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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Hope is fading fast that Sri Lanka’s government will take action against those responsible for the deaths and disappearances of dozens of journalists during and after the country’s long civil war, activists and relatives said Tuesday.
President Maithripala Sirisena campaigned on a promise of ending a culture of impunity when he defeated former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a January 2015 election.
During Rajapaksa’s nine-year tenure, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured, or fled the country fearing for their lives. Scores more were killed or disappeared during the civil war that ended in 2009 with the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels.
Two years into Sirisena’s presidency, there is little sign that the suspects, mostly military soldiers, will be punished.
On Tuesday, dozens of journalists and activists gathered in Colombo to commemorate the missing and write postcards to Sirisena demanding that he appoint a presidential commission to investigate the abductions.
The campaign was organized to mark what organizers call “Black January,” a commemoration of the killings and abductions of journalists and the destruction of television studios that occurred in the month of January between 2005 and 2010.
Among those participating was Sandya Ekneligoda, who has fought for seven years to discover what happened to her abducted husband, Prageeth Ekneligoda.
Prageeth, a journalist and cartoonist, wrote about corruption, nepotism and Rajapaksa’s leadership of the military campaign against the rebels. He was abducted two days before a 2010 presidential election in which he actively supported Rajapaksa’s rival.
“From day one I had the conviction that Prageeth had no enemies and that this (the abductions) is a work of Mahinda. Mahinda and Gotabhaya should be responsible,” Ekneligoda told The Associated Press referring to the former president and his brother and powerful defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
She said investigators told her that her husband was probably dead. They had found that he had been taken by his abductors to an army camp and the last available information is that he was transported to the east coast.
“We can live in hope that he is alive; at the same time we can’t be hopeful because the CID (Criminal Investigations Department)) says that he is no more.”
Ekneligoda said the Sirisena government brought hope for justice, but its recent steps have dented her confidence. One reason, she said, was a speech by Sirisena in which he criticized police for holding the soldiers suspected in Prageeth’s abduction longer than necessary.
Days after the speech, a court released the suspects on bail and the military promptly reinstated them to their earlier positions, which Ekneligoda said was a clear message that the suspects have the state’s backing.
“Clearly the manner of the president today is not what we saw when we brought him into power in 2015. He has a totally different attitude,” Ekneligoda said.
Sirisena has said his speech was not meant to influence the court.
K.W. Janaranjana, a newspaper editor and activist said that he was “highly dissatisfied” with the way investigations are being conducted and urged journalists and other citizens to keep up pressure on the government.
During Rajapaksa’s presidency, journalists were largely concentrating on staying alive rather than focusing on the quality of journalism, said journalist and activist Dilrukshi Handunnetti. But that has reversed even though a lot needs to be done to account for past crimes, she said.
During the country’s 26-year civil war, both the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels were accused of killing and abducting critics.
The government’s war victory in 2009 ended the rebels’ campaign for an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.
Ali Fuat Yılmazer, the former head of Turkey’s police intelligence branch, has given his testimony in the 31st hearing into the 2007 killing of Armenian-origin Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, saying the killing was “deliberately not prevented” and security authorities in Istanbul and Trabzon were responsible.
Yılmazer also said the earlier investigation into the killing “were closer to justice” and those arrested had been “silenced.”
With press photographers in attendance, more than 20 people took part in the protest organized by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Association of Friends of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, and RFI’s Society of Journalists.
Limited judicial cooperation between the French and Malian governments have blocked progress in the investigation into the double murder of the RFI journalists in Kidal, in northern Mali, on 2 November 2013.
The French government has classified many relevant documents as “defence secrets,” thereby preventing their use by the judicial authorities, while the security situation in northern Mali has prevented officials from ever visiting the crime scene. No witness as so far been questioned.
“This inertia is unacceptable,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We demand answers and more transparency in the handling of this investigation. There are people who have information. It must be possible for them to be questioned by the judicial authorities so that we can finally learn the truth.”
RSF, which defends freedom of information, has registered as interested civil party in the case in order to be able to play an active role in support of the Association of Friends of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon.
