IFEX Communique Vol 17 No 21 - 27 May 2008
IFEX Communiqué Vol 17 No 21 | 27 May 2008
FREE EXPRESSION SPOTLIGHT:
1. Libel Tourism Comes to London
2. Iraq: Two Journalists Killed in Separate Attacks
3. Pakistan: Reporter Shot Dead in Tribal Area
4. Democratic Republic of Congo: Murder Appeal Marred by Rights Violations
5. Save a Reporter on Afghanistan's Death Row
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS:
6. Journalism and Democracy Programme for MENA Journalists
7. Investigative Journalists Wanted for Global Shining Light Award
8. Lorenzo Natali Prize Open for Entries
9. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, www.anhri.net
FREE EXPRESSION SPOTLIGHT
1. LIBEL TOURISM COMES TO LONDON
What do you do if you want to shut somebody up but your country has lax libel legislation? Travel to another country with harsher laws, apparently. For World Press Freedom Day this year, ARTICLE 19 and Freedom House convened a panel of experts in London to expose one of the growing threats to free speech: "libel tourism" - the practice of shopping around for laws and courts that overwhelmingly favour the plaintiff.
In the U.K., "the Libel Capital of the World", the burden of proof lies with the defendant in libel cases, which makes the country an attractive venue for plaintiffs wanting to silence their critics. Plus, those who are successful can say they were validated by the U.K.'s reputable court system, which carries considerable weight in public relations.
Such was the experience of Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz, a wealthy Saudi businessman accused of financing terrorist groups in "Funding Evil", a book by U.S. scholar Rachel Ehrenfeld. He took his case to the U.K. - where only a handful of copies of Ehrenfeld's book had been sold - and won. In 2005, the author was made to apologise, destroy copies of her book and pay bin Mahfouz tens of thousands of dollars in damages. It turns out that bin Mahfouz has sued using U.K. libel laws more than two dozen times - and that if he had sued Ehrenfield on her own turf, she would have been protected by the First Amendment.
Then there's the story of Boris Berezovsky, one of Russia's billionaires. In 1996, he successfully sued Forbes magazine in London for an article entitled "Godfather of the Kremlin" - even though the magazine is based in New York and sold only a modest number of copies in the U.K.
"It's a disgrace that a country such as the U.K., which represents itself as a pioneer of democracy, should be the first port of call for the rich and powerful looking to not only silence but seek retaliation for criticisms made against them," says ARTICLE 19.
Good luck trying to find some controversial titles in Britain. To avoid potential suits in British courts, authors are choosing not to sell contentious books in the U.K. at all. British lawyer Mark Stephens says, "Books are already being cancelled by publishers because the economics of publishing are such that they cannot sustain the costs of a libel action." Cambridge University Press recently pulped a book called "Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World" by a U.S. university professor and a former U.S. State Department employee on the simple threat of a suit by - surprise - bin Mahfouz.
Libel tourism is not restricted to the U.K., either, say ARTICLE 19 and Freedom House. Common law-based systems in Asia, for example, open the door for influential moneyed interests to gain an enormous legal advantage, at great cost to free speech. Terrorist financing and corruption-related topics have often been the objects of the suits.
Luckily, some jurisdictions have cottoned on to the phenomenon. Inspired by Ehrenfeld's case, New York State adopted the Libel Tourism Terrorism Act last month. The act stipulates that foreign libel judgements are unenforceable in New York unless a foreign defamation law offers the same free speech protection guaranteed in the New York and U.S. constitutions.
For more on the libel tourism trend, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93931/ or email ARTICLE 19 at: info (@) article19 (.) org or Freedom House at: karlekar (@) freedomhouse (.) org
2. IRAQ: TWO JOURNALISTS KILLED IN SEPARATE ATTACKS
Two Iraqi journalists were killed in separate incidents last week, continuing Iraq's abysmal record as the deadliest country for the world's media, say the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Wisam Ali Ouda, a cameraman for the television station Afaq, was shot dead on his way home in Al-Obeidi, a district in northeastern Baghdad, on 21 May. According to the IFEX members, witnesses said Ouda was shot by an "American sniper." Clashes between U.S. soldiers and Shiite militiamen had plagued the Baghdad district over the past week. Afaq TV is affiliated to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's Shiite party Al-Dawa.
IFJ says at least 20 journalists and media staff have been killed by US forces since the invasion in 2003. 'This latest death is only one in a lengthening list of cases for concern," says IFJ. "The friends, family and colleagues of victims have a right to know the truth about the circumstances in which these killings have happened."
Just days before Ouda's murder, IFJ, which represents two journalists' unions in Iraq, called for a new investigation into the targeting of media staff by U.S. forces. The call follows revelations on the website Democracy Now! by a U.S. army veteran that Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, a media centre for non-embedded reporters that was attacked by U.S. forces in 2003, was on a U.S. army list of targets.
IFEX members are calling on the U.S. authorities to immediately investigate the attack and to make their findings public.
