Archive | 11:56 pm

Mexico – How I helped get Stephania Cardoso the protection she needed | Darío Ramírez

27 Jun

ARTICLE 19’s Darío Ramírez talks about answering the call of the Mexican crime reporter a week after she went missing with her baby on 8 June.

via IFEX

Ethiopia – Journalists face life imprisonment on trumped-up terrorism charges

27 Jun

Imprisoned writer and journalist Eskinder Nega, with his wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil

Imprisoned writer and journalist Eskinder Nega, with his wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil

A journalist in Ethiopia and another in Burundi are facing life behind bars after shocking verdicts in unrelated cases but with almost identical anti-terrorism charges, say IFEX members.

Just today, well-known Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega was convicted in a trial that 10 groups jointly called “the criminalisation of peaceful dissent in Ethiopia.” And last week, Hassan Ruvakuki, a radio journalist in Burundi, was sentenced to life imprisonment, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

On 27 June, the High Court in Addis Ababa found Nega guilty of “participation in a terrorist organisation” and “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of (a) terrorist act,” says a joint statement by 10 groups including five IFEX members – the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch, the International Press Institute (IPI), PEN American Center and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Nega was convicted along with 24 others, only eight of whom appeared in court, including opposition politician Andulalem Arage. They are due to be sentenced on 13 July and are facing life in prison.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), upon delivering his decision, Judge Endeshaw Adane said, “Freedom of speech can be limited when it [is] used to undermine security and not used for the public interest.” ARTICLE 19 reported that Nega and Arage “were accused of using examples taken from the Arab Spring uprisings in the media to promote anti-government protest in Ethiopia.”

Nega was jailed in September 2011 shortly after criticising the government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to imprison local journalists and two Swedish journalists, who were arrested while reporting on rebel activity.

IFEX members report that Nega is the fifth journalist in Ethiopia to be jailed for terrorism-related crimes in the past six months. Nega “has long been a thorn in the side of the Ethiopian government,” note the 10 groups in their joint statement.

After the elections in 2005, he and his wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil, were jailed for 17 months, during which time their son was born in prison. Their publishing house was shut down and Nega has since been banned from journalism, but continued to write for online media. Nega won the prestigious 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in April.


Hassan Ruvakuki

Hassan Ruvakuki


In a separate case in Burundi on 20 June, a High Court in the eastern city of Cankuzo sentenced Ruvakuki to life imprisonment on a charge of “participating in acts of terrorism,” along with 13 other defendants, according to RSF and other IFEX members. Ruvakuki is a reporter for Bonesha FM and the French government-funded Radio France Internationale (RFI)’s Swahili service, hence RSF and RFI jointly undertook a trial observation mission of the case.

The charges against Ruvakuki were related to a terrorist attack in September 2011 near the border with Tanzania, reports ARTICLE 19. In November 2011, the journalist travelled to a rebel-held area near Burundi’s border with Tanzania, where he interviewed Pierre Claver Kabirigi, a former police officer who claimed to be the leader of a new rebel group. According to CPJ, Ruvakuki was arrested upon his return and questioned “over his alleged links to the rebel group.”

IFJ’s Gabriel Baglo says the journalist was only doing his job and “has never engaged in illegal acts designed to endanger the lives of the Burundian citizens… He should not be condemned on these bogus charges of terrorism.”

They say Ruvakuki’s right to free trial was breached. “The judges were biased and incompetent, defence rights were violated and the sentence was decided in advance on the basis of spurious arguments. Everything suggests that it was a politically-motivated reprisal,” said RSF and RFI, noting the sentence comes “at the very moment that a law designed to protect journalists from imprisonment is on the point of being adopted.”

The two groups also point out the unfortunate timing of the harsh sentence, saying “Burundi is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence on 1 July but the party announced by the authorities has already been spoiled.”

via IFEX

Special rapporteurs call for a “crime against free expression”

27 Jun

Four international experts that have special mandates on free expression are calling on governments to create a special category of “crimes against free expression” that warrants stiffer penalties and removes restrictions on how long after a crime is committed prosecutions can be initiated, reports ARTICLE 19, one of the groups that brought the rapporteurs together.

The four free expression special rapporteurs in the UN, Europe, the Americas and Africa said in a joint declaration that a crime against free expression is “censorship by killing” that undermines the “right of everyone to seek and receive information and ideas.”

“Such a crime would force reluctant governments to always start with the question, ‘Was this person targeted for what they said?’ thus ensuring that perpetrators would be sanctioned not just for violence against one person, but for violence against society,” said Agnès Callamard, executive director at ARTICLE 19.

The rapporteurs call for independent, speedy and effective investigations of all incidents involving journalists and they provide detailed recommendations on how to improve investigations. This includes dedicated investigative units and allowing civil society groups to monitor and document such crimes to ensure the legal procedure is impartial.

They condemn the “prevailing state of impunity” for crimes against free expression, noting that it “emboldens the perpetrators and instigators and substantially increases the incidence of these crimes.”

They also recommend specialised protection programmes, and training for both law enforcement officials and individuals who may be at risk, especially women.

“These experts have paved the way,” said Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which also welcomed the declaration. “Now it is up to governments to implement their recommendations and give them binding force as soon as possible.”

“Addressing violence against journalists as a direct threat to our democracies will help bring attacks on media freedom high on all government’s agenda. We as international media freedom advocates need to support numerous international and local NGOs working to provide safer work conditions for media,” said Dunja Mijatović, the representative on freedom of the media for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

This year’s joint declaration was released on 25 June with the four rapporteurs in person in Trinidad and Tobago at the International Press Institute (IPI) annual conference.

It came just five days after both Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Christoph Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, issued separate reports calling for greater efforts to protect journalists.

via IFEX

Bolivia – Media come under attack amid strike by police officers

27 Jun

The wave of labour unrest that has been rocking Bolivia for months took a disturbing turn when the police launched a mutiny to demand more pay and journalists in several cities became the targets of their anger, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The La Paz-based National Press Association (Asociación Nacional de la Prensa, ANP) recorded several assaults on the press.

via IFEX

Algeria – Rights defenders targeted as authorities tighten restrictions on freedom of assembly

27 Jun

As four human rights defenders are brought to trial on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering,” and another is sent to jail, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and other rights groups express alarm about the increasing crackdown on human rights defenders in the aftermath of the amendments to the law on associations in December 2011.

via IFEX

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