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Blog: Erdoğan tells media not to cover Kurdish conflict

12 Sep

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan instructed the country's journalists not to cover soldiers' deaths or other news related to the conflict with Kurd separatists. (AP)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey is known to lash out publicly at journalists of whose coverage he disapproves. He has called on media owners and editors to discipline reporters and columnists critical of his policies, particularly when it comes to the sensitive Kurdish issue. In more than a few cases, to avoid trouble, newsroom managers have listened and dismissed the staffers in question.

But Erdoğan’s most recent televised “message to all the media” crosses from reprimanding into directly instructing journalists to stop covering the long-standing conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This is unthinkable.

At a live TV debate on August 31, the prime minister told journalists: “This [news about the conflict] must be ignored; there is no other way.” He proceeded to claim that U.S., French, and British media do not cover military action in Afghanistan. (This, of course, is untrue. A simple Google news search of the keywords “coalition forces in Afghanistan” returns 21,000 hits.)

Erdoğan brought up the recent kidnapping by the PKK of an opposition member of parliament, who was released two days later in southeastern Turkey. The prime minister said he believed the kidnapping had been staged and, by covering the incident, Turkish media served as a propaganda platform for the PKK. “I really expect the media [to act] as one hand, one heart,” Erdoğan said. “I want to come to an understanding with you on this subject. This is a message to all the media. There are soldiers of all the coalition forces in Afghanistan. There were 158 losses in the last month, I received the numbers today. However, you cannot see this in either a British newspaper or in a French one. However, when it is us, print media covers it all.

“What are they [Turkish media] doing?” the prime minister said. “The most important target of terrorism is propaganda. [Terrorism] gets it done for free here. On whose side will the media be?”

Propaganda of terrorism is an umbrella term in Turkey, where the legal system provides authorities with ample opportunity to prosecute and imprison journalists, publishers, academics, activists, and demonstrators on the vaguely defined charge. Dozens of journalists are in prison in Turkey for their work, the vast majority of them on PKK and terrorism-related charges.

The prime minister has publicly claimed a commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression as pillars of a democratic society, including in last week’s exclusive interview with CNN journalist and CPJ board member Christiane Amanpour. But when he equates media coverage with abetting terrorism, he sends a message to Turkey’s judiciary and prosecutors to keep going after members of the press who cover the sensitive Kurdish story.

In his August 31 statements, Erdoğan specifically told the media to stop reporting on fallen Turkish soldiers, who are officially recognized as “martyrs” by the Turkish state. When a journalist pointed out that readers demand coverage of the issue, the prime minister was straightforward: “Here, I believe that covering it even in small ways should be put aside. It should not be covered at all.”

It’s of little surprise, then, that pro-Kurdish local television station Gün TV is banned from broadcasting its evening news programs for a week starting tomorrow. The program’s hosts were also banned from appearing on air–not only on Gün TV but on any station–for the same period. An astronomy documentary series will be aired instead of news, local reports said. The ban was ordered by the High Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK)–the state media regulator–on a complaint made by Mustafa Toprak, the governor of Diyarbakir province, on request of local police. The complaint said that Gün TV was involved in terrorist propaganda by praising the PKK and its leaders, according to the local press.

Meanwhile, the trial of more than 40 Kurdish journalists, charged with supporting terrorism, continued for a third consecutive day in Istanbul today. The accusations stem from media coverage of PKK activities. 

from Committee to Protect Journalists


Ivoirian journalist attacked by minister’s security detail

12 Sep

(Anderson Diédri)

Lagos, Nigeria, September 12, 2012–An Ivoirian government security detail assaulted a journalist covering the eviction of a senior official’s family on Friday, seizing his equipment and leaving him bleeding and bruised, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack and calls on authorities to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.

A police officer, a military soldier, and agents in plainclothes attacked Anderson Diédri, a reporter for the private daily Le Nouveau Courrier, as he interviewed and photographed a woman and her five children as they were being evicted from their home in Abidjan, according to local journalists and news reports. The woman’s husband, Albert Toikeusse Mabri, the minister of planning and development, had sought the eviction after filing for divorce in June.

Mabri had sent the assailants to supervise the eviction, even though an appeals court had nullified an eviction order issued earlier by a lower court, news reports said.

