Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nominate a woman for Courage in Journalism Awards

Nominate a woman for Courage in Journalism Awards



The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) is seeking nominations for its 2012 Courage in Journalism Awards, which honour women reporters around the world whose work puts them in danger. The deadline for nominations is 2 March 2012.

The Courage in Journalism Awards (of US$5,000 apiece) will honour three women working in the news media who have risked political persecution, physical injury and death in their efforts to expose corruption and champion human rights.

Plus, the Lifetime Achievement Award recognises a woman journalist who has a pioneering spirit and a strong commitment to press freedom, and whose determination has paved the way for future generations of women in the media.

Candidates for both awards can be full-time, part-time or freelance women journalists working in print, broadcast or online media in any country. Candidates for the Lifetime Achievement Award can be retired journalists.

Click here for more information or to fill out a nomination form.
Source : IFEX 

Have your say: What should the global standards for free expression be?

Have your say: What should the global standards for free expression be?

The Internet and mobile phones have opened up endless possibilities for free expression. But how best should we use this freedom? What limits should there be and what should be regulated by law? And who should decide? Oxford University has launched a multilingual platform, Free Speech Debate, to debate global norms for free expression - and wants you to join the conversation.

The conversation is organised around 10 draft principles for global free expression. Each comes with an explanation and case studies - all up for debate. Prominent individuals have been asked to comment on specific issues, including Indian novelist Arundhati Roy on the media and national security in India; Iranian cleric Mohsen Kadivar on Islam and free speech; Chinese academic Yan Xuetong on universal values; and former Formula One head Max Mosley on privacy. Hear their thoughts, and then have your say in any or all of the online discussions.

You can enter into conversation with users from other countries and cultures, propose new case studies and submit suggestions for the 11th principle, which has intentionally been left open.

The research project is headed by U.K. historian and journalist Timothy Garton Ash, with help from a team of graduate students who are native speakers of each of the website's 13 languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.

Free Speech Debate estimates they can potentially reach more than 80 percent of Internet users - and work towards "a more genuinely universal universalism."

The debate will run for about six months. It will also be archived by Oxford University's Bodleian Library, so that future readers can see how it evolved and use it as an online resource.

Access it here:
Free Speech Debate

UNESCO supports prize backed by African dictator

UNESCO supports prize backed by African dictator

UNESCO has decided to support a prize backed by Teodoro Obiang Nguema (above), President of Equatorial Guinea and Africa’s
UNESCO has decided to support a prize backed by Teodoro Obiang Nguema (above), President of Equatorial Guinea and Africa’s "longest-serving dictator"
UN via Human Rights Watch
After nearly two years of debate, the executive board of UNESCO last week approved a life sciences prize sponsored by Africa's longest-serving dictator, despite intense lobbying by IFEX members and other international and African rights groups, as well as findings from UNESCO itself that the prize violates the organisation's own rules.

There was one significant change. While the prize originally was named after the sponsor, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979, the award was renamed the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the decision is "a blow to the credibility of the organisation."

"The purpose of this prize is to whitewash the image of one of Africa's most repressive leaders, and no one is fooled by the name change," CPJ Africa advocacy coordinator Mohamed Keita said. "The 33 states who voted in favour have chosen to promote the image of Obiang rather than uphold basic standards of human rights. They should be ashamed."

IFEX members have consistently voiced their opposition to the prize, saying that Equatorial Guinea's record on human rights, including press freedom, makes it incompatible with UNESCO's mission. Due to the international outcry, the prize has never been awarded since its launch four years ago.

CPJ, along with six other rights groups including Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the vote "put the President's interests above UNESCO's basic principles of human rights and good governance."

Meanwhile, UNESCO found that the US$3 million prize would violate the organisation's own rules, reports Human Rights Watch. UNESCO's legal advisor concluded that the prize is "no longer implementable" due to a "material discrepancy" between its stated and actual funding source.

While the official statutes of the award say that the money came from a foundation bearing Obiang's name and dedicated to "the preservation of life," Equatorial Guinea informed UNESCO last month that the money had in fact been drawn from the country's public treasury, according to an internal UNESCO document provided to reporters.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said she would seek further legal counsel. Last year, Bokova asked Obiang to withdraw the prize and spare UNESCO a diplomatic nightmare that would damage its reputation. Right before the vote, she told the board's 58 members, "It is my responsibility to alert you to risks that might do harm to that reputation."

