Archive | 10:23 pm

Japan should release journalists covering Chinese protest

16 Aug

New York, August 16, 2012–Japanese authorities should release two Phoenix TV journalists detained Wednesday while covering Chinese protesters landing on a disputed territory between Japan and China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

“Japanese authorities should immediately release Jiang Xiaofeng and Leung Kam-pui along with their footage,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Reporting on a protest is not a crime. It’s what journalists the world over do every day.”

Reporter Jiang Xiaofeng and photographer Leung Kam-pui, both with the Chinese broadcaster Phoenix TV, were documenting protests up until they were arrested along with 12 Chinese activists on a boat beside an uninhabited islet in the East China Sea, Phoenix’s Washington DC-based commentator Haipei Shue, told CPJ. Pro-Beijing Phoenix TV, a broadcaster based in Hong Kong, has a large audience in mainland China.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Egyptian government attempts to suppress the media

16 Aug

Supporters raise a photo of President Morsi. (AP/Amr Nabil)

New York, August 16, 2012–President Mohamed Morsi’s government and allies are pushing back against critical news coverage, suppressing critical journalists and state-run newspapers, putting a journalist on trial, and attacking three journalists on the street, according to news reports.

“This is a troubling backward step that Egypt’s newly elected President Mohamed Morsi should not be taking,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge President Morsi to reverse this course immediately and demonstrate his commitment to press freedom.”

Several journalists have reported suppression at the state-run newspaper Al-Akhbar. The newspaper was among a number of prominent state-run dailies at which new editors-in-chief had been appointed by the Egyptian upper house of parliament, also known as the Shura Council, on August 7, according to news reports. The Shura Council’s move was seen as a way for Morsi’s government, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, to place regime sympathizers in powerful positions to control media coverage. Several private newspapers ran blank columns on August 9 in protest of the appointments, news reports said.

Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, prominent weekly columnist for Al-Akhbar and outspoken critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, told news outlets on Thursday that his weekly column had been stopped, according to news reports. The journalist said that Mohamed Hassan el-Banna, the paper’s new editor-in-chief, was trying to implement a policy that would remove from Al-Akhbar‘s roster any writers who were critical of the Brotherhood, the reports said.

Youseef el-Qaeed, a prominent Egyptian writer and novelist who frequently writes for Al-Akhbar, told the online news website Ahram Online that the newspaper refused to publish his latest article that criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for attacking journalists on August 12. El-Banna denied banning al-Qaeed’s article and said the daily had not received an article from the journalist, according to news reports.

Abla al-Roweini, a daily columnist for Al-Akhbar, told Ahram Online that on August 9 the newspaper asked her to tone down her criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood in her column. When al-Roweini refused, insisting that the article run in its entirety, she received no response, and the next day, Al-Akhbar was published without her column, she told Ahram Online.

Local news outlets reported on Wednesday that Al-Akhbar announced it would cancel the newspaper’s daily column called “Free Opinions.” El-Qaeed and Abdel Meguid were both writers for the column, which meant they could no longer write for the newspaper, the reports said.

Meanwhile, the Cairo prosecutor’s office said on Monday that Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Dustour, would be tried for insulting the president, according to news reports. Afifi is charged with attempting to “undermine and destabilize” Egypt by publishing “false information” about Morsi, according to news reports. On August 11, a Cairo court ordered the confiscation of several editions of Al-Dustour over a front-page editorial calling Morsi a “fascist” and asking the army to “defend the civil state,” news reports said. On Sunday, a Cairo court issued a travel ban for him, news reports said. The journalist’s trial date is set for August 23.

On August 8, three journalists were attacked during a demonstration by protesters with pro-Morsi posters, according to news reports. The demonstrators were calling for private satellite broadcaster Al-Faraeen, known for its anti-Morsi commentaries, to be taken off the air and were also protesting what they called media corruption in front of Egypt’s Media Production City, according to news reports. The Media Production City is a large complex on the outskirts of Cairo where several media outlets have been built. News accounts reported that the protesters were also preventing guests from entering the complex.

Protesters attacked the car of Youssef al-Hosiny, a radio and television presenter who hosts a program on the private satellite broadcaster ONTV, and tried to prevent him from entering the complex, al-Hosiny said on his show. News accounts reported that the car of Amr Adeeb, a television host for the private satellite broadcaster Orbit, was also attacked by protesters on the same night, but did not offer details.

Khaled Salah, editor-in-chief of the private daily Youm7, said protesters holding pro-Morsi banners threw stones at his car and smashed his windows and mirrors as he tried to enter the complex, according to news reports. Salah filed a formal complaint against the Freedom and Justice Party and accused its leaders of inciting the attack against him, the reports said.

In a statement on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, the Freedom and Justice Party condemned the attacks on the journalists and denied any involvement.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Blog: As it backs Assange, Ecuador stifles expression at home

16 Aug

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa holds the hands of Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, during a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, Aug. 1. (AP/Martin Jaramillo)

The Quito government’s decision to grant Julian Assange political asylum comes at a time when freedom of expression is under siege in Ecuador. President Rafael Correa’s press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas, and providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder won’t change the repressive conditions facing Ecuadoran journalists who want to report critically about government policies and practices.

Research by numerous international human rights defenders–including CPJ, Human Rights Watch, the Ecuadoran press group Fundamedios, and the Organization of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression–has concluded that the Correa administration does not brook dissent and is engaged in a campaign to silence its critics in the media. 

