Friday, November 13, 2009

Imprisonment of Bloggers

12 November 2009

Azerbaijan: Imprisonment of Bloggers Politically Motivated

ARTICLE 19 condemns the prison sentences handed down to two internet journalists and youth activists, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, on 11 November 2009 on politically motivated “hooliganism” charges.

On 8 July 2009, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were physically attacked, apparently unprovoked, in a Baku restaurant. Witnesses reported that the two had been discussing their youth movement activities when two strangers approached them, demanded that they stop discussing such matters, and attacked them. Following the attack, Milli and Hajizade filed reports as victims of an assault with the police and requested medical assistance. The police did not provide them with medical assistance; rather, they proceeded to interrogate the youths for five hours without their attorneys being present.

The criminal investigation and trial proceedings have been widely criticised by international and national observers as flawed and pre-determined. An ARTICLE 19 observer, present at one of the court hearings on 6 November, witnessed one of the alleged victims testified that he did not remember writing a statement accusing Milli and Hajizade, a statement which had also reportedly stated he was attacked by three men.

Notwithstanding the evidence, the Sabail District Court in Baku sentenced Emin Milli to two and a half years’ imprisonment, while Adnan Hajizade received a sentence of two years.

ARTICLE 19 believes that Milli and Hajizade have been the targets of political persecution because they used blogging as a tool to further civic participation. This is a particularly troubling development in light of deteriorating media freedoms in Azerbaijan ahead of planned parliamentary elections planned for November 2010.

“The imprisonment of Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade sends a clear signal to anyone critical of the current government,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “Don't try to organise, don't encourage public debate and don't try new media.”

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the imprisonment of Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade is another measure by the Azerbaijani authorities to silence independent and critical voices. The authorities should immediately release Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, expunge the charges against them and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those originally responsible for assaulting them.


NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer: Europe at Nathalie@article19.org or +44 20 7324 2500.

Opposition to UN Resolutions Banning Defamation of Religion

Legal Project Part of Chorus of Opposition to UN Resolutions Banning Defamation of Religion

November 12, 2009

http://www.meforum.org/2498/opposition-un-resolutions-banning-defamation-of-


PHILADELPHIA – The Legal Project has joined the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom and over 100 other non-governmental organizations from around the world, in a joint statement decrying the danger to free speech rights posed by a series of pending UN resolutions prohibiting defamation of religions.

On October 29, 2009, Syria, along with Venezuela and Belarus, proposed a resolution entitled "Combating defamation of religions" to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. Among other things, the resolution condemns any organization "perpetuating stereotypes about certain religions." In particular, it avers that "Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with … terrorism" and proceeds to "reaffirm the obligation of all States to enact the necessary legislation to prohibit the advocacy of … incitement to discrimination" which would include, for example, suggesting the "profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001." While non-binding, the resolution is just the latest in an ongoing effort by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to criminalize criticism of Islam globally and, if adopted, would lay the groundwork for a binding version proposed by Pakistan as a treaty amendment earlier this year.

As the joint statement notes, "[u]nlike traditional defamation laws, which punish false statements of fact that harm individual persons, measures prohibiting the 'defamation of religions' punish the peaceful criticism of ideas."

Legal Project Director Daniel Huff called the resolution a "brazen attempt to curb criticism of radical Islam, cynically disguised as a pious affirmation of fundamental freedoms. In tenor and purpose it runs contrary to the bedrock principle of American First Amendment jurisprudence that 'debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"

The Legal Project of the Middle East Forum is dedicated to protecting authors and researchers from predatory lawsuits designed to stifle dissemination of information related to terrorism and its sources of funding. It assists targets of such suits with litigation costs, arranges for pro bono counsel, works with policy makers to publicize and address this growing threat.

Immediate release

For further information contact: Daniel Huff at huff@meforum.org

Artist Alert October 2009

Artist Alert
October 2009

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

Burma: police warn that artists face execution as more are disappeared

ARTICLE 19 regards the censorship of artists in Burma to be amongst the most common and violent in the world. Since its inception the Artist Alert has regularly featured stories of Burmese artists being handed lengthy prison sentences for their courageous work.

The October edition of the Burmese police’s Crime News Journal has sunk to new levels with the announcement that artists who spread “public hatred against the government” possible execution. The warning appears to signify a change in law regarding artistic critiques of the government, which was previously limited to long imprisonment and fines under Article 124(A) of the Penal code.

Arrests of artists in Burma are widespread. According to the Burmese organisation Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, in October alone the Special Branch arrested the poet and designer Khant Min Htet, singer Nyi Paing, and songwriter Min Satta. Min Satta was arrested on 16 October whilst staying at Nyi Paing’s house who was arrested two days later. Khant Min Htet was arrested on 22 October. All have since been disappeared and the authorities have refused to speak to their families.

In addition to imprisonment and harassment there are consistent reports of artists being tortured by government security agencies. In October the singer Htoo Htoo Chay was released from prison where he had allegedly been tortured following his arrest in September. (Source: Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, amongst others.)

China: artists censored and academics stifled as government celebrates 60 years

As China celebrates 60 years since the communist party gained power, reports of censorship and stifling remain constant.

In September the highly regarded artist Ai Wiewie was beaten by police and blocked from testifying in court. His colleague Tan Zuoren was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” by protesting over the collapse of school buildings following the massive 2008 earthquake. Ai lives in an artists’ colony in Beijing and writes a well known political blog which is regularly censored by government authorities.

In southeast China professor Feng Chongyi is suing the Tianhe Terminal Customs Office for confiscating seven books which he had bought in Hong Kong. The books, which were all written by authors from mainland China, were confiscated without by the authorities without giving a reason. Feng has stated that the books do not violate Chinese law and is seeking for the government to publish its secret list of banned books. (Source: AFP, amongst others.)

USA: ALA releases top 10 books that are removed from public institutions

The American Library Association released its annual list of the 10 most ‘challenged’ books in the US during its ‘Banned Book Week’. The organisation collates written complaints that are filed in libraries, schools and other public institutions that ask for books to be removed due to ‘inappropriate content’.

According to the organisation there were 513 requests for removal in 2008. The list of the 10 most popular books includes best sellers and award winners such as His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The report identifies homosexuality as the most common theme in the contested books, followed by books that mention religion, drugs or sex. Most contestations took place in schools and public libraries at 68 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Fifty-six per cent of the requests for removal came from parents and 13 per cent from visitors to libraries.

The top 10 books were: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman; TTYL, TTFN, L8R, G8R, by Lauren Myracle; Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz; Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar; Uncle Bobby's Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; and Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper. (Source: American Library Association, amongst others.)

Iran: Media chief’s daughter claims asylum for film

Filmmaker Narges Kalhor has claimed asylum in Germany stating that she has fears for her safety in Iran after making a film about totalitarian regimes. Kalhor claimed asylum whilst her film “Darkshish” or “The Rake” was being shown at the Nuremburg film festival in September. The film is based on Kafka’s short story about torture in prison, “In The Penal Colony”.

What has made this case distinct is that Kalhor’s father, Mehdi Kalhor, is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief advisor on media and the arts. Her father, an ex-filmmaker, is well known in Iran for his anti-media outbursts and criticised the Oscar-winning film Persepolis as “Islamaphobic”. According to the Iranian media he said that: ”her decision showed we have freedom in Iran”. (Source: Telegraph, amongst others.)

