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International – IFEX members provide input into UN Universal Periodic Reviews

16 Oct

16 October 2012

Several IFEX members have recently provided submissions to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. Each of the submissions, whether written individually or in collaboration with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), contains important information specific to the freedom of expression and/or freedom of assembly situations in countries that are coming up for review.

The UN General Assembly created the UPR in 2006 as a mechanism to review the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Each country is reviewed once every four years. Via the UPR, UN Member States must declare the actions they have taken to fulfil their human rights obligations and improve the human rights situation in their country. The Member State national reports are submitted approximately three months before the review takes place. The UPR process reminds States of their responsibility to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the objective of improving the situation in all countries and addressing violations when they occur.

The reviews take place in Geneva in a session of the Working Group on the UPR, which is composed of the 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council. An interactive dialogue takes place between the State under review and the member and observer States of the Council. At the end of each review, the Working Group adopts an outcome document, which is subsequently considered and adopted by the Human Rights Council.

The UPR process allows relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions, to participate. Approximately six to seven months before the review takes place, these stakeholders can submit information for consideration during the review. The information they provide can be referred to by any of the States taking part in the review at the Working Group meeting. NGOs can attend the UPR Working Group sessions and can make Statements at the regular session of the Human Rights Council when the outcomes of the State reviews are considered.

IFEX member submissions to upcoming UPRs:

14th UPR session, 22 October – 5 November 2012
Argentina, Guatemala & Peru

16th UPR session, 22 April – 3 May 2012

on the web

UN Universal Periodic Review home page

via IFEX

One journalist killed, another reported missing in Syria

16 Oct

New York, October 16, 2012–The heavy toll on news media covering the conflict in Syria has grown yet again over the past week as a journalist for a pro-government TV station was killed and a Ukrainian journalist working for Russian news outlets is believed to be kidnapped.

“Covering the conflict in Syria has become the most dangerous assignment for journalists in the world. It is particularly dangerous for local Syrian journalists who risk becoming targets because of perceived affiliations,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “All sides must remember that journalists are civilians and must not be targeted for simply doing their job.”

Mohammed al-Ashram, a cameraman for the TV station Al-Ikhbariya, was shot and killed on October 10 while covering clashes between Syrian government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army in the eastern city of Deir Al-Zour, according to his employer.

Al-Ashram was shot in the chest and leg, Al-Ikhbariya reported. Imad Sara, the station’s director, told Agence France-Presse that al-Ashram “was killed by terrorists.” Since the start of the uprising in March 2011, the regime has used “terrorists” as a catch-all phrase for all opposition fighters, according to news reports.

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 23 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.

Anhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian who has contributed to several Russian news outlets including the Moscow-based broadcast outlet Russia Today, disappeared on October 9, according to news reports. Russia Today reported that one of Kochneva’s colleagues said she had gone to Homs to prepare a report for the Russian television station NTV. She is believed to have been kidnapped in Homs near the Lebanese border, the report said.

Oleksandr Dikusarov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, told Agence France-Presse that Kochneva had contacted NTV on October 12 or 13 and told them she was being held by the rebel Free Syrian Army but was being treated satisfactorily. Dikusarov said Ukraine and Russia were working to secure Kochneva’s release, according to The Associated Press.

Kochneva, 40, is a fluent Arabic speaker and has been working in Syria for the past year, according to news reports. She has publicly defended the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in television interviews to Russian and Syrian pro-regime news outlets and has reportedly received threatening text messages, according to news reports.

Three other international journalists disappeared in Syria in August. 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, and U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice also disappeared in mid-August, according to news reports. Tice is believed to be held in Syrian state custody, according to the U.S. State Department. Ünal appeared in a video on Al-Ikhbariya six days after his capture, but did not specify who his captors were. Fahmi’s whereabouts remain unknown.

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

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalist barred from covering case in Gambian court

16 Oct

State security agents barred a journalist from covering an October 15 hearing of a Supreme Court case of seven prisoners on death row, according to local journalists and news reports.

A security agent at the court in Banjul, the capital, told Bintah Bah, a blogger and senior court journalist with The Daily News, to leave the premises on orders from the office of the president, The Daily News reported on its website. Bah had identified herself as a journalist to the guard, the site said.

