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IFEX Communique, 29 November 2005

----| IFEX COMMUNIQUÉ VOL 14 NO 48 | 29 NOVEMBER 2005 | ------

The IFEX Communiqué is the weekly newsletter of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), a global network of 64 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. Tunisia: Civil Society Calls for U.N. Probe on Free Expression Attacks at Internet Summit

2. United Kingdom: Media Gagged over Al-Jazeera Memo
3. Yemen: Attacks on Journalists Worsening
4. Indonesia: Aceh's Media Stage Comeback after Tsunami

5. Ethiopia: African Coalition Urges End to Press Crackdown

6. ARTICLE 19, Fahamu Offer Course on Access to Information Campaigning

7. German Foundation Launches Handbooks on Media Law, Investigative Reporting for African Journalists


9. Female Writers, Journalists Awarded Novib/PEN Prizes
10. 2006 World Press Institute Fellowships




More than 140 civil society organisations, including 13 IFEX members, have signed a joint letter urging U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to launch an investigation into attacks on freedom of expression and other human rights during the World Summit on the Information Society which ended more than a week ago in Tunisia.

The groups said that in the run-up to, and during, the Summit, attacks included the harassment of delegates, assaults on Tunisian and international journalists and human rights defenders, denial of entry to the country, the blocking of websites, the censorship of documents and speeches, and the prevention and disruption of meetings (see: They said civil society participation in the WSIS had been severely disrupted by Tunisian officials, raising questions about the adequacy of U.N. mechanisms in ensuring civil society participation at U.N.-led summits.

"We believe it is essential that lessons are learnt from what has taken place [in Tunisia] and we therefore call upon you to launch a full investigation into the attacks on human rights and freedom of expression that we have witnessed in Tunisia," the letter stated. Annan was urged to closely monitor the follow-up period in Tunisia.

Annan was also urged to initiate a thorough review of the process for deciding which countries host U.N. summits and their responsibilities as hosts.

Read the letter here:

- Tunisia Monitoring Group: http:/
- TMG Report on Free Expression in Tunisia:
- Hungry for Net Freedom in Tunisia:
- Tunisia and the WSIS Aftermath:
- OpenNet Initiative Study on Internet Censorship in Tunisia:



The leaking of an alleged memo revealing U.S. President George W. Bush's apparent plan to bomb the Qatar headquarters of Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera has ignited a storm of controversy and raised concerns among IFEX members about a possible backlash on the media.

ARTICLE 19 says Britain's Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has warned newspapers that they could be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) if they publish the contents of an internal memo that allegedly contains a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2004. In their meeting, Bush reportedly suggests that Al-Jazeera's office be bombed, and is rebuffed by Blair.

The memo was first cited on 22 November 2005 by "The Daily Mirror", a British tabloid, which said its sources disagreed over whether Bush's idea was a serious suggestion. The newspaper has agreed not to publish any more stories on the subject. A civil servant, David Keogh, and Leo O'Connor, a former researcher for Member of Parliament Tony Clarke, have been charged under the OSA for leaking the memo.

ARTICLE 19 says only public authorities and their staff should "bear responsibility for protecting the confidentiality of legitimately secret information under their control." Journalists and civil society representatives should never be liable for publishing or disseminating government information unless they committed fraud or another crime to obtain the information, the group argues.

ARTICLE 19 adds that disclosing the contents of the memo would serve the public interest since a deliberate attack on Al-Jazeera would constitute a war crime. "Bombing Al-Jazeera would not only have been illegal under the laws of war but also a blatant attempt to undermine the public's right to be informed about the conduct of the war."

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have urged Bush and Blair to set the record straight on their alleged conversation.

The Bush administration has been a harsh and frequent critic of Al-Jazeera for its coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan but has dismissed allegations that it had ever targeted the network, notes CPJ. Senior officials, including Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, have labeled Al-Jazeera's programming inflammatory and anti-American.

In April 2003, a U.S. missile struck Al-Jazeera's Baghdad bureau, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub. The military claimed it was responding to hostile fire at the time, an assertion strongly denied by Al-Jazeera. In November 2001, the U.S. military bombed Al-Jazeera's bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Pentagon claimed, without providing additional evidence, that the office was a "known Al-Qaeda facility," and that the U.S. military did not know the space was being used by Al-Jazeera.