Morocco: newspapers confiscated for solidarity with cartoonist under trial

Customs officials in Morocco confiscated two editions of Le Monde for reprinting the cartoons of Moroccan cartoonist Khalid Gueddar. Gueddar is currently on trial for his cartoons that lampoon the Moroccan royal family and their political influence.

Le Monde reprinted Gueddar’s controversial cartoon on 23 October in solidarity with fellow journalists, and was subsequently confiscated on arrival in Morocco. A week later, copies of Spanish daily newspaper El Pais were also blocked at the border after they followed Le Monde in printing Gueddar’s cartoons. (Source: Pravda, Expatica, amongst others.)

Nigeria: South African film banned for ‘xenophobia’

The South African film District 9 by Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson has been banned in Nigeria. Information Minister Dora Akunyili asked Nigerian theatres to pull all screenings of the film saying that: “we are not happy about [District 9] because it portrays Nigeria in bad light .”

The main Nigerian gangster in the film, which is about aliens, is named Obesandjo, which Akunyili identified as similar to the name of Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo. Akunyili has reportedly requested the distributor Sony to apologise and delete all references to Nigeria or Nigerians from the film. (Source: The Guardian.)

Saudi Arabia: television programme staff sentenced to lashings

Five people have been sentenced to lashings and imprisonment in Saudi Arabia for taking part in the production of a television programme in early 2009 that discussed sexual relationships.

A Saudi court sentenced two female production staff to 60 lashings, a cameraman to two months in prison, and four participants to a total of eleven years in prison with 1,900 lashes. The Saudi king later waived the lashings of the female staff members Rozana al-Yami and Iman Rajab.

The television show titled ‘Bold Red Line’ was broadcast on the Saudi-owned Lebanese network LBC. The show featured salesperson Mazen Abdul Jawad discussing his sexual relationships. Jawad’s lawyer has complained that neither the producers of the show nor the owners of the Saudi network have been sentenced. (Source: AFP, amongst others.)

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org, +44 20 7324 2500

United Kingdom: Defamation Decriminalised

13 November 2009

United Kingdom: Defamation Decriminalised

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the United Kingdom’s decriminalisation of defamation and calls on the government to maintain its leadership by reforming the UK’s infamous civil defamation legislation.

The Coroners and Justice Bill was given Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament (law) at 16h47 on 12 November 2009.

The Coroners and Justice Act (2009) decriminalises defamation, including repeal of the criminal offences of sedition and seditious libel, defamatory libel, and obscene libel in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

ARTICLE 19 and our partners have been campaigning for the decriminalisation of defamation in the UK for several years. Criminal defamation has not been used in the UK since the 1970s, but its “chilling effect” remains. Moreover, states around the world justify their persistent use of criminal defamation according to the example set by the UK.

In many countries, criminal defamation laws are abused by the powerful to limit criticism and to stifle public debate. The threat of harsh criminal sanctions, especially imprisonment, exerts a profound chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Now that defamation has been decriminalised, ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to reform the UK’s over-broad civil defamation laws. In particular, the laws should require that plaintiffs should prove the falsity of statements, block foreign plaintiffs from using UK courts to silence non-UK speakers, require courts to consider the public interest in publication, limit excessive lawyers’ fees, which can currently run into millions of pounds in a single case, and update the laws to better protect Internet publications.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• To see which countries still have and use criminal defamation, please visit our global defamation maps at: http://www.article19.org/advocacy/defamationmap/map/
• For more information please contact: Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org +44 20 7324 2500.

Monday, October 26, 2009

BELARUS: GREATER REFORM NEEDED SAYS MISSION

BELARUS: GREATER REFORM NEEDED SAYS MISSION

A delegation of press freedom organisations, including seven IFEX members, met with media groups and authorities in Minsk, on 20 to 24 September 2009, to determine the current environment of press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). A mission report, "For Free and Fair Media in Belarus," urges the EU and the Belarusian government to keep freedom of expression and press freedom at the heart of its discussions. The EU will soon determine if it will end sanctions which were put in place based on Belarus's poor human rights record. Hosted by the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), the mainobjective of the mission was to insist that the Belarusian governmentundertake a rigorous reform of media regulations, so journalists can work without fear of political interference. Currently, "the Belarusiangovernment casts journalists as enemies of the state, a physical threat, or a danger to the country," says the report. In the last decade, many attacks on journalists have taken place, including one journalist who was stabbed to death in her apartment while another was disappeared. There are many obstacles for independent media. Economic conditions arelimited for non-state newspapers in Belarus, which prevents an independent and pluralistic media culture from developing. Subscription and distribution systems are monopolised by the state. Broadcast licenses are issued arbitrarily and without transparency, further limiting independent voices. Meanwhile, laws in place restrict a journalist's right to information, and legislation on defamation and extremism has created self-censorship among journalists. The mission made numerous recommendations, including: journalists should not be prevented from reporting on public events and demonstrations; and defamation laws should be reformed. The recommendations also state:"The authorities must allow journalist organisations to operate freely, without monitoring their activities and communications, and without restrictions on their visiting trainers." BAJ is closely monitored, adds the report. IFJ European Co-Director Marc Gruber, who led the fact-finding mission,commented, "A thin veneer of limited and symbolic reforms in recent months cannot conceal the fact that Belarus continues to operate a highly repressive media environment."

More on the web:- International mission to the Republic of Belarus (IFJ):http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/statement-by-international-mission-to-the-republic-of-belarus- International report demands radical reform of Belarus media (IFJ):http://europe.ifj.org/en/articles/international-report-demands-radical-reform-of-belarus-media

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS FOR HELLMAN/HAMMETT GRANTS

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS FOR HELLMAN/HAMMETT GRANTS

Human Rights Watch administers the Hellman/Hammett grant program forwriters of fiction, non-fiction and poetry who have been victims ofpolitical persecution and need financial support. Grants ranging from $500 to $10,000 are available to recognise their commitment to freedom of expression. The grant is intended for writers who make a living primarily from writing. It also considers activists who write to improve human rights issues. This year the Hellman/Hammett award was given to 37 writers from 19countries. These writers have been harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed on trumped-up charges or tortured, simply for challenging the government. Six of this year's awardees are from China, Iran, and Vietnam. Eighteen of the 37 asked to remain anonymous because of possible continuing danger to them and their families. Among them are writers from Burma, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Deadline for nominations: 17 December 2009. Nominations arising from crisis situations are accepted at any time.Writers who are in great danger and must flee their country or who needimmediate medical treatment after being assaulted, imprisoned or tortured may be considered for an emergency grant.


