Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tireless witness to state killing

Sister Helen Prejean

Tireless witness to state killing

21 November 2008
“When I walked out of the execution chamber, I had just watched a man electrocuted to death. He looked at my face before they killed him. The cold protocol that all the guards followed shocked me. I came outside the prison into the dark and vomited."Sister Helen Prejean’s remarkable life has had many turning points, none greater than early on the morning on 5 April 1984, when she witnessed the execution of a man who had become her friend.It was a defining moment for Sister Prejean, whose life was changed forever when in the early 1980s she went to live among poor African Americans in New Orleans. She left a comfortable middle-class life in the suburbs to discover “another America, one which my eyes had been blind to”. She remembers vividly her shock at seeing so much poverty, injustice and police abuse.Soon afterwards, she became a pen pal to Patrick Sonnier, who was on death row. The letters soon became visits, and two and a half years later came the moment from which there was no turning back – being with Patrick Sonnier when he was executed.“It just took my life and turned it inside out. I had been a witness to a state killing so I had to tell the story. I also became involved with the victim’s family and saw their suffering and how the death penalty had nothing to do with their healing. If anything, it prolonged their waiting for this illusory healing, which was supposed to come to them by sitting on the front row and watching Patrick die.”Her involvement with Patrick Sonnier turned Sister Prejean into a formidable opponent of capital punishment. She translated her experiences into a Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Dead Man Walking, which then formed the basis of the film written and directed by Tim Robbins.Sister Prejean also took on, with considerable success, two of the world’s most powerful institutions – the Roman Catholic Church and the US state ¬– and shows no signs of relaxing. Now approaching her 70th birthday, she is still tirelessly campaigning around the world to end capital punishment. She gives around 100 talks a year and continues to visit men and women on death row.Sister Prejean talks passionately about the many levels of injustice she believes are associated with capital punishment – the racism, the scapegoating of the poor, the damage it does to those who administer it and to society at large, the killing of innocent people and the robbing human beings of their dignity.“There is no dignity in killing a defenceless person,” she says. “This was the heart of my dialogue with Pope John Paul in 1997. I said that Amnesty International has a principled stand, no exceptions, but the Catholic Church doesn’t. I showed him where he had left a loophole for the death penalty - in his encyclical called The gospel of life - ‘in cases of absolute necessity’. I said to him that you can’t leave it up to governments because they’ll always say it’s absolutely necessary.“When the Pope came to St Louis in 1999, for the first time he put the death penalty along with all the other pro-life issues. He said no to the death penalty because it is cruel, and unnecessary because we have prisons, and then he added that 'even those among us who have done a terrible crime have a dignity’.“So our task is to teach people, now we’ve got the policy straight!” says Sister Prejean. “There are 65 million Catholics in the USA. The states that have the most Catholics in them are the states that use the death penalty the least. We can end the death penalty by mobilizing the 65 million Catholics.”She says Amnesty International taught her that human rights are inalienable, that they are not given by governments to people for good behaviour and cannot be taken away from them for bad behaviour. “Amnesty became my teacher – far quicker than my own Catholic church, which [at that point] had a compromised position on the death penalty. Amnesty has also taught me about spirit and about how you organize people, and how you go about educating people.”One of the main lessons Sister Prejean learned was to begin with simple methods. “Write a letter to someone," she suggests. "If we let that rose fully unfurl it will change our whole life because it is about standing up for the dignity of each person. It is not so much they [the prisoners on death row] who need to be changed. It is us. It will teach us we have one life – and it counts. We’ve got to do essential things, not trivial things.”

Access to Official Documents

London, Madrid – The Council of Europe has formally refused to make public details of its plans to adopt, on 27 November, the much-criticised Convention on Access to Official Documents. The decision to adopt the convention overrides concerns raised by parliamentarians representing over 800 million people in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states, and by many civil society organisations, who called for the treaty to be redrafted.
Documents obtained by human rights groups show that the Council of Europe took a decision on 12 November to reject the Parliamentary Assembly’s concerns, but this information has been kept from the public. Under the arcane internal rules of the Council of Europe, the formal adoption of the treaty on 27 November should take place “without debate”. At the same time, Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis this week rejected a request for information about the 12 November meeting, stating: “Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to reply to your questions. ... discussions in the Rapporteur Group on Human Rights are held on a confidential basis and the ensuing report is also restricted.” “The refusal violates the very standards that the Council of Europe is promoting with this new Convention,” said Helen Darbishire, Director of Access Info. “The refusal fails to indicate any legal basis for withholding the information and does not explain how the rules have been applied in this specific case or how the public interest in the information has been taken into account.” The refusal was challenged yesterday by Access Info, ARTICLE 19, and the Open Society Justice
Initiative who argue the drafting of this new treaty is in essence a law-making process and as such entitled to the highest possible level of transparency.
The groups note that declarations adopted by the Council of Europe stress the importance of wide public access to documents as being essential for ‘‘encouraging informed participation by the public in matters of common interest”. In a further twist, the Convention is to be adopted on the last day of Sweden’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe, even though Sweden pledged to increase transparency of the body when it took office in May 2008. The Council of Europe is trumpeting the adoption of the Convention as a success of the Swedish term in office, and a 25 November press release makes no mention of the widespread objections, the official response to which has been brushed under a carpet of secrecy.
“Sweden’s reputation as an advocate of transparency will be substantially tarnished if Foreign Minister Carl Bildt allows the treaty to be adopted in its current form without adequate attention to the concerns raised by civil society, information commissioners, and parliamentarians”, said Sandra Coliver of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
For more information, please contact:
· Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access

Info Europe + 34 667 685 319;
· Toby Mendel, Senior Director for Law, ARTICLE 19 + 44 (0)7964 015083;
· Sandra Coliver, Senior Legal Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative
+1 917 361 5618;
Please note that all work performed by Open Society Justice Initiative staff in connection with this project was undertaken on behalf of, and paid for by, the Open Society Policy Center, a separate 501(c)(4) entity.

