Posts Tagged ‘critical journalists’

More on Neha Dixit, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

(Rajni George)

The Committee to Protect Journalists on 16 July gave one of its International Press Freedom Awards 2019 to Neha Dixit, an Indian freelance reporter, who has covered politics, gender, and social justice in print, TV, and online media for more than a decade. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/]

She began her career at Tehelka magazine and then joined the special investigation team at India Today. In 2019, Dixit spent months investigating and reporting stories that shed a light on important issues in the country, including extrajudicial killings by police. She also reported on the illegal detention of citizens under draconian laws that appeared to be motivated by political interests. In January 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a notice to the Indian government to express its concern about the detentions. In 2018, Dixit reported on the damage to the health of poor Indians who were being used as guinea pigs by pharmaceutical companies in illegal drug trials.

In 2016, she wrote a story for Outlook magazine that accused members of a right-wing nationalist group of trafficking more than 31 girls in Assam state to other parts of India in order to inculcate them with a nationalist ideology. After the story was published, members of the ruling party filed a criminal defamation suit against Dixit and Outlook, accusing both of violating Indian law. CPJ condemned the case, which continues today, and provided Dixit with support for its legal fees. CPJ’s research has found that section 153A of India’s colonial-era penal code, under which the suit was filed, has been used to silence journalists, writers, and academics in India. Dixit was also charged with “inciting communal hatred through writing,” for which she could face a five-year prison term.

After Dixit’s exposé on extrajudicial killings by the police, she said high-ranking police officials threatened her family’s safety if she continued to report on the issue. She is frequently harassed online as a result of her reporting, especially from alleged right-wing extremists. She has been threatened with physical attacks, rape, and death, and her personal information has been exposed online. She told CPJ in May 2019 that she faces up to 300 abusive messages a day.

Dixit’s work has been published in international outlets including The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, Caravan, and The Wire. She has received numerous awards, including the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize in 2011, the Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism in 2014, and the 2016 Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist.

https://cpj.org/awards/2019/neha-dixit-india.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

Maldives: Foundation launched in memory of Rilwan and Yameen

April 12, 2019

The families of abducted journalist Ahmed Rilwan and slain blogger Yameen Rasheed have launched a foundation in memory of the outspoken human rights defenders.  The foundation was announced Wednesday 10 April 2019 by their mothers at a private event held to mark Yameen’s 31st birthday. “This foundation will work to advocate for human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, tolerance, justice and the right to a dignified life,” Yameen’s mother Mariyam Shafeeq told reporters. The purpose of the foundation is to provide education and training opportunities for people who want to contribute in these areas.

Yameen, a satirist and IT professional, was stabbed to death near the stairwell of his apartment building on 23 April, 2017. He was killed by a radicalised group of young men who believed he was guilty of insulting Islam, according to police. Six suspects were charged with murder and preliminary hearings were wrapped up in October. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/25/sunny-maldives-murder-of-human-rights-defender-and-blogger-yameen-rasheed-tip-of-the-iceberg/]

Rilwan, an outspoken blogger and journalist with the Maldives Independent, was abducted in August 2014 outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé. Two suspects were acquitted last August with the judge blaming glaring investigative and prosecutorial failures.

The missing journalist’s family said the not guilty verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”

On Wednesday, the families condemned the outgoing parliament’s refusal to grant investigative powers to a presidential commission formed to investigate deaths and disappearances. “We have seen that powerful politicians and criminal gangs have continued to use state institutions and the courts to bury the truth. The fact that the bill seeking legal powers for the presidential commission investigating unresolved murders and enforced disappearances have been put on the parliament’s agenda thrice, only to be held up in parliament is clear evidence that influential persons are working to pervert justice,” the families said in a statement.

For queries about the work of the Rilwan and Yameen Foundation email rilwanyameenfoundation@gmail.com.

Foundation launched in memory of Rilwan and Yameen

Silvana Meixner winner of Ari Rath Prize for Critical Journalism 2019

April 8, 2019

Vindobona announced on 4 April 2019 that ORF journalist and presenter Silvana Meixner will be awarded the second Ari-Rath Prize for Critical Journalism on 5 May 2019, the Day of Freedom of the Press. This prize was established to honour journalists who have rendered outstanding services to critical reporting on immigration, expulsion and asylum, committed to respect for human rights, in the spirit of the former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, Ari Rath who died in January 2017. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-a-good-time-for-honoring-journalists/] For more on this award and 7 other awards for journalists see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ari-rath-prize-for-critical-journalism.