On the same day, the body of another journalist was found in a field in Diyala province along with other dead bodies. Haidar Hashim al-Husseini, a reporter for the independent daily "Al-Sharq", was abducted outside of his home on 20 May. His body was bound and had a single bullet wound to the head.
According to CPJ, at least 127 journalists and 50 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the press. About 90 percent of media deaths have been Iraqis.
Visit these links:
Democracy Now! http://tinyurl.com/52fkjr
3. PAKISTAN: REPORTER SHOT DEAD IN TRIBAL AREA
A Pakistani reporter was gunned down on 22 May as he was returning from an interview with a Taliban leader on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, report the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) and other IFEX members.
Mohammed Ibrahim Khan, a reporter for privately-owned Express TV and its Urdu-language sister daily "Express", was shot to death by unidentified men outside Khar, the main town of the Bajaur tribal area in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
The journalist, the general secretary of the Bajaur branch of the Tribal Union of Journalists, was returning by motorcycle from an interview with local Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the attackers took Ibrahim's camera, mobile phone and notes before shooting him and leaving his body at the roadside.
"It is becoming more and more difficult for journalists to work in the tribal areas because of the region's growing instability, which is closely linked to the war in Afghanistan," says RSF.
Local authorities and international Afghanistan-based military forces have been fighting with militant groups for control of the conflict-ridden area. Noor Hakim Khan, a "Daily Pakistan" correspondent, was killed in a roadside bomb in Bajaur in June 2007, says the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have called upon media organisations to increase safety practices and to provide comprehensive insurance coverage, especially for journalists working in the tribal areas.
The Taliban and other armed Islamic groups operating in the tribal areas on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been included in RSF's list of "Predators of Press Freedom" because of their repeated attacks on journalists. Pakistan is also identified by CPJ as among one of the 13 countries with the poorest records for solving journalists' murders.
Visit these links:
4. DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: MURDER APPEAL MARRED BY RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
A military appeals court has sentenced to death three people for the killing of a UN journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a trial riddled with "irregularities", say Journalist in Danger (JED), other IFEX members, rights groups and the UN.
Serge Maheshe, a reporter with UN-backed Radio Okapi, was shot dead in the eastern border city of Bukavu, in the restive South Kivu province, in June 2007 when he was getting into a UN vehicle with two friends.
On 21 May, the court sentenced to death the two convicted gunmen along with a third man said to be their accomplice. Maheshe's two friends and eyewitnesses of the crime, Alain Mulimbi and Serge Muhima, who were initially accused of plotting the killing based on statements of the two gunmen and detained for 10 months, were acquitted. The move was welcomed by IFEX members.
But the military court trial and the appeals process have been marred by inadequate protection of the defendants' most basic rights to a fair trial, from the presumption of innocence to adequate preparation time for their lawyers, say JED and other IFEX members, as well as the U.N. mission in D.R.C. and a coalition of 18 Congolese rights groups.
JED says it was "dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial since it did not establish what really happened on the deadly night of 13 June … The verdict is the outcome of a botched trial based on a superficial investigation."
"There were no ballistic tests or autopsy. The defence lawyers and independent observers received anonymous threats. And certain hypotheses were deliberately ignored," said JED and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a joint press release.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the retrial failed to establish a clear motive for the crime and prosecute the masterminds. "We call on the Congolese authorities to pursue this case to the end. Those arrested should include those who ordered the assassination, not simply those accused of carrying out the crime," says CPJ.
Human Rights Watch also condemned the trial, saying it had reports that confessions were obtained by torture. There were also reports of death threats against journalists, observers and lawyers at the retrial.
An August 2007 trial had resulted in the hasty convictions of four men, including Maheshe's two companions. Even back then, IFEX members deemed the trial a farce, for basing the convictions on the gunmen's inconsistent statements, and with no motive or material evidence. The court itself underlined that doubts remained.
Threats and intimidation against journalists are common in DRC, which in 2006 held its first free elections in more than four decades. At least four journalists have been killed since 2005 in the country.
IFEX members are calling for the Maheshe case to be reopened and transferred to a civil and independent court.
Visit these links:
JED (French): http://tinyurl.com/6c37yr
JED (English): http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93948/
Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/64mruv
"IFEX Communiqué" (4 September 2007) on initial trial: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86022/
5. SAVE A REPORTER ON AFGHANISTAN'S DEATH ROW
Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, a 23-year old journalism student from Afghanistan, was sentenced to death in January for blasphemy - in a trial held behind closed doors and without any lawyers defending him. Join the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other concerned groups in demanding a fair and speedy determination of Kambakhsh's appeal, which has already been delayed twice.
IFJ's affiliates in Afghanistan, the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ), say the appeal hearing scheduled for 25 May was adjourned for a week on the grounds of Kambakhsh's poor health. According to his brother, outspoken journalist Yaqub Ibrahimi, Kambakhsh is exhausted from his prolonged detention in unsanitary conditions and from severe psychological stress he has endured since his arrest last October.
This followed an earlier adjournment on 18 May, on the grounds that a defence lawyer was not present for Kambakhsh.
