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Colombia: journalist dies after being in police custody

2 Dec

Top Colombian police officials must conduct an intensive investigation into the actions of local police during their arrest of freelance journalist Guillermo Quiroz Delgado, who died Tuesday night, seven days after he was hospitalized for injuries suffered while in custody, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Quiroz, 31, lapsed into a coma and died of a heart attack in the María Reina clinic in Sincelejo, according to news reports. He was a part-time journalist for Notisabanas, a nightly cable TV news program in Sincelejo, the capital of northern Sucre department, and also contributed to the El Meridiano daily newspaper in Montería, the capital of neighboring Córdoba department.

Police detained Quiroz and impounded his motorcycle while he was covering a protest on November 20 in the town of San Pedro, where residents were demonstrating against a local natural gas company in connection with its perceived reluctance to hire local workers, according to Edgardo Ochoa, an editor and producer at Notisabanas. Police told Quiroz he lacked the proper insurance papers for his motorcycle, Ochoa said.

Quiroz told Notisabanas in an interview the next day that officers put him on a police truck. Then, he said, “A policeman grabbed me, beat me, and threw me from the moving vehicle.” The interview was the last one Quiroz gave before he died, Ochoa said. The journalist, whose head appears battered and bloody in the video, was vomiting blood during the interview, Ochoa told CPJ.

News accounts reported that Col. Salvador Gutiérrez, chief of the Colombian National Police in Sucre department, initially said that Quiroz had been detained after getting into a fight with a police officer and that he had fallen off the police truck. But National Police Inspector Gen. Santiago Parra announced today that three officers were being suspended while the case was being investigated, according to news reports.

Quiroz said police told him he was targeted because of his news coverage, according to Ochoa.

Ochoa told CPJ that Quiroz had upset local authorities recently by reporting on the theft of cattle that were later found on a farm owned by a former San Pedro politician. Ochoa said that Quiroz had also reported on a case of police brutality in San Pedro. He said Quiroz had received a death threat on his cellphone in October and had traveled from San Pedro to Sucre to report the threat to the police and to the local office of the Attorney General.

“The abuse that Guillermo Quiroz Delgado described is shocking and demands an independent, high-level investigation,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York. “The possibility that Quiroz was mistreated in retaliation for his work underscores the seriousness of this case and the necessity that authorities bring those responsible to justice.”

At Quiroz’ burial Thursday, protesters clashed with police who used tear gas and water cannons to repel them, according to news reports. Four police officers and 50 civilians were injured, the reports said.

While journalist killings have decreased in Colombia in recent years, journalists have faced resurgent violence from illegal armed groups in 2012.

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

via Committee to Protect Journalists.


Kazakhstan news outlets face charges of extremism

2 Dec

The politicized prosecution of dozens of independent news outlets in Kazakhstan is at odds with the country’s commitment to press freedom and deeply stains its recent election to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ calls on Kazakh authorities to dismiss the case and allow the outlets to operate freely.

“Kazakhstan’s efforts to silence independent and pro-opposition news media are incompatible with its membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council and its aspirations to be a regional leader in democracy,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Authorities have a long record of using politicized prosecutions, bureaucratic harassment, and imprisonment to silence critical journalists. They need to turn the page on such short-sighted behavior, and immediately end this deeply misguided prosecution.”

Prosecutors in the city of Almaty filed a complaint against at least 36 independent newspapers and news websites on November 20, charging them with “inciting social discord” and “spreading extremism” and anti-state propaganda during labor clashes in the southwest in 2011, according to the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz. Prosecutors asked the court to ban the publication of the papers and their affiliated websites. The defendants include the independent newspaper Respublika, along with Golos Respubliki and eight other sister newspapers and 23 of its news websites; the newspaper Vzglyad; and satellite and Web-based broadcasters Stan TV and K-Plus.

After filing the complaint, authorities raided and searched the offices of Vzglyad and Golos Respubliki and ordered journalists to stop publishing in their print editions and on the affiliated news websites, Adil Soz said.

The court set a hearing date of December 6, Adil Soz reported. It is unclear if the news outlets will be tried together.