Diédri said that he had identified himself as a journalist to his assailants, but the men continued to punch and kick him, leaving him with a bloody lip and bruises on his body, according to news reports. He said the men had also seized his camera and mobile phone, news reports said. One of Mabri’s aides later returned the camera to the journalist, but all of the photographs had been deleted, Stéphane Bahi, the editor of Le Nouveau Courrier, told CPJ.

No one has been arrested for the assault, according to local journalists. Bahi told CPJ that the newspaper planned to file an official complaint.

Edmond Doua, the director of communications to Mabri, told CPJ that the minister had not ordered the assault. Doua also said that the images had been deleted because the journalist had taken photographs of a private affair without any authorization. He said he had personally apologized to Le Nouveau Courrier and secured the release of the journalist’s equipment.

“We condemn the assault on Anderson Diédri in connection with his reporting on a public official,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “If Ivoirian minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri did not order the attack, it is all the more imperative that he do everything in his power to identify Diédri’s assailants and bring them to justice.”

  • For more data and analysis on the Ivory Coast, visit CPJ’s Ivory Coast page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Côte d’Ivoire – Ivorian authorities ban six privately-owned publications

12 Sep

12 September 2012

(MFWA/IFEX) – 11 September 2012 – On 7 September 2012, Côte d’Ivoire’s statutory print regulatory body imposed a ban on six publications of Notre Voie, a privately owned, pro-Gbagbo daily.

The National Press Council (CNP) issued a communiqué that rebukes the newspaper for publishing photographs of key figures from the former regime alongside captions reading “Minister.” The CNP says these captions create the impression of “the existence of two governments in Cote d’Ivoire.”

A correspondent for The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) reported that the CNP charged the newspaper with contradicting a law instilled on April 14, 2011. The law declares that all decisions taken under former President Laurent Gbagbo since December 4, 2010 are “null and void.”

“Describing [the people photographed] as such, in spite of the ordinance, falls under sedition and reveals a hidden agenda,” the communiqué says.

In addition to the ban, authorities have warned all printers to stop publishing Notre Voie in any form whatsoever, MFWA’s correspondent said.

The newspaper has 30 days, from the time of notification, to refer to the matter in court, the statement says.


Media Foundation for West Africa
PO Box LG 730
30 Duade Street, Kokomlemle
Legon, Accra
alerts (@)
Phone: +233 302 242470
Fax: +233 302 221084

via IFEX

Iran persists in its crackdown against journalists

12 Sep

New York, September 12, 2012–Continuing their three-year-long clampdown on journalists covering human rights, minority groups, and political reform, Iranian authorities have summoned two journalists to begin prison terms and are bringing two others to trial.

“These actions are not only a terrible injustice but a reminder to every journalist in Iran that they can be jailed at any time for their critical reporting,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Authorities summoned Shiva Nazar Ahari, a blogger and founding member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), on Saturday to begin serving her prison sentence in the women’s ward of Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to CHRR. In 2010, Nazar Ahari was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of moharebeh, or “waging war against God,” “propagating against the regime,” and “acting against national security” for reporting on political gatherings, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In January 2011, an appeals court reduced her sentence to four years in prison and 74 lashes, news reports said.

Nazar Ahari has been targeted by authorities in the past. Following the disputed presidential elections in June 2009, she was arrested twice and spent several months in Evin Prison, including time in solitary confinement, news reports said.

In the other case, Zhila Bani Yaghoub, a former editor of the banned reformist daily Sarmayeh, began serving a one-year prison term on September 2 in Evin Prison’s women’s ward, according to news reports. She was sentenced in 2010 to a year in prison on anti-state charges and banned from practicing journalism for 30 years, news reports said.

Bani Yaghoub was arrested in June 2009 with her husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, who is also a journalist, news reports said. Amouee, who is serving a five-year sentence, was transferred out of Evin Prison and sent to Rajaee Shahr Prison earlier this year, according to news reports.

Two other journalists are currently awaiting trial. Kasra Nouri, a reporter for the news website Majzooban-e Noor, has been detained since March on charges that included “propagating against the regime in favor of foreigners,” her employer reported. The journalist’s trial began on August 29, in which she was indicted for “publishing falsehoods and creating public anxiety through membership in the Majzooban-e Noor website,” according to the same source. Majzooban-e Noor reports on the widespread persecution of the Gonabadi Dervishes religious minority, according to news reports. Nouri is awaiting trial in prison, news reports said.

