Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vietnam: Tale of Two Bloggers

Dinh Nhat Uy (Pic. courtesy RSF)

The power of social media and how repressive governments like Vietnam’s have grown to fear it was evident earlier this week. Blogger Dinh Nhat Uy was given a 15-month suspended sentence – which severely restricts movement – for criticising the government on Facebook, while Nguyen Lan Thang who was taken into custody at Hanoi airport and released a day later, posted the sequence of events, also on Facebook.

Media watchdogs say the real reason for sentencing Uy is because he campaigned for his brother, blogger Dinh Nguyen Kha, imprisoned for four years for anti-government propaganda. They point out that material on which Uy was convicted was four posts written in December 2012, although he was arrested only in June this year as the campaign to release of Kha began to gather momentum.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Somali Media Faces Renewed Challenges: Murder, Raids, Licences

Mohamed Mohamud (Tima’ade) killed by suspected Al-Shabab (Pic:CPJ)

A renewed bout of violence and intimidation on the media in Somalia has drawn international condemnation, although it’s unlikely to deter the country’s lawless authorities and trigger-happy militia that have used their power recently to kill journalists, raid a radio station and censor content on radio by insisting on licences.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Honduran Authorities Kill Journalists To Send A Message

Manuel Murillo Varela (Pic courtesy RSF)

Targeting of journalists in Honduras, on the increase in recent months as the country’s general elections approach, continued with a freelance cameraman in Tegucigalpa the latest victim. Manuel Murillo Varela’s killing on October 25 comes four months after the abduction and murder of Anibal Barrow’s.

To the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, media freedom in Honduras is of special interest because the third winner of the prize – in 2011 – was Karla Rivas working for Radio Progresso. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

"All too often we, the Sudanese people, have the feeling that we are left alone"

Catherine Antoine, Faisal Salih, Somaya Salih, Delphine Halgand

Speaking soon after receiving the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism from chief guest and keynote speaker, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Sudanese editor and journalist Faisal Mohamed Salih highlighted strength the Sudanese press corps derived from unity in the face of political repression and coercion of the media by the country’s President Omar al-Bashir and his government.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Peter Mackler Award Winner Faisal Salih: “There is always a window for reporting.”

From L-R: Catherine Antoine, Faisal Salih, Mrs. Salih, Delphine Halgand

In a ceremony at National Press Club in Washington DC, Thursday, Sudan’s persecuted newspaper editor and media trainer, Faisal Mohamed Salih, became the fifth recipient of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. The keynote speaker at the event was Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman, former US special envoy to Sudan.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Faisal Salih To Receive Peter Mackler Award Today

Faisal Salih speaking at Columbia University, New York

Faisal Mohammed Salih, 53, a well-known Sudanese journalist will receive the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism this evening at the National Press Club in Washington DC. He will be the fifth recipient of the award given in memory of Peter Mackler who died in 2008 after a long and distinguished career with the French news agency AFP. The award is given by the Mackler family.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

China Represses Media at Home and Manipulates it Overseas

Tibetan Activist protesting in Front of the UN, Geneva (Pic Reuters)

Western governments, Tuesday, criticised China at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the suppressing freedom of information and speech, including those of netizens, and the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities. Meanwhile, on the same day a Washington think-tank released two reports on China’s bid improve its international profile by manipulating and coercing institutions and individuals overseas.    

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

State Control Of Internet Freedom - Cure Worse Malady?

(pic courtesy

New draft legislation was introduced by European Union lawmakers to ensure data protection from foreign spying, as new details surfaced on US surveillance of French phone records. Earlier, Mexico and Brazil expressed outrage on NSA spying on their leaders. But as states erect protection through new regulations to circumvent US law that forces American companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to surrender data to the NSA, thoughtful voices ask whether the cure might be worse than the malady. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Liberian Editor Rodney Sieh Placed Under House Arrest

Campaigning for the Release of Rodney Sieh

This blog has devoted quite a bit of space in the past few weeks to highlight the issue of Liberian editor of FrontPage Africa, Rodney Sieh. This is because the international community continues to ignore the assaults on the freedom of expression in that country. [See for coverage by this blog: here, here and here.]

