Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sri Lanka : free speech indicted

16 September 2008 statement
Sri Lanka : free speech indicted
ARTICLE 19 calls for Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainyagam to be tried without delay, and for due process of law to be followed. J.S. Tissainyagam has been detained since 7 March 2008.
The conflict in Sri Lanka has reached new depths with the lengthy detention without trial of J.S. Tissainyagam, the first journalist indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. J.S. Tissainyagam has been held by the Terrorist Investigation Department since 7 March 2008.
On 25 August, five months after his detention, the Colombo High Court finally indicted Tissainyagam. The charges include the authoring, publication and distribution of North Eastern Monthly between June 2006 and June 2007. According to the indictment, the North Eastern Monthly “intends to cause the commission[ing] of acts of violence or racial or communal disharmony and brings the government into disrepute.” The indictment also charges Tissainyagam with collecting funds for and
promoting a terrorist organisation
. These actions are considered as offences under the
Prevention of Terrorist Act and the Emergency Regulations.

ARTICLE 19 is particularly concerned that the PTA and ER may be violating
international standards on freedom of expression. According to international law any
restriction on expression that a government seeks to justify on grounds of national
security requires higher legal scrutiny. To uphold the serious accusation against
Tissainyagam under anti-terrorism legislation, the government must prove that their
actions have the genuine purpose and demonstrable effect of protecting national
security. Moreover, they must establish that Tissainyagam’s articles and editorials
posed a serious threat, and that the restriction imposed is the least restrictive means
possible of protecting national security.
_
This is the first time since its enactment in 1979 that the Prevention of Terrorism Act
has been used against the media. Using the Act in this way highlights the State’s
increasing efforts to curtail media diversity and independence, and the free flow of
information. By so doing, the Sri Lankan authorities are preventing the Sri Lankan
public from accessing information on the conflict from a range of sources, including
those critical of the government’s actions.


The imprisonment and then prosecution of J.S. Tissainyagam, along with repeated use
of violence against journalists, have had a “chilling effect” on the Sri Lankan press,
and resulted in increased self-censorship.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the authorities to ensure that the case moves to a fair trial
without delay
. J.S. Tissainyagam must also be allowed unrestricted access to his
family, a lawyer of his choice, any specialist medical treatment he may require,
and foreign diplomatic delegations that may request to visit him.

ARTICLE 19, 6-8 Amwell Street, London EC1R 1UQTel: (+44) 20 7278 9292 / Fax: (+44) 20 7278 7660Web: www.article19.org / Email: info@article19.org

For immediate release of journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai and Mullah Qari Mushtaq

12 September 2008 For immediate release –Freedom of expression organisations .
Reporters Without Borders and ARTICLE 19 call on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to intercede on behalf of former journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai and Mullah Qari Mushtaq, who were sentenced yesterday by a Kabul court to 20 years in prison for publishing a Dari translation of the Koran. Dari is the Farsi (Persian) dialect spoken in Afghanistan.
Their aim was not to violate Islamic law, but only to promote the Koran among
the Persian-speaking peoples. We are appalled that men whose intellectual and
religious intentions were honest and humanistic have been punished
in this manner,
and we call for their release and acquittal.

The court that sentenced Zalmai and Mushtaq to 20 years in prison imposed a fiveyear
suspended sentence on the printer, Mohammad Ateef Noori, who will
nonetheless be kept under police surveillance. The court released the three brothers of
Zalmai who were accused of helping him try to flee the country.

Zalmai was well known in the 1980s as a fairly outspoken TV journalist, hosting a
talk-show, "People's voice," that let viewers call in and speak on the air. He worked as
a cultural attaché in an Afghan embassy after the fall of the communist regime. After
several years of exile in the Netherlands, the Karzai government invited him back to
work for public radio and television. Respected by fellow-journalists, he headed the
Afghanistan National Journalists Association. He was also spokesman for the Kabul
prosecutor's office for several years.
He was arrested in October 2007 near the border with Pakistan, where he had been
hoping to find refuge after mullahs denounced the printing of 6,000 copies of the
Koran in Dari and fundamentalists groups demanded an "exemplary punishment."

· For more information: please contact Jasmine O’Connor, Senior Director of Asia,
jasmine@article19.org +44 20 7278 9292 or Vincent Brossel, Asia-Pacific Desk,
Reporters Without Borders, asia@rsf.org

Burying the truth under the cloak of national security

Burying the truth under the cloak of national security
Dr. Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

