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Tunisia – Tunisia should accept all UN recommendations on free expression, says IFEX-TMG

26 Sep

26 September 2012

Kamel Labidi (centre left) speaks at Tunisia's UPR at the UN in Geneva.

Kamel Labidi (centre left) speaks at Tunisia’s UPR at the UN in Geneva.

IFEX-TMG

(IFEX-TMG) – While welcoming Tunisia’s acceptance of 110 of its 125 recommendations during a United Nations review last week, the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG) calls on the country’s leadership to adopt the recommendations related to freedom of expression without delay. Furthermore, the IFEX-TMG encourages a review of the legal basis for refusing to end the criminalisation of defamation, as was called for by one recommendation that the country rejected during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Tunisia that was adopted in Geneva.

During his presentation at the UPR session on 19 September, Samir Dilou, the Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, once again invoked the idea of “tradition” and “culture” in order to avoid answering specific questions related to the state of human rights and freedom of expression in Tunisia. The Minister used an argument that has been repeatedly used to appease rights defenders when he said, “Tunisia needs more time to build a culture of human rights.”

Ideas about tradition have been easily manipulated to suppress dissent and freedom of association and expression in Tunisia, where violations to the right to freedom of expression have been occurring with impunity in the name of “sacred values.” The IFEX-TMG calls on the Tunisian government to comply with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s mechanisms and to take immediate steps to fully implement the recommendations brought forth during the UPR process related to freedom of expression.

While Minister Dilou claimed that Tunisia is laying the foundations of a State which respects human rights while also respecting its cultural identity, IFEX-TMG continues to document cases of civilians who are referred to exceptional courts to punish them for expressing their opinions, as in the case of a former advisor of the president which is currently pending before a military court.

“Media professionals continue to be referred to trial before a judiciary that is not yet fully independent, simply for performing their jobs, or are threatened with litigation,” said Kamel Labidi, a Tunisian journalist who made an oral intervention on behalf of the IFEX-TMG and its member the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) on 19 September.

Labidi is IFEX-TMG’s former advocacy officer as well as the former president of the National Authority to Reform Information and Communication (INRIC), which ended its work in July, stating that it could no longer function in the current atmosphere of instability and obstruction. INRIC also launched a comprehensive 300-page report (now available on-line in English, French and Arabic) with recommendations for media reform to reverse the effects of the relentless assault on the media under the regime of Ben Ali. Welcoming this report, IFEX-TMG members have adopted many of the same recommendations, which were made in consultation with numerous and diverse representatives of civil society and media in Tunisia.

At the UN last week, the Tunisian Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice stated that the government had undertaken consultations with media unions and others to ensure media freedom and that the government was carrying out reform with integrity. Yet, local NGOs and media experts say they have not been properly consulted, and the Tunisian government is acting unilaterally and without transparency when deciding the fate of freedom of expression and media.

Since the beginning of the year numerous attempts to control the media have been seen in Tunisia, including attacks on journalists.

For example, the government continues to appoint media heads without consultation. At the end of August, journalists began a sit-in to protest the naming of Lotfi Touati, a controversial figure who worked for the police and was implicated in corruption and the 2009 government-backed coup against the democratically elected board of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists, as the new director at influential media publishing company Dar Assabah. On 13 September, Touati hit a demonstrating journalist with his car, resulting in the journalist being sent to the hospital for medical care, in what witnesses and lawyers called a deliberate “murder attempt.” This followed comments during a public demonstration in the Casbah the week before by Habib Ellouze, a hardline leader of the Ennahdha party, who urged the government “to hit the media opposed to the Revolution.”

During a separate oral intervention at the UN on 19 September, Ghias Aljundi of PEN International and IFEX-TMG expressed concern about the increasing use of violence against journalists, artists and writers and the failure of the government to put an end to these attacks. “Political and religious leaders have openly called for violence against journalists and the government has taken no action,” he said. “A legal vacuum has been created which has allowed the government to control the press, and there have been clear delays when it comes to legal reforms, such as implementing media decrees passed by the interim government last year.”

“Never since 14 January 2011 has the media sector been so threatened, by virtue of the multiplication of restrictions on freedom of the press and by the government’s desire to keep tight control of the public media,” Labidi told the IFEX-TMG. “On the other hand, fortunately, solidarity among Tunisian journalists has never before been so strong, nor their desire to defend freedom of expression and the independence of public media so tenacious.”

IFEX-TMG calls on the Tunisian authorities to unconditionally implement the recommendations of the UPR report, particularly those related to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the independence of the judiciary. It also calls on the government to take practical steps to guarantee freedom of expression in practice in the new constitution and, furthermore, to implement genuine reforms of the judiciary.

Finally, IFEX-TMG welcomes moves by the Tunisian government to engage with the UN and other rights bodies, such as hosting upcoming visits to Tunisia by the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders from the UN and African Commission in October.

via IFEX

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Nepal – Radio journalist missing in Nepal, another reporter threatened

26 Sep

26 September 2012

Source: Federation of Nepali Journalists
(FNJ/IFEX) – 25 September 2012 – The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) is very concerned over the disappearance of a radio journalist who went missing on the evening of 16 September 2012 from Taplejung (Eastern Region of Nepal). Madan Poudel, who is affiliated with Radio Tamor 102 MHz, was last seen at Fulbari, Taplejung where he was attending an event called “Taplejung Dance Star 2069”.

The incident is suspicious as well as mysterious as journalist Poudel went missing the same day he reached Fulbari. FNJ calls on the local administration to immediately investigate the incident and punish the guilty.

FNJ also calls on human rights activists, civil society representatives, media persons and media related organisations for assistance in ascertaining the whereabouts of radio journalist Poudel.

