Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

(ECOWAS) Regional Court of Justice gives historical ruling for media freedom in West Africa

February 15, 2018

On 14 February 2018 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Court of Justice found that Jammeh-era media laws violated the right to freedom of expression in The Gambia. The Federation of African Journalists and four Gambian journalists filed a case in the court in December 2015. They argued that their rights, including their rights to freedom of expression, had been violated by Gambia through the enforcement of laws criminalising libel, sedition and false news in the country. Two of the journalists were also subject to torture whilst in the custody of the then notorious National Intelligence Agency following their arrests under these laws.

Arguments were heard by the court in October 2016. The case was supported by the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). Amnesty International filed an amicus brief in the case along with other freedom of expression organisations. Although press freedom has improved under the new government of President Barrow, who was inaugurated in January 2017, these restrictive laws are still in place.

The ruling will set an important precedent as many countries within West Africa continue to use similar repressive laws to silence freedom of expression, and hinder the vital work of journalists, in violation of international and regional human rights law. The ball is now in the court of the Adama Barrow government to repeal the said laws in order to realign the law to respect media freedoms. Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher has hailed the ruling as a historic day for The Gambian media landscape. “Today is an historic day for Gambia’s journalists and human rights defenders who, for decades, have suffered torture, imprisonment or exile just for exercising their right to freedom of expression,”Sabrina Mahtani said.

(see also:

Call for Nominations for the 2018 Lorenzo Natali Media Prizes

February 6, 2018

Applications for the European Commission‘s 2018 Lorenzo Natali Media Prize, which recognises journalists doing outstanding reporting on development topics, are open from 5 February to 9 March for online, print and audio-visual works.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “In an era of disinformation, fake news and digital algorithms, we need professional and fact-based journalism more than ever. The important work of journalists is not only crucial for democracy across the globe, but also gives visibility and a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. Through their stories they inform, inspire, and call for much-needed change. With this prize, we thank them for their determination and encourage them to keep up the fight.”

The Lorenzo Natali Media Prize is awarded to journalists reporting on issues such as poverty eradication and the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Journalists are invited to submit their work, be it in print, digital, radio or TV broadcast format. Deadline: 9 March 2018. Detailed information on the specific rules and criteria are available online. The prize has two categories based on age groups: 21 to 26 years, and 27 years plus. For each category there will be a winner from each region: Africa; the Arab World and the Middle East; Asia and the Pacific; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Europe.

A “Grand Winner” will be selected among the regional winners [this is the award listed in the Digest:] and an additional thematic prize will be awarded for work focused on the elimination of violence against women and girls.

The selection will be carried out by a “Grand Jury” composed of renowned journalists from across the world. This year’s jury members include Bruce Shapiro from the Columbia School of Journalism, Peruvian reporter and founder of “Panorámica Lationamericana” Isabel Recavarren, New Delhi-based journalist and President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association Mahendra Ved, Le Soir’s Maroun Labaki, and Mary Harper, the BBC World Service’s Africa Editor.

All 11 winners will receive their awards at a ceremony during the 2018 European Development Days in Brussels this June.


New Shahnoush Award for women human rights defenders in prison

January 26, 2018

Ayşenur Parıldak, a 27-year-old reporter from Turkey’s now-closed Zaman newspaper who has been behind bars for 13 months, was named the recipient of the first Shahnoush Award by the Oslo-based Vigdis Freedom Foundation (VFF). [for more on this and other awards:]

I was subjected to violence and sexual abuse. I was interrogated day and night for eight days. They [police officers] were questioning me while they were under the influence of alcohol […] I am afraid of being forgotten here,” Parıldak said in a letter to the Cumhuriyet newspaper in October 2016.

The Shahnoush Award will be given every year to a female prisoner of conscience whose courage has not been internationally acknowledged. By doing so, Vigdis brings attention to the suffering of women who languish behind bars for speaking out and whose human rights have been violated. They are not forgotten; they are not alone. Hope is sometimes the difference between life and death. May the [Shahnoush] Award give hope to those who need it most.” said Marina Nemat, a board member of VFF.

Parıldak, also a law student at Ankara University’s faculty of law, was detained while taking exams on Aug. 11, 2016. She was released by the court on May 2, 2017 but was later rearrested by the same court before being freed since a prosecutor objected to the initial ruling. During her trial, she told judges that she had thought of committing suicide several times while in prison. Behind bars since last year, Parıldak faces 15 years in jail under Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws based on her tweets and alleged use of the ByLock mobile app. Turkish authorities believe ByLock indicates links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding the abortive coup last year. The movement denies all involvement.

