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Uganda police beat journalists covering opposition leader

4 Oct

Kizza Besigye (Isaac Kasmani)

Nairobi, October 4, 2012–Ugandan police officers beat three journalists while they were reporting on the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye outside the Kampala Central Police Station today, according to news reports. The attacks are the latest in at least 10 cases of similar assaults documented by CPJ in several months.

“Ugandan police are engaged in a cynical and lawless cycle: Officers assault journalists covering news events, their superiors profess they will investigate but hold no one accountable, and then officers attack journalists again the next week,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on police to hold their officers fully accountable under the law and to ensure this pattern of assault comes to an end.”

A police officer ordered freelance journalist Isaac Kasamani to stop taking photographs of Besigye and slapped him, and then another officer pushed him to the ground, the journalist told CPJ. He said he suffered a swollen elbow and that his camera was broken. He also told CPJ that police prevented him from filing a complaint at the station.

Police officers also attacked William Ntege, a television reporter for the Wavah Broadcasting Service, and pushed him down the stairs of the station, local journalists said. Ntege hurt his leg and his video camera was destroyed, the journalists said. Police had also broken a camera belonging to Ntege in 2011, finally compensatingit for him earlier this year. News reports said Ntege had used the money to buy the camera that was destroyed today.

Nicholas Mwesigwa, a reporter for the private daily Red Pepper, was also attempting to cover the opposition leader’s arrest when a police officer punched him, local journalists said. He did not suffer any serious injuries, the sources said.

Asuman Mugenyi, spokesman for the Kampala police, told CPJ that an investigation would take place into all the assaults. The Foreign Correspondent’s Association of Uganda reported that Police Commander Andrew Kaweesi told Kasamani that his camera would be replaced.

Police have attacked Kasamani and Ntege in the past while they covered demonstrations organized by opposition groups in Kampala, according to CPJ research. In January, Kasamani said a shot he believed was fired by police narrowly missed him, he reported in his paper, a claim police later disputed.

In 2011, CPJ documented at least 21 attacks of Ugandan police attacking journalists for covering events that involved the opposition.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/10/uganda-police-beat-journalists-covering-opposition.php

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Blog: In Indian Kashmir, concerns over Internet censorship

4 Oct

The government of Indian Kashmir has a long record of failing to respond to physical attacks on the press. This week, the possibility that websites like YouTube and Facebook were blocked indicated that online freedoms, too, are under threat.  

The state’s Home Department issued an order on September 20 that required all telecommunications and Internet service providers to ensure that subscribers in the state be barred from uploading or downloading the controversial film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which has sparked widespread protests, some of them violent, in Asia and the Middle East. Demonstrations in Kashmir were among the largest in Asia, according to international media reports .

The state’s order, which invoked powers conferred under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 in the interest of public safety and maintaining public order, stipulated that “if necessary,” the telecommunications providers could block Facebook and YouTube completely.

It is unclear whether a blanket ban was put in place. Users within Kashmir contacted by CPJ were able to access both Facebook and YouTube from mobile devices on Tuesday, however local news website Greater Kashmir said both sites were inaccessible to local users as of that day. In any case, while many Kashmiris felt that blocking such a repugnant film was necessary, they also expressed suspicion that the Jammu and Kashmir state government was using the film as justification to block wider Internet access as part of a larger campaign to curtail the flow of information. The state government denied these accusations.

Internet users in the valley have reason to suspect that local authorities might want to interfere with their access to online media. In the past, Jammu and Kashmir’s local cable television stations, as well as pages on social-networking sites and mobile text messages, have been censored during periods of unrest, and editions of local newspapers were unable to print in Srinagar as a result of curfews imposed. Between June and December 2010, all text messages were banned by the state government. It also ordered a telecom company to block an SMS news service with 5000 subscribers.