Liberia is regarded as one of the few countries on the African continent pulling ahead of its peers in establishing democracy, especially in the post-Charles Taylor era. Therefore, ‘minor misdemeanours’ such as Monrovia jailing editors like Sieh should not undermine ties the leading nations on the globe would like cultivating with Liberia. Liberia’s president is Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has great standing in the corridors of power in the world’s liberal democracies which drive opinion and shape politics in the so-called free world.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Indian Photjournalist Faints Giving Evidence of Rape

The Deserted Mill in Mumbai (Pic. courtesy NDTV)

The Indian photojournalist gang-raped while on assignment in Mumbai on August 23, fainted while giving evidence, Thursday, after identifying all four accused. BBC quoted Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikim telling reporters that she was “composed but ‘under mental pressure.’”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Melaku Desmisse, Latest Victim Of Ethiopia's War On Journalists

 Woubshet's wife Tesfaye with award (CPJ)

The illegal arrest and release on October 9 of Melaku Desmisse, editor of the Amharic-language publication The Reporter, is the latest in a series of assaults Addis Ababa has carried out against media freedom in Ethiopia. It comes at a time when other Ethiopian journalists including Woubshet Taye, Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega, charged under the country’s counterterrorism laws languish in jail.

Desmisse was illegally arrested near Addis Ababa by police from the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPR) and transferred to Awasa, the capita of SNNPR.

Amare Aregawi, editor of The Reporter told the Sudan Tribune that Desmisse was “illegally transferred” from Addis Ababa to SNNPR. “It was up to the court’s decision to transfer him to a regional state and not of the Police,” the Sudan Tribune quoted Aregawi as saying.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Liberian Minister Faces Contempt Charges For Releasing Rodney Sieh

Rodney Sieh, Editor, FrontPage Africa (Pic.

Although Rodney Sieh, editor of Liberia’s FrontPage Africa was released for a 30-day period on “compassionate grounds,” his case continues to draw controversy, the latest being the country’s Supreme Court charging the minister of justice / attorney general with contempt of court for releasing him.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Southeast Asia: Expanding Economies, But Stifled Media

(Photo courtesy

An article in Global Voices Online reviews briefly media freedom in certain Southeast Asian countries. Titled ‘Dictatorships Are Gone, But Censorship Hangs On,’ it highlights continuing media repression in some countries in the region despite their reputation for rapid economic expansion.

There is a school of thought that expanding economies like in the ASEAN countries with relatively equitable distribution of wealth strengthens the middle classes. The middle class in turn demands political freedom and other fundamental rights. While the economic upturn in the region did fuel this process to some extent, as the author Mong Palatino says, there are certain sectors where the old ways remain. 

“Both off and online, censorship is still enforced in several countries through the use of draconian laws and strict media regulation. Media groups have consistently decried certain controversial laws and regulations as tools of media repression in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Myanmar,” he writes

Read the article here

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tanzania's Media Refuses Coverage of Offending Govt. Officials

Tanzanian Media Confronts Government (Pic. courtesy RSF)

The media in Tanzania is retaliating against a ban on the publication of three Swahili-language newspapers by refusing to give coverage to two senior government officials that personify the censorship. Reporters without Borders (RSF) said it supported the media boycott against the officials and has asked the government to repeal legislation that gives the information ministry draconian powers to violate freedom of information.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Authorities Stop Journalists Protesting Censorship in Sudan

Protests in Sudan Against Withdrawal of Subsidy(

In less than two weeks, the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism will honour this year’s winner, Sudanese newspaper columnist and media trainer, Faisal Mohamed Salih, at a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC. But over the past month, the little space for media freedom in his country has been curtailed further by newspapers arbitrarily shut, the internet temporarily blocked and journalists objecting to the outrage banned from holding protest rallies.

