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