Archive for the 'RSF' Category

World Press Freedom Index 2021 is out

April 24, 2021

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation.

This year’s Index, which evaluates the press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories annually, shows that journalism, which is arguably the best vaccine against the virus of disinformation, is totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others, which together represent 73% of the countries evaluated. These countries are classified as having “very bad,” “bad” or “problematic” environments for press freedom, and are identified accordingly in black, red or orange on the World Press Freedom map. To compare with last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/21/2020-world-press-freedom-index-is-out/

The Index data reflect a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage. The coronavirus pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field. Will this access be restored when the pandemic is over? The data shows that journalists are finding it increasingly hard to investigate and report sensitive stories, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The 2021 Edelman Trust barometer reveals a disturbing level of public mistrust of journalists, with 59% of respondents in 28 countries saying that journalists deliberately try to mislead the public by reporting information they know to be false. In reality, journalistic pluralism and rigorous reporting serve to combat disinformation and “infodemics”, including false and misleading information.

Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors. In response to the virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms and via social media, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring  that  public debate is based on a diverse range of established facts.”

For example, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil (down 4 at 111th) and President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela (down 1 at 148th) promoted medically unproven Covid-19 remedies. Their false claims were debunked by investigative journalists at media outlets such as Brazil’s Agência Pública and in-depth reporting by Venezuela’s few remaining independent publications. In Iran (down 1 at 174th), the authorities tightened their control over news coverage and stepped up trials of journalists in order to weaken the media’s ability to scrutinise the country’s Covid-19 death toll. In Egypt (166th), President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government simply banned the publication of any pandemic statistics that didn’t come from the Ministry of Health. In Zimbabwe (down 4 at 130th), the investigative reporter Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested shortly after helping to expose the overbilling practices of a medical equipment supply company.

Biggest movements in the Index

Norway is ranked first in the Index for the fifth year running even though its media have complained of a lack of access to state-held information about the pandemic. Finland maintained its position in second place while Sweden (up 1 at 3rd) recovered its third place ranking, which it had yielded to Denmark (down 1 at 4th) last year. The 2021 Index demonstrates the success of these Nordic nations’ approach towards upholding press freedom.

The World Press Freedom map has not had so few countries coloured white – indicating a country situation that is at least good if not optimal – since 2013, when the current evaluation method was adopted. This year, only 12 of the Index’s 180 countries (7%) can claim to offer a favourable environment for journalism, as opposed to 13 countries (8%) last year. The country to have been stripped of its “good” classification is Germany (down 2 at 13th). Dozens of its journalists were attacked by supporters of extremist and conspiracy theory believers  during protests against pandemic restriction….The country that fell the furthest in 2021 was Malaysia (down 18 at 119th), where the problems include a recent “anti-fake news” decree allowing the government to impose its own version of the truth. Big descents were also registered by Comoros (down 9 at 84th) and El Salvador (down 8 at 82nd), where journalists have struggled to obtain state-held information about the government’s handling of the pandemic.

https://rsf.org/en/2021-world-press-freedom-index-journalism-vaccine-against-disinformation-blocked-more-130-countries

Worries about RSF Laureate Pham Doan Trang jailed in Vietnam

April 8, 2021

Reporters without Borders (RSF) learned of the arrest exactly six months ago of Pham Doan Trang, a well-known Vietnamese journalist, was arrested at her Ho Chi Minh City home by plain-clothes policemen last October. There’s been no news of her since then. She’s not been allowed to talk to a lawyer or her family and she is facing up to 20 years in prison on a charge of “anti-state propaganda.”

Pham Doan Trang has been awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2019 and the Homo Homini award in 2017 [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/fe8bf320-1d78-11e8-aacf-35c4dd34b7ba]
 
As she completed her sixth month in detention, several RSF Press Freedom Prize  laureates recorded video messages expressing their support for her in order to help draw international attention to her fate. All of them called for her immediate and unconditional release by the Vietnamese authorities. She continues to be held by the Vietnamese authorities and is exposed to the possibility of further acts of torture. We now fear the worst for her and we urge you to sign the #FreePhamDoanTrang petition demanding her release. Let’s save one of Vietnam’s most respected journalists. Every signature counts: SIGN THE PETITION

https://mailchi.mp/rsf.org/phamdoantrang-6months?e=2f43be35bd

RSF publishes end of year round-up of journalists detained, held hostage and missing in 2020

December 15, 2020

The number of detained journalists is still at a historically high level. Worldwide, a total of 387 journalists were held in connection with the provision of news and information at the start of December 2020, compared with 389 at the start of December 2019. This lack of variation follows a 12% rise in 2019. Overall, the number of detained (professional and non-professional) journalists has risen 17% in the past five years (from 328 in 2015).

