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1 million people involuntarily resettled in projects financed by World Bank

5 Oct

2 million kilometers of foreign purchased land in developing countries is either idle or used for Western biofuel production, according to a British charity. Oxfam’s report estimates an area the size of London is sold every six days.

The report states that between 2000 and 2010, 60% of investment in agricultural land by foreign traders occurred in developing countries with hunger problems.

Yet two thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce. While 60% of deals are to produce crops that can be used for biofuels. Land can also be left idle, as speculators wait for its value to increase.

Oxfam estimates that this land could have fed 1 billion people.

According to the International Land Coalition, an NGO based in Italy, 106 million hectares of land in developing countries has been acquired by foreign investors in a period between 2000-2010, with some disastrous results.

30% of all land in Liberia has been handed out in large scale concessions in the last 5 years, while up to 63% of all available land in Cambodia has been passed on to private companies.

Farmers forced out

Oxfam emphasizes that much of the land sold off was already being used for small scale and subsistence farming or other types of natural resource use.

The report dismissed claims by the World Bank that most of the sold land remains idle, waiting to be developed. In fact most agricultural land deals target quality farm land, particularly land that is irrigated and offers good access to markets.

A 2010 study by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) – the official monitoring and evaluation body of the World Bank – supported Oxfam’s findings.

It found that 30% of World Bank projects involved involuntary resettlement. The study estimated that 1 million people are involuntarily resettled in projects financed by the World Bank.

In some cases people were violently evicted from their land without consultation or compensation.

Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive, told British newspaper the Guardian that, “The rush for land is out of control and some of the world’s poorest people are suffering hunger, violence and greater poverty as a result. The World Bank is in a unique position to help stop land grabs becoming one of the biggest scandals of the century.”

Internally displaced children line up to receive a food ration at a food distribution point at a voluntary centre in Mogadishu, Somalia. (AFP Photo / Mohamed Dahir)
Internally displaced children line up to receive a food ration at a food distribution point at a voluntary centre in Mogadishu, Somalia. (AFP Photo / Mohamed Dahir)

Freeze investments

Oxfam has urged the World Bank to freeze its investments in large scale land acquisitions in poor nations.

In the last decade the World Bank has tripled its support for land projects to $6-$8 billion a year, but it does not provide data on how much of this goes to land acquisition or any connection between lending and conflict in a country.

Oxfam wants the World Bank to make sure that information about land deals is publicly accessible, that communities are informed in advance and have the right to agree to or refuse to participate in projects.

Stocking said that the UK, as one of the banks largest shareholders and next year’s president of the G8, should try and get these land deals frozen.

“The UK should also show leadership in reversing flawed biofuels targets, which are a main driver for land and are diverting food into fuel. It can also play a crucial role as president of the G8 next year by putting food and hunger at the heart of the agenda,” Stocking said.

But in a statement released to the Guardian, the international Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private lending arm, defended its past transactions.

“IFC does not finance land acquisitions for speculative purposes. We invest in productive agricultural and forestry enterprises that can be land intensive to help provide the food and fiber the world needs.”


Ethiopia harasses Voice of America and its sources

5 Oct

Police detained a journalist covering this protest by Ethiopian Muslims today. (EthioTube)

Nairobi, October 5, 2012–Ethiopian authorities should halt their harassment of journalists covering the country’s Muslim community and their intimidation of citizens who have tried to speak to reporters about sensitive religious, ethnic, and political issues, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Police in the capital, Addis Ababa, briefly detained Marthe Van Der Wolf, a reporter with the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America as she was covering a protest by members of Ethiopia’s Muslim community at the Anwar Mosque, local journalists said. The protesters were demonstrating against alleged government interference in Islamic Council elections scheduled for Sunday, according to VOA and local journalists.

Wolf was taken to a police station and told to erase her recorded interviews, and then released without charge, local journalists said.

This week, security officers have also harassed Ethiopian citizens who were interviewed by VOA’s Amharic-language service, according to the station. Police arrested two individuals who spoke to VOA on Thursday about a land dispute outside the capital, VOA reported. On Monday, police harassed individuals who spoke to the station about a dispute over resources between ethnic communities, the outlet said.

“We urge the government’s leadership to set a new tone of tolerance and halt the bullying tactics of the past,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Citizens should be allowed to voice their opinions to journalists without fearing arrest or intimidation, and reporters should be allowed to cover even those events the government dislikes.”

For much of the year, Ethiopian authorities have cracked down on journalists and news outlets reporting on the unprecedented protests by members of the Muslim community, according to CPJ research. In May, police detained former VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein overnight on accusations of “illegal reporting” for covering a similar protest, VOA reported.

