Reporters Without Borders is pleased to report that "Forbidden Voices", a film directed by Barbara Miller that highlights the Internet's impact on freedom of information, goes on release in Switzerland on 10 May. Two years in the making, the document focuses on three courageous women bloggers from Iran, Cuba and China, countries that are on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.”
Generación Y, a blog by Havana-based Yoani Sánchez (@yoanisanchez), quickly became very popular after its April 2007 launch. Since winning an award by the Spanish daily El País in 2008, its readers have grown steadily, especially abroad. It takes a critical look at the everyday economic and social problems that Cubans have to deal with. Imaginative methods, including the use of USB flash drives and CDs, have to be used to circulate her posts in Cuba, where most of the population is limited to a highly-censored Intranet. Sánchez is subject to strict government censorship and smear campaigns, and has even been physically attacked. She was ranked by Time Magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, like Zeng Jinyan (see below) in 2007.
Despite the government's censorship and repressive methods, the Chinese blogger and activist Zeng Jinyan (@zenjinyan) has been using her blog and Twitter since 2006 to describe her life, including the imprisonment of her human rights activist husband Hu Jia, who is famous for defending AIDS sufferers and the environment. When Hu was arrested, she and her baby were placed under house arrest, with guards stationed around their home to prevent them going out, but she continued to write about the fight for basic freedoms in China. When “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest and fled to the US embassy two weeks ago, Zeng reported that his relatives were being harassed during the wrangle between the US and Chinese authorities about his fate, and she challenged the official version of events.
Censored and threatened, Iranian blogger and online women's rights campaigner Farnaz Seifi finally had to flee abroad and now lives in Germany. She and other Iranian women's rights activists are an example of how the Internet can be used to influence governments. She is a member of Change for Equality (www.we-change.org), a website launched in September 2006 by a group of about 20 women, mostly bloggers and journalists, to promote a campaign for changes to laws that discriminate against women. It has become an authoritative source of information about women's rights in a society ruled by fundamentalists and its achievements include helping to challenge a bill facilitating polygamy and helping to develop Iranian civil society. Hundreds of the movement's activists have been summoned, arrested and jailed.
In the past few years, the Internet and online social networks had been conclusively established as tools for organizing protests and circulating information, and have constantly pushed back the boundaries of censorship. Netizens are at the centre of the political changes taking place all over the world. They combat attempts to impose news blackouts but often pay a high price at the hands of regimes that do not tolerate dissent. "Forbidden Voices" shows the degree to which the Internet has become an extraordinary tool for combating the propaganda of dictatorial regimes, but also the risks run by women who are committed to online free expression.
To watch the trailer and get more information about the film, go to this website: http://forbiddenvoices.net/
"Forbidden Voices" was produced by Philip Delaquis and Das Kollektiv für audiovisuelle Werke GmbH and is distributed by Filmcoopi.
Media contact: Das Kollektiv, +41 43 811 50 50, email@example.com
Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that Nestor Libaton, a reporter for Catholic Church-run radio dxHM, was gunned down yesterday afternoon in Mati, the capital of Davao Oriental province on the southern island of Mindanao.
The press freedom organization offers its condolences to his wife and their four children and urges the authorities to do everything to shed light on his death. He was the fourth journalist to be killed in the Philippines this year.
Aged 45, Libaton had worked for the same station for the past 20 years. He was shot several times by men on a motorcycle as he returned with fellow journalist Eldon Cruz from an interview in nearby Tarragona.
The motive is not yet known but the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) quoted colleagues of Libaton as saying they thought it could be linked to his work. The other three journalists killed since the start of the year are Rommel “Jojo” Palma (on 30 April), Aldion Layao (on 8 April) and Christopher Guarin (on 5 January).
In a separate development, the NUJP quoted Michael James “Dacoycoy” Licuanan, a reporter and commentator on Bombo Radyo in the city of Cagayan de Oro (on Mindanao island), as saying he received an SMS message on 5 May containing death threats.
It followed an anonymous call to the station at the end of last month complaining about his impassioned coverage of drug trafficking. Licuanan's coverage of sensitive stories has got him into trouble in the past and he sustained a gunshot injury in an apparent murder attempt on 24 November.
Photo credit: Cesar Lanos
07/05/2012 - Another journalist murdered, police attacks on media
Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the climate of violence and hostility for the Philippine media, which has just been underscored by another murder, last week's fatal shooting of Rommel “Jojo” Palma, a driver and journalist with dxMC-Bombo Radyo in Koronadal, on the southern island of Mindanao.
It is particularly disturbing that policemen have been behind attacks and threats to journalists and their families in recent weeks. Some have even been involved in murders or murder attempts. Judicial proceedings against journalists and other forms of obstruction of the media are also on the increase.
“We offer our condolences to Rommel Palma's family and friends,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His murder must be properly investigated as soon as possible. It must not go unpunished as the murders of journalists Dennis Cuesta, Christopher Guarin and Aldion Layao have until now. Impunity is particularly disturbing when – instead of doing their job of protecting the public – some police officers abuse their authority and perpetuate the use of violence against those who expose their illegal and criminal activities.
“We appeal again to President Benigno Aquino to take effective measures to protect journalists and to impose exemplary punishments on criminal networks and police officers who act outside the law. References to the media's ‘negative' impact on the country's image are being used as a smokescreen to avoid tackling the root of the evil. They do not help to address the most urgent problem, the violence to which journalists are constantly exposed.”
Aged 31, Palma was gunned down by two individuals on a Honda TMX motorcycle on 30 April while waiting in the carpark outside the South Cotabato regional hospital in Koronadal, to which he had just driven another reporter. Shot four times in the neck and back, he was pronounced dead at 5:45 a.m. by the hospital's doctors.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines quoted dxMC-Bombo Radyo manager Hermie Legaspi as saying the police suspected two men, so far identified only by the aliases of Bobot and Hagibis, who had gone to Palma's Koronadal home asking for him on 22 April, at a time when he was not there.
Palma, who presented local news reports and weather forecasts on dxMC-Bombo Radyo, was the second journalist to be killed in Mindanao island's South Cotabato region this year. His death follows that of Christopher Guarin, the editor of Tatak News Nationwide and a host on radio station dxMD, who was ambushed and killed near the city of General Santos on 5 January. The alleged killed, Marvin Palabrica, is still at large.
New development in 2008 Cuesta murder
There was a new development in the Dennis Cuesta case on 5 April when, during a radio interview, onetime police informant Jade Isa accused former police inspector Redempto “Boy” Acharon of planning to murder Alex Josol, the manager of General Santos-based dxMD Radio Mindanao Network and two other people, department of justice employee Badong Ramos and Cuesta's widow, Gloria Cuesta.
Acharon's alleged motive for wanting to kill them was to stop them shedding light on the murder of Cuesta, a radio dxMD talkshow host who was gunned down in General Santos in August 2008. Acharon was accused of the murder but eluded arrest and the case was shelved in 2010. Isa said he was present at meetings in November 2011 and February 2012 at which Acharon planned to kill the three with his cousin's help.
