Posts Tagged ‘Impunity’

The UN General Assembly Is Meeting: Put Press Freedom on the Agenda?

Joel Simon from the Committee to Protect Journalists has a featured piece in Columbia Journalism Review on how the United Nations should — but really can’t — do something about press freedom.

What can the UN do for press freedom?

Bottom line: Not much, but it can make some nice statements.

Responding to an upsurge in media killings, particularly of journalists working in conflict zones, the UN has prioritized the issue of journalists’ safety in recent years. In 2012, UNESCO, the UN agency charged with defending press freedom, launched a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The following year, the General Assembly passed a resolution to create an International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists, marked each year on November 2.

In July 2013, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, become the first ever journalist to address the Security Council. She noted, “Most journalists who die today are not caught in some wartime crossfire, they are murdered just because of what they do. And those murders are rarely ever solved; the killers rarely ever punished.” Last May, the Security Council passed a historic resolution reaffirming the international legal protections for journalists covering armed conflict. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon regularly condemns the killing of journalists, and calls on member states to take action.

All of these measures are important, and have tremendous symbolic value. But it is difficult to point to concrete advances in response to UN action. In fact, the level of violence against journalists has increased in recent years, and imprisonment of journalists around the world has reached record levels. Recent high-profile cases—including the conviction of three Al Jazeera reporters in Egypt; the ongoing imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in Iran; and the seven-and-a-half-year sentence handed down to renowned investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan—demonstrate that when it comes to imprisoning journalists, repressive governments are increasingly unresponsive to international pressure.

Simon argues journalists, diplomats and other human rights defenders need to use the occasion of the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, when leaders from around the world come to New York to argue for more action to protect journalists in their home countries.

Over the years, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which I head, has used the General Assembly to secure commitments from a number of heads of state, including former President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who agreed to appoint a special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who committed during a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations to receive a CPJ delegation in Ankara.

Simon says this one-on-one approach should not let the United Nations, itself, off the hook, but it appears to the only way — for now — to get things done.

He argues journalists should demand accountability from the leaders who speak a the UNGA for their violations of press freedom. By just reporting the speeches and not looking at the records of the speakers, journalists become accomplices in efforts to whitewash media repression.


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Status of press freedom and top press predators

Last week was a busy one for identifying press freedom issues. Freedom House came out with its Map of Press Freedom and Reporters Without Borders released a list of top predators against free media.

Status of world press freedom

Freedom House released its annual Press Freedom survey this week as part of World Press Freedom Day.

And the news is not good. By the Freedom House figures, about 85 percent of the people in the world live in countries where the media are either “Partly Free” or “Not Free” from government interference.

Click here to see the rest of the story.

The top predators against free media

Reporters Without Borders has a great page that identifies the top predators in the world against free and independent media.

Thirty-eight heads of state and warlords sow terror among journalists

The list is the usual group of anti-freedom government types: Hu Jintao, Raul Castro and Kim Jong-il.

There are also the Arab country leaders who are fighting against the Arab Spring uprisings such as Muammar Gaddafi and King Hamad Ben Aissa Al Khalifa in Bahrain.

Iran is so dedicated to controlling the press that it has two identified predators: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei.

Click here for rest of story.

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Intimidation and shooting of Honduran journalists continues

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports on the latest attack on journalists in Honduras.

Honduran community radio director shot; staff threatened

Franklin Meléndez, 35, who directs the Voz de Zacate Grande community radio station in southern Valle province, was shot on March 13 at a local bar, according to CPJ interviews and local press reports. Meléndez told CPJ that he was approached by two men angered by the station’s critical coverage of local land disputes as he and two colleagues were playing billiards. According to Meléndez, one of the men threatened him and as he was retreating, the second man shot him in the left thigh. A second shot was fired but missed him.

The two assailants, who Meléndez recognized as relatives of a prominent landowner in the region, followed him before the radio director was able to flee on bicycle, he told CPJ. He was later driven to a hospital in nearby Choluteca, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.

Rest of report.

The CPJ reports that nine journalists have been killed in Honduras since March 2010. At least three of the killings are tied directly to their work.

The Committee published a special report in July that showed a pattern of negligence on the part of authorities in investigating the killings.

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Nicaraguan journalist threatened over elections commission investigation

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Seems El Nuevo Diario is rubbing some people the wrong way.

Some one leveled a death threat against reporter and editor Luis Galeano first by phone and then by hand-delivered package.

And the whole issue: Galeano was looking into irregularities in the Nicaraguan Central Elections Commission.

Journalist receives death threats

For non-Spanish speakers (or those like me working to get my Spanish back) Google Translate gives a rough translation of the situation but enough to understand it.

Irregularities at the elections commission take on a more heated nature this year. The country is heading for elections in November and there are already claims from the opposition that some hanky-panky is  going on. Enough that just as the year started — 11 months before the election — opposition parties were calling for international observers.

Liberals call for international observation of elections in Nicaragua

President Daniel Ortega — yes, that Ortega of 1980s fame — was clearly upset with such calls.

