Sunday, May 23, 2010

Violence in Thailand Leaves Two Journalists Dead, Five Injured

After the worst riots in Thailand's modern history, the clean up in Bangkok is well on the way with Thailand's stock exchange due to re-open on Monday. However, after two journalists were killed and five injured, questions remain over whether journalists were targeted during the violence.

"International Law clearly states that journalists cannot be military targets" stated Reporters Without Borders earlier this week. "The confusion reigning in some parts of Bangkok do not suffice to explain the shooting injuries sustained by several Thai and foreign journalists since April."

The two journalists Hiroyuki Muramoto and Fabio Polenghi were both killed as they attempted to cover the protests by the United Front of Democracy (UDD) against Dictatorship, more commonly known as "Red Shirts." The group opposes the current Thai government, who it considers to have taken power illegitimately with support from the military and the judiciary.

The Bangkok Post reported that protesters, angry at bias coverage by local media, directly attacked the offices of news broadcasters. Media watchdogs have stated that the censorship of pro-UDD media has played a large part in the escalation of violence over the past week. Reporters Without Borders had previously claimed that censorship may result in radicalizing some elements of the movement and according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, censorship "exacerbated an already fragile political situation."

The UN and ASEAN have both expressed concern over the situation in the country and stated a need to resume talks to find a political solution. However, red shirt leaders plan on resuming protests next month unless their demand for a dissolution of government is met.

Photo Credit: Thiti Wannamontha

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Newsweek Iraq correspondent sentenced in absentia

On Sunday, Tehran's Revolutionary Court handed down a sentence of 13 years in prison and extended lashing to Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari for a range of anti-state offenses including "propagation against the regime," "insulting the President (Ahmadinejad)," and "insulting the Supreme Leader (Ayotollah Khameni)"

"We condemn the conviction of Manziar Bahari," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the Committee to Protect Journalists North Africa and Middle East Program coordinator. "Bahari's trial bears no resemblance to a legal process."

Bahari was arrested in June 2009 in the wake of President Ahmadinejad's re-election, which had sparked waves of angry protest by opposition supporters. Bahari was held for 118 days and charged, amongst other things, with spying for the United States, although these charges were not mentioned at the trial.

"None of those charges made any more or less sense than the ones I was sentenced for so why leave them out?" commented Bahari in response to his conviction.

Iran has been described by watchdogs as the "world's worst jailer of journalists." Reporters Without Borders have featured both President Ahmadinejad and Ayotollah Khameni in their "Predators of Press Freedom" campaign. The Press Freedom organization has advocated greater international intervention in the situation in Iran for some time. "The United Nations High Commissioner cannot remain silent any longer. A special UN rapporteur must be sent to Iran as a matter of urgency."

Since his release in October, Bahari has been a major voice of the "Our Society Will Be A Free Society" petition to release Iranian journalists and has appealed extensively against the conditions faced by journalists in the country. In an interview with the Associated Press, Bahari said that the recent convictions against himself and other Iranian journalists are an attempt by the Iranian government to prevent critical reports or protests on the anniversary of President Ahmadinejad's re-election

"They want to scare as many people as possible in order to prevent people from coming to the streets."

Photo Credit: Iranian Fars News Agency

Monday, May 3, 2010

J.S. Tissainayagam Granted Presidential Pardon

J. S. Tissainayagam, first recipient of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, was granted a pardon by Sir Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier today.

"We wholeheartedly welcome the news of a presidential pardon for Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who received the first Peter Mackler Award on October 2, 2009," said Camille Mackler, director of the award.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued the pardon on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day.

A reporter for the local North Eastern Monthly Magazine and the Sunday Times and editor of the Outreachsl website, Tissainayagam was freed on bail in January pending an appeal against a 20-year jail sentence on charges of supporting terrorism and inciting racial hatred.

"As journalists around the world are subjected to unprecedented pressures, we urge Sri Lanka to allow Tissainayagam to return to his profession freely" she added.

Tissainayagam was still in prison when he received the Peter Mackler Award for journalistic courage and integrity. His wife, Ronnate Tissainayagam, accepted the award on his behalf.

You can read Reporters Without Borders statement on Tissainayagam's pardon here.