Archive | 10:14 pm

Nigerian photographer assaulted in a government hospital

14 Aug

Lagos, Nigeria, August 14, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Nigerian authorities to immediately investigate an attack on the grounds of a government hospital that targeted a photographer seeking to cover the release of the remains of June plane crash victims to their families.

Four assailants beat Benedict Uwalaka, a journalist for Leadership newspaper, with bottles, sticks, and their fists on Thursday as he tried to photograph vehicles that were parked on the grounds of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) blocking access to the mortuary, according to news reports and video footage of the incident. Uwalaka suffered serious injuries to his face, his employer reported. News accounts reported that the assailants, who were identified as attendants of the hospital mortuary, also stole Uwalaka’s mobile phones, camera, and 100,000 naira (US$636).

In response to CPJ’s inquiries, the hospital denied responsibility for the attack and said that the mortuary, though on LASUTH premises, was owned and run by TOS Funeral, a private company.

Leadership has publicly accused two staffers of TOS Funeral of assaulting Uwalaka and reported that police had yet to arrest the suspects. In a telephone interview with CPJ, Ngozi Braide, the Lagos State Police spokesman, refused to discuss the attack.

Dele Ogunsola, the director of TOS Funeral, told CPJ that Uwalaka had instigated the violence. “It is wrong for a journalist to want to publish pictures of remains. It’s very unsympathetic to families,” he said. Uwalaka rejected the accusations, and told CPJ that he had identified his attackers in the police station today.

“Benedict Uwalaka had a right to document a sensitive event of significant public interest without being assaulted by self-appointed monitors of what constitutes news,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “We call on Nigerian police in Lagos to bring the perpetrators to justice immediately.”

Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State, has promised to bring the assailants to justice, according to news reports. The Nigeria Union of Journalists has also threatened legal action against the management of the government hospital, news reports said.

More than 150 people were killed when a Dana Air plane plunged into a residential neighbourhood of the commercial city of Lagos on June 3, according to news reports. Following the tragedy, the Nigerian government grounded all planes of Dana Air, pending investigations.

  • For more data and analysis on Nigeria, visit CPJ’s Nigeria page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Two journalists brutally beaten in Kazakh capital

14 Aug

New York, August 14, 2012–Authorities in Kazakhstan must thoroughly investigate attacks on two journalists in separate episodes in the past week and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Three unidentified men beat and attempted to strangle Maksim Kartashov at the entrance of his apartment building at 10 p.m. on Monday in Astana, the capital, the journalist told the online news agency Novosti Kazakhstana. Kartashov is the chief editor of the sports magazine Hokkey Kazakhstana (Kazakhstan’s Hockey) and a contributor to the news website Express-K. The assailants fled the scene when Kartashov started calling for help, news reports said. The journalist was diagnosed with a concussion and multiple bruises, the reports said.

Kartashov told Novosti Kazakhstana that the attack may have been inspired by his recent reporting on alleged corruption in Kazakhstan’s ice hockey federation. He said he had received threats in the past in connection to his coverage of ice hockey in the country.

In a press release published on its website, the ice hockey federation condemned the attack on Kartashov and denied any involvement.

In a separate attack last Wednesday, four unidentified assailants brutally beat Ularbek Baitailaq, a stringer for several Kazakh-language pro-opposition outlets, including the newspapers Dat and Tortinshi Bilik and the magazine Altyn Tamyr, near his house in an Astana suburb, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The men pummeled the journalist with repeated blows to the head until presumably believing him to be dead, according to the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz. Then the men covered his body with stones and left him on the street, the group said. The attackers also stole Baitailaq’s cell phone, clothes, press card, and about 50,000 tenge (about US$335), news reports said.

Baitailaq was hospitalized with a concussion, broken teeth, lacerated lips, and multiple bruises, news reports said. Doctors said that the journalist would remain in the hospital for about a month, the reports said.