Memory laws

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the recommendation of an official report on ‘memory laws’ that no new laws on ‘historical truth’ and memory should be adopted. The report made public on 18 November 2008, indicates that it is not the role of Parliament to adopt laws which, in effect, pre-judge the relative importance or value of historical facts, particularly when such laws include criminal sanctions.
The report was commissioned by the French National Assembly, as part of the work of a mission of inquiry (Mission d’information sur les questions mémorielles) headed by Bernard Accoyer, President of the National Assembly. All 32 members of the Mission adopted the report recommendations.
A week earlier, a group of world renowned historians and writers had published the “Appel de Blois” which maintained that it is not the business of any political authority to define historical truth and to restrict the liberty of historians by penal sanctions. The Appel called on politicians not to adopt, through legal means, “State-led truths” which undermine intellectual freedoms.
“The French deputies’ decision is a major step for a country and a parliament that has too often used the law and the parliament to define historical truth. Memory laws too often end up elevating history to dogma, thus preventing and punishing research and debate. They legally muzzle potentially dissenting or controversial research and publications, create taboos, and create or reinforce an overall atmosphere that effectively chills controversial research,” said Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.
ARTICLE 19 regrets that the report did not also recommend that existing ‘memory laws’ – including the 1990 Gayssot law on Holocaust denial and the January 2001 Armenian genocide denial law – should be repealed.
ARTICLE 19 believes that laws which impose blanket prohibitions on the denial of genocide or of other crimes breach international guarantees of freedom of expression. It is inherently illegitimate for the State to impose a blanket ban on discussion of historical matters. Such laws are both unnecessary – since generic hate speech laws already prohibit incitement to hatred – and open to abuse to stifle legitimate historical debate and research.
In February 2005, the French parliament passed a law on French presence overseas, Article 4 of which prescribed that school curricula should recognise “the positive role played by the French presence overseas, especially in North Africa.” The provision was repealed a year later but it highlights the dangers inherent in laws attempting to impose historical truth.
International guarantees of freedom of expression require any limits on that right to be necessary to protect a legitimate aim. To meet this standard, the law must both be needed to protect a legitimate aim of sufficient importance to warrant overriding a fundamental human right and be proportionate, in the sense that the benefits outweigh the harm to freedom of expression. ‘Memory laws’ fail on both counts: they are not necessary to protect a legitimate aim and, because they are open to abuse, the risk of disproportionate harm to freedom of expression is significant. States have an obligation to protect individuals against hate speech, for example pursuant to Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
However, the ICCPR achieves a careful balance between the right to freedom of
expression and protection against hate speech by limiting the latter to cases of incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence. ‘Memory laws’ are overbroad because where a denial of the historical facts they cover does not actually promote hatred, it would be protected speech. It is very clear that international law protects merely offensive, as opposed to harmful, speech.
· For more information: please contact Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, +44 20 7278 9292.
· For a French version of the report on the memory laws:
· A copy of the “Appel de Blois” is available at:
· For further information on hate speech and ARTICLE 19 is available at:

ARTICLE 19, 6-8 Amwell Street, London EC1R 1UQ
Tel: (+44) 20 7278 9292 / Fax: (+44) 20 7278 7660
Web: / Email:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jammu and Kashmir Government to Reconsider Ad Spending Conditions

IFJ Urges Jammu and Kashmir Government to Reconsider Ad Spending Conditions
The IFJ and its affiliate organisation, the National Union of Journalists (India), are concerned to learn that the government in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has sent out an advisory to all media organisations within its jurisdiction, warning against the "publication of certain objectionable material."
Recipients of the Jammu and Kashmir government advisory have been put on notice that they are to "refrain from publication of such objectionable and seditious material."
Failure to comply, in terms of the advisory, would constrain the Jammu and Kashmir state government to "take action" under rules already notified. These allow for the withdrawal of official advertising from non-compliant media organisations.
The government restrictions come as nominations open in state assembly elections amid calls for a boycott by certain political elements.
"The use of a term such as 'sedition' in official notifications involving the press is a matter of serious concern for all journalists," said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
"We urge the Jammu and Kashmir government to delink their ad placement policy from the editorial stance of particular newspapers in the interests of genuine media freedom."
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.
For further information, contact IFJ Asia-Pacific, tel: +612 9333 0919, or the IFJ, International Press Centre, Residence Palace, Block C, 155 Rue de la Loi, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium, tel: +322 235 2200 / 2207, fax: +322 235 2219,
e-mail:, Internet:

INDIA : Fatal shooting on a young trainee journalist

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the fatal shooting on 17 November 2008 of Konsam Rishikanta, a young trainee journalist employed by the "Imphal Free Press", a privately-owned English-language daily based in Imphal, the capital of the northeastern state of Manipur.
"We support the strikes announced by the local press in protest against this cowardly murder, as they could help to prevent it being left unpunished," Reporters Without Borders said. "Both the Manipur state government and the federal authorities must ensure that the murder investigation has the resources it needs to establish the motive and identify those responsible."
Police found Rishikanta's body in a deserted alley in the middle of the afternoon of 17 November. He had been shot three times. Neighbours reportedly said they heard a total of 10 gunshots. The motive for the murder is not yet known and no group has claimed responsibility.
"Imphal Free Press" journalist Pradip Phanjoubam said Rishikanta had been expected at the newspaper for the night shift. He added that he did not think the shooting was linked to any report published in the newspaper. Rishikanta's family said he had gone that morning to the company where he used to work to request pay that was still due to him and never returned.
The "Imphal Free Press" received several puzzling calls that day asking if Rishikanta had arrived at the newspaper. A short while after receiving the calls, the "Imphal Free Press" learned from other newspapers that his body had been discovered.
All the Imphal-based daily newspapers decided at an emergency meeting at the Manipur Press Club to stage a four-day strike in protest against the murder. The All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) announced that it would suspend all publications and TV broadcasts for an unspecified period beginning 20 November.
The members of the union also called on Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to ensure that the murder was investigated promptly. Singh promised that everything possible would be done to arrest Rishikanta's killers.
Journalists in Manipur are often threatened by both the security forces and armed separatists. There have been several cases of journalists in the state being shot by unidentified gunmen in recent years.
For further information, contact Vincent Brossel, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 70, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail:, Internet:

source :