"Press Under Surveillance,"
Since 9/11, restrictions on freedom of expression have multiplied all over the world, justified on the grounds of national security. They include, to cite a few: new anti-terror laws, extensive use of official secret acts, censorship of controversial and sensitive materials, the race to re-classify documents to avoid public scrutiny; etc.
There have been repeated attempts to censor the press because it was reporting on the behaviour of soldiers at Abu Ghraib, and Basra, and on the “liberation” of children at Besran school, because it was asking whether Al Jazeera was ever considered by the Bush administration as a legitimate target, because it interviewed alleged “terrorists”, etc. These attempts stand as a symbol of what is wrong with restrictions to freedom of expression justified in the name of
national security: their constant abuse in order to bury or silence voices that contest the legitimacy and truthfulness of hegemonic discourses too often upheld by fear and the threat of violence.
Anti-terrorist legislation -
Since 9/11, a range of countries around the world have legislated to toughen up their anti-terror regimes, such as Australia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, UK, USA, Turkey, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, etc. This recent wave of legislation is threatening freedom of expression on many grounds.
(i) A definition of terrorism often too broad:
First, in many countries, a very broad definition of ‘terrorism’ has been adopted. For instance, Turkish draft Law to amend the 1991 “Law to Fight Terrorism” prohibits periodicals from making propaganda of a ‘terrorist organisation’. Yet ‘terrorist organisation’ is very broadly defined, and covers organisations that would not have been encompassed within the 1991 law. In the Russian Federation, new amendments to extremism legislation signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on 28 July 2006 introduce a definition of ‘extremism’ that includes criticism of public officials. These are extreme examples of what has become a frequent feature of the new anti-terrorist legislation: they extend the coverage of counter-terrorism regulations to an ever-wider range of
groups and activity, including forms of protest that ought to be covered under ‘ordinary’ public order laws. Hence, the UN Human Rights Committee has criticised the United States for extending its anti-terror laws to include conduct in the context of political dissent which, while unlawful, cannot seriously be classified as ‘terrorist’. As a matter of fact, other regimes, including Uzbekistan, China, Nigeria, Jordan, Ethiopia, and Nepal, to cite just a few, have used anti-terror laws to clamp down on peaceful protestors, political dissidents, or the media1.
(ii) Criminalisation of glorification:
Another particularly worrisome aspect of the “new” breed of anti-terrorist legislations is that they criminalise the glorification of terrorism, provocation and/or indirect incitement. Such offences are so broadly and vaguely worded that they are likely to result in excessive interferences with freedom of association, expression and the media. This new offence captures all sorts of
statements that are perfectly legitimate under international human rights law. While it is right that the Governments must protect their citizens, it must act within the standards set by international human rights law. The right to freedom of expression does not protect incitement to terrorism and violence, provided incitement is clearly intended to directly incite violence. In fact, in many circumstances, the new anti-terror laws are criminalising incitement that might lead to extremism activity or to the possibility of violence 2. Yet, it is fundamental to the guarantee of freedom of expression that any restriction for the purpose of national security, including preventing terrorism, is closely linked to preventing imminent violence. Restrictions of this sort have historically been abused and courts have sought to promote an appropriate balance between the need to ensure security and the fundamental right
to freedom of expression by requiring a close nexus between the speech sought to be sanctioned and the risk of harm to security3. This close nexus has been lost in most recently adopted counter-terrorist legislation.
Despite criticism by NGOs and UN human rights bodies of over-use of anti-terror laws, more anti-terror laws are in the pipeline. For example, the United Kingdom Home Secretary has announced that a ‘consolidating’ terror bill will be introduced in Parliament in February 2007. As of January 2007, 34 countries had signed the Council of Europe Convention on Terrorism which requires states to criminalize provocation of terrorism that could include indirect incitement, opening the way to the drafting and adoption of new domestic laws. The United Kingdom, and Denmark have recently criminalised the ‘justification’ or glorification of terrorism, in some form or other, following on the pre-2001 examples of Spain and France. Official Secrecy Act
In addition to anti-terrorist laws, ARTICLE 19 has noted other forms of restrictions on freedom of expression, or attempted restrictions, justified on the grounds of national security, in the first place the use of Official Secrets Act. For instance, the UK Attorney General warned newspapers that they risked Official Secrets Act (OSA) prosecutions if they published the content of an internal memo highlighting what appeared to have been a serious disagreement between Bush and Blair regarding the conduct of the Iraq war and the alleged targeting of Al Jazeerah.
The warning amounted to censoring the press at a time and on an issue – the war in Iraq – where transparency and the public right to know should govern the government’s relationships with the press and the public. It also highlighted the grave risks posed by the use of OSA to freedom of expression, free media and the right to access information. Anyone, including the Media, disclosing classified information should benefit from a public interest defence whereby, even if
(1 See ARTICLE 19 website for a number of statements on cases
2 For a review of some of these laws, please consult ARTICLE 19 website and legal analyses:
http://www.article19.org/publications/global-issues/security-agendas.html
3 See the Johannesburg Principles: Principles of National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to)
Information, 1996. http://www.article19.org/ pdfs/standards/joburgprinciples.pdf disclosure of the information would cause harm to a protected interest, no liability should ensure if the benefits of disclosure outweigh the harm. Although civil servants may legitimately be
placed under obligations of secrecy, these should be limited by their obligation to serve the overall public interest.
A deliberate attack on al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar would constitute a war crime. Disclosing alleged proposals by a head of State to commit a war crime is as clear an example of serving the public interest as it is possible to imagine. No legitimate national security interest is served by keeping this information secret. Alleged criminal proposals cannot be legitimate secrets. Indeed, information such as this should be subject to mandatory disclosure under an access to information law where, again, the overall public interest should trump secrecy exceptions.
Balancing freedom of expression and national security:
In 1995, ARTICLE 19 and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at the University of Witswatersrand, South Africa, jointly convened a meeting of some 36 leading experts from every region of the world to discuss the national security restrictions imposed on freedom of expression.
After intensive debate, the group adopted the Johannesburg Principles, setting out standards on the extent to which governments may legitimately withhold information from the public and prohibit expression for reasons of national security4. Amongst other things, they provide that a restriction is not legitimate unless its purpose and effect is to “protect a country’s existence or its
territorial integrity against the use or threat of force, or its capacity to respond to the use or threat of force” from either an internal or an external threat. The Johannesburg Principles also identify a number of illegitimate grounds for claiming a national security interest, such as protecting the government from embarrassment or entrenching a particular ideology. These are clearly not
national security interests but, at the same time, countries around the world continue to use and abuse these reasons. The key test for restrictions on freedom of expression in the name of national security is set out in Principle 6, which subject to other principles, prohibits restrictions on expression unless:
•the expression is intended to incite imminent violence;
•it is likely to incite such violence; and
•there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.
At the root of this principle are two central ideas. First, there is a difference between beliefs and actions and, in turn, between inciting beliefs and inciting actions. It may be noted that this rule applies only in the context of national security.
Principles 7-9 set out a number of specific examples of expression that shall not be considered a threat to national security. These are, by-and- large, uncontroversial, including items such as advocating change of government policy, criticizing the State or government, objecting to military service, transmitting information about a banned organisation, or using minority
languages.
Silencing the 21st century…
Unfortunately, the beginning of the twentieth century has not only seen the continued abuse of freedom of expression in the name of “national security”. It has witnessed its growing abuses, including from within the more established democracies, with the media becoming one of the principal targets.
(4 ARTICLE 19, the Johannesburg Principles: Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression, and Access to Information, December 1996)
Unduly restricting cherished rights is precisely the wrong response to terrorism. It is to abdicate rather than defend universal values in the face of an attack. It is adding another scar to our common humanity.
History is replete with examples of government efforts to suppress human rights and speech on the grounds that to do so is necessary for society’s survival. In retrospect, these efforts almost always appear panicky, disingenuous or dangerous.
The key concept and aspiration that should be driving national and global leadership in the face of global insecurity must be that of human security – it encapsulates national security but does not limit itself to it, and consists of two basic pillars: the freedom from want and the freedom from fear. A large number of governmental and non-governmental actors have thrown their weight behind this approach, as highlighted by the appointment in 2001 of a panel of high-level experts mandated by the international community to focus on a number of distinct but interrelated issues of human security, including conflict, terrorism, economic insecurities, health care, and universal education.
The Commission's conclusions and report, launched in 2003, proposed a new security framework
that centres directly and specifically on people. Human security complements state security, furthers human development and enhances human rights. It complements state security by being people-centred and addressing insecurities that have not been considered as state security threats. Respecting human rights are at the core of protecting human security.
The Commission also urged the international community to recognise the role played by the media in providing the life skills that people need to have a voice in public debates, enabling them to actively exercise their rights and fulfil their responsibilities. Indeed, freedom of the media must be one of the most celebrated freedoms, especially in the face of hegemonic discourses that are upheld by fear and the threat of violence. For, it is not about protecting the voices of the powerful, the voices of the hegemonic or the voices of the consensus; freedom of media is concerned with protecting and defending diversity – interpretation, opinion and view.
By reporting the abuses and breaches committed by all, including those whose purpose is to fight “terror”, by questioning and investigating, by listening and giving us the opportunity to listen to the voices of the “other side”, the media is performing its most essential historical duty and function, an essential component of our common human security. Let’s celebrate and fight for it.

Source and for more information : http://www.article19.org/

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Radio announcer killed and two books sale blocked

September 2008
Radio announcer killed while carrying out campaign against organised crime
SOURCE: Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), Mexico City
(CEPET/IFEX) - radio announcer Alejandro ZenónFonseca Estrada was assassinated by armed individuals as he was carryingout a campaign against organised crime in the streets of Villa Hermosa,Tabasco, southeastern Mexico.Fonseca Estrada was well known for his morning radio programme "El Padrino"("The Godfather"), broadcast in Villa Hermosa by the MVS radio network.The news of Fonseca Estrada's assassination was distributed via thewebsites of several media outlets, which said that the Tabasco AttorneyGeneral's Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Tabasco) hadconfirmed the death.According to witness testimonies, at about 9:00 p.m. (local time) on 23September, the 35-year-old radio announcer was at the intersection of PaseoTabasco and Adolfo Ruiz Cortines streets, in the Tabasco 2000 area of VillaHermosa, when several individuals approached and tried to kidnap him. Atthe time of the incident, he, along with several of his colleagues, werehanging posters denouncing kidnappings. When Fonseca Estrada resisted theattempt to abduct him, his assailants shot him with high caliber weapons,then fled the scene in a Patriot pickup truck with Texas license plates.The radio announcer, who had been shot in the chest, was taken to hospitalby his driver, but he died the next morning.The posters that Fonseca Estrada was hanging at the time he was killedsaid, "Kidnappers live only for as long as citizens allow it", as well asanother slogan that supported Governor Andrés Granier's campaign againstcrime.It appears that four individuals were involved in the killing. State andfederal police officers, as well as army personnel arrived minutes afterFonseca Estrada was shot. They cordoned off the area of the killing andconducted investigations but have not yet succeeded in finding the killers.The government of Tabasco has condemned the killing of an "exceptionalmember" of the news media and notified "the enemies of peace and law andorder" that the fight against crime will be carried out to its end. According to information published in "La Jornada" newspaper, FonsecaEstrada often hung posters in different parts of the city, speaking outagainst kidnappings and crimes that have taken place recently.CEPET tried to contact MVS's director, Mariano Domínguez, for comments onthe assassination, but has not received a response.CEPET calls on the local and national authorities to determine who wasbehind Fonseca Estrada's murder and to stop the alarming wave of attacks onjournalists that has been taking place in Mexico.

For further information, contact Leonarda Reyes, Director, CEPET, Oficina"C", Calle del Puente No. 222, col. Ejidos de Huipulco, Delegación Tlalpan,México, D.F., México, C.P. 14380, tel: +52 55 5483 2020, ext. 2373,e-mail: libex@cepet.org, cepet@cepet.org,
Internet: http://www.cepet.orgThe information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility ofCEPET. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please creditCEPET.

