Archive for the 'RSF' Category

RSF’s Press Freedom Award 2019 goes to three women journalists

September 16, 2019

On 12 September Reporters Without Borders (RSF) awarded its 2019 Press Freedom Prize to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan, Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang and Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat, at a ceremony held for the first time in Berlin. The award used to be called the Reporters Without Borders Prize {see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/reporters-without-borders-prize} but is increasingly referred to as Press Freedom Award which could be confusing as there are other awards with that name such as: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-canada and http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-cpj.

The Prize for Courage, which is given to journalists, media or NGOs who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism, was awarded to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan. The founder of the SaudiWoman.me website and author of many articles in the international media including the Guardian and New York Times, Eman al Nafjan spearheaded the Saudi women’s campaign for the right to drive and against Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system. Arrested along with other women’s rights activists in May 2018, she was freed conditionally on 28 March 2019. According to the Saudi media, she is accused of endangering “national security,” maintaining “suspicious contacts with foreign entities” and of being a “traitor,” for which she could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The Prize for Impact, which is given to journalists whose work has led to concrete improvements in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters, was awarded to Vietnamese journalist and blogger Pham Doan Trang. She is the founder of Luât Khoa, an online magazine that specializes in providing information about legal issues, and she edits another, thevietnamese, which also helps Vietnamese citizens to defend their rights and resist the Communist Party’s arbitrary rule. The author of many books including one defending the rights of Vietnam’s LGBT communities, she has been beaten by the police because of her work and was detained arbitrarily twice for several days in 2018.

The Prize for Independence, awarded to journalists for resisting financial, political, economic or religious pressure, went to Malta’s Caroline Muscat. After fellow Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017, she helped to create The Shift News, an independent investigative news website committed to combatting corruption and defending press freedom in Malta. In this small island nation where most media outlets are subservient to the government, she has exposed many cases of corruption implicating local politicians. Although the repeated target of gag suits, The Shift News has refused to comply with content take-down demands from Henley & Partners, a British firm that advises governments on residence and citizenship-by-investment policy. She received an award from the European Commission in 2015 for her journalism,

Every year, award-winners are unable to attend because the leaders of their countries prevent them,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “Two of this year’s three laureates have been unable to collect their awards personally,………… These journalists, who should be honoured in their countries, are denied the freedom to travel and often their freedom, period. But their commitment transcends borders without the dictators being able to do anything to prevent it.”

https://rsf.org/en/news/journalists-saudi-arabia-vietnam-and-malta-honoured-rsfs-2019-press-freedom-awards

International support for the staff of “The Intercept” website in Brasil

August 2, 2019

On 31 July a number of and leading international and Brazilian free speech organizations appealed for support for the staff of The Intercept Brasil, a Rio de Janeiro-based investigative news website that has been the target of a fierce campaign of harassment and intimidation since 9 June. The Intercept Brasil’s revelations about the “Operation Car Wash” corruption case triggered a wave of verbal attacks and threats against the website’s representatives. The most serious recent attacks include Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s public threat on 27 July to imprison The Intercept Brasil founder and editor Glenn Greenwald. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/15/edward-snowden-gets-another-human-rights-award-in-berlin/]

The 26 press freedom and human rights organizations and media outlets named below strongly condemn the recent wave of attacks and threats against the investigative news website The Intercept Brasil. We call on the authorities to ensure respect for the constitutionally guaranteed right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

The attacks began on 9 June after The Intercept Brasil published the first of a series of reports revealing apparent irregularities in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation, one of the most important corruption investigations in Brazilian history. To publish these revelations, which are based on documents provided by an anonymous source, The Intercept Brasil partnered with several Brazilian media outlets including the Folha de São Paulo newspaper and Veja magazine.

Since then, the staff of The Intercept Brasil and in particular, its founder Glenn Greenwald, have been subjected – especially on social networks – to countless insults, slurs and death threats accompanied by false information designed to undermine the credibility of its reporting. This harassment is symbolic and symptomatic of the difficulties encountered by all media workers who investigate sensitive stories in Brazil, where the journalists are often the targets of intimidation and persecution campaigns.

