Posts Tagged ‘freedom of information’

World Press Freedom Day: a good time for honoring journalists

May 4, 2018

Yesterday, 3 May 2018, was World Press Freedom Day and many noteworthy activities took place. The Economist and many other newspapers of course paid attention with grisly statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists and other sources. It was also a time to award courageous journalists and cartoonist; just to mention a few:

Musa Kart was announced as the 2018 laureate of the International Press Cartoon Prize by Cartooning for Peace.

The 2018 International Press Cartoon (or Drawing) Prize, presented biannually in Geneva, was awarded to the Turkish cartoonist who was recently sentenced to almost four years in prison for “aiding terrorism”. He is a 64-year-old artist working with the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and was described as a “free spirit and a remarkable artist” by Swiss cartoonist Chappatte, a member of the jury.

It was also the day of the presentation of the first Ari Rath Prize for Critical Journalism (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, who died in January 2017). Austrian journalist Alexandra Föderl-Schmid was the laureate.

Alexandra Föderl-Schmid who helped shape the daily newspaper “Der Standard” for almost three decades. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Franz Johann Morgenbesser.

For more on the many human rights awards for the media and journalists see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) partnered with the London-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) to commemorate World Press Freedom Day in Stockholm with an event focused on Turkey, which leads the world in the highest number of journalists in jail. According to SCF data, 258 journalists and media workers were in jail as of today, with 59 of them already convicted on dubious charges of terrorism, defamation and coup plotting. In addition, 142 Turkish journalists who were forced to go into exile or still remain at large in Turkey are wanted for arrest by authorities.

 

Nine NGOs wrote on World Press Freedom Day a joint letter expressing deep concern over the continued arbitrary detention of Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language advocate arrested in 2016 after giving an interview to the New York Times. Tashi Wangchuk has since been tried for “inciting separatism,” a politically motivated charge that violates his rights to freedom of expression and association. [Tashi Wangchuk began raising public concern for the lack of rightful Tibetan-language education …In late 2015, he spoke with the New York Times in an interview about his attempts to promote the teaching of Tibetan; he insisted the interview be on the record. A journalist from the New York Times also accompanied him to Beijing, where Tashi Wangchuk attempted to file a lawsuit to ensure local authorities guarantee the provision of Tibetan language education. The result was an article and video documentary featured in the New York Times in November 2015.

In his article, Tashi Wangchuk insisted that his language advocacy was peaceful and non-political. His attempts to persuade the Chinese government to guarantee Tibetan language instruction were conducted through official channels and he made it clear that he was not advocating Tibetan independence. Instead, his main focus was ending the destruction of Tibetan language and culture. Despite taking these precautions, Tashi Wangchuk was arrested on 27 January 2016, held in an unknown location and later stood trial in a closed session. See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/

 Tashi Wangchuk press freedom day ngos

 

And then there were many smaller events all around the globe that also deserves attention, such as Amnesty International Nepal voicing support to journalists as human rights defenders (such as Charan Kumar Prasai and Subodh Pyakurel and Rajan Prasad Kuikel).

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https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2018/05/daily-chart-0 
http://www.myrepublica.com/news/41038/?categoryId=81
http://www.cartooningforpeace.org/en/
https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/world-press-freedom-day_imprisoned-turkish-caricaturist-awarded-geneva-cartoon-prize/44092346

 

https://stockholmcf.org/scf-iohr-partner-to-celebrate-world-press-freedom-day-with-a-focus-on-turkey/
https://www.vindobona.org/article/presentation-of-the-first-ari-rath-prize-for-critical-journalism
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/05/03/world-press-freedom-day-xi-jinping-release-tibetan-tashi-wangchuk-charged-nytimes-report/

Reporters Without Borders: 2018 World Press Freedom Index makes sobering reading

April 26, 2018

Reporters Without Borders  (better known under its French acronym RSF) published its WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX 2018. The rankings you can find by clicking here READ MORE. The regional chapters below give a quick overview of the main trends, including the disturbing downward turn in the USA, the further sinking in ex-sovjet states and China’s nefarious example in Asia.

RSF INDEX 2018: JOURNALISM SORELY TESTED IN NORTH AFRICA

North Africa’s performance in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index reflects the different pressures to which journalists are exposed. Restrictive laws, reporting problems (especially at protests), and subjects that are off limits all prevent journalists from being free to provide independently reported and pluralist news and information.

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RSF INDEX 2018: US FALLS AS CANADA RISES

Despite having strong constitutional protections to the contrary, the latest World Press Freedom Index findings on the US and Canada reveal two countries whose journalists and media workers face constant challenges to the very freedom to exercise their profession.

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RSF INDEX 2018: MIXED PERFORMANCE IN LATIN AMERICA

The 2018 Index shows a slight overall improvement in respect for press freedom in Latin America but this should not divert attention from the continuing problems of violence, impunity, and authoritarian policies towards journalists in many Latin American countries.

