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Ecuador – Ecuador limits use of phrases about attempted coup

12 Oct

12 October 2012

Source: Fundamedios – Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study
(Fundamedios/IFEX) – October 12th 2012 – Since July of this year, the terms “30S”, “30-S” and “Prohibido olvidar” (Don’t Forget) have become the exclusive property of the government, after the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) accepted – in its Bulletin No 560 – the registration of these phrases, in effect until May 2022.

However, before this happened, Ecuadorian citizens were the first to use the term “30S” as a hashtag on Twitter to talk about the events of 30 September 2010. That was the date of a police uprising described as an attempted coup d’état by the government party, which was reported with bias after the government ordered the broadcast of an indefinitely long official “cadena” that described only one version of the incidents.

Eduardo Arcos (@earcos), a Twitter user, was the first person to propose the use of “#30S as a short hashtag to identify what happens in #Ecuador”, according to his own personal blog, because it was a “simple way” of grouping all the tweets and news about what was going on at the time, as it was done with other international incidents such as 11-S and 11-M, which recall tragic events in the United States and Spain.

Two years after the events in Ecuador, after the popularization of the term “30S”, the legal reach and implications of the use of the registered phrases is not clear. Some media outlets and social network users continue to employ them openly, while on the other hand, others prefer not to use them although they do refer to the issue.

According to an IEPI official notice, the registered terms are now “part of the State’s property and they were requested to identify specific services or campaigns”. It also quotes the Intellectual Property Law, which in article 218 expressly establishes that “as long as it is in good faith and does not infringe this right, any person may use the expression (its use is in good faith when it does not lead to confusion, association or deceit among the consumers)”.

Although 30S, 30-S and “Prohibido olvidar” are registered within class 35, which includes business management and commercial administration, Nicolás Solines – a legal expert on issues concerning intellectual and industrial property, from the Solines & Associates law office – commented that this class also includes groups in advertising, from adverts in the streets to those broadcasted by radio or TV, as well as press release services.

Read the full report

via IFEX

Blog: Nigerian journalist wins landmark court victory

12 Oct

(Desmond Utomwen)

“If a journalist can’t fight for his own right, then he has no responsibility to fight for others,” Desmond Utomwen, a senior correspondent with TheNews Magazine/PM News, told me after a High Court judge on October 4 awarded him 100 million naira (US$637,000) in special damages from the Nigeria Police Force and Guarantee Trust Bank Plc.

Utomwen’s victory represents the largest award for any journalist in Nigeria’s 52-year history as an independent nation and sets a clear precedent for the country’s beleaguered press.

Utomwen was cruelly brutalized by several policemen in collaboration with staff of Guarantee Trust Bank on December 11, 2009, for covering a peaceful protest outside the bank’s premises in Area 3 of the capital, Abuja. The bank’s customers were protesting alleged fraudulent ATM withdrawals said to have been made by the bank’s officials, according to local journalists and news reports.

Utomwen had asked the court to declare that his fundamental human rights had been violated when he was obstructed from working; had his equipment forcefully taken; and was attacked and hit with gun butts until he was unconscious, before being bundled into a police vehicle and detained for several hours without access to medical treatment.

For two years and 10 months, Utomwen relentlessly sought justice. The case passed through two judges before reaching Justice Peter Kekemeke, who declared the actions violated the journalist’s right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, right to own moveable and immoveable property, and right to freedom of the press and expression as protected in sections 34, 39, and 44 of the 1999 Constitution.

“My lawyer had to ask the previous judge to disqualify herself and the case be reassigned because it was unnecessarily being stalled. That led to this judgment,” Utomwen said.

Lashe Osoba, Guarantee Trust Bank spokesman, told me the bank would appeal the ruling. Police spokesman Frank Mba declined to comment on the case. Ugochukwu Ezekiel of Festus Keyamo Chambers, who took up Utomwen’s case on a pro-bono basis, told me that a notice of appeal cannot act as a stay of proceedings. He said a garnishment order against the police and the bank will be filed to enforce the court’s judgment.

By coincidence, on the same day Utomwen was drawing a close to his long-fought court battle, Benedict Uwalaka of Leadership Newspapers, a journalist who was assaulted on August 9, 2012, allegedly by mortuary attendants at a government hospital, received a lesson in the value of perseverance. Uwalaka’s court case came up for hearing on October 4 but was adjourned until November 13 due to power failure–just the type of frivolous delay characteristic of judicial proceedings, including Utomwen’s trial.

