Posts Tagged ‘self censorship’

Press Freedom Awards in Hong Kong cancelled

April 29, 2022

Oiwan Lam on 26 April 2022 reported that Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club has canceled its Human Rights Awards for fear of “legal risks”

Image created by Oiwan Lam.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCC HK), a press freedom watchdog, announced they would cancel their 2022 Human Rights Press Awards (HRPA) on April 25.  Eight members of the Club’s Press Freedom Committee have resigned in protest over the decision. 

Many foreign correspondents were shocked by the decision. Launched in 1995,  the HRPA has been one of the most important platforms to celebrate and honour human rights journalism from around Asia. The Club normally announces the winners on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) quoted sources from FCC HK that the cancellation was related to the legal risks in presenting awards to the now-defunct Stand News. Two former senior staff members of the independent news outlet have been charged with conspiring to publish “seditious publications” pending trial. 

Stand News was forced to shut down last December after security police raided its office. The police authorities accused the news site of publishing “seditious materials” with the intent to cause hatred towards the government and the judiciary. 

An FCC member told the HKFP that Stand News would receive four awards and five merits in this year’s award, but “certain items” would pose a legal risk. 

In a letter to the Club’s members, the president of FCC HK Keith Richburg said the decision was made in the organization’s board meeting on April 23:

Over the last two years, journalists in Hong Kong have been operating under new “red lines” on what is and is not permissible, but there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish unintentionally to violate the law. This is the context in which we decided to suspend the Awards.

The letter also says that “recent developments might also require changes to our [FCC HK’s] approach” in the promotion of press freedom.

As the city’s incoming Chief Executive John Lee has vowed to apply the “strictest measures” to clamp down on “anyone who tries to use journalistic work as a shield to engage in crimes endangering national security” in response to the crackdown on Apple Daily, FCC HK’s anticipation of legal risks is valid.

Yet, as a press freedom watchdog, many see the choice to ax the awards as an act of self-censorship antithetical to the organization’s purpose, as independent journalist Ilaria Maria Sala wrote on Twitter:

Eight members of the Club’s press freedom committee have resigned in protest over the decision. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post’s Southeast Asia and Hong Kong Bureau Chief, is one of the resignees. As one of the winners of the Human Rights Press Awards in 2020, Shibani Mahtani expressed her regrets about the decision and explained, in a Twitter thread, the significance of the annual occasion in Asia: See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/

For more on the real, unannounced winners: https://hongkongfp.com/2022/04/27/in-full-winners-of-the-axed-fcc-human-rights-press-awards-revealed/

see also for future editions:

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3176537/american-university-taking-over-hong-kong-press-groups

International Press Institute: in 2021 45 journalists died doing their work

January 19, 2022

A total of 45 journalists died in 2021 while practicing their profession, with Mexico being the most dangerous country in the world for reporters, the International Press Institute (IPI) reported today in Vienna.

Seven Mexican journalists were assassinated this year for their work, with which the Latin American country once again leads the annual list of dead reporters. India and Afghanistan follow, each with six journalists killed, ahead of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with three.

In 2020, 55 journalists died around the world, eleven of them in Mexico. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-few-more-links/

According to the IPI, a global network of media owners and editors, the safety of journalists remains a global challenge. For this reason, the Institute “urges the authorities to end impunity for these crimes and to guarantee the protection of journalists, who must be able to carry out their work freely and safely.”

Of the 45 journalists killed, 40 were men and five were women, the IPI detailed. Twenty-eight of them were killed for their work, three died while working in a conflict zone and two when covering internal disturbances in a country.

In eleven cases the causes of the deaths are still being investigated, while a journalist drowned while covering the rescue of an elephant from a river in India, showing how dangerous the profession can be.

The number of journalists killed this year is the lowest recorded by the IPI since 1997. However, the IPI emphasizes that the decrease in the number of journalists killed and assassinated is not an indication of the good state of press freedom in the world.

Waves of violence against the press can lead to self-censorship when journalists avoid certain topics that put their lives in danger,” says IPI.

This is made even worse in a climate of impunity in which murderers must not answer for their actions. IPI stands in solidarity with the families and colleagues of all journalists killed for their work in 2021 and demands that those responsible be held accountable for their actions” the statement concludes.

Iranian Tehran Times on HRDs: a lot missing

August 5, 2020

My eye was drawn to a post in the Tehran Times of 4 August 2020 entitled: “Ex-diplomat urges intl. community not to keep silent over U.S. violation of human rights

Mohsen Pakaeen, the former Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan, has urged the international community not to keep silent over the United States’ violation of the human rights when the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic. The aricle then continues to list some international statements in support of lifting sanctions:

The international community must respond to the United States’ behavior and make this country fulfil its duties regarding respect for human rights,” Pakaeen told IRNA in an interview published on Tuesday. He also said, “In a situation in which all countries in the world and international institutions, even [the United Nations] High Commissioner for Human Rights, stress the necessity of removing sanctions on countries battling the coronavirus, we are witnessing the United States’ healthcare terrorism against our country.”

On March 31, a UN human rights expert called for lifting international sanctions against countries ranging from Iran to North Korea and Venezuela in coronavirus crisis, according to Reuters.

The continued imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and, to a lesser degree, Zimbabwe, to name the most prominent instances, severely undermines the ordinary citizens’ fundamental right to sufficient and adequate food,” Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement.

In a letter to the G-20 economic powers on March 24, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for rolling back international sanctions regimes around the world.  Guterres said sanctions are heightening the health risks for millions of people and weakening the global effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, Foreign Policy reported.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, also said on March 24 that “At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended,” .

The Tehran Times is known as an English-language mouthpiece of the regime {see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/13/dreams-about-a-referendum-to-end-the-mullahs-regime-in-iran/]. Its selectivity is almost amazing when one does a search on the term “human rights defenders” which yields 50 hits. None of them are about HRDs in Iran itself. The best it can do is – not surprisingly – reporting on the plight of HRDs in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Still, there would be enough to report on in Iran, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/iran/

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/450879/Ex-diplomat-urges-intl-community-not-to-keep-silent-over-U-S

LinkedIn reverses censorship position re Zhou Fengsuo’s profile

January 7, 2019

Zhou Fengsuo –  Getty Images

On 3 January, LinkedIn sent Zhou a message saying his profile and activities would not be viewable to users in China because of “specific content on your profile” (without saying which content!). Hours later, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn reversed its decision, apparently after South China Morning Post reporter Owen Churchill brought attention to the case. See the exchange below:

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Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk about (self)censorship under the junta

June 19, 2015

On 26 May 2015, at the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum, Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk describes his fight for democracy in his home country following the May 2014 military coup. Talking about his own arrest, Rojanaphruk denounces the limitations to the right to assembly, expression and movement in Thailand, as well as the regime’s efforts to build the illusion of a happy Thailand. Rojanaphruk concludes his presentation by reminding us that tolerance and dialogue are essential if Thailand is to become a democracy again.

for more on Thailand: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/thailand/

Special Rapporteur ends visit to South Korea and makes recommendations

June 7, 2013
At the end of a 10-day fact-finding mission to South Korea UN special rapporteur on human rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, said Friday that South Korea’s 65-year-old national security act posed a “seriously problematic” challenge to freedom of expression.  It prohibits the printing, distribution and ownership of any material deemed “anti-state” and outlaws any organisation advocating overthrow of the government.Flag of South Korea
I have been acquainted with the national security act which, despite the fact that it has been amended on several occasions, still appears seriously problematic for the exercise of freedom of expression,Sekaggya said.   Read the rest of this entry »