3 journalists remain missing including Ibraimo Mbaruco, a reporter for Rádio Comunitária de Palma, a community radio station in Palma, a remote coastal town in northeastern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, who has has been missing since 7 April 2020. In his last message, he said he was “surrounded by military.” His family has not seen or heard from him since then and nothing has been said by the Mozambican authorities, who try to prevent any media coverage of the attacks by Islamist insurgents that are common in that part of the province.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/21/2020-world-press-freedom-index-is-out/

Four Yemeni journalists under Houthi death sentence

July 21, 2020

As four Yemeni journalists continue to wonder when or whether the Houthi authorities will execute the death sentences they received in April on spying charges, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for international pressure to make the Houthis understand that they will suffer international opprobrium if they do not overturn the sentences.

Before being abducted by the Houthis in 2015, the four journalists played leading roles in a Sanaa-based network of media outlets and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp pages linked to Al-Islah, the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and ruling party in regions controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

Abdul Khaleq Amran edited the Al-Islah Online website and ran Yemen Revolution Press, a news agency created from several media outlets in 2011. His staff covered the Yemeni civil war, documented crimes committed by the Houthis and interviewed the Houthis’ opponents.

Akram Al-Walidi supervised the staff of the Alrabie-ye.net news website and the government news agency SABA. He gathered information about developments in the fighting from the Al-Islah side, on the basis of reliable sources and with the help of a network of senior political and administrative officials then based in Ma’rib, which was established as the new capital after the Houthi rebels seized Sanaa.

Hareth Humaid, the head of news at Yemen Revolution Press, covered Houthi human rights violations, including abductions and bombardments of civilians. He produced a daily news bulletin with the latest violations. Its last issue was No. 54.

Tawfiq Al-Mansouri worked for the daily newspaper Al-Masdar until it stopped publishing when the Arab coalition intervened in 2015. He then joined Yemen Revolution Press doing layout and graphic design and helping to give form to the various media outlets linked to the agency.

After their abduction in 2015, the four journalists were secretly moved from one prison to another in Sanaa and were subjected to violent interrogations. Torture and repeated blows left all of them with severe physical and psychological aftereffects, according to the Association of Abductees’ Mothers. Amran has a slipped disc. Humaid has suffered loss of vision and has constant migraines. Walidi has chronic digestive problems.

“Every year the world moves one step closer to the universal abolition of the death penalty, but these four veteran journalists are facing the worst of all sentences just for doing their job,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Efforts are urgently needed to end their nightmarish plight and return to humanitarian principles in a country where journalists have already paid a heavy price in the war. The Houthis must overturn this decision or face international opprobrium. We ask all those who may have any influence, direct or indirect, on the Houthis to use it to help bring this madness to an end.”

The four were among a total of ten journalists abducted by the Houthis in Sanaa in 2015 on the absurd grounds that they could potentially provide the Arab coalition with information for use in its air strikes. Accused of “collaborating with the enemy,” they were tried by a Houthi Special Criminal Court that is not recognized by the international community.

In its latest annual round-up, RSF reported that a total of 15 journalists were being held hostage in Yemen, most of them by the Houthis. The others were either being held in provinces controlled by the so-called “legitimate government” (such as Muhammad Ali Al-Moqri) on in areas controlled by separatists (such as Saleh Musawa, who has since been released).

As RSF also reported in the 2019 round-up, the conditions in Yemen are nowadays so bad that many journalists have abandoned journalism and have switched to other forms of work. Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-few-more-links/

https://rsf.org/en/news/who-are-four-yemeni-journalists-under-houthi-death-sentence

Iranian human rights defender charged with “dancing in prison” and alleged torturer may escape justice

June 17, 2020

Narges Mohammadi has "serious health problems," her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.
Narges Mohammadi has “serious health problems,” her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest “absurd charge” brought against jailed Iranian journalist and human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, who has been imprisoned since 2015. On 12 June 2020 RSF urged the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, to “intervene quickly and do everything possible to obtain the release of Iran’s longest-held woman journalist.

