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Blog: Twenty-three days to take action against impunity

1 Nov

Approximately 30 journalists are targeted and murdered every year, and on average, in only three of these crimes are the killers ever brought to justice. Other attacks on freedom of expression occur daily: bloggers are threatened, photographers beaten, writers kidnapped. And in those instances, justice is even more rare. Today, the Committee to Protect Journalists joins freedom of expression advocates worldwide in a 23-day campaign to dismantle one case at a time a culture of impunity that allows perpetrators to gag journalists, bloggers, photographers and writers, while keeping the rest of us uninformed.

The campaign, sponsored by the IFEX global network for free expression, will highlight cases of individuals who have been threatened or persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Our goal is to draw public awareness to the widespread issue of impunity by asking participants to take a specific action each day.

Today, we are calling on people across the globe to send letters to Belorussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko asking him to put a stop to continuous harassment of Irina Khalip, the Minsk correspondent for the Russian newsweekly Novaya Gazeta, who has been imprisoned, followed, and threatened for her work.

The IFEX campaign will culminate on November 23, the International Day to End Impunity. Designated as such in June 2011, by all IFEX members, the day commemorates the 2009 massacre of 32 journalists and media workers in Maguindanao, Philippines–the single deadliest attack on the press since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records.

On November 23, CPJ will continue the global fight against impunity with the launch of a new digital initiative. Over the past five years, we have sought to bring awareness to the issue, focusing primarily in Russia and the Philippines–two democracies with high numbers of journalist murders and very low conviction rates. The digital campaign will promote a grassroots, global push to end the culture of impunity and drive authorities in Russia, the Philippines, and across the world to bring those responsible for killing journalists to justice.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Guinea-Bissau expels journalist; another flees into hiding

1 Nov

Authorities in Guinea-Bissau have expelled a journalist whose news outlet had covered former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, seen here voting in a 2012 election he was favored to win, but lost. (AFP/Issouf Sanogo)

New York, November 1, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday’s decision by authorities in Guinea-Bissau to expel Portuguese journalist Fernando Teixeira Gomes from the country in connection with his critical coverage of the transitional government.

The Ministry of Communications sent a letter to Gomes, chief of the news bureau of Portugal’s state broadcaster Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP) in the Guinean capital, Bissau, ordering him to leave the country the same week, Agence France-Presse reported. RTP Director of Information Nuno Santos said in an interview with Portuguese news agency LUSA that Gomes was leaving Guinea-Bissau and would arrive in Portugal on Friday.

AFP reported that Gomes had been accused of publishing “hostile reports” against the government. RTP had broadcast extensive coverage of the exiled former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior (no relation to the journalist), who was critical of the government and the military, according to local journalists.

Relations between Portugal and its former colony, Guinea-Bissau, have deteriorated since Guinean military chief Gen. Antonio Indjai staged an April 12 coup ahead of a runoff presidential election scheduled for April 29 that former minister Gomes, who was backed by Portugal, was favored to win, according to news reports. During the coup, troops detained António Aly Silva, a freelance journalist and blogger based in Bissau, for nine hours after he published photos of the military surrounding the residence of prime minister Gomes, news reports said.

After a political deal was reached, the military junta transferred power in May to a civilian transitional government, which has accused Portugal of masterminding what it described as a failed counter-coup in October.

Presidential and legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau are scheduled for April 2013.

Silva told CPJ that soldiers in an unmarked car visited his residence this past weekend and threatened to kill him. Fearing for his life, Silva has fled into hiding.

“The expulsion of Fernando Teixeira Gomes is a setback for democracy ahead of presidential elections,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We are also alarmed by reports of official intimidation against freelance journalist António Aly Silva and hold Guinean authorities responsible for his well-being.”

Gomes is the second RTP journalist expelled from Guinea-Bissau. In 2002, RTP was banned and João Pereira da Silva, the station’s burean chief, ordered to leave the country after the station was accused of broadcasting “information that could tarnish the good image of Guinea-Bissau abroad” in a program about a general who was killed after leading an unsuccessful coup.

  • For more data and analysis on Guinea-Bissau, visit CPJ’s Guinea-Bissau page here.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists go into hiding after being threatened in DRC

1 Nov

At least three journalists working in the restive, mineral-rich province of North Kivu have fled into hiding after saying they were threatened in reprisal for their reporting, CPJ has learned.

Jean-Baptiste Kambale, director of local station Radio Communautaire Ushirika (RACOU) in the town of Rutshuru controlled by rebels from the March 23 Movement (M23), told CPJ that he had received a threatening phone call from a high-level M23 official on September 25. The M23 rebels, a group of Congolese army mutineers, seized control of towns outside the U.N.-protected provincial capital of Ngoma in July, according to news reports.