“The magistrate said he couldn’t see as there was no light in court. So another date was chosen,” Uwalaka told me. He said Utomwen’s victory had emboldened him in his quest for justice.

The Nigeria Union of Journalists, a party to both lawsuits, has unflinchingly supported Utomwen and Uwalaka and refused all entreaties to settle out of court. Mohammed Garba, the union’s president, told me the organization’s new strategy of seeking legal redress, as opposed to mere condemnation, is yielding dividends.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel told me he would continue to take cases of journalists assaulted in the line of duty free of charge.

Still nursing pains to his spinal cord since the attack, Utomwen reiterated his fight for justice was not for the money but the profession of journalism.

[Reporting from Abuja, Nigeria]

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Russia – Independent Russian television channel may be forced to stop broadcasting

12 Oct

12 October 2012

Source: International Press Institute
(IPI/IFEX) – MOSCOW, Oct 12, 2012 – Independent Russian television channel Sovershenno Sekretno (“Top Secret”) TV said it is facing closure after a state-owned broadcaster indicated that it would terminate a contract to carry the channel’s signal next March, some 20 months early.

The 24-hour channel – which was launched six years ago and reaches 15 million people in Russia, the CIS, the Baltic States and Israel by cable and satellite – is known for its independent reporting, openness, high professional standards and high-quality on-air hosts.

A nominee for this year’s Eutelsat TV Award recognizing quality satellite television channels in the “Culture and Documentaries” category, Sovershenno Sekretno TV specializes in documentaries, talk shows and interviews on burning issues related to political, cultural and economic life in present day Russia and throughout the country’s history. It is part of the independent Russian media company of the same name founded by prominent investigative journalist Artyom Borovik, who died in 2000 in an air crash under mysterious and as-yet-unexplained circumstances. The company is now run by Borovik’s widow, Veronika Borovik-Khilchevskaya.

Sovershenno Sekretno TV is broadcast in Russia via cable networks owned by state-owned telecommunication provider Rostelecom, which is close to the Kremlin and which has been mentioned in the Russian media more than once in connection with a series of corruption scandals.

The present contract between the two is scheduled to end at the close of 2014, but Rostelecom in August sent a letter to the channel’s management indicating that the contract would be terminated as of March 2013. Borovik-Khilchevskaya at a press conference on Tuesday in Moscow pointed to what she termed a “strange reluctance” by Rostelecom management to negotiate a new contract.

According Eteri Leviyeva, Sovershenno Sekretno TV’s general producer, high-ranking Rostelecom representatives told her privately that “big shots” in the administration of President Vladimir Putin were behind the decision. She recounted past instances in which she received phone calls from individuals at the Attorney General’s office or close to the Kremlin who expressed anger at the channel’s programming.

Leviyeva said that “big shots” were unhappy about coverage of conflict between Russia and Georgia, and about protests that preceded and followed elections in Russia. In 2011, Svetlana Bakhmina, a former legal executive with the now-defunct Russian oil company Yukos who was sent to prison for alleged tax fraud and embezzlement at the company, was a guest on the channel’s show “The Right to Freedom” in her first television appearance following her 2009 release from prison.

Leonid Velekhov, one of the channel’s most popular hosts, whose shows have reportedly come under “special attention” by the channel’s high-level critics, pointed out that Sovershenno Sekretno TV’s mission was to reach out to its audience rather than represent the political opposition. Noting that guests of his show “Political Cuisine” included some of the brightest Russian intellectuals, historians, writers and politicians of different views, he said the channel’s closure would not only deprive open-minded and respected personalities of the possibility to express their views and ideas before a large audience, but also deny the channel’s 15 million viewers the chance to hear and learn about those guests’ ideas.

Top representatives of Rostelecom were reluctant to comment on the situation, but when pressed by local journalists they reportedly attributed the decision to “household difficulties” of their corporation “restructuring its economy”, saying the decision was not personal but “just business”.

