Reporters Without Borders reiterates its deep concern about the continuing wave of violence against journalists in Nepal. Three days after sounding the alarm, the press freedom organization has received reports of more incidents.
Muktiram Neupane of the daily Aarthik Abhiyan sustained head and stomach injuries in an attack in the western district of Palpa on 22 May, a day after Ashok Tuladhar, a reporter for the same newspaper, sustained a serious injury in an attack in the central district of Lalitpur.
Sagarmath Television reporter Deepa Ale was attacked by demonstrators on 21 May in Nepalgunj, in the western district of Banke. She has been hospitalized in Kathmandu with serious eye injuries sustained in the attack.
The following journalists have also reportedly been the victims of attacks:
On 22 May
- Chudamani Wagle of Radio Sarlahi
- Dhruba Basnet of Star FM, in Bhaktapur
- Dila Prasad Gautam of Nepal Television
- Meena Khadka of Mountain Television, in Kathmandu
- Tikaram Neti of Mountain Television
- Uttam Phuyal of Mountain Television, in Kathmandu
On 21 May
- Dharmendra Sapkota of Mountain Television, in Lalitpur
- Mukti Shrestha, a Mountain Television cameraman, in Lalitpur
- Nabaraj Shresth of News 24 Television, in Lalitpur
- Nirmal Wali of News 24 Television, in Lalitpur
- Pratikshya Sharma, a Mountain Television cameraman, in Lalitpur
- Rameshwor Sapkota of Mountain Television, in Lalitpur
On 20 May
- Ramhari Pande of Sourya Daily, in Kathmandu
On unspecified dates
- Binu Thapa Magar of Gandaki FM, in Pokhara
- Chuda Mani Wagle of Radio Sarlahi
Many copies of the Kantipur Daily, Annapurna Post, Kathmandu Post and Himalayan Times newspapers were burned by demonstrators in the eastern town of Lahan on 24 May.
Mountain Television and Radio Madhyabindu reported being the target of intimidation attempts by demonstrators demanding favourable coverage of their protests. At one point, demonstrators surrounded the Radio Madhyabindu bureau in the central district of Nawalparasi.
Protestors in the central district of Nuwakot issued a warning to Dhruba Rawal, an official with the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), accusing him of covering their demonstrations in a negative manner.
A total of 13 radio stations, two TV stations and seven newspapers in the central district of Rupandehi were forced to suspend activity because of similar harassment.
Media vehicles have been attacked again. A Nagarik Daily vehicle was damaged in Kerakha, in the eastern district of Jhapa, on 22 May. A Mountain Television vehicle was vandalized in the central city of Bhaktapur, while a Karobar Daily vehicle was vandalized in Kathmandu.
22/05/2012 - Proposed new constitution fuels tension, threats and attacks on media
Reporters Without Borders is disturbed by the many acts of violence against the media in the past two weeks in Nepal. Attacks on journalists and threats to their work have been fuelled by mounting tension in the run-up to the adoption of a new constitution, scheduled for 27 May.
“The government should not forget the media amid all the controversy,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The new constitution must guarantee fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information. Only constitutionally protected media will able to question and criticize the government and make it accountable to the public.
“The safety of journalists and news media in the course of their work will continue to be sacrificed in the absence of a concrete commitment by the authorities. Responding to physical attacks on journalists and ending impunity for those responsible for this violence should be priorities for the government. We note this week's promise by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to provide better protection for journalists and we hope that concrete measures quickly follow.”
In response to a nationwide call by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), many ethnic and religious groups have staged protests this month in a bid to get their demands reflected in the new constitution, and protesters have repeatedly harassed, threatened and attacked journalists. Newspaper distribution has been disrupted in the regions with the most tension, especially in the west.
Journalists attacked during demonstrations
Hari Sharma of the Annapurna Post newspaper and Image Channel Television was attacked in the central district of Nawalparasi on 19 May by supporters of the United Tharu Struggle Committee, a group formed by members of the Tharu ethnic community, after he covered a demonstration they had organized. They burned his motorcycle and broke his right hand.
Demonstrators attacked three journalists – Sharad Chandra Bhandary of the news agency Rashtriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) and two reporters with the daily Sourya, Ram Sharan Bajagain and Bheem Gautam – on 11 May in Kathmandu, robbing Bajagain and Gautam of their press cards.
Homraj Ranabhat of the daily Gorkhapatra was physically attacked by representatives of a group formed by members the Tharu community in the west of the country on 8 May. Members of the same movement attacked Milan Parajuli and Prem Bahadur Kshetry of Vijay FM, taking their press cards and the keys to their motorcycle.
