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----| IFEX COMMUNIQUÉ VOL 15 NO 8 | 28 FEBRUARY 2006 | ------

The IFEX Communiqué is the weekly newsletter of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), a global network of 72 organisations working to defend and promote the right to free expression. IFEX is managed by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (

The IFEX Communiqué is also available in French (, Spanish (, Russian ( and Arabic

--------------| Visit the IFEX website:

----| Read about the IFEX Tunisia Campaign: |-----

----- | INDEX | ------

1. IFEX Network Grows by Eight New Members

2. Iraq: Three Media Workers Killed; IFEX Members Urge Release of
Kidnapped Journalists
3. Russia: Journalist Murdered
4. Southeast Asia: Pressure Grows Against Criminal Defamation Laws
5. Argentina: Provincial Journalists Bullied by Local Authorities

6. Violence and Fear Wreak Havoc on Mexican Border City's Media: CPJ

7. UNESCO to Host World Press Freedom Day Conference in Sri Lanka

8. Freedom House Hiring for Middle East, Central Asia Programmes

9. Mapping Project Charts Media Influence in Elections

10. Association of Zimbabwean Journalists in the UK
11. Equitas

12. John Humphrey Freedom Award



The International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) is welcoming eight new organisations into the network following a General Meeting in Brussels that brought together more than 100 activists in Brussels, Belgium, last week to discuss the state of free expression in the world and find ways to campaign effectively together to confront threats.

The organisations were voted into the network by the IFEX membership after presenting their applications at the Meeting. The meeting was hosted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The new members are:
- Arab Archives Institute (Jordan)
- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) (Egypt)
- Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (Liberia)
- Federation of Nepalese Journalists (Nepal)
- Globe International (Mongolia)
- IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) (Turkey)
- Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in
Tunisia (Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de creation,
- South-East European Network for Professionalization of the Media (Romania)

With the new members, IFEX now links 72 free expression organisations around the world that use the network to share information, initiate joint actions and build campaigns to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression (see:

At the General Meeting, IFEX members issued six joint statements calling attention to free expression and press freedom violations in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Nepal, Somalia and Tajikistan. View the joint statements here:

Information on panel sessions held at the General Meeting is available here:



On 22 February 2006, one of Iraq's most well-known journalists, Atwar Bahjat, was shot to death along with her cameraman and sound engineer in the city of Samarra, a day after being kidnapped by gunmen while covering the aftermath of a bomb attack on a Shiite Muslim shrine, reported the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The bullet-riddled bodies of Bahjat, Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah were found on 23 February. A fourth person who was with them managed to escape. The reasons for the kidnapping are not known. The crew was on the outskirts of Samarra covering the bombing of the Shiite shrine Askariya, also known as the Golden Mosque.

Bahjat recently joined the Arabic satellite channel Al-Arabiya after working as a correspondent for rival network Al-Jazeera, where she had received death threats. She thought that moving to Al-Arabiya, considered more conservative and pro-American than Al-Jazeera, would be safer. Al-Falahi, 39, and Khairallah, 36, were employees of Wasan Productions who were on assignment for Al- Arabiya.

According to the Associated Press, Bahjat was the seventh woman journalist killed in Iraq. CPJ notes that at least three other Al-Arabiya journalists and five of its support workers have been killed since the Iraqi conflict began in March 2003.

Meanwhile, three journalists who are being held hostage in Iraq by insurgents remain in grave danger.

In a joint statement released yesterday, 25 IFEX member organisations called for the immediate release of Jill Carroll, Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal (see:

Carroll, who works for several Jordanian, Italian and US papers, including the "Christian Science Monitor", was kidnapped on 7 January by three armed men in west Baghdad as she went to meet a Sunni politician, Adnan al-Dulaimi. Her interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, was shot dead.

Zeid and Khazaal, who work for the Iraqi TV station Al-Sumariya, were seized by four armed men as they left a press conference on 1 February at the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Baghdad's western Yarmuk district.

Visit these links:
- IFJ:
- CPJ:
- RSF:
- Statement by Al Arabiya:
- Iraqi Journalists' Call for Arms:
- CPJ Statistics on Iraqi Killings:
- RSF Portfolio on Iraq:



The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Russian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of Ilya Zimin, a 33-year-old correspondent for the national television station NTV, who was murdered in his Moscow apartment on 26 February 2006.

