Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

NGO joint letter to UN Human Rights Council about Belarus

June 16, 2019

Five international human rights organisations (see below), urge the UN Human Rights Council to maintain scrutiny on the human rights situation in Belarus, including by ensuring the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and seeking preventive measures to ensure against an increase in human rights violations ahead of upcoming Parliamentary and Presidential elections in Belarus.

Aachen Peace Prize to Ukrainian journalist Kotsaba severely contested

May 19, 2019

Ruslan Kotsaba Photo Mykola Vasylechko, RIA Novosti

This piece express grave doubt on the decision to award the 2019 Aachen Peace Prize to Ukrainian journalist and  blogger Ruslan Kotsaba because of a shocking anti-Semitic video posted by Kotsaba in 2011. People interested should judge for themselves, so here the full article:

The video certainly contains deeply offensive hate speech, yet it is by no means the only reason why the choice of Kotsaba seems bafflingly inappropriate. The award might possibly have seemed a little more understandable had it been given back in 2015, shortly after Kotsaba was arrested on ‘state treason’ charges.  His claim to a peace prize would still have been doubted by those familiar with his highly misleading reports on the war in Donbas, however his unwarranted prosecution and 14 months’ imprisonment  were over a video opposing mobilization.

It seems he was first nominated in 2015, but was not chosen.  In 2019, however, the Aachen Peace Prize general assembly decided that Kotsaba was an appropriate laureate for a prize given to a person or group “who campaigns for peace and a civic resolution of conflict”.

According to Lea Heuser, a member of the Peace Prize Executive Committee, Kotsaba was nominated by one of its members “who is familiar with the situation in Ukraine”.  This was almost certainly Andrej Hunko, a Bundestag deputy from the Linke Party, known for his ‘humanitarian mission’ to the self-proclaimed  ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and very one-sided statements about the conflict in Donbas. Hunko also campaigns actively for closer German relations with Russia and for recognition of Crimea as ‘Russian’.

Heuser explained that Kotsaba was first nominated on the basis of his claim to have become a pacifist after what he saw at the front (in Donbas).  She asserts that “he does not take one side in the conflict and advocates for concessions and dialogue”. It is also claimed on the peace prize’s website that Kotsaba “unlike most of his colleagues tried to objectively cover events in the east of Ukraine which he has called “a civic war and fratricidal”.

This has been the standard line taken by Hunko and other politicians, from various European far-right or left-wing parties, when visiting the so-called Donbas ‘republics’ or Russian-occupied Crimea.   Such visits are invariably used by their official hosts and by Russia as propaganda.  This is unsurprising since their guests can be relied upon to only criticize the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Kyiv.

While Kotsaba’s position is more complex, it would be very hard to describe his presentation of events in Donbas, Odesa, Crimea or in Ukraine in general as objective.

In some cases, he pushes toxic lies which are known to have prompted young men to go and fight in Donbas.  He invariably follows Russia’s lead in claiming that the people who died in the Trade Union building fire in Odesa on 2 May 2014 were deliberately burned to death by “Ukrainian radicals”.  Russia has repeatedly demonstrated that it is aware of the substantial research refuting such claims carried out by the 2 May Group, a respected bipartisan initiative formed by journalists, scientists and civic activists, and presented here in RussianEnglish and in German, as well as by the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel.  It is impossible to believe that Kotsaba is not aware that he is presenting a story that has been debunked.

Kotsaba’s coverage of the war in Donbas is equally one-sided.  He is certainly entitled to his own opinion on the conflict, however his claim that he is objectively presenting two sides of the story is simply untrue.

One of the most contentious areas is, of course, Kotsaba’s repeated assertion (for example, here)  that the conflict in Donbas is a civil war, and denial of Russia’s and Russians’ active role. Speaking on the Russian state-controlled Rossiya 24 channel on 27 June 2014,  Kotsaba claimed that he had not seen any Chechen fighters and assumes there are none. He does stress that he personally did not see any and this cannot be either proven nor refuted.  The problem is that, by the time he was saying this, there was ample video footage and witness accounts making it quite clear that there were a suspiciously large number of Chechens and other Russian citizens fighting in this alleged ‘civil war’.  Kotsaba has also chosen to ignore the fact that the war essentially began after heavily armed and trained fighters seized control of Sloviansk on 12 April 2014 under the leadership of (officially) former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin.  He later admitted that his men had provoked the conflict in Donbas.  “The first shots, albeit in the air, were from the rebels, carried out by our unit”.  Girkin and the leader of ‘DPR’ were only hurriedly replaced by Ukrainians after the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 by a Russian BUK missile on 17 July 2014.