Around 50 other journalists have been attacked in the past two weeks. They include:
On 21 May
- Ashok Dulal of Aarthik Abhiyan
- Nawaraj Shrestha of News 24 Television
- Prakash Adhikari, of Sagarmatha Television, in Makawanpur district
- Radheshyam Khatiwada, secretary of the Federation of Nepali Journalists in Chitawan district
- Rajan Upadhyay, of Barahi FM, in Kaski
On 20 May
- Biku Tamang, a freelancer affiliated to the Federation of Sports Journalists, in Lalitpur
- Bijay Chamling of Rajdhani Daily, in Chabahi
- Dinesh Gautam of Citizen FM, in Kathmandu
- Dipendra Karki of Karobar Daily, in Lalitpur
- Prakash Kattel of Road Map Weekly
- Radheshyam Dahal of Sagarmatha Television
- Rajan Parajuli of Antenna Foundation Nepal, in Kathmandu
- Rajesh Rai of Gorkhapatra Daily
- Shakti Karki of Road Map Weekly
- Shambhu Kumar Prasai of Gorkhapatra Daily
- Upendra Sharma of Muktipatra Weekly
- Y.P. Ghimire, a Himalaya TV cameraman, in Lalitpur
On 19 May
- Ram Rijhan Yadav, a journalist and media adviser to the prime minister, in Anamnagar, Kathmandu
On 17 May
- Dilli Acharya, the president of the Rajdhani section of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), in Kalanki, Kathmandu
- Prakash Chandra Bhattarai, a journalist with the newspaper Lokvani daily and adviser to the FNJ's Tanahu section, in Tanahu
- Prem Prasad Poudel, a journalist with the newspaper Lokvani daily and president of the FNJ'sTanahu section, in Tanahu
On 10 May
- Govinda Chaulagain of the Society of Cooperative Journalists
- Purna Bhakta Duwal of the Society of Cooperative Journalists
- Rajesh Khanal of the Kathmandu Post, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu
- Tapendra Karki of the newspaper Rajdhani, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu
On 9 May in the town of Dhangadi (in the western district of Kailali)
- Devraj Joshi of Swarnim Nepal
- Nawaraj Khanal of Mountain Television
- Ranga Timalsina of the Dhangadhi Post
On various dates
- Akkal Kunwar of Sagarmatha Television, in Kathmandu
- Ankit Adhikari of the Kathmadu Post, in Kathmandu
- Basu Satyal of Avenues Television
- Ganashekhar Sharma, a media union adviser, in Chitawan district
- Govinda Ghimire
- Hari Upreti Bhuwan
- Karna Chanda of Triveni FM in Doti district
- Milan Parajuli
- Mohan Shahi of the newspaper Kantipur, in Doti district
- Prakash Bam of Triveni FM in Doti district
- Prakash Gyawali
- Pranab Kharel of the Kathmadu Post, in Kathmandu
- Punya Dhamala of Sagarmatha Television
- Radheshyam Dahal
- Rajendra Acharya
- Rajendra Pokhrel of Nepal News
- Rajesh Chamling of Sagarmatha Television
- Raksha Regmi
- Rohit Bhandari of Mountain Television
- Saral Gurung of Sagarmatha Television
- Satish Subedi of Sagarmatha Television
- Shaligram Nepal, the president of Press Chautari, in Chitawan district
- Shambu Prasai of Sagarmatha Television
- Shishir Simkhada of Radio Nepal, in Chitawan district
- Tek Chanda of Triveni FM in Doti district
Threats and harassment
Radio Kantipur FM's studio in the central district Lalitpur was surrounded on 20 May by demonstrators demanding favourable coverage of their community.
Dharminda Saha of Samachar, a daily based in the western city of Dhangadhi, received a phone call on 13 May in which he was told to stop covering the current demonstrations.
In a note to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) on 13 May, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) accused the media of opposing a federal system and threatened to boycott media that covered the proposal negatively.
NEFIN general secretary Ang Kaji Sherpa also warned that he would disperse media demonstrations and would “finish off” journalists if they dared to stage a counter-offensive. “We have heard that the Federation of Nepali Journalists is organising a protest rally against our strike,” he said. “If it happens then we would not spare the journalists.”
The chairman of NEFIN, Raj Kumar Lekhi, meanwhile contradicted the organization's general secretary. He reportedly asked demonstrators to stop attacking the media and insisted on NEFIN's respect for the press.
The FNJ and other journalists' unions and media associations such as the Revolutionary Journalists Association (RJA), the Nepal Press Union and Press Chautari have condemned the threats and attacks. After lodging a complaint with the interior ministry, they organized a demonstration on 20 May against violence against journalists.
The government, which has begun negotiations with ethnic and religious groups, has condemned the attacks on the media and has urged protesters to calm down.
Attacks on media property
Demonstrators attacked a vehicle owned by the daily Rajdhani as it was being used to deliver newspapers in Butawal, in the western district of Rupandehi, on 11 May. They also attacked the journalist Dinesh Pande when he tried to protect the vehicle.
A vehicle owned by the daily Nagarik was damaged by Muslim protesters in Inaruwa Chowk, in the eastern district of Sunsari on 10 May.
The vehicles of other media including Kantipur Publications, Kantipur Television, Karobar Daily, Kantipur TV, Himalaya TV, Avenues TV, Nepal 1 TV, Citizen FM, Gorkhapatra Daily, Lumbini Television, News 24 Television, Annapurna Post, Radio Lumbini and Mechi Kali have been attacked in recent days in various parts of the country including the capital.
In Kathmandu, demonstrators set fire to 60 copies of the Kantipur and Kathmandu Post newspapers and to the motorcycles of Himalaya TV cameraman Y.P. Ghimire and Nagarik reporter Govinda Pariyar.
Nepal is ranked 106th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
United Arab Emirates - Stateless blogger facing deportation after being tricked by immigration authorities
Reporters Without Borders condemns the possibly imminent deportation of Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, a blogger and member of a group of five pro-democracy activists known as the “UAE 5,” following his arrest on 22 May after being summoned to the immigration department in the northeastern emirate of Ajman in connection with his statelessness.
Khaleq is currently being held in Abu Dhabi's Al-Wathba prison, but is due to be transferred to Al-Sadr prison (which is notorious for its mistreatment of detainees) and then to be deported to Comoros under a 2009 agreement between the United Arab Emirates and the Indian Ocean island nation.