Journalists in Kashmir continue to face more traditional challenges as well. Last week, Azhar Qadri, a correspondent for The Tribune and The Kashmir Tribune newspaper, told CPJ by email that a police officer named Imtiyaz Ismail Parray struck him while he was covering protests by nursing students. “[When I] disclosed to him that I am a journalist and asked him for the reason why he had hit me, he assaulted me further and was joined by 10-15 other policemen.”  Qadri was detained for over an hour and forced to sign a paper on threat of being implicated under false charges, he told CPJ. The local Kashmir Journalists Corps sought action against the police officer, local news reports said. Parray did not respond to repeated calls CPJ made to his mobile phone. A clerk at the Shaheed Ganj police station denied the assault took place in a conversation with CPJ. The man declined to be named.

When asked by local reporters about Qadri’s case, Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the state, prevaricated. “I will look into the matter,” he said. In most cases of assault on journalists, however, the state government has failed to take any concrete action. Last November, three journalists were assaulted by the police and paramilitary forces while covering protests in the state capital of Srinagar. Even more disturbing, of the 27 journalists who have been killed for their work in India since 1992, according to CPJ research, 10 died in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir–a higher concentration than any other state in India.

Journalists also experience pressure from militants who want them to report in a manner that is favorable to the resistance. “There are a number of pressure groups that the media has to manage,” Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly, who visited the area last year, told CPJ by email.

Yet the situation could be worse. The climate in Indian Kashmir has been “markedly more stable and peaceful,” according to a recent report by Freedom House. Gangulay added, “On the Indian side, journalists are certainly encouraged to present the government view. But there are no government restrictions to access unless it is related to security concerns particularly at the border. Even at the height of the conflict, journalists both from domestic and foreign media were not stopped from going anywhere, unless for security reasons,” she said.

The traditional media landscape in Jammu and Kashmir is expanding–nearly 900 publications are registered in the state, up from 30 in 1989, according to the Registrar of Newspapers for India. The Internet has also brought reporting opportunities. Many Kashmiris have mobile devices that allow them to capture images and videos, and share information. Hundreds of videos have been uploaded and shared on the Internet by people in the state. While they may lack context and a sense of impartiality, they provide snapshots of a society mired in conflict. 

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/blog/2012/10/in-indian-kashmir-concerns-raised-over-internet-ce.php

Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean police raid news agency, seize equipment

4 Oct

4 October 2012

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ/IFEX) – Nairobi, October 3, 2012 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a police raid on a news production company in Belgravia, a suburb north of the capital, on September 26 in which several journalists were detained and equipment confiscated.

Officials detained at least 10 journalists from the African Open Media Initiative (Afromedia) and released them without charge the next day, according to the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists (ZUJ). Sifelani Tsiko, editor of the outlet, and two other journalists have been forced to report regularly to the police for questioning, but no charges have been filed against them, Afromedia owner Crispen Sachikonye told CPJ.

Local journalists told CPJ that the officers had confiscated several computers, including video editing equipment. Afromedia, which produces content for the African Television Network (ATV), a U.K.-based broadcaster, has had only limited capabilities since the raid. On its Facebook page, ATV described the programming as focused largely on local and social issues. The network does not broadcast in Zimbabwe.

Local journalists told CPJ that officials from the Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Revenue Authority were investigating possible importation violations. Foster Dongozi, ZUJ’s secretary-general, said he believes the raid is a sign that more media houses will face problems as the country approaches next year’s general elections, according to news reports.

The Broadcast Authority of Zimbabwe has not licensed a single private broadcaster although it is mandated to do so, according to CPJ research.

“Zimbabwean authorities have a long record of stifling independent broadcast media using any regulatory means available,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on the police to return the outlet’s equipment immediately and allow journalists to work freely.”

via IFEX

Philippines – Supreme Court petition filed against Philippines Cybercrime Prevention Act

4 Oct

4 October 2012

Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
(CMFR/IFEX – 3 October 2012 – Twenty media organizations and more than 250 individuals, comprised mostly of journalists and media practitioners, filed the ninth petition with the Supreme Court (SC) against the Cybercrime Prevention Act, assailing some of its provisions as unconstitutional.