Bah was covering the court case of Lang Tombong Tamba, Gambia’s former chief of defense staff, as well as six others who were convicted of treason and sentenced to death for allegedly plotting a coup in 2009, according to news reports.

Bah told CPJ that the guard told her that Modou Saidy, press director of President Yahya Jammeh, had given the order because her newspaper had been shut down and her blog, Women’s Bantabaa, was not registered. Saidy denied ever giving the order, he told CPJ.

“I have been a blogger since 2011 and there is no law that states blogs must be registered. Besides, the court is a public place. This is a clear violation of my rights,” Bah said. Bah is also the vice president of the Women Journalists Association of the Gambia.

Agents from the National Intelligence Agency shut down The Daily News, a thrice-weekly publication, and the daily The Standard on September 14 without giving an explanation, according to news reports. The Daily News issued a press release after the ban saying the paper would cease operations for only a week then resume publishing.

Local journalists told CPJ they believed the closures were in connection with the publications’ coverage of Jammeh’s announcement in August to execute every prisoner on death row.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Ecuador – Ecuadorian newspaper targeted over readers’ critical comments

16 Oct

16 October 2012

Source: Fundamedios – Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study
(Fundamedios/IFEX) – 10 October 2012 – On 6 October 2012, during his 292nd Enlace Ciudadano (Saturday radio and TV program), President Rafael Correa stated that Fernando Alvarado, communication secretary, sent a letter to the newspaper El Comercio requesting the names of the individuals who had allegedly insulted him through the readers’ comments posted on the paper’s web page.

Accompanied by a video recording, the Chief of State asserted: “El Comercio was sent a very strong letter, although in strict accordance with the law. That’s enough insults, enough filth in its web page, denigrating the President of the Republic and other persons, the citizens’ integrity (. . . ) we will request the names of those people [who are responsible] so we can apply the law and the newspaper will also be held responsible (. . .). They know they are breaking the law and are committing impressive abuses that denigrate the condition of a media outlet. For shameless people, for the corrupt, there is no worse threat than the application of the law.”

El Comercio responded to the threatening letter sent by the communication secretary by suspending all comments on its web page until it finds a system that will allow it to filter potentially offensive statements.

The Ombudsman’s Office came out in favor of the newspaper’s decision to suspend readers’ comments. A letter signed by Ombudsman Ramiro Alfredo Rivadeneira states that it considers it “correct that the newspaper El Comercio acknowledged in its printed issue of 30 September 2012, 1st Section, page 5, that certain expressed opinions could be seen as ‘an attack against the integrity and good name of some people’, and that these opinions were posted online as a result of deficiencies in the mechanism used to manage the content of information posted on the [media outlet’s] web page; we recommend to the outlet in question, that the measures announced in order to respect these rights and which have led to the temporary suspension of readers’ comments, promote pluralism of information and opinion without disrespecting human dignity”. This letter was published by the newspaper on 7 October.

According to Fundamedios, it is unheard of that the Ombudsman – the institution that is tasked with watching over Ecuadorian citizens’ rights – should endorse the threats issued by an official against the readers of a media outlet, in order to safeguard the dignity of public officials at the expense of the fundamental right to free expression.

via IFEX

Philippines – Man jailed for 2008 murder of Filipino radio journalist

16 Oct

16 October 2012

Source: International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ/IFEX) – 15 October 2012 – The International Federation of Journalists affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), reports that Benjamin Pallarca, one of the men arrested for the 2008 killing of radio blocktimer Arecio Padrigao has pleaded guilty to homicide – a charge which was downgraded from murder following a plea bargain on October 8.

Padrigao, an anchor on dxRS Radyo Natin and columnist for the local daily Mindanao Monitor Today, was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle on November, 17, 2008 after dropping his daughter at school.

Pallarca stands to face up to 12 years in jail and civil damages of P150,000 (approx. US$3,630).

While the IFJ and NUJP welcome the long awaited sentencing of one of the Padrigao killers, the case highlights the continued failure of the Aquino government to protect journalists and act decisively in prosecuting their killers.

Over 12 radio journalists have been killed or violently attacked in the Philippines this year alone. Not one arrest has been made.

“The IFJ renews calls to break the cycle of impunity, ensure that all cases of violence against journalists are investigated swiftly and the perpetrators brought to justice,” IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries.

via IFEX

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