Tag: press freedom

4 Journalists facing prosecution get International Press Freedom awards

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From left to right: Svetlana Prokopyeva (Artiom Avanesov); Dapo Olorunyomi (Dapo Olorunyomi); Shahidul Alam (Shahidul Alam); Mohammad Mosaed (Farid Kamran Nia)
Photo- CPJ

By SAT News Desk

NEW YORK/MELBOURNE, 13 July 2020: Independent journalism without fear or favor has taken a beating globally in the sea of fake news. Journalists who speak the truth for their communities often face curtailment of freedom and prosecution. But there are many who remain committed to the profession and work fearlessly often facing tough times.

Four such journalists in different countries will be awarded the 2020 International Press Freedom Awards by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ). All the four from Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, and Russia have been arrested or faced criminal prosecution in reprisal for their reporting. CPJ will also honor lawyer Amal Clooney with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, says a CPJ media release.

“Like brave and committed journalists everywhere, CPJ’s honorees set out to report the news without fear or favor for the benefit of their communities, their country, and the world,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “They understood that they would confront powerful forces, enemies of the truth, who would try to stop them from doing their work. What they did not foresee was COVID-19. The global pandemic has not only made their jobs more difficult and dangerous, it has fueled a ferocious press freedom crackdown as autocratic leaders around the world suppress unwelcome news under the guise of protecting public health.”

CPJ’s 2020 awardees are:

Shahidul Alam (Bangladesh): Alam is a renowned photojournalist and commenter, and the founder of the Bangladeshi multimedia training organization the Pathshala Media Institute and the Drik photo library. In August 2018, Alam was detained after posting a video to social media about student protests in Dhaka. He spent 102 days behind bars, and said he was beaten in custody, before being freed in November 2018.

Mohammad Mosaed (Iran): Mosaed is a freelance economic reporter who investigates corruption, embezzlement, labor issues, economic sanctions, and popular protests. Forced to resign from a reformist newspaper under government pressure, he publishes news on social media platforms. Mosaed was arrested in late 2019 in relation to a tweet, and released in early 2020. He was briefly arrested again in February after criticizing the government’s handling of COVID-19.

Dapo Olorunyomi (Nigeria): Olorunyomi is the co-founder, CEO, and publisher of the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times, and during his decades-long career as a journalist has been a fierce defender of press freedom in Nigeria despite repeated government harassment. He was arrested twice before having to go into hiding in 1995, and more recently he was arrested alongside a colleague in 2017 when police raided the Premium Times’ office on allegations of defamation.

Svetlana Prokopyeva (Russia): Prokopyeva is a regional correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, known as Radio Svoboda. In early 2019, authorities raided her home, seized her equipment and personal belongings, and interrogated her. She was charged with “justifying terrorism” and her bank accounts were frozen in relation to comments she made on liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy in 2018, when she discussed a suicide bombing attack. This month she was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of 500,000 rubles (US$6,980). The prosecutor had sought a six-year prison term.

The Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award is given annually by CPJ’s board of directors to recognize extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom. This year’s awardee, lawyer Amal Clooney, has represented embattled reporters around the world, including Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Reuters, who were imprisoned in Myanmar for 17 months. She promotes freedom of speech and journalism through the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative, which monitors the trials of journalists worldwide and provides free legal representation for those in need.

“Journalists in trouble have no better champion than Amal Clooney, which is why we are so delighted to honor her with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. A talented barrister, gifted negotiator, and powerful speaker, Clooney works tirelessly to free journalists unjustly targeted by despotic leaders using increasingly punitive laws to stifle reporting,” said Kathleen Carroll, CPJ board chair.

The winners will be honored on November 19, 2020, at CPJ’s annual benefit gala, to be chaired this year by Patrick Gaspard, President of Open Society Foundations, and hosted by veteran broadcast journalist Lester Holt.

Due to health and safety restrictions related to COVID-19, this year’s gala will be virtual, with video profiles, compelling press freedom stories, award presentations, and acceptance speeches streamed online and shared around the world.

Covid-19 emergency laws spell disaster for press freedom

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By Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Covid-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March, since then it has been used as a pretext by governments to put constitutional guarantees on hold. Now that relative calm appears to be in prospect, it is imperative that these exceptional measures be lifted.

