29 April 2009

World Press Freedom Day 2009 events in Europe and Central Asia

"This is not a bullet-proof vest": one of WAN's 3 May ads exposing what it means to be a journalist in the firing line

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It looks like a bullet-proof vest, but it's made of newspaper so doesn't offer any protection at all. That's the image in an ad aimed at raising awareness of the dangers journalists face in many countries as they go about uncovering corruption, organised crime, government incompetence, financial wrongdoing and more. The ad, along with a package of other materials like interviews, articles and essays, is being offered by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) on the theme "Journalists in the Firing Line", and is yours for publishing on 3 May. The free materials can be downloaded in five languages - English, French, Spanish, German and Russian, at: http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org

Taking up the theme of violence against journalists, the International Federation of Journalists has renewed its agreement with the Brussels-based Vintu Foundation to provide humanitarian assistance to 10 families of journalists and media workers from around the world killed on duty. See: http://tinyurl.com/cbxbw5

The International Press Institute (IPI) is using World Press Freedom Day to name the winner of its 2009 Free Media Pioneer Award. This year's award goes to... "Novaya Gazeta", the crusading Moscow newspaper that has literally paid with staff members' lives to bring us in-depth, independent reporting. According to IPI, four of the paper's correspondents have been killed in the past decade, including the iconic Anna Politkovskaya. It's no wonder Russia is Europe's deadliest country for journalists. "Novaya Gazeta" has endured threats and government investigations but continues to probe human rights abuses, corruption and the Kremlin's tough policies in Russia's restive North Caucasus republics. See: http://tinyurl.com/dhh8lr

IPS Communication Foundation, better known as BIANET, will be making the case for "Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech in Turkey on the Road to the EU" at a conference of the same name on 3-4 May in Istanbul. At that time, BIANET's quarterly report on free expression and press freedom in Turkey will be available in Turkey and English on BIANET's website: http://bianet.org/english

The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) has come out with a damning "chronicle of confrontation for 2008" between the press and the authorities in the Ukraine. Despite last year's conviction of three police officers in the 2000 killing of journalist Giorgiy Gongadze, an outspoken journalist who was highly critical of then-President Leonid Kuchma, the masterminds are still at large. But the biggest offender last year was the economic crisis, which has led to many journalists being the target of salary cuts, arrears in wages and dismissals. The crisis gave the media the chance to "discharge first" those journalists and editors who were independent, says IMI. Find out who the other "Predators of Press Freedom in Ukraine" are later this week on IMI's site: http://eng.imi.org.ua/

IFEX member Mizzima News, a Burmese news agency in exile in India and Thailand, is trekking to Stockholm to visit Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) on 29 April to talk about Burma's emerging independent media, and the importance of media in exile to report on countries where press freedom is violated. Attendees can catch "Burma VJ", a documentary co-produced by Mizzima's own Soe Myint on the power of protests in Burma. It's also where Frank La Rue, the UN's special rapporteur on free expression, will be before heading to Doha for UNESCO's main event. See: http://www.mizzima.com

On 3 May Adil Soz, IFEX's member in Kazakhstan, will be revealing the winners of its third annual caricature contest, an event that has actually revived a dying art: the editorial cartoon. Adil Soz has teamed up with free expression groups in the region, including the Public Association "Journalists" (PAJ) in Kyrgyzstan and the National Association of Independent Mass Media, Tajikistan (NANSMIT) to collate the finest depictions of free expression in the region into a calendar. The groups will distribute 1,000 copies to media outlets and local and international media advocacy organisations. The Central Asian groups have also run an essay contest on free expression. Perhaps some of the young activists who were detained in Almaty, Kazakhstan last week for planning a 3 May protest on Internet censorship will share their experiences. After 3 May, winning entries of both contests can be viewed here: http://www.adilsoz.kz/?id=207&lan=english

Besides hunger striking for detained U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, Reporters Without Borders called for the release of two other women journalists who have been "taken hostage" by governments: Euna Lee and Laura Ling, U.S. reporters employed by California-based Current TV, have been held in Pyongyang since 17 March: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=31094

The Institute of Reporters' Freedom and Safety lamented the woeful press freedom situation in Azerbaijan, with four journalists "wrongfully imprisoned," defamation still a criminal offence and a ban on foreign broadcasters in the national media market: http://tinyurl.com/cyox5l

Where does protected speech end, and the right to equality take precedent? Find out with ARTICLE 19's Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, a "ground-breaking document that will guide legislators, policy-makers and civil society in balancing the mutually enforcing rights to freedom of expression and equality": http://tinyurl.com/d5p299

The Greek Helsinki Monitor poured its energies into denouncing Greece's largest paper, "Proto Thema", for its attacks on academics and European Court of Human Rights judges who express "anti-Greek" views: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102854/

Other activities:

- PAJ is inviting all journalists to attend a billiards tournament in Bishkek. Apparently, billiard tournaments for journalists have become a tradition in Kyrgyzstan on 3 May, a way to foster solidarity among reporters and promote media workers' rights. See: http://www.monitoring.kg

- NANSMIT is meeting roundtable-style in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on 3 May to discuss three hot issues that affect Tajikistan's press freedom: the financial crisis, decriminalisation of defamation and media self-regulation. See: http://www.eng.nansmit.tj/

- The International Journalists' Network (IJNet) wants to know if the role of media really is to promote tolerance, understanding, and an acceptance of diversity, as UNESCO calls for. Or is the media's role simply to report the facts, even if such facts breed mistrust or fuel divides? Post your comments here: http://tinyurl.comc559dr

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