Blogger gets 45 years in prison, others sentenced

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a CPJ press release:
Blogger gets 45 years in prison, others sentenced
New York, November 21, 2008 - A Burmese court sentenced entertainer, blogger, and activist Maung Thura - known by his stage name, "Zarganar" - to 45 years in prison today for violations of the Electronics Act, according to Burmese rights groups and international news reports. Sports journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, and two other defendants were also sentenced to at least 15 years each in the same trial.
All four still face charges, and more years are expected to be added to the sentences next week, according to Aung Din of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma. They had collaborated to help survivors and videotape damage after Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Rangoon and much of the Irrawaddy Delta in May.
Courts have sentenced at least 100 people in Burma since early November, according to The Associated Press, including Ecovision Journal journalist Eine Khine Oo and blogger Nay Phone Latt.
"The sentences we have witnessed in Burma this month are nothing less than an assault on free expression," said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. "That it should stem from reporting in the public interest is a shocking indictment of the ruling military junta."
Maung Thura, a well-known comedian, blogger and pro-democracy activist, coordinated relief efforts after the cyclone. Police arrested him at his home in Rangoon on June 4 shortly after he gave interviews to overseas-based news outlets, including the BBC, criticizing the military junta's response to the disaster, according to international news reports. Police confiscated electronic equipment such as DVD footage of the cyclone damage, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and the United States Campaign for Burma. The day after his arrest, state-controlled media published warnings against sending video footage of relief work to foreign news agencies.
On August 7, during closed proceedings at Insein Prison in Rangoon, Maung Thura was indicted on multiple charges. Today's sentence was the sum of three separate penalties - 15 years each, the maximum allowed - imposed for crimes under the Electronics Act. He still faces four charges under different laws, including the Television and Video Act, the Unlawful Association Act, and the penal code, according to Aung Din.
Police arrested Rangoon-based freelance journalist Zaw Thet Htwe, former editor of sports newspaper First Eleven, on June 13 in the town of Minbu during a visit to his mother, according to Agence France-Presse. The 15-year sentence he received today was also under the Electronics Act. Both he and Maung Thura had been detained in the past. One of Maung Thura's previous arrests took place in September 2007 for helping Buddhist monks during anti-government protests.
The Associated Press named the other two defendants as Thant Zin Aung, sentenced to 15 years, and Tin Maung Aye, who was given 29 years. Aung Din said Thant Zin Aung was arrested at the airport for trying to smuggle footage he had filmed of the disaster to Thailand, where he lives.
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit
Updates the Zaw Thet Htwe and Zarganar cases:
For further information on the Nay Phone Latt case see:
For further information on the Eine Khine Oo (Ein Khaing Oo) case see:

Burma : Free speech crackdown accelerates

21 November 2008
source :
Burma : Free speech crackdown accelerates
A year after the Saffron Revolution and just weeks before UN Secretary General
Ban Ki-Moon’s planned visit, freedom of expression in Burma has reached a
historical low point with the sentencing of a comedian to 45 years and the
imprisonment of journalists, lawyers, poets and activists.
ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship are immensely saddened by the plummeting situation in Burma and are concerned by the evident chain of events which systematically undermine human rights and freedom of expression. A number of worrying incidents have taken place recently, including:
September 2008
· From September onwards, Burmese news sites Mizzima and Irrawaddy have
been targeted with electronic attacks and have their servers bombarded with
denial-of-service attacks
October 2008
· Two judges involved in cases arising from last year’s protests, Nyi Nyi Htwe
and Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, were sentenced to six months in jail on 29 October
under Section 228 of the Penal Code for requesting that the Information
Minister and Director General of police be called as witnesses for their three
November 2008
· New political detainees including Htwe and Min were moved to prisons far
away so that their families cannot supply them with the essential necessities
such as food and medicine
7 November
· Supreme Court advocates U Aung Thein and U Khin Maung Shein involved in
the cases of protesters were convicted to four-month prison terms for contempt
of court under Section 3 of the 1926 Contempt of Courts Act after submitting
a letter to the court that called into question the fairness of the entire judicial
11 November
· The infamous Insein prison special court in Rangoon sentenced fourteen
leading democracy activists, all members of the ’88 Generation Student group,
to 65 years imprisonment each
· Nay Phone Latt, a pro-democracy blogger, was handed down a 20-year prison
sentence for posting on his website material that criticised military leader
Than She. His lawyer was also put behind bars for criticising the special
court's procedures
· Labour activist Su Su Nwe was sentenced to 12 and a half years
imprisonment, and poet Saw Wai was sentenced to two years imprisonment
for a hidden anti-Than She message in one of his poems
· Musician Win Maw, arrested on 27 November 2007, was charged under
Article 5(j) of the penal code with "threatening national security" and
sentenced to six years in prison
14 November
· Eco Vision journalist Ein Khaing Oo was given a two-year prison term for
taking photographs of survivors of Cyclone Nargis
18 November
· Three activists from the ’88 Generation Students group were sentenced for up
to 33 years imprisonment for inciting public unrest under the Emergency Act
· Two Buddhist monks Ashin Gambira and U Kalatha were also sentenced to
long prison terms of around 12 years for their part in leading the
demonstrations of 2007
· Five UN experts, including envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana, condemned the
severe convictions and the unfair trials of prisoners of conscience
20 November
· Following his father and grandfather who were sentenced on 11 November, Di
Nyein Lin and two other student activists were sentenced to six and a half
years imprisonment for causing public alarm and insulting religion
21 November
· Comedian Zarganar, arrested on 4 June 2008 for collecting money for Cyclone
Nargis victims, was sentenced to a staggering 45 years for creating
“disaffection towards state and government” and violating the Electronics Act.
Zarganar also has another five cases remaining against him to be tried on 27
· Sports columnist Zaw Thet Htwe and co-accused Thant Zin Aung were
sentenced to 15 years imprisonment each, and Tin Maung Aye received 29
years in prison, all for their similar roles in the same cyclone relief efforts
Awaiting Trial
· There are many more cases lined up in this rapidly unfolding situation that
include magazine editor Zaw Thet Htwe, human rights defender U Myint Aye
and activist monk U Gambira.
Over the last year, the number of political prisoners has leapt from 1,200 in 2007 to over 2,100 today. What was already an unfair and opaque legal system has also deteriorated substantially and cases are now heard within prisons devoid of any form of openness or transparency. Such arbitrary use of legal provisions, brutal treatment of prisoners and the harsh prison sentences against peaceful demonstrators provide ample evidence that the military government still fails to comply with international human rights standards, especially the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to a fair trial. Furthermore with so-called “free” elections for a new “democratic” government to be held in two years time, the government is quashing any form of resistance and sentencing any possible political opposition to long periods in jail, many in solitary confinement. Removing those few remaining activists, journalists and lawyers who try to stand up and protest, makes any future elections meaningless.

ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship note that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has repeatedly declared that Burma is a key priority for the UN. We also note and express gratitude that the European Union, Japan and the United States have all released statements on the unfolding situation.
Unfortunately however, the states with the largest influence over the Burmese
government, namely China, India and Thailand have remained silent.
ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship call upon China, India, Thailand and the
ASEAN countries to raise these abuses with the Burmese government. Furthermore,
ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship call upon European Union member states, and in particular Nicolas Sarkozy in his capacity as President of the Council of the European Union and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, to use the upcoming 11th EU-China Summit in Lyon, France, to raise these issues with the Chinese government as part of their promised regional dialogue.