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- CPJ:
- Al-Jazeera Consults Lawyers Over Bush Memo:,12823,1653286,00.html
- Don't Bomb Us:
- Media Channel:



IFEX members are raising the alarm over a worsening clampdown on Yemen's press, where several journalists have been violently attacked, opposition newspapers closed and editors prosecuted for investigating corruption or other sensitive issues affecting senior officials.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says there have been four violent attacks on journalists in the past five months, including the stabbing of freelance journalist Nabil Subaie on 12 November 2005 in the capital, Sanaa. Subaie regularly writes for the opposition newspapers "Al-Thawri", "Al-Shoura", "Al-Nida'a", and "Al-Tajammu" and recently criticized President Ali Abdullah Saleh for appointing several family members to key government positions.

On 4 November, Mujeeb Suwailih of the pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya and Najib al-Sharabi of the Saudi Arabian satellite channel Al-Ekhbariya were attacked by Yemeni security officers while covering a strike by textile factory workers in Sanaa. Suwailih suffered internal bleeding, three broken ribs and severe bruising on his legs. Other journalists attacked included Jamal Amer, editor of the weekly "Al-Wasat", and Haji al-Jehafi, editor of the weekly "Al-Nahar."

CPJ says none of the assaults have been properly investigated by Yemeni authorities. Two of the attacks have been linked to security officials.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) says two newspapers and four journalists have also been banned in the past 10 days, including opposition newspaper "Al-Tajammu". On 27 November, a court ordered the publication suspended for "sectarianism" and "attacking Islam's image" in a September 2004 article likening Yemen's current political situation to the political turmoil in 1968. Editor Abdul Rahman Abdallah and reporter Abdul Rahma Saeed, who wrote the article, were each fined the equivalent of US$260 and barred from being published for a year.

Meanwhile, a new media law about to be passed by the government could signal an end to Yemen's free press, warns ARTICLE 19. The group says the proposed Press and Publications Law contains provisions that will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, including restrictions on the content of what may be published, and mandatory licences for print media.

- CPJ:
- RSF:
- ARTICLE 19 Analysis of Proposed Press Law:
- Freedom House Report:
- IPI:
- Drug Smuggling and the Yemeni President:
- Has the President Changed His Mind on Reform?



The tsunami that wreaked havoc on Asian coastal communities in December 2004 had a particularly harsh impact on media in the war-torn Indonesian region of Aceh. Roughly 100 of the region's 1,000 journalists lost their lives and 70 were forced to live in camps, according to one estimate. But nearly one year after the devastating event, media in Aceh are staging a comeback and finding it freer to report the news than before, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Writing in the latest issue of CPJ's magazine "Dangerous Assignments", freelance journalist Shawn Crispin says almost all of the 45 or so radio stations hit by the tsunami are now back on air. TVRI-Aceh, the only local television station, has also resumed broadcasting, and the popular daily newspaper "Serambi" is back on the stands despite losing 54 of its 200 staff, as well as its offices and printing press.

Conditions for reporting the news have become less restrictive following the tsunami, notes Crispin. The Indonesian government has relaxed many of the restrictions it had imposed on reporting in Aceh, allowing local and foreign journalists to access tsunami-affected areas. The public hunger for information about reconstruction efforts in Aceh has also allowed local media to report more freely. And in August 2005, a peace accord was signed between Indonesia and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels to end a 30-year civil war.

In response, local journalists are testing new boundaries. "Before the tsunami, we had pressure from GAM and TNI (the Indonesian military)," says "Serambi's" chief editor Syambul Kahar. "Even when we wrote a balanced story, still both sides were mad with us. Now nobody is pressuring us. We can play an independent role."

Read the full story, entitled "After the Flood" in "Dangerous Assignments":

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- CPJ's 2003 Report on Aceh:
- IFJ:
- Profile of Serambi:
- IJNet:
- Radio 68H and Tsunami Aid in Aceh:


A coalition of 19 free expression groups, including 10 IFEX members, have called on Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to end a post-election crackdown on media outlets in the country, saying journalists and their families are reportedly being arrested and held hostage.

