Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

Five individuals now listed as foreign agents in Russia

January 11, 2021

On 8 January, 2021 RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service reports on a worrying development in Russia: On 28 December, Russia said it had placed five people — three journalists who contribute to RFE/RL and two human rights activists — on the Justice Ministry’s registry of “foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent.” Previously, only foreign-funded NGOs had been placed on the registry, in keeping with Russia’s passage of its controversial “foreign agents law” in 2012. The law was later expanded to include media outlets and independent journalists [SEE: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/russias-foreign-agents-bill-goes-in-overdrive/]

The three listed individuals affiliated with RFE/RL are Lyudmila Stavitskaya and Sergei Markelov, freelance correspondents for the North Desk of RFE/RL’s Russian Service; and Denis Kamalyagin, editor in chief of the online news site Pskov Province and a contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

Prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/25/russian-ngo-for-human-rights-forcibly-evicted-from-offices/]was also named to the registry, as was activist and Red Cross worker Daria Apakhonchich.

On December 29, the ministry expanded the list again, adding the Nasiliu.net human rights center, which deals with domestic violence cases. The additions bring the total number of individuals or entities listed to 18, the majority of them affiliated with RFE/RL.

Two international rights organisations have expressed concerns:

The UN Human Rights Office regrets the inclusion of the five individuals in the foreign agents list, which targets human rights defenders and journalists and appears to be aimed at limiting their freedom of expression and speech,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, said in a comment to RFE/RL on January 8.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media added in a separate comment that the move “narrows the space for freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and free flow of information in the Russian Federation.

The Justice Ministry did not explain on what grounds it included the recent additions of the five individuals and one entity to the registry.

In 2017, Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based rights group, called the law “devastating” for local NGOs, saying more than a dozen had been forced to close their doors.

RFE/RL has said it is “reprehensible” that professional journalists were among the first individuals singled out by Russia as “foreign agents.”

The Council of Europe also has expressed concerns over situation, saying that the foreign agent law in general — “stifles the development of civil society and freedom of expression.”

https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-foreign-agents-list-united-nations-regrets/31038877.html

CIVICUS 2020 report “People Power Under Attack” – Africa

December 14, 2020

Africa: Civic Rights Were Eroded Across Africa in 2020

The most common violations of civic space registered by the CIVICUS Monitor were the detention of journalists, followed by disruption of protests, censorship, intimidation and the detention of protestors. Almost half of CIVICUS Monitor updates in 28 different countries mentioned the detention of journalists. 14 December 2020. Fundamental civic rights, including freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, deteriorated across Africa in 2020. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/24/today-civicus-launches-its-worldwide-monitor-to-track-civil-space/]

In an allAfrica.com guest column Sylvia Mbataru and Ine Van Severen – CIVICUS researchers who contributed to People Power Under Attack 2020 – unpack what the report says about Sub-Saharan Africa. They conclude that civic space has been reduced in four West African nations (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo) and has improved in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Over the past year the CIVICUS Monitor has documented several drivers of civic space violations in Africa including mass protests that were met with violent repression, and electoral processes, mostly presidential elections. Violations in the context of elections often involve the arrest of opposition members and pro-democracy activists, internet shutdowns, detention of journalists and crackdowns on protesters.

In three of the four West African countries that were downgraded – Côte d’Ivoire , Guinea and Togo – constitutional changes were adopted in recent years, leaving incumbent presidents Alassane Ouattara, Alpha Condé and Fauré Gnassingbé all claiming that new constitutions allowed them to run for further terms. The process of changing constitutions or bypassing term limits led to mass protests that were met with excessive force, the adoption and use of restrictive legislation, and punishment for dissenters criticising those in power, in particular pro-democracy activists.

Niger has also been downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor. Even though a peaceful political change of power seems likely in the elections later this month, serious questions remain about Niger’s democratic prospects as human rights violations continue and civil society is subjected to restrictions.

These countries in West Africa have not been alone in efforts to muzzle dissent, exclude opposition and crack down on protests in the context of elections.  This bleak picture is further seen in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In Burundi, ahead of the May 2020 elections, state security forces and members of the youth league of the ruling party threatened, intimidated and killed opposition party members, and stifled the media and civil society organisations.