· For more information: please contact Oliver Charles,, +44 20 7278 9292 or Jo Glanville +44 (0) 771 302 0971
· ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.
· Index on Censorship promotes freedom of expression through publishing,
education and international arts and media projects. Our award-winning
magazine and website feature original and challenging writing on free speech
issues around the world.
ARTICLE 19, 6-8 Amwell Street, London EC1R 1UQTel: (+44) 20 7278 9292 / Fax: (+44) 20 7278 7660Web: / Email:



IFEX members in Nepal are campaigning to ensure that press freedom andfreedom of expression are enshrined in the constitution. Seven months since the Constituent Assembly elections - the monumental daywhen Nepal elected an assembly to decide the fate of the monarchy and writea new constitution for the country - the process of writing theconstitution has not been taken seriously, says the Federation of NepaliJournalists (FNJ). According to FNJ, a minimum general agreement among the 25 representativeparties of the assembly has not been reached due to "minor scuffles anddifferences of opinions." On 5 November, day one of a month-long campaign, FNJ submitted a memorandumto the constituent assembly, pressuring it to begin writing theconstitution, as well as to enshrine press freedom and freedom ofexpression as an unchangeable article. The memo has since been handed tothe prime minister and other top officials from various parties. "Political parties, professional organisations and all sectors of societyplay equally crucial roles in the campaign to draft the constitution, socertainly Nepalese journalists will also have an essential role to play,"FNJ said in the memo. The Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), with thesupport of the IFEX Campaigns Programme and funding from the Finnish mediadevelopment foundation VIKES, has also been working hard to promotepeople's participation in the constitution-making process. Since June, ithas been broadcasting a radio programme entitled "Swatantra Abhibyakti"(Free Expression) on five FM radio stations in five different regions.Radio is considered one of the best methods to raise people's awareness inmostly-rural Nepal - helping to reach a large audience and "bridging theviews of experts and politicians with those of commoners," says CEHURDES. The campaign takes place amid a backdrop of increasing attacks on mediahouses and personnel, says FNJ. In one of the latest attacks, the office of"Himal Khabar Patrika" magazine was burned down in Kathmandu.

Visit these links:- FNJ: IFEX Nepal page:



The Saudi authorities have banned a crusading defence attorney from travelling abroad to receive Human Rights Watch's 2008 Human RightsDefenders Award. Abdul-Rahman al-Lahim was due to be honoured in November in London, Parisand Geneva with the award for his fight for the rights of Saudi citizensagainst arbitrary and unjust rulings. Al-Lahim gained worldwide attention for defending a woman from Qatif whowas sentenced in November 2006 to several months in prison and 90 lashesafter being gang-raped. Her punishment was for an act that preceded therape: being alone in a car with a man who was not related to her, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia. An appeals court increased the woman's sentence to200 lashings and six months in jail. In December 2007, King Abdullah set aside the woman's sentence after the case drew international criticism. Al-Lahim "is at the forefront of the struggle to put into effect the kindof judicial reforms that King Abdullah has announced," said Human RightsWatch. Unable to attend the ceremony in London on 11 November, al-Lahim preparedremarks that were read at the event: "This award is an acknowledgement ofthe hundreds of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia," he said. "It isalso a recognition of the work of brave writers who have spoken againstIslamist extremists and their calls for violence." Four other activists have been honoured with the Human Rights Defenderaward. Sri Lankan rights defender Sunila Abeysekera won for the two decades shehas spent working as an activist amid Sri Lanka's civil war, exposingserious abuses by government security forces and the Tamil Tigers. Mathilde Muhindo works to support rape victims and to stop the use of rapeas a weapon of war in Democratic Republic of Congo. Umida Niazova, an Uzbek journalist, continues to speak out against thegovernment's abuses, despite being convicted for covering the 2005 massacrein Andijan, where troops killed hundreds of unarmed protesters. Bo Kyi spent more than seven years in prison for his political activismsince the pro-democracy riots in Burma in 1988. Upon release from jail, heco-founded the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners in Mae Sot,Thailand. He said upon accepting his award in London, "We have a way tocommunicate with the prisoners and get their stories out. I cannot tell youhow we do this. I do not want the Burmese regime to find out. But I cantell you that these stories fill the pages of our reports and those ofHuman Rights Watch ... Over time, the stories of these prisoners generatepressure on the international community to take a stand." The awards are being presented at a series of dinners across North Americaand Europe in November.

For more information on the 2007 Human Rights Watch honourees, see: For details on the campaign to lift al-Lahim's travel ban, see: For Bo Kyi's acceptance, see George Packer's blog on "The New Yorker":



The Council of Europe is organising a conference on "anti-terror legislation in Europe since 2001 and its impact on freedom of expressionand information" in Amsterdam on 17 and 18 November. The General Rapporteur will post questions and some results of the discussions on the Council of Europe media freedom forum. Interested peopleare invited to comment on these questions. Relevant comments might beincluded by the General Rapporteur in her report of the conference: more information on the conference, see:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Training for Francophone West African Broadcasting Regulators

Senegal: Training for Francophone West African Broadcasting Regulators

West African Broadcasting Regulators recently assembled in Dakar, Senegal for a training workshop on improving Broadcasting Policy and Regulation in the francophone zone. The training was organized by ARTICLE 19 with the Panos Institute for West Africa (PIWA), and the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of Senegal (CNRA) from 3-6 November 2008.

The four-day workshop provided the context for a comprehensive discussion of issues, including the enabling environment for pluralistic and diverse broadcasting; application of international freedom of expression standards in West Africa; the independence and credibility of regulatory bodies to disseminate diverse information and programme content; and the challenges posed by new information and communication technologies. “The workshop enabled us to assess and reflect on the enormous challenges facing the broadcasting regulatory systems in West Africa,” said Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “This is prime time for authorities to take courageous and resolute measures to ensure that the regulatory systems are independent, effective and serve the public interest,” added Callamard. The workshop was based on ARTICLE 19’s Training Manual for African Regulators (published in 2006). ARTICLE 19 sought and received feedback on the utility of its newly released French pilot version of the Manual (August 2008). Comments from workshop on the course texts will be incorporated in later revisions of the French Manual. The training brought together an impressive group of 30 participants including representatives of the nine regulatory authorities in francophone West Africa, representatives of the French Broadcasting Regulator (CSA), regional experts, academics and journalism schools.According to one of the participants, “this workshop was an eye opener and the Manual is one of the best resources we have seen in the region; it addresses thoroughly all the critical regulatory issues we encounter on a regular basis.”
The recommendations are available at:
• For more information read the recommendations in French at:
For more information: please contact Fatou Jagne- Senghore, Africa Programme Officer, or Tel: +221 338 200 337

