IPI Resolution on Safety of Journalists
Resolutions passed at IPI Annual General Assembly
SOURCE: International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna
(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 30 May 2006 IPI public statement:
Resolutions passed by the 55th IPI General Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 2006
IPI Resolution on Safety of Journalists
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership adopted a resolution recognizing that the International Press Institute (IPI), as the co-founder of the International News Safety Institute (INSI), is appalled by the number of journalists killed throughout the world while carrying out their job.
The IPI membership considers that it is the job of government to ensure that every time a journalist is killed appropriate action is taken to bring to justice those responsible.
The IPI membership notes that many governments are not taking their responsibilities sufficiently seriously and expects to see a significant improvement in the level of resources committed to ensure that the perpetrators are punished.
The IPI membership urges all media companies to support the work of INSI and recognises that its members must display a commitment to the safety and welfare of journalists and undertake appropriate measures to enable them to do their work in often hostile and dangerous conditions.
IPI Resolution on China
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership adopted a resolution calling on the People's Republic of China to end its pervasive censorship of the Internet, release all journalists and cyber-dissidents currently detained and remove all restrictions that discourage an open and free media environment in the country.
With more than 130 million Chinese accessing the Internet, China has the world's second largest number of on-line users, second only to the United States. As the Internet has grown in popularity, the Chinese government has maintained control over information.
The Chinese government is working closely with Western companies eager to enter the lucrative Chinese technology market to develop software that prevents Chinese citizens from accessing information on human rights and democracy. Those companies should not cooperate with censorship and should not supply information about users that can be used to prosecute journalists.
At least 30 persons are jailed in China on freedom of _expression charges. These include Straits Times' journalist Ching Cheong, who faces charges of espionage, and New York Times' researcher, Zhao Yan.
Other journalists are held on charges including subverting state powers, using violent means to "impose democracy," and "spreading false and alarmist information." Such ambiguous provisions stifle freedom of _expression. Chinese journalists face grave personal risks when investigating a range of issues such as corruption and health issues that embarrass local and central government officials.
A decision of the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) to increase its censorship of so-called "illegal foreign publications" and the prohibition on joint ventures with the foreign media ensure that the progress of free _expression is limited.
The state body governing radio and television also prevents Chinese stations from using news footage from foreign broadcasters. It recently accused broadcasters of "corrupting" public opinion and has ruled that only certain approved Chinese news outlets may be used by broadcasters.
IPI members are convinced that progress in China is undermined by the state's cynical exploitation of Western technology, unnecessary legislation, and encouragement of self-censorship.
IPI Resolution on Deterioration of Press Freedom in Africa
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership unanimously adopted a resolution expressing its concern that despite the importance of the African Union's Nepad (New Partnership for African Development) initiative in Africa, with its emphasis on peer review of African countries' good political governance, there has been a further deterioration of media freedom on that continent.
As it has stated in earlier resolutions on Nepad and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), IPI affirms that good governance cannot be achieved in a country unless it fosters a free and independent media. However, since the Nepad process began and more countries have submitted to assessment under the APRM, there has been a deterioration in press freedom in Africa.
The serious situation is illustrated by a survey conducted over the last three months leading up to the IPI Annual General Assembly. Many editors and journalists have been arrested and detained, a number physically abused or beaten, a printing press destroyed and papers closed down by the authorities. In addition, legislation which would reduce press freedom has been introduced in two countries.
In that short period of three months, a total of 24 cases in 13 sub-Saharan countries were recorded including action against media personnel and their organizations involving at least 68 journalists, two instances of new legislation being introduced and two major violations.
The other countries where these incidents occurred were Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros Islands, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Perhaps the single most alarming trend in Africa today is the treatment of journalists in Ethiopia. At present, numerous journalists are imprisoned on charges of treason, and face the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty. Other countries of concern are the Gambia and Sierra Leone.
IPI calls on the African Union, its agencies and, in particular, the African Commission for Human and People's Rights to impress on its members the need to end these unacceptable practices and to reform their legislation to ensure compliance with the highest standards of freedom of _expression and of press freedom and to set new standards of conduct for its officials to ensure that they comply.
IPI Resolution on the "Balibo Five" and other Journalists Murdered in East Timor
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the governments of Australia, East Timor, Indonesia and the United Kingdom, as well as the United Nations, to undertake all necessary measures to bring to justice the murderers of five journalists, known as the "Balibo Five," killed in October 1975.
In doing so, the IPI membership recognises its own special relationship to these cases because May 2006 marks the 30th Anniversary of a statement made at the IPI General Assembly in Philadelphia, United States, condemning countries for failing to take ". . . positive action to determine facts concerning the fate of the five Australian-based journalists in East Timor."
The journalists killed were: Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart and Gary Cunningham of Melbourne's Channel Seven network, and Brian Peters and Malcom Rennie of the Sydney-based Channel Nine network. All of them died in the town of Balibo when the Indonesian army attacked the Fretilin forces, which were in control of East Timor at the time.