It is unclear whether Baitailaq had covered any controversial stories recently or if his journalism could be considered a motive in the attack.

“We condemn the brutal attacks on Maksim Kartashov and Ularbek Baitailaq and call on Kazakh authorities to investigate them in a thorough and transparent manner,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Given the brutality of the attack on Baitailaq and his expected lengthy stay in hospital, we call on Astana police to provide a security detail to ensure his safety.”

  • For more data and analysis on Kazakhstan, visit CPJ’s Kazakhstan page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Rebel group releases kidnapped Colombian journalist

14 Aug

Colombian journalist Élida Parra Alonso, who was kidnapped on July 24 by a local guerrilla group in the northeastern state of Arauca, was released on August 13, according to news reports. Parra hosts a program for Sarare Estéreo radio station and does community outreach work for Oleoducto Bicentenario, a company constructing an oil pipeline that it says will be the largest in the country, news reports said.

Gina Paola Uribe Villamizar, an engineer for the pipeline, was also abducted that day, according to news reports.

Six days after the women were kidnapped, the National Liberation Army (ELN), a local rebel group, sent a statement to their families, saying it was holding them and that it considered the pipeline a military target, according to news reports. Pipelines have long been targeted by leftist guerrilla groups in Colombia’s armed conflict as a symbol of the alleged exploitation of natural resources and, authorities say, as a means of financial extortion, according to news reports.

On August 2, the group released a proof-of-life video that showed the women sitting in front of a banner with the group’s insignia, according to news reports. Eleven days later, the women were released to delegates of the International Red Cross, news reports said. It is not known whether a ransom was paid, the reports said.

Parra told The Associated Press that the rebels never fully explained why she had been kidnapped, except to say that it was related to her work at the pipeline.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

In Syria, wave of deadly attacks against journalists

14 Aug

Syrian residents inspect houses destroyed by what they say was heavy shelling from government forces in Homs on Tuesday. (Reuters/Yazan Homsy)

New York, August 14, 2012–A series of attacks against journalists in Syria over the past two weeks have included the killing of at least three journalists and the kidnapping of several others, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Pro-government media have borne the brunt of the recent attacks.

“We call on all sides in Syria to remember that journalists covering conflict are civilians and attacks against them constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists have already paid a heavy price in Syria and are risking their lives daily to cover the news. They must be protected.”

Hatem Abu Yehia, a camera assistant with the pro-government television station Al-Ikhbariya, is believed dead, his employer reported on Monday, according to the SANA state news agency. Abu Yehia was kidnapped by rebels belonging to the Free Syrian Army in the Damascus suburb of Al-Tal on Friday along with his colleagues Yara al-Saleh, an anchor for the station, Abdullah Tubara, a cameraman, and driver Hussam Imand, according to news reports. The Al-Ikhbariya team was covering clashes in Al-Tal between rebels and security forces when they were kidnapped, news reports said.

A video posted by the Free Syrian Army shows a rebel spokesperson saying Abu Yehia was killed in government shelling of Al-Tal along with two rebel fighters, The Associated Press reported. The other two Al-Ikhbariya journalists and their driver appear in the video saying they are in good health and being treated well, according to the AP.

On Saturday, Ali Abbas, head of domestic news at SANA, was killed by unidentified gunmen at his home in Jdaidat Artouz in Damascus, according to a statement on SANA’s website. Abbas’ employer said he was killed by “armed terrorist groups” as part of a campaign to silence government-aligned media, but provided no further details. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that unidentified gunmen shot Abbas in his home, according to news reports.

On the same day, Bara’a Yusuf al-Bushi, who contributed reports and footage to international outlets including the pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, Al-Jazeera, and Sky News, was killed in government shelling of Al-Tal while covering clashes there, Al-Arabiya reported. Al-Bushi had defected to the Free Syrian Army in May from his mandatory government military service, news reports said. His friend, a Syrian citizen journalist who goes by the pseudonym Mattar Ismail, told CPJ that Al-Bushi graduated from Damascus University with a journalism degree and wrote for the news website Syria News in 2009 before beginning his military service in 2010.