Reporters Without Borders calls for his immediate release and suspension of the deportation process.
“By re-arresting Khaleq, the Emirati authorities have again shown the extremes to which they are ready to go to silence dissidents,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Their cynicism has repeatedly been demonstrated, above all in the comments by Col. Abdul Rahim bin Shafi of the interior ministry displaying complete contempt for public opinion and fundamental freedoms.”
Khaleq and other members of his family who, like him, are stateless, were told on 21 May that they would be given Comorian passports under the 2009 agreement that would allow them to continue residing in the UAE as Comorian “economic” citizens (without political rights) as a first step toward being naturalized as Emirati citizens.
To receive the Comorian passports, they had to surrender the documents showing they were stateless persons residing in the UAE. It was supposedly for this purpose that Khaleq was summoned to the immigration department on 22 May. But the authorities arrested him with the intention of deporting him, while giving his family the Comorian passports that will allow them to remain in the UAE.
Khaleq and the four other members of the “UAE 5” were arrested in April 2011 after issuing a petition calling for democratic reforms, and were held until late November.
The United Arab Emirates is listed as a country under surveillance in the “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders issued in March. The UAE authorities recently stepped up their harassment of online dissidents.
Reporters Without Borders is dismayed to learn that Radio Shabelle journalist Ahmed Ado Anshur was gunned down on his way home today in Mogadishu, one of the world's 10 most dangerous places for the media. He was crossing Suq Bocle market in the district of Dharkenley when he was shot several times in the head and the chest by at least two unidentified gunmen, dying on the spot.
“Anshur is the sixth journalist to be slain since the start of the year in Somalia, where working as reporter is synonymous with deadly danger,” Reporters Without Borders said. “All of the previous murders are still unpunished, so we again urge the police and judicial authorities to carry out proper investigations and to deploy all necessary resources to protect journalists."
“Failure to act in a country that is prey to widespread violence means giving a carte blanche to the enemies of media freedom. We offer our condolences to Anshur's family and friends, and to his colleagues at Radio Shabelle, who have been paying a high price for their professionalism and independence for years.”
Aged around 20, Anshur hosted a popular programme called Qubanaha Wararka and had a reputation for being outspoken when conducting interviews on the political situation. He had received death threats after doing reports on government corruption together with Hassan Osman Abdi, a Radio Shabelle journalist who was gunned down in January.
Anshur's murder comes just three weeks after Radio Daljir journalist Farhan James Abdulle was gunned down in similar circumstances on the outskirts of the north-central city of Galkayo on 2 May.
Six other Radio Shabelle journalists have been murdered in the past five years. They are:
- Mahad Salad Adan, on 5 April 2012 in Beledweyn, the capital of the central region of Hiran.
- Hassan Osman Abdi, on 28 January 2012 in Mogadishu.
- Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, on 7 June 2009 in Mogadishu.
- Abdirisak Warsameh Mohamed, on 22 May 2009 in Mogadishu.
- Hassan Mayow Hassan, on 1 January 2009 in Afgoye, 30 km south of Mogadishu.
- Bashir Nur Gedi, on 19 October 2007 in Mogadishu.
The eyes of more than 100 million TV viewers will turn to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in two days' time for the Eurovision Song Contest final. The European public will be shown a beautiful country and a hospitable people.
“But there is another side to Azerbaijan that the authorities have done everything possible to mask – a repressive and brutal regime that stops at nothing to silence the few journalists who try to investigate sensitive subjects or provide critical news coverage,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We are not trying to spoil the party or, still less, promote any ‘hostile' political agenda, as the Azerbaijani government likes to claim, but how can song be completely dissociated from freedom of expression? Singers have come from 40 countries to make their voices heard in Baku but other voices will remain unheard.
“What about the voices of the blogger and five journalists currently in prison for what they wanted to say, the two journalists who were murdered, the dozens of journalists who have been the victims of physical attacks that go unpunished, and the independent media that have been largely eliminated? Civil society will struggle to make its voice heard. They should all, in their own way, be contributing to the concert.”
The Azerbaijani authorities have spent hundreds of millions of petrodollars on giving the capital a facelift for this event, which crowns an international charm offensive. No effort has been spared to project the image of a modern, dynamic and open country, a new Dubai growing at a breakneck pace, with trendy discotheques and welcoming beaches. A paradise for investors if you can turn a blind eye to the corruption.
But Azerbaijan is definitely not a paradise for journalists. Nor for human rights in general. Ranked 162nd out of 179 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, it also has two of the world's “predators of freedom of information” that Reporters Without Borders has identified – President Ilham Aliev and his loyal henchman, Vasif Talibov, who tests the most draconian repressive methods in the isolated exclave of Nakhchivan
The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan, a coalition of NGOs that includes Reporters Without Borders, issued a report on 26 March documenting the appalling state of freedom of information in Azerbaijan.
A broadcast media regulatory body under the president's direct control ensures that all radio and TV stations support the government. The few independent publications hardly circulate outside the capital. The media situation deteriorated even more as a result of the violent crackdown on a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations in the spring of 2011, in the wake of the Arab revolts. Bloggers were arrested and beaten, opposition journalists were abducted and foreign journalists were deported.
The remaining handful of independent journalists are often the targets of threats and smear campaigns. The murders of two outspoken journalists, Elmar Huseynov in 2005 and Rafik Tagi in 2011, are still unpunished, as are the frequent physical attacks on journalists.