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RSF INDEX 2018: ASIA-PACIFIC DEMOCRACIES THREATENED BY CHINA’S MEDIA CONTROL MODEL

The Chinese model of state-controlled news and information is being copied in other Asian countries, especially Vietnam and Cambodia. North Asia’s democracies are struggling to establish themselves as alternative models. Violence against journalists is increasingly worrying in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

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RSF INDEX 2018: THE DANGERS OF REPORTING IN AFRICA

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA HAS MAINTAINED ITS THIRD PLACE IN THE RANKING BY GEOGRAPHICAL REGION, WITH A SLIGHTLY BETTER OVERALL INDICATOR THAN IN 2017. BUT THERE IS A WIDE RANGE OF SITUATIONS WITHIN THE REGION, AND JOURNALISTS ARE OFTEN THE VICTIMS OF INTIMIDATION, PHYSICAL VIOLENCE, AND ARREST.

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RSF INDEX 2018: HISTORIC DECLINE IN PRESS FREEDOM IN EX-SOVIET STATES, TURKEY

THE FORMER SOVIET COUNTRIES AND TURKEY CONTINUE TO BE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE WORLDWIDE DECLINE IN PRESS FREEDOM. ALMOST TWO-THIRDS OF THE REGION’S COUNTRIES ARE RANKED SOMEWHERE NEAR OR BELOW THE 150TH POSITION IN THE INDEX. THE REGION’S OVERALL INDICATOR HAS SUNK ALMOST AS LOW AS THAT OF MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA, THE REGION THAT IS LAST IN THE RANKING BY REGION.

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RSF INDEX 2018: JOURNALISTS ARE MURDERED IN EUROPE AS WELL

The European model’s erosion, a trend visible in RSF’s most recent Indexes, has continued in the 2018 Index. The region has been shaken by two murders, as well as by threats to investigative reporters and unprecedented verbal attacks on the media. Even the countries at the top of the Index are affected by this alarming climate.

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RSF INDEX 2018: MIDDLE EAST RIVEN BY CONFLICTS, POLITICAL CLASHES

The Middle East’s countries are yet again at the bottom of RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. Armed conflicts, terrorism charges against independent journalists and media, and growing online surveillance and censorship make reporting extremely dangerous for the region’s journalists.

READ MORE

 

https://rsf.org/en/rsf-index-2018-hatred-journalism-threatens-democracies

3 May World Press Freedom Day: awards for journalists

April 20, 2018

Banner Webpage April

As part of the global Celebration of World Press Freedom Day, the winner of the  “UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize” will be announced on 3 May 2018.  for last year’s award: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/04/eritrean-born-journalist-dawit-isaak-awarded-2017-unescos-guillermo-cano-world-press-freedom-prize/

For more on this award and some 20 other international awards protecting freedom of speech and the media see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unesco-guillermo-cano-world-press-freedom-prize.

The jury on Monday 23 April awarded the honor to Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, who has been in jail since he was arrested in Cairo in August 2013 for covering a demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry strongly warned UNESCO against the move Sunday, saying that Shawkan faces terror-related charges. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions says Shawkan’s arrest is arbitrary and his continued detention infringes his human rights.

http://www.tampabay.com/jailed-egyptian-photographer-wins-unesco-press-freedom-prize-ap_worlda917dda4d8b3494b885425c516bbc1ce

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/The-UNESCO-Guillermo-Cano-World-Press-Freedom-prize-643081

Assange’s persecution or prosecution? Marjory Cohen knows the answer

May 31, 2017

Marjorie Cohn – professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers – wrote a perhaps controversial but clear piece about the case of Assange under the title:  The Meaning of Assange’s Persecution. In Consortiumnews of 29 May 2017 you will find the full piece.  She concludes that the long legal ordeal of Julian Assange – and the continuing threats against the WikiLeaks founder – make a mockery of the West’s supposed commitment to press freedom and the public’s right to know. Here some excerpts:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Photo credit: Espen Moe)

….Although the Swedish investigation has now been dropped, the threat of arrest persists. The London police have indicated they will arrest Assange for failure to appear in a London Magistrates Court if he leaves the embassy. Britain would then likely extradite Assange to the United States for possible prosecution.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in April that arresting Assange is a “priority” for the Department of Justice, even though the New York Times indicated that federal prosecutors are “skeptical that they could pursue the most serious charges, of espionage.” The Justice Department is reportedly considering charging Assange with theft of government documents. A decision to prosecute Assange would mark a 180-degree change of direction for President Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump declared, “I love WikiLeaks” after it published confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee that some U.S. intelligence agencies claim were obtained by Russian hackers (although Assange denies getting the material from Russia).

