Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize’

UN experts demand release of human rights defender Dawit Isaak, imprisoned without trial in Eritrea since 2001

August 19, 2021

On 18 August 2021 UN experts demanded the release of journalist and human rights defender Dawit Isaak, imprisoned without trial in Eritrea since 2001, amid uncertainty about whether he is even still alive.

To this day, Dawit Isaak has never been charged with a crime, spent a day in court or spoken to his lawyer,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “The level to which the Eritrean Government is ignoring Mr. Isaak’s basic, fundamental human rights is appalling. He must be released at once.”

In the first years of his detention, “we received information that Mr. Isaak was often taken to hospital, which was concerning in itself,” Lawlor said, “Now we receive no news, and that’s worse. We fear for his life. At an absolute minimum, Eritrea must immediately present evidence that he is alive and well.”

Dawit Isaak, 56, a dual Swedish-Eritrean national, established one of Eritrea’s first independent media outlets in the 1990s, the Setit newspaper. In May 2001, it published open letters written by a group of politicians known as the G15 urging the Government to hold open elections and implement a newly drafted Constitution. With the world’s attention diverted by the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Isaak was arrested on 23 September 2001.

According to a credible source, Mr. Isaak was alive in September 2020, the first sign of life in seven years. He is reportedly being held in Eiraeiro prison, a detention centre infamous for its conditions, where torture is allegedly common practice and where many inmates have reportedly died in custody.

The enforced disappearance of Mr. Isaak for almost two decades is extremely concerning,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. “The Government of Eritrea has not confirmed his whereabouts or provided any solid evidence about his state of health in all these years. It has denied torture allegations but has not allowed anyone to visit Mr. Isaak.

Lawlor said she had rarely witnessed such disregard for human life as she documents cases of human rights defenders in long-term detention around the world.

“Locking up human rights defenders for long periods of time may feel like a guarantee against internal scrutiny,” Lawlor said. “But we have not forgotten.”

Mr. Isaak’s work has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards, including UNESCO’s Freedom of Press Award {see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/9329f937-0d8b-4543-8664-2263e968adbf] and he was a finalist for the Sakharov Award in 2017

The Special Procedures mandate holders are in contact with the Eritrean authorities on this matter.

The experts’ call is endorsed by: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances: Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Chair), Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius (Vice Chair), Ms. Aua Balde, Ms. Gabriella Citroni and Mr. Luciano Hazan; and Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

https://www.miragenews.com/un-experts-demand-release-of-human-rights-615941/

Maria Ressa of the Philippines winner of UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2021

April 28, 2021

UNESCOA screenshot of Maria Ressa during a UNESCO online dialogue on press freedom in 2020.

On 28 April 2021 UNESCO named investigative journalist and media executive Maria Ressa of the Philippines as the recipient of its 2021 press freedom award. For more on this and other UNESCO awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/8F8DB978-CD89-4CFB-1C26-D5FEE5D54855

For over three decades, Ms. Ressa has been involved in many initiatives to promote press freedom and currently manages the online outlet, Rappler. Her work however, also made her a target for attacks and abuse, UNESCO – the UN agency tasked with defending press freedom – said in a news release.

Ms. Ressa was chosen for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize following the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals.

Maria Ressa’s unerring fight for freedom of expression is an example for many journalists around the world. Her case is emblematic of global trends that represent a real threat to press freedom, and therefore to democracy”, Marilu Mastrogiovanni, Chair of the Prize’s international jury and an investigative journalist from Italy, said.

The award ceremony will take place on 2 May in Windhoek, Namibia, during the World Press Freedom Day Global Conference. It will be streamed online.

Hosted by UNESCO and the Government of Namibia, the 2021 World Press Freedom Day Global Conference will be held from 29 April to 3 May under the theme of information as a public good, and will focus on topics such as transparency of online platforms and the importance of media and information literacy.

The conference will also tackle ways to promote and support independent media struggling to survive a crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when national and local media everywhere face financial instability and other pressures threatening their survival and their journalists’ jobs. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/04/1090792

Reuters journalists in Myanmar jail receive UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Prize

April 13, 2019

Two Reuters journalists who are currently serving seven-year prison sentences in Myanmar are to be awarded the 2019 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize (for more on this and other media awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unesco-guillermo-cano-world-press-freedom-prize). In the press release, president of the jury Wojciech Tochman explained the decision to honor Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, stating the choice “pays a tribute to their courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” and that the men “symbolize their country’s emergence after decades of isolation.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are two journalists who had been working on stories about a military crackdown and alleged human rights violations in Rakhine state in Myanmar when they were arrested. Their investigation was published by Reuters while they were awaiting trial in February 2018, and included graphic photography and detailed accounts providing evidence that state security forces were implicated in carrying out extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya at the village of Inn Din. The Myanmar government has been accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Rohingya Muslims by the U.N. and various human rights organizations since 2016. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/06/50-human-rights-ngos-address-joint-letter-to-aung-san-suu-kyi-on-reuters-journalists/]

They were named as TIME’s Person of the Year last December. Earlier this month they received AI UK media awards [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/09/amnesty-uk-media-awards-sets-good-example/.]

For last year’s laureate see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/20/3-may-world-press-freedom-day-awards-for-journalists/.