“We urge the performers taking part in this event to express their support for Azerbaijan's civil society and media,” Reporters Without Borders added. “France's representative, Anggun, is said to be sensitive to human rights issues. Will she point to the parallels between the prison environment shown in her video clip and the fate that Azerbaijani journalists often suffer?
“The European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the contest, should start to speak out about the grave situation of Azerbaijan's media, in accordance with the principles and values it is supposed to promote. Finally, we appeal to each of the 1,600 journalists who are expected, urging them to assign at least a few hours of their visit to conducting interviews and research into this issue.”
By turning the international spotlight on Azerbaijan, the authorities have given civil society an unexpected chance to make its voice heard. Azerbaijani civil society now needs the support of the international community. It must also be ready for the reprisals that are liable to follow once all the cameras have left.
Get informed, join the campaign!
- International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan
- Sing for Democracy campaign
- Read the report "Running scared. Azerbaijan's Silenced Voices":
Amid continuing political instability following a rebel takeover in the north and a military coup in the capital in March, Reporters Without Borders has compiled the following summary of media freedom violations in Mali during the past three weeks.
“Chaos has reigned in the north since March, but the persistence of media freedom violations in the south, especially the capital, Bamako, is intolerable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It shows that the 22 March coup has overturned Mali's status as a regional model of respect for freedom of information. The authorities can no longer be counted on to let the media operate freely. The list of violations of journalists' rights keeps on growing.”
Journalist's unexplained disappearance
Babi Ahbi, the editor of the Bamako-based periodical Agora, has been missing since 12 May. His family, friends and colleagues are all very concerned by his sudden disappearance at a time of threats to media personnel. No one has so far ventured any theory to explain how he vanished.
“The police must shed light on this journalist's disturbing disappearance and they must not rule out the possibility that it is linked to his work,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Whether he has been kidnapped, imprisoned or killed, his family and colleagues have a right to know the facts."
Some sources told Reporters Without Borders that Ahbi supported “the people in the north of Mali,” where an armed group has proclaimed a breakaway state.
Intelligence officers after journalists' sources
State Security officers arrested Birama Fall, the editor of the bi-weekly Le Prétoire, at his newspaper at around midday on 12 May, and questioned him at State Security headquarters for four hours before letting him go.
They interrogated him about a phone conversation with a former government minister who had told him that the bodies of many “Red Beret” participants in a failed counter-coup on 30 April were buried in a mass grave in Diago, a few kilometres outside Bamako. The former minister gave Fall its alleged location but Fall had refused to publish the information because he could not confirm it.
Saouti Haïdara, the editor of the privately-owned daily L'Indépendant, was briefly arrested by three State Security officers on 16 May and was given the same treatment as his colleague from Le Prétoire.
Haïdara was interrogated about a “leaflet-style” article he had published the previous week advising Malians to stay at home or to avoid public and military buildings because of the threat of bombings or armed attacks by “a certain Captain Touré.” The intelligence officers wanted to know who his source was.
“These two arrests show that phones are being tapped, which is a serious violation of journalists' rights,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Illegal phone tapping combined with interrogation endangers journalists and their sources and can seriously impact the media's ability to provide the public with news and information.”
Attack on radio station
Members of the Association of Malian Pupils and Students (AEEM) attacked Radio Kayira in the central city of Koutiala on 30 April, damaging its premises and stealing equipment but failing in a bid to set it on fire because the police intervened. The station's owner, parliamentarian Oumar Mariko, put the losses at 3.2 million euros.
The students carried out the attack because they suspect that Mariko was behind an attempt to murder AEEM leader Hamadoun Traoré on the night of 22 April, and they are still threatening to attack the Radio Kayira branches in Bamako and Niolo.
“Without getting into political disputes, we urge the two parties to open a dialogue so that media premises can be spared this kind of violence,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At this time of political unrest, it is vital that the media should be able to do their job of reporting the news in a professional and impartial manner.”
Reporters Without Borders hails today's decision by a Burmese court in the libel case against the weekly The Voice brought by the mines ministry over an article published on 12 March exposing cases of corruption in six government ministries.
The court ruled that the weekly did not have to disclose the identity of the article's author as originally demanded by the mines ministry. Reporters Without Borders welcomes the ruling but remains concerned about the future course of the trial, whose next hearing will take place on 6 June.
In recent months, the Burmese government has issued warnings and launched proceedings against several media organizations, meddling in the work of the media without resorting to open censorship. In January, a libel suit was launched — and subsequently dropped — against the journal Modern Weekly by a construction ministry engineer over an article published last November.
15/03/2012 - Is government reneging on promise to respect media freedom?
Reporters Without Borders is worried by the mining ministry's announcement that it plans to launch “legal proceedings” against the Rangoon-based weekly The Voice for reporting that cases of alleged corruption involving the mining ministry and five other ministries were revealed by the report of a government audit that was given to parliamentarians last week.
The press freedom organization urges the mining ministry not to bring a libel suit against the weekly as it would send a negative signal to the media and they have a legitimate right to take an interest in the functioning of government institutions.
Several news media mentioned the audit report and the corruption allegations. The mining ministry has a right of response and has publicly denied the allegations. But a libel suit would intimidate Burmese journalists and would encourage self-censorship.
The ministry's announcement has served to re-emphasize the need for the creation of an independent press council that can mediate between the media and plaintiffs.
The mining ministry's statement was reported yesterday by the government-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper. One of the cases of alleged corruption involving the mining ministry concerns the sale of a mining project to Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH), a leading industrial holding with close links to the military.