Journalists Attend Mass Protest in Defence of Freedom of Expression

Sudan: Journalists Attend Mass Protest in Defence of Freedom of Expression and the Press

ARTICLE 19 joins in solidarity with Sudanese civil society organisations and media houses demonstrating against the censorship and intimidation of Sudanese media in Khartoum.
On 4 November more than 50 Sudanese journalists went on a 24 hour hunger strike and three Sudanese newspapers shut down for three days to protest against the censorship imposed on the press by Sudanese National Security Services, including the daily pre-print and post-print censorship, and repeated suspension orders. The press crackdown appears to be directed at discouraging news reports on the Sudan opposition leaders’ summit due to be held on the conflict in Darfur. Newspapers based in the Sudanese capital, have been increasingly subject to pre-print censorship, a practice which began on 6 February 2008. Security forces visit and censor newspapers every day before they go to print by physically removing articles they deem problematic and taboo. Censorship of the print press in Khartoum has largely been centred on issues including the Darfur conflict, and the turbulent political relationship with neighbouring Chad. Media houses not complying with the censors risk having their publications confiscated and destroyed after they have gone to print. On 8 November the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) also removed its officers working in the press department of the National Security Service in protest to its activities which they have deemed ‘anti-constitutional’ARTICLE19 urges the Sudanese authorities to return to the framework of its agreement for peace in Sudan. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and Section 39 of the Sudanese Interim Constitution:
Every citizen shall have an unrestricted right to the freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to order, safety or public morals as determined by law.
The State shall guarantee the freedom of the press and other media as shall be regulated by law in a democratic society.
All media shall abide by professional ethics, shall refrain from inciting religious, ethnic, racial or cultural hatred and shall not agitate for violence or war.
ARTICLE 19 strongly urges the Sudanese authorities to uphold their obligations under international law which include the right to ‘freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’ (Article 19, ICCPR).ARTICLE 19 also calls upon the Sudanese authorities or the government of National Unity to immediately cease the censorship imposed on Sudanese newspapers.

• For more information: please contact Africa Programme Officer Roxanne Abdulali, at:, +254 20 3862230/2.•
ARTICLE 19 is a member of a consortium ‘promoting freedom of expression and civil society involvement in developing democratic media legislation in Sudan’; in partnership with Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development, the Association for Media Development in South Sudan, the Olof Palme International Center, International Media Support and Norwegian People’s Aid. The consortium in supported by the European Commission and Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Uzbekistan: Open letter to President Karimov

Uzbekistan: Open letter to President Karimov
Published: November 13, 2008

Related earlier post on this news :
Islam Abduganievich KarimovPresident of the Republic of UzbekistanRezidentsiya prezidentaUl. Uzbekistaniskaia 43Tashkent Uzbekistan
Fax: 00 998 71 139 5325E-mail:
13 November 2008 Your Excellency, We at the English Centre of PEN, the international association of writers, remain extremely concerned about the welfare of a number of Uzbek writers detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

We were extremely disappointed to hear that recent suggestions that your nephew, Jamshid Karimov, had been released from Samarkand hospital, were entirely fictitious. According to our information, following the release of activists Dilmurod Muihitdinov and Mamarajab Nazarov, it was believed that Jamshid had also been released. However, it has since been confirmed that he remains detained in the Samarkand hospital where he has been held for over two years, since September 2006. Whilst in detention, Jamshid has been forced to take psychotropic drugs and has rarely been allowed to see his family. His mother, Margarita Karimova, died earlier this year; Jamshid was of course unable to be with her.

However, Jamshid's case is by no means an isolated one. Most recently, we were shocked to learn of the charges against the independent journalist and human rights defender Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov. According to our information, Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov will be appealing the ten year sentence handed down to him for the possession of illegal substances on 10 October 2008. However, medical tests have confirmed that Abdurakhmanov is not a drug user, whilst the information found in his belongings showed no evidence of illegal activity. Despite this, the charges have now been modified from drug use to drug dealing, for which he could face up to twenty years imprisonment. It is firmly believed that the charges against him were pre-fabricated and are a punishment for his journalistic and human rights work.

We were also extremely concerned by reports in May of this year that the Uzbek poet, Yusuf Juma, who was arrested in December 2007, hasbeen subject to torture in prison. According to our information, a letter has been sent to French President Nicolas Sarkozy asking him to intervene in this case, and suggesting that if urgent action is not taken Yusuf Juma may well die in detention.

We also remain deeply concerned about the well-being of Muhammed Bekjanov, an Honorary Member of the English, American, USA and Canadian PEN Centres. Bekjanov has reportedly been subject to ill-treatment whilst in prison and had also contracted tuberculosis. We are desperately seeking further information about Bekjanov, and strongly urge the authorities to ensure that he is treated humanely whilst in detention and given full access to the necessary medical care.

Finally, we continue to call upon the Uzbek authorities to release writer and opposition activist Mamadali Makhmudov, an Honorary Member of English, American, Canadian, Netherlands and USA PEN Centres, who has been imprisoned for nearly ten years in violation of his right to free expression.

We strongly urge the Uzbek authorities to release these five imprisoned writers, in conformity with Uzbekistan's constitution and obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory.
We would welcome your comments on our appeal.

Yours sincerely,
Lisa AppignanesiPresident, English PEN
Sir Tom StoppardVice-President, English PEN
Jonathan HeawoodDirector, English PEN
Richard McKane Member of English PEN Writers in Prison Committee
Moris FarhiMember of English PEN Writers in Prison Committee

NEWS:Somali PEN in London

Somali PEN in London
November 13, 2008
On Sunday 9 November 2008, London witnessed the biggest one-day gathering concerning Somali language and literature in Europe. Around one thousand people, predominantly Somalis, from different parts of Britain attended a unique daylong festival promoting Somali language literature books mostly published in Djibouti and the UK
Members of the Somali community were eager to meet and interact with prominent Somali authors and great poets visiting the UK for the first time, some of them with samples of their recent books in which people have been keenly interested. They came from Djibouti, Somalia, the U.A.E. and the US to take part in a Somali Language Literature Festival and Touring Book Fair organised by the Somali-speaking PEN and Halabuur Centre for Culture and Communication in the Horn of Africa with the theme 'The Word and the Way to a better world'.
This literary venture has taken place in the context of the celebrations for the International Year of Languages (2008) declared by the United Nations and the National Year of Reading in the UK. As part of this broader Festival, the Sunday event was organised at the Dome performance centre in North London in collaboration with the Somali Community Centre and Universal TV.