Can the media help promote human rights and fight torture in Russia and elsewhere?

November 5, 2017

The World Organisation Against Torture <> (OMCT) and the Committee Against Torture from Nizhny Novgorod <> organize  a panel discussion on 9 November 2017 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

The topic is “Can the media help promote human rights and fight torture in Russia and elsewhere?


Ms. Olga Sadovskaya, Committee Against Torture from Nizhny Novgorod, Deputy Director

Ms. Therese Obrecht Hodler, journalist and former President of Reporters sans frontières <>

Mr. MaksimKurnikov, Editor-in-Chief of radio EkhoMoskvy

Mr. Protsenko Nikita, Editor at Mediazone  <>

Moderator: Mr. Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General


The panel discussion will be followed by a cocktail

Free entrance. Maison international des associations, Salle Gandhi, Rue des Savoises, 15. Geneva

Contact: +41 78 733 9595

Eyes on Germany: human rights in the election campaign

September 21, 2017

With elections coming up in Germany this weekend it is interesting to alert you to three items that may have escaped attention:

(1)  A report by Deutsche Welle states that Germany granted asylum to 196 Turkish diplomats:

In response to a parliamentary question by Left Party, Germany’s Interior Ministry said 196 Turkish nationals, who applied for asylum in Germany following a botched coup attempt in July, 2016, were recognized. According to the ministry statement, 80% of 249 Turkish applicants with diplomatic status and their families were given asylum. Members of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are also among those seeking asylum, said the ministry. The number of asylum applications from Turkey has been significantly increasing. There were 433 applications in June while this number rose to 620 in July and 962 in September.

(2) On 20 September Human Rights Watch made public its assessment of the ‘human rights’ content of the political platforms of the different parties. It concludes that the parties differ on human rights approach and in migration policy.

Election campaign posters for the upcoming general election are pictured in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2017. © 2017 Reuters
Separately, a German newspaper publisher said it filed an appeal to Turkey’s highest court against the incarceration for the past five months of a German-Turkish reporter, the Associated Press has reported. Deniz Yücel, who works for the daily Die Welt, was arrested Feb. 14 in Istanbul. He was accused of disseminating terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred, as well as espionage and ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – allegations Yücel denies. He hasn’t been formally charged.


Germany grants asylum to 196 Turkish diplomats: report | Turkey Purge

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List of grantees for the inaugural ‘Reporting Right Livelihood’ made public

August 3, 2017


On 3 July 2017 the Right Livelihood Foundation made public the list of Grantees of its 2017 Reporting Right Livelihood journalism programme.  Journalists will receive grants to shine the light on ‘under-reported‘ stories linked to the work of ‘Alternative Nobel’ Laureates. The grantees of the inaugural Reporting Right Livelihood journalism programme were selected from among 93 applicants from 48 countries. The grants, ranging from €200 to €5,000, cover essential travel, subsistence and communication costs to enable reporting on the selected stories over the next six months. The decision was made by a committee comprised of journalists and media experts from Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK.

This year’s grantees are:

The announcement comes with quotes from grantees and selection committee members. Such as:

I was impressed by the variety, the creativity and relevance of proposals which made our decision so challenging and difficult. The projects we chose show a strong commitment to report on under-covered issues addressed by the Right Livelihood Award Laureates through their personal engagement. This shows how important it is to support journalistic coverage of these issues in order to improve the lives of people who suffer because of injustice, poverty, sickness or political pressure,” Adelheid Feilcke, Deutsche Welle, selection committee member

Partout dans le monde des femmes et des hommes courageux se battent contre les injustices. L’engagement des journalistes est indispensable, pour faire echo à ces combats. Ces bourses vont pouvoir faire avancer les causes défendues et honorer les lauréats du Prix Right Livelihood,” Romaine Jean, Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), selection committee member

Fo more information: Xenya Cherny-Scanlon, Director of Communications, mobile: +41 76 690 8798,, #RightLivelihood #AlternativeNobel

Source: Reporting Right Livelihood 2017 Grantees AnnouncedThe Right Livelihood Award

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New Secretary-General at Human Rights Council tells human rights defenders: “And I am on your side”

February 28, 2017

On 27 February 2017 the new Secretary General, António Guterres, addressed for the first time the UN Human Rights Council. For 10 years, he was the “other” High Commissioner (for Refugees), just down the road from the Palais des Nations where he was speaking. Some of his remarks are quoted here (from SG/SM/18456-HRC/25), especially the last paragraph dedicated to  human rights defenders and journalists: Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi Arabia: already bad in 2016 for human rights defenders but continues in 2017

February 3, 2017


Nadhir Al-Majid is a well-known 40-year-old writer and teacher who has published many articles in various Arabic newspapers and electronic websites.