An official with the information ministry, one of the six ministries named in the audit, told Democratic Voice of Burma reporter Than Win Htut that he objected to the use of the word “embezzlement of Information Ministry”.
Reporters Without Borders denounces the discriminatory measures taken by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government against freelance journalists.
Only two Japanese freelances will be included among 40 accredited to the third media visit on 26 May to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, badly damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Although some photographers and camera operators will be present, neither of the two freelances will be allowed to use still cameras or video equipment.
One of them, Hatakeyama Michiyoshi, told Reporters Without Borders that a quota of four video journalists and four photographers had been set for the visit but the two who were not affiliated to news organizations would not be allowed to take any equipment.
“Such overt discrimination is a hidden form of censorship and is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“A year after the nuclear accident, the authorities and TEPCO are still maintaining excessive control over information about the plant and the human and environmental impact of the meltdown of its reactors.
“None of the arguments presented by government officials is valid. The right of access to information, which is meant to be guaranteed by clause 21 of the constitution, applies to all those who work in the media and to citizen journalists, not a select few.
“It is understandable that, for logistical reasons, restrictions should apply to visits but they should not be biased against freelance or foreign journalists. We urge the government to halt such discriminatory restrictions and to allow more freelance journalists to take part in the visit on 26 May.
“For their part, the two freelances who have been accredited should be allowed to take photo equipment.”
In a telephone conversation with Reporters Without Borders yesterday, the MP Yasuhiro Sonoda, parliamentary secretary at the cabinet office, put forward several arguments to support the ban on journalists taking photo and video equipment.
Referring at first to a lack of space, despite the fact that the journalists would be using two buses specially chartered for the visit, he then indicated the problem was one of time. He said photo and video equipment would have to be protected from the radiation present at the site and too large a quantity of apparatus would drastically lengthen the time needed to prepare for the visit.
The freelance Michiyoshi explained that, during the visit, the journalists would be equipped with protective suits allowing that them to spend 10 minutes at a distance of 70 to 80 metres from the building housing reactor number 4.
It was not the first time TEPCO and the Japanese government had taken discriminatory action against the media. During the second media visit to the site in February this year, for foreign journalists not included in the first visit, the organizers insisted on checking video images before they were broadcast.
Faced with objections by members of the Foreign Press Club, the Foreign Press Center and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, the requirement was withdrawn.
A year after the nuclear disaster, restrictions on freelance journalists remain stricter than those that apply to journalists affiliated to a news organization. The foreign media are still largely under-represented.
Japan is ranked 22nd of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
With the contribution of Makiko Segawa 瀬川牧子
日本 国境なき記者団 プレスリリース 05.23.2012 フリーランス 福島第一訪問で差別に直面 国境なき記者団は、東京電力そして日本政府の日本人フリーランス・ジャーナリストに対する差別的な対応について強く批判する。 今月５月２６日に予定されている昨年３月１１日の津波と地震で大打撃を受けた福島第一原子力施設内部への第３回目プレス・バスツアー。同ツアーには、約４０人の記者が参加。その内、わずか２人のフリーランスに入域許可が下りた。
大手メディア所属のTVカメラマンや写真家などの参加は認められている一方、この２人のフリーランスに関しては、スチール・カメラそして撮影用カメラの所持そして撮影は禁止されている。 参加予定のフリーランスライター 畠山理仁は「国境なき記者団」との対談で、代表カメラによるムービー４台、スチール４台の撮影が許可されていることを指摘。しかし、報道機関に加盟していない同フリーランスに関しては、如何なるカメラ機材も持ち込んではならないと条件付けられた事実を語った。 「このような明白な差別は、隠れたところで行われている密かな情報統制であり、受け入れることは出来ない」、国境なき記者団は抗議した。 「原発水素爆発の事故から一年経過した現在でも、政府関係者や東京電力は原子炉のメルトダウンによる原発施設、人体、そして環境への影響などに関する情報を極めて著しく統制している」 「政府側の言い分はまったく根拠がなく合理性に欠けたものである。情報にアクセスするという権利は、憲法第２１条に記載されている事実であり、メディアそして市民ジャーナリズムに携わる全ての人々に適応することである。数人の選別された人だけに与えられる特権ではない」 「論理的な視点から、原発施設視察に関して規制が課せられるというのは理屈のつくものである。が、その規制が日本のフリーランスや外国報道陣に対して使用されるバイアス（偏見・差別）とはなってはならない。我々は政府にこのような差別に基づいた規制を即座に中止するように追及し、更なる人数のフリーランスが今月２６日の訪問に参加させるように求めた」 「そして、入域を許可されたフリーランス２人に対してはカメラ機材の持ち込みを認めるように要請した」 昨日（２２日）の、国境なき記者団とのやり取りの中で、園田康博・内閣府大臣政務官は２人のフリーランスがカメラ機材を持ち運び、撮影することを禁止する姿勢を全面的に表明し、規制を掛ける幾つかの理由を述べた。 まず、第一に、特別にチャーターされた２台のバスが用意されている事実にも関わらず、園田政務官は「十分な場所がない」ことを理由に挙げた。そして続いて、時間の問題もあると指摘。カメラやビデオ機材は現場で核物質防護上の観点から特別に管理されなければならず、余りにも多い数の機材が持ち込まれるとなると出発時間を大きく延長させると説明した。 フリーランスの畠山は、今回、報道陣が防護服を着用し4号機建屋から70～80ｍの距離でバスから10分間降車しての取材が行なわれることを説明した。 東京電力そして日本政府がメディアに対して差別的な対応を取ったのは今回が初めてではない。昨年２月、２回目の報道陣による福島第一原発施設内訪問では、初回のツアーでは排除されていた外国人ジャーナリストらに対して、放映する前に必ず撮影した画像などを事前チェックさせることを要求していた。 外国報道陣、フォーリン・プレス・センターそして外国特派員クラブの会員からの強い抗議の末、そのような事前チェックは取り下げられた。 原発事故から一年後、相変わらず、新聞協会や報道局に加盟している記者らと比べて、フリーランス・ジャーナリストらは更に厳しい報道規制を課せられている。 海外報道陣も例外ではない。 国境なき記者団が毎年調査している「世界報道自由レベル インデックス」の２０１１－２０１２年版で、日本は１７９カ国中、２２位だ。
During the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Bahrain by the UN Human Rights Council two days ago in Geneva, the Islamic Republic of Iran's delegation called on the Bahraini authorities to “free all political prisoners, put a stop to arbitrary arrests of government opponents and end the impunity reigning in the country.”