Cuesta's widow reacted to these allegations by writing to the justice minister and President Aquino to demand the reopening of the investigation into Cuesta's murder and an investigation into Acharon's alleged subsequent triple murder plans. Josol, for his part, asked the police to provide him with protection but they have not as yet responded to his request.
A regional court in the city of Iloilo, on the central island of Panay, issued arrests warrants on 11 April for Junep Ocampo, the editor of The News Today (TNT), and Manuel “Boy” Mejorada, one of his columnists, making each of them pay bail of 10,000 pesos (179 euros) to avoid arrest. The warrants were the latest development in a libel action by Iloilo mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who is suing them for 15.2 millions de pesos (272,000 euros) over an 8 November 2011 column headlined “Body of Evidence” in which Mejorada accused Mabilog of misusing a donation he had received as the founder and chairman of an Iloilo-based foundation
Iloilo prosecutor Honorio Aragona Jr. announced on 3 February that criminal libel charges would be brought against Mejorada and Ocampo over the article. They would be given the chance to demonstrate that it was written “in good faith and in pursuit of the public good" at their trial, he said.
In the case of Aldion Layao, a radio journalist and local politician gunned down on 8 April near his home in Lacson, on the outskirts of Davao City (on Mindanao island), the Mindanao Times has reported that his widow, Rica Layao, was threatened at gunpoint on 24 April by Lacson police officer Gerardo Padillo after she said he might have been involved in the murder. Padillo was immediately arrested.
In the northern city of Olongapo, Mahatma Randy Datu, a reporter for the Manila-based Pilipino Star Ngayon (Filipino Star Today), was openly threatened by Olongapo police chief Christopher Tambungan when he and other reporters went to cover a hostage-taking on 3 April.
Tambungan had asked the media to come at the hostage-taker's request but, when he saw Datu, he shouted: “What's your name? What are you doing here? You are not needed here.” He seized him by the shoulders and physically ejected him from the compound where the hostages were being held. Datu's account is confirmed by a radio dzMM reporter.
Datu filed a complaint against Tambungan on 23 April accusing him of threats, coercion and slander. Rejecting Datu's account, Tambungan said he simply asked the journalists to leave because they were upsetting the hostage-taker. He went on to accuse Datu and fellow Pilipino Star Ngayon reporter Alex Galang of writing “negative” articles about him. Datu had previously accused Tambungan of taking bribes from night-club owners.
Despite all the threats to journalists, President Aquino's address to the Philippine Press Institute's annual National Press Forum on 23 April emphasized what he called the media's “negativism,” which he said was hurting tourism and the country's image. His comments were immediate condemned by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
There has been no let-up in the level of violence against the media in the Philippines in 2012. Three journalists have been killed since the start of the year and two others have survived murder attempts. The violence is often the work of paramilitary groups and private militias, which are on the list of “predators of freedom of information” that Reporters Without Borders issued this month.
A prosecutor in the eastern city of Cankuzo yesterday requested life imprisonment for journalist Hassan Ruvakuki and 22 other people who are charged with “participating in acts of terrorism” by a new rebel group operating in the east of the country.
A reporter for Bonesha FM and the Swahili service of Radio France Internationale, Ruvakuki has been held since 28 November, after interviewing an alleged member of the rebel group, which is reportedly based in neighbouring Tanzania.
During yesterday's hearing in Cankuzo, lawyers representing 14 of the defendants, including Ruvakuki, refused to enter pleas, reiterating their position that the trial violates procedural rules and the most basic defence rights. The other nine defendants pleaded not guilty. Despite these flagrant irregularities, the court said it would proceed with the trial and adjourned until 20 June.
“It has already been demonstrated that this court is neither competent nor impartial, so the request for life sentences is just further evidence that the trial is a travesty orchestrated by the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After more than five months in detention and the occasional grotesque hearing, Ruvakuki's hopes of an impartial and independent hearing have been dashed. The reputation of Burundi's justice system is at stake. It needs to ignore the political directives and hold a proper trial. ” “Despite protests from the defence lawyers, Ruvakuki's employers, NGOs and bodies such as the Paris Bar Association, the Burundian authorities continue to turn a deaf ear to all the calls for a fair trial. If necessary, the legal battle will taken to the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.”
An appeal court in the central city of Gitega on 28 February rejected a defence petition (linked article in french) challenging the impartiality of the judges in Cankuzo and calling for the trial to be transferred to a different city. This decision was never notified to the defendants, as the defence lawyers pointed out during yesterday's hearing.
In a letter to justice minister Pascal Barandaqiye on 27 March, the deputy president of the Paris Bar Association condemned the “serious violation of defence rights” and called for “urgent measures to be taken so that Hassan Ruvakuki can be guaranteed the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial court.”
The failure to notify the defendants about the appeal court's decision was publicly condemned by the defence lawyers on 17 April. Ruvakuki's lawyer, Onésime Kabayabaya, said: “As long as the situation is not resolved, there will be no progress.” The supreme court's spokesman told him the case was not urgent and would take the normal course.
Photo: some of the people who are charged with “participating of acts of terrorism” (Esdras Ndikumana/AFP)
After deadly clashes on 2 May near the defence ministry, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria two days later to protest against the army's hold on power.
In Cairo, demonstrators gathered, mostly in the Abbassiya district, near the defence ministry, despite warnings the day before from the army against any threat to military premises, and the deployment of large numbers of security forces.
The overall toll among the demonstrators was heavy — two dead and more than 130 injured. Those working in the media suffered similarly.
Reporters Without Borders recorded at least 32 assaults and detentions of journalists on 4 May alone. Many cameras and mobile phones were seized, some of which have not been returned to their owners. (Read: http://almesryoon.com/permalink/658...)
The press freedom organization strongly condemns such brutal treatment of media workers and demands that those responsible be identified and brought to justice. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is deservedly a new entry in the list of Predators of Freedom of Information published by Reporters Without Borders on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May.
Toll of 4 May
Of at least 32 journalists targeted:
- 20 were assaulted or beaten
- 11 were injured
- 19 were arrested
- 5 were detained
- 1 was abducted
- 7 had equipment seized
Cases in detail
A five-member crew from the satellite station Misr 25, comprising reporters Ahmed Abdel Alim, Ahmed Fadl, Musa'ab Hamed and Hassan Khodary (injured that morning in the Abbassiya clashes), and photographer Ahmad Lutfi, were doing a live broadcast near the Al-Nour mosque when they were arrested, taken into the mosque and asked for identification. According to Lutfi, they were all subjected to violence and humiliation by the military police. After seizing all their equipment, troops took them to a military control unit.
Musa'ad El-Barbari, deputy director of the Misr 25 station, said the five men appeared before the public prosecutor on 5th May and faced five charges each:
- Association with a group intent on disturbing public order and preventing an institution of the state from performing its duties.