Authorities filed the case after winning a conviction and prison sentence in October of Vladimir Kozlov, an opposition politician who was accused of inciting deadly December 2011 clashes between police and protesting oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen, according to news reports. A statement issued by the General Prosecutor’s office blamed the outlets for the unrest, saying they spread “propaganda for violent seizure of power and undermining of state security.”

The news outlets disputed the accusations and released a joint statement on Monday saying that authorities had fabricated the charges. The statement said that they believed their prosecution would be rapid and that the verdict would be issued by the government. “We were accused of doing our work in exposing the government’s defects: press freedom violations, killing of innocent civilians, political repressions, and providing space to independent experts and political analysts,” the statement said. The outlets also called on the international community to advocate on their behalf.

The news outlets are known for their critical reporting on Kazakh authorities and have faced retaliatory prosecution and official intimidation and harassment in the past, according to CPJ research. Following the events in Zhanaozen, the Kazakh security service, KNB, raided the outlets’ newsrooms, confiscated equipment, and interrogated journalists in connection with their coverage of the clashes. The KNB also imprisoned Igor Vinyavsky, editor of Vzglyad, and held him for more than 50 days before releasing him.

Kazakhstan was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this month, and has “pledged to use its membership to strengthen human rights both at home and abroad,” the Kazakh Embassy to the United States said at the time.

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

via In Kazakhstan, news outlets face charges of extremism – Committee to Protect Journalists.

In DRC, journalists report being threatened in Bukavu

2 Dec

“We condemn the threats and acts of intimidation against journalists in Bukavu who are simply doing their jobs,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We hold authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo responsible for the safety and well-being of all journalists and urge them to investigate these reported threats.”

Solange Lusiku, editor of the leading independent monthly Le Souverain, told CPJ that on November 21 she received a phone call from a blocked number. The unidentified caller told her she was going to be killed. Lusiku also said that on Friday, an unidentified man and soldiers visited a cyber café that she frequents and demanded to know her whereabouts. Fearing reprisal, she has since fled Bukavu.

In the most recent edition of Le Souverain, Lusiku had written an editorial blaming Rwanda for fueling instability in the Eastern Congo. Le Souverain covers current affairs in the region, including politics and the M23 rebellion in neighboring North Kivu.

Le Souverain Editor-in-Chief Baudry Aluma told CPJ that he had also received threatening phone calls after he published an editorial in October. His story discussed alleged infighting within the local ruling party and allegations of mismanagement brought by some politicians against members of the ruling administration. The editorial also suggested that a cabinet reshuffle would be appropriate. Aluma told CPJ he has gone into hiding.

Christian Shadiki, police superintendent of Bukavu, told CPJ that he would investigate the threats against Lusiku and Aluma.

Blaise Sanyila, director of private broadcaster Vision Shala Media, told CPJ that on Friday he had received a threatening phone call from a blocked number. Sanyila also hosts a current affairs weekly call-in show for the station, he said. The journalist told CPJ that the unidentified caller threatened him in relation to his reporting and said that they would “put an end to everything” he said.

The day before the phone call, Sanyila said he had been interrogated for two hours by national intelligence agents in connection with his on-air interview with a spokesman of the M23 rebel group that had just seized the eastern city of Goma. Fearing reprisal, the journalist has since fled Bukavu.

Sanyila also told CPJ he was threatened by Marcellin Cishambo, governor of South Kivu, on October 13 after he aired a critical article about the official. Cishambo denied to CPJ that he had threatened the journalist.

Jean Baptiste Badera, a local correspondent for Agence France-Presse and director of local broadcaster Canal Futur Télévision, told CPJ that he, along with Lusiku and Sanyila, had received another threatening text message on Friday from an unknown number that named Cishambo as being part of a plot to kill them and seven other people in the next two days.

Cishambo denied to CPJ any involvement in the alleged plot to kill the journalists. “I don’t threaten journalists,” he said.

Badera told CPJ that he had been threatened in the past.  He also said he had suspended his weekly call-in talk show, “Plein Feu,” that discussed current affairs because of the worsening security situation in the region.

Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende told CPJ today he was not aware of the threats.

  • For more data and analysis on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, click here.

Committee to Protect Journalists.

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