The event's core content comprised the display and presentations of books, readings from the books, poetry recitations and book signing by the participating authors. The opening session of the event, which was convened by Said Jama Hussein, the vice President of the Somali-speaking PEN, who welcomed the participants on behalf of PEN, started with a number of opening statements and keynote speeches. The acclaimed poet-playwright, Adan Faarah Samatar was the first speaker; he addressed the meeting on behalf of the literary mission from Djibouti, thanking the Somali and Djibouti community in UK for their warm welcome. He underlined the need for joint efforts towards the protection and development of the Somali language and its literature. The veteran journalist and scholar, Abdulkadir Ali Bolay, who spoke on behalf of the Somali UK community, stressed that the community highly appreciates this literary initiative and is prepared to support future initiatives of this kind.

The background and objectives of this literary venture were then explained by writer Maxamed Daahir Afrax, President of the Somali-speaking Centre of International PEN and the initiator of this venture. He pointed out that this initiative came as part of the tireless efforts under way in Djibouti to safeguard and develop the Somali language and its literature endangered by the civil war devastations in Somalia. He highlighted the importance of writing and reading, especially in mother tongue urging the Somali Diaspora to support the efforts made by under resourced Somali writers. In this connection, Mr. Afrax commended the continuing and wholehearted support and encouragement provided by the President of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, to promote writing in mother tongue.

The literary event was prominently featured by the presence and intervention of Aw Jamac Cumar Ciise, an elder statesman of Somali literary scholarship, a prolific writer on Somali oral literature and collector of Somali history and cultural heritage. When Aw Jaamac, who is now based in Djibouti, was called to take the floor the crowds that flooded the Dome were overwhelmed by emotions; they welcomed the elder literary statesman with standing ovation. Aw Jaamac shared his around 60 years of experience in collecting oral literature, researching oral tradition and writing on Somali history and literature. He underlined the need for a new generation of writers and researchers to take over and the need for joint efforts to safeguard the endangered heritage and develop the Somali language and literature. In this respect, Aw Jaamac expressed his gratitude to the President and Government of Djibouti for giving him support without which he would not have been able to produce and publish his recent books on display.

The other literary figure who equalled Aw Jaamac in such a warm reception by everyone present was Cali Sugulle Duncarbeed, another elder statesman of Somali performing arts a leading poet-playwright based in the U.A.E. He too was received with a standing ovation. Cali's intervention was not only enlightening but also entertaining. In the middle of his explanation of how he used his art to combat clannism and promote mother language, Cali further evoked the emotions of the audience when he asked the famous and much loved veteran female singer, Faduma Qasim Hilowle, to join him and sing some lines from his famous lyrics which she sung tens of years ago.

Other leading poets and authors who either presented their books or recited their poetry or did both included Salah Hashi Arab, poet, playwright and linguistic researcher who presented his most exhausting Somali dictionary; Mohamed Abdillahi Riiraash, historian and literary scholar, who shared with the audience his experience in translating into Somali the world classic, Futuh Al-Habashah, Abdulkadir Abdi Yusuf known as Shube, a legendary poet, actor and storyteller who was able to shake the entire hall with his extra-ordinary performing skills when he started reciting some moving pieces from the newly published collection of his poetry; author Khaliif Ashkir who commented on his two recent books on Somali literature and oral tradition in an amusing fashion with his witty sense of humour; and Mohamed Hassan Osman who came from the US to share with us a new book he has written on the relationship between parents and their children.

A number of younger but highly talented UK based poets also joined the visiting artists and presented their poetry, these include Abdullahi Botan, Ali Ahmed Senyo, Maxamed Baashe X. Xasan, and others. The event was rounded up with regenerating Somali music and peace promoting songs performed by well-known Somali and Djiboutian-performing artists led by Faduma Qasim Hilowle, once celebrated national star in Somalia before the civil war destruction, and Faduma Ahmed, another national star in Djibouti. Other well-known artists who performed on this occasion included Kaltun Hassan Bacado, Xadanteeye, Said Hussein, Ahmed Qomaal, Anab Ismail, Zamzam and others.

Throughout the Festival, over one thousand books were on display, including some rare books not available anywhere else. Most of the books were written in the field of language and literature. To the surprise of everyone present, a record number of nearly 1000 books was sold in a few hours. This shows how thirsty members of the Somali community are in the UK for publications in their mother tongue in general and literary books in particular.
Somali-speaking Writers Centre of International PENEmails:,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Right to express their gender and sexual identity and to disseminate ideas and information freely.

For immediate distribution: 27th October 2008
ARTICLE19 was invited to participate in a roundtable on “Freedom of Expression and Diversity”, on occasion of the Feria de Comunicación Alternativa 08’ (Alternative Communicaion Fair 08’) that was held in Mexico City on October 23 and 24. The importance of freedom of expression and access to information without discrimination and free of attacks towards the LGBTI community was stressed, highlighting the importance for the State to guarantee everyone’s right to express their gender and sexual identity and to disseminate ideas and information freely.

The right to express one’s sexual and gender identity
The fundamental right to freedom of expression, along with the right to be free of discrimination, are recognised in numerous human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),1 the American Convention on Human Rights,2 the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),3 the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.4 The
European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) have also recognised these rights.5
The right to freedom of expression is not absolute. It may be restricted, among others, to protect public order and morals, and the reputation and rights of others. However, pursuant to international law, any such restriction must be provided by law, and be necessary to protect a recognised legitimate aim, including those listed above. Restrictions must protect against a risk of
actual harm; it is not legitimate to restrict freedom of expression simply on the grounds that something might shock, offend or disturb others.
The right to freedom of expression also has a positive aspect. States have a positive obligation to protect against attacks or other acts aimed at limiting the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. States are also under a positive obligation to ensure respect for the right to access to
1 UN General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI), 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976.
2 Adopted at San José, Costa Rica, 22 November 1969, O.A.S. Treaty Series No. 36, entered into force 18 July 1978.
3 Adopted 4 November 1950, E.T.S. No. 5, entered into force 3 September 1953.
4 Adopted at Nairobi, Kenya, 26 June 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, entered into force 21 October 1986.
5 See the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Human Dimension of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe -------------------------------------------xxx------------------------------
information, including by providing access to information held by public bodies and by proactively disseminating information of key public importance.