In a recent open letter to the Iranian judicial authorities, her brother revealed that she was now accused of “dancing in prison during the days of mourning” commemorating the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein, a revered figure in Shi’ite Islam. Mehdi Mohammadi, now a refugee in Norway, also wrote that his sister had serious health problems but “was not allowed out of prison to see a doctor, who went to her cell.” “This persecution of Narges Mohammadi is evidence of judicial discrimination at the behest of the Intelligence Ministry and senior justice system officials,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk.

Mohammadi, 47, has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the Per Anger Prize in 2011 and the APS Sakharov prize in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/28/imprisoned-human-rights-defender-narges-mohammadi-awarded-aps-sakharov-prize-2018/]. For more information on these and other awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

In the meantime there is also an interesting case of an Iranian judge and former prosecutor who was arrested in Romania by Interpol for rights violations (13 June 2020 Radio Farda)

Gholamreza Mansouri, Iranian judge and former prosecutor.
Gholamreza Mansouri, Iranian judge and former prosecutor.

Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman confirmed that Interpol has detained Gholamreza Mansouri in Romania. He is accused of human rights violations by rights defenders, but he is also one of the defendants in a recent sensational corruption case in Iran who fled to Europe. Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili said Mansouri’s extradition is not possible now due to coronavirus restrictions but he will be returned to Iran and put on trial for corruption. He also told a local news network that Iran requested the arrest through the Interpol.

Iranian journalists and human rights activists want Mansouri to be put on trial in Germany or another European country for his grave human rights violations including the arrest and torture of journalists. SEE ALSO: Fearsome Prosecutor Of Journalists Accused Of Taking Bribes, Flees Iran

In a tweet on June 11, the Secretary-General of Reporters without Borders urged German authorities not to let him escape justice. Reporters without Borders (RSF) has supported the call of Iranian activists and filed a complaint with Germany’s Federal Public Prosecutor against Mansouri for the arrest and torture of at least 20 journalists in 2013….Mansouri is a highly influential prosecutor and judge notoriously famous for prosecuting journalists and putting them behind bars. In one instance in 2013 he ordered the simultaneous arrest of 20 journalists in one day.

Mansouri’s name came up as one of the recipients of bribes in the first trial session of Akbar Tabari, a former Judiciary deputy. The former judge allegedly received 500,000 euro in bribes from Tabari.

In a video published on social media on June 9, Mansouri claimed that he was abroad for treatment of a serious medical condition and could not return due to the restrictions introduced after the breakout of coronavirus. He did not reveal where he was but said he would go to an Iranian embassy to arrange for his return to defend himself against the corruption charges.

See also; https://iranian.com/2018/02/08/1000-days-counting/

https://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-iranian-journalist-faces-new-absurd-charge/30667834.html

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-prosecutor-wanted-for-corruption-and-rights-violations-arrested-by-interpol/30668621.html

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1689336/middle-east

30 “information heroes” honored by Reporters Without Borders

June 16, 2020

Coronavirus “information heroes” – journalism that saves lives

On 15 June t2020 he NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a list of 30 coronavirus “information heroes” – 30 journalists, whistleblowers and media outlets whose courage, perseverance or capacity to innovate has helped to circulate reliable and vital information during the Covid-19 pandemic. See the list

Every crisis produces its heroes. Around the world there are journalists, whistleblowers and media outlets that have managed to overcome the barriers to information created since the start of the pandemic. Through their reporting or by means of initiatives that have needed courage, audacity and determination, they have provided access to trustworthy and quality information, helped to resist censorship, and combatted the runaway disinformation that threatens public health.

Some people have taken such big risks to report the reality of the pandemic that they have died as a result, while others have disappeared or have been jailed,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Prosecuted, attacked, insulted – many have paid a high price for defending the right to information and for combatting the rumours and disinformation that aggravate the consequences of this public health crisis. These new heroes remind us that journalism can save lives. They deserve our attention and admiration.”