Despite numerous attempts by relatives and concerned organisations to discover the truth, all such attempts have been blocked by an absence of political will, inconclusive investigations lacking access to witnesses and forensic evidence, and delaying tactics by the authorities.
The IPI membership also notes that, in February of this year, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor ("CAVR"), an independent statutory body investigating all human rights violations in East Timor between April 1974 and 1999, stated there should be ". . . further investigation of the elusive truth of this matter." However, so far, there appears to be no willingness on the part of the countries involved to follow the Commission's recommendation.
Aside from the "Balibo Five," the IPI membership calls on the countries concerned and the United Nations also to investigate the murders of Roger East, a print journalist killed on 8 December 1975; Bernardino Guterres, an East Timorese radio journalist apparently killed by the Indonesian police on 26 August 1999 and Sander Thoenes, a Dutch free-lance reporter, killed on 21 September 1999, allegedly by the Indonesian Army.
In a period where journalists are targeted for practicing their profession, the IPI membership feels it is essential for the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of such murders do not act with impunity. Failure to prosecute increases the risk of the murder of other journalists and self-censorship to the detriment of societies everywhere.
IPI Resolution on the Link Between the Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill and Corruption
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Kenyan government to enact a freedom of information law, while rejecting the need for a legislatively enacted press council.
Over recent months, the Kenyan government has become increasingly belligerent towards the independent media. On 2 March 2006, heavily armed police raided the premises of the Standard Group, and burned copies of the newspaper. Police also damaged the transmitters of the group's television station, the Kenya Television Network (KTN), forcing the station off-air.
These actions followed government claims that some media houses were endangering national security. However, the raid appeared to have been motivated by the publication of articles on corruption in the government, which caused the resignation of three cabinet ministers.
Since these disclosures, the government has attacked the media, claiming they must act "responsibly." The Information Minister, Mutahi Kagwe, has also alleged that there are parallels between the present Kenyan media situation and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
IPI members consider such comparisons as baseless. Criticism of the media's alleged lack of standards should not be used to avoid facing Kenya's endemic corruption problems and the possible involvement of government ministers.
A Media Council of Kenya Bill also raises fears that the government has rejected voluntary self-regulation in favour of government interference. If such a law were passed it could nullify the proposed Freedom of Information law by stifling news stories that take advantage of this legislation to probe such issues as government corruption.
The IPI membership recalls the pledge to introduce a freedom of information bill by President Kibaki at the opening ceremony of the IPI Annual Congress in Nairobi on 22 May 2005. The Kenyan government should honour this promise. Instead of suppressing the news media, it should embrace journalism's role within Kenyan society.
An Information and Communication Technology Bill also raises fears of government control of broadcast content and a ban on cross-media ownership. The IPI membership feels that if these measures are allowed to go through, press freedom and information access will be seriously compromised. The only reason the government could have for passing such legislation is to weaken the news media ahead of next year's general election.
IPI Resolution on the Vienna Declaration on Strengthening and Building Media in the SEE Region
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 29 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership unanimously adopted a resolution affirming its support for the Vienna Declaration on Strengthening and Building Media in the SEE Region issued by the International Press Institute's (IPI) affiliate organization the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) after its Dialogue Meeting on 6 May 2006.
Drafted by journalists, editors and other media professionals in South East Europe (SEE), the Vienna Declaration confronts fundamental issues in the region and calls on all governments not to "…undermine in any way the very means of dissemination of information" and to "ensure that citizens . . . have access to free and independent media . . ."
The Vienna Declaration also notes the need for governments to grant broadcasting licenses in a transparent and unbiased manner, to end the impunity of those who attack or kill journalists and to change all laws dealing with defamation in accordance with international standards.
The IPI membership warmly welcomes the work undertaken by SEEMO in its important region and calls on all SEE governments to adhere to these core principles and to uphold the right of journalists to practice their profession independently without interference.
IPI Resolution on the Cartoon Controversy and the Need to Support Editorial Independence
Meeting at its Annual General Assembly on 30 May 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the IPI membership adopted a resolution calling on all inter-governmental bodies, governments, politicians and religious leaders to respect the editorial independence of media organisations.
The IPI recognises that journalists are frequently required to make difficult choices when considering how best to inform the public and stimulate debate.
Readers, viewers and listeners should be offered a wide range of views, and all important sides of a story including those that could cause discomfort.
Journalists should consider carefully the cultural, social and religious context before deciding to publish material likely to offend.
It is for journalists and not for any outside body to decide where the balance of advantage lies.
The IPI membership deplores any attempts to set its direction and tone from outside and strongly supports the fundamental principle of non-interference in the decision-making of editors.
As a press freedom organisation, IPI does not accept any interference by politicians through regulations and special media laws that define the limits of editorial "responsibility."
IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and _expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.