Former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, Ari Rath, who died in January 2017. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons

Silvana Meixner is the head of the ORF minority editorial office (Minderheitenredaktion) and presenter of the magazine “Heimat Fremde Heimat”. In the spirit of the late Ari Rath, she is honoured as a journalist who has rendered outstanding service in her work to critical reporting on flight, expulsion and asylum, committed to the protection of human rights. Silvana Meixner was born on March 16, 1958 in Split, Croatia; she lives in Vienna since 1986. After graduating from high school, she studied sociology and pedagogy in Zadar. Since 1988 she has been working for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (Österreichischer Rundfunk), where she was involved in setting up the minority editorial office. On 3 December 1993 Silvana Meixner, who moderated the television programme Heimat, fremde Heimat together with Lakis Iordanopoulos, was injured by a letter bomb from Franz Fuchs. She continued her journalistic work for refugees, ethnic minorities and human rights.

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https://www.vindobona.org/article/silvana-meixner-receives-ari-rath-prize-for-critical-journalism-2019

One journalist who did NOT get the Women of Courage Award (but almost)

March 12, 2019

First lady Melania Trump honors the International Women of Courage awardees during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington on March 29, 2017. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

A few days ago I referred to the International Women of Courage Awards [see; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/]. One name you will NOT see listed there is that of Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist.   explain why in Foreign Policy of 7 March 2019.

Jessikka Aro was to receive a “Women of Courage” prize. Then officials read her Twitter feed.

“It created a shitstorm of getting her unceremoniously kicked off the list,” said one U.S. diplomatic source familiar with the internal deliberations. “I think it was absolutely the wrong decision on so many levels,” the source said. The decision “had nothing to do with her work.”

The State Department spokesperson said in an email that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she had been chosen for the award and that it was a mistake that resulted from “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.” “We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” the spokesperson said.

Aro received a formal invitation to the award ceremony not from the embassy but from the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol on Feb. 12.

There is no indication that the decision to revoke the award came from the secretary of state or the White House. Officials who spoke to FP have suggested the decision came from lower-level State Department officials wary of the optics of Pompeo granting an award to an outspoken critic of the Trump administration. The department spokesperson did not respond to questions on who made the decision or why.

To U.S. officials who spoke to FP, the incident underscores how skittish some officials—career and political alike—have become over government dealings with vocal critics of a notoriously thin-skinned president. ….In the minds of some diplomats, this has created an atmosphere where lower-level officials self-censor dealings with critics of the administration abroad, even without senior officials weighing in.

Aro said the decision to cancel her award and corresponding trip to the United States caught her completely by surprise. “[When] I was informed about the withdrawal out of the blue, I felt appalled and shocked,” Aro told FP. …

U.S. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump

Nicaraguan journalist Wilfredo Miranda in exile wins journalism award

February 4, 2019

Nicaraguan journalist Wilfredo Miranda interviewing a witness to police repression in Masaya, Nicaragua, last summer. CREDIT COURTESY

Nicaragua’s human rights crisis  see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/18/exceptional-response-by-international-ngos-to-human-rights-crisis-in-nicaragua/] has sent many journalists into exile. Among them is Wilfredo Ernesto Miranda, a young reporter for the respected Nicaraguan weekly newspaper ConfidencialMiranda came to Miami after being threatened with imprisonment for exposing the murders of protesters by pro-government forces in a May 2018 article titled “!Disparaban con Precisión – a Matar!” (“They Were Shooting Precisely – to Kill!”) “I was able to document close-range bullet wounds to the heads and throats of protesters that could only be execution-style shots,” Miranda told WLRN.