For once, Reporters Without Borders agrees with Iranian government officials although it is amazed that they dare to lecture others when hundreds of political prisoners, including 31 journalists and 18 netizens, are languishing in Iran's own jails.
“Iran is one of the world's most repressive countries and it would do well to apply its own recommendations,” the press freedom organization said.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, journalists are being summoned for interrogation at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, a censorship agency that has been turned into an all-out mechanism of control and repression since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president.
The summonses are issued by Mohammad Hosseini, the minister, and two of his aides, Mohammad Jafar Mohammad Zadeh, deputy minister for press affairs and information, and Mohammad Javad Aghajari, the head of the foreign press department.
When journalists are summoned to the ministry, they are questioned there by Ministry of Intelligence officials and members of the Revolutionary Guards. Those summoned include journalists who work for foreign media. The interrogations are often violent and journalists are mistreated.
“These interrogations are intolerable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge international cultural bodies to terminate all cooperation with this ministry on the grounds that it authorizes these interrogations and permits the mistreatment of intellectuals on its own premises.”
Fariborz Rais Dana, a leading economist, writer and member of the Association of Iranian Writers, was meanwhile arrested at his home on 21 May and was transferred to Tehran's Evin prison to begin serving a one-year jail sentence for criticising a government decision to relax price controls in an interview for the BBC's Farsi-language TV station.
Initially arrested on 19 December 2010, immediately after giving the interview, he was released on 17 January 2011 on bail of 30 million tomans (22,500 euros). A Tehran revolutionary court imposed the one-year jail sentence on 17 June 2011 after convicting him on charges of anti-government propaganda and membership of an illegal organization. An appeal court confirmed the sentence last December.
Rahman Bozari, a journalist with the opinion section of the daily Shargh, was arrested on 19 May after being summoned to the prosecutor's office at Evin prison. Originally arrested on 29 May 2011 and freed on bail two months later, he was sentenced to two years in prison and 70 lashes by a Tehran revolutionary court on a charge of anti-government propaganda.
Reza Taleshaian Jolodarzadeh, the editor of Sobeh Azadi, a weekly that was closed by the authorities in October 2011, has been sentenced to a year in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court on a charge of anti-government propaganda. He has a serious illness as a result of an injury during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and his doctor says imprisonment could exacerbate it.
He was arrested on 4 February after being summoned before the revolutionary court and was released on 17 April. Under the Islamic criminal code, he now has 21 days to appeal.
To Mr. Igor Kolomoyskyi
Glavred Media Holding
29 Saksahanskoho Str
Dear Mr. Kolomoyskyi,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to express its disquiet about allegations of censorship within UNIAN, the news agency you own.
We have no intention of meddling in UNIAN's labour disputes or editorial policies, but we feel the need to share with you our concern about a number of issues that go beyond UNIAN and affect freedom of information in general in Ukraine.
Oleksander Kharchenko's removal from his position as UNIAN editor in chief on 15 May was hard to understand. At first, no explanation was given. Then it was attributed to purely commercial issues unrelated to the responsibilities defined in his job description. In various communiqués and statements, UNIAN's employees said they saw his removal as an attempt by the management to take control of editorial decision-making. In support of this claim, they cited several dispatches and articles that were blocked or challenged because of criticism of the authorities.
We hail the efforts that have been made to reach a negotiated solution and Kharchenko's reinstatement in a non-subordinate position is a positive development. But long-term structural solutions are needed to recover the trust of both the editorial staff and the public. Editorial independence can never be taken for granted, even within the most distinguished media and whatever the intentions of their owners.
We therefore support the talks that are under way with a view to creating an editorial board within UNIAN, one that will define its editorial policies in a concrete and transparent manner, with the aim of protecting it from any external political or commercial influence. We very much hope that these talks reach a successful conclusion.
It is to your credit that UNIAN is a leading news agency, one recognised for the forthright quality of its reporting. It would be very regrettable if internal dissent ended up depriving the media and public of this essential news outlet. We would therefore like to receive assurances from you that Glavred is determined to safeguard freedom of information within the group and that no pressure on UNIAN's editorial staff will be tolerated.
Preserving UNIAN's independence will be seen by the public and by your Ukrainian and international partners as evidence of respect for freedom of expression and of confident management.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to our letter and we will continue to follow the situation closely.