Galina Sidorova, chair of the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI), and a former editor-in-chief of the monthly Sovershenno Sekretno magazine, commented: “The potential closure of this independent, highly-professional and popular Russian TV channel, which was recently nominated for the Eutelsat TV 2012 award, reflects the desire of the Putin regime to eliminate from society not only public discussion, but even thinking. The Kremlin seems to be introducing a new fashion in dealing with the free media – to rule indirectly using ‘economic reasons’ and ‘toy’ business companies. The ‘new rule’ seems to perfectly suit the present administration – which stays, as it were, uninvolved in silencing independent voices – and its corrupted “toy businesses”, which do this unpleasant job and thus buy the right to steal in exchange for their loyalty. It definitely doesn’t serve the interests of society”.


via IFEX

Kuwait – Kuwaiti authorities clamp down on stateless activists

12 Oct

12 October 2012

Source: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
(ANHRI/IFEX) – Cairo, October 7, 2012 – ANHRI denounces the use of excessive force by Kuwaiti authorities in dispersing a peaceful demonstration for the stateless population of Kuwait which led to arrests and injuries.

The demonstration took place at the freedom square in Jahraa on October 2, 2012, where stateless activists were demanding Kuwaiti citizenship and other rights. The Kuwaiti forces used tear gas bombs and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd resulting in injuries to some demonstrators. The forces chased demonstrators through alleyways and side streets. Eleven demonstrators have now been arrested, some of whom are Kuwaiti citizens. Among those arrested were also a number of children; they were released a few hours later.

Security forces also banned some stateless journalists from entering the square to report on a sit-in which took place on October 5, wherein Kuwaiti citizens showed up in support of the stateless. The police harassed and threatened some activists and organisers, including Abdul-Hakim El-Fadly, who has been arrested several times in the past.

Activists Hamed El-Anzy and Mohamed Habib were both arrested on October 4 without a warrant – they were released a few hours later.

The stateless are a group of people who have lived in Kuwait for decades but are still not recognized by the government as citizens. They are constantly being refused citizenship. There are differences in estimating the size of the stateless population in Kuwait. This problem is not unique to Kuwait alone, but is also present in other gulf countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

ANHRI stated that “the dispersion of the stateless demonstration is deemed to be a continuation of the procrastination on behalf of the Kuwaiti government and a clear sign of its indifference towards nationalizing the stateless and acknowledging their rights as citizens.”

“The security forces’ solution proved its failure and the suppression of activists will not convince the people to step down and forego their rights. The Kuwaiti government must form an ad-hoc committee to review the case of the stateless population and resolve it,” added the organization.

ANHRI calls on the Kuwaiti authorities to immediately release the detainees and guarantee their safety. They also call on the authorities to respect the residents’ right to peacefully demonstrate.

via IFEX

China – Chinese citizen journalist on trial over books on environment

12 Oct

12 October 2012

Source: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) – 10.11.2012 – Reporters Without Borders condemns the trial of Liu Futang, an ailing 64-year-old citizen-journalist specializing in the environment, which began today in Haikou, on the southern island of Hainan.

Detained for the past three months, Liu is being tried on criminal charges of “illegal expression” and “running an illegal business” in connection with his self-published books about environmental disasters caused by Chinese businesses operating on the island.

“This citizen journalist is facing the possibility of being unjustly imprisoned for providing a service to the public by investigating and exposing environmental threats,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Environmental issues are at the heart of any discussion on development in China. Liu’s only crime is trying to tell as many people as possible about what he has learned from his research. His trial is an attempt to deter all citizen-journalists and get them to censor themselves.”

Liu was receiving treatment in a Haikou hospital on 20 July when police came and took him away although his condition at the time was alarming. Detained ever since, he has not been allowed to receive any visits in recent weeks, not even from his lawyer.

Liu has dedicated his life to defending the environment, especially Hainan’s forests and coastline. His self-published books, funded from his own savings and donations, have such titles as “Green Dream“, “Hainan Tears” and “Eco-Warrior Liu Futang“.

Covering such topics as the destruction of the Huarun coastline and the involvement of local politicians in the destruction, his books are registered with an ISBN number in Hong Kong and have had a total combined print-run of 18,000 copies. The Chinese authorities nonetheless insist that they are illegal.

Winner of the citizen journalism prize for China environmental journalism (awarded jointly by The Guardian, the NGO Chinadialogue and the Chinese microblog platform Sina), Liu has also posted many articles on the blog he began keeping in April 2011.

The blog is now inaccessible, with a welcome page saying it was closed without further details.

The Chinese authorities routinely suppress articles and blog posts on sensitive subjects by artists, human rights activists or writers in an attempt to stem the circulation of messages critical of the government.

China is ranked 174th out of 179 counties in the 2011/2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet”, which is updated every year.

via IFEX

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