Saturday, September 20, 2008

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: 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: And read an issue of Tissa's column in "The Sunday Times" written justbefore his arrest:
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:, Internet:


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 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: "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'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: as well as a Facebook group: 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: - RSF: - RSF on Benchemsi: WiPC (email): Cathy.McCann (@) - Help Erraji website: - Erraji's blog:


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: - SEAPA: - Reporters Without Borders: - IFEX Thailand page:


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: 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: (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: (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:


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: orcontact: 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


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:


The U.S.-based media organisation International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has joined the social networking craze with a new version of its website, . 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 has also launched its new Arab Media Community to connect readers and create a network of Arab media professionals. Just like, 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:

The "IFEX Communiqué" Contact IFEX Online Editor Natasha Grzincic at: communique (@) 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:

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