Olivier Basille, Director of Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders has written to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen about a proposed law to regulate private broadcasting and electronic media, which will shortly be debated in parliament. The organization considers many of the bill's provisions to be dangerous for media freedom, and it aroused strong opposition when it was first submitted in 2010 by the former information minister, Hassan Al-Lawzi.
President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi
Republic of Yemen
Paris, 21 May 2012
Dear President Hadi,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, wishes to inform you of its concerns over the proposed law on private radio and television broadcasting and electronic media, which is due for debate in the near future.
Indeed, several clauses in the bill are at odds with the Yemeni constitution as well as international undertakings signed and ratified by your country.
Reporters Without Borders supports the campaign by the Freedom Foundation aimed at preventing hasty adoption of the bill to allow civil society to make recommendations.
Without going into all the draft law's provisions in detail, Reporters Without Borders should like to point out some of its weaknesses.
Bill covers only private media outlets, does not supersede previous legislation
The bill deals only with private media outlets and contains no reference to public media, treating them as a separate category. It should be noted that there is no legal regulation of public radio and television in Yemen.
Of course, the system of regulation must take account of the differences between publicly- and privately-owned radio and television, but there must be elements that are common to both. Paragraph 41 of General Comment No. 34 by the UN Human Rights Committee, a panel of experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states: “Care must be taken to ensure that systems of government subsidy to media outlets and the placing of government advertisements are not employed to the effect of impeding freedom of expression. Furthermore, private media must not be put at a disadvantage compared to public media in such matters as access to means of dissemination/distribution and access to news”.
Within the framework of the draft, there is no justification for treating the public and private sectors differently, which could lead to discrimination.
At the same time, the bill says nothing about the provisions of the press and publication law currently in force. In fact, clause 5 of the bill specifies that it is still binding on private media employees. It is vital that the current press legislation be reviewed in its entirety. Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the fact that the bill allows for the judge to apply the criminal code in press offence cases (clause 71).
Flagrant lack of independence in licensing system for private broadcasters
A committee to organize private radio and television will be created which, in its composition (clause 19, paragraph 1) and its competency, is in no way independent of the political leadership.
In fact, it is chaired by the deputy minister of information for audio and visual media affairs. Only four of its members are drawn from the community and the media. The committee is under the control of, and accountable to, the information ministry (paragraph 2). It is charged with defining the general framework of media policy (clause 20, paragraph 1) as well as the allocation of frequencies and licences.
It makes recommendations to the information minister on such matters as the granting, renewal, withdrawal or revocation of licences. It has three months in which to submit an opinion to the minister (clause 32). The minister may also issue recommendations of his own to the council of ministers (clause 35) within a 30-day deadline for final decision. Reasons are provided in the case of a rejection.
Since the body created to consider licence requests is not independent, the criteria for granting licences are neither transparent nor objective and are thus discriminatory.
An appeal against an unsuccessful licence application should ultimately be made through an independent judicial authority, whereas the draft law provides for a 30-day period for a request to be made by the media outlet concerned to the information minister for a rejection to be reconsidered. This means the bill provides for no legal redress.
The licence fee, referred to in clause 53, is particularly high: 30,200,000 rials (about 110 000 euros) for 10 years. The UN Human Rights Committee recently specified that states must refrain from imposing licence conditions and fees that were too severe.
No independent system of checks and sanctions
Clause 17 stipulates that judicial officers responsible for monitoring the application of the law are appointed by the justice ministry in agreement with the information minister. This is reaffirmed in clause 61. The system is contrary to the fundamental principle of judicial independence.
Chapter XII spells out the penalties for breaches of the law. The ruling executive may suspend the broadcasts of a private media outlet temporarily (clause 67). It also provides for fines, although the amount is not specified in the current draft. Clause 68 also provides for the seizure of equipment if the provisions of clauses 9 and 26 are not observed. In the event of further infringements, the broadcaster's licence may be suspended or revoked (clause 69).
Nowhere is there any reference to an independent judicial authority responsible for monitoring the law's application and for specifying the penalties for any infringements.
Some of the bill's provisions are somewhat surprising and could have negative consequences. For example, audio and visual media outlets are required to keep recordings (audio in the case of private radio stations and video for television stations) for three months after a programme has been broadcast. This requirement is mentioned in clauses 12 and 63.
It could be that it is part of a broader system of storage for broadcast data. However, in this context it appears unlikely that archiving is the goal, but rather a desire by the information ministry to control and monitor private media outlets.
Vaguely written bill full of ambiguity
In clause 3, the draft says its aim is to guarantee respect for freedom of expression, yet some of the commitments it contains limit free expression. Clause 4, for example, points out that freedom of expression, among other things, must respect the country's “higher interests” without defining this vague terminology. Similarly, paragraph 9 of clause 4 aims to ban the broadcasting of "any form of incitement to violence, terrorism, hatred, tribalism, regionalism, sectarianism or racism".
At the same time, paragraph 11 insists that the exercise of freedom of expression should not have “a negative impact on economic peace, national unity and public morals”.
There are also bans on attacks on religion (paragraph 12) or the president personally (paragraph 13), and the disclosure of state secrets (paragraph 14). These restrictions are repeated in part in clauses 9 and 47.
Vaguely and allusively worded as they are, they contain a large measure of ambiguity. Consequently, they constitute a real danger for freedom of expression and information.
Bill pays scant attention to electronic media
Electronic media, originally included as part of the bill's heading, are not mentioned until section 11. Only one clause, no. 66, deals with the topic.
The lack of precision is symptomatic of the inconsistency of the bill, whose provisions are applicable to broadcast and electronic media equally.