The New York Times on September 30 quoted Salih as saying “The government wanted a total blackout on events in Sudan by local and international media.” 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"The Most Closed, Control Freak Administration I’ve Ever Covered"

President Obama meeting the media (Courtesy CPJ)

A report released, Thursday, denounced the administration of US President Barack Obama for imposing curbs on government transparency though a range of methods that include denying the media access to harmless information by marking it classified and by administration officials refusing interviews to reporters. In his report for the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) former Washington Post managing editor, Leonard Downie, has also revealed the chilling effect pervasive surveillance and harsh punishments under the Espionage Act has on news sources leaking information on government wrongdoing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Before Azerbaijan Election, Demands For HRDs and Journalists' Release

Police clash with Protestors in Azerbaijan

With presidential election scheduled for October 9 in Azerbaijan, 22 human rights organisations and media watchdogs released a statement demanding that imprisoned journalists, human rights defenders and political activists be released ahead of the polls. They have cautioned that unless these activists and journalists are freed and a raft of human rights respected, the elections will lack credibility.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Study Explores How Different Cultures Deal With Hate Speech

A recent study sponsored by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), of the Washington DC-based think tank the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), explores how different cultures define and interpret freedom of expression. ‘A Clash of Cultures: Hate Speech, Taboos, Blasphemy, and the Role of News Media’ examines the fine line between what speech is proscribed and what is accepted in the digital media of different cultures.

“Among the questions being raised: When virtually anyone, anywhere–often anonymously–can create digital content that exacerbates tensions or is potentially insulting to racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual groups, should such content be banned? Does the right to free speech outweigh a group’s right to freedom from insult, defamation, or religious blasphemy? If not, where does the line get drawn–and by whom? Local governments?  The aggrieved parties? The United Nations or some other international governing body? Or will tech giants such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook essentially become the arbiters of permissible speech around the globe?” asks author of the study Jane Sasseen.

Jane Sasseen is a freelance editorial consultant who has worked with a number of major non-profit and media organizations in recent years. She has written extensively on the media being  editor and co-author of several chapters of  The State of the News Media 2012, the annual report on American journalism produced by The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. She previously worked for Yahoo! News and the Business Week.

You can read the contents here

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sri Lanka Pressures Asian Countries Against Screening No Fire Zone

No Fire Zone

As it confronts mounting international criticism against perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Sri Lanka government is pressuring Asian countries against screening a British documentary that human rights activists say includes footage providing evidence for the crimes. Channel Four’s ‘No Fire Zone,’ has become an embarrassment to Colombo as it prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November and tries to thwart moves that could establish an international investigation to probe war crimes through a UN Human Rights Council vote in Mach 2014.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Indian Freelance Journalist Detained Under Terror Laws

Prashant Rahi

A freelance journalist and activist from the Indian state of Uttarkhand was arrested under the country’s draconian counterterrorism laws on September 1, said Amnesty International. Prashant Rahi was placed in pre-trial detention on a court order under the country’s draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for his alleged support of the Communist Party of India (Maoists), or Naxalites.

According to New Delhi-based Peoples’ Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR), Rahi’s arrest was preceded by that of another activist, Hem Mishra, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Amnesty said that Rahi was an activist seeking legal aid for people arrested on suspicion for alleged support of the Naxalites, which is a banned organisation in India. There are conflicting reports as to whether he was on his way to meet a Naxalite leader, or a lawyer, at the time of his arrest.

The London-based Amnesty International sent out an ‘urgent action’ alert on September 25 appealing for a fair trial for Rahi who is detained in Nagpur Central Jail in Maharashtra state because “parts of the UAPA, under which he has been arrested, do not meet international human rights standards and could lead to violations of his right to a fair trial. The UAPA allows detention without charge for up to 180 days, which is far beyond international standards. It also contains no provisions for adequate pre-trial safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment.”

While Amnesty said that Rahi was not under no imminent threat of torture, an earlier alert (September 13) dispatched while Rahi was in the custody of the Aheri police, it flagged its possibility.

The Naxalites are a radical organisation that advocate and use violence to secure social justice for the poor and marginalised in parts of central and western India. They are known to carry out raids against the police and government agencies as well as wealthy, rapacious landlords seen as exploiting the poor.
The Times of India said in a report on September 28, “In a press release, the Western regional committee spokesperson [of CPI-M] Shriniwas has claimed that the … police have been framing social activists labelling them as Naxal sympathisers for their own vested interests. The rebels have claimed that the cops have been trying to suppress the voices of the intellectual and activists to stop them from bringing fore the oppressive measures of the government forces.”

Commenting on the arrest and detention of Rahi and Mishra PUDR said, “That there is no real allegation of any crime against both Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, it is evident from the fact that both have been charged solely on the basis of the UAPA. For, it is this law that makes normal social and political activity into a crime solely on the whims and fancies of the police. Banning of political organisations and converting any association with such organizations and their opinions into a crime is what opens the gates to the law becoming an instrument of injustice.”

