Archive | October, 2012

Democratic Republic of Congo – Poster critical of Congolese police authorized by Belgian court

11 Oct

11 October 2012

Source: Journaliste en danger
(JED/IFEX) – 4 October 2012 – Journaliste en Danger (JED) welcomes a decision made by the Belgian court, on 3 October 2012, to authorize a poster entitled “The Chebeya Scandal: A State Crime?” by Belgian filmmaker Thierry Michel. Michel had been sued by John Numbi – the former Inspector General of the Congolese National Police – for attacks upon his honour and dignity. Numbi also sought to have Michel’s poster banned. The Belgian court declared Numbi’s claim unfounded and ordered him to pay a sum of 1320 Euros to the journalist.

John Numbi was the Inspector General of the Congolese National Police. He is currently suspended from his duties because of a lawsuit against members of the national police over the murder of Floribert Chebeya – a prominent Congolese human rights activist – and his driver Fidèle Bazana. This lawsuit is currently pending on appeal before the Supreme Military Court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC.)

According to information received by JED, the court of Liège dismissed Numbi considering that the film in question seems to provide good information on this murder case”, and “as presented, that is to say with the title as a question, the poster represents an appropriate balance between, on the one hand, the implication of a public authority and their impunity, and other hand, the unanswered questions in this regard.”

JED welcomes this great victory for press freedom and freedom of expression over the protection of the image of a public figure exercising his functions. With this turn of events, JED urges the Congolese authorities to remove all barriers blocking the entry of Michel into the DRC. JED also urges the authorities to allow for the dissemination of his documentary film.

via IFEX

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Brazil – Former police colonel continues to threaten Brazilian reporter

11 Oct

11 October 2012

Source: Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo – Abraji
(Abraji/IFEX) – October 10th, 2012 – André Caramante, reporter from Folha de S.Paulo, one of the major Brazilian newspapers, has left the newsroom after being threatened by retired police colonel Paulo Adriano Lopes Lucinda Telhada (known as Colonel Telhada) and people linked to him. The harassment started in July 2012, after Caramante published a brief article about Telhada, who was a candidate in the Sao Paulo city council elections. The colonel used to characterize civilians killed by the police as “vagrants” and encouraged violence against outlaws.

Telhada has called on his supporters and electors to contact Folha de S.Paulo and attack Caramante. Many messages were sent through Folha‘s social networks, blogs and website. In early September, the harassments moved from the website and became threats to the reporter’s family.

Up until November 2011, Colonel Telhada commanded the ROTA (Rondas Ostensivas Tobias Aguiar), a special Police force in Sao Paulo state. ROTA is considered a violent group, which since the 70’s has executed several alleged suspects without clear evidence. In October 2012, Telhada was elected city councilman in Sao Paulo.

With Folha‘s support, Caramante has stopped working in the newsroom. He keeps writing stories regarding public security and human rights from a distance, and his family has left their home.

On October 10, the Secretary of Justice of Sao Paulo state offered to include Caramante in a witness protection program, and the state’s Chief of Staff has instructed the Police Internal Affairs division to do an investigation into the threats.

Abraji considers Caramante’s situation unacceptable, and urges a quick and independent investigation of the case, in order to allow Caramante and his family to return to their regular day-to-day life. The reporter’s work on human rights has been and is a remarkable public service.

via IFEX

Thailand – Controversial Thai lèse majesté law deemed “constitutional”

11 Oct

11 October 2012

Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance
(SEAPA/IFEX) – Bangkok, 11 October 2012 – The Thailand Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that the controversial Section 112 of the Penal Code, better known as the lèse majesté law, is not contradictory with human rights protections of the country’s constitution, including on freedom of expression.

The Court ruled on two petitions submitted to the Criminal Court from the arguments of Somyos Preuksakasemsuk and Ekachai Hongkangwan, who are both undergoing separate trials under Section 112. Ekachai is released on bail, but Somyos remains in detention despite 11 requests for release on bail.

Arguments

The main argument of the unanimous ruling is that Article 112 gives a ‘real practical effect’ to Section 8 of the 2007 Constitution (B.E. 2549) that puts the monarch in a ‘position of revered worship’ and ‘shall not be violated’. Section 8 also prohibits any person from exposing the King to any form of accusation or action.

The court therefore upheld the validity of any charges and penalties arising from violation of Section 112 of the Penal Code, which prohibits anyone from defaming, insulting or threatening the King, heir-apparent, and the regent, and makes such offences punishable by imprisonment of three to 15 years.

The Court saw that the lèse majesté law provided ‘penalty for offenders is needed to maintain public order and good morals of the people in accordance with the rule of law’ in order to protect the King, as an institution and the head of the Thai state.

The Court emphasized that protecting the King related to the ‘security of the kingdom’ or ‘security of the state’, which it argued is a legitimate condition ‘restricting people’s liberty’ in Section 45 paragraph one of the Constitution.

The ruling said that the general application of the law regardless of circumstance or person, means that liberty to express opinion within the bounds of Section 112, does not make this law contrary to Section 45 on freedom of expression, and thus Section 29 on general human rights protection.

Implications

The affirmation of the lèse majesté law under this ruling means that there is no remaining recourse for Somyos and Ekachai but to be judged for culpability of their alleged offences.

Somyos has been detained on remand since 30 April 2011 for publishing two lèse majesté articles in the pro-Red shirt magazine Voice of Taksin. Ekachai was arrested 10 March 2011 for selling lèse majesté material, including copies of an Australian TV news documentary and transcripts of cables involving high officials released under through Wikileaks.

The Constitutional Court ruling goes against international criticism of the law, which is seen as restricting freedom of expression.

Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, particularly has said in 2011 that the law ‘does not meet these criteria’ of limitations from a national security perspective since the law is ‘vague and overly broad, and the harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate to protect the monarchy or national security’.

SEAPA Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran expressed disappointment at the Court ruling, given the already high number of persons currently in prison for lèse majesté. “The ruling does not consider the extent of the impact of the law on freedom of expression but only upholds national security,” she said.

She expressed concerns that the blanket validation of the lèse majesté law under national security concerns could worsen its enforcement, given criticisms that it has been used as a political tool in the past.

Gayathry said “Most importantly, the ruling could worsen the chilling effect of the lèse majesté law on the Thai media, which has refrained from tackling legitimate issues because these involved the monarchy.”

Click here to read an unofficial translation by Sinfah Tunsarawuth, an independent media lawyer, of the Constitutional Court Ruling on the constitutionality of Article 112 of the Thailand Penal Code.

via IFEX

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 DemainOnline.com, 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 Yabiladi.com 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

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