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Resolutions passed by WAN at World Newspaper Cong.

Resolutions passed by WAN at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum

SOURCE: World Association of Newspapers (WAN), Paris

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a series of 6 June 2006 WAN press releases summarising resolutions passed at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Moscow, Russia:

WAN Board Calls for End of Harassment of Journalists in Belarus

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers has called on the government of Belarus to end the harassment of journalists and the repression of press freedom that exists in the country.

"The past year has been marked by severe repression of press freedom in Belarus, which culminated at the time of the presidential elections in March 2006 when over 30 journalists were arrested. Even though all of them have today been released, the effects of the onslaught continue to mark the media scene in Belarus," said the WAN Board in a resolution issued during the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Moscow, Russia.

The resolution said:

"The Board of the World Association of Newspapers, meeting at the 59th World Newspaper Congress in Moscow, Russia, 4 to 7 June 2006, deplores the continued crackdown on the independent press in Belarus.

"The past year has been marked by severe repression of press freedom in Belarus, which culminated at the time of the presidential elections in March 2006 when over 30 journalists were arrested. Even though all of them have today been released, the effects of the onslaught continue to mark the media scene in Belarus.

"On 10 April, the "Nasha Niva" weekly was informed by the Ideological Department of the Minsk City Executive Committee that the newspaper could no longer be registered in the capital city of Minsk. The Ideological Department, which is not a legal instance, motivated its decision by the arrest of "Nasha Niva" editor-in-chief Andrei Dinko in the aftermath of the presidential elections. The independent weekly has been subject to ongoing harassment for several months already and there is reason to believe that the aim is to close down the publication, which is the oldest newspaper in Belarus.

"On 10 May, a number of journalists were prevented from attending the trial of youth leader Artur Finkevich, one of the front figures of the mass protests in March.

"In April and May, Belarusian journalists have regularly been arrested and summoned by the authorities for a variety of different reasons.

"Also in April, three Polish journalists were stopped as they tried to enter Belarus to cover the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. At least two of them carried valid visas, but despite that they were turned away at the border.

"Before the presidential elections, foreign journalists were expelled from Belarus, local journalists were beaten up by police and several newspapers were prevented from printing.

"The Board of WAN calls on the government of Belarus to end of harassment of independent media, and fully restore press freedom and freedom of _expression in the country."

World's Press Calls for Release of Jailed Chinese Journalists

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers has called for the release of all journalists jailed in China and condemned "the ongoing repression of all forms of freedom of _expression in China."

"More than 30 journalists remain behind bars in China. The vast majority of them have faced long periods of detention before even being charged. Most trials result in lengthy prison sentences, often under extremely harsh conditions," said the WAN Board in a resolution issued during the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Moscow, Russia.

The resolution said:

"The Board of the World Association of Newspapers, meeting at the 59th World Newspaper Congress in Moscow, Russia, 4 to 7 June 2006, deplores the ongoing repression of all forms of freedom of _expression in China and calls for the immediate release of all imprisoned journalists in the country."

"More than 30 journalists remain behind bars in China. The vast majority of them have faced long periods of detention before even being charged. Most trials result in lengthy prison sentences, often under extremely harsh conditions."

"Two of the world's longest-held journalists are imprisoned in China. Chen Renji and Lin Youping were arrested in 1983 for distributing pamphlets on democracy. More than 23 years later both remain incarcerated. They are both serving life sentences; in the case of Lin Youbing, this came after a reprieve from a death sentence. A third colleague, Chen Biling, who was arrested along with the journalists, was sentenced to death and executed.

"Recent cases include:

- the December 2005 arrest of Internet writer Yang Tongyan on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state authority."

- the January 2006 conviction of Zhu Wanxiang and Wu Zhengyou, two journalists who had reported on rural unrest in the southeast province of Zhejiang. The two journalists were convicted to respectively ten and six years in prison for illegal publishing, fraud, and extortion when they were covering one of the many land disputes currently taking place in China.