Key human rights mechanisms at the United Nations and elsewhere have affirmed that anti-discrimination rules under international law oblige States to ensure effective protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The scope of international obligations in this area have been particularly well captured by the Yogyakarta Principles. In relation to freedom of expression, the principles state:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes the expression of identity or personhood through speech, deportment, dress, bodily characteristics, choice of name, or any other means, as well as the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, including with regard to human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, through any medium and regardless of

Violations of the right to express one’s sexual and gender identity
Human rights violations targeted toward persons because of their actual or perceived sexual or gender identity constitute an entrenched global pattern of serious concern. Such violations include not only restrictions on freedom of expression, but also extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, sexual assault and rape, invasions of privacy, arbitrary detention, denial of employment and education opportunities, and serious discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of other human rights. These forms of discrimination are perpetrated not only by officials but also by private actors.

Latin America and the Caribbean has been assessed as the region of the world with the highest number of killings due to homophobia.7 Mexico has the second highest number of such cases, with some 420 having been registered between 1995-2006.8 Brazil is the country with the highest number of registered cases and, in 2007 alone, some 122 people were killed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, a 30% increase over the previous year.9
In many countries, the right to express one’s sexual identity is censored or curtailed in the name of public morality. However, as noted, the right to express one’s sexual or gender identity is protected under international law. Indeed, States are under an obligation to prevent discrimination on this basis. While it may be legitimate for States to restrict freedom of expression to prevent
immoral actions that cause actual harm, such as sexual attacks on children, as opposed merely to offence, morality can never justify restrictions on freedom of expression aimed at limiting the right to express one’s sexual or gender identity as such. When assessing whether or not a particular expression is harmful, the same standards should apply to all forms of sexual expression.
State obligations in this area go beyond ensuring that any restrictions on freedom of expression do not limit the right to express one’s sexual or gender identity, or do not discriminate. States are also under an obligation to provide protection against attacks on these forms of expression. For

6 See
7 Campaigns against Homophobia in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, Pan-American Health Organization, 2006, p. 10 .
8 Annual Report on Homophobic Crimes 2005-2006. Letra S, Mexico. See:
9 Bahia Gay Group, 2008. .
example, States should provide protection where there is a risk that a peaceful gathering may attract violent counter-demonstrations, something that is all too common in the context of gay pride marches. Instances of attacks on newspapers or against books about sexual or gender identity give rise to a similar obligation of protection.
At some point, extreme expressions based on homophobia or related prejudices constitute a form of verbal attack which undermines the right of the LGBTI community to equality. Where such verbal attacks constitute hate speech – defined as advocacy of hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence – international law not only allows, but actually requires
States to ban it.10 Hatred, in this context, may be defined as an “irrational and intense antagonism” towards a person or a group, in this case due to their sexual or gender identity being different from the traditional social construct. Hate speech rules, however, should never be used to limit the expression of identity by a protected group, including expressions of sexual and gender identity. Furthermore, such rules should only be applied to expressions which directly incite to violence, discrimination or hatred.
The role of freedom of expression in breaking down prejudice
Eradicating entrenched and widespread social prejudices, such as those against the LGBTI community, requires a broad range of social actions. Respect for freedom of expression can be an important tool for combating prejudice, and promoting tolerance and understanding. Promoting a diverse media environment which ensures that all groups in society, including the LGBTI community, can express themselves is key to the achievement of this goal. In 2007, the four special mandates on freedom of expression at the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) issued a Joint Declaration recognising “the fundamental importance of diversity in the media to the free flow of information
and ideas in society, in terms both of giving voice to and satisfying the information needs and other interests of all, as protected by international guarantees of the right to freedom of expression.”11 The Declaration emphasises, in particular, the need for the recognition of diversity
in all its forms as an underpinning of democracy, social cohesion and the full participation of all in decision-making processes. Media diversity is also key to ensuring that the LGBTI community has the ability to disseminate information and ideas of importance to it, such as advocacy for legal rights, organisation of or participation in conferences and demonstrations, and dissemination
of and access to safer-sex information. The media can also play a key role in breaking down prejudice and in promoting understanding.
The media makes a critical contribution to the formation of beliefs, opinions and attitudes in society. As such, it can give legitimacy to, reproduce or instead counter the propagation of discriminatory ideologies against differences, including those based on homophobia. Public media, and in particular public broadcasters, have a particular obligation in this regard, based on their public mandate and their duty to serve the needs of all groups in society. They
should have a formal mandate to combat all forms of discrimination and to make a positive contribution to the fight against human rights violations, including those motivated by the sexual or gender identity of the victims. At the same time, commercial, community and alternative media have a moral and social obligation to combat prejudice.
10 See, for example, Article 20(2) of the ICCPR.
11 Adopted 12 December 2007. Full text available at:
The media should also make an effort to avoid disseminating unreliable or biased information about the LGBTI community. For example, the media and others often stigmatise people living with HIV/AIDS, thereby propagating prejudice and hampering efforts to address the problem.
The propagation of biased views of the problem of HIV/AIDS as a uniquely homosexual problem may also prevent accurate information reaching other groups facing a high-risk of exposure to the epidemic.
Access to information
In many countries, access to information on issues of particular importance to the LGBTI community, including information about health services, HIV/AIDS and legal rights, is limited. States have an obligation not to impose undue restrictions on the dissemination of these types of information. But they also have a positive obligation to ensure the dissemination of information
of key importance to all members of society. Information is, for example, a central component to the fight against HIV/AIDS and yet many
States have not made sufficient efforts to promulgate accurate information about the virus, while some States have actively prevented the dissemination of such information. The media can also play a significant role here, providing the LGBTI community with information of importance to them.
ARTICLE 19, Agenda LGBT and DECIDIR call on all States to implement their international human rights obligations and, in particular, to:
· Respect, protect and uphold the human rights of the LGBTI community.
· Review all restrictions on freedom of expression to ensure that no one is denied the right
to express his or her sexual or gender identity, or to receive and impart information and ideas concerning sexual and gender identity, including through speech, deportment, dress, bodily characteristics, choice of name or other means. Interests such as the protection of public order, morality and health should not used to justify restrictions that discriminate on the basis of sexual or gender identity.
· Take adequate measures to ensure appropriate protection of the LGBTI community against attacks that undermine its members ability to exercise their right to freedom of expression, including through appropriate restrictions on hate speech.
· Promote media diversity with a view to ensuring that everyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can impart and receive information and ideas, and participate in public debate.
· Ensure that the mandate of public service broadcasters includes combating prejudice and discrimination, as well as serving the needs of all members of society, including the LGBTI community, and that the personnel recruitment and promotion policies of such organisations are non-discriminatory.
· Disseminate key information of importance to the LGBTI community on a proactive basis.
ARTICLE 19, Agenda LGBT and DECIDIR call on broadcasters to:
· Put in place effective ethical and self-regulatory codes of conduct which prohibit discrimination against the LGBTI community and which promote a LGBTI-sensitive approach to media work.
· Design and deliver media training programmes which promote a better understanding of issues relating to sexual and gender identity, homophobia and discrimination.
· Play an active role in combating prejudice against and misinformation about the LGBTI community.
Notes to Editors
_ For more information, please contact Ricardo González (+52) (55)1054-6500
_ ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.
_ Agenda LGBT is an organisation that fights against AIDS and works for better living conditions for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
_ DECIDIR is an organisation for young activists that promoted for the sexual and reproductive rights of the youth, in particular through creating and consolidating free spaces and respect for diversity.