THE SEVENTH anniversary of the massacre of 58 civilians, including 32 journalists, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, draws our community once again to gather together, move through the motions of protest, raise voices to plea for justice for the victims and their surviving families. Some of the orphaned children are now young adults, the infants and toddlers left behind by fallen media workers are grown, with little memory of their lost parents. The widows, parents, brothers, and sisters have ceased their deep mourning perhaps because life must go on.
This year we are struck sharply by the impact of the impunity, the failure of the state to punish. Less than a week ago, a dictator was laid to rest in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, to favor his family’s request for military honors and a place for his remains among heroes. Ferdinand Marcos claimed the presidency for life, manipulating the political system, controlling the economy for his personal gain and those of his cronies, his military and police dealing with every challenge to authority with warrantless arrests and detention, torture, salvaging, causing countless dissidents to disappear. Last Friday, the military did all to please his family, as a favor to the sitting president.
Meanwhile, the Ampatuan trial has taken so long, we need to rouse our memories to revive the cause. This long wait and the Marcos burial in the LNMB are different kinds of political phenomena, but these show up the state’s uneven instruments for justice and the unequal responses to the needs of the rich and the poor. Both reflect the culture of impunity that afflicts all citizens, especially those who have no means for legal representation in courts when their rights or lives are taken.
The trial of the 195 accused in Ampatuan Massacre was designed for delay, a nod to another political alliance. A lengthy trial allows more time for highly paid lawyers to manipulate the court system, argue through technical loopholes. Delays can wear down or lose witnesses and their testimonies. Sanctioned by the rules of court, the system seems designed only for lawyers and those who can afford them.
Three years ago, in December 2013, the Supreme Court has passed a resolution to allow the judge to decide cases against the accused separately, but no rulings have been made as yet on any of the persons charged. Meanwhile, the bail petition of the primary accused, Datu Andal “Unsay”Ampatuan Jr. is still pending. Indeed, the prosecution lost two witnesses who were killed in separate incidents.
Under the previous administration, an official of the Department of Justice (DOJ) had assured the public and the families of the massacre victims that there will be convictions by the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016. That deadline has now passed.
The call for justice is not for victims alone but for all Filipinos. For what can the future hold for us if the state, its officials and instruments serve only the rich and powerful. The culture of impunity is selective. Conviction and punishment are decided quickly when the offenders are poor and without the means to pay for legal defense.
This call for justice points to the need of reform of the judicial system. Its weaknesses sustain the conditions of impunity which in turn punishes us all equally.
The conference “Turning the words into actions”, which took place at the IFJ headquarters in Brussels on 7 November, recommended addressing current weaknesses in the international legal framework for greater media protection through the adoption of a new convention on the safety of journalists.
Delegates to the conference highlighted a seres of existing weaknesses in the protection of journalists including the non-recognition of victim status to journalists, the limited efficiency of the general provisions of International Human Rights Law for media protection and the lack of recognition of their profession.
Organised one week after the third commemoration of the UN Day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, the conference highlighted the safety crisis in media and adopted the strategies to resolve it. It brought together members of the IFJ Executive Committee, United Nations, OSCE and ITUC senior representatives, legal experts, media practitioners as well as relatives of killed journalists.
Speakers addressed the safety of journalists and other media workers, including the on-going killings, kidnappings and threats which continue to be committed in total impunity, thus fueling further violence in countries such as Colombia, India, Palestine and Somalia.
The IFJ President, Philippe Leruth, underscored in his opening remarks the need for prevention of violence against journalists, noting that 15 of them had lost their lives since his election at the IFJ World Congress last June in Angers. He welcomed the statistics from UNESCO which show an increase in the responses from Member States on their reaction to killings of journalists and media workers but called for more accountability.
“Prevention means convicting killers of journalists,” he said.“ We welcome the fact that more governments respond the UNESCO’s inquiries on the matter but they now need to resolve more killing cases.”
Dr Carmen Draghici, a legal expert who reviewed the existing international legal framework on the protection of journalists, recommended a comprehensive codification of all provisions relevant to their protection with a view to addressing specific professional risks that journalists face in their work and its values to society. The new instrument, in the form of a binding convention or declaration, on the safety of journalist would also help national governments understand their obligations.