- Use of force and violence against agents of the security forces responsible for protecting state institutions.
- Blocking public and private transport, blocking streets in the area around the defence ministry.
- Illegal assembly
- Entering a prohibited military zone.
Although the station produced documents proving that it employed the five men as journalists and showing they were there purely in a professional capacity, El-Barbari said the prosecutor refused to take this into account.
The military prosecutor ordered the release of three of the crew, but extended the detentions of Alim and Fadl by two weeks. They were taken to Tora prison in the south of the capital before being released on 6 May. (Read: http://al-mashhad.com/News/%D8%A8%D...)
Two other journalists from the same channel - Mohamed Rabie and Mohamed Amin - were detained in a separate incident nearby (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keOF...). They appeared before the military prosecutor and were released the next day.
Two journalists from the online newspaper El-Badil, Ahmed Ramadan and Islam Abu-l-Ezz, were assaulted by thugs and handed over to the military police. They were taken to the office of the military prosecutor, who ordered their detention for two weeks and their transfer to Tora prison. However, they were released on 6 May. According to the El-Badil website, they were severely beaten by military police at the time of their arrest and in Tora prison, causing concussion.
Abdul Rahman Musharraf, a journalist with the newspaper Al-Watan, was beaten by military police officers before being arrested and taken to the military prosecutor's headquarters together with El-Badil's Ramadan and Abu-l-Ezz. He was also released on 6 May.
Also on 4 May, Mahmoud Motawe', a photographer with the online newspaper Sada-el-Balad, received bullet wounds in the back from an unidentified source. He was taken to Qasr Al-‘Aini hospital where he was kept in overnight.
Abdul-Rahman Youssef, a contributor to the human rights website hoqook.com, was taking photographs of the clashes outside the defence ministry when he was violently attacked by a thug armed with a knife, who inflicted a serious wound to his ear. He was trapped in the Al-Demerdash area with demonstrators hemmed in by security forces arresting anyone trying to leave, including those who were hurt, and was only able to get out an hour after he was injured. He was then detained by military police and transferred to the prosecutor's office, where he appeared before the military prosecutor. He was released later that day.
Two photographers with the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, Mohamed El-Shami and Ali El-Malki, were beaten and arrested while photographing the clashes. Both sustained injuries in the beatings. They were taken before a military prosecutor and were held in the premises of the military prosecutor's office in eastern Cairo until finally released late the next afternoon.
Three reporters with the daily Al-Watan, Mohamed Kamel, Ahmed Abdu and Ahmed Bahnasi, were taken to Demerdash Hospital after inhaling tear gas that military police used outside the defence ministry. Al-Watan photographer Mohamed Omar was treated in the same hospital, receiving three stitches to a head injury caused by a stone that was thrown at him.
All four, including Kamel, who had been attacked by demonstrators the day before, were arrested by military police and were transferred to the military prosecutor's office in eastern Cairo, where they were taken before a military prosecutor. They were released late the next afternoon.
Rabab Fares, a reporter for the independent daily Al-Tahrir, and Ezz El-Nubin, a reporter for the independent daily Youm7, were physically attacked.
Al-Jazeera Mubasher-Misr, ONTV, El-Tahrir and CBC television crews were attacked by military police, who smashed their mobile phones.
Amer Khamis, a journalist with the online newspaper Al-Mesryoon, was physically attacked.
Aya Seyed Mahmoud Abdul-Rahim, a journalist with the online newspaper Misr El-Naharda, was physically attacked and arrested, and then taken before a military prosecutor, who ordered her held for two weeks. As she was being transferred to El-Qanater women's prison, her release was ordered by Gen. El-Adawy, the head of the military justice system.
Sami Abdul Rahman and Islam Adel, two journalists with the online newspaper Sada-el-Balad, were arrested by military police and held in Al-Nour Mosque, near Abbasiya Square, until they were brought before a military prosecutor the next day. They were then released in the afternoon.
The camera of Sharif Salah, a photographer with the independent weekly Al-Mashhad, was confiscated by military police, who threatened to arrest him if he did not leave. He still has not recovered his camera.
Virginie Nguyen, a Belgian photographer working for Egypt Independent (the online English-language version of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm), sustained an upper jaw fracture and a split upper lip when she was hit full in the face by a stone thrown by demonstrators. She was taken to a hospital for treatment to her injuries, which included two loosened teeth.
As she was leaving the hospital, she was detained by military police, who took her from one military hospital to another and then to an army building for interrogation. She was finally released and her camera equipment was returned to her with the “troublesome” photos deleted. The entire incident lasted nearly five hours, she told Reporters Without Borders. She underwent an operation to her upper jaw the next day at the American Hospital.
Walid El-Daramalli, a reporter for the independent weekly Al-Karamah, was kidnapped by unidentified individuals while covering clashes at Abbasiya Square early on the morning of 4 May and was taken to a building near the square. He managed to phone friends, who came and released him. He sustained a leg injury. Military police arrested his assailants.
Al-Masry Al-Youm Suez bureau photographer Sayyed Shaker was taking photos of clashes between demonstrators and soldiers protecting the Suez governorate's headquarters when two army officers asked him to surrender his camera. They slapped and kicked him when he refused, and took him before the Suez military governor, who ordered him released after all his photos had been deleted.
Al-Watan reporter Ahmed Ghoneim was accosted by military police outside the military prosecutor's office buildings on 5 May while covering a demonstration by political activists in protest against the arrests of hundreds of civilian demonstrators. He was manhandled and arrested, and was taken before a military prosecutor.
Al-Watan photographer Mahmoud El-Debie was also detained for about two hours during the same demonstration and his camera equipment was seized. Both were released in the early evening and their camera was returned with the contents of the memory cards erased.
In a press release on 19 December 2011, Reporters Without Borders condemned the military's “systematic use of violence against media personnel” in the course of an indiscriminate crackdown on demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the previous three days. A month before, Reporters Without Borders reported at least 44 media freedom violations in the course of clashes between soldiers and demonstrators during the week of 19-28 November.
photo: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP
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Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and the withdrawal of all the charges against him. Rajab was arrested on his return from a visit to Lebanon on 5 May and was placed in custody for an initial period of a week when he appeared in court yesterday.
“By arresting Rajab again, the Bahraini authorities have given yet another example of how they shamefully flout fundamental freedoms without fear of reprisals by the international community,” Reporters Without Borders said,
Rajab was brought before a Manama court yesterday on a charge of participating in an illegal meeting and urging others to take part in it. He was also questioned by prosecutors about a Tweet in which he allegedly insulted government officials. Charges were previously brought against Rajab in connection with his criticism of the authorities a year ago, when he was also the target of physical violence.
As already reported, the Bahraini government used a spurious pretext to abruptly withdraw its permission for a visit by a delegation of free speech NGOs including Reporters Without Borders that had been scheduled to take place from 5 to 10 May.