On 18 January 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held its hearing in the presence of Nadhir Al-Majid, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by seven years of a travel ban in addition to a fine. Reports have confirmed that the writer was alone during the hearing and not accompanied by his family or his lawyer. He was taken immediately after the verdict to Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh. There are fears that the authorities will refuse to officially deliver a copy of the verdict to him or his family, which might prevent them from seeking an appeal of the sentence at the Court of Appeal. The Public Prosecutor directed many charges against Al-Majid including failing to obey the ruler, participating in demonstrations, writing articles supporting protests (dating back to the year 2007), in addition to having contact with correspondents of foreign news agencies – namely Reuters, AFP, and CNN.

He was previously jailed on 13 April 2011 after he was arrested and his electronic equipment was confiscated. He was beaten, kicked and ordered to stand for hours and then placed in solitary confinement for five months. He was then placed in a cell with convicted drug dealers and weapons traders. The reason for his arrest is related to his writings, including an article entitled “I protest, I am a human being” which supports the right to demonstrate. He was released on 27 June 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the prison sentence of Nadhir Al-Majid is solely related to his work in defence of human rights.


Saudi Arabian human rights defender Essam Koshak has been detained since 8 January 2017 for his online activism.

On 8 January 2017, Essam Koshak received a phone call from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Mecca, summoning him to al-Mansour police station. On arrival, at 5pm the same day, he was interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) about his Twitter account, which he uses to highlight human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, including the detention of human rights defenders and activists. During the first three days of interrogation, his request to have his lawyer present was denied. On 12 January, Essam Koshak’s detention was extended by four days and his lawyer was finally allowed to be present during his interrogations. He was transferred on the same day to Mecca General Prison where he is currently being held. Essam Koshak is a computer engineer and human rights activist who uses social media to call for reform and respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia.


In the meantime the organization ALQST – through Samar Badawi [see:… ] – draws attention to their “Human Rights Situation in Saudi Arabia 2016. Annual review” (for the full report: – for inquiries, 

The report contains a chapter on Human Rights Defenders describing several cases in more detail. It states that “Many of the political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are known to be prisoners of conscience. A large number of them have been swept up in the Authorities’ so-called War on Terror, but are in fact being held for their peacefully held and expressed political or religious views. This includes calls for social reform and in defence of human rights. They are tried in the Specialised Criminal Court, which is neither legitimate nor independent of the government, and was set up for the purpose of trying terrorism cases. Most human rights defenders are also charged and found guilty under the 2014 Counter-Terrorism Law. Today the majority of Saudi Arabia’s human rights activists are in prison, on trial, or being subjected to intense harassment.


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UN Human Rights Council urged to address situation in Ethiopia

September 9, 2016

15 major human rights rights groups have written a joint letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council urging an immediate halt to “excessive” use of force by Ethiopian security forces. The letter dated Thursday 8 September also calls for an independent investigation into the reported killings of hundreds of people in Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromia states since November 2015 amid protests. “Authorities have also arbitrarily arrested thousands of people throughout Oromia and Amhara during and after protests, including journalists and human rights defenders,” the letter says. The Human Rights Council convenes next week in Geneva.

Earlier this  year UN Rapporteurs had already expressed their concern:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Azerbaijan releases human rights defenders bit by bit: Khadijah Ismayilova now free

May 27, 2016

Khadija IsmayilovaOn Wednesday 25 May 2016 Azerbaijan finally released investigative journalist Khadijah Ismayilova [] after a number of other human rights defenders were released bit by bit over the last months. Ismayilova was serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence on charges which included embezzlement, illegal business activities and tax evasion. The Supreme Court has now amended her imprisonment to 3 1/2 years of suspended sentence and released her from prison. She vowed to continue to fight to clear her name. “I will continue to fight until complete acquittal,” Ismayilova told reporters after her release. “I will also continue to work as a journalist.” The British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Clooney is representing Khadija Ismayilova at the European Court of Human Rights.

As an independent reporter and journalist of the Azerbaijani radio Azadliq (“Radio Freedom”) she has shown great courage (see:, and received several international prizes, such as the 2015 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism (HRW), the 2015 Freedom to Write Award, the 2012 Fritt Ord/Zeit Press Prize, and the 2012 Courage of Journalism Award by the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation.

Although there are still human rights defenders and journalists in prison, Azerbaijan provides a fine example of how awards and the combined international pressure from a variety of sources (States, NGOs and international organizations) can have an impact:


Reuters – Azerbaijan frees journalist whose case raised outcry in West

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