In Tanzania, as the country prepared for its August 2020 vote, the government embarked on a major crackdown to suppress dissent, including by enacting new laws and regulations to stop opposition members from actively campaigning, prevent civil society organisations and independent observers from observing the electoral process, weaken civil society and the media, and limit the use of online platforms by journalists and voters.

Despite this difficult picture, the year also proved the resilience of people and civil society in exercising their civic freedoms, leading to fundamental democratic changes. In Malawi, although the period surrounding the disputed May 2019 election was characterised by violations including internet shutdowns and repression of protests, civil society successfully contested the results, leading to a new election and a change of government in June 2020 .

However, many other African countries are moving away from holding free and fair elections. With several countries gearing up to hold elections in the coming months, civic rights violations are being reported in countries across the continent.

In Uganda, opposition members and their supporters are being violently prevented from holding rallies and journalists are being arrested and violently attacked while covering events held by opposition candidates and civil society; human rights defenders are being threatened by state authorities, including by having their bank accounts frozen and their operational licences withheld.

In Ethiopia, civil society groups have expressed concern at the crackdown on dissenting political views ahead of the general elections slated for 2021. Similarly, in Zambia, civil society has denounced an escalating trend of judicial harassment, repression and attacks on human rights defenders ahead of the August 2021 general elections. In Benin, electoral laws have been adopted that make it difficult for opposition candidates to stand in the 2021 presidential  election, which might lead to President Patrice Talon running almost unopposed.

The situation is so bleak that for the first time in a decade, according to the 2020 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, overall governance in Africa has declined. The Index highlighted that, “in terms of rights, civil society space and participation, the continent had long before embarked on a deteriorating path and the pandemic simply aggravated this existing negative trajectory.”

With even more elections on the cards in 2021 – in Djbouti, Chad and Somalia among others – governments should prioritise the respect of fundamental freedoms, including the right of people to express themselves without intimidation and to assemble peacefully to express their dissent. Africa’s leaders should adhere to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Government, ensuring that free and fair elections take place. 2021 must be the year in which Africa’s dismal trends are reversed.

https://findings2020.monitor.civicus.org/africa.html

https://findings2020.monitor.civicus.org/africa.html

10 December: World Press Freedom Conference 2020

December 6, 2020

Journalism without fear or favour

Journalism without fear or favour
.unesco.org/news/visualizing-journalism-without-fear-favour (Image by UNESCO)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made even clearer the importance of being able to access reliable, unbiased information in a time of crisis – and of independent media as the source of such information. But freedom of the media is under attack in many countries all around the world and journalists are subject to harassment, repression and violence. The World Press Freedom Conference 2020 (WPFC) aims to stand up for a free, safe and independent media and protect journalism from new and existing forms of unwanted control, pressure and influence.

The WPFC is co-hosted by UNESCO and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and will take place on 9 – 10 December 2020 in a new, innovative format, merging digital and in-person elements. It will bring together journalists, media companies, human rights defenders, members of the judiciary, policymakers, academics, youth and NGOs from around the world and is open to anyone, anywhere, who is interested in press freedom. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/world-press-freedom-index/]


RNW Media will be hosting a session called PRESSure is ON: creating an inclusive and enabling online space for digital media communities. This session puts the spotlight on the marginalised voices of young media makers. Bloggers, vloggers and media makers from teams in Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and India will discuss their on-the-ground experiences in their local contexts, the challenges they face when it comes to digital rights (both access and content takedowns) and the possible solutions.

The session on 10 December 12:15 – 13:15, will be led by Melody Patry, Advocacy Director at the digital rights NGO Access Now. The audience will be able to use a chat function to share their thoughts on the topics discussed and will be asked to respond to questions that will pop up on their screens throughout the session. These questions are designed to gather the audience’s opinions on such issues as what poses the biggest threat to freedom of speech and whether or not governments should have the right to censor media content they consider harmful to society.

The RNTC media training centre has joined forces with UNESCO and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs to hold an online competition in the run-up to the conference offering the chance to win a two-day online Masterclass in Investigative Journalism. People are invited to submit a short story, picture or 10-second video message explaining what press freedom means to them or how they’ve contributed to it, via direct messaging @UnescoNow. A total of 20 winners will be selected to take part in RNTC’s masterclass which will take place in January.

