Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tunisia:Harassment, Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists

17 May 2010

Tunisia: Detention of Prisoners of Opinion, Harassment, Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists; Internet Censorship and Lack of Independence of the Judiciary

Statement delivered by ARTICLE 19 on 12 May to the 47th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR).

ARTICLE 19 is gravely concerned by the continued arrests, detentions and intimidations of media practitioners, human rights defenders and legal practitioners in Tunisia.

Since 2005, prior to the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunisia, ARTICLE 19 joined other members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) to form the 20-member Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG).

The TMG seeks to highlight the following violations:
• Detention of Tunisian prisoners of opinion, the use of administrative sanctions to punish dissident views and the obstruction of the emergence of an independent judiciary
• Restrictions on freedom of association for peaceful purposes and the right of all civil society groups to be legally established and hold meetings in Tunisia
• Censorship of the internet, the arts, books and periodicals by legal, administrative and extrajudicial means in Tunisia.

The TMG just concluded its sixth mission to Tunisia from 25 April to 6 May 2010.

We found that despite the existence of a legislative and institutional framework guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the impressive economic growth, large scale human rights violations continue to take place with impunity in Tunisia.

ARTICLE 19 and other members of the TMG wish to highlight the plight of local journalists who are arrested, intimidated, harassed by plainclothes police, denied licenses to operate independent newspapers or broadcast outlets, and taken to court regularly over frivolous charges.

A notable case is that of Fourti Salah, who has been waiting for 23 years to get a reply to his application for a radio frequency. He ended up forming the Syndicate of Tunisian Free Radios with more than 20 other journalists who have no other recourse while individuals close to the government are speedily granted frequencies.

On 3 May, while the international community celebrated World Press Freedom Day, Tunisian journalists continued to face direct and indirect harassments and censorship.

Néji Bghouri, president of the legitimate National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) was prevented by the police from holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of Communications. He intended with some other colleagues to mark the day and call the attention of the government to the case of the journalist Fahem Boukadous of Al-Hiwar Al-Tunisi satellite television station, who has been sentenced to four years imprisonment for having reported on the demonstrations in the mining area of Gafsa. He returns to court on 18 May.

Other notable cases include Radio Kalima which was attacked, their material seized and their offices closed.

Zouheir Makhlouf, a contributor to news website Assabil Online and the opposition weekly Al-Mawkif spent over three months in jail for a video he produced on the pollution in the industrial zone of the Nabeul region. He was viciously beaten by police in April after being released in February.

In addition, human rights defenders and journalists are constantly harassed and intimidated at Tunis Carthage airport, unduly searched and sometimes stopped from travelling. Lotfi Hajji, correspondent of Al Jazeera was recently harassed at the airport of Tunis Carthage on his way back from Doha, as are other journalists and rights activists routinely.

Besides the violations of freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary is hampered by arbitrariness.

The case of the judge Mokhtar Yahyaoui is an illustration of the lack of independence of the judiciary. Since 2001, Yahyaoui has been victimized for having requested a more independent working environment for the judiciary. Since then, he has been denied all basic rights such as the right to have a passport for himself and his children who are studying in Europe, his letters are read, and he is under constant surveillance. His colleagues, family and friends are intimidated and moved hundreds of kilometers away from Tunis for showing solidarity.

ARTICLE 19 and other TMG members urge the ACHPR, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to:
• Request the Tunisian government to stop the harassment, intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders and the use of administrative sanctions to silence dissenting views
• Stop the use of insidious tactics and instruments and sophisticated ploys to block the emergence of an independent judiciary
We further urge the ACHPR to:
• Conduct a fact finding mission to Tunisia in order to assess the critical situation of human rights defenders, legal and the media practitioners
• The mission should include civil society organizations and meet with all stakeholders in Tunisia.

This statement is endorsed by the Federation of African Journalists and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).


• For more information please contact: Amadou Kanoute, Amadou@article19.org +221 33 860 12 62

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Journalists under threat from suicide bombs, abductions and censorship

12 May 2010

Journalists under threat from suicide bombs, abductions and censorship

Pakistani journalists continue to be pushed to the edge, by suicide attacks, kidnappings and murder, as well as government officials making direct attacks on critical journalists, reports the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF). Access to information has also been undermined with state orders to halt BBC Urdu-language broadcasts.

In a joint action spearheaded by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 26 IFEX members and the Pakistani Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have called on the leaders of the Taliban, jihadist movements and Al-Qaeda to stop suicide bombings targeting public gatherings, which result in the deaths of innocent civilians and media workers.

Pakistani journalists cover events first-hand, but that does not mean they "support any specific politician or public figure," says the joint action. The bombings have made Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press.

Journalists and their families are also not entirely safe in their own homes. Azaz Syed was out at work when gunmen riddled the front door of his house with bullets early on 7 May, says PPF. An investigative reporter for the English-language private television channel Dawn News, Syed has been working on stories involving the armed forces, intelligence agencies and militant organisations, as well as political parties and influential personalities in Pakistan. This is the second attack on his residence.

Meanwhile, on 27 April, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered 24 FM radio stations to stop broadcasting BBC Urdu news bulletins because they allegedly violated the terms of their licenses, reports PPF. BBC says it believes the stations have completed all the required paperwork for PEMRA to lift the ban.

In a separate deadly episode in North Waziristan, militants executed a former Pakistani intelligence official who was kidnapped along with documentary filmmaker Asad Qureshi, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI). The official's body was found on 30 April, after going missing with the filmmaker and a second official on 26 March. Qureshi, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, was on his way to interview Taliban leaders.

More recently, 30-year-old journalist Ghulam Rasool Birhamani was reported missing on 9 May; his body was found the next day with torture marks and fatal head injuries, reports PPF. A reporter for the daily "Sindhu Hyderabad", Birhamani had recently received threats from the Lashari tribe for reporting on the marriage of an underage girl from the tribe.

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept