IFEX Communiqué Vol 17 No 04 | 29 January 2008
------| IFEX COMMUNIQUÉ VOL 17 NO 04 | 29 JANUARY 2008 | ------
The "IFEX Communiqué" is the weekly newsletter of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), a global network of 81 organisations working to defend and promote the right to free expression. IFEX is managed by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression ( http://www.cjfe.org ).
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------| INDEX |------
FREE EXPRESSION SPOTLIGHT: 1. Kenya: Media Being Silenced as Political Crisis Intensifies
REGIONAL NEWS: 2. Somalia: Journalist Killed in Landmine Blast 3. Russia: Ten Journalists Arrested for Covering Protest 4. Brazil: Church Sues Journalist, Newspaper
REPORTS AND PUBLICATIONS: 5. Two Media Workers Attacked Per Month in Liberia, CEMESP Report Finds 6. 2007 Worst Year for Egyptian Media Since Independence, Says HRInfo
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS: 7. Nominations Wanted for International Freedom to Publish Prize
TOOLS AND RESOURCES: 8. How to Get Around Web 2.0 Censorship
USEFUL WEBSITES: 9. www.indexoncensorship.org -------------------------------------------------------- FREE EXPRESSION SPOTLIGHT
1. KENYA: MEDIA BEING SILENCED AS POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES
A continuing ban on live broadcasts and new death threats to journalists in Kenya are silencing media reports on the country's escalating political crisis, says IFEX member the Media Institute.
The government announced the indefinite live broadcast ban on 30 December, as violent protests erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected for another five years amid allegations of vote-rigging.
The Media Institute and the Kenya Editors Guild, a group of both past and current editors across the media industry, filed a lawsuit on 29 January to quash the ban on live broadcasts after the government ignored their ultimatum to have the ban lifted. The case is due to be heard later this week.
The organisations say the ban harms the ability of journalists to cover Kenya's unfolding political crisis, and that "the situation is worse than the government wants the public and the world to believe." According to the Media Institute, nearly 1,500 people have died and more than 250,000 have fled their homes.
The same day the court case was announced, the government announced plans to set up a task force to probe the conduct of the media in its coverage of the elections and its aftermath. "The government is essentially turning the heat on the media to shift blame for inflaming tension," says the Media Institute.
Meanwhile, human rights defenders and journalists who are critical of the government have become the target of death threats.
Maina Kiai, a prominent human rights activist and chair of the government's own Commission on Human Rights, is in danger of being "eliminated", reports the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). A special unit has allegedly been set up within the security forces to consider ways of "neutralising" Kiai, who has been seen as a "traitor" for saying that the recent elections were flawed and for calling for a fresh election. Kiai fled the country on 24 January.
Then on 29 January, the Mungiki, a pro-government militia recruited to protect the interests of Kenya's largest and most prosperous ethnic group, the Kikuyus, issued a broad threat to major media houses and senior editors and journalists.
On their hit list was journalist Paul Ilado of the daily "Nairobi Star", who had told police he had been receiving numerous death threats following his exclusive reports of Kiai and other human rights activists being intimidated by the government.
The Media Institute condemns the threats and has joined international appeals for the protection of the media and human rights defenders, and for those responsible for the threats to be brought to trial.
Earlier this month, 23 IFEX members wrote an open letter to the Kenyan president urging his government to rescind the ban on media coverage.
Visit these links: - IFEX alerts on Kenya: http://tinyurl.com/35fzq8 - Media Institute (email): mediainst(@)wananchi(.)com - Eastern Africa Journalists Association (email): eaja(@)intnet(.)dj - The Daily Nation, "Lift broadcast ban, say editors": http://tinyurl.com/2wmg2y - The Observatory: http://tinyurl.com/3xws75 - IFEX Communiqué, "Government imposes news blackout" (14 January 2008): http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89441/ -------------------------------------------------------- REGIONAL NEWS
2. SOMALIA: JOURNALIST KILLED IN LANDMINE BLAST
A journalist on his way to a press conference was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Somalia, report the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and other IFEX members.
Hassan Kafi Hared, a correspondent for Somali National News Agency (SONNA), a Somali government run news agency, and the Somali website Gedonet.com, was walking to a press conference in Kismayo when a remote-controlled landmine exploded on a road in the nearby village of Siyad. Two doctors with Medecins Sans Frontières-Holland and their Somali driver also died in the attack when their vehicle was destroyed in the blast.
Hared is also a long-time member of NUSOJ, and was the treasurer of the organisation's southeastern branch.
According to RSF, Kismayo and the surrounding region have mostly been unaffected by the Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu - they are controlled by local clans. But the rebels recently threatened to launch attacks and bombings outside the capital. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that since October, six Kismayo-based journalists have fled to Kenya.
Hared's death follows reports that another journalist has been beaten for "biased and provocative" broadcasts, report NUSOJ and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
On 26 January, Abdihakim Yusuf Moalim, a journalist with the private radio station Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) in Bossasso, Puntland, was covering a meeting between Puntland officials and local communities in Bossasso.
The Deputy Ministry of Security for Puntland, Ibrahim Artan, slapped Moalim in the face and accused him and his radio station for broadcasting "biased and provocative" reports. Moalim was then violently beaten by Artan's security guard and detained for an hour.
Visit these links: - NUSOJ: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90297/ - NUSOJ on Moalim: http://tinyurl.com/2u7cuq - CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/2l37ph - IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5754&Language=EN - RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25224
3. RUSSIA: TEN JOURNALISTS ARRESTED FOR COVERING PROTEST
Ten journalists were arrested on Saturday for covering a protest that turned violent in Nazran, the capital of the southwestern Russian republic of Ingushetia, report the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
According to RSF, the journalists were detained while covering a demonstration on 26 January against alleged vote-rigging in the December parliamentary elections, in which the pro-government party, United Russia, won 99 per cent of the vote in Ingushetia.
Police dispersed the "illegal" protest by firing bullets in the air and detaining the protesters and journalists. Several people had to be hospitalised for injuries and dozens more were detained.
The journalists were held for 20 hours before being escorted by armed troops to the neighbouring Russian republic of North Ossetia for their "security", says Human Rights Watch. The government claims that several parts of Ingushetia are "counter-terrorist operation zones" - allegedly to protect civilians from attacks by armed separatist groups based in neighbouring Chechnya.
Said-Khussein Tsarnaev, a photojournalist for the state news agency RIA-Novosti, and Mustafa Kurskiev, a correspondent for two Moscow-based print outlets, were arrested while filming a building that had been set on fire. RSF reports that Kurskiev was badly beaten by police. Both men were detained overnight with no access to counsel, medical aid or food.
CJES accused the police of breaking the law. "The professional activities of journalists... cannot be restricted during an anti-terrorist operation," CJES says. "Even under a state of emergency, restrictions can only concern the dissemination of information and not the movements of journalists, and any act of violence, arrest or detention continues to be unacceptable."
Other journalists arrested while covering Saturday's demonstration were Roman Plyusov and Vladimir Varfolomeev of Echo Moscow radio; Danila Galperovich, of Radio Liberty; Olga Bobrova of the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta"; two correspondents of St. Petersburg Channel Five TV; and two correspondents of Russian State TV. The police confiscated their video, photo and recording equipment, as well as their ID.
Human Rights Watch has reported on the excessive use of force during another demonstration in Ingushetia in October 2006 and, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), documented a brutal attack on human rights activists and journalists in Ingushetia in November 2007 on the eve of the elections.
Visit these links: - CJES: http://www.cjes.ru/lenta/?year=2006&lang=eng - Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/2l3kuv - RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25218 - CPJ on November 2007 attack: http://tinyurl.com/2wbsao
4. BRAZIL: CHURCH SUES JOURNALIST, NEWSPAPER
A journalist and the largest newspaper in Brazil are facing 28 separate lawsuits over an article that criticises a church's business empire, reports the Brazilian Investigative Journalism Association (ABRAJI).
At least 28 members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God have filed individual lawsuits against journalist Elvira Lobato and the newspaper where she works, "Folha de S. Paulo", for her investigative report that reveals the way properties amassed by the church over the past 30 years are managed by bishops.
The lawsuits, filed in cities in seven separate states, are "90 percent" identical, according to Taís Gasparian, a lawyer for the newspaper. Citing the same biblical passages in their lawsuits, the members claim that the report, "Universal turns 30 with a business empire", published on 15 December 2007, has made them the victims of harassment on the street.
According to Gasparian, Lobato's report did not mention any of the members who are suing her or the paper by name.
"It's curious that the lawsuits' descriptions of the harassment are the same, whether the people are from Paraíba or Río Grande do Sul," says Gasparian. Paraíba and Rio Grande do Sul are states located at opposite ends of the country.
"It seems that the lawsuit is intended to inhibit the press and the journalist," says Gasparian, pointing to the difficulty Lobato will face having to defend herself in lawsuits across such a large country.
According to "Brazzil Magazine", the founder of Universal Church, "Bishop" Edir Macedo, put "some fear in the hearts and pockets of the establishment" when he started buying up radio stations, theatres and supermarkets in the 1980s. Although he has been accused of fraud and embezzlement in the past, he has never been found guilty.
Visit these links: - ABRAJI (English): http://tinyurl.com/2w2ngx - ABRAJI (Portuguese): http://tinyurl.com/33m2dw - "Brazzil Magazine": http://tinyurl.com/2llyff - "Universal turns 30 with a business empire": http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/folha/brasil/ult96u355188.shtml -------------------------------------------------------- REPORTS AND PUBLICATIONS
5. TWO MEDIA WORKERS ATTACKED PER MONTH IN LIBERIA, CEMESP REPORT FINDS
At least one journalist or media worker has been attacked every two weeks since April 2006 in Liberia, says a new report by IFEX member the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP). And while the government is behind most of the attacks, a surprising number came from "civil society activists", says CEMESP.
In "The Perennial Tragedy of Democracy", CEMESP catalogues the threats, brutality and censorship media practitioners and others faced from April 2006 to the end of 2007, and discovered that most attacks came from government officials.
"It is quite ironic that the United States would be projecting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as an unhindered fighter for freedom, while state security and officials regularly brutalise the simple messengers in their search to inform the public about happenings in our society," said CEMESP executive director Malcolm Joseph at the report's launch.
Case in point - earlier this month, Liberia's Information Minister threatened to shut down media houses that did not pay their taxes. While CEMESP believes that measures should be taken, closing down a newspaper is not "in keeping with due process" and resembled the tactics of former dictator Charles Taylor.
CEMESP's report also details numerous instances where civil society activists and fellow journalists harassed the press. In December 2007, for example, a media executive accused six editors of libel after they had called on the union to investigate comments he had made on his radio show justifying police attacks on journalists.
Incidents like these lead to an apathetic population who "remains largely intolerant and ignorant of the law and the universally guaranteed right to freedom of expression," says CEMESP. The organisation hopes its catalogue of attacks will rectify this situation by increasing public understanding of free expression and promoting people's resolve to stand against those who resent it.
Read "The Perennial Tragedy of Democracy" here: http://cemesp-liberia.org/Book_final_version.pdf
For hard copies, email: centerforpeacebuilding(@)yahoo(.)com or phone: +231 651 4357
6. 2007 WORST YEAR FOR EGYPTIAN MEDIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE, SAYS HRINFO
Despite a burgeoning of bloggers and independent media outlets, last year was the worst year on record for the press since Egypt won independence in 1952, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) has found. And with many lawsuits launched at the end of 2007, the outlook looks bleak for the year ahead, says HRInfo.
In its first annual report on free expression in Egypt, HRInfo highlights the main threats to press freedom in the country last year, starting with the state's notorious use of criminal defamation laws to silence writers and journalists. But plenty of others threats contributed to the record-breaking year, from the rise of "hesba" ("insult to God") lawsuits, where, under Islamic law, anyone can launch a lawsuit if they believe God has been insulted, to a vigorous censorship system that the government isn't afraid to use.
In the first section, find out which press freedom laws the Egyptian authorities regularly flout and which legislation they use to fine journalists or lock them up. A staggering 500 trials were launched against journalists, writers and bloggers in 2007.
