hugo Chávez continues to call for greater Internet regulation.

On 12 March, police detained journalists Rafael Uzcátegui, Marcos Ponce and Robert Calzadilla, members of the human rights organisation Provea, while covering demonstrations protesting the criminalisation of social protests. Their equipment was also seized.

And in western Venezuela, five masked, armed men kidnapped Carlos Ignacio Rocca, Televiza TV's news director and son of the president of the Televiza regional station, on 15 March.

Meanwhile, after a news and comments site incorrectly reported the assassination of a minister, President Chávez called for criminal prosecution to be brought against the site. The site's moderators said the false information was removed shortly after the site was notified. In a statement on television on 13 March, President Chávez said: "The Internet cannot be a completely free space, where anything is said or done. No, each country must impose its own rules."

"The government is using this case as a pretext for legitimising the regulation of a space that has until now escaped its control," said RSF.

Colombia: :Editor slain after receiving threats

Editor slain after receiving threats


After receiving threats for years for reporting on links between local politicians, landowners and right-wing paramilitary groups, a 50-year-old Colombian journalist was shot to death on 19 March, report the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Clodomiro Castilla Ospino, editor and owner of the magazine "El Pulso del Tiempo" and correspondent for La Voz de Montería, was killed as he sat reading a book outside his house, in Montería, Córdoba, northern Colombia. He was known for his condemnations of corruption in the region.

"Provincial reporters are particularly at risk and often refrain from reporting on sensitive subjects. Castilla courageously did not practice self-censorship, and his murder highlights the need for authorities to show their commitment to protecting the press," said CPJ.

Castilla Ospino participated in a journalist protection programme from August 2006 to February 2009, reports FLIP. In November 2009, he requested that the security measures, including a bodyguard, be reinstated. The protection program refused, saying he was not in danger based on a recent risk analysis.

Belarus: Authorities seek to eradicate independent journalism; BAJ under attack

Authorities seek to eradicate independent journalism; BAJ under attack


Members of BAJ are fighting for their survival.
Members of BAJ are fighting for their survival.
via BAJ
In the latest offensive to quash dissident Belarusian journalists, police conducted raids on independent newspapers and the homes of prominent journalists, report the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Furthermore, in a campaign to eliminate BAJ, authorities have ordered the press freedom organisation to revoke membership cards, stop providing independent journalists with legal aid, and alter language on its website.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), on 22 March, the supreme court rejected BAJ's appeal against an interior ministry order to ban the use of BAJ membership cards with the word "press." BAJ was urged to collect all existing membership cards and terminate its legal assistance unit. Officials claim that BAJ press cards are illegal since BAJ is not a media outlet. BAJ's 2009 report, "Mass Media in Belarus", says existing media laws make any journalistic activity illegal without press credentials.

The ministry of justice initially issued the warning to BAJ on 13 January to target any information or support given to Belarusian journalists. Authorities claim that pro bono legal work done in support of independent journalists does not comply with BAJ's mandate; as a result, BAJ has been told to re-write the goals on its website. BAJ intends to appeal the recent court decision. But its hands are tied. If it receives a second warning, it can be shut down; and if the organisation does not comply with the demands of the first warning, it faces a six-month suspension.

RSF says the ruling also means freelance journalists and journalists working for foreign media that have been denied official accreditation will not be able to differentiate themselves from ordinary citizens when they are reporting on issues of public interest. This will discourage independent media coverage of possible protests in the run-up to elections at the end of April, and presidential elections in 2011, said BAJ. In 2009, a reporter for Belsat TV was arrested and released after showing police his BAJ card, says RSF.

"The ruling sets a dangerous precedent in effectively allowing the government to define who in Belarus is a journalist and who is not," said BAJ.

Several journalists have been harassed in recent weeks. On 16 March Minsk police raided the offices of the independent news website Charter 97, independent newspaper "Narodnaya Vola", and the homes of three journalists, confiscating computers, equipment and electronic documents as part of a criminal defamation investigation. Charter 97 editor Natallia Radzina was hit in the face during the raid at her office. The raids are linked to independent coverage of the prosecution of three police officers and abuses by the head of the interior ministry's anti-corruption and organised crime department. Police also attempted to raid the homes of BAJ members.

The 2009 BAJ report describes the deterioration of press freedom: journalists harassed with legal sanctions, websites blocked, editorial interference and censorship of FM radio stations, and regular raids on journalists' homes. Independent "socio-political media outlets" are denied registration certificates while state-owned broadcasting companies dominate the media environment. Belarusian state enterprises refuse to distribute half of the officially registered independent social and political periodicals.

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
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