The conference also discussed the role of journalists and their organisations in addressing the issue of impunity. The Director of the UN Regional Information Center (UNRCI) for Western Europe Deborah Seward noted that the safety of crisis in media is high on the international policy agenda. She referred to the UN Day against impunity for crimes targeting journalists and the UN Action Plan on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity which seeks to ensure the free flow of information. Ms Seward said that actions need to go beyond commemoration to achieve real change on the ground. To this end, journalists have to learn about their rights and how to hold their governments to their obligations.
Media organisations play an important role, including providing support to journalists who are victims of violence and their families, according to Mrs Fabienne Mercier Nérac, who was married to cameraman Frédéric Nérac killed in 2003 in Iraq. She told the conference that, while her husband’s body was never found, his employer supported the family to secure an inquest which determined the killing of Nérac and allowed the family to know the truth and bring closure on their loss.
The situation in a number of countries which forms part of the focus of the IFJ 2016 campaign against impunity for violence in journalism were discussed in detail, including India and Yemen together with other host spots in the world such as Colombia and Somalia. Among key contributing factors to the prevailing impunity were the lack of a political will, especially in cases concerning less well-known journalists, as well as failing judicial systems.
The IFJ conference was supported by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and its Communications Director Tim Noonan spoke about their shared values with the IFJ, including freedom of expression, association and assembly which are the cornerstone of democracy.
“Now more than ever, with the escalation of violence in journalism which has claimed over 2500 colleagues’ lives in the last 25 years, journalists and their organisations have a major role in the fight against impunity for crimes against media workers,” added IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. “This conference has shown the avenues we can pursue to ensure accountability for those who kill and attack journalists. Time has come to turn words into action.”
The date of the UN day marks the death of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two French journalists killed while reporting in Mali earlier that year.
The day draws attention to the low global conviction rate for violent crimes against journalists and media workers, estimated by UNESCO to be at only one in every ten cases. Because of their critical role in informing and influencing the public about important social issues, impunity for attacks against them has a particularly damaging impact, limiting public awareness and constructive debate.
IFEX now coordinates the No Impunity Campaign, which advocates year-round for all individuals violently targeted for their free expression.
Help IFEX mark the 2016 United Nations International Day to End Impunity by sharing “Waiting for Justice: Three Faces of Impunity” written by Executive Director Annie Game.
This statement tells the story of three brave journalists who paid a heavy price for reporting the truth, as well as the struggle for justice for attacks aimed at silencing their message.
Read about the cases of Jineth Bedoya of Colombia, Shan Dahar of Pakistan and Musa Saidykhan of The Gambia and how the consequences of impunity have impacted them, their loved ones and their communities.
The statement is available as a press release for immediate distribution, as well as online at ifex.org.
Ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November 2016, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioners Günther H. Oettinger, Johannes Hahn and Věra Jourová said:
"We call on all States, media companies, media professionals and all concerned parties to join efforts to end impunity for crimes against journalists. We attach the highest priority to the safety of journalists, bloggers and other media actors. We consistently oppose – in bilateral contacts with third countries as well as in multilateral and regional fora – any legislation, regulation or political pressure that limits freedom of expression and we take concrete steps to prevent and respond to attacks against journalists and bloggers. The European Union also ensures that respect for freedom of expression is integrated in all our policies and development programmes.
The continued acts of intimidation, pressure and violence against journalists that take place across the world have to end.
Free press and media pluralism are essential to a free, pluralistic and open society. Attacks against media and journalists are attacks against democracy. The recent adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution on the safety of journalists is a very positive step forward to ensure the safety of members of the media.
We call on all States to implement the UN resolution and other international commitments and take active steps to prevent and respond to violence against journalists and ensure that both state and non-state perpetrators and instigators of suchviolence are brought to justice.
To strengthen engagement for the promotion of media freedom and pluralism and the protection of journalists in the European Union, the Commission is organising its second Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights on the topic of "Media Pluralism and Democracy" on 17-18 November. The Colloquium will bring together national and EU policy-makers, international organisations, NGOs, and media actors around the same table to discuss concrete and workable actions to improve the fundamental rights situation in the European Union, including on the protection of journalists."