Regardless of their provenance, the attempts to undermine and attack the credibility of The Intercept Brasil and its partners are viewed by the signatories of this appeal as a grave threat to the freedom to inform. Not only are they designed to deflect the public’s attention from the content of the revelations but above all, they reinforce an increasingly hostile work environment for the media and especially for investigative journalism.

We remind the authorities that the Brazilian state has a duty to guarantee the protection of journalists and to investigate the serious threats received by the journalists at The Intercept Brasil and its partners.

Freedom of the press and information are pillars of democracy. They transcend political divisions and must be protected and guaranteed at all costs.

Signatories:

Agência Pública de Jornalismo Investigativo

Amnesty International Brazil

Article 19 Brasil

Asociación de la Prensa de Madrid (APM)

Associação Brasileira de Imprensa (ABI)

Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (Abraji)

Associação dos Correspondentes Estrangeiros (ACE) de São Paulo

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Federação Nacional dos Jornalistas (FENAJ)

Federación de las Asociaciones de Periodistas de España (FAPE)

Freedom House

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Global Editors Network (GEN)

Human Rights Watch

IFEX

Index on Censorship

Instituto Vladimir Herzog

Interamerican Press Association (IAPA/SIP)

International Press Institute

Intervozes

Mediapart

Observatório da Imprensa

PEN International

Reporters sans frontières (RSF)

The Guardian

Witness Brasil

Mauritanian blogger freed after being held for nearly six years

August 1, 2019

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is delighted to report that Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed Mkhaitir, a Mauritian blogger who had been held for more than five and a half years and who was originally sentenced to death for apostasy, was released at dawn yesterday. When contacted by RSF after his release, Mkhaitir thanked all the organizations who have been campaigning on his behalf ever since his arrest in January 2014. He was arrested for a Facebook post criticizing the use of religion to justify discriminatory practices against the blacksmith community to which he belongs. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/24/ngos-demand-the-release-of-mohamed-cheikh-ould-mkhaitir-in-mauretania/

The death sentence he received in December 2014 on a charge of apostasy was eventually commuted to two years in prison by a Nouadhibou appeal court in November 2017. He should then have been released but many demonstrations calling for his execution had been held during his trial and the authorities continued to detain him on “security grounds”, denying him access to his family and lawyers.

“We are deeply relieved that he has finally been freed after being held for more than five and a half years in almost total isolation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “For nothing more than a social network post, he was subjected to a terrible ordeal that violated a decision by his own country’s judicial system. This blogger was francophone Africa’s longest-held citizen-journalist. We thank all those who contributed to his release.”

Mkhaitir had made formal statements of repentance on Facebook and TV in the past few weeks. This was the condition that was set for his release after a meeting at the start of July between outgoing President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and several religious officials. The new president, former defence minister Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, is to be sworn in on 1 August. Mkhaitir’s release was the outcome of a major international campaign to which RSF, many other NGOs and his lawyers all contributed. …. Mainly because of Mkhaitir’s arbitrary detention, Mauritania has fallen 46 places in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index since 2016 and is ranked 94th out of 180 countries in the 2019 Index. Aside from Tanzania, no other country has fallen so sharply in the same period.

https://rsf.org/en/news/mauritanian-blogger-freed-after-being-held-nearly-six-years

China’s cyber-dissident Huang Qi get 12 years jail

July 30, 2019

Quite a few mainstream media have paid attention on 29 July 2019 to the sentening of human rights defender Huang Qi, often referred to as the country’s “first cyber-dissident”, to 12 years in jail. Huang Qi is the founder of 64 Tianwang, a news website blocked in mainland China that covers alleged human rights abuses and protests. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/14-major-ngos-call-for-immediate-release-of-chinese-human-rights-defender-huang-qi/

He had been found guilty of intentionally leaking state secrets to foreigners. The statement, from Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court, added Mr Huang would be deprived of his political rights for four years and had also been fined $2,900. Huang has kidney and heart disease and high blood pressure. And supporters have voiced concern about the consequences of the 56-year-old remaining imprisoned.