For the reasons stated above, Reporters Without Borders asks you to radically revise the draft law in consultation with representatives of the media and civil society organizations. As we wrote in our letter to you on 1 March after you took up your appointment, it is important that all legislation regulating the media be reviewed to ensure the principles of freedom of expression and information are fully guaranteed and protected. Reporters Without Borders is ready to discuss these matters with you in the course of a forthcoming visit to Yemen by the organization.
We thank you in advance for heeding our comments and observations so that freedom of the media and information can become a reality in Yemen and thereby turn the page on the many dark years of repression.
Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders
(Credits : AFP)
Reporters Without Borders offers its condolences to the family and colleagues of Abdul Razaq Gul, a TV reporter based in Turbat, in the far south of the southwestern province of Balochistan, whose body was found on the morning of 19 May. Medical sources said he had been shot in the forehead and chest after apparently being tortured.
The organization's concern about the safety of Pakistani journalists has also been heightened by an attempt to kidnap a journalist on 7 May in Peshawar, in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and by an attack on three reporters by police in the same province on 11 May.
“The authorities must work actively to protect journalists, who keep on being the victims of physical attacks, threats, kidnap attempts and even murder,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Gul is the fifth journalist to be murdered in Pakistan since the start of the year. Pakistan has been the world's deadliest country for the media for the past two years, with a total of 26 journalists killed. It is time the government put an end to the bloodshed.”
Murder in Balochistan, kidnap attempt in Peshawar
Gul was abducted as he was returning home by motorcycle on the evening of 18 May and his body was found near Turbat's main hospital the next morning. Aged around 30, he had worked for Express News TV since 2002. He was also secretary of the Turbat Press Club.
The Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) declared three days for mourning for Gul, while the Council of All Balochistan Press Clubs announced that it would organize protests if those responsible for his murder had not been identified by 1 June.
Gul's murder recalls those of Tariq Kamal and Murtaza Razvi, journalists based in the neighbouring province of Sindh, who were found dead on 9 May and 19 April respectively, in each case a few days after they were abducted. The other journalists murdered this year in Pakistan were Aurengzeb Tunio, on 10 May in Sindh, and Mukarram Khan Atif, on 17 January in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The attempt to abduct journalist Zahid Merokhel on 7 May in Peshawar took place on a road near the historic fort of Bali Hisar. Three men grabbed him, gave him a severe beating and bundled him into their pick-up. It was only after the pick-up developed a fault that they dumped him at the side of the road.
Merokhel said he thought the kidnap attempt was prompted by a story he wrote for the 5 May issue of the Urdu-language newspaper Nai Baat about the alleged involvement of government officials in a prisoner's escape.
Police attack on three journalists
Freelance journalist Sher Ali Kha, Geo News TV cameraman Siraj Ali and Pakhtunkhwa Times reporter Shabbir Ahmed were attacked by police while covering a demonstration in Charsadda District (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) on 11 May. The police wanted to prevent them filming clashes between police and protesters. Kha sustained head and hand injuries and had to spend four days in hospital.
They filed a complaint on 14 May, as soon as Kha was discharged from hospital. Journalists staged demonstrations in Charsadda on 19 May and in Peshawar on 21 May in protest against the attack.
Pakistan is ranked 151st out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, while Balochistan was classified as one of the world's 10 most dangerous places for journalists by Reporters Without Borders last year.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the Iranian authorities to quickly explain what has happened to two young Azerbaijani poets and journalists, Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizade, who went missing on arriving in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, on 2 May on their way home from a brief visit to the Iranian capital.
According to the editor of the Azerbaijani newspaper 525, Rashad Majid, they were “kidnapped by eight men in civilian dress when their bus arrived in the city”.
“We are worried,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Iranian government must shed light on the situation of Huseyn and Hajizade. We demand to know who has been holding them for the past 20 days and why.
“Other journalists are already being held hostage in the diplomatic stand-off between Iran and Azerbaijan and doing the same with Huseyn and Hajizade is out of the question. The two countries must stop making the media pay for their mutual hostility. Such behaviour is unacceptable and incompatible with their international obligations.”
Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said at a news conference on 16 May that the two poets were being held by the Iranian security forces. The Iranian authorities had so far failed to provide any information on their whereabouts but had promised to do so within a week, he said. Hajizade's father said he had received no news of his son since 2 May.
Huseyn, 24, covers cultural, social and literary subjects for 525 and another Azerbaijani daily newspaper, Kaspiy. Hajizade, 22, writes much commented articles on the social networks about youth issues and the highly sensitive issue of Iran's Azeri minority.
They went to Tehran at the invitation of Iranian writer Bahran Surgun for the presentation of an Iranian edition of Huseyn's writings. They entered Iran on 29 April, attended the presentation in Tehran on 1 May, and were arrested on their way back the next day.
There is increasing tension between Iran and its neighbour over territorial disputes and geostrategic interests linked to the routing of major oil and gas pipelines. Tehran accuses Baku of manipulating northern Iran's sizeable Azeri minority, while Baku has been cracking down on pro-Iranian religious sectors in Azerbaijan, accusing them of colluding Tehran.
Iran continues to hold the Azeri journalist Said Matinpour while Azerbaijan continues to hold Ramin Bayramov, the editor of the Islamazeri.az website, and Anar Bayramli, a correspondent for various Iranian media. Ramil Dadashov, a driver for Iran's Sahar TV who was arrested at the same time as Bayramli, was released on 16 May.