For more information please contact Marcia Allina at tel +1 212-216-1246 or allinam@hrw.org. Click here to download an application form.www.ifex.org/awards/2009/10/21/hellman-hammett_application_2010.doc More on the web:- Banned, Censored, Harassed and Jailed (Human Rights Watch):http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/11/banned-censored-harassed-and-jailed

IRAN: JOURNALIST FREED ON BAIL; REPRESSION CONTINUES

IRAN: JOURNALIST FREED ON BAIL; REPRESSION CONTINUES Journalist Maziar Bahari was freed on bail on 17 October after spending 120 days in Tehran's Evin prison, report Reporters Without Borders RSF) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). A journalist with dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship, Bahari is a "Newsweek" correspondent who was detained in the clampdown on protestsafter the disputed presidential elections in June. At a show trial on 1August, an indictment was read out by the prosecutor citing confessionsforced out of Bahari, reports RSF. Immediately after his release he rejoined his family in Tehran and wasawaiting trail, reports RSF. According to news reports, Iranian officialsallowed Bahari to return to the U.K. this week and he is now with his wifewho is about to give birth to their first child. CJFE welcomed the news of Bahari's release but also emphasised thejournalists and bloggers who remain in prison just because they exercisedtheir right to free expression. Another journalist with dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship, bloggerHossein Derakhshan is still being held by Revolutionary guards since hisarrest on 1 November 2008, report CJFE and RSF. "Bahari's release should not divert attention from the fact that 31 other journalists and bloggers, including Derakhshan, are still detained in Iran," RSF said. "Canada and the entire international community must redouble efforts to get the Iranian authorities to free all the imprisoned journalists. Ban Ki-Moon's recent report confirms that the human rights situation has deteriorated considerably." Related stories on IFEX.org:- Journalist Maziar Bahari released on bail:http://ifex.org/iran/2009/10/19/bahari_released_on_bail/ More on the web:- Canada urged to keep up pressure on Tehran after Newsweek correspondent's release (RSF): http://www.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=34748

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

INVESTIGATOR IN JOURNALIST'S MURDER CASE KILLED


MEXICO: SECOND INVESTIGATOR IN JOURNALIST'S MURDER CASE KILLED

Last November in Ciudad Juárez, Mexican crime journalist Armando Rodríguez was killed in front of his daughter on the way to school. In July, the federal investigator who was leading the Rodríguez case was gunned down, and less than a month later, his replacement suffered the same fate, say Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ).

Perhaps the murders are coincidental - police have yet to determine if they are linked, but they are emblematic of the problems journalists face in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, where organised crime groups routinely threaten reporters who write stories that might expose their operations, say CPJ, RSF and IFEX's members in Mexico.

The bullet-riddled body of Pablo Pasillas Fong was found on 26 August in Ciudad Juárez, where he had been heading the investigation into the murder of Rodríguez.

Pasillas had replaced investigator Jose Ibarra Limón, who was killed near his home on 27 July. According to CPJ, for his own safety, Ibarra worked in a compound surrounded by thick walls approximately 10 feet high and was guarded by men armed with assault rifles. Ibarra was responsible for several sensitive cases involving organised crime in addition to the
Rodríguez case.

Not surprisingly, on 28 August, the head of the office in charge of investigating Rodríguez's murder resigned his position and left the city "for security reasons," according to CPJ sources.

Following Rodríguez's murder, most journalists in the city say they write mostly superficial stories about organised crime, says CPJ.

"We have learned the lesson: to survive, we publish the minimum," said Alfredo Quijano, editor of the major newspaper "Norte de Ciudad Juárez". It is well known that cartel money flows into local political campaigns, police are bought or scared off from investigation, and cartels are
expanding their activities into kidnapping and extortion.

"We don't investigate. Even at that, most of what we know stays in the reporter's notebook," Quijano added. And those that dare to publish "have to leave the country quickly."

According to RSF, the war between rival cartels that plagues the border city has been deadly for the media. Of the 50 journalists who have been killed in Mexico since the start of 2000, six were working in Ciudad Juárez. With 30 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008, Ciudad Juárez is
considered to be the world's most dangerous city. And eight journalists have gone missing since 2000 in Mexico, giving it the unfortunate distinction of being the country with the most disappearances of journalists worldwide, says RSF.

Adding to the violence is the near-total impunity in murder cases. According to CPJ sources, only a small percentage of cases are solved, even when the victim is a police officer.

In the face of a wave of attacks against free expression in Mexico, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) recently declared every attack on journalists to be a direct attack on the rule of law. It pointed fingers directly at the authorities: their inaction results in impunity and encourages those who use violence to protect their own interests, CNDH said. CNDH submitted their comments to the governors of all the Mexican states and the federal attorney general.

While a group of free expression organisations, including four IFEX members, welcomed the CNDH recommendation, it called for a "clear mechanism" to carry out this work, such as the establishment of a federal Committee for the Protection of Journalists. The group also reiterated its call for crimes against free expression to be federalised, and for the judiciary to conduct investigations and ensure transparency in the cases that are already under consideration.

Related stories on IFEX.org:
- Officer investigating journalist's murder shot dead in Ciudad Juárez:
http://www.ifex.org/mexico/2009/08/28/pasillas_killed/
- JOINT ACTION: Four IFEX members express their position regarding the
National Human Rights Commission's recommendation on crimes against
journalists: http://www.ifex.org/mexico/2009/08/21/rec_17_ja/

More on the web:
- Second investigator on murder case killed in Mexico (CPJ):
http://cpj.org/blog/2009/08/second-investigator-of-journalists-death-murdered.php
- Special Report: Reporting, and Surviving, in Ciudad Juárez (CPJ):
http://cpj.org/reports/2009/06/mexico-special-report-reporting-in-juarez.php
- The enemies of press freedom to blame for journalists who disappear
(RSF): http://www.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=34333


http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=27798&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Azerbaijan: ARTICLE 19 Condemns Conviction of Journalists for Defamation


Azerbaijan: ARTICLE 19 Condemns Conviction of Journalists for Defamation

Two senior journalists were found guilty and sentenced to prison on defamation charges in a Baku district court on 22 July 2009. ARTICLE 19 condemns the conviction of Faramaz Novruzoglu and Sardar Alibeyli, editor-in-chief and deputy editor of Nota newspaper, and calls upon the Government of Azerbaijan to repeal all provisions relating to defamation from the Criminal Code.

Novruzoglu (also known as Faramaz Allahverdiyev) and Alibeyli were convicted under Articles 148 and 147.2 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code and each was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. Another Nota journalist, Ramiz Tagiyev, was also sentenced to six months’ conditional imprisonment.


Novruzoglu and Alibeyli have both faced previous convictions for defamation. Just two days before, on 20 July, Alibeyli received another seven-month conditional sentence on defamation charges. In January 2007, both journalists were convicted on defamation charges as the result of a lawsuit filed by the Minister of Internal Affairs. Alibeyli received a sentence of 18 months of “reformatory works” and Novruzoglu was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment; he was released almost a year later after a presidential pardon.

“It is deeply ironic that these latest convictions occurred on 22 July – Azerbaijan’s National Press Day,” comments ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard. The events also take place amidst an international outcry about the continued detention of two Azerbaijani bloggers on spurious charges, and just one day after the UN Human Rights Committee examined Azerbaijan’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including those related to the country’s freedom of expression commitments.

ARTICLE 19 believes that the current provisions on defamation and insult in the Criminal Code, along with the Government’s unremitting implementation of these provisions, represent a serious impediment to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

ARTICLE 19, together with other international organisations such as the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have repeatedly urged the Government to abolish criminal defamation. Just this week, on 21 July, UN Human Rights Committee experts stated that libel and slander should be civil, rather than criminal, offenses. These latest convictions highlight once more the need for defamation to be decriminalised in Azerbaijan

“Such enforcement of criminal defamation provisions has a chilling effect on the work of journalists and other media workers, who may engage in self-censorship out of fear of prosecution”,
says Callamard. “These sorts of criminal defamation provisions send the wrong message about the country’s commitment to human rights and freedom of expression, and we call on the Government of Azerbaijan to eliminate them from the law”.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, at: +44 796 985 6069 or nathalie@article19.org; or Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law, at: +44 207 324 2500 or barbora@article19.org;
• For a full analysis of Azerbaijan’s defamation laws, please see ARTICLE 19’s Memorandum on Laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan Relating to the Protection of Reputation, available at http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/azerbaijan-defamation-2004.pdf.
• For more detailed information about the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of Azerbaijan’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, go to http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/E5775263F214EA6EC12575FA0037210B?OpenDocument

Amnesty International is awarding Aung San Suu Kyi


Prosecutors for Burma's military government have made their final arguments in a case that could send pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to prison for five years.