The list compiled by RSF, which is not intended to be exhaustive, includes both well-known media figures and people the public have not heard of. Although they come from all five main continents, nearly a third of these 30 heroes are from Asia, where the pandemic originated. Six are from Europe and Central Asia, and the others are from Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

What most of these heroes have in common is the fact that they revealed information highlighting the pandemic’s gravity or their government’s mismanagement of the crisis. Some are veteran reporters like Ana Lalić in Serbia or combative investigators like Blaž Zgaga in Slovenia, Andjouza Abouheir in Comoros and Sergei Satsukin Belarus. However, others are ordinary citizens who, in response to the urgency and gravity of the public health crisis, decided to blow the whistle with the aim of saving as many lives a possible. It was an eye doctor, Li Wenliang, who first alerted the world to the existence of a fast-spreading disease in December 2019. And it was a lawyer, Chen Qiushi, who posted videos on his blog revealing the chaos in the hospitals in Wuhan, the site of the initial Covid-19 outbreak. Li died of the virus while Chen was forcibly quarantined and never reappeared.

You often pay dearly for the truth. In Venezuela, freelance journalist Darvinson Rojas spent 12 days in prison for a tweet questioning official pandemic figures. In India, newspaper reporter Vijay Vineet is facing a possible six-month jail sentence for reporting that lockdown restrictions forced hungry kids to eat cattle fodder. In Bangladesh, the well-known cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore is facing a possible life sentence for posting cartoons on Facebook about politics during the Covid-19 crisis that alluded, inter alia, to corruption.

Others have avoided prison but can no longer work. After a lengthy and violent police interrogation over an article questioning the Kingdom of Eswatini’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Swati Newsweek website editor Eugene Dube had to flee to neighbouring South Africa. Chris Buckley, a Beijing-based reporter for the New York Times, was forced to leave China after spending 76 days in Wuhan at the height of the outbreak. For the first time in 24 years, his visa was not renewed.

Many of these heroes displayed courage in resisting pressure and censorship. They include Caixin, an independent English and Chinese-language media outlet in Beijing whose reporting has questioned the Chinese government’s narrative. For some, such as Afghan reporter Anisseh Shahid, it took courage to simply keep reporting in the field with the threat of infection compounding the threat of a Taliban attack. In the United States, several White House correspondents have distinguished themselves by their perseverance in adversity. Despite constant attacks by President Trump and his aides, they continue week after week to question his handling of the pandemic.

This exceptional crisis has also produced innovative initiatives that have helped to get the facts out and combat disinformation. In Africa, the Ivorian web radio WA FM and the Togolese news site TogoCheck were created to combat rumours and fake news and disseminate trustworthy information that the public can use to protect themselves and their health. In Brazil, alternative media outlets pooled resources to form a “Gabinete de crise” to inform the abandoned inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, while the Wayuri Network’s journalists have risen to the challenge of informing more than 750 indigenous communities in the Amazon. In Russia, 25 media outlets formed Syndicate-100 to make it easier for medical personnel, who have been hit hard by the epidemic, to report problems and alert the public.

Finally, RSF pays a special tribute to journalists in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s business capital and the site of Latin America’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak. The photos of bodies in Guayaquil’s streets have gone around the world. Despite being unprepared and lacking personal protective equipment, the city’s journalists have continued to work and to report in locations with a high infection rate. And this has taken a heavy toll. Thirteen of them have died of the virus.

https://rsf.org/en/news/coronavirus-information-heroes-journalism-saves-lives

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/21/2020-world-press-freedom-index-is-out/

World Press Freedom Day 2020 – a few more links

May 4, 2020

Yesterday’s post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/03/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-small-selection-of-cases/ ] is already in need of updating. Here a few more examples of what happened on World Press Freedom Day:

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published exclusive interviews by Philippine journalist Maria Ressa with Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub, whistleblower Edward Snowden, Nobel economy laureate Joseph Stiglitz and RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire on the subject of “Journalism in crisis: a decisive decade.”
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Deutsche Welle’s Freedom of Speech Award honors journalists persecuted for coronavirus reporting

Deutsche Welle is presenting journalists from four continents with this year’s Freedom of Speech Award for their coverage of the coronavirus crisis. The recipients are being honored on behalf of all media professionals around the world who are publishing independent information about the coronavirus pandemic while working under difficult conditions. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/10/dw-freedom-of-speech-award-goes-to-turkish-%e2%80%b2hurriyet%e2%80%b2-journalist-sedat-ergin/#more-8152]