Journalist and author Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor has saidthat the Samborns bookstore chain, which is owned by powerful businessman Carlos Slim and is one of the most popular bookstores in Mexico, has blocked the sale of two books in which she documented cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Mexico. Martínez Montemayor has had a long career as a journalist for Mexican mediaoutlets. In 2006, she won Mexico's National Award for Journalism, and sheis the author of several books, including "Manto Púrpura" ("Purple Cloak")and "Prueba de Fe" ("Test of Faith"). "Manto Púrpura" was published in November 2006 by the Grijalbo publishinghouse. Eight thousand copies of the book were printed, recounting thetestimonies of individuals who have accused Catholic priests of sexualabuse. In the book, Martínez Montemayor alleges that Cardinal NorbertoRivera, the archbishop of Mexico City, protected priest Nicolás Aguilar,who has been accused of sexually abusing 26 boys in the United States in1987. Rivera approved Aguilar's transfer to the United States, even thoughhe presumably knew of alleged sexual abuses committed by the priest inMexico.The second book, "Prueba de Fe", was published in 2007 by the Planetapublishing house. Twenty thousand copies of the book were printed, ofwhich, according to Martínez Montemayor, half are in storage as they werereturned without having been unpacked by the stores they were sent to. In"Prueba de Fe", the author documents allegations of a pederasty networkwith links to Catholic cardinals and bishops."These are not fictitious novels, they are the result of seriousjournalistic investigations," Martínez Montemayor said. In the past, theauthor has received threatening e-mail messages and telephone callsconnected to the information contained in her books.Martínez Montemayor told CEPET that, when faced with the possibility ofhaving a complaint filed against the store on freedom of expressiongrounds, a Samborns representative, Martín Ambriz, said that the storewould put the books in its self help and esoteric subjects section.According to Martínez Montemayor, however, the books do not belong in thissection. As such, she said, the store only put 200 copies of the books upfor sale instead of the 3,000 that the publishing houses had intended.Martínez Montemayor also noted that after Samborns restricted the sale ofthe books, other bookstores followed suit saying that they wereCatholic-based businesses.A Samborns manager, Maribel Pérez, said that she was not aware of the issueinvolving the books and suggested that CEPET speak to another person,however that individual has not responded to the organisation's calls.

For further information on the prior targeting of Martínez Montemayorbecause of her research into Catholic Church abuses, see:http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91743For further information, contact Leonarda Reyes, Director, CEPET, Oficina"C", Calle del Puente No. 222, col. Ejidos de Huipulco, Delegación Tlalpan,México, D.F., México, C.P. 14380, tel: +52 55 5483 2020, ext. 2373,e-mail: libex@cepet.org, cepet@cepet.org, Internet: http://www.cepet.orgThe information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility ofCEPET. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please creditCEPET.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Website Owner Shot Dead:RUSSIA/INGUSHETIA

RUSSIA/INGUSHETIA: Website Owner Shot Dead

3 September 2008
International PEN is shocked by the death in police custody on 31 August of website owner Magomed Yevloyev from a gunshot wound to the head. As the owner of a website that has been fiercely critical of the Ingushetian leadership, concerns have been voiced that he may have been assassinated. International PEN is calling for the investigation into the death to take into consideration these fears, for any person found responsible to be brought to justice and that measures are taken to safeguard other journalists who speak out.
Yevloyev, 38, was arrested as he disembarked from an airplane at Manas airport in Ingushetia's capital, Nazran. He died from a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted as he was being driven in a police van from the airport. Police claim that the death was accidental and that a policeman's firearm had accidentally fired as Yevloyev had lunged at the officer in an attempt to resist arrest. The Russian prosecutor general's office has stated that an investigation has been launched.
Yevloyev was the owner of the opposition website ingushetiya.ru, said to be the only media critical of the regional president Murat Zyazikov. Situated in the Russian North Caucasus, Ingushetia shares borders with Chechnya and North Ossetia. There has been growing alarm at the deteriorating situation for human rights and security in the country as heavy handed measures have been taken to tackle outbreaks of violence carried out militant groups seeking to overthrow the Ingushetian government and to oust Russian security and military. Ingushetiya.ru is one of the very few, if only, independent media to report on the tensions and is also known as a reliable source of information on issues including corruption, human rights abuses, poverty and unemployment, as well as anti-government protests. The website has suffered several attempts to close it down. Most recently a June 2008 banning order issued for "inciting ethnic hatred" and distributing "extremist" materials was upheld by a district court in Moscow. It is widely believed that the charges are an attempt by the Ingushetian authorities to stifle comment on the growing tensions in Ingushetia. Despite this, the site managed to continue to publish up to Yevloyev's death.
Yevloyev's friends and family who had been waiting at the airport to greet him and had witnessed the arrest, report that shortly before the plane had disembarked, he had sent a mobile message to say that President Ziyazikov was also on the same flight. A few days earlier, on 22 August, Yevloyev had posted a statement on his website accusing Zyazikov and the Ingushetian Interior Minister Musa Medov of unleashing "a civil war against the Ingushetian people", adding that "all attempts undertaken by Zyazkivov and Medov are futile".
Just a month earlier, in late July 2008, ingushetiya.ru editor in chief, Roza Malsagova, fled into exile in France. She had originally left for Moscow with her family in November 2007 after suffering harassment, threats and ultimately being beaten in front of her children. She also faced criminal prosecution for ‘incitement of ethnic hatred and ‘distribution of extremist materials'. However the threats followed her to Moscow, leading her to continue to fear for her safety and to move once again.
Further informationThe killing of Magomed Yevloyev has been widely reported in the international press. The WiPC recommends:
Human Rights Watch Report: "As If They Fell From the Sky" - Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia http://hrw.org/reports/2008/russia0608/
Committee to Protect Journalists appeal: http://www.cpj.org/news/2008/europe/russ02sep08na.html
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty backgrounder: ‘Website Owner's Death
Could Prove Point of No Return to Ingushetia' http://www.rferl.org/content/Website_Owners_Death_Could_Prove_Point_Of_No_Return_For_Ingushetia/1195419.html
source: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/internationalpen/

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

China Is The Answer of Religious Terrorism

September 08, 2008
China Is The answer of Islam (terrorists) aggression
Source: AFP , BEIJING Saturday, Sep 06, 2008,
September 9, 2008 The New York TimesBy EDWARD WONG BEIJING —

Agence France Presse – English BYLINE: Robert J. SaigetDATELINE: BEIJING, Sept 5 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political August 29, 2008 Friday

If moderate and civilised muslims do not curb the Islam terrorism and extremism then they will suffer a lot in future. It is their own problem they are saving update. Because no peaceful country can allow barbaric attacks, like bombings and killings. And their ‘making castle in the air’ a utopian dream would never come true. Every corner of this globe today know the dark side of Islam. They fear the religion because of a few radical segments who are going on in a killing spree and at large. They have witnessed no Muslim organization has put considerable resistance against these maladies of global terrorism and extremism. The history of Islam started with shedding blood, killing people till date it continues. The impression is going worse to worst. It should be stopped.


Three weeks ago the World Uyghur Congress claimed that a "Strike Hard" campaign was being planned for Xinjiang after the Olympics, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
They include barring teachers and students from observing Ramadan, prohibiting retired government officials from entering mosques and requiring men to shave off beards and women to doff veils. Mosques cannot let people from outside of town stay overnight and restaurants must maintain normal hours of business. Many restaurants close in daytime hours during Ramadan because of the sunrise-to-sunset fasting.
In Xinhe County, the government has decreed that Communist Party members, civil servants and retired officials must not observe Ramadan, enter mosques or take part in any religious activities during the month. Worshippers cannot make pilgrimages to tombs, so as to “to avoid any group event that might harm social stability,” according to the Xinhe government’s Web site....
websites belonging to several Xinjiang counties. From the sites:
Faced with recent violent and disruptive activities by religious extremists, separatists and terrorists, we must step up ideological education of religious leaders and followers...We must timely warn and stop religious believers from organizing and planning large scale prayer groups and prevent any large crowd incidents that could harm social stability...For those that maintain beards and for the women who wear veils, we should take all effective measures to have them shave their beards and take off their veils.
I've heard rumors from Uyghurs in the past of just these sorts of schemes... free lunches and alcohol for Muslims during Ramadan, that sort of thing. And government workers have been banned from religious activities for quite some time.
Still, it seems that the effort to weaken Uyghur religious identity is stronger this year and better coordinated.
The NYT article points out that Muslim extremists have a long history of attacks during Ramadan (although not in Xinjiang). Supposedly you get extra martyrdom points and hotter virgins in heaven. But there's no evidence that recent violence has been tied to religious zeal rather than plain old anti-Han sentiments.
By putting the screws to Ramadan like this, a long-simmering conflict that's mainly been about cultural and ethnic tension could quickly develop deeper theological roots.