The on-line training will introduce key concepts and tools for investigative journalism and strengthen participants’ capacity to identify and research issues of governance, accountability, corruption, and misuse of power. In order to publicise the competition, RNW Media has been sharing videos on its social media channels of journalists from around the world explaining what press freedom means to them

Journalism Under Fire – A Global Surge in Violations Against Journalists

October 16, 2020

On 14 Aya Wietzorrek posted a good overview piece on freedom of the press in the Organization for World Peace

…..Functioning as a “watch-dog” of these freedoms, journalism can be considered a public good, as it serves to inform citizens on political, economic, and social issues and ensures governance is transparent and accountable.

Acknowledging the many challenges journalism is currently facing…the focus of this article is on the everyday violations against journalists. This September, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Agency (UNESCO) published a report with findings revealing a “wider upward trend” in the use of unlawful violence by police and security forces against journalists over the last five years. Attacks were reported across 65 countries, and many of the tactics used, violate international laws and norms. Globally, journalists are facing censorship, surveillance, detention and physical attacks by law enforcement. The reported abuses against journalists include harassment, intimidation, beatings, being shot with non-lethal as well as lethal ammunition, sometimes even resulting in death.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, commented that around 1,000 journalists have been killed in the last decade – and that 9 in 10 cases “are unresolved”. The murders of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 in Malta, Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in Turkey and Francisco Romero Díaz in 2019 in Mexico are only a few examples. Horrified by the fates of their colleagues, these events have deterring effects for other journalists. Besides the attacks on journalists being a deeply concerning issue in their own right, such attacks thus also constitute a direct threat to civil society and democracy. In democratic states, with separate legislative, executive and judiciary branches, a free press is often considered to be the 4th pillar of democracy. According to Freedom House, however, elected leaders in many democracies have made direct attempts to silence critical media voices and strengthen ones that provide favourable coverage. The trend is linked to a global decline in democracy itself: The erosion of press freedom is both a symptom of and a contributor to the breakdown of other democratic institutions and principles….

To intercept this upward trend of unlawful violence reported by UNESCO, and to ensure that journalists can serve society and do their job, we can improve and implement the following. Firstly, in terms of prevention, developing standard operating protocols and increasing training for law enforcement on the freedom of expression and appropriate behaviour in dealing with journalists – respecting their special status as ‘watch-dogs’ – is vital. Such training would include dialogues between law enforcement and journalists, to establish working relationship between the two groups, respecting the roles of each in society. It is imperative that national legal frameworks for police use of force align with the international standards of necessity and proportionality. Secondly, in terms of protection, countries should renew their international human rights pledges, review relevant domestic laws and practice and revise them as necessary, to ensure conformity with states’ obligations under the UDHR and ICCPR. These legislative frameworks should be subject to periodic review by independent expert bodies, such as Human Rights Watch for instance. Thirdly, as the Committee to Protect Journalists has pointed out in its “Global Campaign Against Impunity”, murder is the ultimate form of censorship and the statistic that justice is not served in 9 out of 10 murders, highlights that urgent action is needed on this front. In terms of prosecution, appointing national ombudsmen to hold police accountable for the unlawful use of force against journalists is key. The implementation of such ombudsmen and the strengthening of criminal law provisions should also operate to deter offences against journalists. Internationally, the freedom of press is only implicitly protected by Article 19.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and deserves to be explicitly mentioned and protected. The appointment of a Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Safety of Journalists, as proposed by Reporters Without Border and 70 media groups and freedom of expression NGOs, would be a valuable appointment. This proposal was officially rejected in 2019 by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The creation of such a position would however help prevent resolutions and treaties from being largely empty words and would have the political weight, the capacity to move quickly and the legitimacy to coordinate with all UN bodies to implement change.

….. The international community has repeatedly stated the need for a more effective implementation of existing international and regional standards, yet the work still lies ahead of us. Governments should pro-actively (re-)establish their commitment to a free press and the protection of journalists as it is imperative that civil societies across the globe continue to defend right to freedom of expression. This is necessary for the enhancement of people’s lives and for the creation and maintenance of stable and healthy democratic societies.