“We are tired of interventions,” he told local media. “If you want to come (foreign observers) to join us, join us, but we want drivers of our elections.”

He added that “the best observers” are the representatives of the political forces at the polling stations.

Unfortunately, the intentions of Ortega and his party are quite clear: Never give up the power again. (And for free journalism, this is not a good thing.)

Ortega got his rubber-stamp courts to let him run for re-election even though it is against the constitution.

And perhaps more telling are the comments of Ortega’s pal Tomas Borge, the last living founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). He said last year that giving up power, when they were voted out of office in 1990, was a mistake that should never be repeated.

And that is why a story about some strange goings on in the election commission is so important and so dangerous to the ruling elite.

P.S. A special thanks to @bloggingsbyboz for his Tweet on this.

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Update on Honduras: RSF speaks out on killings

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Last week the Honduran deputy security minister Armando Calidonio said that none of the ten murders of journalists in Honduras last year were connected to the victim’s work.

International journalism rights groups disagreed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists claim three deaths were because of the journalists’ work.

Reporters Without Borders have now added their comments: Minister insists no journalist was murdered in connection with their work.

Bottom line: No one really believes that NONE of the deaths were related to journalism.

One of the three journalists killed in 2010 in an apparent connection with his work, Nahum Palacios Arteaga, was gunned down after repeated harassment and threats from military personnel in the Aguán region, where there is a great deal of repression.

In the meantime, the Honduran Committee for Free Expression reports that Esdras López, of Canal 36-Cholusat. was threatened in Tegucigalpa by an army lieutenant-colonel. The station was critical of the coup last year.

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Small comfort: Honduran gov’t says journalists not specific targets

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

I’m not sure if this makes anyone feel any better but the Honduran government issued a statement yesterday (1/5) that the 10 journalists killed in that country last year nine were not killed because of their jobs.

Honduras’ assistant security minister says nine of the 10 killings of journalists that have occurred this year were unrelated to the media workers’ jobs.

Armando Calidonio says nine of the slayings were due to motives unrelated to the journalists’ work, but he did not say what those motives were.

In the past, Honduran authorities have cited motives like personal disputes in some of the deaths.

The Committee to Protect Journalists disagrees. It states that three of the 10 journalists killed last year were targeted because of their work.

FYI, Honduras has the highest murder rate in Central America at 66.8 per 100,000 people. That rate makes it more than 10 times more dangerous than New York City (5.6 per 100,000).

So there may be something to the government’s latest report. Let’s face it. Honduras is not a safe place. But that doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t pursue the killings with vigor.

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Mexican journalism: A most dangerous job

The New York Times offers a very moving video report on covering the drug war in northern Mexico and how dangerous it is for journalists.

The Most Dangerous Beat: Juárez, Mexico

A while back the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a report — Silence or Death in Mexico — detailing the situation that has mad Mexico a more dangerous place for journalists than Iraq.

The Inter American Press Association continues to run the Impunity Project in the hopes that eventually enough pressure will be brought on governments to actually prosecute the killers of working journalists.

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South Asia dangerous to independent journalists

Journalists in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have freedoms few in the region can enjoy. And at the same time, the threats to their lives is ever-present.

Mustafa Qadri reports in the Sunday Guardian (In south Asia, independent journalism is a real risk) that journalists are heavily restricted from independently reporting India’s continued crackdown on Kashmiri independence protests. And that journalists in Pakistan face greater threats. Earlier this month journalist and activist Abdul Hameed Hayatan was found dead in Balochistan after being kidnapped in October.

In September Umar Cheema was kidnapped by what appeared to be a police patrol while driving home in Islamabad.

“They stripped me naked and tortured me,” he recalled. Tied upside down, Cheema was badly beaten and had his eyebrows, moustache and hair shaved in a six-hour ordeal after which he was thrown on to a highway some 125 kilometres from his home in Islamabad.

Cheema realised his captors were in part of Pakistan’s secretive intelligence agencies. His transgression — in their eyes — was not the usual issue of military atrocities but rather its incompetence in prosecuting persons accused of killing army personnel.

Cheema had earlier faced the wrath of the army when he wrote about two commandos who were court-martialed because they suggested negotiating during a hostage situation in 2007.

Few think anything will get done even as the situation for journalists’ safety worsens.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists no one has been prosecuted for murdering a journalist in Pakistan except in the Daniel Pearl case. Civilian authorities set up a judicial commission to investigate Cheema’s abduction, but it appears to be languishing and there have been no significant investigations of army authorities.

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CPJ issues awards

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Last week the Committee to Protect Journalists held its annual awards dinner in New York City.

Honored for their work in defending free press were Dawit Kebede of Ethiopia, Nadira Isayeva of Russia, Laureano Márquez of Venezuela and Mohammad Davari of Iran.

The organization also released its annual report.

While the CPJ looks at the whole world, its 201o report selected Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, Mexico and Azerbaijan for special attention because of the threats to journalism and journalists in those countries.

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Colbert looks at No. Mex situation for journalists

Thank you Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Gang Busters – John Burnett
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive
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