Thursday, June 10, 2010

UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS Support Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

9 June 2010

UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 Highlights Need for Action to Tackle “Culture of Impunity” Surrounding Attacks on Journalists
ARTICLE 19 submitted an oral statement at the Panel Discussion on Journalists in Armed Conflict at the UN Human Rights Council’s 14th session.

In the statement to the Human Rights Council on 4 June, ARTICLE 19 emphasised that journalists around the world have been subject to very serious attacks in situations of armed conflict and other violent circumstances. It is a human rights issue that “deserves more focussed attention and action by the Human Rights Council.”

“Too often, a culture of impunity surrounds attacks on journalists. The denial of journalists’ human rights during conflicts leads to a ‘chilling effect’ on journalists’ freedom of expression, impedes the public’s ‘right to know’ and is a significant restraint upon the media’s role as a watchdog on the state,” said Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, in her address to the Human Rights Council.

ARTICLE 19 urged states to properly implement their existing obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law to protect journalists in conflict situations.

ENDS
NOTES :

• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, sejal@article19.org +44 20 7324 2500.
• For ARTICLE 19’s oral statement at the Panel on the Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict see http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/un-protection-of-journalists-in-armed-conflict.pdf
• 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.
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9 June 2010
Correction to the press release 7 June 2010
UN Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS Support Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) submitted a joint oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council’s 14th session welcoming the annual report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr Frank La Rue.
In the statement to the Human Rights Council on 4 June, ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS expressed their strong support for the Special Rapporteur’s opinion that laws on “defamation of religions” are incompatible with international human rights law on freedom of expression.

“We hope that the emerging consensus in support of this position signals a shift in attitude amongst some states that will lead to a more constructive approach towards tackling global challenges of violence, discrimination and hatred on racial and religious grounds. ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies support all governments who seek to promote such an approach,” said Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, in her address to the Human Rights Council on behalf of ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS.

The organisations urged all states to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur by accepting his requests for country visits and to positively support him in carrying out his mandate.

ENDS
NOTES :
• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19, sejal@article19.org +44 20 7324 2500 or Jeremie D Smith, Director, Geneva Office, Cairo Institute of Human Rights js.cihrs@gmail.com or jsmith@cihrs.org +41 (0) 22 788 5272.
• The oral statement of ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression is available here http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/united-nations-human-rights-council-14th-session-4-june-2010-joint-oral-stat.pdf
• The report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression, Mr Frank la Rue, 20 April 2010, A/HRC/14/23 is available here http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.23.pdf
• 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.
• The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is an independent regional organisation based in Cairo, Egypt with offices in Geneva and Paris

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Authorities crush online dissent; activists detained incommunicado

2 June 2010

Authorities crush online dissent; activists detained incommunicado


In a two-pronged attack, Vietnamese authorities have detained, interrogated and at times physically abused at least seven independent bloggers in the past two months, simultaneously carrying out a series of insidious cyber attacks on websites critical of the government, reports Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, rights defenders continue to face sham trials and severe prison sentences for organising for the rights of workers or supporting opposition political groups.

On 8 May, authorities disconnected the telephone and Internet at the home of Ha Si Phu, one of Vietnam's best-known dissident bloggers. His blog and website have been regularly subject to cyber attacks in 2010. On 28 April, Lu Thi Thu Trang, an Internet activist linked to the pro-democracy group Block 8406, was beaten by police officers in front of her 5-year-old son. Another blogger was detained three times in April, interrogated and then released.

The cyber attacks are being inflicted on Vietnamese computer users worldwide, infecting the computers of tens of thousands of users who download Vietnamese keyboard language software, says a member of Google's security team. "These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent. Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country."

Since September 2009, dozens of sites have been attacked, including sites operated by Catholics criticising government confiscation of church properties, political discussion forums and opposition parties, and an environmental site against bauxite mining.

The Vietnamese government manages information flow in many ways. In the last six months, Vietnamese BBC service and Facebook have been blocked. In addition, Internet cafe owners are required to obtain photo identification from Internet users, monitor and store information about their online activities, and block access to banned websites.

There is simply no tolerance for anyone who expresses views on human rights or dissent of any kind, says Human Rights Watch. Rights activists Le Cong Dinh, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Le Thang Long were convicted in January 2010 on charges of attempting to "overthrow the government," for supporting the formation of an opposition party, and sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 16 years. All opposition political groups are banned in Vietnam.

Three other activists have been held incommunicado since their arrest in February. Doan Huy Chuong, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung and Do Thi Minh Hanh were working to help impoverished workers and landless farmers to seek redress from the government.

"Vietnamese prison authorities routinely mistreat and torture political detainees during interrogation to pressure them to sign pre-written confessions and to disclose information about other activists," said Human Rights Watch.

Journalists under surveillance by intelligence forces

2 June 2010

Journalists under surveillance by intelligence forces


A witch-hunt of journalists and activists critical of the government during outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's two terms in power has been detailed in a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). "Chuzadas: Colombian media targeted by intelligence services" was released three days before presidential elections on 30 May after an RSF delegation visited Colombia from 16 to 20 May. At the same time, a delegation of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - Latin America and the Caribbean (AMARC-ALC) travelled to Colombia to determine the state of free expression and community radio.

President Uribe prided himself on creating security, while he colluded with paramilitaries to target critics, the RSF report explains. Uribe has been known for publicly vilifying journalists and saw journalists, opposition politicians and activists as a nuisance. Meanwhile, extra-judicial killings of civilians dressed in rebel uniforms were carried out under his watch to bolster the idea of victory over the guerrillas.

Uribe has been blamed for the corruption of his intelligence services - the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) - which has directed wire-tapping, acts of sabotage and intimidation at journalists.

Eighty members of parliament are facing charges with a quarter already in jail. The report says wire-tapping was run by military officials. And now, Uribe's former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, is the lead vote-getter in this week's elections.

Among those targeted were 16 journalists subject to phone-tapping, says the report. DAS took a particular interest in journalists Hollman Morris and Claudia Julieta Duque who were investigating the 1999 murder of editorialist and satirist Jaime Garzón. Journalists did not feel safe using any telecommunications and would meet face to face to share information.

Now, journalists continue to be vulnerable. "The results of these revelations were intimidating for the practice of journalism in itself and relations between journalists and their sources, while the press already suffered from marked self-censorship," said Andrés Morales, the director of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).

Currently, under the twisted guise of protection, former DAS agents working for security firms act as bodyguards for journalists under threat, and continue to monitor their clients for their former employer. Aware of being under surveillance by a mixed escort of DAS and police, one journalist said, "If you reject the security system it amounts to giving tacit permission for someone to kill you."

During AMARC-ALC's mission, delegates found that communities still suffer from the violent actions of state security forces, paramilitaries and the guerrillas, limiting free expression. None of these armed groups differentiate between military and civilian targets. Journalists are especially under threat as they may be suspected of being guerrilla sympathisers and targeted by paramilitaries or state forces. There is an urgent need to safeguard community-based radio stations, says AMARC-ALC.