Kambale said the official was angry about the journalist’s role in helping a news crew of the French government-funded international broadcaster TV5 Monde interview another rebel official. Kambale said that he was subsequently threatened by both rebel officials over the phone, which he publicized in a TV5 Monde interview. He then fled into hiding.

Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger issued a letter to the M23 rebels on October 19, voicing its protest about the threats, according to news reports. M23 Political Coordinator Jean-Marie Runiga announced the following day in a press conference that the rebels would conduct investigations. “I would like to say that, if this is true, it is not part of M23’s general policies,” the JED quoted Runiga as saying. “This is not what M23’s leaders have chosen to do. And if it is true, I would like, on M23’s behalf, to present my apologies to the journalists who have been threatened, and I promise to conduct enquiries to verify these allegations, and we will punish those responsible.”

Local freelance reporter Evariste Mahamba told CPJ that he fled into hiding on September 11 after he received anonymous threats in connection with his reporting on the plight of civilians in M23-controlled areas.

Journalist Tuver Wundi fled into hiding on August 27 after he said he was threatened by M23 rebels in connection with a July 17 interview he gave to Radio Okapi, according to local journalists and news reports. Wundi told the station that the M23 rebels represented a threat to animals in a local conservation park because the rebels used the park as a shooting range.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

DRC bans broadcasts on conflict in eastern Congo

1 Nov

The Higher Council for Broadcasting and Communication, or CSAC, the DRC’s state-run media regulatory agency, announced in August that it would indefinitely ban broadcasters from airing talk shows and call-in programs about the ongoing conflict between the government and rebels in the eastern provinces of the country, according to news reports.

Ngoma FM, a local community station in the town of Beni, north of Butembo, was forced off the air indefinitely on October 7 on the orders of Bwanakawa Masumbuko, the town’s mayor, after it aired an interview with renegade army Col. Ntahara Nyoro, spokesman of army mutineers group Union for the Rehabilitation of Democracy in Congo (URDC), according to local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger.

Masumbuko accused the station of broadcasting news “of a nature to disturb the peace and create disharmony of the political climate.” Ngoma FM Director Célestin Ngeleka rejected the accusations, adding that the station had made an effort to offer balanced coverage and had also interviewed Congolese army spokesman Col. Célestin Ngeleka after speaking to Nyoro, according to JED.

On August 4, Sikuly’Uvasaka Makala, mayor of the eastern town of Butembo in the restive North Kivu province, forced community station Radio Soleil off the air, accusing the outlet of violating the CSAC ban by airing an interview with Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for the March 23 Movement of army mutineers known as M23, according to JED. In the interview, conducted by Radio Soleil presenter Papy Siméon, Kazarama urged local security forces to join the rebellion, JED reported.

CSAC suspended Radio Soleil for three months and banned Siméon from broadcasting on the air in Butembo, saying the interview was a “denigration of the DRC government” and demoralized “the loyalist troops,” according to news reports.

Radio Soleil Director Kennedy Muhindo rejected the accusations and said that in an effort to balance its coverage, the station had also aired an interview with DRC army spokesman Col. Celestin Ngeleka, according to JED. “There are no laws in DRC which forbid journalists and press from speaking with mutineers,” JED quoted Muhindo as saying.

One station was ordered off the air before the CSCA ban. On May 12, Butembo Mayor Makala ordered Radio Liberté off the air for three months after the station on May 7 aired telephone interviews with the leader of a militia called Congolese Resistance Patriots (PARECO) and another mutineer, JED reported. Security forces raided the station on May 13, confiscating its transmitter and detaining journalists, including presenter Pili Pili Kasaï, who was imprisoned for 13 days without charge.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

DRC minister indefinitely suspends newspaper

1 Nov

Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende banned private daily Le Journal indefinitely on June 29 in connection with an editorial that he said incited racism and tribalism, local press freedom group OLPA reported.

The editorial was published amid renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between the government and troops rebelling against the government. News accounts had reported on a leaked United Nations report that blamed neighboring Rwanda for supplying military assistance to the rebels.

Mende also accused Le Journal of stigmatizing an entire community with the editorial, called “Insecurity in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: These Congolese in the Tutsi Spider’s Web,” a reference to ethnic Tutsi dominating the Rwandan government. The editorial, a copy of which was obtained by CPJ, accused Congolese of Rwandan ancestry or “Rwandophones,” of secretly aiding and abetting the interests of Rwanda in DRC.

Le Journal Editor Patrice Booto rejected the accusations, he told CPJ. The newspaper has not published since the suspension.

Earlier in June, Mende accused Rwanda of providing training, recruits. and weapons to rebels in eastern DRC, according to news reports. The Rwandan government strongly denied the accusations.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

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