- the February 2006 conviction of Li Changqing, a journalist with the Fuscous daily, who received a three-year prison sentence for "spreading false and alarmist information". Li had exposed an outbreak of dengue fever, a frequent cause of death among children, before the authorities officially announced it.

- the February 2006 accusation of Li Yuanlong, a reporter with the daily Bijie Ribao, who was charged with "inciting subversion of state authority" for articles he posted online that criticised the authorities. The journalist has been detained since September 2005.

"The detention of these and other journalists constitutes a clear violation of their right to freedom of _expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that "detention, as punishment for the peaceful _expression of an opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights".

"The Board of WAN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all imprisoned journalists in China and for the government to restore all civil and political liberties, including freedom of the press and access to information."

World's Press Condemns Jailing of Journalists in Eritrea

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers has condemned the continued imprisonment of 15 journalists in Eritrea and has called on the east African nation, where all independent media have been shut down since 2001, to restore freedom of the press and access to information.

"The Eritrean government has refused to provide information on the health, whereabouts, or legal status of the detained journalists. Most have not been formally charged despite having spent five years in detention," said the WAN Board in a resolution issued during the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, the global meetings of the world's press.

The resolution said:

"The Board of the World Association of Newspapers, meeting at the 59th World Newspaper Congress in Moscow, Russia, 4 to 7 June 2006, calls for the release of fifteen journalists in Eritrea.

"Most of the journalists were imprisoned following a government crackdown in 2001 that saw the closure of all independent media outlets and the suspension of civil and political liberties in Eritrea.

"The Eritrean government has refused to provide information on the health, whereabouts, or legal status of the detained journalists. Most have not been formally charged despite having spent five years in detention. Eritrean law stipulates that an individual cannot be detained without charges for more than 30 days.

"The journalists currently imprisoned are: Said Abdulkadir, Saadia Ahmed, Yosuf Mohamed Ali, Saleh Al-Jezaeri, Amanuel Asrat, Temesgen Gebreyesus, Mattewos Habteab, Dawit Habtemichael, Medhanie Haile, Dawit Isaac, Fessahaye Yohannes, Hamid Mohamed Said, Seyoum Tsehaye and Ghebrehiwet Keleta.

"Zemenfes Haile and Selamyinghes Beyene were reportedly sent into the national service for an unspecified period as a punitive measure for their professional activities.

"The detention of these journalists constitutes a clear breach to their right to freedom of _expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that 'detention, as punishment for the peaceful _expression of an opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights'.

"The Board of WAN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the fifteen imprisoned journalists and for President Isaias Afworki to restore all civil and political liberties in Eritrea, including freedom of the press and access to information."

Press Freedom Groups Call on Russia to Support a Free Press

A global coalition of press freedom organisations has expressed its concern "over intensified attempts by Russian authorities to place controls over the news media", and it called on the Russian government to back its statements of support for press freedom with actions.

The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations, meeting in Moscow, Russia, during the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, noted that President Vladimir Putin and members of his government have made positive public statements about their support for freedom of the press.

"There is reason, however, for concern over the interpretation of laws and regulations by bureaucrats who apparently expect their hierarchies to approve their actions to stamp out legitimate criticism," the Committee said in a resolution.

The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations that signed the resolution are the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Inter American Press Association, the International Association of Broadcasting, the International Federation of the Periodical Press, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers and the World Press Freedom Committee.

Read the full resolution at: http://www.wan-press.org/article11225.html

In other resolutions passed at the meeting, which was hosted by the World Association of Newspapers, the participants:

- condemned the violation of press freedom laws and attacks on journalists in Venezuela ( read the full resolution at: http://www.wan-press.org/article11201.html );

- demanded the unconditional release of all imprisoned journalists in Cuba and an end to government retaliation against the independent press ( read the full resolution at http://www.wan-press.org/article11202.html );

- called on the Mexican government to uphold the Constitution and guarantee the free practice of journalism through a variety of reforms ( read the full resolution at http://www.wan-press.org/article11203.html );

- called on governments to remove the statute of limitations on the murder of journalists and other crimes against freedom of _expression ( read the full resolution at http://www.wan-press.org/article11204.html ).

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