Kotsaba’s claim to Rossiya 24 that he had been invited by a local Luhansk television channel which was trying to follow journalist standards, sounds admirable but deviates seriously from the truth.  The first thing that happened when militants seized control of an area was that all Ukrainian channels were replaced by Russian, or pro-Russian channels.   Later in the interview, Kotsaba was asked why other Ukrainian journalists were not in these areas.  He claimed that this was that they still needed to develop to reach world standards and “tell the truth”.   Although some of the many journalists seized, tortured and / or imprisoned by the militants (Yehor Vorobyov; Dmytro Potekhin; Serhiy Sakadynskyv;  Nastya Stanko; Maria Varfolomeyeva and many others) post-dated this interview, there were already multiple accounts of other abductions, such as that of Viacheslav Bondarenko and Maxim Osovsky.  Two journalists Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk remained imprisoned now in ‘DPR’ precisely because they wrote the truth about life in the supposed ‘republic’.  Kotsaba is silent about them, as he is about other people held hostage.

Unlike Kotsaba, there are very many journalists and activists who have repeatedly given the lie to Kotsaba’s claim that the conflict in Donbas is a civil war.  These are only a few of the many indications of Russia’s major involvement that Kotsaba never addresses.

In August 2014, Wojciech Bojanowski from the Polish TVN 24 posted huge amounts of footage in Russia’s Rostov oblast, close to the militants-controlled part of the border with Ukraine. It clearly shows Russian armed personnel carriers, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons turning onto a road leading to the border.  Artyleria, wozy opancerzone i broń przeciwlotnicza. Ruchy Rosjan przed kamerą TVN24  (four separate clips)

Bojanowski acknowledges that there are no photos of the actual crossing, however there is a steady flow of vehicles to the border and shots taken by the militants where you can see, for example, a BTR-80a transporter which the Ukrainian military do not have.  The next day, Aug 19 Bojanowski reported further movement towards the border, with many trucks this time carrying tanks.  On Aug 22, NATO reported  that the Russian military had moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory and had been using them to fire at Ukrainian forces.

In 2018, the OSCE’s Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported multiple examples of Russian military equipment being transported into Ukraine by night on dirt roads away from any border crossing (details here and in the links provided).

It was just days after the TV24 footage in August 2014 that the Russian newspaper Vedomosti asked: “Is Russia fighting in Ukraine, and if so, on what grounds?  If not, then who is lying in the freshly-dug graves, and who is giving testimony to the Ukrainian Security Service?”

More information about those first Russian military deaths here.  It is believed that an entire Russian paratrooper regiment from Pskov was probably killed in late August.

While Moscow has always denied this, young Russian soldiers have preferred to be imprisoned for having gone absent without leave rather than agree to fight in Donbas.

The amount of evidence confirming Russia’s decisive military role in the war is overwhelming.  Dr Igor Sutyagin, in a briefing paper for the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI] on Russian forces in Ukraine writes that the “first phase of large-scale incursions by regular Russian troops commenced on 11 August 2014 and has involved a substantial array of forces (see Table 1)”.  He put the figure for direct Russian military personnel as up to “10 thousand at the peak of direct Russian involvement in the middle of December 2014.”  All of this is on another country’s territory without any declaration of war.

Considerable evidence of shelling from Russia is mentioned by Sutyagin, and has since been set out in a report by the International Partnership for Human Rights, and also by Bellingcat in a report entitled ‘Putin’s undeclared war’.

Kotsaba does not mention or try to challenge any of the above-mentioned facts.  His narrative about civil war and the need for ‘dialogue’ is, accordingly, based on manipulation and deceit.

German peace prize to Ukrainian journalist Kotsaba is discredited by the Russian lies he parrots, not just his anti-Semitism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StopFake

Breaking news: Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo freed in Myanmar

May 7, 2019

All the mainstream media (here Al Jazeera) are reporting that today the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were freed from Myanmar jail.

Earlier on Tuesday, Myanmar said it will release 6,520 prisoners in an amnesty, according to a statement from the president’s office.  President Win Myint pardoned thousands of prisoners in two mass amnesties last month. It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.

We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said in a statement. “Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return.” Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/jailed-reuters-journalists-freed-prison-myanmar-190507024627552.html

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 »

Women human rights defenders and journalists in Iraq receive training in Safety and Digital Security

April 29, 2019

To strengthen the resilience of Iraqi women journalists and women human rights defenders against online and offline gender-based attacks, Internews conducts workshops and other activities that focus on digital and physical security:

Iraq is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists according to Reporters without Borders, ranking 160 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. Women journalists and activists in Iraq have a particularly difficult time due to online threats and attacks that adversely affect their ability to express themselves freely and advocate effectively. Women have witnessed an escalation in online abuse over the past few years, not just in numbers, but also in methods and sophistication. The risk of harassment and gender-based attacks online is not limited to the digital space as research has shown that online abuse and stalking often escalate into real world physical violence if left unaddressed.

In an interview with The New Arab, Hala ‘Asif, a 24-year-old journalist working as a correspondent for the channel NRT in Baghdad, noted that, “Foreign journalists often investigate political affairs in Iraq, which sometimes is impossible for us to cover as it would be too dangerous and would prevent us from working safely in our country. I would like to go to other provinces in Iraq and carry out investigations about relevant issues, but as a young woman it would cost too much to take care of my safety.”