Reporters Without Borders calls on Libya's interim parliament, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to repeal the law criminalizing any “insult to the Libyan people and its institutions” that it adopted on 2 May.
“This law contravenes the interim constitutional provisions that the NTC adopted and the international law to which it is subject,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Criminalizing certain opinions, going so far as to make them punishable by imprisonment, endangers freedom of expression and information, especially as the law's criteria are vague and imprecise and leave a great deal of room for arbitrary interpretation.
“The terms of this law are sadly reminiscent of the Gaddafi regime's oppressive legislation and its adoption poses a threat to the democratic transition in Libya and to all the media that have emerged since the start of the revolution. We therefore urge the NTC to repeal it in its entirety.”
Reporters Without Borders stresses the need for freedom of opinion and expression to be reaffirmed in the future constitution and the need for a media law that protects these fundamental constitutional freedoms.
Law 37 criminalizes “false news and information” or “propaganda” that “endanger national security, terrorize the public or undermine public morale.” Comments harming the 17 February Libyan Revolution, glorifying the former regime and its leader, Col. Gaddafi, or his sons, or insulting the Libyan people, their flag and Islam are all also criminal offences under the new law.
All these offences are punishable by imprisonment under the new law, which does not specify the length of the jail terms that can be imposed except in the case of “rumours of information” causing harm to the country, for which a life sentence is possible.
The ban on any form of opposition to or criticism of the 17 February Revolution seems to have been based directly on article 195 of Col. Gaddafi's criminal code penalizing any attack on the Great Al-Fatah Revolution or its Leader.
Photo : AFP
Reporters Without Borders is horrified to have learned of the death three days ago of the Syrian citizen journalist Abdul Ghani Kaakeh who was deliberately targeted during a demonstration in the Salah Al-Din district of the northwestern city of Aleppo.
“We strongly condemn this murder, which illustrates the extent to which the government of Bashar al-Assad is ignoring the provisions of the ceasefire plan of the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan,” the press freedom organization said.
“The name of Abdul Ghani Kaakeh has swollen the ranks of those whose efforts to inform the world about what is happening in Syria has cost them their lives. We should like to offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”
The citizen journalist was hit in the neck by a bullet while he was filming the Aleppo protest. He was reported to have been deliberately targeted by the Syrian security forces, who had ordered him to stop filming moments before he was shot.
He was taken to a makeshift hospital but died of his wound shortly afterwards. He was buried on the same day in his home village of Tel Nassibin, in Aleppo province.
Kaakeh, aged just 19, regularly filmed opposition demonstrations and posted the footage on the Internet, which had led to his arrest several times previously.
Reporters Without Borders notes that Assad is on its list of 41 Predators of Freedom of Information.
Another citizen journalist, Ali Mahmoud Othman, who was arrested on 28 March, was interviewed on Syrian television as part of a programme aired on 28 April that claimed to disclose the “secrets of Baba Amr”, the district of Homs that was temporarily held by insurgents and where the journalists Rémi Ochlik and Marie Colvin were killed in February.
Reporters Without Borders condemns this forced confession and macabre piece of stage management, which more are worthy of the practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to reports, Othman was believed to have been subjected to severe torture by the intelligence service since his arrest.
Reporters Without Borders has obtained copies of Tweets signed by the FARC that were posted online yesterday. One said that “Roméo Langlois will soon be released safe and sound.”
“The likelihood of Langlois' release was suggested by the promise the FARC made on 26 February to stop holding civilians hostage,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are cautiously confident that he will be freed very soon.”
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) confirmed in a video posted online yesterday that they are holding French journalist Roméo Langlois, who went missing on 28 April during a firefight in southern Colombia between FARC guerrillas and a military detachment carrying out an anti-drug operation that Langlois was covering.
In the video – filmed by Chilean freelance photographer Carlos Villalón and British freelance reporter Karl Penhaul – a member of the FARC's “15th Front,” who identified himself by the nom de guerre of “Monazo,” described the firefight, referred to Langlois as a French journalist, and said he was given medical attention for a slight arm injury. Watch the video:
03.05.2012 - FARC urged to keep promise and release captive French reporter
Reporters Without Borders received direct an important information last night that Roméo Langlois, a French freelance journalist who went missing in the southern department of Caquetá on 28 April, could be held by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerrilla group.
“The army has verified the claim that a female member of the FARC's 15th Division made in phone calls to several media,” Reporters Without Borders was told by a representative of the French TV news station France 24 who has been in Caquetá since the start of the week. France 24 is one of the media for which Langlois works as a stringer. The FARC high command has not, however, confirmed the message's authencity.
The France 24 representative also told to Reporters Without Borders that Langlois sustained an injury to his left forearm during the 10-hour firefight between solders and guerrillas that preceded his disappearance.
Military operations aimed at locating him were suspended in the hope that the rebels would release him quickly.
“The FARC formally undertook on 26 February to no longer take civilians hostage,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They must now keep their word by freeing Langlois as quickly as possible. His release is also justified by his need for appropriate medical attention.”
Aged 35, Langlois has been based in Colombia since 2002 stringing for media in France (Le Figaro, Marie-Claire and VSD, as well as France 24), Switzerland (L'Hebdo and 24 heures) and Canada (Radio Canada). An experienced reporter aware of the dangers, he has established contacts with all parties to the Colombian conflicts and his work in the field has been widely recognized.
“Langlois is neither a war correspondent nor a ‘prisoner of war',” Reporters Without Borders said. “He is just a journalist. His accompanying soldiers on an anti-drug operation is not grounds for questioning his independence, which has always been a central principle of his journalism. We again pay tribute to his courage by dedicating this World Press Freedom Day to him.”
Photos : AFP
Following World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Reporters Without Borders takes a look at the breaches of freedom of news and information in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2012, turning the spotlight on one of the most dangerous countries in Africa for journalists. For the first time, it has included the Islamist militia Boko Haram in its latest http:/en.rsf.org/nigeria-boko-haram-02-05-2012,42487.html' class='spip_out'>list of Predators of Freedom of Information, just published.
The press freedom organization outlines all breaches of freedom of information recorded between 24 December and 24 March. It highlights the almost daily arrests and assault of journalists and the obstruction of access to, and distribution of, information, and describes the insidious atmosphere in which journalists have to carry out their work.
During the period in question, Reporters Without Borders recorded: the murder of one journalist, the killing of another with no proof that it was linked to the victim's work, nine assaults, seven arrests, three journalists threatened, four instances of seizure of equipment or deletion of files, three cases of access to information being cut off, three court cases against journalists and news organisations, the closure of a press centre and a media outlet's premises vandalised.
The report also covers disturbances in April when there were http:/en.rsf.org/nigeria-government-urged-to-protect-media-27-04-2012,42384.html' class='spip_out'>bomb attacks on the offices of two newspapers, in Abuja and Kaduna.