Faced with the unprecedented epidemic, many governments have targeted those whose job is to inform the public. Emboldened by the emergency, the spread of repression has been translated into a substantial armoury of laws, regulations and emergency measures. Attacks on press freedom and special regulations have proliferated on all five continents. They cover a range of restrictive procedures, from minor obstacles to custodial prison sentences.

“The coronavirus health crisis has aggravated all other crises and has had a particular impact on journalism and the right to information,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “The worst regimes have resorted to all means at their disposal to crack down even harder and, when these prove insufficient, they have brought in new ones using the excuse of an emergency or exceptional circumstances. It is now time to put an end to such exceptional measures urgently and to unshackle information!”

Some countries, such as Honduras, took steps straightaway to limit freedom of expression, others (Brazil) to curb access to information or its publication, although some have since been rolled back, as is the case in Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán brought in emergency coronavirus legislation allowing him to rule by decree for an indefinite period and setting a sentence of five years’ imprisonment for publishing false information. The law is due to be repealed around 20 June.

In El Salvador, Thailand and Armenia, curbs on journalists’ movements, the imposition of a curfew and of tracking mechanisms were causes of concern and were ultimately scrapped. Some governments, such as Namibia, used the opportunity to restrict attendance at press conferences.

Elsewhere, access to information was strictly controlled. Bangladesh’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, the country’s only medical school, published a memo to teachers, doctors and staff banning them from speaking to the media on any health matter without prior permission. The memo said they must refrain from tarnishing the image of the government and universities.

In Greece, the health ministry published a decision on 13 April banning hospital staff from talking to the media and Greek journalists were required to have government permission before reporting inside hospitals.

Public service media organizations have often come under intense government pressure. In Japan, an emergency law (repealed on 25 May) added the public broadcaster NHK to a list of institutions to which the government is able to give “instructions”. In Ukraine, pressure on public service news providers took a more insidious turn when the public broadcaster PBC was stripped of a quarter of its budget.

Most frequently, legislative measures have been taken on grounds of the emergency allowing outright censorship of alarming or disturbing information. In Cambodia, the government gave itself the legal power to ban the publication of “any information that could cause unrest, fear or disorder”. In Vanuatu, any information about Covid-19 must be officially approved before publication.

Most governments yielded to the temptation, using a variety of repressive measures according to the democratic traditions and the rule of law in each country, of making official channels the only credible and authoritative sources of information.

In India, Egypt, Botswana and Somalia, for example, only government statements on the subject may be published. In Eswatini, using printed and electronic media to obtain information about Covid-19 is banned without prior the permission of the health ministry.

Alongside these repressive measures, the arsenal of sanctions has been hugely expanded. The weapons of repression against individual journalists as well as news organizations have been greatly strengthened in many countries: seizures and publication bans (Kyrgyzstan), heavy fines (up to 25,000 euros in Russia) and deterrent prison sentences (up to six months in South Africa, 18 months in Indonesia, five years in Botswana and Algeria and up to 20 years in Zimbabwe).

In Liberia, the justice authorities have threatened to close down or seize any news organization that publishes what they consider to be false information. In Romania, the government’s crisis unit leapt into action, closing down 12 news websites. In Myanmar, 221 sites were closed, including news sites aimed particularly at the country’s ethnic minorities.

Apart from this tidal wave of obstacles and sanctions, one of the most worrying aspects of the Covid-19 crisis has undoubtedly been the pernicious use by governments of the notion of disinformation and “fake news”.

In Ethiopia, the definition of misinformation is so broad that it gives the authorities the discretionary power to declare any piece of information false. In Bolivia, 37 “political actors” have been convicted in summary proceedings of “disinformation and destabilization”.

In Russia, the definition of disinformation and the damage it is alleged to cause are the unique preserve of judges. On 21 April, the supreme court extended this to social media, and even to individual conversations. In Egypt, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation has asked that ordinary citizens report the publication of “fake news” about Covid-19. The implementation of these emergency laws often shows a broad acceptance of the idea of fake news. They are also used to deter criticism and muzzle the opposition.

CLICK HERE FOR COUNTRYWISE LINKS.