In a separate incident, a journalist was mistreated and threatened with death by Prabin Pandey, a teacher at the Buddha Secondary School in Rautahat (Central Region of Nepal), for no apparent reason. On 24 September, Pandey threatened journalist Madhan Thakur who is also the treasurer of FNJ’s Routahat Chapter.

FNJ believes that the local administration should initiate measures to prevent such incidents from reoccurring. The educational sector has been shamed by the fact that such a responsible person involved in the academic field has resorted to such an act.

via IFEX

Philippines – Lessons learned 40 years after the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines

26 Sep

26 September 2012

Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

CMFR

(CMFR/IFEX) – Sept. 21, 2012 – What were the lessons learned by the Philippine press as a result of Martial Law, or did it learn anything at all? As we commemorate the 40th year since Martial Law was imposed on Sept. 21, 1972, here’s our special page on Martial Law and the press.

CMFR’s executive officers, Melinda Quintos de Jesus, Luis V. Teodoro, and Vergel O. Santos, relive their memories and share their thoughts about the Philippine press before, during and after that period.

In addition, we posted a timeline of press freedom from the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 up to 1981, when former President Ferdinand Marcos formally lifted Martial Law, to the eventual ouster of the Marcos dictatorship after People Power 1 in 1986.

We also put in one Scribd collection our stories and reports, mostly from PJR Reports and the Philippine Journalism Review, on the Martial Law and the media.

via IFEX

Syria – Journalist killed by sniper during attack by rebel forces in Syria

26 Sep

26 September 2012

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ/IFEX) – New York, September 26, 2012 – Iran’s Press TV has reported that one of its correspondents, Maya Naser, was killed today while reporting on twin explosions and ensuing clashes in Damascus. The state-run station also said that its Damascus bureau chief, Hussein Mortada, was wounded in the same sniper fire and attributed both shootings to insurgents.

The Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the explosions at the Syrian military headquarters in Damascus, although it issued no immediate statement in regard to the journalists. Press TV blamed “Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, who provide weapons and militants to kill civilians,” for the shootings, according to a statement on its website.

“Journalists are civilians and should not be targeted,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “These deaths show the terrible price that reporters are paying to bring news of this conflict.”

Naser was shot in the neck while reporting on the explosions that were followed by intense fighting between Syrian government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army, according to news reports and Press TV.

Naser, a Syrian national who lived in Damascus, wrote regularly on his own blog, according to news reports. Naser, who was seen as sympathetic to the Syrian regime, had blamed the war in Syria on the “West and Al-Qaeda” in his blog, news reports said. His latest TV report on the opposition parties meeting in Damascus had aired three days ago, the reports said.

Mortada, a Lebanese national living in Syria who was also bureau chief of Press TV’s sister Arabic-language channel Al-Alam, was shot in the back while he and Naser were reporting on the bombings and clashes, according to Press TV and news reports. Mortada is seeking treatment at a Damascus hospital, according to news reports.

At least 22 other journalists have been killed while covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, making Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research.

While CPJ research indicates that many of the fatalities in Syria have been at the hands of government forces, an increasing number of attacks against journalists and news outlets seen as pro-government have been attributed to rebel forces. At least three journalists for the pro-government TV station Al-Ikhbariya were kidnapped in August, and one killed in unclear circumstances, according to news reports.

via IFEX

Syria – Syrian journalist killed in allegedly targeted attack

26 Sep

26 September 2012

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ/IFEX) – New York, September 21, 2012 – Syrian security forces launched an assault Wednesday on the home of a cameraman who had recorded hundreds of videos on the country’s conflict, burning the house and killing the journalist and three of his friends, local activists told international news outlets. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the brutal attack and calls on all sides to stop targeting journalists.

The assault took place in the central city of Hama at the home of Abdel Karim al-Oqda, a cameraman and reporter for Shaam News Network, a citizen news organization based in Damascus. News reports said soldiers killed the journalist and his friends first and then burned the house, but the exact manner of their deaths was not reported. An amateur video posted on YouTube showed four badly burned bodies, the reports said.

Agence-France Presse cited a media activist as saying that the army had targeted al-Oqda’s house because of his coverage of the unrest. “They knew very well who he was. The whole of Hama knew how much of the revolution he had filmed,” the activist said, according to AFP.

Al-Oqda, who used the pseudonym Abu Hassan, worked as Shaam’s reporter in Hama and filmed more than a thousand videos for the network and his YouTube channel, according to news reports. He covered fighting between regime forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army, bombardments by government troops, and civilian deaths, news reports said.

Shaam has posted thousands of videos documenting the unrest in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011. The network’s footage has been used by international news organizations such as Al-Jazeera and the BBC.

“We condemn this brutal targeting and murder of Abdel Karim al-Oqda,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists are civilians, and the army must know that it will be held accountable for its actions against reporters.”

At least 21 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, making Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research.

CPJ has documented a resurgence in dangers facing the press in Syria over the past five weeks, including the disappearance of three foreign journalists. Turkish cameraman Cüneyt Ünal and reporter Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, who work for the U.S. government-funded Al-Hurra, were reported missing in the northwestern city of Aleppo on August 20, according to news reports. Six days later, Ünal appeared in a video saying he had been taken captive while reporting in Syria, but did not explicitly name his captors, although the video appeared on a pro-government television channel. The cameraman made no mention of Fahmi. No further information is known about the journalists’ whereabouts or condition.

U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice has not been heard from for over a month. At the end of August, the Czech ambassador who represents U.S. interests in Syria said the government had detained Tice, but Syrian authorities have refused to confirm if they are holding him, according to news reports. No further information is known about his whereabouts or condition.

“We call on the captors of Cüneyt Ünal, Bashar Fahmi, and Austin Tice to release them,” said CPJ’s Mahoney.

via IFEX

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