Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 7-13 January 2012

China: Online writer imprisoned

The Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) reports that China has sentenced an online writer to 10 years in prison for “inciting subversion against state power.”  The trial of Chen Xi took place four days after activist Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years on the same charge.  CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz stated that “penalties against government critics appear to be growing harsher,” an indication that the Chinese authorities are increasingly tightening their control of dissent.

Read more: http://www.cpj.org/2012/01/online-writer-imprisoned-in-china.php

United Kingdom: BBC wins right to broadcast prisoner interview

The High Court has ruled that Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was wrong to restrict the BBC from filming a British terrorism suspect held for seven years without trial, finding that the refusal to allow an interview was un unjustified interference with the BBC reporter’s right to freedom of speech under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Justice Secretary had argued that an interview was not necessary to inform the public about Babar Ahmad’s story, but the court found that the exceptionality of the case gave rise to a public interest in seeing and hearing from the suspect.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16512907   

Thailand: Thai panel calls for overhaul of law forbidding royal insults

An independent commission has sent a letter urging the Thai Prime Minister to amend the country’s current “lese majeste” law, which imposes heavy penalties for defaming, insulting or threatening the monarchy.   The law has faced increased criticism from international human rights groups in recent months in the wake of several high-punishment convictions.

Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/12/world/asia/thailand-royal-law/index.html

Pakistan: CPNE expresses concern over threat to journalists

In the wake of revelations by prominent Pakistani journalists that they had received death threats, on January 8, 2012 the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) urged all institutions to respect the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan. The CPNE also reiterated that it will continue to advocate for freedom of the press. 

Read more: http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=86635&Cat=2

Israeli government to back bill banning use of Nazi symbols

The Israeli government is considering a controversial bill prohibiting the use of all forms of the word “Nazi” or similar-sounding words, epithets, photographs, drawings, sculptures and the like associated with Nazism, the wearing of striped clothing resembling that worn by prisoners in World War II-era concentration camps and yellow stars like the ones Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust or other similar symbols.  Offenders would face a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to NIS 100,000. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has spoken out against the bill, stating: “Precisely because of the importance and centrality of the Holocaust, the attempt to dictate when and in what context it can be referenced is very problematic.”

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israeli-government-to-back-bill-banning-use-of-nazi-symbols-1.406366

Egypt: Al-Azhar sheik proposes bill of rights, aiming to balance out Islamists in Egypt constitution

The head of Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent Sunni Muslim institute of Islamic learning, has put forward a Bill of Rights to be considered by authorities in drafting Egypt’s new constitution.  The bill upholds the freedoms of expression and belief, worship, scientific research, art and creative expression, and is being seen as a bid by the institute to assert its role as the voice of moderate Islam in the face of growing political power of more conservative Islamic groups in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/leader-of-al-azhar-proposes-a-bill-of-rights-to-protect-freedoms-and-curb-extremism/2012/01/10/gIQAwJKxnP_story.html

Egypt tycoon faces trial for insulting Islam after tweeting cartoon of bearded Mickey Mouse

Egyptian Christian media mogul Naguib Sawiris will face trial for the charge of “contempt of religion” on January 14 for posting a cartoon showing a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie Mouse on his Twitter in June 2011. A public apology was unable to ward off a formal complaint brought by lawyer Mamdouh Ismail.  However, the apparent dispute has deeper roots than an offensive cartoon: the accused and the complainant are at the helm of competing political parties in Egypt.  Sawiris co-founded a liberal party, while Ismail heads a party representing ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/egypt-tycoon-faces-trial-for-insulting-islam-after-tweeting-cartoon-of-bearded-mickey-mouse/2012/01/09/gIQAnDdhlP_story.html

Gambia: Journalist harassed for reporting farmers’ complaints

The CPJ reports that Gambian journalist Momodou S. Jallow is being harassed by police and threatened with charges for reporting on farmers’ grievances against a local official.  After publishing a story on January 4 based on interviews with farmers accusing a local official of mismanaging public funds, Jallow reported that he was detained for five hours at the local police station and accused of “inciting violence.”

Read more: http://www.cpj.org/2012/01/gambian-journalist-harassed-for-reporting-farmers.php

United States/ Mexico: U.S. grants $5 million to protect journalists in Mexico

The United States announced at its Mexican embassy that it will donate $5 million to improve the safety of journalists in the country over the next four years.  In his announcement, U.S. ambassador Anthony Wayne emphasized the important role journalists play in informing citizens of vital issues.  He added that the funding scheme includes a special protection mechanism for journalists who report on the Ministry of the Interior and the National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico.

Read more (in Spanish): http://mexico.cnn.com/nacional/2012/01/11/eu-destina-5-millones-de-dolares-para-proteccion-de-periodistas-en-mexico

 

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