CPJ is also concerned about the fate of Mohamed al-Saeed, a state TV presenter. Al-Nusra Front, an armed Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda, claimed on the website of Shabkat Ansar al-Sham to have beheaded al-Saeed on August 4 after kidnapping him on July 19 in Damascus, according to news reports. Al-Saeed hosted a show called “Hadith al-Balad” (Talk of the Country) for the state broadcaster, news reports said. No news organizations have reported that they independently confirmed his death.

On August 3, Talal Janbakeli, a cameraman for Syrian state TV, was filming in Damascus when he was kidnapped by armed men from a rebel group called Haroun al-Rashid Brigades, according to news reports. The group posted a video on YouTube with a frightened Janbakeli saying he had been captured. In the video, armed men ask the cameraman what advice he has for his colleagues; he responds that they should abandon President Bashar al-Assad and his army.

Attacks against pro-government media have increased over the past couple of months. On August 6, a bomb ripped through the third floor of the Syrian state TV and radio building in Damascus, according to news reports. At least three people were wounded, news reports said. It was not specified if the wounded were journalists. In June, CPJ documented an attack against Al-Ikhbariya’s headquarters which killed seven employees, including at least two journalists.

The latest wave of attacks follows the release of two kidnapped foreign journalists at the end of July after they were held captive for a week, according to news reports. John Cantlie, a British freelance photographer, and Jeroen Oerlemans, a Dutch freelance photographer, were kidnapped by armed Islamic militants while crossing into Syria from Turkey on July 19, news reports said. Oerlemans told the media that their capturers were not Syrian and that they were rescued by a group they believed to be anti-government Syrian fighters.

  • For more data and analysis on Syria, visit CPJ’s Syria page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Press corps targeted during riots in India

14 Aug

New York, August 14, 2012–At least three Indian journalists were attacked over the weekend during protests by Muslim groups calling for news coverage of the deaths of Muslims in the ongoing ethnic tension in the state of Assam, according to news reports.

Mumbai-based Muslim groups staged demonstrations in the city on Saturday, protesting against the violence in the northeast and accusing the national press of failing to cover attacks against Muslims, news reports said. Long-standing ethnic tension between the Bodo tribe, who are largely Hindu or Christian, and predominantly Muslim Bengalis immigrating to Assam from Bangladesh exploded in fatal riots in the state’s Kokrajhar district in July, according to news reports.

News accounts reported that Saturday’s demonstrators targeted photojournalists and TV crews when the rally turned violent. The Times of India reported that the protesters were asking the identities of media persons and the outlet they represented before attacking them.

At least three photojournalists working for daily newspapers were targeted, news reports said. Vivek Bendre, of the national The Hindu; Prashant Sawant, of the local Sakal Times; and Atul Kamble, of the local Mid-Day sustained injuries in the violence and sought treatment at a local hospital, the reports said.

Protesters also set fire to the van of ABP News, a private news channel, in the streets of south Mumbai, according to the local website Newsbullet. Other news reports said that a total of three news vans had been burned, but did not name the news outlets.

“We’re alarmed that protesters are selectively attacking journalists for what they believe to be inadequate press coverage of their issues,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Muslim leaders should condemn such violence and call on their followers to refrain from attacking any journalists, irrespective of their affiliation.”

The Hindustan Times published a first-person account of the riots by an unnamed journalist at the scene.

“A few photographers and I started running … when a mob of about 400 people clashed with us. We got separated and each of us was attacked by at least 25 men,” the contributor wrote. “They asked us which media organisations we work for. When I told them, they punched me. They tried to snatch my camera, and when I resisted, they beat me up and fled with my mobile phone.”

  • For more data and analysis on India, visit CPJ’s India page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

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