The award will be presented on UNESCO’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Addis Ababa on 2 May.

http://time.com/5568605/myanmar-journalists-jailed-unesco-press-freedom/

Shawkan released in Egypt after 5 years jail for taking pictures

March 4, 2019

Reuters reports that on Monday 4 March 2019 Egypt released photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan who spent more than five years in jail after covering a 2013 sit-in that ended with security forces killing hundreds of protesters. “I can’t describe how I feel … I am free,” he told Reuters by phone after being released at dawn on Monday. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-a-good-time-for-honoring-journalists/]

Shawkan was released because he had served out his term before being sentenced. But he must still spend his nights for the next five years at a police station, a penalty he said he would challenge. He vowed to continue with his work, saying: “All journalists are at risk of being arrested or killed while doing their work. I am not the first and I will not be the last.

(Shawkan was charged with belonging to a banned group and possessing firearms. He was sentenced to five years in prison last September in a mass trial which saw 75 people sentenced to death and more than 600 others to jail terms. Shawkan denied the charges against him, saying he was simply providing freelance coverage of the protest for a British-based photo agency.)

UNESCO awarded him its 2018 Cano Press Freedom Prize and said his detention was an abuse of human rights. See: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unesco-guillermo-cano-world-press-freedom-prize

3 May World Press Freedom Day: awards for journalists

April 20, 2018

Banner Webpage April

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

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

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

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

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

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak awarded 2017 UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

May 4, 2017

Dawit Isaak in Sweden circa 1987-88 © Kalle Ahlsén
Dawit Isaak, an imprisoned Eritrean-Swedish journalist, has been chosen to receive the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Mr. Isaak was arrested in a crackdown on the media that occurred in September 2001. The last time he was heard from was in 2005. His present location is unknown.  An independent international jury of media professionals recommended unanimously Mr. Isaak in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression, and the recommendation was endorsed by the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Defending fundamental freedoms calls for determination and courage – it calls for fearless advocates,” said Irina Bokova. “This is the legacy of Guillermo Cano, and the message we send today with this decision to highlight the work of Dawit Isaak.” Dawit Isaak joins a long list of courageous journalists who have persevered to shed light in the dark spaces; keeping their communities informed against all odds,” said Cilla Benkö, President of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 Jury. “Some have given their lives in the pursuit of truth. Many have been imprisoned. Dawit Isaak has spent nearly 16 years in jail, without charge or trial. I sincerely hope that with this award the world will say, ‘Free Dawit Isaak Now.’”

Dawit Isaak, a playwright, journalist and writer, moved to Sweden in 1987, where he later became a citizen. After the independence of Eritrea, he returned to his homeland to become one of the founders and reporters of Setit, the first independent newspaper in the country. He was known for his critical and insightful reporting. Mr. Isaak was arrested in September 2001 during a political crackdown on the so-called G-15, a group of politicians, and journalists critical of Government policies. Some were detained and tortured, others disappeared. The last known sighting of Mr. Isaak was in 2005. His whereabouts now are unknown.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, said: “The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” welcoming the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 to Mr. Isaak.

The Prize was awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia this year in the presence of the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

Created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and, or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/14/reporters-without-borders-published-its-2014-world-press-freedom-index/

Sources:

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak awarded UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017

http://mareeg.com/eritrea-must-free-prize-winning-journalist-says-un-human-rights-expert/

Syria: Mazen Darwish free after 3 years, but still to be acquitted

August 12, 2015

Yesterday I reported on Human Rights Watch honoring Yara Bader as the representative of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression. Now I am catching up on the release of her husband and the founder of the Centre, Mazen Darwish, after more than three years in jail.  A verdict in his case is expected later this month. Darwish was arrested, along with two colleagues, in February 2012 during a raid. Hussein Ghreir and Hani al-Zaitani were freed last month (17 July and 18 July 2015, respectively) as part of an amnesty that was to have included Darwish, but his release was delayed.

Many NGOs (i.a. Frontline, the Observatory, AI and HRW) and Governments have welcomed the release but warn that Mazen Darwish, and his colleagues Hussein Ghrer and Hani al-Zaitani, have been charged with “publicising terrorist acts” and are still to be tried before the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court. They invariably call for all charges against them to be dropped. “Mazen, Hussein and Hani are not terrorists, they are human rights defenders,” FIDH President Karim Lahidji said “All charges against them must be dropped immediately”. “We urge the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court to acquit them during the verdict hearing on August 31, as their judicial harassment has only been aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock concluded.

See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/syrian-journalist-mazen-darwish-deserved-winner-of-unescoguillermo-cano-award/

[On May 15, 2013, in its Resolution 67/262, the UN General Assembly called for the release of the three defenders. In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also found that the three defenders had been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty due to their human rights activities and called for their immediate release. Finally, UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on February 22, 2014, also demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria.]

Syria: Finally free, Mazen Darwish must now be acquitted.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/mazendarwish

http://tvnewsroom.org/newslines/world/syria-releases-award-winning-activist-mazen-darwish-79643/

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish deserved winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano award

April 8, 2015

 The winner of the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is the Syrian journalist and human rights defender, Mazen Darwish, currently imprisoned. The Prize will be awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, which will this year be hosted by Latvia (National Library, Riga, 6 p.m.).

An independent International Jury of media professionals recommended Mazen Darwish in recognition of the work that he has carried out in Syria for more than ten years at great personal sacrifice, enduring a travel ban, harassment, as well as repeated detention and torture. Darwish, a lawyer and press freedom advocate, is the president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), founded in 2004, and one of the founders of the Voice newspaper and syriaview.net, an independent news site, which has been banned by the Syrian authorities. In 2011, Darwish established Media Club, the first Syrian magazine about media affairs.

He has been detained since February 2012, when he was arrested with colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer. Mazen won earlier awards from Roland Berger (2011), Reporters without Borders (2012) and Bruno Kreisky (2013).

The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.