At a moment of a global health emergency, journalism serves a crucial function, and each journalist bears great responsibility,” DW Director General Peter Limbourg said while announcing the award winners in Berlin. “Citizens of any country have the right of access to fact-based information and critical findings,” he said. “Any form of censorship may result in casualties and any attempts to criminalize coverage of the current situation clearly violate the freedom of expression.” For a list of this year’s laureates, see: https://www.dw.com/en/deutsche-welle-freedom-of-speech-award-17-laureates-from-14-countries/a-53306033

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a video message to the journalists honored that the general public needs “full and accurate information about the pandemic, and to be involved in the decisions that are being made on our behalf.” The International Press Institute documented more than 150 violations of press freedom worldwide through the end of April. The IPI has tracked cases of censorship and restrictions on access to information — but the greatest number of violations of press freedom have been arrests of journalists and verbal or physical attacks on them. (https://www.dw.com/en/un-commissioner-michelle-bachelet-honors-journalists/av-53297637)

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SNHROn the occasion of World Press Day, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) issued a report demanding the release of 422 citizen journalists in Syria, most of whom are detained by the Syrian regime, and are now threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report notes that 707 citizen journalists have been killed since March 2011 to date, 78% of them by Syrian Regime forces. The 20-page report shows how the Syrian regime has been well aware of the danger posed by press freedom to its tyrannical rule for decades, abolishing all independent newspapers, and allowing only three official newspapers to be published, which are simply Syrian regime mouthpieces, dedicated to promoting, defending and justifying the regime’s actions. As the report further notes, it’s no exaggeration but simply a statement of fact to say that there is no such thing as a free press under the Syrian regime…..The report distributes the total death toll according to the main parties to the conflict, with the Syrian regime being responsible for the deaths of 551 citizen journalists, including five children, one woman, five foreign journalists, and 47 other citizen journalists due to torture in detention centers, while Russian forces were responsible for the deaths of 22 citizen journalists, and ISIS killed 64, including one child, two women, three foreign journalists, and three under torture. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham also killed eight, including two who died due to torture. Factions of the Armed Opposition were responsible for the deaths of 25 citizen journalists, including one child and three women.

View full Report

 

2020 World Press Freedom Index is out…

April 21, 2020

The 2020 World Press Freedom Index has come out with as title: “Entering a decisive decade for journalism, exacerbated by coronavirus”. [For last year’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/20/the-2019-world-press-freedom-index-launched-on-18th-of-april/]

 

The 2020 World Press Freedom Index, annualy compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), shows that the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.

This 2020 edition of the Index, which evaluates the situation for journalists each year in 180 countries and territories, suggests that the next ten years will be pivotal for press freedom because of converging crises affecting the future of journalism: a geopolitical crisis (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); a technological crisis (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); a democratic crisis (due to polarisation and repressive policies); a crisis of trust (due to suspicion and even hatred of the media); and an economic crisis (impoverishing quality journalism).

These five areas of crisis – the effects of which the Index’s methodology allows us to evaluate – are now compounded by a global public health crisis.

“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, and is itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today.”

There is a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a country’s ranking in the Index. Both China (177th) and Iran (down 3 at 173rd) censored their major coronavirus outbreaks extensively. In Iraq (down 6 at 162nd), the authorities stripped Reuters of its licence for three months after it published a story questioning official coronavirus figures. Even in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary (down 2 at 89th), had a “coronavirus” law passed with penalties of up to five years in prison for false information, a completely disproportionate and coercive measure.

“The public health crisis provides authoritarian governments with an opportunity to implement the notorious “shock doctrine” – to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times,” Deloire added. “For this decisive decade to not be a disastrous one, people of goodwill, whoever they are, must campaign for journalists to be able to fulfil their role as society’s trusted third parties, which means they must have the capacity to do so.”


Evolution of some countries ranked since 2013

The main findings of the 2020 Index: Norway tops the Index for the fourth year in a row in 2020, while Finland is again the runner-up. Denmark (up 2 at 3rd) is next as both Sweden (down 1 at 4th) and the Netherlands (down 1 at 5th) have fallen as a result of increases in cyber-harassment. The other end of the Index has seen little change. North Korea (down 1 at 180th) has taken the last position from Turkmenistan, while Eritrea (178th) continues to be Africa’s worst-ranked country.