The Rey de España prize is one of the most prestigious journalism awards in Spain and Latin America. Miranda said he wanted to dedicate his Rey de España prize – awarded by a jury in Spain – to imprisoned Nicaraguan journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda, who face terrorism charges that human rights groups call absurd.

http://www.wlrn.org/post/nicaraguan-journalist-exiled-miami-wins-prestigious-prize-and-vindication

https://www.efe.com/efe/espana/agencia-efe/periodistas-de-ocho-paises-iberoamericanos-ganan-los-premios-rey-espana/50000071-3883708

First Mexican journalist killed in 2019 – protection mechanism failing

January 22, 2019

The body of 34-year-old Rafael Murua Manriquez was found by the side of a road in Northern Mexico Sunday 20 January 2019, the same day he had been reported missing by his family. The former director of the community radio station, Radiokashana in Santa Rosalia, has become the first Mexican journalist to be killed in 2019.

Within his news reporting, Rafael Murúa Manríquez, is believed to have denounced the aggressions of the municipal president of Mulegé Felipe Prado, according to El Comercio. Following a statement from the Mexican representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Jan-Albert Hootsen, it has also been confirmed that the young journalist had already received threats since last year and had been placed under the country’s journalist protection programme since 2016.

It is the second journalist to have been reported as murdered within the presidency of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the first of which was killed just one day after his inauguration. The country’s leading NGOs and media protection agencies have since called upon a thorough investigation into the murder, in hopes of finding the people responsible.

At least ten journalists were killed last year alone, and in 2018 Mexico recorded the highest rate of press disappearances around the globe. The attacks continue on a long line of violence against the press throughout the past decade in Mexico as cartels brush shoulders with politicians creating a violent treat towards the investigation of ‘narcopolitics’.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/

The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which is used by Mexicans who have had their lives threatened, came into play in 2012. However, the initiative is believed to already be overwhelmed with recent enrollment. …With both federal and state protection mechanisms, there are also concerns that journalists with state-level support are often seeking protection from the very authorities trusted with guarding them. Last year, Mario Gómez Sanchez was gunned down by armed motorbikers, however, human rights groups could not explain why his protection mechanism was removed before his killing. The State Attorney General’s office declined to comment when contacted by Aztec Reports.

https://aztecreports.com/first-mexican-journalist-killed-in-2019/2359/

12 human rights NGOs urge Uzbekistan to pick up pace with reforms

February 15, 2018

The Financial Times (amongst others) reports that changes in Uzbekistan are possibly going in the right direction. [“While Mr Mirziyoyev was part of the old system too, as prime minister for 13 years, his ousting of Mr Inoyatov was the boldest in a series of steps apparently designed to start opening the country up. He has freed 18 high-profile political prisoners — even if thousands more remain in jail — and taken nearly 16,000 people off a 17,500-strong security blacklist of potential extremists that stopped them travelling or getting jobs”.]  This echoes what HRW said on 5 September 2017 after delegation had made its first visit to Uzbekistan since the organization was banned there in 2010:  “The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements”. Now (13 February 2018) twelve international NGOs have publicly urged Uzbekistan to release journalists and human rights defenders.

Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 

In a joint statement HRW, IPHR, Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights have called on Tashkent to “ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment” of independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev.

[Abdullaev was detained in September on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. In October, Uzbek authorities arrested well-known economist and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov. They have accused him and others, including Akrom Malikov, an academic who was arrested in 2016, of plotting to overthrow the government.

At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” HRW Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow said in the statement.

There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured. This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not,” Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), said in the rights groups’ statement.

For my earlier posts on Uzbekistan, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uzbekistan/

https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-12-rights-watchdogs-urge-tashkent-to-release-journalist-others/29039260.html

https://eurasianet.org/node/84971

https://www.ft.com/content/6c37419c-0cbf-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09