By Elisabeth Witchel, CPJ Impunity Campaign Consultant
Some of the highest rates of impunity in the murders of journalists can be attributed to killings by Islamist militant groups, CPJ found in its latest Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free. The worst country for the second year in a row is Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabaab is suspected in the majority of media murders, followed by Iraq and Syria, where members of the militant group Islamic State murdered at least six journalists in the past year.
Extremist groups have also repeatedly targeted journalists with impunity in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Pakistan, which all appear on the index for at least the second consecutive year.
At the same time, violence perpetrated against journalists by criminal groups and local officials allowed impunity to tighten its grip in Latin America, with Brazil and Mexico each moving two spots higher on the index this year.
Sri Lanka, where violence against journalists has receded since the end of a decades-long civil war, dropped off the list for the first time since CPJ began calculating the index in 2008.
The Impunity Index, published annually to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, calculates the number of unsolved murders over a 10-year period as a percentage of each country's population.
For this edition, CPJ analyzed journalist murders in every nation that took place between September 1, 2006 and August 31, 2016. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases for this period are included on the index-a threshold that 13 countries met this year, compared with 14 last year. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained; cases in which some but not all perpetrators are held to justice are classified as partial impunity and are not included in the tally. Cases in which the murder suspects are killed during apprehension are also classified as partial impunity.
While militant extremists are responsible for the greatest numbers of attacks against journalists in recent years, they are not the only ones getting away with murder, nor are conflict zones the only place where impunity thrives.
The Philippines is No. 4 on the index, its place cemented by a failure to prosecute any perpetrators behind the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao, in which 32 journalists and media workers were slain. Aside from the Philippines, Mexico, and Brazil, criminal groups and government officials are also leading suspects in murders of journalists in Russia and India. Each of those countries except Brazil has appeared on the index since its inception.
CPJ recorded only four unsolved murders in Sri Lanka for the latest 10-year period, leading to its elimination from the index. Amid the country's becalmed political climate, no journalist there has been murdered in direct connection to journalism since editor Lasantha Wickramatunga was killed in 2009. Justice has not been achieved in any murder-despite a pledge from President Maithripala Sirisena to re-investigate old killings-but Wickramatunga's case inched forward this year with one arrest and the exhumation of the editor's body for a new post-mortem examination.
Impunity is widely recognized as one of the greatest threats to press freedom, and international pressure to address it has mounted in recent years, with states, including some of the repeat offenders on this list, beginning to respond. Six countries on the index-Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, and Somalia-convicted perpetrators of journalist killings in the past year, up from three countries in the previous year's report.
In another positive development, more countries on this year's index participated in UNESCO's impunity accountability mechanism, which requests information on the status of investigations into killed journalists for the U.N. agency's biennial report on journalist safety. In previous years, half of the countries on the index ignored this process. This year, only three states among the 13 index countries-India, South Sudan, and Syria- failed to respond.
Among the other findings from CPJ's data on murdered journalists:
- The combined data from the 13 countries on the index account for 80 percent of the unsolved murders that took place worldwide during the 10-year period ending August 31, 2016.
- Eight of the 13 countries on the Impunity Index have been listed each year since CPJ began the annual analysis in 2008, an indication of how entrenched impunity is in some nations.
- Despite their poor records in achieving justice, four countries on the Impunity Index-India, Mexico, Nigeria, and the Philippines-are on the governing council of the Community of Democracies, a coalition dedicated to upholding and strengthening democratic norms.
- In the past decade political groups, including Islamic State and other extremist organizations, are the suspected perpetrators in more than 40 percent of murder cases. Government and military officials are considered the leading suspects in nearly a quarter of the cases in the same period.
- Around 95 percent of victims were local reporters. More of them covered politics and corruption in their home countries than any other beat.
- In at least 40 percent of cases, the victims reported receiving threats before they were killed. Threats are rarely investigated by authorities and in only a handful of cases is adequate protection provided.
- In the past 10 years, around 30 percent of murdered journalists were first taken captive, the majority of whom were tortured, amplifying the killers' message of intimidation to the media community.
- In only 3 percent of total murder cases over the decade has full justice, including the prosecution of the masterminds, been achieved.