Malaysia (101st) and the Maldives (79th) registered the biggest rises in the 2020 Index – 22nd and 19th, respectively – thanks to the beneficial effects of changes of government through the polls. The third biggest leap was by Sudan (159th), which rose 16 places after Omar al-Bashir’s removal. The list of biggest declines in the 2020 Index is topped by Haiti, where journalists have often been targeted during violent nationwide protests for the past two years. After falling 21 places, it is now ranked 83rd. The other two biggest falls were in Africa – by Comoros (down 19 at 75th) and Benin (down 17 at 113th), both of which have seen a surge in press freedom violations.

https://rsf.org/en/2020-world-press-freedom-index-entering-decisive-decade-journalism-exacerbated-coronavirus

NGOs demand that rules against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are upgraded

January 28, 2020

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, activist Arlindo Marquês and slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have all being victims of SLAPP.

. to European Commissioner Vice President Věra Jourová ahead of proposed new laws. The NGOs want to ensure that EThe organisations include the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe

Jourová is preparing legislation which will work to deter such lawsuits.

In essence, SLAPPs are used to silence individuals and organisations that play a watchdog role and hold those in positions of power to account,” they wrote. Naming journalists within the European Union affected by SLAPP, the groups called the lawsuits received by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia one of “the most striking examples which include journalists”. Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia had 47 law suits pending against her at the time of her assassination,” they said. (The Maltese government has refused to ban the use of SLAPP suits in Malta, rejecting a motion by the Opposition in parliament).

The Shift, which works with international organisations to fight the threats against journalists, has also itself faced threats of SLAPP suits twice – one by a Russian banker and another by Henley & Partners, Malta’s concessionaire for the cash for passports scheme. The same firm also targeted Caruana Galizia prior to her assassination. In both cases, The Shift did not back down. Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who exposed the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal, is also facing SLAPP action, the organisations noted. British co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign Arron Banks is refusing to drop the final two SLAPP lawsuits against the journalist who now started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the massive legal costs.

The organisations said that SLAPP lawsuits are not limited to journalists, but are also targeted at academia, trade unionists, activists, civil society organisations and individual citizens, including human rights defenders. Strong EU anti-SLAPP measures, including legislation and legal funds for victims, at a time when there is no such legislation in force in any EU member state will help protect those who are vulnerable to this type of legal harassment, they said. Such measures would also send a strong political message that the EU is ready to stand up for its citizens and protect fundamental rights,” they continued.

EU legislation must cover everybody affected by SLAPP – 27 NGOs

Iran: nothing good to report in December 2019

December 20, 2019

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says more than 300 people were killed in protests in Iran last month. In a report released on 16 December 2019 Amnesty says that according to reports it compiled, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between November 15 and 18 as authorities crushed protests with lethal force. The organization interviewed dozens of people inside Iran. It also analyzed video footage obtained by the group, which shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The report said thousands of journalists and human rights defenders have also been arrested in an attempt to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s repression. Iran has yet to disclose details of the casualties.

On 18 December the European Union extended sanctions against Iran by another year over what the bloc says are serious human rights violations. The EU said in a statement it extended a travel ban and asset freeze against 82 people and also a ban on EU exports that might help in the repression of internal dissent. In 2011, the EU imposed the restrictions over the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders and others. The sanctions also target those involved in torture, inhumane treatment and stonings or hangings. The extension prolongs the sanctions until April 13, 2018.

On 19 December 2019 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it is “appalled” by a Tehran court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists from the Gam (Step) online magazine. However, the appeals court in Tehran reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to five years for each journalist — Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Assal Mohammadi — for a combined total of 20 years, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on December 18. The journalists were arrested a year ago on what Amnesty International called “spurious” national security charges related to their reporting on workers’ rights protests in Khuzestan Province over grievances concerning unpaid wages and poor conditions.

RSF said on December 18 that the same appeals court in Tehran also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to five years in prison. Amiri was arrested in May after covering a demonstration outside parliament in the capital.

On 20 December 2019 UN human rights experts called on the Iranian authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and mistreated during recent protests, and expressed concerns over the hundreds of people who have been killed. “We are shocked at reports of the ill-treatment of those detained during the protests that took place in November 2019, and deeply disturbed that the reported use of excessive force by the Iranian security forces led to an untold number of casualties, including deaths,” the experts said.

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https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20191216_26/

EU extends sanctions on Iran over human rights violations

https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/rsf-appalled-five-iranian-journalists-get-total-25-years-prison

UN Experts Alarmed at Alleged Mistreatment of Detained Protesters