Whether these abuses – obstruction of information and control of the government's image, or gratuitous violence and threats – were carried out by the government or private organizations using armed groups, they confirm the authorities' desire to silence journalists who try to report on the instability now gripping the country.
Nigeria embodies a paradox. On the one hand, it is a country where freedom of news and information is effective so far as the pluralism and vitality of the media are concerned, and on the other, it has one of Africa's worst records for infringements of press freedom and a worrying level of danger for journalists.
Murder, threats and violence
Since 14 March, when it became known that talks were taking place between Boko Haram and the government, the freelance journalist Ahmad Salkida has received several anonymous telephone threats. The reporter, who has covered the activities of Boko Haram for several years, was accused among other things of being a member of the Islamist group and of being the instigator of the talks. He was also told that he and the group “are not supposed to exist”. The next day, he was followed by a white Lagos-registered 4x4 for several hours in Abuja.
In July last year he was forced to move away from the northern city of Maiduguri after receiving threats from people claiming to belong to Boko Haram. The threats followed the publication in the magazine Blueprint of an article he wrote on the Islamist group's first suicide bomber.
On 11 March, Boko Haram threatened to take action against three newspapers, National Accord, Vanguard and Tribune, in a tele-conference in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state. The group said the newspapers attributed statements to the group which were not made by its members and showed bias against it in their reports. It said they portrayed the group in a negative light while praising government forces.
On 9 March, Boko Haram had threatened to “take care of” any journalist that misrepresented its views in an article. The Nigerian Tribune and Vanguard Newspapers were among those mentioned specifically by the group's spokesman, Abul Qaqa.
On 13 February, six journalists from the New Nigerian, Blueprint, Aminiya, Voice of Nigeria, Hausa Service and the Nigerian Standard, and a Nigerian Television Authority cameraman were attacked by a dozen unidentified assailants in Katami village in the Silame local government area of Sokoto State, where they were covering the election campaign of the All Nigeria Peoples Party's candidate for the state governorship, Alhaji Yusha'u Ahmed. The bus in which they were travelling was attacked by men armed with machetes, knives, cutlasses and sticks.
On 7 February, Akinola Ariyo, a photojournalist for the New Nigerian, was threatened by an officer who aimed his weapon at him and ordered him to leave while he was accompanying a group of people trying to negotiate the reopening of the press centre at Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos, closed by the airport authorities in early February.
On 1 February, three security guards assaulted Hassan Adebayo, marketing executive with the Port Harcourt newspaper Daily Trust and Sani Musa, the driver of the company's distribution vehicle, as the pair were delivering copies of that day's edition to vendors in the area. The attackers, in a white Toyota Hilux with the registration number RV 96 AO1, first attacked the driver, who managed to escape, then vandalised the vehicle, smashing its side mirrors.
On 20 January, Enenche Godwin Akogwu, 31, the Kano correspondent of Channels TV, was shot dead while trying to cover Boko Haram suicide bombings, which killed at least 185 people earlier that day. The journalist was interviewing victims outside the Farm central police station, which was a target of one of the attacks, when an unidentified gunman fired several shots at him.
The body of radio reporter Nansok Silas, who worked for Highland FM, was found on 19 January in a stream under a bridge on the Zaramagada-Rayfield road, 200 metres from a military checkpoint, in Jos, northeast of Abuja. Nothing of value was taken from him and colleagues suspect he was the victim of a targeted murder, but the cause of death and possible motive are still unknown.
Originally from the Langtang North area in Plateau state, he had worked for Highland FM for three years and hosted a programme called “Highland Profile”. He had not received any threats. Reporters Without Borders has called on the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and to do their utmost to shed light on his death, and to consider the possibility that it was linked to his work.
On 3 January, the Kano office of the Daily Trust was invaded by vandals who tried to smash up the premises and assault staff. Only one person involved in the failed attempt was arrested. He was charged with criminal conspiracy, assault, criminal trespass and mischief by fire. Obstructing access to information and controlling the state's image
There was glaring evidence during the first quarter of 2012 of the Nigerian authorities' desire to control the country's image and monitor what the media publish or broadcast.
The government demonstrated its resolve to hide the real extent of the population's demonstrations of dissatisfaction, as well as the threat presented by Boko Haram.
It seems as if the obstruction of access to information, seizures of newspaper print runs and equipment, as well as threats and lawsuits against journalists are aimed at allowing the government to play down its own weakness and the difficulties faced by the country,
On 13 March, police and troops manhandled several journalists covering a visit to Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, by the first lady, Patience Jonathan. Dare Fasuba, of The Vanguard, Akinwale Aboluade of The Punch, Gbenro Adesina of The News/PM NEWS, and Sola Adeyemo of Compass Newspapers were prevented from entering Lekan Salami Stadium, while others such as Bisi Oladele of The Nation were beaten when they tried to exercise their right to cover the event.
A few days earlier, Jude Obiemenyego, a journalist with the newspaper Zion Nationale, was arrested by an officer of the State Security Service, for having exposed a case of corruption involving the ex-wife of the former government of Delta State. He was arrested in the woman's office and threatened with a gun before being taken to police headquarters where he was held for several days. Since his release, he has received telephone death threats from unidentified callers.
On 7 March, an unidentified journalist was assaulted by police officers deployed to break up protests by youths at the Stubb Creek oilfield in the southern state of Akwa Ibom. The journalist fled to escape further violence.
On 23 February, Misbahu Bashir, a reporter for the Daily Trust, was refused access to the headquarters of the Aguryi Ironsi brigade in Abuja and was forced to stay in his car for three hours by soldiers outside the building. The journalist was seeking information about the arrest by brigade troops of 99 passengers travelling in a truck that had been stopped on the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
He said he was detained after asking to see the brigade commander instead of the public relations officer, a captain, with whom he had originally requested a meeting.
The reporter was allowed to leave after he was made to write down his name, address and vehicle registration number.
On 18 February, Iyatse Joshua, of the radio station City FM, was arrested by Lagos police while he was covering a procession organized by human rights activists and organizations in remembrance of those killed by security forces a during the week-long nationwide strike and mass protest against the abolition in January of fuel subsidies. He and a number of activists were taken to the offices of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. All were released several hours later on the orders of the chief of police.
On 14 February, Suleiman Isah, a reporter with the Daily Champion, was barred from entering the Niger State government headquarters by members of the State Security Service, despite having appropriate accreditation. The security officers threatened him before he was allowed to leave the premises.
Earlier, a Voice of America reporter was manhandled by security men in similar circumstances outside the Justice Idris Legbo Conference Centre, a few metres from the government building.
On 13 February, journalists from The Nation, ThisDay, The Punch, The Guardian and Nigerian Tribune were forced to leave by soldiers posted at the entrance to a hospital next door to the government headquarters in the northern city of Kaduna. They were reporting on an attack by some of the governor's guards on an information ministry official, whom they mistook for a member of Boko Haram.
