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Morocco – Journalists targeted for criticising Moroccan officials

10 Oct

10 October 2012

Source: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) – Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the increasing violations of freedom of news and information in Morocco. Some journalists, such as Ali Lmrabet, are targets of sustained harassment for criticizing certain political leaders or for tackling subjects that directly or indirectly affect King Mohammed.

“Moroccan journalists must be allowed to work freely,” the press freedom organization said. “Abuses committed by some elements of the security and intelligence services are a cause for concern. We call on the Moroccan government and local authorities in Tetouan to do all in their power to protect Ali Lmrabet and put an end to the campaign of harassment that the journalist is suffering for simply exercising freedom of expression.”

Lmrabet, who runs the news website, says he has been the target of new threats and intimidation since he published an article on 31 July that referred to the presence at the London Olympics of General Hosni Benslimane, who is wanted for questioning by a French judge investigating the case of Mehdi Ben Barka. Ben Barka was a Moroccan dissident who disappeared from the streets of Paris more than 40 years ago.

The journalist said he had been assaulted on several occasions. On 12 August, for example, he was beaten for no good reason by three unidentified men who stole his identity card and some money. According to the journalist, the attackers were plainclothes policemen.

A day earlier, a man tried to enter his house about 1 a.m. Lmrabet made complaints in both cases, but no action was taken by the Tetouan police.

On 17 September, several people climbed on to the terrace of his house to film him and his family. “Early in the morning, to my great surprise, an armada of officials including several plainclothes police officers and two intelligence agents led by the local administrator, violated our privacy by climbing on to my terrace to film me and family,” he reported.

Lmrabet was set upon by one of the intruders, who snatched his camera, and threatened and insulted him.

In another case, proceedings were launched against the news portal for defamation by the head of the Council for the Moroccan Community Abroad over an article about his travel expenses that was published on the site.

The first hearing in the trial was due to be held today at a court in the Casablanca district of Ain Sebaa. The official is demanding damages of 500,000 dirhams (about 45,000 euros), a large sum in Moroccan terms.

Reporters Without Borders also notes that on 4 October the Moroccan government arbitrarily decided to strip the Agence France-Presse reporter Omar Brouksy of his press accreditation for allegedly writing “an unprofessional dispatch about the partial legislative election in Tangiers”. Issued by the communication ministry, accreditation is needed by professional journalists in order to work in Morocco.

In its description of all the parties fielding candidates in the election, Brouksy’s offending dispatch referred to Fouad Ali El Himma, founder of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), as being “close to the king.” A Moroccan national, Brouksy told Reporters Without Borders he was the “victim of an act of persecution.” He added: “A degree of contextualization is essential to understand these elections. In reality, the dispatch was very balanced. There is nothing in this description that justifies the withdrawal of accreditation.”

These cases are part of the difficult climate faced by journalists in Morocco, which is ranked 138th of 179 countries in the 2011/2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders.

via IFEX

Philippines – Two Filipino journalists survive shooting attack

10 Oct

10 October 2012

Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
(CMFR/IFEX) – Two journalists were attacked after interviewing local politicians in Marawi City last 1 October 2012. Marawi City is approximately 818 kilometers south of Manila.

Sonny Sudaria, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Bureau Chief of the Mindanao Daily News and Jessie Mungcal, reporter of the Asian Journal, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that they had just boarded a taxi after interviewing Congressman Hussein Pangandaman and his brother Mayor Nasser Pangandaman Jr. about their political plans at their house when two unidentified gunmen riding in motorcycles fired shots at them.

Sudaria said that they were unharmed and that the security men of the Pangandaman brothers fired at the gunmen. The gunmen quickly escaped. Mungcal said that the taxi driver saw the gunman’s face.

Mungcal told CMFR that he called Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lucero, commander of 103rd Army brigade, for fear that the gunman might have accomplices. Mungcal said that the army came to escort them back home.

Lucero told CMFR that the police are handling the investigation but have not established the identity of the gunmen.

The two journalists said that they did not receive any threats before the incident and suspected that the attack might be intended for the Pangandaman brothers. They added that they were covering local politicians planning to run in the 2013 elections before the incident.

via IFEX

Malawi – Commission of enquiry concludes Malawi blogger murdered

10 Oct

10 October 2012

Source: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) – 10 October 2012 – The special commission created by Malawi’s new president to investigate opposition blogger Robert Chasowa’s death in September 2011 has concluded that he was murdered, as his family and colleagues had suspected all along.

“We hail President Joyce Banda’s decision to appoint an impartial commission of enquiry into Chasowa’s death and we are relieved that it has recognized its criminal nature,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The scale and violence of the crackdown in Malawi in 2011 cannot be overstated. Every effort must now be made to identify and punish this murder’s perpetrators and instigators. We hope that President Banda’s initiative will be a source of inspiration for other African countries in combatting impunity.”

A 25-year-old student who wrote blogs calling for democracy and criticizing then President Bingu wa Mutharika, Chasowa was found dead on the Polytechnic School campus on 24 September 2011, after being the target of violent threats in the preceding weeks.

The police’s insistence that his death was a suicide sparked an outcry in the local media and several journalists covering the case were briefly detained.