Defense lawyer Nyan Win told that despite nearly four hours of closing arguments Monday, the prosecution's case seemed "legally weak."

Prosecutors accuse Aung San Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her house arrest in May by allowing an American man to rest at her home after he swam there uninvited.

The court also heard from the American's lawyers, and received closing statements from two female companions living with Aung San Suu Kyi. All of them could face jail time.

Lawyer Nyan Win said the court trial has adjourned until Tuesday, when Aung San Suu Kyi's legal team will respond to the prosecution's arguments.

Nyan Win said the team is seeking to question a witness from the Foreign Ministry, who reports say told a human rights group that Aung San Suu Kyi was detained for her own "security" and not on criminal charges.

A verdict in the case is not expected for a couple of weeks.

A researcher for the human rights group Amnesty International says the trial has not been free or fair. Benjamin Zawacki says Aung San Suu Kyi should not have been detained in the first place.

The 64-year-old peace and democracy activist has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest.

Amnesty International is awarding its highest honor to Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday.

The Ambassador of Conscience Award is to be formally announced at a concert in Dublin by Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2 and an award winner himself.

Source : Burma Wraps Up Case Against Aung Sang Suu Kyi ,
27-July-2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sri Lanka: Deteriorating Press Freedom Continues Post-Conflict


Sri Lanka: Deteriorating Press Freedom Continues Post-Conflict

Today the International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka, of which ARTICLE 19 is a member, issued an open letter to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressing extreme concern over the deterioration of press freedom despite the military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka has outlined an 11-point plan to the government of Sri Lanka to redress the perilous condition of press freedom.

In particular, the Mission has asked the government to:
1. Combat impunity through the creation of a Special Prosecutor's Office for the investigation of crimes against the media;
2. Put in place effective measures to ensure that all journalists can work safely.
3. Release imprisoned journalist J.S. Tissainayagam and his colleagues B. Jasiharan and V. Vallarmathy;
4. Release the first results of the investigation into the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge;
5. Provide full and unconditional access to the IDP camps for all media;
6. Repeal the Press Council Act No. 5 of 1973;
7. Introduce training for the police, army and the intelligence agencies on freedom of expression;
8. Award financial compensation to journalists who have been arbitrarily detained, beaten or otherwise harassed by security forces;
9. Invite the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom and Expression to visit Sri Lanka;
10. Work with the state-owned media to ensure the immediate end to direct verbal attacks and threats against independent journalists and press freedom activists; and
11. Introduce structural legal reforms to create an enabling environment for a free and independent media.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

o For more information please contact Toby Mendel, a19law@hfx.eastlink.ca , tel +1 902 431-3688.
o The full text of the letter can be found at: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/letters/open-letter-to-his-excellency-president-mahinda-rajapaksa.pdf

Poland: ARTICLE 19 calls on Polish President to Veto Media Law


Poland: ARTICLE 19 calls on Polish President to Veto Media Law
Today ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression issued an open letter to Polish President Lech Kaczynski urging him not to promulgate the country's new Law on Public Activity within the Sphere of Media Services.
ARTICLE 19 believes that the recently adopted Media Law ("Ustawa o zadaniach publicznych w dziedzinach mediów") fails to meet international standards on public service broadcasting and should not enter into force unless significantly improved.

In particular, ARTICLE 19 is concerned with that the new legislation does not secure financial, editorial and regulatory independence of the country's public service broadcaster and leaves it vulnerable to potential political and financial pressures. Noting the importance of public service media for Polish society, and stressing the obligation of Poland to abide by international standards, ARTICLE 19 has called on President Kaczynski to veto the law and to send it back to parliament for further revision.
NOTES TO EDITORS:

o For more information please contact Anoush Begoyan, Programme Officer for Europe at anoushb@article19.org or tel +44 20 7324 2500.
o The full text of the letter can be found at: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/letters/poland-law-on-public-activity.pdf

Azerbaijan: ARTICLE 19 Deplores Harassment of Internet Journalists


Azerbaijan: ARTICLE 19 Deplores Harassment of Internet Journalists

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Government of Azerbaijan to immediately drop the politically-motivated charges of hooliganism against two journalists, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, who are currently being held in pre-trial detention.


Milli, who works for ANTV Online, and Hajizade, a video blogger, were detained on 8 July 2009, after they reported being assaulted in a Baku restaurant to police. They were allegedly attacked in a restaurant by two individuals who demanded that they stop discussing politics; Milli and Hajizade had been sitting with a group of young people, discussing the activities of their youth organisations. When Milli and Hajizade appealed to police at the Sabail District Police Department and requested medical assistance, they were instead detained under charges of "hooliganism" (under Article 221.2.1 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code). On 10 July, the Sabail District Court ordered Milli and Hajizade to be detained for two months in pre-trial detention.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that these events are another measure by the Azerbaijani authorities to silence independent and opposition journalists.

This is not the first time the Azerbaijani authorities have used criminal charges, such as "hooliganism" to intimidate journalists in cases considered to be politically motivated. In November 2007, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Azadliq, Ganimat Zahid, was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison in March 2008. A similar charge was used in the case of Yeni Musavat columnist Mahal Ismayiloglu, who was convicted on 1 July 2009 and received a two-year suspended sentence.

"It is unacceptable that these two men, who were subjected to an unprovoked attack, should now face criminal charges," comments Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. "The authorities are persecuting the victims, rather than the perpetrators, in a manner which looks entirely politically motivated."

Milli and Hajizade's detention happens against a backdrop of other disturbing actions by the Azerbaijani authorities, which have had a negative impact on freedom of expression in the country. For example, on 10 May 2009, police used physical force against four journalists who were covering events related to the annual Flower Holiday, as well as beating members of the public and detaining approximately 50 demonstrators. In addition, the Azerbaijani authorities have yet to disclose the findings of their investigation into the killing of 13 people at the State Oil Academy in Baku on 30 April 2009. Journalists attempting to investigate these killings were prevented by authorities from accessing information.

The Government of Azerbaijan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and ARTICLE 19 calls on the authorities to respect its commitments under international law. We also request the authorities to immediately release Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade without charge, and to thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for assaulting them.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

o For more information, please contact Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, nathalie@article19.org ; tel +44 20 7324 2509.
o The "Flower Holiday" is an annual celebration of the birthday of former President Geydar Aliyev on 10 May. This year students called for it to be cancelled, to commemorate 13 people killed at the State Oil Academy in Baku on 30 April 2009.

United Kingdom to Decriminalise Defamation

13 July 2009

United Kingdom: United Kingdom to Decriminalise Defamation

On Friday, 10 July 2009, the government of the United Kingdom formally committed to decriminalising defamation by doing away with the common law offences of sedition, seditious libel and defamatory libel.

The proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill was originally put forward in the House of Commons by Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Dr Evan Harris, after discussions with ARTICLE 19 (of which he is a board member). Lord Lester of Herne Hill also tabled a debate in the House of Lords last Thursday.