In a letter to Zenawi, the Network of African Free Expression Organisations (NAFEO) said it was seriously concerned that the Ethiopian media has faced various forms of attack following the elections held in May and August this year. These include journalists arrested and detained, media houses closed down, media licences cancelled, and reports that journalists will be charged with political offences like treason. Security forces have also detained family members of journalists who have gone into hiding.

"Journalists should not be targeted or held responsible for events that they have covered as part of their legitimate journalistic work, regardless of any controversy or incidents that have arisen over the outcome of the elections," NAFEO said. The coalition called for the immediate release of detained journalists and family members, and urged the government to allow media houses and reporters to operate freely.

Since August 2005, the Ethiopian government has issued a "wanted" list of 58 people, including 17 publishers and editors, who will be prosecuted for attempting to "violently undermine the constitutional order in the country."

The crackdown comes in the wake of street protests organised by opposition leaders who accused Zenawi of rigging polls in May to get re-elected. Forty people were killed in the protests.

Read NAFEO's letter to Zenawi:

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- Human Rights Watch:
- IPI:
- RSF:


ARTICLE 19 and Fahamu invite African civil society activists to apply for a seven-week distance learning course on Campaigning for Access to Information that will begin on 3 January 2006.

This course is meant for people and organisations from a broad spectrum of areas in Africa who have an interest in the issue of access to information. This includes, but is not limited to, trade unions, residents' organisations, environmental groups, women's groups, development organisations and human rights organisations.

Lasting seven weeks, the course looks at why access to information is important, what an access to information law should contain, and how to go about campaigning for one. Six weeks are spent working through a specially designed interactive CD-ROM, completing exercises and discussing the issues by email with others who are doing the course. The final week is devoted to an assignment that will involve designing a campaign plan for access to information in each participant's country. This not only entails considering campaigning strategy and tactics, but also the substantive access to information issues that participants are likely to encounter in their own country.

Participants will be guided throughout the course by an online course tutor.

There are 15 sponsored places available on this course. Every participant who successfully completes this course will be awarded a certificate from ARTICLE 19 and Fahamu.

Applicants should send a one page CV with a 500-word letter explaining why they should be selected for this course. Applications should be sent to

For further information (including course dates, fees and registration forms), contact
Hilary Isaac:


The Konrad Adenauer Foundation's Media Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa has published new reference guides on media law and investigative reporting aimed at journalists, students and lawyers in Southern Africa.

"SADC Media Law: A Handbook for Media Practitioners - Volume 3" is a comprehensive overview of laws and court cases that affect press freedom in Tanzania, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Previous volumes focused on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Zambia.

Among some of the findings of the new volume are the failure of governments in Tanzania, Lesotho and the DRC to create independent public service broadcasters, and enact laws guaranteeing access to information and the protection of journalists' sources.

The second publication "A Watchdog’s Guide to Investigative Reporting" is an introduction to the basics of investigative journalism. It includes anecdotes and tips from leading journalists, as well as resources and information on media laws in Southern African countries.

"SADC Media Law: A handbook for Media Practitioners – Volume 3" and "A Watchdog’s Guide to Investigative Reporting" can be downloaded for free (in Adobe Acrobat format) here:

For more information or to obtain hard copies of the book, contact Programme Coordinator Jude Mathurine:


IFES is an international nonprofit organisation dedicated to building democratic societies. It provides technical assistance to new and developing democracies in the areas of election administration, civil society building, human rights, rule of law and governance.



International PEN and Novib (Oxfam Netherlands) are honouring five female writers and journalists from Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tunisia and Vietnam this year for their bravery in defending the right to free expression.

The 2005 Novib/PEN prizes, worth 2,500 Euros (US$2,900) have been awarded to Claudia Anthony, Sarah Mkhonza, Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Duong Thu Huong.

Anthony has been forced to flee Sierra Leone because of her reporting for the independent newspaper "For Di People" and other publications. She is best known for writing about the rights of women and children.

Writer and academic Mkhonza has also been forced into exile from her native Swaziland because of repeated government harassment. She is an outspoken advocate of women's rights and often criticized Swaziland's King in her newspaper column.