China warns of ban on mass prayers during Ramadan
“We must warn and stop religious believers from organizing and planning large scale prayer groups and prevent any large crowd incidents that could harm social stability.”
— notice on Xinhe County’s Web site
Authorities in China’s Muslim-populated far northwest are seeking to prevent mass prayers and the distribution of religious material as part of a security crackdown for Ramadan, government notices said.
A series of attacks on police in Xinjiang around last month’s Beijing Olympic Games left more than 20 officers and security guards dead, and at least as many attackers killed or arrested, in the biggest unrest there in years. As the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan began, local governments this week issued orders to clamp down on security in the region and stop its ethnic Muslim Uighur population from using the holy month to foment further unrest.“Faced with recent violent and disruptive activities by religious extremists, separatists and terrorists, we must … step up ideological education of religious leaders and followers,” a notice posted on Xinjiang’s Zhaosu County Web site said.
The county government prohibited government officials, Communist Party members, teachers and students from observing Ramadan, while warning that “any person caught forcing another to observe Ramadan” would be punished.“We must warn and stop religious believers from organizing and planning large scale prayer groups and prevent any large crowd incidents that could harm social stability,” said a notice on the Xinhe County Web site.In Shaya County, patrols were stepped up around mosques and leading officials were urged to remain vigilant around the clock for any incidents that could result in social instability.“The handing out of religious propaganda in public places by any work unit or individual is banned,” the Shaya government said.“We must strictly prohibit the playing of any audio-visual tapes, loud speaker announcements and religious drum rituals that could disrupt the Ramadan festival,” it said.Xinjiang is a vast desert region bordering Central Asia that is home to 8.3 million Uighurs, many of whom say they have suffered decades of political and religious repression under Chinese rule. Ramadan Curbs Imposed in China
The local governments administer areas in the western part of Xinjiang, a vast autonomous region that is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic people who often chafe under rule by the ethnic Han Chinese. In August, a wave of attacks swept through Xinjiang, the largest surge of violence in the region in years. Some local officials blamed the instability on separatist groups, and the central government dispatched security forces to the area.
The limits on religious practices put in place by local governments appear to be part of the broader security crackdown. The areas affected by the new rules are near Kuqa, a town struck by multiple bombings on Aug. 10.

Children and students cannot be forced to attend religious activities, and women cannot be forced to wear veils.
County rules also stress the need to maintain a strict watch over migrant workers and visitors from outside. Companies and families who have workers or visitors from outside the county are required to register the outsiders with the nearest police station and have the outsiders sign an agreement “on maintaining social stability.”
Some of those rules are similar to ones implemented in Beijing right before the Olympic Games began in early August.
Shayar County, which includes the town of Yingmaili, said on its Web site that migrants must register with the police, and that any missionary work by outsiders is banned. China is wary of missionaries doing any kind of work in the country.
The city of Artux is also preventing its teachers and students from observing Ramadan. As a result, schools have to keep serving food and water, city authorities said. As with the other governments, the overall goal is “to maintain social stability during Ramadan.”
In some parts of the world, militants see Ramadan as a good time to carry out attacks because they believe achieving martyrdom during the holy fasting month is an especially sacred act.
China imposes Ramadan security crackdown in Muslim northwestThe county government prohibited government officials, Communist Party members, teachers and students from observing Ramadan, while warning that "any person caught forcing another to observe Ramadan" would be punished.
"The handing out of religious propaganda in public places by any work unit or individual is banned," the Shaya government said.
"We must strictly prohibit the playing of any audio-visual tapes, loud speaker announcements and religious drum rituals that could disrupt the Ramadan festival."
Xinhe and Shaya are near Kuqa city where up to 10 alleged Muslim attackers were reportedly killed after assaulting a local police station on August 10.
The Uighurs established two short-lived East Turkestan republics in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinese central government control was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.
Phelim Kyne, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the postings on the government websites appeared to be the first time that such hardline religious control measures had been openly and publicly disclosed.
"To publicly restrict Uighurs from observing the Ramadan fast is a serious act trampling on the religious faithful," the German-based Raxit said in a statement.
"At the same time this is only going to intensify the conflict (in Xinjiang)."

Most of you probably know that the violence has continued out in Xinjiang even after the Olympics
Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behaviour of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups... In times of war and armed conflict, collective punishment has resulted in atrocities, and is a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. Historically, occupying powers have used collective punishment to retaliate against and deter attacks on their forces by resistance movements.
Which is why the purported implementation of a "10-household mutually insured system" in parts of Xinjiang to deter further terrorist attacks is so troubling. Say what you will about the Fragrant Concubine or thousands of years of Han involvement on the fringes of Central Asia, but collective punishment is the tool of a government that doesn't feel at home within its own borders.
From the HK Information Centre for Human Rights:
The "10-household mutually insured system" is being implemented in Kashi [AKA Kashgar or Keshen] and Hotan prefectures. In other words, if one person is found guilty, he will implicate members of 10 families. Those family members will be penalized in many respects, including their job opportunity and their children's education opportunity. In Urumqi, each apartment building has a "building chief" charged with the responsibility of strictly controlling outsiders from moving into the building.
The move is part of plan to do a "carpet search" of Xinjiang for terrorists ahead of National Day on October 1, with 200,000 police officers and militia troops sweeping through the transient Uyghur population in "all mobile lodges, rental apartments and remote villages."
Xinjiang is also recruiting to dramatically expand the number of anti-terrorist special forces in the region, from 2,000 to 3,000...looks like it's going to be an interesting few months (or years) out west.
The report also notes that fear of terrorism, especially bombings on public transportation, has finally reached Beijing... although I wouldn't quite say the heightened sense of alert is anything near what you would find in New York, or, say London.
I was on the subway just a few days ago when I mentioned to the person next to me that there didn't seem to be anybody watching a pile of bags obviously belonging to migrant workers near the doors. "Aren't you afraid of terrorists?" I asked him. "No," he said, "the security in the subway is superb."
Of course, we didn't blow up in the end, but that's beside the point. What was the point again? Oh, right... collective punishment.

China conducts "carpet search" for Xinjiang terror suspects - HK centre
Text of report by Hong Kong Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy on 27 August
[Report: "200,000 Military Police Conduct Carpet Search for Terrorist Suspects To Prevent Terrorist Strikes During the 1 October Period"]
Aug 27, 2008 - Our centre learned that, to prevent terrorist strikes from developing into another upsurge during the time when the nation marks the October 1 National Day, Xinjiang is currently mobilizing 200,000 officers and men of the public security force, the Armed Police Force and militia force to undertake a carpet search among the transient population. Some areas have even reinstated feudal society's 10-household mutually insured system - a system under which people of 10 families were liable to punishment when one person in the families was found to have committed an offence. Meanwhile, Xinjiang's "Antiterrorist Special Reconnaissance Force" is expanding its size through an urgent recruitment campaign. The force, which has 2,000 people now, will soon become a force with 3,000 people.
Our centre also learned that the dragnet-type screening of people suspected to be terrorists - a 23 August-20 September campaign the Xinjiang Law Enforcement Commission mapped out on 18 August - will be extended to 1 October and beyond. This is because more and more information shows that the "East Turkestan [Liberation Organization]" may create another wave of terrorist strikes around 1 October. The 200,000 officers and men of Xinjiang's public security force, Armed Police Force and militia force are now checking and registering the floating population and "key elements subject to control" in all mobile lodges, rental apartments and remote villages. The region has also set up additional checkpoints at important road sections between townships and between villages. The "10-household mutually insured system" is being implemented in Kashi [AKA Kashgar or Keshen] and Hotan prefectures. In other words, if one person is found guilty, he will implicate members of 10 families. Those family members will be penalized in many respects, including their job opportunity and their children's education opportunity. In Urumqi, each apartment building has a "building chief" charged with the responsibility of strictly controlling outsiders from moving into the building.
Meanwhile, Xinjiang's "Antiterrorist Special Reconnaissance Force" is urgently expanding its size. Aside from having a technical investigative detachment that owns the most advanced technological equipment, the special Armed Police Force that operates as a force under Section 16 of the Xinjiang Public Security Department, also has detachments in Urumqi, Kashi, Hotan, Ili and Aksu prefectures. Owing to the job's high risks, this 2,000-man special Armed Police Force always has problems recruiting new people. During its current enlarged recruitment campaign, the force has promised new recruits with higher pay and subsidies and special arrangements for them when they retire.
One of the tremendous changes that the Beijing Olympics have brought to the Chinese people's psyche is the fear of "terrorist bombings." During the Olympic period, most of the bus passengers, after they boarded onto a bus, would invariably look carefully around. If somebody has left a satchel or handbag on a bus or at an eatery, somebody would immediately inform the police to send a bomb expert to handle the situation. It is expected that bus passengers will do the same during the 1 October period. China will mark what it calls the 50th national founding anniversary on 1 October next year. It is for certain that there will be numerous security personnel on Beijing buses.Source: Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Hong Kong, in Chinese 27 Aug 08