Take, for example, the recent shutdown of 11 local radio stations. CPJ’s review of the closures found that a majority of the stations had been critical of the government and that regulators did not follow due process in many instances. In a letter to Director of Telecommunications Fabián Jaramillo, we expressed concern that the closures were a politicized effort to control the flow of information.

A 2011 CPJ special report found that Correa and his administration had a record of filing defamation lawsuits in civil and criminal courts as a means of intimidating critics. A case against the leading newspaper El Universo was emblematic of the practice. In February, Correa won a libel suit against the paper. Three directors and former opinion editor Emilio Palacio were sentenced to three years each in prison and a total of US$40 million in damages. Correa’s complaint stemmed from a February 2011 opinion column that suggested the president could be charged with crimes against humanity for his actions during a violent police uprising in 2010. Correa later pardoned the journalists–after having accomplished his goal of intimidating anyone who might challenge his policies. (It was too late for Palacio, who fled the country for fear of imprisonment.)

Legislation has also been passed to target critics in the media. Changes to the electoral law, passed by the National Assembly in January, included broadly worded provisions that will hamper press coverage of political campaigns ahead of the February 2013 presidential vote, when Correa will seek re-election. One provision states that the media “must abstain from promoting directly or indirectly” the campaigns of political candidates during the 90 days leading up to an election. Another prohibits media from publishing or transmitting any type of information, photos, or opinions about the electoral process during the 48 hours leading up to the election. A communications bill now under consideration in the National Assembly could further restrict free expression; its ambiguous language would give regulators wide discretion to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press.

Following in the footsteps of Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez, Correa has also built a muscular state media network that is used to launch smear campaigns against critics and to advance his narrow political agenda, CPJ research shows.  

It is ironic that the same government that has granted asylum to Assange has driven El Universo‘s Palacio into exile in the United States and is now using state media to smear César Ricaurte, head of Fundamedios and a leading defender of free expression.

The international community is not fooled. During the U.N. Universal Periodic Review in May, 17 member states drafted numerous recommendations to bolster the sad state of free expression in Ecuador. The government responded as it does to any reproach: with disdain. Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patiño said “ignorance” was behind the international criticism.

But as Ecuador provides support to Assange–an assertive if controversial force in promoting the free flow of information–it would do well to start listening to its critics, domestic, and international, and unstop the flow of information right at home.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

In Gabon, gunmen burn opposition TV station’s transmitter

16 Aug

Clashes broke out in Gabon's capital Libreville on Wednesday when police broke up a protest in support of the country's main opposition leader. (AFP/Xavier Bourgois)

Lagos, Nigeria, August 16, 2012–Unidentified gunmen today stormed a private television station owned by Gabon’s main opposition leader and burned down its transmitters, according to local journalists and news reports. It was the second armed attack on the broadcaster since 2009.

About 15 masked men armed with assault rifles and pistols subdued the five security guards at TV+ around 1 a.m. local time and set fire to the station’s transmitters on the third floor of a building in Libreville, the capital, according to news reports.

Hours before the attack, TV+, owned by former Interior Minister André Mba Obame, had extensively covered violent clashes between security forces and Obame’s supporters, who are calling for the ouster of President Ali Bongo and the holding of a national conference to draft a new constitution, news reports said.

Frank Nguema, director-general of TV+, told CPJ the motive for the arson is not clear but said the armed men set the transmitters on fire and left without taking any property or injuring anyone. The station is preparing to file a formal complaint with police and the courts, Nguema said. The station is not broadcasting for now, he said.

“We condemn the armed attack on TV+ and the sabotage of its transmitters as an act of political thuggery and censorship against an outlet critical of the government,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita in New York. “The Gabonese government must carry out a credible and transparent investigation or risk being suspected of involvement in the attack.”

In a telephone interview with CPJ, Blaise Louembe, Gabon’s information minister, denied any knowledge of the attack. “I confirm to you that I am not aware there was such an incident of fire or sabotage on TV+,” he said. “TV+ can also file a complaint which will ensure an investigation is carried out,” Louembe added.

Hours before the attack, TV+ had experienced power cuts that disrupted its coverage of the clashes, and had resorted to generators to continue broadcasting, according to news reports.

In September 2009, gunmen knocked the station off the air by firing on its transmitters, according to CPJ research.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Former Niger Delta militants attack journalist union office

16 Aug

A group of armed men attacked the office of the local branch of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the southern city of Warri on August 7, according to news reports. The men came with kegs of gasoline and threatened to lynch journalists and burn the office if they were not granted media coverage, news reports said.

The men, former insurgents from Nigeria’s oil-rich southern state of Delta, told the journalists they wanted to be interviewed about the government’s non-payment of their monthly allowance that was owed to them, the reports said. The ex-militants had received presidential amnesty in a July 2009 peace deal with the government, which pledged its commitment to rehabilitation and reintegration assistance in exchange for the insurgents surrendering their arms and renouncing militancy, news reports said.

The assailants manhandled Dele Fasan, a journalist with Galaxy Television, after he refused to record the protest, news reports said. Another journalist, Gbenga Ahmed, of Independent Television, whose car was vandalized during the attack, was forced to record the protest, the reports said.

The ex-militants told the journalists they had 30 minutes to begin interviewing them, but started to smash glass doors in the office after realizing that most of the press had fled, according to news reports. Soldiers who arrived at the scene arrested some of the protesters, news reports said.

Local human rights groups condemned the attack on the NUJ office as “barbaric,” and in a public statement, the presidential amnesty office, which oversees the agreement to end hostilities in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, called it “an unprovoked attack on journalists, according to news reports. The amnesty office dismissed the attackers as “imposters,” news reports said.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

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