For a detailed explanation of CPJ's methodology, click here.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has joined its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK and Ireland, calling on the Irish government to apply pressure on British prime minister Theresa May for a new investigation into the murder of Sunday World journalist and NUJ activist Martin O’Hagan. On the 15th anniversary of his death, the NUJ has called on the Irish foreign affairs minister, Charlie Flanagan, to support the call by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for the authorities in the UK to intensify their efforts to find the killers.
Dunja Mijatović, an OSCE freedom of the media representative, said, “Fifteen years on from this horrific murder, no one has been brought to justice for the killing of O’Hagan. It is high time for justice to be served in this case.”
Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said, “We need an independent, external investigation into the murder of Martin O’Hagan. As in cases of other unsolved murders in Northern Ireland, the failure to secure convictions is an added source of pain and suffering to relatives, friends and media colleagues. What is of particular concern is that those responsible for Martin’s death are believed to be shielded because they were in cahoots with the authorities, as paid police informers.
“On the day of his vicious murder Martin attended a meeting of the Belfast and district branch of the NUJ. Tomorrow he will be in the thoughts of the branch as they once again gather for their September meeting. NUJ members will never forget Martin and will never accept that his murder should go unpunished.”
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ President said, ”We must end the culture of impunity and bring the killer(s) to justice for Martin and his families.”
The body of a celebrated Sri Lankan journalist gunned down in the final months of the country’s brutal civil war in 2009 will be exhumed on Tuesday as part of a fresh investigation into his death.
Lasantha Wickrematunge’s grave in Colombo has been under armed guard since the new autopsy was announced earlier in September, two months after a military intelligence official was arrested in connection with the killing of the former editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper.
Wickrematunge had foreseen his impending murder and wrote an editorial that was published three days after he was shot dead by gunmen on motorcycles while driving to work in January 2009.
“When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me,” he wrote, in a 2,500-word piece that was republished by the Guardian and New Yorker and attracted international scrutiny of the harassment faced by Sri Lankan journalists.
Directly addressing the then-president, Mahinda Rajapaska, the slain editor predicted an inquiry would swiftly follow his death, “but like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too”.
The investigation did indeed languish, until Rajapaksa’s surprise election defeat in January 2015, when his successor, the current president Maithripala Sirisena, promised to find the journalist’s killers.
Sirisena in March appointed a secretary to examine violence against journalists under Rajapaksa’s near decade-long rule, including Wickrematunga’s murder and the disappearance of Prageeth Ekanaligoda, a cartoonist last seen being bundled into a white van near his office in January 2010.
An army intelligence officer identified in local media as P. Udalgama was arrested in July as part of the investigation and remains in custody.
According to court documents, investigating authorities requested that Wickrematunge’s body be exhumed again because two separate medical examinations at the time of his death produced contradictory results: one finding he had died due to gunshot injuries, the other finding no evidence of gun wounds at all.
Press freedom was “severely restricted” under the former president according to watchdog groups, particularly in the months surrounding the end of the civil war between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009.
Under Wickrematunga, the virulently anti-establishment Sunday Leader closely scrutinised the army’s conduct of the civil war, often in the face of censorship orders, armed raids and arson attacks on the newspaper’s offices.
Wickrematunga himself was beaten twice and had had his home sprayed by machine-gun fire. His first wife, Raine, fled to Australia with their children after threats against the family.
Media colleagues of the late editor were reluctant to welcome news of the fresh exhumation as a sign his killers might soon be found.
“The [investigation] has been very slow, too slow, given the pledges made by this government before it came to power,” said Lasantha Ruhunage, the president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association.
The union has been lobbying for a presidential commission to investigate Rajapaksa-era attacks on journalists, and Ruhunage said he was concerned the appointment of a secretary in March meant “the government will bear the financial responsibility for such attacks but no convictions will be forthcoming”.
“We feel that is because members of the government armed forces could be implicated is some of these attacks,” he added.
“Even in [Wickrematunge’s] case we feel that the chances of any convictions is still remote, it could happen, but right now, I am not optimistic.”
Raine Wickrematunge, who was divorced from her ex-husband before his death, said news his body would be re-examined was “a huge shock”.
“We have gone through so much, the children have had their hearts broken and now the band-aid is going to be ripped out and the wound re-opened,” she said.
