Archive | 10:05 pm

Journalists temporarily flee Bolivia after harassment

19 Oct

Bogotá, October 19, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the official harassment of two executives of a Bolivian newspaper that has reported on government corruption in the northern department of Pando. Both journalists sought refuge in Brazil for three days after the episode, according to news reports.

Wilson García Mérida, the founder, editor, and owner of the biweekly Sol de Pando, and his general manager, Silvia Antelo, fled the department capital of Cobija on October 13 and stayed in the adjacent Brazilian border town of Brasilea after they were harassed twice by investigators who said they were from the police and prosecutor’s office, according to news reports and Franz Chávez, coordinator for the La Paz-based Bolivian Press Association. The journalists said they fled the country because they feared arrest, Chávez told CPJ.

The journalists were in Cobija to distribute the latest edition of Sol de Pando, which covers government, the indigenous population, and social affairs in the department of Pando. Investigators began to follow them and photograph them, and later that day, arrived at their hotel in Cobija with an order to leave, García told reporters on Sunday.

Pedro Melgar, the secretary of legal affairs for the Pando government, told CPJ that there had been no effort by local authorities to harass them or prevent the distribution of the paper.

Antelo told CPJ that she left Brazil on Tuesday and flew to the Bolivian capital of La Paz and that García had returned to his home in Cochabamba. She said they both intended to remain in Bolivia and to continue publishing Sol de Pando but that they feared further government harassment.

Sol de Pando has reported on government corruption in the past, and both the paper and its editor, García, have been targeted by Bolivian officials. Richard Flores, a former congressman and a brother of Pando Gov. Luis Adolfo Flores, has sued García for defamation in connection with reports in Sol de Pando that alleged he improperly received work contracts from the government, Melgar told CPJ. Flores denied the allegations. García claimed that in June 2011, the governor had ordered the confiscation of about 2,000 copies of Sol de Pando that included stories about government corruption. A government official denied the accusation.

“The management of Sol de Pando should not face intimidation because of the paper’s coverage of sensitive issues,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Authorities in Pando department should halt the harassment immediately and allow the paper to circulate freely.”

Bolivian government officials and critical media outlets have clashed before. In August, authorities filed a criminal complaint filed against three media outlets and accused them of inciting racism and discrimination in connection with their coverage of a speech by President Evo Morales.

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/10/journalists-temporarily-flee-bolivia-after-harassm.php

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Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan paper apologises to minister for publishing his death threat

19 Oct

19 October 2012

Source: ARTICLE 19
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) – Colombo, 19.10.12: In a shocking turn of events, Sri Lankan newspaper The Sunday Leader has formally apologised to defence minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa for reporting that the minister had threatened the then editor with death.

“It is unbelievable that The Sunday Leader has apologised in front of the Sri Lanka Press Council to defence minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa for reporting that the minister had threatened former editor, Frederica Jansz with death – even though she recorded his call and the minister admitted to making it,” said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 executive director.

“Sri Lanka is due to go before the UN Human Rights Council in two weeks time for its Universal Periodic Review, and member states must urgently raise the terrible increase in impunity which is being reinforced by the highest levels of government,” she added.

The Sunday Leader – once one of Sri Lanka’s few remaining independent voices – was bought out by an ally of the president in September 2012. The new owner, Asanga Seneviratne, almost immediately sacked the newspaper’s editor, Frederica Jansz, after she refused to prevent her reporters from criticising the government.

ARTICLE 19 warned the UN in April that affiliates of the president appeared to be buying up the private media in order to control their editorial lines, resulting in a severely reduced debate in a country that has only just emerged from conflict.

In the shadow report for the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka – due in October 2012, ARTICLE 19 highlighted that media diversity and press freedom are under threat in Sri Lanka where affiliates of the president appear to be buying newspapers that criticise the government, in order to censor them.

Jansz was threatened with death in July 2012. She was conducting an interview over the phone with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he told her: “You pig that eats shit! You shit shit dirty fucking journalist! [ . . . ] People will kill you! People hate you! They will kill you!”

The Sunday Leader and its journalists have until now faced regular attack. The newspaper’s editor, Lasantha Wickramatunge, was assassinated on his way to work on 8 January 2009. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for the crime.

via IFEX

Mexico – Contradictory information complicates journalist murder investigation in Mexico

19 Oct

19 October 2012

Source: ARTICLE 19
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) – 16 October 2012 – Photojournalist Abel López Aguilar, director of the online media outlet Tjuana Informativo, was killed in the early morning of 15 October 2012 in Tijuana, Baja California, with a firearm. Only a few hours after he was killed, the state attorney general ruled out a link between López Aguilar’s death and his work as a journalist and suggested his son-in-law was likely responsible for the crime.

The first account, given by the state’s public safety secretary, indicated that the journalist had been kidnapped at 5:00 a.m. on 15 October while he had been at a bar in the Zona Río area with other reporters, and that his body had been found at 6:10 a.m.

However, by the afternoon the deputy attorney for organised crime in Baja California, substantially altered the original report. The journalist’s son-in-law reportedly said that López Aguilar had been kidnapped at 3:15 a.m. while he was taking the journalist to a hospital to get treatment for a head injury he had suffered at home. According to the son-in-law, a group of unknown people in a van intercepted their vehicle and took López Aguilar to an unknown location.

The deputy attorney said that López Aguilar’s son-in-law not only waited until 6:15 a.m. to report what had happened, but that a test also found gunshot residue on him, making him the prime suspect in the murder. Tijuana municipal police said the journalist’s body was found at 4:05 a.m. while the attorney general’s office reported it was discovered at 5:50 a.m. – a difference of an hour and 45 minutes.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the unclear management of information on this crime and regrets that a line of investigation linked to López Aguilar’s professional work has been discounted so early in the investigation, as if the link to his son-in-law removes any other possibility for the motive for the crime.