This decision is equivalent to a death sentence, considering Huang Qi’s health has already deteriorated from a decade spent in harsh confinement,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. The press-freedom campaign group has previously awarded Huang its Cyberfreedom Prize. It has now called on President Xi Jinping to “show mercy” and issue a pardon.

Amnesty International has called the sentence “harsh and unjust”. “The authorities are using his case to scare other human rights defenders who do similar work exposing abuses, especially those using online platforms,” said the group’s China researcher Patrick Poon.

And in December 2018, a group of the United Nations’ leading human rights experts also pressed for Huang to be set free and be paid compensation. According to Reporters Without Borders, China currently holds more than 114 journalists in prison.

https://www.jurist.org/news/2019/07/chinese-journalist-huang-qi-sentenced-to-12-years-for-allegedly-leaking-state-secrets/

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-49150906

World Press Freedom Day celebrated on 3 May 2019

May 6, 2019

Friday 3 May was World Press Freedom Day. Read the rest of this entry »

NGOs urge Putin not to sign Russia’s “Sovereign Internet Bill”

April 28, 2019

Participants in an opposition rally in central Moscow protest against tightening state control over the internet in Russia, 10 March 2019
Participants in an opposition rally in central Moscow protest against tightening state control over the internet in Russia, 10 March 2019  Igor Russak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

On 24 April 2019 nine major human rights, media and Internet freedom NGOs, called on Russian President Vladmir Putin, not to sign the so-called “Sovereign Internet Bill” as it will lead to further limitations of already restricted Internet and media freedoms in the country.

The bill (No. 608767-7) amends the laws “On Communications” and “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” and states its aim as enabling the Russian Internet to operate independently from the World Wide Web in the event of an emergency or foreign threat. On 16 April 2019, the Russian State Duma approved the bill in the third reading amid widespread domestic criticism, protests and online campaigning around the country, and on 22 April, the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, approved it. If signed by President Vladimir Putin, the bill would enter into force on 1 November 2019.

The bill creates a system that gives the authorities the capacity to block access to parts of the Internet in Russia, potentially ranging from cutting access to particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs) through to cutting all access to the Internet throughout Russia.

The bill gives control over Internet network routing to the state regulator for Telecommunications, Information Technologies and Mass Communications, Roskomnadzor. It provides that the ISPs should connect with other ISPs, or “peer,” at Internet exchange points (IXes) approved by the authorities, and that these IXes should not allow unapproved ISPs to peer. The bill would also create a centralised system of devices capable of blocking Internet traffic. The bill requires ISPs to install the devices, which the government would provide free of charge, in their networks.

Under this system, Roskomnadzor would monitor threats to Russia’s Internet access and transmit instructions to ISPs through the special devices about countering these threats. Cross-border Internet traffic would be kept under close state control. The draft does not specify what the range of instructions would be, but they could potentially include partially or fully blocking traffic both between Russia and the rest of the World Wide Web, and within Russia. Nor does the draft explain how the new equipment will work, or what specifically it will do. It is clear, however, that blocking would result from direct interaction between the government and the ISP and that it will be extrajudicial and nontransparent. The public would not know what has been blocked and why.

The bill states that the new measures will be activated in the event of a ‘security threat’. The draft does not define security threats, and instead gives the government full discretion to decide what would constitute a security threat and what range of measures would be activated using the new system to address a threat.

The bill also states that Russian ISPs remain obligated to filter and block content in accordance with existing Russian law.

Further, the bill creates a national domain name system (DNS) – a system that acts as the address-book for the Internet by allowing anyone to look up the address of the server(s) hosting the URL of a website they are looking for. The bill would require Internet providers to start using the national DNS from 1 January 2021. Forcing ISPs to use the national system will give Russian authorities the ability to manipulate the results provided to the ISP outside the ISP’s knowledge and control. Authorities will be able to answer any user’s request for a website address with either a fake address or no address at all. This not only allows them to conduct fine-grained censorship but will also let the national DNS to redirect users to government-controlled servers in response to any DNS requests instead of to a website’s authentic servers.