To address the issue of women’s safety in Iraq, Internews, with funding from the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), is using a multi-pronged approach – building local networks, coordinating advocacy, and conducting targeted journalism trainings on gender-sensitive issues. Internews’ program, Women Voices (Aswat Al-Maraa), aims to challenge societal attitudes that stigmatize survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) by supporting journalists and women human rights defenders to shed light on sensitive issues through coordinated reporting and advocacy. The program works with female Iraqi journalists and media outlets to create a nationwide coalition of women journalists and human rights defenders to strengthen their resilience against gender-based attacks and build the capacity of journalists to report on sensitive human rights and SGBV.

Within the Women’s Voices project, Internews has conducted so far two training-of-trainers (TOT) workshops that focus on the digital and physical security of the project participants. Through a peer-to-peer program, TOT trainees have trained eighty women from Erbil, Najaf, and Halabja how to protect themselves from threats online and in their everyday lives.

….Another participant, from the Erbil workshop, said, “Females often have to face extreme scrutiny of their presence online, and are threatened with death in some instances for photos posted online without family consent or that are considered inappropriate; these kinds of workshops are incredibly important for every female in this country.”

To support the voices and participation of women in some of the world’s most challenging places, Internews’ MENA team ensures the implementation of digital as well as a physical security trainings in all of its projects across the region. ​

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/09/defenddefenders-launched-new-security-manual-for-human-rights-defenders-in-africa/

https://reliefweb.int/report/iraq/uplifting-voices-women-supporting-their-physical-safety-and-digital-security

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

EU Parliament ‘improves’ proposed Terrorist Content Regulation

April 18, 2019

After my earlier piece about the risks in the draft EU regulation on terrorism content [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/ngos-express-fear-that-new-eu-terrorist-content-draft-will-make-things-worse-for-human-rights-defenders/], I am happy to report that some NGOs have welcomed the changes now made in the latest version.

On 17 April 2019 eub2 reports that “EU Parliament deletes the worst threats to freedom of expression proposed in the Terrorist Content Regulation”: Read the rest of this entry »

Mozambique: Joint Statement by NGOs Calling for the release of journalist Amade Abubacar

April 13, 2019

Council of Europe’s Dunja Mijatović presents her first annual report

April 9, 2019

Dunja Mijatović

Dunja Mijatović

Today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, presented her first annual activity in a debate before the Parliamentary Assembly of the organisation. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/03/dunja-mijatovic-starts-her-term-as-council-of-europe-commissioner-for-human-rights/]

While the report covers a variety of the most pressing human rights issues in the Council of Europe member states, the Commissioner highlights migration, women’s rights, human rights of persons with disability, the protection of human rights defenders and the safety of journalists as the most recurrent topics of her work.

Migration is among the most pressing human rights issues on my agenda”, she says. “National authorities should improve the treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies”.

Amnesty UK media awards sets good example

April 9, 2019

Amnesty International UK runs a successful series of (national) media awards. Amnesty’s Media Awards, which have been running annually since 1992, celebrate excellence in human rights journalism and applaud the courage and determination of journalists who often put their lives on the line to report on vital human rights issues. Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said at the 3 April 2019 ceremony: “Media work is vitally important for Amnesty and everything we do. This evening we’ve seen some brilliant journalism that has had enormous human rights impact…Without a free press, it’s extremely difficult to expose wrong-doing and hold leaders to account. But even here in the UK we’re seeing it being threatened – especially with the sinister arrest of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in Northern Ireland last year…That’s why our awards are about congratulating the achievements of the media and championing its role in creating a fairer, more open world.” The awards, hosted by Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, held a moment of silence for the approximately 90 journalists imprisoned last year for doing their jobs. Canada and the USA are undertaking similar events.

The winners of the 2019 AI UK Media Awards include:

News (Broadcast)

Features

Regional Media

  • BBC Northern Ireland – Spotlight: Buried Secrets

Documentaries

  • BBC Two – Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess

Impact Award

Investigation

For jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo this means yet another award for their work as they continue to fight an appeal against their conviction. The men, who have been behind bars in Myanmar since December 2017. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/50-human-rights-ngos-address-joint-letter-to-aung-san-suu-kyi-on-reuters-journalists/]

—-

Giles Duley, on assignment for UNHCR, photographs refugees and migrants in Greece in 2016.  © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

Humanitarian photographer Giles Duley won a Media Award for his powerful series depicting the plight and resilience of Congolese female refugees in Angola. His photo essay, “We Are Here Because We Are Strong”, was commissioned by UNHCR and published in Humanity magazine. The subjects of his project were forced to flee the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of the Congo after violence erupted in March 2017, triggering massive displacement.

The full Media Awards 2019 shortlist can be found here.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/amnesty-media-awards-2019-winners-announced

https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/jailed-reuters-reporters-wa-lone-kyaw-soe-oo-honoured-with-amnesty-media-award-during-appeal/

https://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2019/4/5ca5ff704/unhcr-photographers-essay-congolese-women-refugees-wins-prestigious-award.html