While ARTICLE 19 cannot comment on the suspected assailant or the validity of the evidence, the state authorities have an obligation to provide clear and consistent information and to explain the contradictions in the information they have made public.

ARTICLE 19 urges that the authorities in Baja California adhere to due process, and respect the rights and dignity of victims and their families and the accused. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established that only once all outstanding circumstances have been clarified, can the State be said to have provided the victims and their families with justice and to have fulfilled its obligation to uncover the truth behind the crime and investigate and punish those responsible.

Additional resources

Slain Mexican journalist’s son-in-law confesses to crime but press organizations remain skeptical (Knight Center)

via IFEX

Mexico – Contradictory information complicates journalist murder investigation in Mexico

19 Oct

19 October 2012

Source: ARTICLE 19
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) – 16 October 2012 – Photojournalist Abel López Aguilar, director of the online media outlet Tjuana Informativo, was killed in the early morning of 15 October 2012 in Tijuana, Baja California, with a firearm. Only a few hours after he was killed, the state attorney general ruled out a link between López Aguilar’s death and his work as a journalist and suggested his son-in-law was likely responsible for the crime.

The first account, given by the state’s public safety secretary, indicated that the journalist had been kidnapped at 5:00 a.m. on 15 October while he had been at a bar in the Zona Río area with other reporters, and that his body had been found at 6:10 a.m.

However, by the afternoon the deputy attorney for organised crime in Baja California, substantially altered the original report. The journalist’s son-in-law reportedly said that López Aguilar had been kidnapped at 3:15 a.m. while he was taking the journalist to a hospital to get treatment for a head injury he had suffered at home. According to the son-in-law, a group of unknown people in a van intercepted their vehicle and took López Aguilar to an unknown location.

The deputy attorney said that López Aguilar’s son-in-law not only waited until 6:15 a.m. to report what had happened, but that a test also found gunshot residue on him, making him the prime suspect in the murder. Tijuana municipal police said the journalist’s body was found at 4:05 a.m. while the attorney general’s office reported it was discovered at 5:50 a.m. – a difference of an hour and 45 minutes.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the unclear management of information on this crime and regrets that a line of investigation linked to López Aguilar’s professional work has been discounted so early in the investigation, as if the link to his son-in-law removes any other possibility for the motive for the crime.

While ARTICLE 19 cannot comment on the suspected assailant or the validity of the evidence, the state authorities have an obligation to provide clear and consistent information and to explain the contradictions in the information they have made public.

ARTICLE 19 urges that the authorities in Baja California adhere to due process, and respect the rights and dignity of victims and their families and the accused. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established that only once all outstanding circumstances have been clarified, can the State be said to have provided the victims and their families with justice and to have fulfilled its obligation to uncover the truth behind the crime and investigate and punish those responsible.

Additional resources

Slain Mexican journalist’s son-in-law confesses to crime but press organizations remain skeptical (Knight Center)

via IFEX

Turkey – No let-up in judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey since July reform

19 Oct

19 October 2012

Source: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) – 17 October 2012 – Three months after Law 6352’s adoption, Reporters Without Borders has evaluated the impact so far of this reform, which is supposed to reduce the frequency with which Turkey’s media are the targets of lawsuits and prosecutions.

“We welcome the release of several journalists who were held without trial for months or years but the judicial climate for the media has not improved. Dozens of journalists continue to be detained and, regardless of Law 6352’s requirements, decisions are being taken to keep them in provisional detention with hardly any more justifying grounds being presented than in the past. As we had feared, ‘terrorism’ charges are being used as a pretext for not applying the reform to many cases and new prosecutions are being brought against people for the opinions they express because Law 6352 is limited to ‘offences’ committed before 31 December 2011,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Law 6352 was a step forward but, as we said already, marginal reforms will not suffice, any more than another general amnesty like the ones Turkey has had in the past. Civil liberties will not be guaranteed in any sustainable manner until the Anti-Terrorism Law, the criminal code and the criminal procedure code are purged of the repressive attitudes that permeate them,” the organisation concluded.

Adopted on 5 July, Law 6352 provides for a three-year suspension of all prosecutions and convictions for “press and opinion crimes” with a maximum sentence of five years in prison that were committed before the end of 2011. If the person concerned refrains from committing an offence of the same kind during the three years, the case is dropped for good. Otherwise it resumes.

As Reporters Without Borders said at the time, this leaves journalists with a threat hanging over them for three years, during which they are forced to remain silent or to censor themselves.

It is this provision that has just been applied to Cüneyt Özdemir, the well-known columnist of the daily Radikal and host of a popular programme on CNN Türk, who was facing a sentence of three months to two years in prison for “insulting an official in the course of his duties” under article 125 of the criminal code.

On 16 October, an Istanbul magistrate court ordered a three-year suspension of the prosecution brought against him over Tweets criticizing the president of the 14th Chamber of the Court of Cassation, Fevzi Elmas. Özdemir denies being the author of the Tweets and says the authorities brought the case on the sole basis of an article on the conservative website Star Medya accusing him of sending them.

The Tweets criticized the Court of Cassation for upholding decisions taken in the alleged gang-rape of a 13-year-old minor by 26 men in the eastern city of Mardin in 2002. After lower courts ruled that the victim had consented and that other attenuating circumstances existed, the short jail sentences were not implemented on the grounds that the statute of limitations applied.

(. . .)

Read the full story

via IFEX

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