This is not the first time Rehi has been arrested for his activism. He was arrested in Uttarakhand in 2007 and allegedly tortured in detention by the police, says Amnesty. He was released on bail in 2011. The allegations of torture were not investigated.

PUDR supports this claim: “Arrested in December 2007, alleged to be a most-senior Maoist leader, Prashant was kept in solitary confinement through most his 3 year 8 month stay in the jail. Once released on bail, Prashant took upon himself to visit those imprisoned as Naxalites all over the country and to help them obtain access to a lawyer. To this end, he was regularly travelling to across the country collecting details of cases and reaching the same to lawyers.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Peter Mackler, Remi Ochlik Honoured At Event In Washington

Photograph by Remi Ochlik exhibited at the event

The Embassy of France in the United States hosted a reception on World Press Freedom, Wednesday, honouring two journalists greatly admired for their commitment, dedication and self-sacrifice. One was the French news service AFP’s veteran, Peter Mackler, who died at 58 in 2008, and in whose memory the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism was created. The other was Remi Ochlik, the young French photographer who died at Homs in 2012, while covering the war in Syria.

Speaking at the event, Catherine Antoine, the wife of Mackler said about journalists fighting for media freedom, “Many are forced to give up or give in to self-censorship. Others courageously push forward, motivated by respect for the truth and dedication to journalistic ethics. We can’t really blame those who choose to avoid danger. But, in turn, we must recognize those who choose to take personal risk on the values we hold dear.” 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vietnam Blogger Quan Jailed For 30 Months

Public protests against jailing of Le Quoc Quan (Pic BBC/AFP)

Vietnam’s dissident and blogger Le Quoc Quan, 41, whose most recent brush with the law came when he criticised the preeminent position enjoyed by the Communist Party under the country’s constitution, was jailed for 30 months and imposed an a fine of US$59,000, the BBC reported today. He has vehemently protests his innocence.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Westgate Mall Attack Takes Its Toll On Journalists

Two photographers take cover at Westgate Mall (CPJ/AP) 

The Saturday, September 21 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by Somali al Shabab militants that left over 60 dead took its toll on journalists too. Ruhila Adita-Sood of the Africa Radio Group was killed while hosting a cooking competition for children. Adita-Sood was recently married and expecting her first child.

“I have lost a dear colleague...I don’t know what to do or say. I don’t know who else we have lost today,” Kumar Kaur, a presenter for East FM was quoted by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as saying.

Another Radio Africa Group employee who was also at the cooking competition with Adita-Sood was Andrew Lucheli. “We were ready to get started when suddenly we heard gunshots,” Lucheli told the Nairobi-based Star.

“The team initially thought it was thugs exchanging fire with police along the street below. A few minutes later, the sound of the gunshots intensified, drawing closer to the room they had occupied for the lavish event. What followed is a tale that will forever be etched in Andrew’s mind as the ruthless gunmen started spraying bullets at close range, with most casualties sustaining wounds on their legs,” said the Star

Foreign correspondents related the immediacy the incident and the effect the tragedy had on them. “‘Over the past two decades, I have found myself in numerous war zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I survived bombing in Baghdad, mortar attacks and street battles in Liberia, Libya and Yemen,’ Washington Post East Africa Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan wrote in a blog. ‘But what unfolded Saturday felt markedly different. The war on terrorism had hit uncomfortably close to home [...] the interviews with victims felt more personal than other tragedies I have covered,’” said the CPJ

The Media Council of Kenya while congratulating the media on its responsible reporting of the attack also said journalists covering the incident were victims of trauma. “‘So many journalists have become traumatised as a result of covering this; it has not been easy for them,’” Harun Mwangi, CEO of the Media Council of Kenya was quoted by Capital FM as saying. “‘Most of the time they are forgotten but we have already set up a counselling centre for them.’ He also urged Kenyans to continue supporting the victims of the incident,” said Capital FM.

Meanwhile, Reporters without Borders (RSF) based in Paris said that al Shabab was designated as an “enemy of freedom of information” for carrying out attacks on the independent media in Somalia.