Zimin was found lying in a pool of blood by several of his NTV colleagues who had gone to his apartment after he failed to show up for work or answer his phone, reports CPJ. There appeared to be signs of a violent struggle. An unidentified police officer said nothing appeared to be stolen from the apartment.

According to a security guard in Zimin's apartment building, three men with purported police identifications visited the reporter on the morning of the day he was killed, reports CPJ. Medical experts determined that Zimin probably died in the afternoon as a result of a head trauma inflicted earlier that day. The Moscow city prosecutor has opened a murder investigation.

Although local police and prosecutors claimed the killing was not work-related, NTV News Editor Tatyana Mitkova said she did not rule out the possibility that the murder was linked to Zimin's investigative work for the television channel. Zimin was an award-winning journalist who worked as a correspondent for NTV's investigative programme "Profession: Reporter." In April 2005, he was assaulted, robbed, and hospitalised with a broken leg, but he did not link the attack to his journalistic work.

CPJ says in light of Russia's record of impunity in the killings of journalists, authorities need to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into Zimin's death. Since 2000, at least 12 journalists have been murdered in contract-style slayings, and none of them have been solved.

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- Attacks on the Press in Russia in 2005:
- Twelve Murders, No Justice:
- Freedom House Report on Russia:
- Human Rights Watch Backgrounder:



Across Southeast Asia, governments and national courts are paying heed to local and international protests over criminal defamation laws, thanks to the efforts of IFEX member groups and other civil society organisations. In recent months, activists have welcomed progressive developments in East Timor, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

In East Timor, President Xanana Gusmao has sent a draft law back to the
Ministry of Justice for reconsideration due to concerns over criminal defamation provisions. The draft law seeks to amend the penal code to allow jail terms of up to three years and unlimited fines for defaming public officials. Passed by East Timor's parliament and signed by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri in December 2005, the draft law requires Gusmao's signature before entering into force.

In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared his support for decriminalising defamation laws on 13 February 2006, saying such offences should be tried in civil courts. He also said compensation was the appropriate solution for victims of defamation.

When Cambodia's laws are decriminalised, individuals will no longer be subject to jail terms of up to one year and fines of up to 10 million riel (US$2,600). Hun Sen made the announcement after opposition leader Sam Rainsy was pardoned on 5 February. Rainsy had been convicted last year of defaming the prime minister and Prince Norodom Ranariddh and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In Thailand, Shin Corporation has offered to drop criminal defamation charges against media activist Supinya Klangnarong in exchange for an out-of-court settlement. Supinya has rejected the offer, saying she will only accept if the company announces that it "embraces press freedom." Supinya faces a Bt400 million (US$10.2 million) lawsuit for alleging in a July 2003 interview with the "Thai Post" that Shin Corp, formerly owned by the family of Thailand's prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, benefited financially from the prime minister's policies.

A court is expected to deliver a verdict on 15 March, which will set a crucial precedent for the interpretation of defamation laws and constitutional rights to free expression in Thailand, notes IFJ.

Meanwhile, on 9 February, Indonesia's Supreme Court quashed a lower court ruling against editor Bambang Harymurti, who had been convicted of criminal defamation and sentenced to one year in prison in September 2004.

Harymurti's publication, "Tempo", had published an article in its 3 March 2003 issued alleging that businessman Tomy Winata stood to benefit from a suspicious fire in Tanah Abang textile market.

A Supreme Court spokesperson said the decision was made in recognition of the media's important role as the fourth pillar of democracy in keeping society informed. However, he warned that the court's protection extends only to journalists who embrace journalistic ethics.

Visit these links:
- IFJ:
- IFJ Campaign Resource on Criminal Defamation:
- Southeast Asia Press Alliance:
- International Press Institute:
- Human Rights Watch:
- Defining Defamation: Principles on Freedom of Expression and
Protection of Reputation:
- Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia:
- Supinya Campaign:



While Argentina, by and large, enjoys a free press, press freedom groups have expressed concerns over increasing incidences of threats and attacks on journalists in the provinces, and the influence of what is called "soft censorship" on the media.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) has cited three cases since the beginning of this year where local politicians have targeted journalists who were critical of officials.