- June 17, 2020

RSF complains to UN about coronavirus press freedom violations

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By Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has written to two United Nations special rapporteurs asking them to formally condemn governments that have violated the right to information in connection with the coronavirus epidemic, thereby putting public health and lives in danger both in their own countries and the rest of the world.

Sent on 13 April to the special rapporteur on the right to health, the Lithuanian Dainius Pūras, and to the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the American David Kaye, the letter asks them to condemn governments that have either used the epidemic as grounds for violating the right to information or have done so in spite of it.

The facts reported in the letter have been gathered by a new RSF tool called Tracker-19 in reference not only to Covid-19 but also article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This RSF tool aims to evaluate the Covid-19 pandemic’s consequences for journalism, documenting state censorship and deliberate disinformation, and their impact on the right to reliable news and information. It also offers recommendations on how to defend journalism during the pandemic.

The letter lists cases of censorship, arbitrary detention, harassment or violence against journalists, and disturbing legislative development in a total of 38 countries. The list is not exhaustive.

The Brazilian and US president have staged ferocious verbal attacks on journalists. Reporters have been arrested in Algeria, Jordan and Zimbabwe. An Orwellian law has imposed an “information police state” in Hungary. Cambodia’s prime minister has used the Covid-19 crisis to bolster his authority. And in China, the suppression of journalism allowed the epidemic to spread in Wuhan, and then to the rest of the world. RSF is also very concerned about journalists in Turkey and Saudi Arabia who, despite the epidemic, are still detained in prisons where they are very vulnerable to the virus.

RSF asks the special rapporteurs to issue not just a warning but also an “urgent appeal” to each country where press freedom violations jeopardizing the right to health have been observed. The aim to is to obtain concrete measures, such as the release of imprisoned journalists.

Attached to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the special rapporteurs are tasked with examining, monitoring, advising and publicly reporting on human rights issues under “special procedure” mechanisms. If violations are confirmed, the rapporteurs can denounce them and ask the governments concerned to address them. What they have observed can also be included in their public reports to the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly.

David Kaye, Harlem Désir (the OSCE representative on freedom of the media) and Edison Lanza (the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur for freedom of expression) issued a joint statement about the Covid-19 pandemic on 19 March, stressing the importance of truthful information by governments, protecting the work of journalists, and combatting disinformation.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet voiced concern on 9 April about the measures taken by some countries to restrict press freedom and freedom of expression and, in particular, about censorship of criticism on the grounds of combatting disinformation.

RSF’s letter also calls on the special rapporteurs to publicly proclaim that the right to information is “inherent” to the right to health, that the former is an essential component of the latter, that they are necessarily and closely linked and inseparable. Recognizing the right to information as inherent to the right to health would extend the former’s scope , especially when safeguarding public health is at issue, and would help to combat both disinformation and arbitrary restrictions on information more effectively.

Enshrining an intrinsic link between the right to information and the right to health would mean that all arbitrary restrictions of the first would also be violations of the second. The balance between the two rights would thereby be assured, and would prevent the protection of public health being used as a pretext for censorship or disinformation.

The preamble of the International Declaration on Information and Democracy, approved by a commission of 25 prominent persons from 18 countries, says: “Knowledge is necessary for human beings to develop their biological, psychological, social, political and economic capacities.”

On the basis of this Declaration, 35 countries have joined an Information and Democracy Partnership that recognizes the right to reliable information and says: “Information can be regarded as reliable insofar as its collection, processing and dissemination are free, independent, diverse and based on cross-checking of various sources, in a pluralistic media landscape where the facts can give rise to a diversity of interpretation and viewpoints.”

“The coronavirus epidemic requires respect for the principles of press freedom and the right to information,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “As the Declaration on Information and Democracy says, ‘the right to information consists of the freedom to seek, receive and access reliable information.’ Violating this right endangers the health and even the lives of human beings. We call on the UN’s institutions to publicly denounce governments that violate this right.”

Source: ref.org

Watchdogs not lapdogs

strike journlist

By S N Sinha*

If those in power think that by shooting the messenger, ‘All is well’ message
goes to the public, they are mistaken. Suppression of the flow of news to the people
and keep them in dark is not healthy for democracy. What is happening in
Uttar Pradesh, the largest state which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha,
nowadays is a shameful act of suppressing the reality from not only the ruling
establishment but from the people of the state and the nation.