In March, WikiLeaks published CIA documents containing software and methods to hack into electronics. This was the beginning of WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” series, which, Assange wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post, contained “evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings.” The publication included “the agency’s creation, at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars, of an entire arsenal of cyber viruses and hacking programs – over which it promptly lost control and then tried to cover up the loss,” Assange added. “These publications also revealed the CIA’s efforts to infect the public’s ubiquitous consumer products and automobiles with computer viruses.”

CIA Director Michael Pompeo called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Pompeo said, “We have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” Pompeo declared, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen.” But, the Supreme Court has long held that the Constitution applies to non-Americans, not just U.S. citizens. And, when the Obama Justice Department considered prosecuting WikiLeaks, U.S. officials were unable to distinguish what Wikileaks did from what the Times and Guardian did since they also published documents that Manning leaked. WikiLeaks is not suspected of hacking or stealing them.

…….

As Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, wrote at Just Security, Comey was drawing the line “not between leaking classified information and publishing it, but between publishing it for ‘good’ reasons and publishing it for ‘bad’ ones.” And, “[a]llowing the FBI to determine who is allowed to publish leaked information based on the bureau’s assessment of their patriotism would cross a constitutional Rubicon,” Goitein wrote.

Other advocates for civil liberties also defended WikiLeaks as a news organization protected by the First Amendment. “The U.S. government has never shown that Assange did anything but publish leaked information,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told the Times. Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, stated in an interview with the Times, “Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public.”

Assange’s Detention Called Unlawful [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/07/on-assange-there-is-more-to-the-decision-than-knee-jerk-reactions/]

In 2016, following a 16-month investigation, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange’s detention by Britain and Sweden was unlawful. It stated, “[A] deprivation of liberty exists where someone is forced to choose between either confinement, or forfeiting a fundamental right – such as asylum – and thereby facing a well-founded risk of persecution.”….Thus, the U.N. group concluded that Assange’s continued stay in the embassy “has become a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

….Even some mainstream news organizations that have been critical of WikiLeaks for releasing classified U.S. information have objected to the idea of criminal prosecution. A Washington Post editorial in 2010 entitled “Don’t Charge Wikileaks” said: “Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered.”

In the U.S. government’s continued legal pursuit of WikiLeaks, there is much more at stake than what happens to Julian Assange. There are principles of press freedoms and the public’s right to know. By publishing documents revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes, emails relevant to the U.S. presidential election and proof of CIA malfeasance, Assange did what journalists are supposed to do – inform the people about newsworthy topics and reveal abuses that powerful forces want concealed. Assange also has the right to freedom of expression under both U.S. and international law, which would further argue for Great Britain dropping the failure-to-appear warrant and allowing Assange to freely leave the embassy and to finally resume his life.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/marjoriecohn.

Source: The Meaning of Assange’s Persecution – Consortiumnews

Video interview with Andrea Ixchíu Hernandez, human rights defender from Guatemala

February 5, 2017

Andrea Ixchíu Hernandez  is an indigenous rights defender working for several organisations in Guatemala. She talks – in English – to ISHR (International Service for Human Rights) about her work to build up community media so the voices of indigenous people are  heard and the violations they face are publicly unveiled.

Why do Gandhi and Martin Luther King scare the Angolan government?

March 29, 2016

On 28 March 2016 the New York based Human Rights Foundation strongly condemned the convictions and sentences handed down by a court in Angola against a group of 17 youth activists for reading a book that advocates nonviolent resistance to dictatorship. The court declared the activists — including prominent Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão — guilty of “rebellion against the president” and “planning a coup,” sentencing them to prison terms that range from two to eight years. Beirao, also known by his stage name Ikonoklasta, has been an outspoken critic of the government, calling for a fairer distribution of the southern African state’s oil wealth. His term is five-and-a-half years.

Angola: HRF Condemns Convictions and Demands Release of Youth ActivistsSource: Vice News

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Adoption of North Korean Human Rights Act (by South Korea) welcomed by Human Rights Foundation

March 3, 2016

Promoting human rights in North Korea

 

 

 

On 2 March 2016) South Korea’s legislature passed the North Korean Human Rights Act. The new law mandates the promotion of freedom in North Korea by funding North Korean defector and and refugee organizations, creating a North Korean human rights foundation, and establishing an archive of human rights violations perpetrated against the North Korean people by the Kim regime. The US-based Human Rights Foundation welcomed the Act as the NGO has advocated for such an action and in 2015 established the Global Coalition for the North Korean Human Rights Act.

This is an astonishing moment. The Republic of Korea has taken its head out of the sand and has finally confronted the cruelty and horror of the North Korean dictatorship. It is a victory for all who support human rights and human dignity,” said HRF chairman Garry Kasparov. “We in the Global Coalition are delighted that the South Korean government will—for the first time ever—finance the defector organizations that send films, e-books, radio broadcasts, and educational materials to the North Korean people.”