The latest incident involved reporter Angel Ruiz of the weekly "El Este Rionegrino" in Rio Negro province, who received telephone calls threatening to close down the publication after Ruiz exposed a fossil-smuggling ring and criticised two senior provincial officials. Ruiz is being sued for libel and faces three years in jail if convicted.

In other cases, on 18 February 2006, Juan Cruz Sanz and Juan Obregón of the daily newspaper "Perfil" in Santa Cruz province were beaten by three men who were seen leaving the residence of President Néstor Kirchner in the city of Rio Gallegos. On 18 January, a senior official of the Justicialista (Peronist) Party in Buenos Aires province brutally assaulted Alberto Callejas, editor of the local newspaper "El Nuevo Cambio".

According to RSF, journalists and media outlets in Argentina's 23 provinces are often at the mercy of local officials, who wield extensive powers to silence those who report critically on their policies. Aside from using threats and physical attacks to intimidate journalists, officials also use government advertising, or "soft censorship," to indirectly influence media coverage.

A recent study by the Association for Civil Rights (Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, ADC) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, entitled "Buying the News", examined the situation in the provinces of Córdoba, Neuquén, Río Negro and Tierra del Fuego. It found "an entrenched culture of pervasive abuse by provincial government officials who manipulate distribution of advertising for political and personal purposes," and indicated that such decisions are particularly "insidious" in provinces where official advertising is critical for the survival of many media outlets. In Tierra del Fuego, the media derived 75 percent of its advertising revenue from government agencies.

In a national survey of reporters released in November 2005 by Forum for Argentine Journalism (Foro de Periodismo Argentino, FOPEA), 53 percent of respondents identified the media's dependence on state advertising as the most pressing problem facing the profession. The results were based on data provided by 282 respondents to a nationwide questionnaire.

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- RSF Report on Argentina:
- Buying the News:
- ADC:
- IAPA Report on Argentina:
- CPJ Report on Argentina:


In the border city of Nuevo Laredo in Northern Mexico, where violent crime and corruption are rampant, local media have been cowed into silence and self-censorship, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Afraid of being targeted, journalists censor themselves by refusing to name members of the drug cartels who are fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo or of their victims. Some journalists have even stopped going out to cover a story after dark or in the early morning. And reporters treat every gangland killing in isolation, rarely following up or tying the murder to the broader fabric of crime that serves as the backdrop to their professional lives, says CPJ. Reporters interviewed by CPJ said they have lost faith in the ability of Mexico's law enforcement agencies and judiciary to protect them.

While the recent appointment of a special federal prosecutor to investigate attacks on journalists is a positive step, the Mexican government faces enormous challenges in a city where 181 people were killed last year.

Read the full report "Dread on the Border" here:


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be hosting its annual World Press Freedom Day conference in Sri Lanka on 1-3 May 2006, which will focus on the link between freedom of the media and poverty eradication.

Held in Colombo, the conference will explore the independent media's role in fighting poverty through the empowerment of disadvantaged peoples and groups, its contribution to sustainable economic development through improved communication between different stakeholders, and the impact of transparency, accountability and good governance on poverty eradication efforts.

More than 100 journalists and editors from around the world are expected to attend the conference, as well as academics and representatives of development agencies, intergovernmental bodies and non-governmental

UNESCO hopes the conference will foster dialogue on how the protection of press freedom and freedom of information can reduce poverty. It also hopes the conference will help set a course for diverse aid agencies and media organisations to work better together to meet the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

For more information, visit:


Freedom House is seeking to fill the following positions in its Middle
East and Central Asia programmes, based out of Washington, D.C: Senior
Programme Manager for Middle East Programmes, Programme Officer for
Middle East Programmes, and Programme Officer for Central Asia.Programmes.

Non-US citizens applying for these positions must possess work
authorisation which does not require sponsorship by the employer for a visa.