"Obviously, to prolong the young journalist's detention on the grounds of ill-health, when his ill-health is itself a consequence of his prolonged detention, does not meet any standard of fairness," says IFJ.
Kambakhsh, a reporter for the newspaper "Jahan-e Naw" ("The New World"), was arrested in October 2007 for distributing what officials say was anti-Islamic literature. He gave friends an article that said the Prophet Mohammed ignored women's rights. He was also accused of possessing anti-Islamic books and starting un-Islamic debates in class.
Ibrahimi believes the charges against his brother were a pretext meant to stop him from his own investigative journalism - Ibrahimi came under attack before Kambakhsh's arrest for reports he had written criticising local officials and warlords.
Join IFJ's appeal and send a message to the authorities urging them to ensure a fast and fair determination of Kambakhsh's appeal: http://tinyurl.com/4f6t9p
Also send a message of support demanding Kambakhsh's immediate release on KabulPress.org: http://tinyurl.com/2pnthj
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS
6. JOURNALISM AND DEMOCRACY PROGRAMME FOR MENA JOURNALISTS
The Institute for Further Education of Journalists (FOJO) in Sweden is offering a three-week intensive programme in November on "Journalism and Democracy" for applicants from selected countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The closing date for application is 13 June 2008.
Participants will scrutinise the role of the media in democratic processes and create strategies that will help strengthen the position of free and independent journalism in their home countries.
Twenty participants will be admitted from the following countries/regions: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, West Bank and Gaza. Applicants must have extensive journalism experience, an interest in development, a position in their respective media organisation that will allow them to implement their learnings, and a strong command of English. Women are encouraged to apply.
The project is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which will cover the participation fee and accommodation and international travel costs.
The programme will take place 3-21 November 2008 in Kalmar and Stockholm, Sweden.
For more info and an application form, see: http://tinyurl.com/4hgnbh or contact Katarina Marelius at: katarina (.) marelius (@) hik (.) se
7. INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS WANTED FOR GLOBAL SHINING LIGHT AWARD
Each year hundreds of journalists are attacked, imprisoned or threatened for exposing uncomfortable truths, shining a light on systemic corruption, or providing accountability in developing societies. The Global Investigative Journalism network is recognising these courageous investigative journalists with the second annual Global Shining Light Award. Send in your nominations now - the deadline is 15 June.
The US$1,000 award honours investigative journalism in a developing country or a country in transition, which was reported under threat, duress or in dire conditions. The journalist, journalism team and/or media outlet must provide independent, investigative reporting broadcast or published between 1 January and 31 December 2007.
The lucky winner will be presented with the award at Global Investigative Journalism's 2008 conference in Lillehammer, Norway this September.
Submissions (including a nomination letter and a copy of the published or broadcast material with an English translation) should be mailed to: Bibiana Dahle Piene, c/o The Norwegian Journalism Union, P.O. Box 8793 Youngstorget, 0028 Oslo, Norway.
For more details and contest rules, see: http://www.gijc2008.no/awards/143
8. LORENZO NATALI PRIZE OPEN FOR ENTRIES
The European Commission invites journalists committed to the fight for human rights and democracy in the developing world to apply for this year's Lorenzo Natali Prize. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2008.
The Lorenzo Natali Prize, named after a former European Commission official in charge of cooperation and development, awards journalists working in one of the five following regions: Africa, Asia and Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and the Arab World and the Middle East. For the first time, radio and television journalists are also invited to apply.
Applicants should submit one journalistic work (in one of the European Commission's 23 official languages) printed or aired between 1 January 2007 and 30 June 2008.
For each region, prizes will be awarded to the three best entries. First prize winners will receive 5,000 Euros (US$7,700), second prize winners will get 2,500 Euros (US$3,900), and third prize winners 1,500 Euros (US$2,300). The best entry overall will also receive a grand prize of 5,000 Euros.
For more information or to apply, contact: info (@) prixnatali2008 (.) eu or see: http://www.nataliprize2008.eu
9. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, www.anhri.net
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has launched its website on a new domain to harmonise with its new acronym, ANHRI.
Effective immediately, http://www.anhri.net will house all of ANHRI's content in Arabic and English, from its press releases and reports to its projects and events. Get the latest free expression news in the region - such as the return of Ibrahim Issa's magazine "Al Dustour" to the web, or the most recent defamation trial to be postponed in Cairo.
The new site will also continue to host the Arabic version of IFEX's website at: http://www.anhri.net/ifex
"We understand that becoming familiar with the new URL will take some time, especially with the thousands of visitors who are approaching the site on a daily basis," says Gamal Eid, the executive director of ANHRI. But he urges you to bookmark the site and spread the word of the new URL: http://www.anhri.net
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.
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://anhri.net/ifex/ ).
The views expressed in the "IFEX Communiqué" are the sole responsibility of the sources to which they are attributed.
The "IFEX Communiqué" grants permission for its material to be reproduced or republished provided it is credited as the source.