ARTICLE 19 has been campaigning for the decriminalisation of defamation, both in the UK and globally, for many years. Of the 168 countries surveyed by ARTICLE 19, 158 have criminal defamation laws and 113 countries have laws offering special protection to the most powerful and privileged figures in public life. These laws shield public figures from criticism, public scrutiny and investigation by virtue of the power they hold, thereby eating at the very heart of global efforts to promote good governance and combat corruption.

ARTICLE 19 warmly welcomes this initiative to abolish criminal defamation in the UK, which will make Britain the first Western European country to take this step. Even where criminal defamation laws have fallen into disuse, as was largely the case in the UK, the existence of these laws on the statute books provides more repressive governments around the world with the excuse they need not only to refuse to repeal of defamation laws but also to make active use of such laws to imprison journalists, writers and others.

The UK will now join other countries which have done away with criminal defamation, including Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine in Europe, and Ghana, Sri Lanka, the United States, New Zealand and Mexico globally.

“This measure will send a very strong and clear signal globally that democracies do not have criminal defamation laws,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19. “No longer will repressive countries be able to justify their criminal defamation laws on the basis that such laws exist in established democracies such as the UK.

“Defamation, both civil and criminal, is one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression in the world today. It is a global problem that requires global action,” continues Callamard.

Dr Harris comments, “The acceptance by the Government that our retention of these repressive laws causes much more harm than good is welcome. The UK must set an example to the world in getting rid of anti-free speech offenses.”

ARTICLE 19 urges other countries to follow suit and do away with criminal defamation.

NOTES TO EDITORS:


• For more information please contact: Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel, a19law@hfx.eastlink.ca, +1 902 431-3688.
• ARTICLE 19 has conducted extensive research into criminal and civil defamation worldwide and has published our findings in a series of online maps, which are located at: http://www.article19.org/advocacy/defamationmap/map/.
www.article19.org/advocacy/defamationmap/map/

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

41 Journalists Jailed in Iran

Watchdog Report: 41 Journalists Jailed in Iran

12-July-2009


The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders says it is concerned by what it calls the growing repression of journalists and cyber-dissidents in Iran.

In a report issued Sunday, the RSF (known by the French acronym for Reporters Sans Frontieres) announced the detention of five more journalists. RSF says 41 journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran a month after the country's contested election.

RSF says Iran is currently the world's biggest prison for journalists, and is becoming the world's most dangerous place for them to operate.

RSF says the recently-detained journalists include photographers Majid Saidi and Tohid Bighi, blogger Henghameh Shahidi, and journalists Somaieh Nosrati and Said Matinpour.

According to RSF, four of the five are being held in secret locations with no information about their condition being released to their families or legal representatives.



Friday, May 15, 2009

EIGHTY ARRESTED IN STANDOFF OVER CONTROL OF PERAK STATE: MALAYSIA


MALAYSIA: EIGHTY ARRESTED IN STANDOFF OVER CONTROL OF PERAK STATE

Last week the Malaysian government under new Prime Minister Najib Abdul
Razak arrested nearly 80 writers, opposition members and activists who were
protesting the takeover of the northern state of Perak by the ruling
federal government coalition Barisan Nasional, reports IFEX interim member
the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) in Malaysia.

The slew of arrests started on 5 May when police first targeted academic
and writer Wong Chin Huat. As spokesperson for the Coalition for Free and
Fair Elections (BERSIH), Wong helped initiate the "1BlackMalaysia"
campaign, calling Malaysians to wear black on the day the Perak State
Legislative Assembly was to reconvene on 7 May.

Wong was arrested at his home and effectively put out of commission when
police obtained a remand order against him until 8 May. Wong also chairs
the Writers' Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) and has written
extensively against the undemocratic means the ruling coalition has used to
gain power.

CIJ said Wong's case was "an act of intimidation by the police against
activists critical of the government. Citizens and interest groups have the
right to express their political views and opinions without fear of
persecution."

Sixty others were arrested on 6 May at a protest rally in Ipoh, capital of
Perak, including eight parliamentarians from the opposition pact Pakatan.
Another 14 people were detained for attending a candlelight vigil for Wong
in front of a Kuala Lumpur police station.

The arrests come during an ongoing power struggle for the Perak state
government. In a controversial move in February, the Sultan of Perak
accepted the defection of three state assembly members from the opposition,
which allowed the Barisan Nasional coalition to regain control - despite
having lost the state in the 2008 general election. Barisan Nasional has
also been accused of trying to shut down debate about the role of the
monarchy.

CIJ says that without any law reforms, supposedly independent institutions
such as the police force, the mainstream media and the judiciary remain
shackled and are becoming "instruments to maintain the power of the ruling
government."

Najib's actions "raise worry that the clampdown will be the first of more
to come," warned CIJ.

Visit these links:
- CIJ: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102929/
- CIJ on Wong's arrest: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102924/
- IFEX Malaysia page: http://tinyurl.com/3o3ywy

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bangladesh : Fellowships to Women Journalists

Bangladesh: ARTICLE 19 Awards Fellowships to Women Journalists
ARTICLE 19 in Bangladesh is pleased to announce that twelve women journalists working at the grassroots level have been awarded fellowships to enable them to investigate issues relevant to their local communities.
Working in partnership with Massline Media Centre (MMC), ARTICLE 19 announced the fellowship recipients’ names at an orientation workshop on 17 February. A competitive selection process resulted in a high number of applications from female print journalists working at the district and upazila (sub-district) levels of the country. The fellows will be provided with a stipend for three months, to support them to produce and publish investigative reports on access to information, development and human rights issues. They will also benefit from mentoring by a senior journalist and advice from ARTICLE 19 and MMC.Kamrun Nahar, a fellowship recipient, said that “an ARTICLE 19 fellowship on journalism is a huge recognition of my work and the struggles that we endure, as we continue to bring grassroots issues to the mainstream. I am delighted to be awarded along with other peers in the profession.”Female journalists working at the grassroots face many challenges, including low pay, loose contractual arrangements, and a lack of protection from threats, harassment and litigation. With very limited institutional support and opportunities for professional development, they must often rely on their own individual tenacity and commitment. “This programme will build the capacity and confidence of junior and mid-level female journalists and will enhance their profile as advocates for freedom of expression,” commented Tahmina Rahman, Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh. “They have a critical role in ensuring freedom of expression and access to information by bringing diverse perspectives from different corners of the country.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information please contact Tahmina Rahman, Director ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh at tahmina@article19.org or +0171-303-9669.

Artist Alert :Around the World



Artist Alert


January 2009

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.



Thailand: beware imprisonment for authors mentioning head of state

Australian author and university lecturer Harry Nicolaides has now been sentenced to three years imprisonment for defaming the King of Thailand in his 2005 book.Nicolaides was arrested at Bangkok airport in 2008 under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and has pleaded guilty on charges of slandering the King. According to Nicolaides the book named Verisimilitude is a contextual political examination of Thailand.ARTICLE 19 reported on the case in Artist Alert: September 2008 and highlighted how the Thai authorities use lese majeste or “insulting the King” legislation to limit free speech in a country where the King is also the head of state.Nicolaides is not the first foreigner to be sentenced in Thailand under lese majeste. In 2007 a Swiss national was also given 10 years imprisonment for a similar reason.The Thai government decided in January to create an extraordinary Senate committee to continue to administer the restrictions on free speech, and block 10,000 websites deemed offensive under lese majeste legislation. The Foreign Ministry consequently agreed to build a public relations campaign through its embassies to educate foreigners about the restrictions.