These proposals are very broad, overly vague, and vest in the government unlimited and opaque discretion to define threats. They carry serious risks to the security and safety of commercial and private users and undermine the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.

The bill contravenes standards on freedom of expression and privacy protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Russia is a party. Both treaties allow states to limit freedoms to protect national security but impose clear criteria for such limitations to be valid. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, commenting on the ICCPR, has reiterated that these limits should be “provided by law, which is clear and accessible to everyone,” and be predictable and transparent.

Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19 and other undersigned organisations are extremely concerned that the changes introduced in the bill threaten human rights and freedoms in Russia. Open, secure and reliable connectivity is essential for human rights online, including the rights to freedom of expression, information, assembly, privacy and media freedom. The bill could pose a threat to the Internet’s rights-enabling features if access to the World Wide Web is wholly or partially cut off, or if arbitrary blocking and filtering of content is carried out. It would facilitate state surveillance and curb anonymity online. It also risks severely isolating people in Russia from the rest of the world, limiting access to information and constraining attempts at collective action and public protest. The Bill’s negative impact on the freedom of expression will also affect the rights of journalists and media to work freely.

The adoption of the bill should be seen in the context of other Russian legislation that severely undermines protection of freedom of expression and privacy online and fails to meet international human rights standards. These include:

. The 2016 ‘Yarovaya Law,’ which requires all communications providers and Internet operators to store metadata about their users’ communications activities, to disclose decryption keys at the security services’ request, and to use only encryption methods approved by the Russian government. It was adopted to allegedly counter ‘extremism’ but in practice, it creates a backdoor for Russia’s security agents to access Internet users’ data, traffic, and communications.

. In 2017, Federal Law 327-FZ made amendments to the ‘Lugovoi Law’ (Federal Law FZ-398, 2013) that gave the General Prosecutor or his/her deputies a right to block access to any online resource of a foreign or international NGOs designated ‘undesirable’; and, to ‘information providing methods to access’ the resources enumerated in the ‘Lugovoi Law’, i.e. including hyper-links to old announcements on public rallies not approved by local authorities.

. The recent March 2019 bills mandate blocking and penalizing websites that publish what authorities deem to be “fake news” and “insult” to authorities, state symbols, and what the legislation vaguely describes as Russian “society.”

The President of the Russian Federation should reject the bill. The Russian Government should also review other Internet related legislation, abolish the above listed laws and bring its legal framework to full compliance with international freedom of expression standards.

ARTICLE 19

Civil Rights Defenders

Committee to Protect Journalists

Human Rights Watch

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Media Support

International Partnership for Human Rights

Norwegian Helsinki Committee

PEN International

Reporters without Borders

https://www.ifex.org/russia/2019/04/24/sovereign-internet-bill/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/24/joint-statement-russias-sovereign-internet-bill

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index launched on 18th of April

April 20, 2019

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. [for 2018 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/30/world-press-freedom-index-2018-is-out-colorful-but-disheartening/]

The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region. (It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.)

Along with the Index, RSF calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries and regions (in the world and in each region) as regards media freedom. It is an absolute measure that complements the Index’s comparative rankings. The global indicator is the average of the regional indicators, each of which is obtained by averaging the scores of all the countries in the region, weighted according to their population as given by the World Bank.

The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries and regions is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria used in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. Click here for more information

The press freedom map, which is distributed in print and digital versions, offers a visual overview of the situation in each country and region in the Index. The colour categories are assigned as follows: good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (orange), bad (red) and very bad (black).

https://rsf.org/en/ranking

70th Anniversary of ACANU: focus on journalists under attack and creation of new human rights award

March 5, 2019

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) organised a public lecture, panel discussion and award presentation in partnership with the Graduate Institute and the Club Diplomatique de Genève on “Press Freedom and Journalists Under Attack” on 25 February 2019.

Photo credit: Magali Girardin

The lecture, delivered by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressed issues on the physical attacks and growing number of assaults on the credibility of journalists and media organisations, which are taking a heavy toll on media freedom. It also sought to answer what is spurring the growing hostility and violence and what can be done to protect professional journalists.

