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AP, Reuters journalists beaten, detained in Belarus

18 Sep

New York, September 18, 2012–Authorities in Belarus must immediately investigate the attack and detention of at least seven journalists reporting on a protest in downtown Minsk today and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Agents in plainclothes repeatedly hit several journalists covering an opposition protest organized by activists calling for a boycott of Sunday’s parliamentary vote, according to news reports. Sergei Grits, a photographer for The Associated Press, said his face was covered with blood after one of the assailants punched him and broke his glasses, according to AP.

All of the journalists were shoved into a minivan with no license plates and driven to a police station where their equipment and documents were confiscated with no explanation, news reports said. Police held the journalists without charge for two hours and then released them, the AP reported. The officials also deleted the images and video recordings from the journalists’ cameras before returning the equipment, Reuters reported.

The journalists who were detained and obstructed from reporting include Reuters photojournalist Vasiliy Fedosenko; cameraman Dmitry Rudakov and reporter Aleksei Akulov of the German broadcaster ZDF; Tatyana Zenkovich, a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency; Pavel Podobeda, reporter for the Minsk-based news agency BelaPan; and independent journalist Aleksandr Borozenko, the Belarusian Association of Journalists reported.

“This violent obstruction of news-gathering reinforces the country’s disreputable reputation as one of the world’s most censored nations,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Authorities should end the crude censorship tactics of beatings and detentions, and instead respect their own electoral process by allowing unfettered coverage of the parliamentary vote.”

Belarusian authorities are known for silencing journalists and repressing supporters of the opposition, particularly around sensitive political events such as elections, CPJ research shows. An intense cycle of repression against the independent press has been ongoing since the December 2010 presidential vote, which left Belarusian strongman Aleksandr Lukashenko in power. International observers declared the 2010 vote flawed.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/09/ap-reuters-journalists-beaten-detained-in-belarus.php

Chinese Internet writer detained after posting on Diaoyu

18 Sep

Jiao Guobiao was detained last week in connection with articles he published on the Diaoyo Islands. (Reuters/Richard Chung)

New York, September 18, 2012–Chinese authorities should release a well-known academic and Internet writer detained last week in connection with his published articles, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Jiao Guobiao has been targeted in the past for his articles criticizing the Chinese government.

Beijing’s public security bureau detained Jiao on September 12 on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power after he published articles on the dispute between China and Taiwan over the unoccupied Diaoyu Islands, according to the Independent Chinese PEN Center and Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Jiao, a former journalism professor, had lost his position at Beijing University in 2004 as a result of articles he had published that criticized the country’s Central Propaganda Bureau, CPJ research shows.

China has forcefully asserted its claim to the territory in recent weeks, with activists planting flags on the land and patriotic news coverage fueling incidents of anti-Japanese violence, according to news reports.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders did not specify where Jiao had published his articles, but his September 11 post on the exile-run news outlet Boxun discussed the Diaoyu Islands, which are known as “Senkaku” in Japan. The article also complained that Chinese officials were illegally infringing on citizens’ rights, after officials had forbidden Jiao from attending a PEN meeting in Korea in early September.

“We are deeply disturbed to learn that Jiao Guobiao has been detained and call on Beijing’s public security bureau to release him immediately,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “China’s defense of its claim to the Diaoyu Islands is a matter of public interest, and journalists in China should be allowed to comment on it freely.”

Anti-state charges are frequently used against writers who comment on sensitive political issues, according to CPJ research. Nobel Peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence on inciting subversion of state power for writing about political reform, according to news reports. China was holding 27 journalists behind bars when CPJ conducted its worldwide census of imprisoned journalists on December 1, 2011.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/09/chinese-internet-writer-detained-after-posting-on.php

Bahrain – End persecution of human rights defenders in Bahrain now, says international appeal to UNHRC

18 Sep

17 September 2012

Nabeel Rajab, since jailed, joins colleagues from BCHR and BYSHR, including Mohammed Al-Maskati, during a protest march to free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in Bahrain in April 2012.