Don’t Shoot the Messenger – also valid in Africa

November 6, 2017

In a new report launched at the 61st session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) finds that amid growing restrictions on civic space in the sub-region, journalists play a critical role in exposing human rights violations and providing vital information and analysis of current events. Simply documenting and sharing information can simultaneously place them at risk and at the forefront of human rights defence.
In “Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Journalists as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa”, DefendDefenders examines the challenges journalists face, and provides an overview of the various strategies they have used to circumvent and continue their work amid these restrictions. Overall trends, legal frameworks, and case studies from 11 countries in the East and Horn of Africa provide an understanding of the capacity, risks, and needs of journalists reporting on human rights issues. Over 60 journalists, bloggers, and media professionals from the sub-region were interviewed, in addition to significant input from civil society organisations dedicated to free expression and the protection of journalists.
Central to the report is the question of whether journalists, by nature of their work, should be considered HRDs. Nearly all journalists interviewed for this report considered themselves to be HRDs, but many had doubts over whether this also applied to all their colleagues. Some interviewees claimed to actively seek out human rights stories, especially in conflict situations, while others also advocated for freedom of expression, often from exile.
Journalists are increasingly faced with new threats to their work and security, including harassment, arbitrary detentions, and imprisonments and prosecutions under spurious laws, both online and offline. These threats intensify amid violent conflicts and political crises, and often force journalists into exile, where they face new challenges. The report offers concrete solutions to online and offline challenges and makes key recommendations to governments and civil society to ensure that a free media environment in the region is protected and promoted.
Download “Don’t Shoot the Messenger!” here.

Attacks on HRDs and Journalists in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and South Sudan

January 26, 2016

At the end of 2015, a violent series of attacks against HRDs took place in the sub-region. In Djibouti, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, state authorities have repeatedly attempted to silence journalists, human rights activists, and NGOs through detentions, physical attacks, and office raids. “2015 was an extremely difficult year for HRDs across the East and Horn of Africa, who are facing increasing challenges and worsening attacks in the sub-region,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders. “DefendDefenders reiterates its commitment to support the work of HRDs and journalists in their struggle to promote human rights and civil liberties.”

In Djibouti, civic space is heavily restricted and on 21 December 2015, during a public gathering in Bouljougo, 27 people were killed and over 150 wounded by government forces, according to the Djiboutian human rights NGO Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH). The government responded to the NGO’s advocacy on the massacre with further attacks, and later on 21 December, the organisation’s General Secretary, Said Houssein Robleh, was shot by police forces in the throat and collarbone. [This was the second attack in December on Robleh. On 10 December 2015, Robleh was seriously beaten by the Djiboutian Chief of Police.] Upon leaving the hospital, Said Hossein Robleh and Omar Ali Ewado, one of the leaders of LDDH who had come to collect him, were arrested by Djiboutian authorities. Robleh was released shortly after, however Ewado was taken by the National Gendarmerie and held incommunicado for several days. After his appearance in court on 3 January, he was transferred to Gabode Central Prison without access to his family. He is being charged with public defamation for inciting hatred and spreading false news related to the 21 December massacre and the prosecution is seeking a 12-month sentence. On Sunday 17 January 2016, he was condemned to 3 months imprisonment. Additionally, police raided the offices of LDDH on 29 December, and the organisation archives and computer equipment was confiscated.

In Ethiopia, numerous HRDs and journalists have been targeted in the wake of the Oromo protests, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 140 protestors exercising their right to freedom to assembly. Getachew Shiferaw, Editor-in-Chief of Negere Ethiopia, was arrested on 25 December 2015 and is currently being held in the notorious Maekelawi Prison. The following day he appeared in court and a judge gave police permission to hold him for an additional “28 days for interrogation”. Fikadu Mirkana, news anchor at Oromia Radio and TV, was arrested on 19 December 2015 and is still being held. It has been reported to DefendDefenders that these arrests were the result of their coverage of the protests. In addition, two field investigators working for the Human Rights Council (HRCO), a leading Ethiopian human rights NGO, were arrested and questioned by police. At least one of the investigators was researching the Oromo protests and subsequent crackdown. They have both since been released.

In South Sudan, Joseph Afendy, Editor of El Tabeer, was arrested on 30 December 2015 for writing an article critical of the SPLM a week before. He was reportedly detained at National Security Service in Juba but has not had access to a lawyer or his family. It remains unclear if he is facing any charges. South Sudan is one of the most dangerous countries in the sub-region for journalists attempting to cover the brutal civil war.

https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/01/djibouti-ethiopia-and-south-sudan-defenddefenders-condemns-attacks-and-arrests-of-hrds-and-journalists/

http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20160117-djibouti-prison-ligue-droits-humains-omar-ali-ewado-balbala-fidh