Aya Wietzorrek

Aya Wietzorrek is a graduate in International Development from The University of Manchester and is currently a research intern in the Governance and Inclusive Development Group at the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/21/2020-world-press-freedom-index-is-out/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/03/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-small-selection-of-cases/ and

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-few-more-links/

.https://theowp.org/reports/journalism-under-fire-a-global-surge-in-unlawful-violations-against-journalists/

Killing of journalists in Mexico: Juan Carlos Morrugares the latest victim

August 24, 2020

The BBC reported on 23 August that a man in Mexico has been given a 50-year prison sentence for ordering the killing of a prominent journalist, Miroslava Breach, who covered drugs violence and corruption in the country and was one of 11 journalists murdered in 2017 in Mexico. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/30/in-depth-investigative-report-on-journalist-miroslava-in-mexico/]. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/

Prosecutors said the lengthy prison term for Juan Carlos Moreno set a precedent in cases involving crimes against free expression. This “good news” comes amidst continuing killings of journalists also in this year. Reporter Pablo Morrugares was shot and killed in the city of Iguala in early hours of 2 August 2020, according to news reports and officials.

Pablo Morrugares was the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, in attacks which are increasingly also killing police guards assigned to the victims. More than 140 journalists have been killed over the past 20 years.

We are dismayed that Mexican journalists are being killed while supposedly under federal protection,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities must do everything in their power to curb this impunity in attacks on the press, bring the culprits in Pablo Morrugares’ murder to justice, and guarantee the safety of reporters it has committed to protect.

Morrugares, the founder and editor of news website PM Noticias, was attacked shortly before 1:00 a.m. on August 2 in a restaurant in Iguala, some 120 miles south of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero Two heavily armed men entered the restaurant and fired more than 50 rounds at Morrugares, who died instantly. A police officer assigned to Morrugares as part of a federal protection program also died in the attack. The gunmen left the scene immediately after.

Before founding PM Noticias, Morrugares worked as a spokesperson for the Iguala municipal government during the administration of José Luis Abarca. The former mayor was arrested on November 4, 2014, for his alleged involvement in the mass abduction and suspected assassination of 43 students from a Guerrero rural teachers’ college on September 26 of that year. In 2016, Morrugares and his wife were targets of an attack by unidentified gunmen in Iguala, according to news reports. Following the attack, the reporter was placed in a protection program overseen by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat (Segob). An official of the Mechanism, who asked to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to speak on the matter, told CPJ today that his institution relocated the journalist to a safe house at an undisclosed location in 2018, where he stayed under federal protection until the end of 2019. The official said that Morrugares returned to Iguala at his own request in January of this year and was assigned two state police officers as bodyguards, one of whom died in this week’s attack.

https://cpj.org/2020/08/mexican-journalist-pablo-morrugares-killed-in-iguala/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-53880211

Four Yemeni journalists under Houthi death sentence

July 21, 2020

As four Yemeni journalists continue to wonder when or whether the Houthi authorities will execute the death sentences they received in April on spying charges, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for international pressure to make the Houthis understand that they will suffer international opprobrium if they do not overturn the sentences.

Before being abducted by the Houthis in 2015, the four journalists played leading roles in a Sanaa-based network of media outlets and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp pages linked to Al-Islah, the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and ruling party in regions controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

Abdul Khaleq Amran edited the Al-Islah Online website and ran Yemen Revolution Press, a news agency created from several media outlets in 2011. His staff covered the Yemeni civil war, documented crimes committed by the Houthis and interviewed the Houthis’ opponents.

Akram Al-Walidi supervised the staff of the Alrabie-ye.net news website and the government news agency SABA. He gathered information about developments in the fighting from the Al-Islah side, on the basis of reliable sources and with the help of a network of senior political and administrative officials then based in Ma’rib, which was established as the new capital after the Houthi rebels seized Sanaa.

Hareth Humaid, the head of news at Yemen Revolution Press, covered Houthi human rights violations, including abductions and bombardments of civilians. He produced a daily news bulletin with the latest violations. Its last issue was No. 54.