The North Korean Human Rights Act also establishes a public campaign to raise awareness about North Korea’s human rights violations and takes steps to ensure that South Korean humanitarian aid is not misused by the Kim regime. The goal of establishing the human rights archive, inspired by the post-war German model, is to monitor and document the crimes of the North Korean dictatorship. It is vital to note that no such archive or record has ever existed in South Korea.

The law’s passage comes at a time when the rest of the world unanimously agrees on the extent and gravity of the crimes of the North Korean dictatorship. Earlier today, the U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 to toughen sanctions on the regime.  “People inside the North will know about the law’s enactment and it will put considerable pressure on the political elite in Pyongyang,” said South Korean politician Kim Moon-soo, who first drafted the law in 2005.

For more information contact: Noemi Gonzalo-Bilbao, (212) 246-8486, noemi@hrf.org

Source: North Korea: HRF Celebrates Overdue South Korean Law Promoting Human Rights

See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/north-korean-defector-ji-seong-ho-in-video-talk/

Gilbert Sendugwa: African human rights defender and freedom of information campaigner

May 15, 2015

 

Interview with Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator of Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a pan-African network based in Kampala, Uganda, published by the International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] on 28 April 2015:

Before I started working with the Centre, I worked with issues of health and education. And it was always a big issue: information. I always asked: How do we get the information we need? How do people get the information they need from the Government in order to get on in life?’ In 2010 Gilbert went to work for AFIC, a network which has grown to 35 member organisations from 22 African countries, which are working on issues of access to information at the national level.

The main focus of the Centre so far has been to push for ratification of the many African instruments which enshrine the right of freedom of information, as well as ensure that these rights are reflected in national legislation and practice’. They do this through international advocacy campaigns and supporting national strategies. And with a good degree of success. In 2010 Angola, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe were the only States with Freedom of Information Legislation. The number now totals 16, and with Tanzania likely to become number 17 next month….

Nonetheless, as Gilbert says ‘We have come to see that the passage of laws might be the easiest part’. Therefore AFIC is putting increasingly more energy into initiatives for implementation.

The objective of these laws is to empower the people. Implicitly, this means taking power away from those who have it and giving it to the population, so that they can help themselves advance in all of their rights. However, sometimes this provokes fear in the powerful and a reluctance to provide the information’.

Gilbert suggests that this fear can manifest itself in two ways: some Governments will not legislate on the issue, whilst others do, but ensure that the environment for civil society is not conducive to people having the confidence to use the law. He says that in many States fear of reprisals deters requests for information. A successful law on access to information, it seems, must go hand in hand with a safe and enabling environment for human rights defence in general. However he points out that a common mistake of advocates on this issue is to see the State as a monolith. Rather, he argues, when it comes to implementation it is necessary to look at the various agencies from which you are soliciting information. ‘It is them who can grant the information or not. If you look at Uganda –  as pointed out in their review by the ACHPR this week – some ministries have responded to all requests for information, whilst the response rate from the ministries for finance and education, for example, is zero’.

AFIC is pushing for implementation by training civil society on accessing information and producing a manual for them. They are also increasing their work with States, having seen results when these two approaches work in parallel. Developing a website with the Ugandan Government led Rwanda to follow, whilst they have also trained officials and are producing a separate manual for them.

As ISHR prepared to make a statement on the importance of an enabling environment for human rights defenders working on corporate accountability, Gilbert admitted that this was one of the most challenging areas for freedom of information activists across the continent. ‘It is very difficult and risky to request information, whether it be regarding concessions, payments or environmental impact. But at the end of the day we are simply talking about the ability for communities to evaluate the impact of a project upon their lives and check the level of compliance of a business or a State with human rights law’.

Gilbert Sendugwa can be contacted at gilbert@africainfocentre.org. Follow him on Twitter: @GilbertSendugwa

Gilbert Sendugwa: Human rights defender and freedom of information campaigner from Uganda | ISHR.

Suffocating Dissent in Ethiopia: CounterPunch Tells the Facts and Names the Names

February 14, 2015

The long-read for the weekend comes from Counterpunch, 13/15 February 2015 where Graham Peebles treats the horrible media situation in Ethiopia. Basing himself on a variety of UN and NGO sources – including the recent report by Human Rights Watch – he describes in detail and by name what happens to journalists and human rights defenders who try to cover reality.

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Reporters Without Borders published its 2014 World Press Freedom Index

February 14, 2015

couverture classement 2014

Reporters Without Borders recently published its 2014 World Press Freedom Index. It has a nice easy-to-use and colorful map. The accompanying text spotlights the negative correlation between freedom of information and conflicts, both open conflicts and undeclared ones. In an unstable environment, the media become strategic goals and targets for groups or individuals whose attempts to control news and information.

The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. Despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them. This year’s index covers 180 countries.

Reporters Without Borders.