Full details of each position are available at:


For democracies to work, it is commonly accepted that citizens need to have access to a wide range of information enabling them to participate fully in public life. During elections, equitable access to the media by all candidates and political parties during a campaign is a key part of this process.

However, there is a growing concern that in many countries in the
Western Hemisphere, mass media outlets are profiting on elections by charging high prices for advertising slots and giving wealthy candidates an unfair advantage over less well-endowed opponents, according to the authors of a new project entitled "Mapping the Media in the Americas."

The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), the Carter Center and the University of Calgary have launched a three-year initiative aimed at raising awareness of media influence during elections and empowering citizens and policymakers to reform political finance laws and practices regarding media access.

"Mapping the Media in the Americas" is a free online tool that illustrates where the media are located, which electoral districts they reach, and who owns the media in 12 Western Hemispheric countries.

Users will be able to click on a specific country or area and bring up additional information on registration and voting patterns, population and language use, socio-economic strata and education levels, as well as information on political finance. There also links on related issues, such as regulations governing use of the media during campaigns, civil society groups’ estimates of the value of political advertising, and contact information for organisations working to reform campaign finance.

So far, maps of Canada and Peru have been completed. Upcoming maps will cover Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, Jamaica,
Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Panama.

The project's partners say the maps will enable researchers to better understand the impact of media messages on voting patterns, and allow electoral authorities to identify parts of the country that do not have adequate access to the media.

Once all of the maps are completed, the project partners will meet with media owners, editors, and journalists in the 12 countries to confirm the maps' accuracy, encourage corporate social responsibility and build support for government reform. They will also hold public education seminars to promote the online maps and generate public support for reform.

The project partners will then meet with government officials, electoral and judicial authorities, and legislative leaders to urge implementation and enforcement of laws and policies that allow for equitable access to the media.

To view the maps, visit:



The Association of Zimbabwean Journalists in the UK was launched in 2005 to bring together exiled journalists and other media practitioners living outside Zimbabwe. It plans to help members find journalism-related work in the United Kingdom, support victims of torture or abuse, and build alliances with media organisations. The association's website provides independent news and information on Zimbabwe.



Equitas, the International Centre for Human Rights Education (formerly the Canadian Human Rights Foundation) works to advance democracy, human development, peace and social justice through educational programs. Each year, the organisation hosts an International Human Rights Training programme, which attracts over 100 participants from approximately 60 countries.



Rights & Democracy is currently accepting nominations for the John
Humphrey Freedom Award, presented every year to an organisation or individual anywhere in the world for outstanding contributions to the promotion of human rights and democratic development.

The award consists of a C$25,000 (US$22,000) grant, and a speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient’s human rights work. It is named in honour of the Canadian human rights law professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The deadline for submitting nominations is 15 April 2006.

For full details, visit:

20 FEBRUARY 2006
Ethiopia - Two journalists jailed after press law convictions (CPJ) - alert
Bangladesh - Two journalists target of bomb attack (CPJ) - alert
China - RSF concerned about recent acts of press repression (RSF) -
alert update
Sri Lanka - "Sathdina" newspaper staff assaulted after being mistaken
for "Irudina" staff by local opposition politician's supporters (IFJ) -
alert update
Thailand - Anti-government protesters harass crew of state-owned TV station (SEAPA) - alert
International - International journalists' groups to work with Muslim media to ease cartoon crisis (IFJ) - alert update
Morocco - Unfair trial proceedings against weekly fuel CPJ's suspicion that record damages awarded are "politically-motivated" (CPJ) - alert update
Rwanda - On the occasion of the visit of Secretary General Abdou Diouf,
RSF appeals to La Francophonie over three wrongly imprisoned journalists (RSF) - alert update
Peru - Government official refuses to provide information to journalists (IPYS) - alert
Pakistan - New campaign launched for journalist missing for 11 weeks; another journalist held for one day by military secret services (RSF) - alert update
Zimbabwe - Intelligence agents beat up a reporter accused of working for foreign media (RSF) - alert