VOA released a statement today that condemned the harassment and obstruction and said the incident was “designed to prevent journalists from doing their job.”

Three Muslim-oriented papers have not been published in the country since July after police raided the outlets and searched the homes of their editors. Yusuf Getachew, editor of Ye Muslimoch Guday, has been imprisoned on charges of treason and incitement to violence for reporting on the grievances of the Muslim community, and at least two journalists, Senior Editor Akemel Negash and copy editor Isaac Eshetu, have fled into hiding, according to CPJ research.

With six journalists in jail, Ethiopia is the second leading jailer of journalists in Africa, second only to its neighbor, Eritrea, according to CPJ research.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Judicial intimidation of editor and newspaper in Chad

5 Oct

Lagos, Nigeria, October 5, 2012–Chadian authorities are abusing the judicial and law enforcement systems to silence news coverage critical of the government’s performance, censoring publications and targeting one editor with an unjust criminal conviction. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the government to immediately halt its actions.

“Using the criminal code to intimidate journalists and censor coverage is an abuse of power,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “We call on authorities to stop criminal prosecutions based on news coverage and to allow critical publications to circulate freely.”

A judge in N’Djamena, the capital, convicted Jean-Claude Nekim, editor of the biweeklyN’Djamena Bi-Hebdo, on criminal defamation charges on September 18 after the paper had published excerpts of a trade union petition that was critical of the government. The judge then imposed a 12-month suspended prison sentence on Nekim, a fine of 1 million CFA francs (US$2,000), and a three-month ban against the paper, according to news reports. It was unclear whether Nekim planned to appeal the conviction.

The petition, which was started by leaders of the Union of Trade Unions, criticized the government for alleged nepotism and mismanagement and called for an end to abuses of power and high costs of living, news reports said. Three union leaders were sentenced to prison in connection with the petition and fined after being convicted of “incitement to racial hatred,” the reports said. The case will be appealed, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported.

Nekim faces an additional pending criminal case. After Nekim’s newspaper published a caricature of the judges sentencing him for defamation, he was charged with a new count of insulting the judiciary, according to news reports. He faces possible imprisonment if found guilty on October 16, news reports said.

The government has sought to silence coverage supporting Nekim. State Prosecutor Mahamat Saleh Idriss banned the distribution of a special publication on September 27 that was produced collectively by Chadian journalists and activists showing support for Nekim and N’Djamena Bi-Hebdo, RFI reported.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Cuba – Three Cuban bloggers arrested on route to covering trial

5 Oct

5 October 2012

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ/IFEX) – New York, October 5, 2012 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest of three independent Cuban bloggers and calls for their immediate release. Yoani Sánchez, one of Cuba’s most prominent bloggers, was detained yesterday along with her husband, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, and blogger Agustín Díaz in the city of Bayamo, according to news reports.

“The arrest of these journalists clearly indicates that the Cuban government continues its practice of punishing independent reporting,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator. “Cuban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Sánchez, Escobar and Díaz and allow all Cuban reporters to report without fear of intimidation.”

The detained bloggers were reportedly en route to cover a trial, but the official reason for their arrest was not immediately known. A vibrant independent blogging community has emerged in Cuba in recent years, in defiance of severe legal, economic, and technological limitations, according to CPJ research. Sánchez has repeatedly been denied permission to travel abroad, and has suffered official harassment for her work. Despite fewer long-term detentions of journalists in recent years, Cuba continues to be the most repressive country for the press in the hemisphere and is one of the world’s most censored countries.

via IFEX

Justice long overdue in Anna Politkovskaya murder

5 Oct
New York, October 5, 2012 – As the sixth anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s brutal murder nears, the Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by the complete absence of justice in her killing despite government pledges to solve the crime.

“Six years on, a bungled investigation and legal process have left Politkovskaya’s true killers free, reinforcing the notion that in Russia, killing journalists is a crime met with impunity,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “It is time for Russian authorities to solve a case that has become an international symbol in the struggle against impunity and to guarantee a transparent, open trial for a key defendant due to face court.”

Anna Politkovskaya was killed by a hitman on October 7, 2006, in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. Several defendants were tried and acquitted in the killing in 2009, and Russian authorities insist they are still conducting a thorough second investigation. However, after indicting a retired police lieutenant colonel on charges of complicity in the murder, investigators made a deal with the suspect, under which he would reveal the masterminds of the slaying and be tried behind closed doors. A lawyer for the Politkovskaya family told CPJ today that a formal objection to the suspect’s deal will be filed.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

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