Tunisian journalist Sihem Bensedrine and Neziha Rejiba (otherwise known as Om Zied) are well known for promoting press freedom in their country. Both have been harassed, intimidated and monitored by Tunisian police because of their work, and Bensedrine's online magazine Kalima ( is inaccessible in the country.

Vietnamese writer Duong Thu Huong lives under government restrictions because of her articles and novels, which promote democratic reform and human rights. She was jailed in the early 1990s and is not allowed to leave the country.

The Novib/PEN awards are supported by International PEN's Emergency Fund, which provides one-time grants to writers imprisoned and in financial need as a result of being persecuted.

- International PEN:
- Novib:


The World Press Institute (WPI) invites journalists from around the world to apply for the WPI Fellowship programme, which aims to expose individuals to U.S. newsroom culture and to promote more accurate reporting about the United States by international journalists.

The programme runs from 1 August to 18 November 2006. It consists of seminars and briefings by faculty at Macalester College in Minnesota, followed by an intensive three-month tour across the country. Fellows visit a variety of news outlets and other institutions.

WPI looks for journalists with a high level of tolerance for other cultures and a willingness to travel extensively in the United States. The fellowship covers all expenses as fellows visit newsrooms and conduct interviews in many different states.

Applicants must demonstrate a potential for leadership and possess at least five years of full-time news experience. They must be fluent in all aspects of English. Applications must include several written essays, three letters of recommendation and at least three work samples.

The deadline for applications is 31 December 2005.

Now in its 44th year, the WPI fellowship programme has brought a total of 488 journalists from 94 different countries to the U.S.

For more information, contact or visit

21 NOVEMBER 2005
Philippines - Two journalists killed in separate weekend attacks
Bangladesh - Journalist's writing may have provoked murder
Venezuela - Reporters question new norms at courthouse
Zimbabwe - MISA lobbies government on ICTs and freedom of expression
Tunisia - Protesters end hunger strike; IFJ urges new campaign for press rights
Kenya - Ban on radio station lifted
Iran - RSF calls for reopening of Kazemi murder case
Cambodia - CPJ calls on PM to drop all charges against radio journalist held in "atrocious" prison conditions

22 NOVEMBER 2005
Eritrea - Journalist freed without charge after four years in jail
Philippines - Slain journalist had received threats; journalists' union says killings under Arroyo top those under Marcos era of martial law in the 1980s
Eritrea - IFJ urges government to allow released journalist to leave country, free others held since 2001 clampdown
Turkey - Publisher Ragip Zarakolu faces 6-year prison sentence
Russia - Draft law threatens NGOs as last independent voices that can criticise government and demand accountability

23 NOVEMBER 2005
International - European Investment Bank public disclosure policy falls short, says ARTICLE 19
Nepal - CEHURDES welcomes Maoist rebels' latest promise to respect press freedom
Russia - Trial of Klebnikov murder suspects to be held in secret; CPJ urges open proceedings
Jordan - Human Rights Watch urges king to support proposal to strip press association's power to block journalists' work
Nepal - Journalist briefly abducted by Maoist rebels

24 NOVEMBER 2005
Niger - Editor of "Le Visionnaire" newspaper refused bail, denied visitors
Venezuela - Television news crew insulted by government supporters
Iraq/United States - IFJ calls for re-opening of investigation into 2003 US attack on Al-Jazeera; fears the media may have been deliberately targeted
Belgium - Mongolian journalist faces imminent deportation
International - Bush, Blair should set record straight on leaked Al-Jazeera threat, urges CPJ
Belgium/Rwanda - Belgian courts urged to exonerate Guy Theunis
Germany - IPI condemns ongoing treatment of "Cicero" magazine and reporter Bruno Schirra by German authorities
Democratic Republic of Congo - Kinshasa journalist arrested and jailed
Uganda - Human Rights Watch calls on government to reverse its ban on speech and demonstrations linked to trial of opposition candidate
Somalia - President asked to intercede on behalf of journalist forced into hiding in Puntland

25 NOVEMBER 2005
International - Writers from Tunisia, Swaziland, Sierra Leone and Vietnam receive Novib/PEN award
International - RSF calls on Commonwealth member states to make concerted effort to end impunity
Uganda - Government threatens to close privately-owned radio stations
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 64 members.

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 as long as it is credited as the source.


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