U.S. Report Assesses Religious Freedom Worldwide

09/20/08 Annual U.S. Report Assesses Religious Freedom Worldwide
By Heather Maher
The U.S. State Department has released its annual International Religious Freedom report drawing attention to the repression of religious expression, persecution of believers, and toleration of violence against religious minorities by governments around the world.The report also notes those countries where officials protect and promote religious freedom. Iran and Uzbekistan are designated "Countries of Particular Concern," which are defined as "countries that have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom," along with Burma, China, North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the annual scrutiny of religious freedom around the world reflects the value America places on one of its core freedoms."Religious freedom is at the core of our nation, now as always," Rice told reporters. "We are a country founded on the belief that all men and women are created equal, that as equals we enjoy certain universal and inalienable rights, and that among these are the right to live without oppression, to worship as we wish, and to think and speak and assemble without retribution." The annual survey places countries in one of five broad categories, ranging from countries where totalitarian and authoritarian regimes seek to control religious thought and expression, to governments that largely respect religious freedom but discriminate against certain religions by identifying them as dangerous "cults" or "sects."Rice emphasized that countries that value democracy, human rights, and a robust civil society must also pay attention to how they treat citizens who choose to worship -- or to not worship -- in religions outside the mainstream."For nations that uphold the liberty and dignity of every citizen, they discover, as we have, that these highest of ideals are a source of strength, success, and stability," Rice said. "Nations must not only make peace with their neighbors, they must make peace with themselves. And that means respecting diversity and protecting it in law."This year's report marks Iran's 10th appearance as a "Country of Particular Concern," and the State Department warns that religious freedom continues to deteriorate in the Islamic republic. The report finds that, despite constitutional guarantees, Iranians who are not Shi'a Muslims face substantial discrimination; the government, it says, has created a "threatening atmosphere" for nearly all non-Shi'a religious groups, most notably for Baha'is, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community.

Troubling Tashkent
Uzbekistan was first designated a "Country of Particular Concern" in 2006. This year's report concludes that Uzbekistan's restrictive religion law, passed in 1998, which makes it difficult or impossible for many religious groups to obtain legal status, continued to result in raids and arrests and imprisonment of religious leaders.The report also cites what it sees as credible allegations that devout Muslims in Uzbekistan have been arrested on suspicion of membership in extremist groups. Some of those detained were simply conservative Muslims whose beliefs or teachings differed from those of state-sanctioned clerics, it says. But the report also says that religious freedom conditions improved for the Muslim majority, and says the government generally did not interfere with worshippers attending sanctioned mosques.The rest of the Central Asian countries fared better than Uzbekistan, but none were singled out for having a tolerant religious atmosphere.

Awaiting Change In Central Asia

In Turkmenistan, where the constitution provides for freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion, the report notes that, in practice, the government continues to restrict the free practice of religion. Despite small improvements in the status of respect for religious freedom, it says "troubling developments in the treatment of some registered and unregistered groups continued."In Kazakhstan, the State Department noted that parliament introduced new draft amendments to the laws governing religion that would, among other things, establish more restrictive registration procedures, restrict publication of religious literature, and require local government authorization for the construction of a religious facility. In Kyrgyzstan, a draft religion law under consideration would increase from 10 to 200 the number of members required for official registration of a religious organization, eliminate alternative military service for all but priests and religious laymen, ban proselytizing, and prohibit the conversion of Kyrgyz citizens to a different faith. The report singles out a draft religion law under consideration in Tajikistan that would regulate the registration and legal status of religious groups and associations, restrict religious education and literature, and limit other aspects of religious expression.

Conflict Zones

In Afghanistan, the report says that "the residual effects of years of Taliban rule, popular suspicion regarding outside influence of foreigners, and weak democratic institutions hinder the respect for religious freedom." It notes that religious minorities -- including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Shi'a Muslims -- are sometimes harassed for being perceived as not respecting conservative Islamic strictures. In Iraq, the main challenge to religious freedom continued to be "violence conducted by terrorists, extremists, and criminal gangs." The report also notes that "radical Islamic elements from outside the Government exerted pressure on individuals and groups to conform to extremist interpretations of Islam's precepts, and sectarian violence, including attacks on clergy and places of worship, hampered the ability to practice religion freely."Lukewarm On RussiaFinally, in Russia, the report finds that the government "generally respected" freedom of religion for most of the population but has imposed some restrictions on certain groups. In addition, the government does not always respect separation of church and state and the equality of all religions before the law.It notes some instances of religious violence toward Jewish and Muslim citizens, and cites evidence that the security services, including the Federal Security Service, treated the leadership and literature of some minority religious groups as security threats.
Copyright (c) 2008 RFE/RL, Inc. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

Venezuela Expels Human Rights Watch Director

Venezuela Expels Human Rights Watch Director for “Meddling Illegally”

source: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3813
by James Suggett
Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco was expelled from Venezuela Thursday for violating the conditions of his tourist visa because he engaged in political activity in the country. (YVKE)
Mérida, September 19, 2008 , The Venezuelan government expelled two employees of the U.S-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco and Americas Deputy Director Daniel Wilkinson, after the two presented a report that praised Venezuela's 1999 Constitution but harshly criticized the "government's willful disregard for the institutional guarantees and fundamental rights that make democratic participation possible."In a press release, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry said Vivanco and Wilkinson "have done violence to the constitution" and "assaulted the institutions" of Venezuela by "meddling illegally in the internal affairs of our country."The ministry also said the HRW report is linked to the "unacceptable strategy of aggression" of the United States government. The ministry said the expulsion of Vivanco and Wilkinson was in the interest of "national sovereignty" and "the defense of the people against aggressions by international factors."Constitutional lawyer and National Assembly Deputy Carlos Escarrá explained to the press, "The constitution of Venezuela expresses that a foreigner with a tourist visa cannot make commentaries against the President of the Republic."Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro warned in a press conference that "any other foreigner... who attempts to come to Venezuela and use our democratic order, with the total freedom of expression, to assault our institutions in a rude manner... will receive the same reply." The most recent report and the expulsion of Vivanco and Wilkinson come during a time of relatively high tension between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Last week, the Venezuelan government discovered a coup plot by retired Venezuelan military officers, and U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy was expelled. The U.S. responded by dismissing Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez and reiterating its accusations that the Venezuelan government facilitates drug trafficking and has links to terrorist groups.