Bangla desh: Right to information law welcomed

Bangla desh: Right to information law welcomed
ARTICLE 19 very much welcomes the publication, in the official Bangladesh
Gazette on Wednesday, 20 October, of the Right to Information Ordinance, No.
50 of 2008. This is a progressive and much needed piece of legislation that should make an important contribution to transparency and democracy in Bangladesh. At the same time, we note that a number the concerns we raised in our March 2008 analysis of a draft version of the Ordinance have still not been addressed. Some of the most positive aspects of the new Bangladesh Right to Information Ordinance include its wide application to all information held by all public bodies, improved rules on payment of fees for access to information, the fact that the new law overrides inconsistent secrecy legislation and the wide promotional role allocated to the Information Commission, which now also has greater independence.

At the same time, ARTICLE 19 still has some concerns, including the following:
_ The right of access is still limited to citizens, instead of applying to everyone.
_ The proactive publication obligations are too limited, both as to the scope of
information covered and as to the means of dissemination of this information.
_ The regime of exceptions remains too broad. It contains exclusions (security and intelligence bodies) and exceptions which are not legitimate, it lacks a consistently high standard of harm and the rules allowing provision of information in the public interest has actually been removed.
_ It fails to provide protection for good faith disclosures pursuant to the law, or
protection for whistleblower (those who disclose information about wrongdoing).

ARTICLE 19 and partners encourage the Government to include the framing of rules under the law as an integral part of its implementation plans and address weaknesses toward creating an efficient regime.
ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr, Agnès Callamard noted, “It is essential that the process of rule making should include the participation of civil society in Bangladesh, journalists, potential users of the law and advocates for free expression.”

· For more information please contact Toby Mendel, Senior Director for Law,, +1 902 431-3688 or Tahmina Rahman, Director ARTICLE 19
Bangladesh; ; +0171-303-9669.
· The March 2008 analysis is available at:
· ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.
Source : ARTICLE 19, 6-8 Amwell Street, London EC1R 1UQTel: (+44) 20 7278 9292 / Fax: (+44) 20 7278 7660Web: / Email: info@article19.orgFor immediate release – 24 October 2008

the use of Arts in the promotion of human rights

I had posted earlier about ART VENTURE FREEDOM TO CREATE PRIZE click the link :

24 october,2008,London – A unique creative-prize designed to highlight the use of Arts in the promotion of human rights has brought to attention a forgotten frontline of artists defending their freedom of expression at great personal sacrifice.
The Art Venture Freedom to create prize has been embraced by artists on the frontline, the global arts in development sector and human rights community, with over 800 applications from over 80 countries. Entries close on 31 October.
The prize is comprised of three categories and will carry a total prize of US$100,000. It will be judged by a panel of eminent artists, commentators and human rights experts, including Augusto Boal, Andrew Dickson, Htein Lin, Samira makhmalbaf, carlos reyes-manzo, ana Tzarev. The winners will be announced in London on 27 November.

The Prize was established by the philanthropic organization, artVenture, in association with London –based freedom of expression defenders Article 19.
Art Venture Director, Robert ashforth, said:” freedom to create is a cornerstone of just and fair societies and is essential to fostering prosperity and peace. We are delighted the Artventure Freedom to Create prize has brought attention to this important issue, and the special role that artists play by promoting empathy and understanding and confronting discrimination and oppression.”
Mr. ashforth added:’This is not a typical Art prize. It does not simply judge the skill of the artist, but rather it recognizes how the artist has used their work to promote awareness and alert people to the plight of others.”
Executive director of article 19,Dr. Agnes Callamard, said the prize would play an important an important role in promoting the freedom of expression: “ The ArtVenture freedom to Create Prize is a timely reminder that the freedom to create must be protected. Intolerance for dissent and unpopular expressions, including artistic, is on the increase. Artists make societies aware of the existence of abuses. They open our eyes, ears, imagination – all our senses – to the horror of wars, torture, poverty, racism and violence against women.”

The main category in the ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize category is open to artists in all creative fields including the visual arts, film, music, dance and literature. The Prize will be awarded to an individual or group that uses their creative work to promote human rights and freedom of expression in a restrictive or repressive environment. The winner of this award will receive 450,000 ($25,000 to the artist or group and ($25,000 to a nominated organization to further the cause the artwork has highlighted).

The Art Venture Freedom to Create Youth Prize is open to artist who are under age of 18 with the winner receiving $25,000 ($10,000 towards an education scholarship and $15,000 for a nominated advocacy issue). The final category, The Art Venture Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize, Focuses on artists who are currently imprisoned due to their work. The winner will receive $26,000 towards supporting their family, paying legal costs and supporting advocacy efforts.
For more information about the Art Venture Freedom to Create Prize please visit

About Art Venture, art in Action
Art Venture is a philanthropic organization which seeks to harness art and culture to improve lives in meaningful ways. We believe philanthropic programmes delivered through the arts have a special ability to reach people and play a vital role in harnessing the creativity needed for human development.
Art Venture ‘s goal is to alleviate suffering and to provide solutions that address the root causes of poverty, illness and conflict. We endeavour to bring a positive message of hope and joy to places of turmoil and despair.
Art Venture is an advocate and practitioner of “Performance Philanthrophy”. We apply investment tools and standards to our business. We believe that giving should be informed by an investment mindset that stresses clarity of purpose, sound planning,wellinformed choices and measurables impact.

About Article 19
Article19 is a London based human rights organization which promotes the defence and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom to information worldwide.
Established in 1987, Article19 fights for all hostages of censorship, defends dissenting voices that have been muzzled and campaigns against law and practices that silence. The group takes its name from Article19 of the universal Declaration of Human rights.

For Media enquiries:
Sara Bradford
Art Venture
London, Singapore
Telephone +65 6210 5560
Posted by Albert Ashok