Turkey: famous poet welcomed back after 45 years of exile
After receiving a petition with over 500,000 names Turkey has reinstated the citizenship of deceased poet Nazim Hikmet. Hikmet’s poems, plays and novels were banned and he was imprisoned for a decade before being exiled to the Soviet Union for alleged communist views in 1951. The Turkish government has acknowledged that the charges can no longer be considered a crime, and are in fact an illegitimate restriction of free expression.


China: artists detained for the Olympics are still imprisoned
Seven months after the end of the Beijing Olympics Chinese painter Wang Mingyue and photographer Jin Xiaohui are still imprisoned in Tuanhe forced labour camp under the pretext of “safeguarding the Olympic Games”. Wang and Jin, both alleged members of the banned organisation Falun Gong, were arrested in July 2008 in the run up to games along with many other activists and minority groups. Wang in particular is an internationally acclaimed painter and was asked to paint the portrait of former British Prime Minister Edward Heath.

Lebanon: Golden Globe winning film banned
Israeli film Waltz with Bashir has been banned in Lebanon despite documenting an important period of modern Lebanese history and winning a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. The film observes the 1982 killings of Palestinians in refugee camps that took place by Lebanese militias following the assassination of Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel. The film’s director Ari Folman also briefly examines the role of the Israeli government in the killings, as Lebanon was under Israeli occupation at the time. The ban is part of a larger prohibition of any goods that originate from Israel.


Mexico: publication reveals many fines for perverting traditional songs
The publication of the extent of fines imposed on broadcasters for playing Narcocorrido music in Mexico has revealed far higher levels of curbing than was previously assumed. Narco-corrido is a modern adaptation of a very popular oral tradition from northern Mexico that explores stories about the poor and destitute as well as criminal leaders, similar to some urban rap and hip-hop music. The music is banned in Mexico under the pretext that it glamorises criminals and aids in the recruitment of new gang members.

India: police guard Slumdog Millionaire from slums
Following the ransacking of a theatre in Bihar Indian police are guarding cinemas across eastern India. The protesters argue that the title of newly released film Slumdog Millionaire is derogatory toward the millions of people in India that reside in slums. Civil society activists have also filed public interest litigation against the film.



Yemen: singer faces trial again despite Presidential pardon
Yemeni comedian and singer Fahd al Qarni is yet again facing a court case for insulting President Ali Abdullah Saleh, despite a presidential pardon when the case was brought to court in 2008. Al Qarni’s music is a combination of traditional folk music laced with humour and political criticism of government policies. As the music was not authorised by Yemen’s Ministry of Culture, both vendors and al Qarni have been investigated and charged, and al Qarni was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and a fine in 2008 before being pardoned.

China: international authors call for release of Chinese dissident
International authors including Margaret Atwood, Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan have called for the release of well-known Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo. Liu is a former president of Chinese PEN and was arrested in December 2008 for his part in the production of a publication calling for reforms in China titled Charter 08. Liu, who originally spent years in prison for taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, is the only author of Charter 08 to have been arrested.



FOR MORE INFORMATION:
• ARTICLE 19 considers that freedom to create is an essential attribute of freedom of expression, a fundamental human right. It is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) as follows: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”


ARTICLE 19 considers that, in the absence of a specific intention to promote hatred or to commit a recognised criminal offence, censorship or criminal measures against artistic expression are illegitimate. We recognise that art may at times be offensive to some or even to many, but mere offence is not an appropriate threshold for curtailing freedom of expression.



• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org, +44 20 7278 9292

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rapid Response Assessment Mission to Nepal for the press freedom situation


JOINT STATEMENT

International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission: Rapid Response Assessment Mission to Nepal

The International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission (also known as the International Media Mission) visited Nepal from 5 to 8 February to undertake a rapid response assessment of the press freedom situation in the country. The International Mission was represented by ARTICLE 19, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS), International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), UNESCO and World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC).
Press freedoms in Nepal continue to face serious threat despite the hope that restoration of democratic rule would improve the situation. The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) recorded a staggering 342 press freedom violations in 2008 alone, including a significant escalation in the number of physical attacks on journalists and media houses. Four journalists - Uma Singh, J.P. Joshi, Birendra Sah and Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha - have been killed since 2006. The International Mission calls on the authorities to undertake prompt, independent and impartial investigation of these and all other cases of murder and disappearances of journalists.Another journalist, Prakash Singh Thakuri, has been missing since July 2007. Late last year the Government withdrew charges against the accused, who was earlier released on bail. Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, assured the International Mission that the case would be reopened. The International Mission also calls for an investigation into killing of Dekendra Thapa, after his remains were found last year.The International Mission is deeply worried over the attacks on media houses, including Kantipur, Himal Media, Ankush Daily, Ramaroshan FM and APCA Group. Such attacks on media workers, publications and property are unacceptable. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions. Any substantive grievances over work conditions must be addressed through dialogue and negotiation. The International Mission is concerned that due process is not being observed in the cases against Rishi Dhamala, Ram Subhak Mahato, Birendra K.M., Manoj Mahato. The reported kidnapping of Pankaj Das in Birgunj whilst the International Mission was in the country must be swiftly followed-up by the authorities. The ongoing attacks, threats and harassment of media personnel and organisations are having a chilling effect on press freedom. Free and open debate is being undermined with journalists and media being forced into self-censorship, seriously jeopardising the peace and democratisation process currently underway in the country. A pattern in the attacks and harassment is discernible. Critical reporting is being met with violence and perpetrators go unpunished. The authorities are failing in their duty to prevent, punish and redress the harm caused by such attacks. The violations of journalists’ rights is a direct infringement of the public right to information. Furthermore, the links between political parties and some the perpetrators of these violent acts are a matter of serious concern and would indicate the acceptance, and possible complicity, of those political parties in the violence. The Nepali constitution and international covenants that Nepal is signatory to place a positive obligation on the State to prevent these abuses. Conditions for women journalists, already seriously underrepresented in the profession, are of particular concern as they are more vulnerable to attack and harassment, and are being forced to leave their work and sometimes to move away from home due to such pressures.The International Mission notes that as of now, not one person has been convicted for a criminal act against journalists and media houses, and calls on the Prime Minister and Government to follow-up their commitment to end impunity. Moreover, the International Mission demands that all acts of violence against journalists and the media end immediately. The International Mission urges the Government and political parties to implement the recommendations for freedom of expression and press freedom outlined in the Agenda for Change document as swiftly and fully as possible. Specifically, the International Mission draws attention to the following six points, which should be addressed in accordance with international standards and best practice:
· Guarantees of freedom of expression for all and press freedom must be enshrined in the new constitution;
· The Right to Information (RTI) Act should be properly enforced so as to give practical effect to the presumption in favour of disclosure;
· The Government should end control of media and introduce Public Service Broadcasting;
· An independent regulator for broadcasting should be created in place of direct government control;
· Criminal defamation should be abolished and defamation should be addressed only through civil law;
· The Working Journalists’ Act should be implemented and accompanied by regular dialogue between media workers and owners.
Furthermore, the International Mission urges the Constituent Assembly to form a committee to deal with the reforms outlines in the Agenda for Change, as well as to follow and respond to the press freedom situation in the country.The International Mission is convinced that all media stakeholders must rally around the common goal of safeguarding freedom of expression. The International Mission urges the international community to support the national media community in its efforts to defend press freedom. The International Mission remains committed to supporting and defending freedom of expression and press freedom in Nepal together with its national partners.

