Freedom of Expression in the News: Weekly round-up 23-27 January 2012

Populist Ecuadorian president restrains press

The Washington Post reports that the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, “has filed a defamation lawsuit that might put the three directors of the country’s largest newspaper in jail and shutter their 90-year-old paper”. According to freedom of expression groups, the Ecuadorian Government has introduced new laws and constitutional amendments targeted at limiting the independence of press: “while building a media conglomerate to disparage critics and counter independent media reports.” The Committee to Protect Journalists says that the number of suits by Ecuadorian public officials, aimed at squelching the dissenting voices, has been increasing. For more information see:

French senate outlawed denial of Armenia genocide

On Monday 23 January, the French Senate approved, by 127 votes to 86, a bill outlawing the denial of the Armenian genocide in 1915. Turkish authorities criticized the measure as an example of irresponsibility and a lack of respect towards Turkey, “politicising the understanding of justice and history” and as a way of “damaging freedom of expression in a tactless manner.” For more information see:

Ugandan security forces fired at a photo journalist

On Tuesday 24 January Ugandan security forces, following an oppositionist motorcade, opened fire at one of the Daily Monitor’s photo journalists. Isaac Kasamani, employed by the independent newspaper, reported that eight or nine men in plain clothes were aiming at him from a blue police van. The incident happened while he was trying to take a picture of an exploding tear gas canister thrown by the security agents. The van drove off immediately after the shooting. It has been reported that Ugandan security forces have been trying to curtail the oppositionist movements. For more information see:


IFJ welcomes call for greater protection of media at major conference in Doha

“(IFJ/IFEX) – 25 January 2012 – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the recommendations of an international conference on the protection of journalists which took place in Doha, Qatar on 22-23 January, saying they will boost the campaign to press governments on their responsibility to protect journalists.

The conference agreed to submit to the UN General Assembly a set of recommendations which emphasize the need to vigorously enforce existing legal instruments, binding national authorities to prevent and punish violence against journalists. (…)

The Doha conference, organised by the Qatari National Committee for Human Rights (QNCHR), brought together hundreds of delegates from press freedom organisations, including 13 IFJ unions from Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Spain, Brazil, Morocco, Sudan, Mauritania and Croatia, as well as two of its regional groups, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Journalists (FEPALC).” For more information see:


Confirmation of charges against an Ethiopian dissident blogger

A federal court judge ruled on Tuesday 24 January that the “jailed Ethiopian dissident blogger Eskinder Nega will stand trial in March for all of the terrorism accusations initially advanced by prosecutors”. His trial is scheduled to begin on 5 March and he could face the death penalty, if convicted on all charges.

Initially, five other exiled journalists, to be tried in absentia, faced the same charges. The judge confirmed all six charges for two of them and dismissed all but one charge against the others. The application of the Ethiopian anti-terrorist law to journalists and dissidents has been criticized both by the UN and the U.S. State Department. For more information see:


HRW urges the West to accept Islamist rise to power after the Arab Spring

“Human Rights Watch urged world powers to accept Islamist parties as legitimate political powers and to support the rights of Arab Spring protesters after they ousted long-time regimes once backed by the West, in its annual report released on Sunday. Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also heralded Arab protesters in their annual reviews.”

The HRW Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, stated that “the international community must […] come to terms with political Islam when it represents a majority preference,” but also “insist that Islamist governments abide by international human rights obligations, particularly with respect to women’s rights and religious freedom”. In recent elections in Tunisia and Egypt, Islamist parties won by overwhelming majorities. For more information see:


IFJ joins the Sri Lankan ‘Black January’ campaign

“The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined the ‘Black January’ campaign against attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka, organized by the Alliance of Media Organizations.”

The Alliance of Media Organizations and its supporters have nominated January 2012 as the “Black January”. It is a response to numerous attacks on journalists that have been occurring in the month of January over the past three years. It is also aimed at criticising the Sri Lankan government for its failure to make those responsible for the attacks accountable.  On 25 January, journalists and media workers around the world united in observing the campaign and a series of public protests were staged in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. For more information see:


Bahraini Government fails to fulfil reform promises

An international mission concluded that the Bahraini Government failed to implement reforms which were to follow from the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in November. The BICI reported that excessive force was used during the Government crackdown in February and March 2011 and that the Government promised to implement the  Commission’s recommendations. However, according to the mission report Justice Denied in Bahrain: Freedom of Expression and Assembly Curtailed, launched in Tunis and London on 24 January, rights violations continue daily and the individuals imprisoned during the government crackdown remain in custody. For more information see:


Media victory in Chile

“BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Chile’s government is backing down on a plan that would have empowered police to force news media to surrender images without a court order, effectively turning photographers and cameramen into potential tools of the state.

After a media outcry, Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter personally called the foreign correspondents association to say he was eliminating the idea from his plan for giving police tough new ways to crack down on unauthorized social protests. (…)

It was a rare media victory in a region where media advocates say press freedoms are increasingly under attack.” For more information see:


Kazakh independent editor imprisoned

CPJ condemned the court ruling of 26 January against Igor Vinyavsky, editor of a weekly Kazakh paper Vzglyad. They call for an immediate release of Vinyavsky, who was indicted on criminal charges for allegedly “making public calls to violently overthrow Kazakhstan’s constitutional regime.” He was arrested after the Kazakh security services (KNB) raided bot his house and the newspaper’s office and confiscated all the equipment. The editor was sentenced to two months imprisonment. For more information see:


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