21 May 2009

Volume 09 - 2000 Issue 34 (29 Aug)



Individuals are invited to submit nominations for the 2001 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) by the Martin Ennals Foundation. Created in 1993, the award is granted annually to someone who has "demonstrated an exceptional record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means." The prize, which consists of approximately US$11,600 to be used for further human rights work, is intended "to encourage human rights defenders who are in need of protection." The Martin Ennals Foundation is a collaborative effort of ten international human rights non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, Defence for Children International, HURIDOCS, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Desk, Diaconia Germany, International Alert, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation of Human Rights, and the World Organisation Against Torture.



Economic pressures along with political dissent from both within and outside of the country may force government reforms, says Bertil Lintner in the "Irrawaddy" (Vol. 8, No. 6, June 2000), a publication of the Irrawaddy Publishing group (IPG), formerly known as the Burma Information Group. Increasingly, groups within Laos have been openly challenging the current regime's authoritarian political system. On 26 October 1999, the government moved quickly to quash a pro-democracy demonstration by teachers and students in Vientiane - the first of its kind in the regime's 25 years of power, says Lintner. Protesters were demanding "political reform, the release of all political prisoners; and a return to the 1974 coalition government, which included communist as well as neutralist forces," reports the "Irrawaddy". Authorities followed the protests with a series of political seminars, where participants were required to review the ruling communist party's doctrines. In addition, local community leaders gathered young people to advise them against the counter revolutionaries' messages and ideas.



Women journalists from Burundi, Kyrgyzstan and the United Kingdom have been awarded the 2000 Courage in Journalism Awards by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF). The awards recognise women who have risked "their lives and livelihoods in pursuit of journalistic integrity," and for their contributions to a free press worldwide. A journalist for Studio Ijambo in Burundi, Agnes Nindorera reports on the Burundian civil war for Voice of America and Agence France Presse, says the IWMF. Zamira Sydykova, editor-in-chief of the independent "Res Publica" in Kyrgyzstan has suffered harassment and imprisonment for publishing stories critical of the government. Marie Colvin, a reporter for "The Sunday Times" in the UK, risked her life this year through her courageous reporting on conflicts in Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya. "Because these three journalists have placed themselves in harm's way, the world's readers, viewers and listeners are better informed, wiser and less vulnerable to complacency," says the IWMF.



On 25 August, Liberian authorities released four journalists for Britain's Channel Four who had been detained for a week on espionage charges, report the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). On 18 August, Sorious Samura of Sierra Leone, Gugulakhe Radebe of South Africa, and David Barrie and Timothy John Lambon of the United Kingdom were arrested and indicted on espionage charges under claims that they intended to produce a documentary that was "damaging and injurious" to the country. For three weeks, the journalists had been filming and conducting interviews for a TV documentary. According to CPJ, the crew had requested an interview with President Charles Taylor, "who is widely suspected of supplying rebel forces in neighboring Sierra Leone with weapons and logistical support in exchange for diamonds." The President stated in an interview that the four were released after they had "apologized" to the nation, reports MISA.



Eleven journalists' associations, including the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), are protesting the a new broadcast regulatory commission that will exclude journalists. The groups claim that media owners and operators have stacked the government-formed commission and warn that their interests will not be represented by them. After decades of state-controlled radio and television, the 1997 reform constitution was a welcome change that "opened the door for public participation in the broadcasting industry," says the TJA. Under the constitution, "historic" legislation was passed, which led to the creation of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), "an independent body which will reallocate frequencies and regulate the airwaves."



From 24-26 August, members of the major independent and opposition mass media staged a three-day strike in protest of the "continuing state-sponsored violent attacks on free mass media and journalists" in Azerbaijan, reports the Journalists' Trade Union (JuHI). JuHI called upon international free expression supporters to join a campaign for a free press in Azerbaijan. The striking media workers also protested the recent arrest of Rauf Arifoglu, editor-in-chief of the opposition daily "Yeni Musavat". Arifoglu was arrested on 22 August after police allegedly found a gun in his apartment. The journalist's colleagues claim that the weapon was planted by the police and that the arrest is "an attempt by the authorities to cast slurs upon opposition journalists by accusing them of crimes they had not committed." On 21 August, Arifoglu was questioned in relation to the hijacking of a plane by a member of the Musavat party. The hijacker had phoned Arifoglu to have the editor publish a list of his demands, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).



In response to ongoing media repression in South Eastern Europe, the International Press Institute (IPI) has launched the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO). Over the past few years, the media in this region has faced threats, harassment, murder, draconian defamation and security laws and heavy fines. SEEMO, an organisation constituted by editors and journalists from the region, will work to provide assistance to regional media through various initiatives. SEEMO's Media Law Programme will assess countries' existing media legislation and propose amendments to the laws. The group will also work towards supporting "the development of editorially independent public service broadcasting aimed at replacing state controlled broadcasting structures," says IPI.