FURTHER INFORMATION:
• The International Mission travelled to Nepal in February 2009 with only two weeks notice on the request of the Federation of Nepali Journalists and other members of the Nepali media community. The International Mission met with the Prime Minister, Ministers, Constituent Assembly, leaders of Government and opposition political parties, heads of security agencies, media, and civil society organisations. Mission members also visited Janakpur in Dhanusha District, where the journalist Uma Singh was murdered on 11 January 2009. The International Mission incorporates fifteen international organisations, including UN agencies, global media associations, freedom of expression advocates and media development organisations. This is the sixth visit of the International Mission to Nepal, the previous trips being in July 2005, March 2006, September 2006, January 2008 and April 2008.The International Mission thanks the Federation of Nepali Journalists and other national media organisations involved in preparing and hosting the visit, acknowledging the importance of close cooperation with national stakeholders and ensuring a nationally-driven process for ensuring press freedom in Nepal• For more information please contact Sejal Parmar, ARTICLE 19: +44 20 7278 9292, sejal@article19.org, or Sukumar Muralidhara, International Federation of Journalists: +91 98105 18009, Sukumar.md@gmail.com, or Thomas Hughes, International Media Support: +45 2645 6563, th@i-m-s.dk

Mexico:review for the first time by the United Nations Human Rights Council

9 February 2009
ARTICLE 19 Submits Report on Freedom of Expression in Mexico to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review

On the occasion of the fourth session of the Universal Periodic Review, which will examine Mexico for the first time, ARTICLE 19 submitted a report to the human rights council on the situation of freedom of expression, and the issue of impunity in the country.

Mexico will be reviewed for the first time by the United Nations Human Rights Council in the fourth session of the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on Tuesday February 10th. The Review has been created as a mechanism to assess the situation of human rights in all member states. In the context of the mounting threats to freedom of expression in Mexico, ARTICLE 19 has submitted a report on the situation of the exercise of the right to Freedom of Expression. Mexico is currently considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practice journalism. In recent years the country has experienced an ever increasing number of cases of threats and violence against journalists. Of these crimes almost none have been brought to justice. ARTICLE19 considers the impunity that is allowed to prevail in the state as one of the most serious threats, not only to the right to freedom of expression but to all human rights. In the report published by ARTICLE19 the following conclusions are drawn on the major threats to freedom of expression in Mexico.
· The failure to address the impunity that currently prevails in the state is born out of lack of political will.
· In the past eight years at least twenty four journalists and media workers have been killed, eight are missing, and many more have been threatened and physically attacked in the practice of their profession
· The Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against journalists is in urgent need of reform, to strengthen and clarify its faculties.
· In spite of the fact that a number of new groups of perpetrators of crimes against journalists have emerged in the past few years, the authorities remain the principal aggressors of crimes against journalists and freedom of expression in Mexico.

NOTES TO EDITORS:
• To see full text please visit: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/report-on-the-situation-of-the-exercise-of-the-right-to-freedom-of-expressio.pdf • For more information, please contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico, at ricardo@article19.org, +55 11 30 57 00 42

Bahrain : Reform of Laws Aimed at Silencing Dissenting Voices


9 February 2009
Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 Condemns the Targeting of Human Rights Activists and Calls for the Reform of Laws Aimed at Silencing Dissenting Voices

On 26 January 2009, three prominent Bahraini human rights activists Mr Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy (HAQ); Mr Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad, a scholar and social activist; and Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, Head of Human Rights Unit at HAQ, were arrested. Following almost nine hours of interrogation, Mr Mushaima and Mr Al-Muqdad were held in custody for further interrogation, while Dr Alsingace was released on bail and officially banned from travel out of Bahrain. The Public Prosecutor declared that he would take the necessary measures to pursue cases against them in the courts and prosecute them on charges related to the national security of Bahrain.All three activists are heavily involved in promoting human rights in Bahrain and in documenting cases of abuse. During the interrogation they were questioned about their human rights activism including publishing electronic articles and conducting speeches, seminars and presentations about human right abuses in Bahrain. They were also questioned about their involvement in HAQ, an unregistered grassroots organisation that campaigns for genuine democratic reforms, human rights and civil liberties. The activists were charged of “forming an organisation, outside the provisions of the law, which disrupts the Constitution or prevents any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty”, “provoking hatred of the regime” and “inciting violence and the overthrow of the political system”.The first charge is referenced in Article 6 of Bahrain’s anti-terrorism law (Protecting Society from Terror Acts no. 58 of 2006) which states that those who establish an illegal organisation likely to disrupt the Constitution and laws, or prevent any State apparatus from performing its duties, are punishable by life imprisonment. The other two charges are based on the Bahrain Penal Code; promoting the overthrow of the regime by force punishable by five years imprisonment (Article 160) as well as instigating hatred against the regime, punishable by imprisonment of up to three years as per Article 165. The three activists deny all these allegations and consider their arrest and the charges to be politically motivated. In addition to recent interrogation, Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, a prominent Bahrani blogger and critic of the Bahraini regime, has also been subject to a defamation media campaign, lead by state guided media and aimed at human rights defenders. This was following his participation in a debate on religious freedom in Bahrain in the US Congress in October, 2008. “The apparent arrest of three human rights activists for legitimate and peaceful human rights activities is highly deplorable. It is an attempt to silence opposition voices and signals further deterioration for freedom of Expression in Bahrain. ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about articles in the Bahraini Penal Code and anti terrorism legislation that are used to deprive Bahrainis of the right to freedom of expression and calls for urgent legal reform” said Dr. Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.ARTICLE 19 urges the Bahraini authorities to reverse this alarming trend of harassment against human rights activists. We call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad, withdraw all the charges related to their legitimate and peaceful activities and lift the travel ban against Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace.ARTICLE 19 reminds the authorities that Bahrain acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2006 and calls upon the government of Bahrain to reform those provisions in the Penal Code and anti-terrorism legislation that flagrantly violate Bahrain’s international human rights commitments on freedom of expression.

FURTHER INFORMATION:
• For more information: please contact Hoda Rouhana, Programme Officer for Middle East and North Africa, hoda@article19.org,+44 20 7278 9292 PRESS RELEASE

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Brazil: Newspaper building attacked in Campinas

Brazil: Newspaper building attacked in Campinas

On 22 January 2009,

A grenade was thrown at a window of one of the buildings of Rede Anhanguera de Comunicação (RAC) in Campinas. The news group owns a number of newspapers in the State of Sao Paulo, including Correio Popular in Campinas.
Three men approached an RAC building located in Vila Industrial at around 9pm on 22 January. One of them broke a window and threw in a grenade, but the window was protected by bars so that the grenade did not enter the building but instead fell outside, close to the sidewalk. A couple of hours after the attack, RAC’s telephone operator received a call from an unidentified woman saying, “this is only the beginning”. In the end, the grenade failed to explode and no one was hurt in the incident. There were, however, around 100 people in the building at the time of the attack and some 230 employees are there during regular working hours. A police file has been opened on the attack.
The motive for the attach is unclear, although some media reports have noted that it happened on the evening of the day Correio Popular published an article about a prisoner in the regional penitentiary with alleged links to the criminal organisation Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC). The prisoner is a suspect in the case of the 2001 murder of the mayor of Campinas.