On 9 February, Isa Sa'idu, the Kaduna bureau chief of the Daily Trust, was threatened by Lieutenant-Colonel Abubakar Edun, spokesman of the army's First Mechanised Division, for having reported that soldiers had manhandled journalists trying to cover the bombing of a division barracks in Kaduna on 7 February. His equipment was seized.
On the same day at the same location, Umar Uthman a cameraman with the private station African Independent Television and a colleague from government-run Katuna State Television both had their cameras confiscated.
On 7 February, agents of the State Security Service raided the offices of the Nigerian Television Authority in Abuja in search of video recordings that showed members of Boko Haram nominated to take part in talks with the government. The cassettes were taken away by the agents, who said they were acting on government orders.
On 5 February, the French journalist Jérémie Drieu, a reporter for the channel TF1, and a local colleague Ahmad Salkida, were arrested by soldiers in the city of Jos in Plateau State. They were forced to show all the material they had filmed before being forced to pack and leave the state at nightfall. They were apprehended when it emerged that a documentary on which they were working would be critical of the government.
On 4 February, the press centre at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, opened 30 years ago, was closed by the Nigerian authorities on the orders of the head of the protocol department attached to the airport's presidential wing, Alofabi Oduniyi. He was reported to have accused journalists accredited to the centre of writing articles that were negative and prejudicial to the interests of the president. More than 60 journalists have been prevented from recovering their equipment locked inside the centre.
Martins Ayola, general director of the station Adaba FM, which broadcasts in Ondo State, said there was a price on the head of some of its senior staff for broadcasting critical programmes and they were being hunted by contract killers. One of the station's programmes, 'Oja-Oro', was ordered off air by the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation for allegedly trying to turn listeners against the governor, Olusegun Mimiko.
On 1 February, Kayode Akinmade, the commissioner for information and strategy, launched a petition against the programme that succeeded 'Oja-Oro', entitled “Ela Oro”, alleging it was broadcasting negative perceptions of the government.
Also on 1 February, Goke Famadewa, a journalist for The Punch newspaper, was manhandled by police attached to the Lagos office of Shell Nigeria. The journalist, who was reporting on a dispute inside the company, was beaten up for taking photographs of the premises. The police officers deleted all his photos before releasing him after two hours.
On 25 January, newspaper vendors Okwudili Nnadi, Tochukwu Onuigbo, Ugwu Stephen and Martha Agbedo – who had her five-month-old baby with her – were arrested by state police in Nsukka, in Enugu state. All copies of newspapers in their possession were seized based on the argument that they stirred up popular unrest because they contained photos of the victims of Boko Haram attacks. They were released after several hours but they were unable to recover the confiscated copies.
Again on 25 January, Stanley Mijah, a journalist for The Scope published in Adamawa State, was indicted by a court in Yola for having in his possession sensitive articles which, if published, might disturb public order.
Abdullahi Adamu Kanoma, a journalist with Zamfara State Radio, was charged with criminal conspiracy, inciting public disturbance, illegal assembly and mischief by fire. He was arrested while on his way to the police headquarters to interview the commissioner after the fuel price protests of recent months. He was approached by police officers and told his name was a list of people to be arrested for taking part in the marches. His trial began on 6 February before the Zamfara State Sharia court.
Problems persist in April, two more suspicious deaths Before April ended with the twin newspaper bombings in Abuja and Kaduna, there were two suspicious deaths of journalists. Reporters Without Borders is unable to determine whether they were linked to the victims' work.
On 16 April, Chuks Ogu, a journalist with the station Independent Television, was shot dead by a gunman who burst into the apartment of a couple whose wedding he had been filming and opened fire. The circumstances of the murder are still unclear and it is not know whether the journalist was the target or simply an innocent victim.
On 3 April, the body of Ibrahim Muhammed, a film editor with the commercial TV station African Independent Television, was found in a pool of blood in his apartment in Kaduna. According to his family, he had been followed home on two occasions by unidentified people. An investigation was opened on 4 April, but there have been no serious efforts to find those responsible.
Photo: Newspapers' readers in Kano, Northern Nigeria (AFP/Seyllou Diallo)
Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the arrests and beatings of at least 15 journalists during demonstrations yesterday and today in Moscow in protest against Vladimir Putin's installation as president for a third term.
“Putin's new presidential mandate has got off to an inauspicious start for the media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are shocked by the level of police brutality against journalists. No distinction was made between demonstrators and those who came to cover the demonstration, carrying press cards. This is unacceptable. We call on the authorities to stop deliberately targeting journalists.”
The press freedom organization added: “It is equally unacceptable that journalists were attacked by demonstrators. Respect for the media is essential for the development of a democratic society.”
The opposition staged what it billed as a “March of Millions” yesterday to challenge Putin's legitimacy and protested in the city centre again today as he was sworn in for a third term as president after Dimitri Medvedev's interregnum. The police made many arrests, as they did during the post-election protests in December and March.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, at least three journalists were beaten during yesterday's demonstration. Radio Echo of Moscow reporter Tikhon Dzyadko and Newsweek correspondent Anna Nemtsova were struck by police during attempts to disperse demonstrators. Nemtsova received several baton blows which almost broke her equipment.
Two NTV journalists were violently manhandled by aggressive protesters while covering the protest in central Moscow's Bolotnaya Square and their equipment was broken.
At least five journalists were taken to police stations yesterday. Local sources said they included two Kommersant and Pravo.ru reporters whose names were not immediately available. They also included Aleksandr Savelev of Lenta.ru, Aleksandr Artemev of Gazeta.ru and Sergei Minenko of Moskovskye Novosti. Artemev and Minenko were arrested along with more than 50 protesters near the Novokuznetskaya metro station and were held for several hours.
At least seven journalists – Maria Semendyayeva, Aleksandr Orlov and Aleksandr Chernikh of Kommersant, Leonid Ragozin of the BBC, Ilya Barabanov of the New Times, Olesya Gerasimenko of Kommersant Vlast and Kevin Olin of the Moscow Times – suffered the same fate today.
In all, no less than 13 journalists were detained while covering the various demonstrations.
As the demonstrations were getting under way yesterday morning, the websites of several leading independent and opposition media were the targets of Distributed Denial of Service attacks that made them inaccessible for several hours. The victims included the newspaper Kommersant, radio Echo of Moscow, Bolshoy Gorod, Slon.ru and the online TV station Dozhd.
Harassment of the media and the dangers involved in reporting pose major challenges to the possibilities of progress for freedom of information in Russia. Its “new” president, classified as a “predator of press freedom” by Reporters Without Borders, will have to show he is ready to abandon the authoritarian and repressive methods that have characterized him in the past. If he wants to prove he has changed, he must make protecting journalists a priority.
