Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 9 August 2010

Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up, 9 August 2010

Use of words were a ‘gross intrusion’ to right to privacy, High Court hears, July 31 2010

The Irish High Court heard arguments from counsel that a woman and her baby son were defamed after a newspaper published photographs suggesting she was a whore and her son was illegitimate.

The newspaper published details of a voicemail message in which the woman in question was referred to as a “whore”. The woman’s counsel argued that the context in which the word was used was irrelevant and that the interpretation of the words is clear.

He further argued that the rights of privacy and freedom of expression must be balanced and successful cases taken by Naomi Campbell and Princess Caroline of Monaco showed that the fact that the photograph was taken in a public place was not determinative.

High Court president, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said he hoped to give his judgment in the case at the start of the next law term in October after he heard legal submissions from both sides

Chinese censors take notice of Twitter-style blogs, July 31 2010

Chinese authorities, who blocked access to Facebook and Twitter a year ago, now seem to be taking aim at a Chinese equivalent, known as weibo accounts.

The weibo brought about an unexpected advance in freedom of expression and the number of weibo users more than tripled this year to 100 million.

However, in July, four major portals were temporarily shut down. Internet experts believe that this was to allow the authorities to impose stricter oversight and controls and predict that this could also result in the portals hiring more staff to delete content seen as challenging the state’s authority.,0,4392075.story

Italy: draft wiretapping law should be scrapped or revised, says UN expert on freedom of expression, July 13 2010

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, warned that the Italian draft law on surveillance and eavesdropping for criminal investigations might undermine the right to the freedom of expression in Italy.

According to the current draft, anyone who is not accredited as a professional journalist can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to four years for recording any communication or conversation without the consent of the person involved, and publicizing such information.

La Rue stated that the draft law was not an appropriate response to concerns about the publication of wiretapped information to the judicial process and the right to privacy.

Liberia sets the pace for Ghana by passing RTI Bill, August 02, 2010

The Liberian House of Representatives last month passed the Right to Information Bill into law following intense lobbying and advocacy by members of the Liberia Freedom of Expression Coalition, the Liberia Media Law and Policy Reform working Group and the Liberia Civil society Consortium on Freedom of Information.

Attacks on media on the rise in India, August 01 2010

A growing number of violent incidents against journalists and restrictions on the media in several parts of India has caused concern at the national and international level.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed concern over reports that journalists are facing harassment in certain conflict-ridden States in India. According to a report by the Free House Speech 12 cases of physical attacks on reporters, stringers, or photographers have been recorded in 2010.

Gang torches Sri Lanka broadcaster’s office, July 30 2010

An unidentified gang set fire to a Sri Lankan broadcaster, Siyatha, owned by a businessman who had backed the opposition in a presidential election, destroying its main control room.

Rights group blame Sri Lanka’s government for tolerating or orchestrating attacks on media institutions and the harassment, assault or even the murder of journalists deemed critical of it.

Israel: Withdraw Legislation Punishing Human Rights Activists, July 25 2010

Human Rights Watch called on Israel’s Knesset to reject proposed legislation that would penalize human rights groups for critical reporting and advocacy, including publicizing information on war crimes, expressing support for boycotts, or helping refugees and asylum seekers.

Four bills and amendments are pending, including the “Universal Jurisdiction” bill, which would close down groups that communicate information that could be used to support charges filed in other countries against Israeli government or army officials for violations of international law.

This occurs at a time when Israeli groups and their members who protest government actions seem increasingly to be the targets of police actions. Israeli protestors against the takeover of houses in East Jerusalem were arrested on May 14, 2010, despite rulings by Israeli courts that the protest vigils are legal.

Fidesz steps up media control – sort of, 28 July 2010

The governing ruling party in Hungary, Fidesz, has defended a media-reform package arguing that the intention is to clarify press freedoms, not restrict them.

International groups, such as the European Federation of Journalists, criticised the bill which led to some changes. However, Hungary’s two media regulators will still be merged into the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) and the prime minister will have the right to appoint its director. Fidesz has also removed a constitutional ban on media monopolies.

South Africa journalists fight proposed media laws, 08 August 2010

The South African National Editors Forum have said that media restrictions proposed by the ruling African National Congress threaten free expression in South Africa. A statement, signed by 36 of the country’s prominent editors, called for restrictions proposed by the Protection of Information laws to be abandoned.

The new laws would allow the government to classify a broad range of material that is currently not secret. Under the new law, it would be illegal to leak or to publish information deemed classified by the government, and the offense would be punishable by imprisonment.

It appealed to the ruling party to “abide by the founding principles of our democracy” enshrined in the constitution and that ended apartheid rule and its harsh media controls.

Fears were highlighted by the arrest of a reporter, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, who wrote a series of articles for the South African Sunday Times on alleged corruption by senior officials and police commanders.

Venezuela takes aim at U.S. ambassador designee, August 05 2010

Venezuela has criticised President Obama’s choice of Ambassador to the country, Larry Palmer, following comments made by Palmer that he had concerns about freedom of expression in Venezuela and that there are “clear ties” between the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerrillas.

The U.S. State Department said that Palmer was simply restating the U.S. position that all countries in the hemisphere would prevent the use of their territory by foreign terrorist organizations. The United States also denied meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.


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