ARTICLE 19 believes that attacks against journalists and media are far more common in Brazil than is commonly thought and many cases, particularly those from smaller towns and cities, are not widely reported. ARTICLE 19 condemns this attack as an attack not only on RAC, but on the right of all Brazilians to seek and receive information freely. We urge the authorities to investigate the attack fully and to do all within their power to bring those responsible to justice. We also call on the authorities to take measures to ensure the security of RAC’s facilities in Campinas and other cities, particularly in light of the threats against it.

NOTES TO EDITORS For more information, please contact Paula Martins, § paula@article19.org, +55 11 3057 0071.

Concerns Over the BBC’s Decision Not to Broadcast the DEC Appeal on Gaza


ARTICLE 19 Voices its Concerns Over the BBC’s Decision Not to Broadcast the DEC Appeal on Gaza and Calls on the Public Service Broadcaster to Reconsider its Position

On 24 January, the BBC took the decision not to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for donations in support of humanitarian aid efforts in Gaza. The BBC cited concerns that they did not want to appear impartial in the context of the conflict in Gaza and Southern Israel. ARTICLE 19 calls on the BBC to reconsider its decision and to broadcast the DEC appeal. The DEC appeal conforms to the humanitarian principles that relief should be distributed to civilians in need without partiality, as enshrined in Geneva Conventions common Article 3; Additional Protocol I Article 70; Additional Protocol II Article 18(2); as well as the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the Guiding Principles on the Right to Humanitarian Assistance of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and others. Furthermore DEC members have confirmed they are able to work without hindrance from the Hamas controlled authorities both to identify who are most in need of assistance and to channel assistance to them directly, either through their own staff or well established local non governmental partners. The DEC appeal is solely concerned with alleviating the suffering of the inhabitants of Gaza.The complex political context of the DEC Gaza appeal is nothing new. In the past the BBC has not hesitated to broadcast the DEC appeals for donations to alleviate the suffering caused by other complex political emergencies, for example Darfur in 2004, and Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia in 1994. All conflicts have sides and all conflicts have casualties. By refusing to broadcast the appeal the BBC raises questions over its own partiality. Why grant air time to raise funds for victims in Darfur but not Gaza? Both are suffering the consequences of conflict and have the right to receive aid according to humanitarian law and humanitarian standards. Furthermore, not only does the refusal to broadcast the appeal hamper the DECs attempts to publicise the call for funds to alleviate human suffering, but by citing issues of impartiality as their reason, the BBC has effectively called into question the impartial nature of the thirteen DEC members. This could deter the public from donating to this non-political humanitarian cause and to future DEC causes.If the BBC had concerns over appearing partial by broadcasting the appeal, they could have reverted to other means, far less restrictive for freedom of expression. For instance, the BBC could have introduced the DEC appeal through reiterating its impartiality in reporting on the conflict. The pluralistic nature of media in the UK is to be celebrated: several other channels including ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five, amongst others, are willing to broadcast the DEC appeal. These should be commended for fulfilling the British public’s right to know about the full extent of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the assessment by impartial humanitarian agencies, and for giving the public the opportunity to alleviate suffering. By so doing, these channels are also fulfilling a public interest function, a mission which the BBC had come to symbolise internationally and historically. This public service function of the BBC was highlighted by Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General, when he claimed that the charity appeals were an important part of the BBC’s role as a public service broadcaster. “For emergency appeals, through the Rapid Response Network, the BBC is able to work in partnership with other broadcasters and media. This unique collaboration gives the public the opportunity to support the valuable work of the DEC and its member agencies in saving the lives and livelihoods of people in situations of dire humanitarian need .”ARTICLE 19 calls on the BBC and its Director General to implement this vision and principle impartially, that is without discrimination on the basis of national origin, religion, race or ethnicity, and to broadcast the DEC Gaza appeal.

FURTHER INFORMATION:
• For more information: please contact Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, tel: +44-207278-9292


Read more: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7848673.stm


"When we have turned down DEC appeals in the past on impartiality grounds it has been because of this risk of giving the public the impression that the BBC was taking sides in an ongoing conflict "
BBC director general Mark Thompson
BBC and the Gaza appeal
Mark Thompson 24 Jan 09, 06:38 PM
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7848673.stm
It's not often as editor-in-chief I use our 'editors' blog' to highlight a BBC issue, but with strong views about our decision not to broadcast a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza, I wanted to write directly and explain our thinking.

When there is a major humanitarian crisis, the DEC - which is a group of major British charities - comes together and, if it believes various criteria are met and a major public appeal is justified, asks the BBC and other broadcasters to broadcast an appeal. We usually - though not always - accede to the DEC's request and as a result have broadcast many DEC appeals over the years.

A few days ago, the DEC approached us about an appeal for Gaza and, after very careful reflection and consultation inside and outside the BBC, we decided that in this case we should not broadcast the appeal. One reason was a concern about whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground. You will understand that one of the factors we have to look at is the practicality of the aid, which the public are being asked to fund, getting through. In the case of the Burma cyclone, for instance, it was only when we judged that there was a good chance of the aid getting to the people who needed it most that we agreed to broadcast the appeal. Clearly, there have been considerable logistical difficulties in delivering aid into Gaza. However some progress has already been made and the situation could well improve in the coming days. If it does, this reason for declining to broadcast the appeal will no longer be relevant.

But there is a second more fundamental reason why we decided that we should not broadcast the appeal at present. This is because Gaza remains a major ongoing news story, in which humanitarian issues - the suffering and distress of civilians and combatants on both sides of the conflict, the debate about who is responsible for causing it and what should be done about it - are both at the heart of the story and contentious. We have and will continue to cover the human side of the conflict in Gaza extensively across our news services where we can place all of the issues in context in an objective and balanced way. After looking at all of the circumstances, and in particular after seeking advice from senior leaders in BBC Journalism, we concluded that we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story. Inevitably an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations. The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story. When we have turned down DEC appeals in the past on impartiality grounds it has been because of this risk of giving the public the impression that the BBC was taking sides in an ongoing conflict.

However, BBC News and the BBC as a whole takes its responsibility to report the human consequences of situations like Gaza very seriously and I believe our record in doing it with compassion as well as objectivity is unrivalled. Putting this decision aside, we also have a very strong track-record in supporting DEC appeals and more broadly, through BBC Children In Need, Comic Relief and our many other appeals, in using the BBC's airwaves to achieve positive humanitarian and charitable goals. This is an important part of what it is to be a public service broadcaster. It is sometimes not a comfortable place to be, but we have a duty to ensure that nothing risks undermining our impartiality. It is to protect that impartiality that we have made this difficult decision.

Finally, it is important to remember that our decision does not prevent the DEC continuing with their appeal for donations and people are able to contribute should they choose to.

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Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza humanitarian appeal:
Launched by UK charities on 22 January to raise money for Gaza aid relief and reconstruction
Participants: Action Aid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision
Information on 0370 60 60 900 or at DEC website http://www.dec.org.uk/
Contact Us
Press EnquiriesContact: Press EnquiriesTel: 020 7387 0200Mobile: 07905 284846For donation enquiries you can contact us by email at:
Contact DEC about donations
or telephone: 020 7387 0200or write to: DEC Secretariat, 1st Floor, 43 Chalton Street, London NW1 1DU
http://palestinian.ning.com/profiles/blogs/bbc-faces-protest-for-blocking