Malaysia - Major protest prompts attacks on journalists, censorship and missing media replaced by civil society
Reporters Without Borders condemns the use of violence against journalists during a major civil society demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on 28 April, and the censorship of foreign TV coverage of the protest. The organization is also concerned about the scant coverage that the protest received in Malaysia's mainstream print media such as Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times and The Star.
Called Bersih 3.0 because it was the third of its kind organized by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) in protest against the lack of government transparency about the next parliamentary elections, the demonstration was attended by a Reporters Without Borders representative, who witnessed the media freedom violations.
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said coverage of the protest highlighted the print media's lack of independence. Their inadequate and inaccurate reporting contrasts with Malaysia's rise in international media freedom rankings and the promise of more media freedom in recent amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).
The media's attitude is all the more disturbing in the run-up to such important elections, as it shows the degree to which they are still susceptible to pressure from the government and the political parties that own them.
Protest organizers and observers
The CIJ is one of the civil society organizations in the Bersih coalition, which also includes the Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement and the Bar Council. The venue for its third demonstration was to have been Independence Square (Dataran Merdeka) in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Smaller demonstrations were organized in other cities.
Bersih's leaders had wanted to stage a sit-in (Duduk Bantah) in Independence Square from 2 to 4 p.m. but, two days before the protest, the Kuala Lumpur city authorities obtained a court order banning them from the square. On the eve of the protest, the police took up position on the main streets leading to the square, and barbed wire and plastic street barriers were used block access. Wearing the yellow Bersih T-shirt was not, however, banned this time.
On the day, a large crowd assembled at a nearby location and set off towards the square at 1:40 pm, led by Bersih members, journalists and Bar Council observers. Clashes broke out as they neared the square. When some of the demonstrators pushed past the barricades, the riot police on the other side used their water cannon, hosing them with a mixture of water and chemical irritants of the kind used in tear gas.
Violence and arrests
Police violence, attacks on demonstrators and arrests ensued. The Bar Council's observers described the attitude of the police as “punitive.” In a statement the next day condemning the police violence as unjustified, Bar Council vice-president Christopher Leong pointed out that the interior minister had said before the demonstration that it did not pose a security threat.
As regards violence against the media, the Bar Council statement said: “The reported attacks by the police on members of the media, both local and international, and the confiscation and/or destruction of their photographs and video recordings, speaks to police action in covering up or preventing a full and accurate record of the Bersih 3.0 rally and the responses of the police.”
Al Jazeera reporter Harry Fawcett was forced to cover the protest using his iPad's Skype app after the police damaged his crew's camera. Describing the scenes of violence, he reported that the police “kicked, slapped and punched” demonstrators.
The Reporters Without Borders correspondent suffered no physical attack herself, but she was prevented from accessing an elevated position from which she could have taken photos of the crowd. Bar Council members, on the other hand, reported several cases of violence, including the clubbing of a lawyer inside a police truck after his arrest. A girl received several blows to the head before being rescued by a Bar Council member.
According to the CIJ, one journalist was badly hurt, sustaining a broken rib and possible internal injuries.
Merdeka Review reporter Chen Shaua Fui told Reporters Without Borders told Reporters Without Borders she was attacked by police when she tried to take photos of two demonstrators being beaten by police officers.
“Two men in yellow T-shirts were dining in a small restaurant on Jalan tun Perak Street,” she said. “It was 7 p.m. and most of the demonstrators had already dispersed. I was on the other side of the street when I saw two policemen go up to them and begin hitting them. I pulled out my camera but I was told not to use it. When I said I was a journalist, the policemen threatened me. I entered a nearby alley and saw a similar scene. I was already holding my camera and began taking photos.
“Four policemen approached me. One insulted me. Two others tried to grab my phone and camera from me. A fourth pulled violently at my backpack. They all insulted me although, in the confusion, I don't remember what they said. I shouted several times that I was a journalist. In response, they snatched my press ID and threw it to the ground. I asked them several times if I was arrested but they did not reply to this. I think they just wanted to teach me a lesson. I finally succeeded in getting away and had the courage to pick up my press ID. I don't think I will file a complaint. That serves no purpose here.”
Medical personnel reported that a total of 417 arrests were made and 117 people were taken to hospital.
Scant coverage, disinformation
On the whole, the violence was widely covered and commented in the alternative media and blogs even if they did not report all of the incidents.
But the CIJ reported in apress release on 26 April that coverage of protests in the print media had fallen dramatically compared with a similar period last year. Coverage of demonstrations was meagre in the leading Malaysian newspapers, and virtually non-existent in the newspapers that support the ruling coalition.
According to the CIJ release, there has been a 60 per cent fall in coverage by The Star and the Sun, and a 97 per cent fall in coverage by Utusan Malaysia and the New Straits Times. Such coverage as there was in these two newspapers was overwhelmingly negative, the release added.
Anticipating scant coverage by the main newspapers, the Bar Council mobilized around 80 lawyers and law students to monitor the demonstration. Many of these observers reported witnessing violence, including the use of tear-gas grenades and water cannon against demonstrators who had not provoked the police.
The lack of media coverage was compounded by government disinformation and attempts to minimize the size of the protest. It is not unusual for organizers and authorities to give different turnout figures but in this case only deliberate disinformation can explain the difference. On the one hand, the organizers estimated that 250,000 people took part and the CIJ estimated 100,000. On the other, the police put the turnout at 30,000 while a government press office went to so far as to claim that only 4,000 people participated.
The Sarawak Report, a news website run by investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, reported that Astro Malaysia, a satellite TV service owned MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems, censored the BBC World News' coverage of the demonstration, eliminating more than 30 seconds of footage showing police water cannon hosing protesters and participants criticizing the government and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
According to the Sarawak Report, the BBC is investigating Astro's alleged censorship of its broadcast. Astro received the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia prize in 2009 for its contribution to pay TV in the region. The Sarawak Report said Al Jazeera's coverage may also have been the victim of similar censorship.
The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition wants to prolong its decades-old control of the government in the general elections that must be held by April 2013. Prime Minister Najib's party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the coalition's dominant member, is meanwhile due to hold its annual national congress in July.
Headed by former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan, Bersih is not a political coalition. It is a campaign for electoral reform that is supported by civil society organizations and opposition parties. The authorities banned it on the eve of its first big demonstration in 2011 and its current status is unclear.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its appeal to the US authorities to allow the Chinese dissident human rights activist Chen Guangcheng and his family to come to the US.
“The US authorities must accept their responsibility in this matter,” Reporters Without Borders said. “By allowing Chen into their embassy on 26 April, they became responsible for his and his family's safety. We call on the US government to facilitate their departure for the United States as soon as possible.”
The Chinese government today said Chen could go abroad to study, if so desired. The announcement was the first sign that a solution might be found to the deadlock. A US university has offered him a fellowship. He and his family need to be given passports and US visas quickly to allow them to travel.
Reporters Without Borders urges the Chinese authorities to guarantee that he will be allowed to return to China, and that he will be safe there, when he has completed his studies abroad.
