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In Nigeria, Boko Haram threatens attacks on media

24 Sep

A radical militant Islamist group released an 18-minute video on May 1 that threatened attacks on at least 14 local and international news outlets, according to news reports. In the video, Boko Haram, a group seeking the imposition of Sharia law in northern Nigeria, accused the outlets of biased reporting and crimes against Islam and also claimed responsibility for prior attacks on newspapers, news reports said.

Boko Haram singled out three international news organizations and 11 local newspapers in the video and accused them of misrepresenting the group’s activities, inciting the public to support the government against the group, and attacking Islam in their reporting, among other allegations, the news website Premium Times reported. The video was recorded in the Hausa language.

“These media houses have committed a lot of offences that is detrimental to Islam, and we don’t have the power to forgive them. We will take revenge on them by God’s grace,” the video said, according to a translation by the Premium Times.

The international news outlets that were mentioned in the video include the Hausa-language service of the U.S. government-funded international broadcaster Voice of America; the French government-funded international broadcaster Radio France Internationale; and Sahara Reporters, a New York-based citizen reporting news site. The 11 local newspapers named were ThisDay, Punch, Daily Sun, Vanguard, Guardian, Nation, Tribune, National Accord, Leadership, Daily Trust, and People’s Daily.

Boko Haram also claimed responsibility in the video for the April 26 coordinated attacks on the offices of three newspapers–ThisDay, The Sun, and The Moment–in the capital, Abuja, and the northern city of Kaduna, according to news reports. The group justified the attacks by blaming ThisDay for “dishonoring our prophet, Mohammed (SAW) during a beauty pageant in Kaduna in November 2002,” the video said.

In November 16, 2002, journalist Isioma Daniel wrote a column suggesting Mohammed might have a married a contestant in that year’s Miss World beauty pageant, scheduled to be held in Nigeria. The pageant was eventually canceled, and Daniel fled into exile following calls for her death, news reports said.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

At least five radio stations attacked in Mali

24 Sep

At least five radio stations were attacked in March as Tuareg separatists, allied with extremist Islamist militants, pushed the Malian army back from the northeastern region of Gao, according to news reports.

The Malian army occupied Radio Adar Ansongo in the town of Ansongo in March, turning the station into a temporary military position, according to news reports. After the army retreated later that month, militants of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) occupied the station, news reports said.

MNLA fighters seized Gao, the regional capital, on March 31 and ransacked the local offices of the Malian national public broadcaster ORTM, according to local journalists. The same day, hardline Islamist militants of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is affiliated with the MNLA, seized La Voix des Jeunes, a youth-oriented radio station in Gao, and renamed the station Radio Askia Mohammed Islamiya, news reports said. The militants restricted the station’s programming to Islamic-oriented content, according to the same sources.

Also in late March, rebels ransacked Radio Rurale de Manaka, in the town of Ménaka, and Radio Doddya, in the town of Andéramboukane, local journalists and news reports said.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

CNN offices in Nigeria harassed by men in plainclothes

24 Sep

Armed men in plainclothes raided the offices of CNN in the commercial capital of Lagos on January 16 amid nationwide protests over hikes in fuel prices, according to local journalists and news reports.

The men, who local journalists believed to be from the State Security Service, bypassed security in the CNN offices and damaged the entrance door, according to one journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity. The agents stopped a live news broadcast and asked the staff questions about expatriate quotas and what permission the outlet had to operate, news reports said. The men stayed for about 20 minutes and left a phone number with instructions for the staff to contact the authorities, the reports said.

In a posting on Twitter, CNN confirmed the reports and requested an explanation from Nigerian authorities, according to news reports. CNN had covered the fuel subsidy protests and used footage from citizen journalists and stringers across Nigeria, according to news reports.

News reports citing a BBC correspondent in Lagos said the agents also went to the BBC offices, located in the same building as the CNN offices, and asked for the contact information of a staff member. But Karen Rosine, public relations manager for the BBC News, denied that operatives from the State Security Service had entered the offices, local daily Punch reported.

Marilyn Ogar, a spokesperson for the State Security Service, denied reports that security operatives visited the media outlets, according to news reports.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Vietnam hands three bloggers harsh prison terms

24 Sep

Police stand outside the entrance of the court where three bloggers were convicted and sentenced on anti-state charges today. (AFP)

Bangkok, September 24, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the harsh prison sentences handed down today to three prominent Vietnamese online journalists convicted of anti-state charges. In a widening crackdown on press and Internet freedoms, Vietnamese courts have sentenced six journalists and bloggers to prison in the last five weeks.

Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court sentenced Nguyen Van Hai, who writes under the blog name Dieu Cay, to 12 years, according to news reports. Ta Phong Tan, a former policewoman who maintained a blog known as “Justice and Truth,” was sentenced to 10 years, and Phan Thanh Hai, who wrote under the penname “Anh Ba Saigon,” was given four years, news reports said. All had posted blog entries deemed critical of the Communist Party-dominated government, the reports said.

“Today’s sentences, imposed against three online journalists who were merely expressing critical opinions, mark a new low point for press freedom in Vietnam,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call upon the judicial authorities to reverse these outrageous convictions and sentences and ask Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s government to reform its repressive laws in line with international standards of freedom of expression.”

The sentences were handed down in a six-hour summary trial and were consistent with the harsh prison terms recently given to pro-democracy and human rights activists. All three bloggers were held in detention ahead of today’s ruling and will be required to spend between three to five years under house arrest after their jail sentences are served.

The online journalists had posted the entries, judged illegal under Article 88 of the penal code that bars propagandizing against the state, to the Free Journalists Club website, which they had founded, as well as to their personal blogs, according to news reports.

“They abused the popularity of the Internet to post articles which undermined and blackened Vietnam’s (leaders), criticizing the (Communist) party (and) destroying people’s trust in the state,” Court President Nguyen Phi Long said in justifying the ruling, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Police intimidated family members of the three bloggers and warned them against attending the trial. Nguyen Tri Dung, Hai’s son, told CPJ by email that police intentionally rammed his mother’s car on Friday in Bac Lieu province and that she was summoned to report to a police station coincident with today’s trial. He also said that police had warned the family of the other two bloggers against wearing black T-shirts as a symbol of protest at the trial. The Free Journalists Network of Vietnam told CPJ on Monday that police had detained Hai’s son and mother to prevent them from attending. Dan Thi Kim Lieng, Tan’s mother, died after setting herself on fire in July to protest against the government’s handling of the case, news reports said.

In August, Dinh Dang Dinh was sentenced to six years on anti-state charges, and Le Thanh Tun to five years, both in connection with their blog postings, according to news reports. Journalist Nguyen Van Khuong was jailed this month for undercover bribery conducted during a corruption investigation, news reports said.

Including today’s convictions, at least 14 journalists are now imprisoned in Vietnam, according to CPJ research. A CPJ special report released last week reveals how Vietnamese authorities have ramped up repression of both old and new media even as they promote an open, globalized economy.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists

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