Malawi fell 67 places in the 2011-2112 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index because of the previous president’s authoritarian excesses. This was the biggest fall by any country in the world.

via IFEX

Cuba – Cuban blogger released after 30 hours in custody

10 Oct

10 October 2012

Source: International Press Institute
(IPI/IFEX) – Vienna, Oct 10, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed the release of Cuban blogger and IPI World Press Freedom Yoani Sánchez, who had been detained by Cuban authorities on Thursday evening while attempting to cover the trial of a Spanish activist accused of causing the death of a well-known dissident in a car crash.

Sánchez was released on Friday evening after spending 30 hours in custody and reportedly being the target of violence. “A little feminine vanity: no remember me without a tooth, remember me flying free on blue bird of Twitter, complete!” Sánchez tweeted, in reference to her having had a tooth knocked out during the ordeal.

The blogger explained in a post on Sunday that she had travelled to Bayamo, in eastern Cuba, to attend the trial of Angel Carromero, a Spanish politician who had crashed his rental car into a tree in July, killing Oswaldo Paya and another dissident, Herold Cepero.

The Cuban government has claimed Carromero had been speeding at the time, an allegation that Carromero, the leader of the youth wing of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, denies. Paya’s family has called publicly for Carromero’s release and has indicated they do not believe the government’s version of events.

According to Sánchez, an official stopped a car carrying her and husband Reinaldo Escobar on the outskirts of Bayamo and said, “You want to disrupt the court” before arresting them both. Sánchez wrote that the incident “had the scale of an arrest against a gang of drug traffickers, or the capture of a prolific serial murderer.”

After reportedly being forced to strip by female guards, Sánchez refused food and drink in what she called a “stage set”, constantly surrounded by state cameramen.

Since founding the critical blog Generación Y in 2007, Sánchez has drawn the ire of Cuban authorities on numerous occasions. In November 2009, she reported that she had been abducted and beaten by unnamed officials. Authorities have also repeatedly denied her an exit visa to leave Cuba.

IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “While we certainly welcome the release of IPI World Press Freedom Hero Yoani Sánchez, she should never have been detained in the first place. The Cuban government’s fear of her presence at the trial testifies to the reach and power of her writing, which provides a tremendously important glimpse into what is otherwise a closed world. We call upon the Cuban government to end its harassment of independent voices and to allow the development of a private press.”

IPI named Sánchez one of its 60 World Press Freedom Heroes in 2010, calling her blog an example of “a future where the power of the internet can be harnessed to promote free speech.”

Detaining activists for brief periods before releasing them is a common tactic used by Cuban authorities. In September, IPI reported on the arrest and beating of Roberto de Jesús Guerra, editor of the news website Hablemos Press, along with one of the site’s photographers.

Another journalist working for Hablemos Press, Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, has been in custody since Sept. 16 and stands accused of insulting Fidel and Ramón Castro under the country’s desacato or contempt of authority laws. IPI has repeatedly called for Martínez’s release and for the dropping of all criminal charges.

via IFEX

Syria – Cameraman killed in deadly month for journalists in Syria

10 Oct

10 October 2012

Source: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) – 10 October 2012 – News providers of all kinds – both pro-government and pro-opposition, and both professional and citizen journalists – continue to be the targets of deadly violence in Syria.

“We strongly condemn the continuing slaughter of journalists, who are being deliberately targeted, and we again call on the authorities and opposition forces to protect them,” Reporters Without Borders said. “For freedom of information’s sake, neither professional nor citizen journalists should ever be targeted.”

The latest victim is Mohamed Al-Ashram, a cameraman with the pro-government TV station Al-Ikhbariya, who was killed by a sniper in the eastern city of Deir El-Zor today. He was shot twice – in the leg and (fatally) in the chest – while filming a clash in the district of Al-Mouadafines.

His death brings the number of professional journalists killed since the start of the uprising to 15, six of whom were Syrian journalists working for government or pro-government media and five were foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, citizen networks are being badly hit because of the major role they play in distributing news content. September was the deadliest month so far for citizen journalists who provide the international community with information about the regime’s violent crackdown on its opponents. No region has been spared.

The citizen journalist Mohamed Fayyad Al-Askar was killed during a regular army operation in the Al-Kousour district of Deir El-Zor on 28 September. A reporter for local radio Al Hourra and a member of the opposition Local Coordinating Committees (LCCs), he died after being stabbed several times in an ambush near his home.

The citizen journalist Yusuf Al-Aqraa was shot dead in the district of Soltaniya on 27 September while covering a shooting between the regular army and the Al-Farouk Battalion, which is part of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Abdelaziz Ragheb Al-Sheikh (also known as Abu Omar Al-Diri), the Sham News Network’s local correspondent, was killed during the bombardment of a civilian administration building in Deir El-Zor on 26 September.

The journalist Yusuf Ahmed Deeb was killed during a Syrian airforce strike on the newspaper Liwaa Al-Fatih’s printing press in the northwestern city of Aleppo on 16 September.

Freelance journalist Tamer Al-Awam was killed by shots fired by regular army soldiers while covering clashes between them and the FSA in the Aarbeen district in Aleppo on 9 September. After living in Germany for many years, he had returned to Syria to cover the uprising and often provided information to international media, especially German media.

Muhammad Badee Kasem, one of the founders of Deir El-Zor’s media centre, was killed while covering a clash between the FSA and the regular army near the city’s central post office on 4 September.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that Sham News Network activist Fares Mohamed was arrested by airforce intelligence personnel about 10 days ago in Homs. He had played a key role in collecting information and disseminating video footage in the Homs neighbourhood of Deir Baalba.

via IFEX

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