Chen left the embassy and was taken to a hospital on 2 May, before US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's arrival in Beijing for the latest round in the “Economic and Strategic Dialogue” between the United States and China. Those close to Chen suggested that he may have been pressured to leave the embassy. He was subsequently able to speak with Clinton by telephone and tell her what he wanted.
He was reunited with his wife and two children in the hospital, but was reportedly unable to contact the rest of his family.
Chen had initially planned to stay in China after receiving assurances from the Chinese authorities he and his family would be treated better, but the government quickly broke its promises. Surveillance of his relatives was stepped up while he was in the embassy and his wife was tied to a chair for two days and threatened with being beaten to death.
The Chinese lawyer who had been helping him, Jiang Tianyong, was taken and beaten by police officers yesterday until he was “deaf in one ear.”
Chen told Agence France-Presse that he was “in great danger” and “in a critical situation.” Yesterday, he reiterated his desire to go to the Unites States in phone call from his hospital bed with the US Congress while it was holding a hearing on his case.
30-04-2012 - Chen Guangcheng safe, Hu Jia arrested and released
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its appeal to the US authorities to grant fugitive human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) its protection now that it seems to have been confirmed that he has found a temporary refuge in the US embassy.
Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), the wife of free speech activist Hu Jia (胡佳), meanwhile reported on Twitter on 28 April that Hu had been arrested for posting a photo of himself with Chen online. “He is to remain in police custody for another 24 hours,” she wrote. “I asked him where he was going to sleep and he replied: On a chair.” (传唤延长到24小时，我问胡佳睡哪，说让待椅子上). He was finally released yesterday.
Hu and his wife have been under a form of house arrest together ever since he was freed in June 2011 on completing a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence on a subversion charge for posting articles online criticizing censorship and for giving interviews to foreign media. Also well-known for his defence of the environment and AIDS sufferers, he was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2008.
Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to put a stop to the illegal mistreatment of Chen Guangcheng's relatives and friends and to release his assistants and the other persons suspected of helping him to escape from house arrest. The organization also calls on the authorities to end Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan's house arrest.
Chen's fate is expected to be one of the leading topics when US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and treasury secretary Timothy Geithner are in Beijing on 3 and 4 May for a new round of talks in the “strategic and economic dialogue” between the United States and China.
27.04.2012 - Well-known dissident Chen Guangcheng escapes from house arrest
Reporters Without Borders urges the government of the country concerned to grant fugitive human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng and his family political asylum if it is true, as some say, that he has found refuge in a foreign embassy in Beijing after escaping earlier this week from the house arrest to which he had been subjected since release from prison in 2010.
“On the other hand, if Chen is still on Chinese territory, the Chinese authorities must now end his house arrest – of which the abuses probably prompted him to escape – and stop harassing him,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Chen deserves to be able to lead a normal life. It was his defence of human rights that led to his arrest. He is not a criminal.”
Reporters Without Borders also calls on the Chinese authorities to guarantee the safety of Chen's family and not use them as bargaining chips; to provide an explanation of the mistreatment inflicted on Chen and his family, which was unacceptable; and to punish those responsible severely.
One of China's leading dissident human rights lawyers, Chen eluded his guards in his home in Dongshigu, in Shandong province, on 22 April and is now “in a safe place” in Beijing, some of his supporters say. This may be an embassy, possibly the US embassy.
Since making his escape, Chen, who is blind, has recorded a video that has been circulated by Boxun, an independent Chinese website based in the United States, and is available on YouTube. He addresses three demands to Prime Minister Wen Jiaobo in the video:
- He asks Wen to order an investigation into the mistreatment and beatings received by his family members, and he names local officials who had been mistreating his wife, his son, his mother and himself since late 2010.
- He asks that his family's safety be guaranteed.
- And he calls for corruption in China to be dealt with properly, and for those responsible to be punished according to the law.
Since his escape, at least two of his assistants have reportedly been arrested – He Peirong, who is said to have helped him escape, and Guo Yushan. His home, where his wife, mother and daughter are still located, is reportedly surrounded by police. His brother and nephew are said to have been beaten and taken to a police station.
A self-taught lawyer and blind since childhood, Chen is known as the “barefoot lawyer” who campaigned against forced sterilization, late abortions and land seizures. Chinese and foreign journalists and fellow-dissidents who have tried to visit him since his release from prison in 2010 have been systematically turned away and sometimes attacked by those guarding his home.
Chen's escape is all the more embarrassing for the Chinese government as it comes amid an internal crisis linked to the purge of the once popular politician Bo Xilai. Prime Minister Wen is meanwhile on a European tour and is due to meet next week with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who has publicly supported Chen in the past.
After the recent wave of threats suffered by the journalist and rights activist Dina Meza, further attacks and threats aimed at media workers in late April show it is impossible for them to do their jobs free from danger.
Honduras has seen 26 deaths among journalists in a decade, 19 of them in the period immediately after the June, 2009 coup d'état. To date, none of these cases has been solved.
“We await confirmation from the authorities that full protection will be afforded to all journalists and human rights activists targeted by attacks and death threats, whose cases have been notified by ourselves and our partner organization, C-Libre,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Such measures must be the subject of genuine follow-up by relevant civil society representatives.”
Elder Joel Aguilar, a local reporter for the television station Canal 6, survived a submachine-gun attack by two men who pursued him in a car on the road between La Entrada, in Copán department, and San Pedro Sula. After the attack, his car had 14 bullet holes. The attackers' vehicle was of a type believed to be used by criminal gangs active in the region, whose illegal activities the journalist had highlighted on air.
Another Canal 6 journalist, Santiago Cerna, director of the programmes “Actualidades 2012” and “Al Punto”, received threats via his mobile telephone on 26 April. The next day, Cerna was intercepted by a car without a license plate and with tinted windows while he was on his way to a restaurant in San Pedro Sula.
Cerna, who often covers local politics and has been threatened and physically attacked in the past, is the fifth journalist in San Pedro de Sula to be the target of death threats, according the C-Libre.
In another attack, the home of Selvín Martínez, a correspondent for the station JBN Televisión, was machine-gunned in a drive-by shooting in Omoa in Cortés department on 26 April. The journalists, who had just returned from San Pedro de Sula, witnessed the incident which occurred while his two children, aged three and five, were playing outside the house.
There were 16 bullet marks at the scene, although no one was injured. When he telephoned the police to report the attack, the officer who took the call told him “I am in a meeting.”
He suspected the reason for the attack was his coverage of a complaint by a woman constituent that she had been refused financial assistance by the mayor.
Reporters Without Borders, which has updated its list of Predators of Freedom of information for World Press Freedom Day on May 3, notes that Honduras has one name on the list, that of Miguel Facussé Barjum. Meanwhile, community and opposition journalists continue to be buffeted by the crackdown spawned by the 2009 coup.