UN victory for freedom of expression

UN victory for freedom of expression
Source: http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/UN-victory-for-freedom-of,3518 20 September 08 - The Human Rights Council has ruled that it s not necessary to establish a norm for defamation of religion.
Stéphane Bussard/Le Temps – It’s a small victory for the defenders of free expression. The concept of defamation of religion promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and some African countries did not find favor in the Human Rights Council. It was this theme that concerned all member states this Spring and remains an issue that threatens the follow-up conference on racism (Durban II) which will be held in Geneva next April. If the Council cedes this point, warn certain Western nations ‘it is the end of the Council’s credibility’. On Thursday, Githu Muigai, the Special Rapporteur for contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, found it was not necessary to promote the sociological concept of defamation of religion but rather to adhere to juridical norms when it comes to inciting racial or religious hatred.
In his report presented yesterday, Githu Muigai repeated the conclusions of his predecessor, Doudou Diène, France’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Speaking for the European Union, Jean-Baptiste Mattéi also applauded the reversal. ‘It is fundamental to make a distinction between criticizing religions and inciting religious hatred. Only the latter … should be banned.’ For France’s Ambassador, freedom of expression is an essential element for democracies.
Translation from French by Pamela Taylor

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mobilizing global support for better human rights in China

CHINA 18 September 2008
RSF website blocked again
SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris
(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders discovered on 17 September 2008 thataccess to its main website ( http://www.rsf.org/ ) has again been blocked within China. The site had been accessible since 1 August, a week before the start of the Olympic Games."Our website was accessible for just over a month in China," the press freedom organisation said. "The freedom allowed to Chinese Internet users for the Beijing Olympic Games, which the authorities had promised, was just an illusion. There is no letup in online censorship in China. We call for the restoration of access to our site and all the other news and information sites that are blocked in China." More than 13,000 Chinese Internet users, most of them based in Beijing, visited the Reporters Without Borders website from 1 August until 17 September.Almost 10,000 Internet users looked at the Chinese-language articles on the Reporters Without Borders site during the same period. The most-read article was the "Journey to the Heart of Internet Censorship" report ( http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23924 ) that was issued on 10 October 2007. A few hours after its publication, Chinese cyber-censors filtered its content in order to prevent its dissemination ( http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25318 ).The websites of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the BBC are still accessible although they continue to be "geo-blocked" for Internet users in Tibet. The overseas Chinese news and human rights websites are also blocked, as is the site ( http://www.torproject.org/ ) from which the censorship circumvention software TOR can be downloaded. According to a recent report by Chinese Human Rights Defenders ( http://crd-net.org/ ), Chinese ISPs are often given orders to restrict their users' freedom of expression. The report gave the following examples of such directives:- 2 July 2007: Do not allow any comment about the fire at the Beijing University Ping Pong Coliseum. Remove all the comments already online and ensure that the following keywords do not lead to any page: "Fire at the Beijing University Ping Pong Coliseum" and "Beijing University Ping Pong Coliseum on fire." Suppress any related report from online forums, blogs and other online information exchange platforms. - 6 August 2007: Do not say anything about the demonstration organised by certain foreigners outside the International Olympic Committee. - 13 August 2007: Delete the following expression from all sites: "Just one world, just one web and human rights: our appeals and recommendations for the Olympic Games."According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, the electronic surveillance extends to mobile phones, whose text messages can be intercepted and stopped if the authorities consider their content "illegal." ISPs also monitor emails, applying the same filtering directives as they do to blogs. Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of the 50 cyber-dissidents who are currently in jail as a result of all this surveillance. Some of them have been held for nearly 10 years because of the views they expressed online.

For further information contact Clothilde Le Coz, Internet Freedom desk,RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 71, fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: http://us.mc596.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=internet@rsf.org, Internet:http://www.internet.rsf.org/

Mobilizing global support for better human rights in China

Amnesty International’s Beijing Olympics campaign calling for improvements to human rights in China is drawing to a close. The response from people around the world was incredible, with over one million people signing up to our call for a positive human rights legacy from the Games. Throughout the last year, across the world, people from over fifty countries on five continents joined Amnesty International’s call for human rights reform in China. From organising sporting events, signing human rights dreams on Chinese-style banners to tearing down brick walls symbolising China’s censorship of the internet, the campaign received immense support. Thousands of people showed solidarity with each other on 12 July at Aerial Art events held in 21 countries. At each location, people formed large-scale messages using their bodies and props like umbrellas; the words only visible from a high vantage point. The Amnesty International office in Spain collected a whopping total of 140,000 signatures for its petition against China’s death penalty; in Belgian they set a new world record by organising a candle lighting event in June where the Amnesty International logo was recreated using 26,105 candles; and in Kathmandu 40,000 postcards were delivered to the Chinese embassy. The postcards contained signatures calling for the release of prisoners of conscience Shi Tao, Chen Guangcheng, Bu Dongwei, Ye Guozhu, Yang Tongyan and Huang Jinqui. What were the participants campaigning for?
The China Debate Issue 2 (2 September 2008)

Empty protest zones, empty promises
No protest application was approved during the Games since the Chinese authorities announced the setting up of protest zones in three designated parks. There are reports of applicants being detained, escorted back to their home and put under surveillance. Those denied their right to protest included two elderly women who wanted to protest the eviction from their homes. They were reportedly held for over ten hours then assigned to re-education through labour for applying for a permit. To date they have been allowed to serve their sentence at home. The authorities provided details of protest submissions on 18 August. Liu Shaowu, the security chief of the Beijing Olympics, reported that they had received 77 protest applications since 1 August. Seventy-four applicants withdrew their applications due to subsequent 'consultation with the authorities'. Although Beijing promised to improve the human rights situations in the run-up to the Olympics, including by allowing for public protests their de facto absence appear to be another broken promise. What do you think of this? Tell us
Successful Olympic Games, compromised human rights

The IOC and Chinese authorities missed an opportunity to improve human rights in China. Instead the human rights violations that took place in the build-up to and during the Beijing Olympics tarnished the Games’ legacy despite their apparent success. The Chinese authorities prioritized image over substance by continuing to persecute activists and journalists before and during the Games. The IOC turned a blind eye to the abuses and should learn from the Beijing Olympics by building concrete and measurable human rights impact indicators into all future bid processes and host city contracts.

What did Amnesty International have to say about the end of the Games?
Hotel detention during OlympicsThe Chinese police sent Chinese activist Zeng Jinyan to visit her husband Hu Jia in Dalian where he’s serving a 3 ½ year sentence for online activism. However after the visit, the police held her and her baby in a hotel for over two weeks. Zeng was prevented from contacting other people during this period. She was sent home on 23 August. In addition, Hu Jia’s letters to his family have been stopped by prison authorities due to his protest against human rights violations in prison.

This web log(blog) is maintained and updated by Albert Ashok on behalf of http://rainbowartistsandwritersfoundation.blogspot.com a non-profit artists’ and writers’ organization defends ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Human Rights’. http://newsfreedomofexpression.blogspot.com/
http://freenewsfreespeech.blogspot.com/

If you find any news/information is incorrect/wrong please bring it to our knowledge for immediate correction, we express our unwilling ignorance and ready to make information correct. email :
rawfoundation@ymail.com

Global Report

STOP THE WAR ON SRI LANKAN JOURNALISTS: RELEASE TISSA NOW Popular Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam ("Tissa") is the first Sri journalist to be charged as a terrorist for doing his job. After being held five months without explanation, he was suddenly charged last month with promoting terrorism through a magazine he published for a brief period two years ago. Watch the video on Tissa's plight and spread the word:http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/free-tissainayagam Tissa, a senior Tamil journalist and columnist for the respected newspaper "The Sunday Times", was arrested on 7 March by the country's Terrorist Investigation Department. After five months without charge, he became the first journalist to be indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in the act's near 30-year history. Originally, his arrest seemed related to a Tamil news site he edits. But local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the site was harmless, and as the months passed, no charges were forthcoming. Until this August, when he was suddenly charged with promoting terrorism through the magazine "Northeastern Monthly", which he briefly published in 2006. The magazine criticised the government's role in Sri Lanka's civil war. There was no explanation for why it took two years to charge him, but IFJ and many of his supporters believe the government resorted to the draconian anti-terrorist law - an act that allows detentions without charge - to shut him up. If Tissa is convicted, it will "really affect people's right to freedom of information" and set a dangerous precedent for other reporters who dare to speak out, says the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka. The Free Tissa video is part of IFJ's campaign to "Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka". Sadly, more than a dozen journalists and media workers have been murdered in the country since 2006, and in not one case has a perpetrator been brought to justice. Just this week, journalist Radhika Devakumar was shot three times in her home in Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka, by unidentified gunmen. Devakumar, now working as a mediasecretary for a provincial ministry, used to run her own media development organisation, and had previously worked for a Tamil daily for eight years. Watch the video here: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/free-tissainayagam And read an issue of Tissa's column in "The Sunday Times" written justbefore his arrest: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/080224/Columns/telescope.html
SRI LANKA 10 September 2008 Female journalist shot, in critical conditionSOURCE: Free Media Movement (FMM), Colombo (FMM/IFEX) - Another journalist shot and critically injured in Sri Lanka 9 September 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is appalled to note and strongly condemns the attempt made on the life of journalist Radhika Devakumar in Batticaloa in the late evening of 8 September. A gang of unidentified gunmen entered her house around 7.30 p.m. (local time) and shot her at point blank range. They fired three shots that entered her shoulder, abdomen and chest, injuring her critically. Family members were able to transport her immediately to the teaching hospital of Batticaloa where emergency medical care saved her life. She is still in the Intensive Care Unit.Radhika was working as a provincial correspondent for the "Tinakaran" Tamil language daily, published from Colombo for over 8 years. She also worked as a freelancer for Shakthi TV and ran her own media development organization in close proximity to Batticaloa town. Between 2005 and 2007, she worked as a radio programme producer for Internews. In 2007 she won the national award for Reporting Diversity and Respect for Tolerance in a public service media award programme organised by the five leading media organisations in Sri Lanka. She was also the media secretary for Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurei Chandrakanthan of the TMVP in June. She was themedia secretary of another minister in the Eastern Provincial Council at the time of the attack.The FMM has consistently noted that journalists cannot and should not take up partisan political positions, hold public office or function as advisors to party political groups as it invariably informs their frame of reference and undermines accurate and impartial journalism. Journalists must be independent and impartial.However, intimidation, harassment and death threats to journalists, especially Tamil journalists, have been on the rise since 2006. Although more than a dozen journalists and media workers have been killed during this period, not a single case has been investigated to completion. Disturbingly, we now see a pervasive culture in Sri Lanka wheredisagreements (especially with journalists) default to violence and intimidation as a means of resolution, and with complete impunity. This must stop. Condemning this brutal attack, we demand that the government initiates an independent and open inquiry into this shooting. The failure to protect journalists in Sri Lanka is a sign that the rule of law is hostage to armed groups and does not bode well for any sustainable and meaningful peace in Sri Lanka.For further information, contact the Free Media Movement, 237/22, WijeyaKumaratunga Road, Colombo 05, Sri Lanka, tel: +94 777 312 457, +94 11 2573439, fax: +94 11 471 4460, e-mail: fmm@sltnet.lk, Internet:http://www.freemediasrilanka.org


MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA : MOROCCO: BLOGGER JAILED FOR TWO YEARS FOR CRITICISING KING

A Moroccan blogger who wrote an article criticising the King was sentencedto two years in jail after a startling short trial, report the ArabicNetwork for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), International PEN's Writersin Prison Committee (WiPC) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). On 8 September, the court of Agadir in southern Morocco condemned MohammedErraji to two years' imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 Moroccan dirhams (US$620) for "failure to uphold the respect due to the King". His trial reportedly lasted 10 minutes. According to WiPC, Erraji is in poor health. Erraji was arrested on 4 September following the publication on the online news site Hespress.com of an article accusing Morocco's monarchy of encouraging a culture of dependency. He argued that the King's custom of granting favours, such as taxi licences to a lucky few, encouraged people to rely on handouts. Read an English translation of the article on the Global Voices Online website: http://tinyurl.com/5lo2ol "Erraji was given a summary trial for which he had no time to find a lawyer and was unable to defend himself," says RSF. "The Moroccan blogosphere is known for being dynamic, so this is big step backwards for the kingdom." Erraji is the first Moroccan blogger to be prosecuted and convicted for an article posted online. He is Hespress.com's Agadir correspondent and writes regularly for the site. He also has his own blog published under his real name, "The World of Mohammed Erraji", that was started in March 2007 and deals mainly with political and social issues. A website and petition have been setup in solidarity with the blogger at:http://www.helperraji.com as well as a Facebook group:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=30771925854 In a separate case, newspaper editor Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, who is also facing charges of disrespect for the King, had his one-year case adjourned indefinitely last week. Benchemsi told RSF, "The court was clearly trying to close the case without having to reach a verdict ... I am supposed to see this decision as a conciliatory gesture. But the judge can call me back to court whenever he wants." Visit these links:- ANHRI: http://www.anhri.net/en/reports/2008/pr0908.shtml - RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28449 - RSF on Benchemsi: http://tinyurl.com/6cwvfy- WiPC (email): Cathy.McCann (@) internationalpen.org.uk - Help Erraji website: http://www.helperraji.com - Erraji's blog: http://almassae.maktoobblog.com

ASIA : THAILAND: STATE OF EMERGENCY WILL ESCALATE TENSIONS, THAI MEDIA ASSOCIATIONS WARN

The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and other local press freedom groups are warning the Thai government against using the current state of emergency to justify restrictions on journalists. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency on 2 September in Bangkok, after clashes between government and opposition groups left at least one person dead and more than 40 injured. Army commander Anupong Paochinda now has special powers to impose restrictions on media reports that could "undermine public security". In a joint statement, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the Press Council of Thailand, the Confederation of Thai Journalists, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Association of Thai Cable TV said that invoking this provision would "clearly violate the media's freedom to report" as laid out in the Constitution. The move "seems single-handedly aimed at restricting the rights and liberties of the Thai people," the groups said. General Anupong said he was considering taking action against two television stations, the state-run National Broadcasting Television (NBT) and the privately-owned ASTV for "one-sided reporting" that he said could potentially aggravate the crisis. The managers of ASTV have ties to the anti-government movement led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Meanwhile, on the back of Samak's emergency declaration, Thailand's Information and Communications Technology Ministry has sought court orders to shut down about 400 websites - the majority of which carried material disrespectful to Thailand's royal family, reports the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). The ministry also advised Internet service providers to block 1,200 sites considered to be either a danger to national security or a disturbance to social order. In a move that will throw Thailand into even more turmoil and uncertainty,on 9 September a Thai court ordered Samak to resign after finding that hehad violated the Constitution by getting paid to host a cooking show whilein office. Samak has no option but to step down immediately, although his party said it would vote him back into the job. The crisis began on 26 August, when thousands of PAD supporters took to the streets of Bangkok and forced their way into government buildings, including the NBT, calling for Samak to resign. PAD says the government is a front for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whom PAD was instrumental in ourting in a coup in 2006. In response, Samak has threatened news media that did not support him, and demanded that journalists abandon their neutrality and condemn the "agitators". The Thai media associations pronounced, "All media organisations have a duty to report the facts of the situation and should, therefore, strictly adhere to their professional ethics by reporting in a comprehensive manner, without being influenced by any party. Only then will citizens be able to correctly judge the current political situation." Visit these links:- Thai media groups' statement: http://tinyurl.com/5jq5es - SEAPA: http://www.seapabkk.org/ - Reporters Without Borders: http://tinyurl.com/56mvq7 - IFEX Thailand page: http://tinyurl.com/5hocu9

AMERICAS COLOMBIA: NEW REPORTS DIG DEEP INTO RECENT PRESS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS

In recent weeks, the Colombian authorities have been using legal proceedings to shut up journalists and news media - or their sources – who have been speaking out against them, says a new report by the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP). It's just one of a handful of reports that spotlight recent press freedom violations in Colombia. In the past month, journalists have been summoned to court to testify about events they have covered - like the "parapolitics" scandal, which has come about following allegations that politicians close to President Álvaro Uribe have close links with the paramilitaries, FLIP says. "This practice not only inhibits the journalists' coverage of news, but also violates their right to protect their sources," says FLIP. In some cases, journalists have been accused of having ties to illegal armed groups, which FLIP says is worrying if they simply used these groups as sources of information. Read examples of specific cases here:http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96530/ If journalists are not appearing as witnesses, they are coming in as defendants: there's been a recent spike of criminal charges filed against journalists for insult. Last week, Member of Congress Roy Barreras presented a bill that would eliminate jail terms in cases of slander and libel. But is there a case for using criminal sanctions to monitor freedom of information abuses and to protect the reputation and privacy of citizens? FLIP and the Public Interest Law Group of the University of the Andes (G-DIP) put on an event to discuss the pros and cons. Read the arguments that came out of the debate in "Slander and Libel in Colombia: Democracy, Freedom of Information and Criminal Law", here:http://www.flip.org.co/veralerta.php?idAlerta=312 (in Spanish only). Attacks on journalists in recent months extend to an even more marginalized group - reporters in Colombia's indigenous communities - often at the hands of illegal armed groups and the government, says the Association of Indigenous Media in Colombia (AMCIC). What's worse, these attacks are often overlooked because they don't affect the mainstream press. Read more about them here: http://www.onic.org.co/actualidad.shtml?x=34831 (in Spanish only). Finally, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the Association of Colombian Newspapers (ANDIARIOS) commissioned a study into the irregularities in the case of journalist Oscar Sierra, who was killed in 2002. "Injustice Rewarded" points out that Sierra's assassin was sentenced to 19 years in jail and freed after serving only five. "What was he doing just 67 months later, back on the streets, once again committing crimes and killing?" IAPA asked a group of judiciary and legislators at a discussion last month. "It is a disturbing fact... that forces us to ask ourselves how this can happen and what effects the current system of legal rewards and sentence reductions are having." Some of Colombia's judiciary and legislators have agreed to work towards reforms to combat impunity after reviewing the study. Read IAPA's recommendations here: http://www.impunidad.com