21 FEBRUARY 2006
Europe - Governments must provide information about their complicity with unlawful CIA activities, says Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch) -alert
India - Media Offices attacked in recent string of violence by right-wing organizations (IFJ) - alert
Kenya - Police raid privately-owned weekly newspaper; journalist faces 6-month prison sentence following appeal (RSF) - alert update
Nepal - Security personnel harass newspaper staff (CEHURDES) - alert
Niger - Journalist freed after 18 days preventive detention in libel case (CPJ) - alert update
Kenya - Another "alternative press" weekly newspaper raided, journalist detained (CPJ) - alert
Belarus - Authorities expel Polish journalist (CPJ) - alert

22 FEBRUARY 2006
Russia/Saudi Arabia - Second Russian newspaper closes over cartoons, editor facing charges; Saudi authorities close weekly for republishing cartoons (CPJ) - alert update
Swaziland - Journalists harassed, equipment confiscated at training
centre (MISA) - alert
Cuba - Argentine writer blocked at Havana airport (CPJ) - alert
International - Free speech groups demand EU action on "scandal of impunity" over media killings (IFJ) - press release
Thailand - Prime Minister's critic faces new defamation lawsuit (SEAPA) - alert
South East Asia - Tide turning against criminal defamation says IFJ, citing developments in East Timor, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia (IFJ) - capsule report, update
Malaysia - Government suspends another daily in the cartoon affair (SEAPA) - alert
Iraq - Writer Kamal Sayid Qadir transferred to a prison hospital; serious health concerns (WiPC) - alert update

23 FEBRUARY 2006
Iraq - Three Iraqi media workers killed; increasing violence a "catastrophe for journalism", says IFJ (IFJ) - alert
Uganda - Critical website Radio Katwe blocked on eve of presidential election (CPJ) - alert
Malaysia - University students face legal action for expressing critical opinions (SEAPA) - alert
Cuba - New crackdown launched against independent press (CPJ) - alert update
Romania - One journalist indicted, another freed on secrets charge
(CPJ) - alert update
Romania - Six other journalists now under investigation in military leak; SEEMO protests pressuring of media (IPI) - alert update
Philippines - Reporter covering shantytown dismantlement harassed by police chief (CMFR) - alert
China - Journalist who was driven mad in prison freed after 16 years; a second journalist re-arrested after taking part in hunger strike (RSF) - alert update
Maldives - CPJ welcomes release of internet journalist, dissident; independent media still under pressure (CPJ) - alert update
Kenya - Arrest warrants issued against four journalists from the "Weekly Citizen" (RSF) - alert update
South Africa - FXI's Anti-Censorship Programme releases sixth progress report (FXI) - press release
China - Trials of Zhao Yan and Ching Cheong adjourned for lack of evidence (RSF) - alert update
International - International press "dismayed" at FIFA's withdrawal from talks on World Cup coverage (WAN) - alert update
Egypt - Press freedoms deteriorating one year after president's promise of improvement, says CPJ (CPJ) - alert update
Belarus/India - Belarusian and Indian authorities launch criminal actions over cartoon furor (CPJ) - alert update
Ethiopia - British reporter unwelcome in Addis Ababa (CPJ) - alert

24 FEBRUARY 2006
Sri Lanka - Press ongoing target of violence, intimidation; journalists' murders still unpunished (CPJ) - alert
China/United States - CPJ alarmed at pattern of attacks on Chinese journalists in U.S. (CPJ) - alert update
Malaysia - Newspaper issues apology following government threat (SEAPA) - alert update
Mexico - RSF hails appointment of special prosecutor to fight attacks on journalists (RSF) - alert update
Mexico - Attacks spark fear, self-censorship in newsrooms of drug-plagued Mexican city, says CPJ report (CPJ) - press release
Egypt - Appeals court upholds one journalist's conviction, overturns others (CPJ) - alert update
Uganda - Website and radio station of leading independent daily blocked during election vote count (CPJ) - alert
Argentina - Provincial journalists threatened and bullied by local authorities (RSF) - alert
The "IFEX Communiqué" is published weekly by the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX). IFEX is managed by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression ( on behalf of the network's 72 member organisations.

The views expressed in the "IFEX Communiqué" are the responsibility of the sources to which they are attributed.

The "IFEX Communiqué" grants permission for its material to be reproduced or republished only if it is credited as the source.

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