The police foisted criminal cases with false charges on several journalists for
exposing government failures in different districts of UP. The journalists were
doing their duty to inform the people of the shortcomings of administration. In
Mirzapur district a local journalist of Jansandesh Times, Pawan Jaiswal exposed
corrupt officials who were serving only roti-salt in mid-day meal scheme in
Seur government primary school. The news was published in his newspaper
with a photo and later it was picked up by some news agencies and local TV
channels broadcast the video he had taken. In his report, the district officials
took action and suspended the school staff.

After ten days, the district administration filed a case against the journalist
alleging that he conspired to defame the state government, clearly, an
afterthought to protect themselves from the wrath of the higher-ups in the state
capital. In a funny argument, the District Magistrate asked how a print media
journalist could take a video and circulate it. How can an officer sitting in such
an important position make such absurd statements? Does he not know with
the availability of advanced technology, the journalists are working with multiple
media and contributing their news to different media platforms? Interestingly,
in the FIR the officials admitted that on that day only roti was cooked in the
school as there were no vegetables or dal available. The cook also confirmed it.
According to reports, the school has been serving roti-salt or rice-salt on several
days in a month. After the expose`, parents stopped sending their children to the
school to protest the FIR filed against the journalist who exposed corruption and
highlighted the reality in the mid-day meal scheme.

In Bijnor district five journalists working with local dailies and TV news
channels were booked for “false” and “negative” news reports. They reported
that a Valmiki family had put up their house for sale after they were not allowed
to collect water from the village hand pump. Here also the Bijnor
Superintendent of Police admitted that there was a clash between two groups
over the collection of water from the hand pump and police were investigating the
case. The Valmiki woman also confirmed that she was threatened by a police
officer to name the journalist and they were even thinking of leaving the village
if they did not get justice. Similarly in Pilibhit district the DM ordered
registration of an FIR on the complaint of a notorious person against a journalist
who is bed-ridden after an attempt to kill him in an accident. The reason was
that the DM was not happy with the reports published against him in the media.
In Azamgarh, a journalist was arrested after he took photographs of children
mopping the floor in their school. The journalist was charged with extortion and
obstructing public servants from discharging their duty.
In all these cases one shocking thing is that, instead of correcting their own
wrongdoings on the ground, the ruling establishment is filing criminal cases
against the journalists to give a message to the entire journalist community not
to report any wrongdoing of government. Jansandesh Times editor rightly said
that this was an attempt by the administration to shut the voice of those raising
matters related to public welfare. It is not the duty of the journalists to inform
the authorities and correct the wrongdoings but to report the ground realities in
their newspapers/news channels. The UP Police should focus on curtailing
crime, instead of filing FIRs against journalists and harassing them for doing
their duty.
It is nobody’s case that journalists or journalism is above the law. It is also a
fact that some anti-social elements use journalism as a cover for their nefarious
activities. The real practitioners of journalism always want that law should take
care of these elements and protect the dignity of the profession. The duty of the
law enforcing agencies is to protect journalists and journalism from not only
criminal elements but also from the ruling class who want to suppress the
shortcomings of their rule. When police target scribes for factual reporting in
the name of “negative” news, one thing is clear that the present ruling
government wants journalists to be their ‘lapdogs’ instead of ‘watchdogs’ of the
society.

*The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi and former President, Indian
Journalists Union.

Source: Scribes News

I respect press freedom but new laws ‘necessary’: Victoria Premier

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Photo: SAT/NN

By our reporter

Melbourne, 13 October : The Victorian Premier Dr. Dennis Napthine, has said he respects the freedom of the Press but the recent national security laws criminalising reporting or disclosure of some operations under it were ‘necessary’. This he felt were necessary for a safe and harmonious society. He was answering to a question on the issue by SAT at a media conference for multicultural media at the Parliament.

Answering to another question, Dr. Napthine said he was all for more ‘community engagement’ to discuss and sort out issues effecting the community.

Mr. Mathew Guy, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship said, “More than $ 24.4 million has been allocated to the Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship portfolio in this year’s state budget.”
“The government is working on many multicultural policies which will be soon announced,” he said.

- SAT News Service