IFEX members have long accused Obiang of using state money to pay for his family's extravagant lifestyle. He and his family are being investigated for corruption and money laundering in France, Spain and the United States.

According to "The New York Times", as part of the France case, the police have twice raided the stately Paris residence of Obiang's son - a government minister and the recently appointed permanent assistant delegate to UNESCO - seizing assets reportedly worth several tens of millions of dollars, including a fleet of luxury sports cars.

The prize was approved by a vote of 33 to 18, with seven abstentions. African nations, joined by delegations from Arab states as well as China, India, Brazil, Russia and others, supported the award. Most Caribbean and European members opposed it, along with the United States, Afghanistan and Peru.

According to Human Rights Watch, Equatorial Guinea restricts and controls news so severely that journalists working inside the country are not able to freely report about the corruption allegations or the concerns raised about the prize.

Freedom House listed Equatorial Guinea as one of the "Worst of the Worst" countries in 2011 for its abysmal record of civil liberties and political rights.

State media outlets label journalists "traitors"

State media outlets label journalists "traitors"

Tense environment for journalists? Thousands of people in Sri Lanka took to the streets in February to protest against the proposed UN Human Rights Council resolution on alleged human rights abuses during the country's civil war

Tense environment for journalists? Thousands of people in Sri Lanka took to the streets in February to protest against the proposed UN Human Rights Council resolution on alleged human rights abuses during the country's civil war

Rohan Karunarathne/DEMOTIX


Sri Lankan authorities have openly threatened journalists who supported a UN resolution calling for an investigation into the country's abuse of international laws during its war with Tamil separatists, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Officials are calling these journalists "traitors" and one threatened to break their legs. 

The UN Human Rights Council resolution, passed on 22 March, called for an investigation into human rights violations carried out by the military in the last phase of the country's long civil war.

"In its failed efforts to block the council resolution, the Sri Lankan government saw fit to put its own citizens at risk through vicious personal attacks on rights advocates," said Human Rights Watch. "It's a credit to Human Rights Council members that they saw through the government's scare tactics to avoid accountability."

Human rights advocates and journalists attending the UN session in Geneva were labelled traitors and their photos were published in national media and blogs, reports Human Rights Watch. The BBC reports that although the activists and journalists were not specifically named, Sri Lankan state television repeatedly zoomed in on thinly disguised photographs of them, promising to give their names soon and to "expose more traitors."

"Things are quite tense here. We've had anti-U.S. and anti-resolution protests the past few days, and now we're waiting to see who they will hit out at next," one journalist in the country told CPJ.

Perhaps it was Sandhya Eknelygoda, the wife of disappeared journalist and cartoonist Prageeth. In the magistrate's court where Sandhya has been trying to gain any information about the whereabouts of her husband, who disappeared on 24 January 2010, she came under harsh questioning from government lawyers about her presence at the UN session, reports CPJ. Before she returned from Geneva, she too had been denounced in the government-controlled media.

In another instance, "Minister of Public Relations Mervyn Silva warned that he will break the limbs of some journalists, who have gone abroad and made various statements against the country, if they dare to set foot in the country," according to the pro-government "Daily Mirror". CPJ says that given Silva's history of violence against the media, his threats need to be taken seriously.

IFEX members have documented numerous examples of state media outlets that criticised advocates and journalists who supported the resolution or took up the campaign for human rights.

For instance, "Ceylon Daily News" attacked three leading rights advocates and a journalist who were advocating for the resolution, alleging that they were supporters of the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and were acting to "betray Sri Lanka," says Human Rights Watch.

According to IFJ, the attacks have become particularly harsh since the country's main media associations and journalists' unions commemorated "black January" this year, to protest against the continuing impunity for attacks on free expression that historically have occurred in the month of January.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has a long and alarming record of denouncing its critics, say the IFEX members. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka's military authorities told all news and media organisations that they would have to get prior approval before releasing text or SMS news alerts containing any news about the military or police - a restriction that was purportedly lifted last August.

Those that write about them without permission "have to be prepared to abducted by a white van," a source told CPJ - referring to white Toyota Hi Ace vans with deeply tinted windows that have been used to abduct critics in the past - and have seemingly made a return.

More on the web

Eknelygoda's wife latest victim of Sri Lankan intolerance (CPJ)