Posts Tagged ‘CPJ’

80 Media and Human Rights groups urge African Heads of State to release jailed journalists amid pandemic

April 9, 2020

On 9 April 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and 80 other media and human rights NGOs have urged ten African Heads of State to release journalists from detention in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To:

President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune
President of Benin Patrice Talon
President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza
President of Cameroon Paul Biya
President of Chad Idriss Deby
President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali
Prime Minister of Morocco Saad-Eddine El Othmani
President of Rwanda Paul Kagame

Your Excellencies,

We the 81 undersigned media, press freedom, and human rights organizations are writing to call on your respective governments to release all jailed journalists amid the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists published an open letter to world leaders urging the immediate release of all journalists imprisoned for their work. Given that a staggering number of these imprisoned journalists are held in jails across the African continent, we are reiterating that call to your respective countries at this time of grave public health concern.

According to CPJ’s most recent annual survey conducted on December 1, 2019, there were at least 73 journalists in prisons in Africa, including 26 in Egypt, 16 in Eritrea, seven in Cameroon, four each in RwandaBurundi, and Morocco, three in Algeria, and one each in BeninNigeriaChadTanzaniaEthiopiaSomaliaComorosDemocratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

As of March 31, at least 11 of these journalists have been released from jails in Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, DRC, Algeria, Comoros, South Sudan, and Egypt, according to CPJ research. However, at least six more journalists and media workers have been jailed since December 1, and remain in prison as of March 31, including four inEthiopia and one each in Cameroon and Algeria.

Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states, “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.” These rights were extended to prisoners and detainees when the African Commission adopted the 1995 Resolution on Prisons in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

For journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care. Many of these journalists have been held in detention without trial for lengthy periods and are suffering from ill health exacerbated by underlying health conditions and overcrowded prisons, where they have contracted malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

We urge you to release every jailed journalist in your respective countries and to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time. Journalism must not carry a death sentence.

Sincerely,

(for names of signing organisations see link below)

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/20/corona-virus-threatens-human-rights-defenders-in-detention-egypt-and-turkey/

Journalist Kabendera in Tanzania: now suddenly held on economic charges

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019 prosecutors in Tanzania charged freelance journalist Erick Kabendera with money laundering, tax evasion, and assisting an organized crime racket. When he was detained on July 29, the Dar es Salaam police chief said at a press conference that police were investigating Kabendera’s citizenship status.“It seems that for the past week, authorities have been searching for a way to justify their detention of this critical freelance journalist. First, they claimed Erick Kabendera’s citizenship was in question, today they have leveled drastically different charges, which call into question their motive for holding him,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. “Prosecutors should immediately drop the charges against Kabendera and Tanzania should end its practice of retaliating against critical voices.”.. Under Tanzania’s Criminal Procedure Act, people accused of money laundering do not qualify for bail. Kabendera could remain in detention for the duration of his trial, Jones Sendodo, one of the lawyers representing the journalist, told CPJ. If convicted of assisting a criminal racket, Kabendera could be jailed for up to15 years.

Since his arrest, authorities have searched the journalist’s home at least twice, confiscated his passport and other documents, and questioned his mother, according to media reports. In addition to being interrogated about his citizenship, Kabendera was also questioned on allegations of sedition and cybercrime offences, according to the BBC and other reports. In a statement last week, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition said that Kabendera’s rights to due process had been violated, as police moved him from station to station after arrest, denying him access to legal representation and his family. In a video posted to Twitter today, Jebra Kambole, who is also representing Kabendera, said the journalist has not yet been questioned for the crimes on the charge sheet, adding, “It is journalism work that has brought Erick here.” Kabendera will be detained at Segerea prison in Dar es Salaam until August 19, when the next hearing in his case is scheduled, his lawyer, Sendodo, said.

https://cpj.org/2019/08/tanzania-switches-track-charges-kabendera-with-eco.php

More on Maxence Melo, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)
A Tanzanian journalist awarded the International Press Freedom Award on 16 July [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/] said he hoped the recognition will “lift the corner of the veil” on the plight of reporters in his homeland reported News24 on 17 July 2019. Maxence Melo, a blogger whose critical writings of President John Magufuli have landed him in hot water.
The CPJ said the co-founder of the Jamii Forums blog in 2006, was a “champion of online freedom of expression” who never flinched, even in the face of Tanzania’s strict internet laws. Melo has been in court more than 80 times, the CPJ said, and is still facing prosecution for refusing to disclose his sources in a story criticising Tanzanian authorities. His work focuses on corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations.

Melo said he hoped the award would turn the spotlight on the exceptional difficulties faced by journalists in Tanzania. “This prize lifts a corner of the veil on what is happening in our country,” said Melo, who is barred from leaving Tanzania’s financial capital and biggest city, Dar es Salaam. “Never before in our country has a government violated press freedom so much.

It is of course not good news that my country is making the headlines because of its laws and practices that violate freedoms of the press and expression,” Melo said. “With the announcement of this award, I think the international community will take a greater interest in what is happening in Tanzania, in the difficult environment in which the media and human rights defenders work in Tanzania.” Melo, a father of three, said he had received death threats. “It is obvious that I am afraid, afraid for my personal safety, but also for the safety of my family,” he said.

In 2015, the East African country was 75th in the world in RSF’s press freedom rankings. By 2019, it had slid to 118th.