EVENTS : FREEDOM OF INFORMATION MONTH IN VENEZUELA (18 SEPTEMBER-18 OCTOBER)

Even though the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared freedom of information a fundamental human right last year, Venezuela still doesn't have a Freedom of Information Act. So for a month starting on 18 September, the civil-society coalition Proacceso will celebrate Freedom of Information Month in Venezuela, under the motto "Don't let them take you for a ride. Make your right to information count" ("No dejes que te echen otro cuento. Haz valer tu derecho a la información"). Take part in a wide range of events being held simultaneously in various cities across the country: submit a draft law to the government; attend an international seminar on freedom of information and see which countries can mentor Venezuela; or debate how much access to info laws have contributed to more accountable governments and less corruption. All this, while celebrating 200 years of the Venezuelan press. To see the full programme of events, visit: http://www.proacceso.org.ve orcontact: prensa@transparencia.org.ve The coalition Proacceso was created at the end of 2007 with a view to promoting the importance of passing a Freedom of Information Act in Venezuela. Proacceso is made up of civil society organisations the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS), Grupo Social Cesap, Instituto Venezolano de Estudios Sociales y Políticos, Espacio Público andTransparencia Venezuela

IN OTHER NEWS…" SOUTH KOREA: GOVERNMENT LOOKS TO RESTRICT INTERNET

The South Korean government is planning a series of restrictions on Internet use to prevent what the beleaguered administration of President Lee Myung Bak calls the spread of false information that prompts social unrest, reports the "International Herald Tribune". Under the proposal, all forum and chat room users will be required to make verifiable registrations using their real names. As well, Korea's Communications Commission would make it mandatory that websites remove for 30 days articles that received complaints for being fraudulent or slanderous; after that, Korea's media arbitration body would rule on whether to allow the article to be published again. Regulators have not worked out what penalties violators would face. The conservative government, led by Lee, was faced by recent mass demonstrations that were organised over the Internet to protest U.S. beef imports. The government blamed the protests on rumours and lies propagated by Internet users, and accused service providers of failing to police their content and of providing a platform for libellous claims and cyberbullying. The country has to guard against "a phenomenon in which inaccurate, false information is disseminated, prompting social unrest that spreads like an epidemic," Lee said during a recent speech.Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/6o5k73

USEFUL WEBSITES HOOK UP WITH MEDIA FOLKS: IJNET.ORG AND ARAB MEDIA COMMUNITY

The U.S.-based media organisation International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has joined the social networking craze with a new version of its website, https://www.ijnet.org/ . Journalists and media organisations can now connect with likeminded souls by creating profiles where they can show off their work, post news stories and join discussion groups - in five languages (English, Arabic, Persian, Spanish and Portuguese). "For the first time, they will be able to link directly to one another, sharing resources and spurring collaboration," says ICFJ president Joyce Barnathan. The site also offers the latest industry news for media development organisations and practitioners through the Global Forum for Media Development section. Check out the programme ideas, improve your knowledge of project design, monitoring and evaluation, and help build the media development community. It might even lead to more donor support, says ICFJ. For the Arab world, the news website Menassat.com has also launched its new Arab Media Community to connect readers and create a network of Arab media professionals. Just like Menassat.com, the community is bilingual (Arabic and English), so you can decide which language to use. Create your own profile and blog, join in Menassat's discussion of the week in the Arab Media Talk section (this week's topic: No Social Issues this Ramadan), or start your own debate. Join here: http://www.menassat.com/community/

The "IFEX Communiqué" Contact IFEX Online Editor Natasha Grzincic at: communique (@) ifex.org Mailing Address: 555 Richmond Street West, #1101, PO Box 407, Toronto,Ontario M5V 3B1 Canada, Tel: +1 416 515 9622; Fax: +1 416 515 7879;Website: http://www.ifex.org

This web log(blog) is maintained and updated by Albert Ashok on behalf of http://rainbowartistsandwritersfoundation.blogspot.com a non-profit artists’ and writers’ organization defends ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Human Rights’. http://newsfreedomofexpression.blogspot.com/
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Privately-owned newspaper managing editor fears for his safety

NIGER, 8 September 2008

Managing editor of privately-owned newspaper fears for his safety, goes into exile, following his criticism of president

SOURCE: Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Accra(MFWA/IFEX) - On 26 August 2008, Abdoulaye Tiémogo, managing editor of "LeCanard déchaîné", a privately-owned Niamey-based newspaper, allegedly escaped into exile for fear for his life.Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that before fleeing he alleged that police personnel drawn from the Criminal Investigation's Department (CID) mounted a search in Niamey for his arrest. Tiémogo had also alleged that some unknown group had threatened him with death.Tiémogo had been very critical of President Mamadou Tandja, in an ongoing debate in the country about amending the Nigerien Constitution to allow President Tandja to run for a third term in office.In its 25 August issue, "Le Canard déchaîné" brought a new angle to the debate by claiming in an article that President Tandja intends to handover to his son Ousmane Tandja, the current trade attaché to the Niger consulate in China.In the same issue, the journalist also accused the country's national security minister of being responsible for "underhanded dealings in many cases."On 23 August, during a television debate, Tiémogo openly called on Nigerians to thwart any attempt by the government to amend the Constitution to enable President Tandja to run for another term in office. For further information, contact Jeannette Quarcoopome, Media Foundationfor West Africa, 30 Duade Street, Kokomlemle, P.O. Box LG 730, Legon,Ghana, tel: +233 21 2424 70, fax: +233 21 2210 84, e-mail:events@mediafound.org, Internet: http://www.mediafound.org

This web log(blog) is maintained and updated by Albert Ashok on behalf of http://rainbowartistsandwritersfoundation.blogspot.com a non-profit artists’ and writers’ organization defends ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Human Rights’. http://newsfreedomofexpression.blogspot.com/
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Four journalists abducted, assaulted

Pakistan 15 September 2008
Four journalists temporarily abducted, assaulted during armed attack on press club
SOURCE: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi
(PPF/IFEX) - On 14 September 2008, a group of about 50 armed men attacked the Shahpur Jehanian Press Club, of Tehsil Daulatpur, in Nawabshah District of Pakistan's southern province of Sindh. The attackers beat and abducted four journalists and took physical control of the press club.Among those assaulted were: Manthar Dahiri, correspondent of the daily newspaper "Sobh" and president of the press club; Abdul Aziz Channa, correspondent of the daily "Koshish" and general secretary of the press club; Zahid Bughio, correspondent of the daily "Sindh"; and Haji Mohammed Haroon, correspondent of the daily "Mehran".The armed men broke into the press club, where the journalists were sleeping, at around 4:00 a.m. (local time). They attacked the journalists and tied them up with ropes before abducting them. The next morning police found Dahiri and Haroon in the backyard of a private home, while Channa was found unconscious on a highway eight kilometres from the city. Bughio was found bruised and battered on 15 September on the outskirts of Daulatpur.Local journalists said that the armed men work for an influential landlord of the area, Maqsood Ali Shah. The journalists staged a demonstration to protest the assault and alleged that the police were supporting the attackers, who still retain physical control of the press club premises. The journalists demanded that the authorities immediately arrest the culprits and return possession of the press club to the journalists.Local journalists told PPF that they have received threatening messages on their cell phones from the attackers.For further information, contact Owais Aslam Ali at PPF, Press Centre,Shahrah Kamal Ataturk, Karachi 74200, Pakistan, tel: +92 21 263 3215, fax:+92 21 263 1275, e-mail: foe@pakistanpressfoundation.org, Internet:http://www.pakistanpressfoundation.org
Maintained and updated by Albert Ashok on behalf of http://rainbowartistsandwritersfoundation.blogspot.com a non-profit artists’ and writers’ organization defends ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Human Rights’. http://newsfreedomofexpression.blogspot.com/
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