World Press Freedom Day (3 May) very relevant for human rights defenders

May 4, 2016

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2016, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, signalled concern that efforts to counter “violent extremism” may be construed as the “perfect excuse” for democratic and authoritarian governments to restrict free expression and control access to information. “By ‘balancing’ freedom of expression and the prevention of violence, the programmes and initiatives aimed at countering ‘violent extremism’ have – often purposely, sometimes inadvertently – put at risk or curtailed the independence of media”

Mr. Kaye and his counterparts from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR – Pansy Tlakula), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR – Edison Lanza) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE – Dunja Mijatovic) raised concerns in their annual Joint Declaration that programmes to prevent or and/combat violent extremism risk undermining freedom of expression. “Some governments target journalists, bloggers, political dissidents, activists and human rights defenders as ‘extremists’ or ‘terrorists,’ criminalizing and detaining them, using legal systems to counter broad and unclear offences,” Mr. Kaye warned. “The harm is felt not only by journalists but also by their audiences, the public that deserves the right to know and to access information of public interest.” The Joint Declaration is available here.

The EU on this day wishes to recall the principle that “the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development”….The EU is committed to continue promoting and protecting freedom of opinion and expression worldwide, not only offline but also in relation to the cyberspace and other information communication technologies, as highlighted by the adoption in 2014 of the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline.  ..It condemns the increasing level of intimidation and violence that journalists, Human Rights Defenders, media actors and other individuals face in many countries across the world when exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression online and offline.

Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - croppedon World Press Freedom Day 2016, Front Line Defenders lists 6 human rights defenders persecuted for bravely demanding rights for their communities:

 

CESAR ESTRADA, PERU

Cesar Estrada Chuquilin is a journalist and member of the Red de Comunicadores Indigenas del Perú – REDCIP (Network of Indigenous Communicators in Peru). He has reported on several human rights violations concerning land disputes in the region and environmental issues related to the Conga Mining Project in the region of Cajamarca.  In September 2015 Cesar survived an assassination attempt. He has also suffered severe persecution, intimidation, defamation, harassment, threats, attacks and thefts as a result of his peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

Cesar Estrada WPFD

SHAIKHA BINJASIM, KUWAIT

Ms Shaikha Binjasim is a Kuwaiti human rights defender, writer and professor of philosophy at Kuwait University. She has been advocating on social media for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech in Kuwait. On 14 April 2016 she appeared before the public prosecutor, who charged her with blasphemy and humiliating the religion of the State for having declared in a television interview on the Kuwaiti channel Al-Shahed, that the constitution of Kuwait is above the Quran and Shari’a.

SHAIKHA BINJASIM WFPD

KANAK MANI DIXIT, NEPAL

Kanak Mani Dixit is a well-known journalist and human rights defender actively promoting the establishment of a democratic and secular government in Nepal. On 22 April 2016, Mr Lok Man Singh Karki, chairman of the Commission of Investigation on Abuse of Authority (CIAA), ordered his arrest. In 2013, Kanak Mani Dixit had published several articles criticising the appointment of Lok Man Singh Karki as Chairman, who had been found guilty of committing a series of brutal human rights violations when he was serving as Chief Secretary of the government.

Kanak Mani Dixit wpfd

WANG JING, CHINA

Wang Jing is a citizen journalist who, amongst other reporting, has contributed articles to 64Tianwang, an independent human rights website operating in mainland China. On 24 April 2016 she was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison, for providing information about a self-immolation attempt which she witnessed in Tiananmen Square in March 2014. She was accused of sending pictures of the self-immolation to websites abroad, circulating them on social media and giving interviews to overseas media. It was also alleged that she reported on incidents where police had harassed, beaten and detained protesters and that such reports were defamatory.

wANG JING WPFD

FAISAL MOHAMED SALIH, SUDAN

Faisal Mohamed Salih is a prominent Sudanese human rights journalist. He has extensively written about human rights abuses and government repression in Sudan, and also works on the promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. On 25 March 2016, security agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) prevented him from traveling from Khartoum International Airport to London. His passport was confiscated without any information being provided as to whether it shall be returned to him.

Faisal Salih

ELENA MILASHINA, RUSSIA

Elena Milashina is a human rights defender and an investigative journalist working for Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper. Through her research and reports she has drawn international attention to the Russian government’s crackdown on civil society, as well as gross human rights abuses continuing in the Northern Caucasus.  On 16 March 2016, the Ombudsman of the Chechen Republic announced that he had requested the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation to initiate a criminal case against Ms Elena Milashina. She was accused of spreading false information, for an article where she described an attempt by the Chechen police to abduct a member of the human rights organisation “Committee for Prevention of Torture” on 22 February 2016.

ELENA MILASHINA

Sources:

United Nations News Centre – UN expert warns combat against violent extremism could be used as ‘excuse’ to curb free speech

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/05/02-hr-declaration-world-press-freedom-day-3-may/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/world-press-freedom-day-2016

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