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/tanzanian-press-champion-hopes-prize-lifts-veil-on-abuses-20190717

CPJ’s 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award to Pakistani journalist Zaffar Abbas

July 19, 2019

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award recognizing extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom will be presented to Zaffar Abbas, editor of Pakistan’s daily newspaper Dawn. Abbas, who has decades of experience as a reporter in Pakistan, has led Dawn since 2010. Under his leadership, Dawn and its reporters frequently have come under government pressure. This is the second Ifill award which replaces the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award. For more on this and other awards for journalists: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwen-ifill-press-freedom-award

“Zaffar Abbas is the embodiment of journalistic courage, which is why the board is so pleased to honor him with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of the CPJ board. “Every day he fights to deliver facts to Dawn’s readers in the face of pressure, obstacles, and blockades from the institutions in Pakistan that would much prefer to go about their business without scrutiny from the press or the public.

https://cpj.org/2019/07/cpj-announces-2019-international-press-freedom-awa.php

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 »

Committee to Protect Journalists publishes New Risk List: Where Press Freedom is going down

February 8, 2014

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] has published its Risk List, indicating where press freedom is in decline. In determining the list, CPJ staff examined six press freedom indicators: fatalities, imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile. Countries named to the Risk List are not necessarily the world’s worst places for journalists; such a list would include nations like North Korea and Eritrea, where free expression has long been suffocated. Instead, the Risk List identifies the 10 places where CPJ documented the most significant downward trends during 2012. Those trends included:

  • High murder rates and entrenched impunity in Pakistan, Somalia, and Brazil.
  • The use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in Ecuador, Turkey, and Russia.
  • The imprisonment of large numbers of journalists, typically on anti-state charges, to thwart critical reporting in Ethiopia, Turkey, Vietnam, Iran, and Syria.
  • An exceedingly high fatality rate in Syria, where journalists faced multiple risks from all sides in the conflict.

CPJ, which is publishing its Risk List for the first time, identified Syria and Somalia, which are racked by conflict, along with Iran, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, nations that are ruled with an authoritarian grip. But half of the nations on the Risk List– Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia, along with Ecuador–practice some form of democracy and exert significant influence on a regional or international stage.

Threats to press freedom were not confined within the borders of these nations. Four Risk List countries sought to undermine international or regional press freedom initiatives during the year. Russia pushed for centralized control of the Internet ahead of the World Conference on International Telecommunications. Ecuador led an effort, supported by Brazil, to weaken the ability of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene in cases of systemic or grave press freedom abuses. Brazil and Pakistan were among a handful of countries that tried to derail a U.N. plan to improve journalist security and combat impunity worldwide.

Setbacks in Brazil are particularly alarming given its status as a regional leader and home to a diverse array of news media. But a spike in journalist murders, a failure to address impunity, and a pattern of judicial censorship have put Brazil’s press freedom at risk, CPJ found. Turkey, too, has projected an image as a regional model for freedom and democracy. But while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed a commitment to press freedom, his administration has wielded an anti-terror law as a club to jail and intimidate journalists.

Less surprising, but no less worrisome are setbacks in Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Iran. Though Ethiopia and Vietnam have been applauded for economic strides, both countries have lagged in terms of openness and freedom of the press. Conditions worsened in 2012, as Ethiopian and Vietnamese authorities ramped up efforts to stifle dissent by imprisoning journalists on anti-state charges. Iran, ignoring international criticism of its press record, has intensified an assault on critical voices that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election.

In Syria and Somalia, where journalists faced risks from multiple sides, the death tolls have mounted. Crossfire was the leading cause of death for journalists in Syria, although at least three journalists were assassinated, CPJ research shows. Both rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been implicated in acts of violence against the press. All 12 journalists killed in Somalia in 2012, the country’s bloodiest year for the press, were targeted in direct reprisal for their reporting. Both insurgents and government officials were suspected of involvement. In both countries, the ranks of young journalists, many with little training and experience, have been particularly hard hit.

In the full report below you can find capsule reports on the 10 nations named to the CPJ Risk List:

 http://www.cpj.org/2013/02/attacks-on-the-press-cpj-risk-list.php

‘Western’ human rights defenders accused of double standards by controversial Azeri journalist

February 16, 2013

On 15 February 2013 News.az (an Azeri news agency) distributed under the title “Western human rights defenders’ silence shows double standards” a bit of a rambling attack on western-based international organizations and human rights defenders for using double standards by being quickly critical of repression of journalists in the ‘new democracies’ such as Azerbaijan and being silent with regard to similar repression in western Europe.

112464The 15 February piece is mostly based on an interview with Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the website Haqqin.az, who stated that the case of journalists from News of the World is a high-profile case, and certainly should be considered in the plane of restrictions on the rights of journalists to work freely. What the article does not state is that on 22 January of this year Amnesty International has announced the termination of its collaboration with Eynulla Fatullayev, a former prisoner of conscience, and head of the Public Association for Human Rights in Azerbaijan.  Amnesty International believes that Fatullayev, and in particular, his site Haqqin.az, is used by the Government of Azerbaijan to discredit European criticism of human rights violations in Azerbaijan. In 2011 Amnesty International had issued a “mass tweet” on Fatullayev’s behalf; Fatullayev attributed his release inter alia to the work of Amnesty International activists.

In the interview Eynulla Fatullayev states among others the following: I am more than sure that if a similar event occurred in Azerbaijan or in another state, located in the zone of the new democracies, it would be followed by statements by most international organizations condemning the policy of the authorities to the persecution of media. Why in the case of the United Kingdom or other EU countries, all these organizations remain strangely silent?”  Read the rest of this entry »