The second half of the report outlines cases of violations against journalists and bloggers - and for the first time, artists. Revisit which journalists went to court for "insulting the President"; see a list of websites that were blocked in 2007; or read about which movie and play scenes didn't make the cut because they fomented revolution.
By the report's end, it becomes obvious how journalists, writers, bloggers and artists have paid "a very high price for the freedom of expression allegedly provided by the government."
To read the report, click here: - English: http://openarab.net/en/reports/opinion/index.shtml - Arabic: http://www.hrinfo.net/press/2008/pr0124.shtml -------------------------------------------------------- AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS
7. NOMINATIONS WANTED FOR INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM TO PUBLISH PRIZE
The International Publishers' Association (IPA) is asking international organisations working in the field of freedom of expression to submit nominations for the International Freedom to Publish Prize.
The prize, worth 5,000 Swiss Francs (US$4,500), recognises individuals and organisations that have shown exemplary courage in upholding freedom of expression and the freedom to publish.
Last year's winner was Zimbabwean publisher Trevor N'cube, while special prizes were also given posthumously to Anna Politkovskaya and Hrant Dink.
The award will be presented at the International Seminar on Neo-Censorship in September in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The deadline for nominations is 18 April 2008. Nomination forms can be downloaded here: http://tinyurl.com/2g6zer
For more details, see: http://tinyurl.com/ysl5gc or email IPA's Freedom to Publish Director, Alexis Krikorian, at: krikorian(@)internationalpublishers(.)org -------------------------------------------------------- TOOLS AND RESOURCES
8. HOW TO GET AROUND WEB 2.0 CENSORSHIP
Is YouTube censored in your country? Having trouble getting onto Flickr to post your photos?
MohammedR, an Iranian developer tired of not being able to access social networking websites in his country, came up with "FreeAccess Plus!", which bloggers say is "making miracles" happen in Iran.
FreeAccess Plus! is an extension that turns web browser Mozilla Firefox into a proxy that bypasses censors on these social networking websites and others that use Web 2.0 technology, like del.icio.us, MySpace and Friendster.com.
MohammedR told anti-censorship network Global Voices Advocacy that FreeAccess Plus! has already been downloaded more than 3,500 times since its launch more than a month ago.
To install FreeAccess Plus!, go to: http://tinyurl.com/ynkocj and click "Install Now" at the bottom of the page, which will open a new window where you will be asked to confirm the installation. Again, click "Install Now". You will need to restart Firefox before the extension works.
The current version of "FreeAccess Plus!" allows you to access all the websites listed on the install page. MohammedR is currently working on making this feature an editable and configurable list.
For more information about the battle being waged between Web 2.0 censors and anti-censorship groups, check out Global Voices Advocacy's Access Denied map at: http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/maps/
Visit this link: - Global Voices Advocacy: http://tinyurl.com/ynjsza -------------------------------------------------------- USEFUL WEBSITES
IFEX member Index on Censorship has launched a new website that lets you easily troll around the latest free expression news, and pour over original, challenging and controversial writing on free expression issues from international journalists, bloggers and experts.
This month, read about how British government plans to take on extremist speech could have a "chilling effect" on the Internet, and a colleague's tribute to Armenian journalist and campaigner Hrant Dink. Don't forget to check out the archive of provocative articles from the magazine.
Index points out that the site is run on WordPress platform, acknowledging the importance of using open-source software "as the battle against censorship goes online."
Check out the new site here: http:///www.indexoncensorship.org -------------------------------------------------------- The "IFEX Communiqué" is published weekly by the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX). IFEX is managed by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression ( http://www.cjfe.org ) on behalf of the network's 81 member organisations.
The "IFEX Communiqué" is also available in French, Spanish, Russian ( http://www.ifex.cjes.ru/ ) and Arabic ( http://hrinfo.net/ifex/ ).
The views expressed in the "IFEX Communiqué" are the sole responsibility of the sources to which they are attributed.
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Contact IFEX Online Editor Natasha Grzincic at communique(at)ifex(dot)org
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