Tawfiq Al-Mansouri worked for the daily newspaper Al-Masdar until it stopped publishing when the Arab coalition intervened in 2015. He then joined Yemen Revolution Press doing layout and graphic design and helping to give form to the various media outlets linked to the agency.

After their abduction in 2015, the four journalists were secretly moved from one prison to another in Sanaa and were subjected to violent interrogations. Torture and repeated blows left all of them with severe physical and psychological aftereffects, according to the Association of Abductees’ Mothers. Amran has a slipped disc. Humaid has suffered loss of vision and has constant migraines. Walidi has chronic digestive problems.

“Every year the world moves one step closer to the universal abolition of the death penalty, but these four veteran journalists are facing the worst of all sentences just for doing their job,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Efforts are urgently needed to end their nightmarish plight and return to humanitarian principles in a country where journalists have already paid a heavy price in the war. The Houthis must overturn this decision or face international opprobrium. We ask all those who may have any influence, direct or indirect, on the Houthis to use it to help bring this madness to an end.”

The four were among a total of ten journalists abducted by the Houthis in Sanaa in 2015 on the absurd grounds that they could potentially provide the Arab coalition with information for use in its air strikes. Accused of “collaborating with the enemy,” they were tried by a Houthi Special Criminal Court that is not recognized by the international community.

In its latest annual round-up, RSF reported that a total of 15 journalists were being held hostage in Yemen, most of them by the Houthis. The others were either being held in provinces controlled by the so-called “legitimate government” (such as Muhammad Ali Al-Moqri) on in areas controlled by separatists (such as Saleh Musawa, who has since been released).

As RSF also reported in the 2019 round-up, the conditions in Yemen are nowadays so bad that many journalists have abandoned journalism and have switched to other forms of work. Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-few-more-links/

https://rsf.org/en/news/who-are-four-yemeni-journalists-under-houthi-death-sentence

30 “information heroes” honored by Reporters Without Borders

June 16, 2020

Coronavirus “information heroes” – journalism that saves lives

On 15 June t2020 he NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a list of 30 coronavirus “information heroes” – 30 journalists, whistleblowers and media outlets whose courage, perseverance or capacity to innovate has helped to circulate reliable and vital information during the Covid-19 pandemic. See the list

Every crisis produces its heroes. Around the world there are journalists, whistleblowers and media outlets that have managed to overcome the barriers to information created since the start of the pandemic. Through their reporting or by means of initiatives that have needed courage, audacity and determination, they have provided access to trustworthy and quality information, helped to resist censorship, and combatted the runaway disinformation that threatens public health.

Some people have taken such big risks to report the reality of the pandemic that they have died as a result, while others have disappeared or have been jailed,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Prosecuted, attacked, insulted – many have paid a high price for defending the right to information and for combatting the rumours and disinformation that aggravate the consequences of this public health crisis. These new heroes remind us that journalism can save lives. They deserve our attention and admiration.”

The list compiled by RSF, which is not intended to be exhaustive, includes both well-known media figures and people the public have not heard of. Although they come from all five main continents, nearly a third of these 30 heroes are from Asia, where the pandemic originated. Six are from Europe and Central Asia, and the others are from Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

What most of these heroes have in common is the fact that they revealed information highlighting the pandemic’s gravity or their government’s mismanagement of the crisis. Some are veteran reporters like Ana Lalić in Serbia or combative investigators like Blaž Zgaga in Slovenia, Andjouza Abouheir in Comoros and Sergei Satsukin Belarus. However, others are ordinary citizens who, in response to the urgency and gravity of the public health crisis, decided to blow the whistle with the aim of saving as many lives a possible. It was an eye doctor, Li Wenliang, who first alerted the world to the existence of a fast-spreading disease in December 2019. And it was a lawyer, Chen Qiushi, who posted videos on his blog revealing the chaos in the hospitals in Wuhan, the site of the initial Covid-19 outbreak. Li died of the virus while Chen was forcibly quarantined and never reappeared.

You often pay dearly for the truth. In Venezuela, freelance journalist Darvinson Rojas spent 12 days in prison for a tweet questioning official pandemic figures. In India, newspaper reporter Vijay Vineet is facing a possible six-month jail sentence for reporting that lockdown restrictions forced hungry kids to eat cattle fodder. In Bangladesh, the well-known cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore is facing a possible life sentence for posting cartoons on Facebook about politics during the Covid-19 crisis that alluded, inter alia, to corruption.