Abbas Khosravi Faresani, a political blogger who criticized the government, is free on bail pending trial, according to news reports. He was arrested in the city of Isfahan on anti-state charges in June, news reports said. Faresani was held for 20 days in Isfahan’s Central Prison, where he was tortured to confess to the charges of “acting against national security through creating public anxiety and publishing lies,” “insulting the Supreme Leader and regime high officials,” and being a member of “enemy organizations that are related to Israel,” the reports said.

Iran is one of the world’s worst jailers of the press, holding dozens of journalists in abusive conditions. Issa Saharkhiz, who has been jailed since July 2009, began refusing food and medication on Monday to protest his transfer back to Evin Prison on August 28, according to several reformist news websites. Saharkhiz had been at a local hospital since February to receive medical treatment for a heart condition, but authorities moved him back to prison against the wishes of his doctor, news reports said.

Another journalist, Mohammad Davari, former editor-in-chief of Saham News website and a CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient, has also been harassed while in prison. Davari was stripped naked and searched as he re-entered the prison after a short visit to a hospital for a medical exam, according to reformist news websites. Davari is serving a five-year sentence on anti-state charges and has not been allowed a single day of furlough in the three years he has been jailed, CPJ research shows.

One journalist in Evin Prison was flogged in mid-August during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to news reports. Siamak Ghaderi, a freelance reporter who is serving a four-year prison term, told his wife that he and 13 political prisoners had been lashed, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Iranian authorities released several prisoners, including a number of journalists, on August 15, the end of Ramadan, according to news reports. Hamzeh Karami, Ali Malihi, Nazanin Khosravani, Farshad Ghorbanpour, and Rahman Bouzari were all freed, but it is unclear if their release is temporary.

Since 2009, Iran’s regime has maintained a revolving-door policy for imprisoning journalists and has held dozens of journalists at any given time. When CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1, 2011, Iran was holding 42 journalists in custody.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Blog: China’s Xi Jinping unseen, unsearchable

12 Sep

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping has not been seen in public since Sept. 1. (Reuters/How Hwee Young)

It was only a matter of time before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s physical absence from the public view was accompanied by his disappearance from cyberspace. The characters “Jinping” from his name were censored today from searches of Sina’s microblog service Weibo, according to the Fei Chang Dao blog. Where else but China does a deficiency of information about a nonappearance become a story worth deleting?

So is there a story or isn’t there? International news reports say that Xi, President Hu Jintao’s expected successor, has not been seen in public since Sept. 1, and missed a Sept.  5 meeting scheduled with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That was either a snub, a swimming injury, a stroke, or an assassination attempt, depending on who you talk to. Xi has missed other appointments too, though the full extent of his truancy remains unclear. 

Also on Sept. 5, he skipped sessions with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and a Russian official, according to a Hong Kong South China Morning Post report published Sept.  6. This week, he failed to show up for Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, although she told Reuters the meet was never scheduled.  

It’s hard to imagine a U.S presidential nominee vanishing for nearly two weeks, though as the Communist Party’s internal candidate, Xi’s appointment does not depend on public opinion. As only one of nine on the governing Politburo Standing Committee, his individual status is also less significant than many other up-and-coming world leaders. Xi’s fellow Standing Committee member He Guoqiang disappeared too, from August 23 until today, when he visited a newspaper publisher, Reuters reported. Still, for Xi to cancel on Clinton and others looks bad, and the Foreign Ministry press briefing is woefully ineffectual when it comes to diffusing suspicion. “I have no information to offer you on this,” and “I hope you can ask a serious question,” are highlights from spokesman Hong Lei’s treatment of the Xi Jinping mystery this week, according to international news reports. It’s hard to imagine an explanation for Xi’s absenteeism that would be more harmful to China’s image than this stonewalling.

Cue the rumors. China has a particularly bad record when it comes to releasing information about rulers and their personal lives. That, and an engaged online citizenry, creates the ideal environment for speculation. Forget Jiang Zemin’s non-heart attack last year. Think Bo Xilai, back in the day when his murder-corruption saga was still breaking. The showy trial of Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, for poisoning British citizen Neil Heywood, is a reminder that even the most unlikely-sounding rumors on the Chinese Internet could turn out to be true. Or, at least, that the story propaganda officials disseminate is sometimes barely more credible than the gossip that preceded it.

News consumers are left unsatisfied. Conspiracy theories abound. Public trust is undermined, and political leaders slighted. For a country that has invested so much capital and manpower in managing information, China is doing a miserably poor job. 

UPDATE: The name of the blog Fei Chang Dao has been corrected.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

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