The petitioners asked the SC to rule on the Cybercrime Prevention Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, a law which the petitioners say establishes a regime of ‘cyber authoritarianism’ and ” undermines all the fundamental guarantees of freedoms and liberties that many have given their lives and many still give their lives work to vindicate, restore and defend.”

“It is a law that unduly restricts the rights and freedoms of netizens and impacts adversely on an entire generation’s way of living, studying, understanding and relating,” the petitioners stated.

The ninth petition is a petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Injunction filed with the SC and called for an Immediate Restraining Order (IRO) “to annul and/or restrain the implementation of specific portions of Republic Act No. 10175 for being unconstitutional.” The specific provisions are the following:

a. Sec. 4(c)(4) (Libel);
b. Sec. 5(a) (Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime);
c. Sec. 6 (inclusion of all felonies and crimes within coverage of the law);
d. Sec. 7 (Liability under Other Laws);
e. Sec. 12 (Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data);
f. Secs. 14 (Disclosure of Computer Data), 15 (Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data), 19 (Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data), and 20 (Non-Compliance), where these provisions unlawfully delegate to police officers the authority to issue orders properly within the scope and sphere of judicial powers and where non-compliance is penalized as a crime;
g. Sec. 24 (Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center) and 26(a) (Powers and Functions), where both sections 24 and 26(a) give the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center the power to formulate a national cybersecurity plan, which should properly fall within the power of Congress and not an administrative agency.

The petitioners hope the SC issue an Immediate Restraining Order ordering the DBM secretary not to release the P50-million budget intended for the act until the High Court orders otherwise.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) of attorneys Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Pablito V. Sanidad, Ricardo A. Sunga III, and Theodore O. Te served as counsel for all petitioners.

The petitioners include media groups the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Philippine Press Institute. Other organizations who joined the e-petition are the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Center for Community Journalism and Development, Philippine Center for Photojournalism, Cebu Citizens-Press Council, Bulatlat, MindaNews, PinoyWeekly, among others. Petitioners who signed hard copy of the ninth petition are Melinda Quintos de Jesus of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Joseph Alwyn Alburo of GMA Network Inc. and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and Ariel Sebellino of the Philippine Press Institute. They are joined by more than 250 e-petitioners, comprised mostly of journalists and media practitioners.

“By punishing libel as a cybercrime simply because it is ‘committed through a computer system’, the clear intent of section 4(c)(4) is to single out netizens in their chosen medium of expression. It is clearly a prior restraint that infringes on the freedom of expression guaranteed under Article III, section 4 of the 1987 Constitution,” signatories to the ninth petition stated. “Freedom of expression has long enjoyed the distinction of being a preferred right and thus, ‘a weighty presumption of invalidity vitiates measures of prior restraint upon the exercise of such freedoms,'” they added, citing the case of Ayer Productions v. Hon. Capulong and Juan Ponce Enrile (G.R. No. 82380, April 29, 1988)

“Read together with section 4(c)(4), section 5(a) clearly constitutes a prior restraint on free expression. In the first place, section 5(a) fails to define exactly what acts are punished within the scope of the words ‘abets or aids’ and, in the distinct context of social media and online journalism, operates as a chilling factor that undermines, restricts and abridges freedom of expression,” the petitioners also stated.

The group also questioned the criminalization of the yet-undefined acts that fall under ‘abets or aids’ under section 5(a). This will cause “any person using a computer and the internet to consider if the mere act of ‘forwarding’, ‘sharing’, ‘liking’, ‘re-tweeting’ would constitute an act that ‘abets or aids’ the content-related offense of cyber libel under section 4(c)(4),” they stated.

The wholesale importation of all felonies and crimes as cybercrimes in section 6 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act is unjustified, according to the ninth petition. “There is, however, no rational basis for concluding that the ‘use of information and communications technologies’ in relation to all felonies and crimes would constitute a circumstance so perverse as to convert an existing felony or a crime into a separate offense altogether. The absence of any rational basis for section 6, especially when read in relation to section 2, renders it an act of prior restraint especially in relation to the ‘use of information and communications technologies’ and clearly in violation of freedom of expression.”