Nabeel Rajab, since jailed, joins colleagues from BCHR and BYSHR, including Mohammed Al-Maskati, during a protest march to free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in Bahrain in April 2012.

BCHR

(IFEX) – 17 September 2012 – As human rights groups lobbying during the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), we call on UNHRC member states participating in Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to join us in urging Bahrain to accept the UPR recommendations, to be adopted on 19 September. We particularly urge the international community to call for the unconditional release of human rights defenders, bloggers, peaceful opposition activists, and all those jailed for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and to ensure that those who participate in the UPR process do not face reprisals.

The following are among the human rights defenders who are currently jailed in Bahrain:

• Nabeel Rajab, sentenced on 16 August 2012 to three years’ imprisonment in relation to three cases brought against him for calling for and participating in peaceful gatherings that the government deems “illegal”. His family has reported his ill-treatment in prison, where he is held separately from other political prisoners.

• Zainab Al-Khawaja, arrested on 2 August 2012 after she staged a one-woman protest calling for the release of her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. It was her fifth arrest since April 2012. On 4 August, she was accused of tearing a photo of the King at the police station and remains in detention, facing 13 charges in total. She requires medical attention for a broken leg suffered during a demonstration.

• Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace, whose life sentences were upheld by the High Criminal Court of Appeal on 4 September 2012 in the high-profile case of 13 political and human rights leaders. Despite allegations of confessions made under torture, the men were among 21 originally sentenced by military court in June 2011 to between two years and life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution.” In the same case, Blogger Ali Abdulemam was sentenced to 15 years in absentia and his whereabouts are unknown.

Other people from all walks of life including journalists, doctors, teachers, lawyers and athletes have been jailed, tortured, threatened and persecuted for speaking out about human rights violations that occurred after hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in February 2011 to call for reforms. Regular protests occur in Bahrain, and many demonstrators continue to be injured, including by teargas or birdshot, or jailed for participating in demonstrations.

In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which was mandated by the King to investigate reports of serious human rights violations that occurred since February 2011, released its report. Among the recommendations, the BICI called for the cases of over 300 individuals jailed for peacefully expressing their views to be transferred to civil court, and for an investigation into allegations of torture in detention, which was used to extract confessions. The BICI also recorded a culture of impunity in the deaths of prisoners in custody due to torture, and called for the authorities to hold those responsible accountable. Estimates by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), of which Nabeel Rajab is President, put the number of political prisoners at 3000 as of today, and rights groups continue to record cases of torture and mistreatment in prison.

We remain concerned for the safety of Bahraini human rights defenders, particularly after those who participated in Bahrain’s UPR in May 2012 were threatened by Bahraini authorities and pro-government media. According to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), its President Mohammed Al-Maskati received death threats in the past week for his participation in the current session of the UNHRC.

We are among over 100 NGOs, UN experts, 27 UNHRC members states, the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commission for Human Rights calling on all members of the UN HRC to press the Bahraini authorities to:

• Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace and all those jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, observing due process, as recommended by the BICI;
• Implement all 176 recommendations in Bahrain’s UPR, including to respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, not just 156 of them;
• Suspend and then revoke the use of penal code articles that violate the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;
• Comply with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998, and international human rights treaties and documents ratified by Bahrain, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
• Guarantee the safety of Bahrainis who attend the UNHRC sessions, ensuring they won’t face reprisals as a result of their participation in the peaceful promotion of human rights protection.

Advisory: Please join a side event organised by international NGOs with Bahraini rights groups, Bearing Witness: Bahrain and the UPR Process, on 18 September 2012 (14h-16h, Room XXI, Palais des Nations, Geneva).

Co-signatories:

Bahrain Press Association (BPA)
Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti Violence Organisation (BRAVO)
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Media Support (IMS)
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre

via IFEX

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