Journalists are on the front lines, sounding the first alarm, questioning official accounts, looking into difficult and dangerous issues and – at their best – asking questions that demand an answer and telling truths that must be heard. […] In the face of this sustained campaign of harassment, intimidation and lack of accountability, we – the international community – cannot remain silent. […] I call on Governments and the international community to protect journalists and media workers, and to create the conditions they need to do their essential work, and to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on them.

Nina Larson, President of ACANU, then moderated a panel discussion on the situation facing journalists, which included Peggy Hicks, Director Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders and David Sylvan, Professor, International Relations/Political Science, the Graduate Institute.

During the discussion, Ms Hicks pointed out that “one of the [phenomena] that’s really important for us to look at in this context is the extent to which we have a whole new world of threats in terms of how some of these [attacks] happen online as opposed to offline”. Mr Deloire found that oligarchical control of the media and restrictive laws were like invisible prisons, where “there is no visible victim, there is no blood, no people in jail, but the information can be controlled”. Citing ways that state entities falsely present themselves as independent journalists, Professor Sylvan added that “there are so many alternatives – “fake” or otherwise – to regular news media that the problem now for many journalists is just to try to distinguish what they are doing from the hundreds and hundreds of things that appear similar but are not. So on the one hand, there are many more means – quite apart from physical violence […] of putting sharp restrictions on press freedom, but also there is a much greater demand for this.”

In the final segment of the event, ACANU presented two new international journalism awards, created for the 70th anniversary celebration and to recognise journalists for outstanding work in the face of growing hostility. Jennifer O’Mahony, a British freelancer, was awarded the prize for “Excellence in Reporting” for her article published in The Telegraph: “Algeria dumps thousands of migrants in the Sahara amid EU-funded crackdown”. The ACANU award for “Best Journalistic Coverage of Human Rights” was given to two Geneva journalists, Adrià Budry Carbó of Le Temps and Camille Pagella of L’illustré, for their article, “Piège en haute mer”, published in Le Temps.

For more on this new award and others for the protection of journalists, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/acanu-prize-for-reporting-on-human-rights-issues

http://graduateinstitute.ch/home/relations-publiques/news-at-the-institute/news-archives.html/_/news/corporate/2019/press-freedom-and-journalists-un

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/E955F9CF21E417CDC12583AC006920E4?OpenDocument

http://www.acanu.ch/prize_concept.html

Novalpina urged to come clean about targeting human rights defenders

February 19, 2019

In an open letter released today, 18 February 2019, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and five other NGOs urged Novalpina to publicly commit to accountability for NSO Group’s past spyware abuses, including the targeting of an Amnesty International employee and the alleged targeting of Jamal Khashoggi. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]

Danna Ingleton, Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech, said: “Novalpina’s executives have serious questions to answer about their involvement with a company which has become the go-to surveillance tool for abusive governments. This sale comes in the wake of reports that NSO paid private operatives to physically intimidate individuals trying to investigate its role in attacks on human rights defenders – further proof that NSO is an extremely dangerous entity.

We are calling on Novalpina to confirm an immediate end to the sale or further maintenance of NSO products to governments which have been accused of using surveillance to violate human rights. It must also be completely transparent about its plans to prevent further abuses.

This could be an opportunity to finally hold NSO Group to account. Novalpina must commit to fully engaging with investigations into past abuses of NSO’s spyware, and ensure that neither NSO Group nor its previous owners, Francisco Partners, are let off the hook.”

The signatories to the letter are:

  • Amnesty International
  • R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales
  • Privacy International
  • Access Now
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights, NYU School of Law and Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/spyware-firm-buyout-reaffirms-urgent-need-for-justice-for-targeted-activists/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2019/02/open-letter-to-novalpina-capital-nso-group-and-francisco-partners/

Breaking news: MEA 2019 goes to Sudanese refugee activist caught up in Australia’s off-shore detention policy

February 13, 2019

The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders just announced that the 2019 Laureate is Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese refugee activist being effectively detained on Manus island in Papua New Guinea as part of Australia‘s controversial policy of deterring arrivals. Read the rest of this entry »