The Act also gives the justice secretary the “power to restrict or block access to computer data simply on the basis of a prima facie finding that the computer data is in violation of the Cybercrime Law” without a judicial determination or even a formal charge. “Moreover, because the law provides for no standards for the exercise of this power, any order may be unlimited in scope, duration and character and would clearly infringe on the right to free expression.”

Click here for the list of the 20 media organizations which joined the ninth petition. The list of 253 individual petitioners can be found here.

Additional resources

Sign an Access Now petition calling for the repeal of the law

via IFEX

South Sudan – ARTICLE 19 analyses South Sudan’s draft Broadcasting Corporation Bill

4 Oct

4 October 2012

Source: ARTICLE 19
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) – 3 October 2012 – ARTICLE 19 has analysed the Draft Broadcasting Corporation Bill, 2012 (No. 53, “Draft Bill”), which envisages the creation of a national public service broadcaster, the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC). The Draft Bill was introduced to the South Sudan Council of Ministers in March 2012, as part of a package of three media-related bills (along with the Draft Media Authority Bill (No. 52) and the Draft Right to Access Information Bill (No. 54)). These three laws shall eventually be submitted for adoption by the National Legislative Assembly.

On the outset of this analysis, ARTICLE 19 is pleased to note that the Draft Bill is largely based on a proposal presented by us to the then Southern Sudan Minister of Information in March 2006. Our earlier proposal was based in turn on the Model Public Service Broadcasting Law published by ARTICLE 19 in 2005, which seeks to encapsulate international best practice in a legislative format. Accordingly, we broadly welcome the Draft Bill, which would translate much of this best practice into law in South Sudan.

Unfortunately, our assessment of the Draft Bill shows that it significantly differs from both our 2006 proposal and from international standards in this area. In particular, we are concerned that the biggest changes introduced relate to the process for appointing and dismissing members of the Board of Directors of SSBC, and that their effect is to place the broadcaster under the control of the President and Minister of Information and Broadcasting, rather than the National Legislative Assembly. A strong guarantee of independence from the executive branch is one of the key pillars of a democratic public service broadcasting law. With this pillar now taken from under the Draft Bill, it is very questionable whether SSBC will be able to truly deliver on its otherwise well-defined mandate to serve the public – rather than the government.

ARTICLE 19 therefore recommends that the Draft Bill be reviewed for its compliance with international standards and in the light of our earlier proposal that fully incorporated these standards.

Overview of Recommendations:

– The Broadcasting Corporation Bill should state, either in the preamble or in Section 3, that all provisions must be interpreted in conformity with the guarantee of freedom of expression in Section 24 of the Transitional Constitution.
– Consideration should also be given to referring to international guarantees of freedom of expression.
– The Broadcasting Corporation Bill should expressly guarantee SSBC’s independence from the executive and should prohibit all attempts to influence the members or staff of SSBC in the discharge of their duties, or to interfere with the activities of SSBC, except as specifically provided for by law.
– Members of the Board of SSBC should not be selected and dismissed by the President, but by a two-thirds majority vote of the National Legislative Assembly. Any role for the President should be purely ceremonial.
– The nominations process should be open and the selection should be made through public hearings, after the public has been given an opportunity to comment.
– Persons who are employed in the civil service or any other branch of government should be ineligible for appointment to the Board.
– Consideration should be given to extending the term of Board members to six years.
– The Managing Director of SSBC should be selected by the Board with no involvement of the Government.
– A Board member who is removed should be guaranteed the right to appeal this decision in court.
– The annual report drawn up by the Board should be addressed exclusively to the National Legislative Assembly and the public.
– SSBC should be able to apply directly to the National Legislative Assembly for funding, rather than through the Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
– The remuneration of Board members should be set by the National Legislative Assembly rather than the Council of Ministers.

Read the entire analysis

via IFEX

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