Others have avoided prison but can no longer work. After a lengthy and violent police interrogation over an article questioning the Kingdom of Eswatini’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Swati Newsweek website editor Eugene Dube had to flee to neighbouring South Africa. Chris Buckley, a Beijing-based reporter for the New York Times, was forced to leave China after spending 76 days in Wuhan at the height of the outbreak. For the first time in 24 years, his visa was not renewed.

Many of these heroes displayed courage in resisting pressure and censorship. They include Caixin, an independent English and Chinese-language media outlet in Beijing whose reporting has questioned the Chinese government’s narrative. For some, such as Afghan reporter Anisseh Shahid, it took courage to simply keep reporting in the field with the threat of infection compounding the threat of a Taliban attack. In the United States, several White House correspondents have distinguished themselves by their perseverance in adversity. Despite constant attacks by President Trump and his aides, they continue week after week to question his handling of the pandemic.

This exceptional crisis has also produced innovative initiatives that have helped to get the facts out and combat disinformation. In Africa, the Ivorian web radio WA FM and the Togolese news site TogoCheck were created to combat rumours and fake news and disseminate trustworthy information that the public can use to protect themselves and their health. In Brazil, alternative media outlets pooled resources to form a “Gabinete de crise” to inform the abandoned inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, while the Wayuri Network’s journalists have risen to the challenge of informing more than 750 indigenous communities in the Amazon. In Russia, 25 media outlets formed Syndicate-100 to make it easier for medical personnel, who have been hit hard by the epidemic, to report problems and alert the public.

Finally, RSF pays a special tribute to journalists in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s business capital and the site of Latin America’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak. The photos of bodies in Guayaquil’s streets have gone around the world. Despite being unprepared and lacking personal protective equipment, the city’s journalists have continued to work and to report in locations with a high infection rate. And this has taken a heavy toll. Thirteen of them have died of the virus.

https://rsf.org/en/news/coronavirus-information-heroes-journalism-saves-lives

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/21/2020-world-press-freedom-index-is-out/

World Press Freedom Day 2020 – a few more links

May 4, 2020

Yesterday’s post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/03/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-small-selection-of-cases/ ] is already in need of updating. Here a few more examples of what happened on World Press Freedom Day:

—-

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published exclusive interviews by Philippine journalist Maria Ressa with Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub, whistleblower Edward Snowden, Nobel economy laureate Joseph Stiglitz and RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire on the subject of “Journalism in crisis: a decisive decade.”
—-

Deutsche Welle’s Freedom of Speech Award honors journalists persecuted for coronavirus reporting

Deutsche Welle is presenting journalists from four continents with this year’s Freedom of Speech Award for their coverage of the coronavirus crisis. The recipients are being honored on behalf of all media professionals around the world who are publishing independent information about the coronavirus pandemic while working under difficult conditions. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/10/dw-freedom-of-speech-award-goes-to-turkish-%e2%80%b2hurriyet%e2%80%b2-journalist-sedat-ergin/#more-8152]

At a moment of a global health emergency, journalism serves a crucial function, and each journalist bears great responsibility,” DW Director General Peter Limbourg said while announcing the award winners in Berlin. “Citizens of any country have the right of access to fact-based information and critical findings,” he said. “Any form of censorship may result in casualties and any attempts to criminalize coverage of the current situation clearly violate the freedom of expression.” For a list of this year’s laureates, see: https://www.dw.com/en/deutsche-welle-freedom-of-speech-award-17-laureates-from-14-countries/a-53306033

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a video message to the journalists honored that the general public needs “full and accurate information about the pandemic, and to be involved in the decisions that are being made on our behalf.” The International Press Institute documented more than 150 violations of press freedom worldwide through the end of April. The IPI has tracked cases of censorship and restrictions on access to information — but the greatest number of violations of press freedom have been arrests of journalists and verbal or physical attacks on them. (https://www.dw.com/en/un-commissioner-michelle-bachelet-honors-journalists/av-53297637)

——

SNHROn the occasion of World Press Day, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) issued a report demanding the release of 422 citizen journalists in Syria, most of whom are detained by the Syrian regime, and are now threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report notes that 707 citizen journalists have been killed since March 2011 to date, 78% of them by Syrian Regime forces. The 20-page report shows how the Syrian regime has been well aware of the danger posed by press freedom to its tyrannical rule for decades, abolishing all independent newspapers, and allowing only three official newspapers to be published, which are simply Syrian regime mouthpieces, dedicated to promoting, defending and justifying the regime’s actions. As the report further notes, it’s no exaggeration but simply a statement of fact to say that there is no such thing as a free press under the Syrian regime…..The report distributes the total death toll according to the main parties to the conflict, with the Syrian regime being responsible for the deaths of 551 citizen journalists, including five children, one woman, five foreign journalists, and 47 other citizen journalists due to torture in detention centers, while Russian forces were responsible for the deaths of 22 citizen journalists, and ISIS killed 64, including one child, two women, three foreign journalists, and three under torture. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham also killed eight, including two who died due to torture. Factions of the Armed Opposition were responsible for the deaths of 25 citizen journalists, including one child and three women.

View full Report

 

2020 World Press Freedom Index is out…

April 21, 2020

The 2020 World Press Freedom Index has come out with as title: “Entering a decisive decade for journalism, exacerbated by coronavirus”. [For last year’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/20/the-2019-world-press-freedom-index-launched-on-18th-of-april/]

 

The 2020 World Press Freedom Index, annualy compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), shows that the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.

This 2020 edition of the Index, which evaluates the situation for journalists each year in 180 countries and territories, suggests that the next ten years will be pivotal for press freedom because of converging crises affecting the future of journalism: a geopolitical crisis (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); a technological crisis (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); a democratic crisis (due to polarisation and repressive policies); a crisis of trust (due to suspicion and even hatred of the media); and an economic crisis (impoverishing quality journalism).

These five areas of crisis – the effects of which the Index’s methodology allows us to evaluate – are now compounded by a global public health crisis.

“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, and is itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today.”

There is a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a country’s ranking in the Index. Both China (177th) and Iran (down 3 at 173rd) censored their major coronavirus outbreaks extensively. In Iraq (down 6 at 162nd), the authorities stripped Reuters of its licence for three months after it published a story questioning official coronavirus figures. Even in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary (down 2 at 89th), had a “coronavirus” law passed with penalties of up to five years in prison for false information, a completely disproportionate and coercive measure.

“The public health crisis provides authoritarian governments with an opportunity to implement the notorious “shock doctrine” – to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times,” Deloire added. “For this decisive decade to not be a disastrous one, people of goodwill, whoever they are, must campaign for journalists to be able to fulfil their role as society’s trusted third parties, which means they must have the capacity to do so.”


Evolution of some countries ranked since 2013

The main findings of the 2020 Index: Norway tops the Index for the fourth year in a row in 2020, while Finland is again the runner-up. Denmark (up 2 at 3rd) is next as both Sweden (down 1 at 4th) and the Netherlands (down 1 at 5th) have fallen as a result of increases in cyber-harassment. The other end of the Index has seen little change. North Korea (down 1 at 180th) has taken the last position from Turkmenistan, while Eritrea (178th) continues to be Africa’s worst-ranked country.

Malaysia (101st) and the Maldives (79th) registered the biggest rises in the 2020 Index – 22nd and 19th, respectively – thanks to the beneficial effects of changes of government through the polls. The third biggest leap was by Sudan (159th), which rose 16 places after Omar al-Bashir’s removal. The list of biggest declines in the 2020 Index is topped by Haiti, where journalists have often been targeted during violent nationwide protests for the past two years. After falling 21 places, it is now ranked 83rd. The other two biggest falls were in Africa – by Comoros (down 19 at 75th) and Benin (down 17 at 113th), both of which have seen a surge in press freedom violations.

https://rsf.org/en/2020-world-press-freedom-index-entering-decisive-decade-journalism-exacerbated-coronavirus

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

April 9, 2020

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

To:

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

Your Excellencies,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

(for names of signing organisations see link below)

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