But she expressed faith the “process of uncovering the murderers is not happening in a half-hearted manner anymore” and was no longer the subject of political interference.
“This is such a welcome change after the years of sham investigation we had to endure for several years after the murder,” she said.
Rajapaksa’s election defeat in 2015 – a result he reportedly resisted by trying to order a state of emergency as results came in – has ushered in significant positive reforms in the island nation, according to human rights groups.
Restrictions on media, including internet censorship, have been largely lifted, and the constitution has been amended to restore the independence of the police, judiciary and public service commissions.
The country also plans to establish a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to examine crimes committed during the three-decade civil war.
Abuses by security forces remains an issue, advocates against torture say, recording at least 17 cases under Sirisena’s administration, including Briton Velauthapillai Renukaruban, who says he was and beaten in June while visiting the north of the country to be married.
For months, concerns have been mounting over an apparent lack of political will to bring the guilty parties to justice.
“We are gravely concerned that a year after the barbaric murder of our colleague Rasim Aliyev, not only do those responsible for his death remain unpunished too, but the situation for freedom of expression has deteriorated even further, with Azerbaijan facing a controversial referendum next month,” said IRFS CEO and founder Emin Huseynov.
Based on the research and analysis conducted by the expert group established to investigate the journalist's death, there are strong grounds to conclude that the murder was politically motivated.
“Our independent investigation into Rasim Aliyev's murder demonstrates that the case is not closed. We call on the authorities to launch a new investigation; to immediately bring the medical personnel and police officers involved to justice; and most importantly, to focus on Aliyev's professional activity as a motive. Investigators have an obligation to identify and apprehend all suspects in this barbaric crime, including the mastermind,” added Huseynov.
The journalist had received threats via a social networking website for his journalistic activities prior to his death, on July 25 2015, which he reported to law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, officials failed to take action to ensure the journalist's safety. However, this was never investigated by the investigative agency or the court, and those police officers have eluded punishment.
Furthermore, IRFS emphasizes that the doctors involved in Rasim Aliyev's death have also escaped punishment. Rasim Aliyev did not receive adequate medical care during his 8-9 hours in hospital. Although the initial examination showed fluid in his sinuses, the journalist was not examined for a second time. Despite his fractured ribs, even the simplest medical intervention – fitting a brace – was not performed.
It should be noted that prior to Rasim Aliyev, journalist Rafig Tagi also mysteriously died in City Clinical Hospital #1 in 2011. Tagi, hospitalized after a stabbing attack, survived a surgical operation and even gave an interview afterwards. However, he died later. The criminal proceedings into Rafig Tagi's death have been halted. Nor have the murderers of Elmar Huseynov been apprehended. The government is not interested in solving the crimes committed against journalists, a pattern that has been repeated in the case of Rasim Aliyev.
“The timing of Rasim Aliyev's assault was no coincidence. He was beaten on the one year anniversary of the raid on IRFS. Rasim Aliyev was one of the people who helped me to avoid illegal criminal prosecution. Rasim's murder is politically motivated. He was threatened and I believe they used his Facebook post as an opportunity to carry out his killing,” stated Emin Huseynov.
“Our own investigation into the murder of Rasim Aliyev is not over. We will continue investigating all the facts and circumstances until we know the truth”, Huseynov said.
Another possible motive could a link to the Sport for Rights campaign, IRFS' report suggests. “Increasingly frustrated with PR attempts gone awry, the authorities might be seeking revenge against the Sport for Rights campaign. The fact that the attack on a human rights defender and journalist was perpetrated by a group of athletes just after another prominent journalist and Sport for Rights campaigner, Emin Milli, received a chilling message from Azerbaijani Sports Minister Azad Rahimov, suggests a possible connection between the murder and the campaign”, the report reads.
IRFS calls on the government to fully investigate the murder of journalist Rasim Aliyev, to punish all those involved in the murder, and to eliminate the climate of impunity for violence against journalists in the country.
IRFS also calls on the international organizations, including the OSCE and Council of Europe, to urge the government of Azerbaijan to fulfill its obligations towards media freedom and to conduct full and fair investigations into the crimes against journalists.
Le 12 mai 2014, la jeune photojournaliste Camille Lepage, en reportage auprès de la milice Anti-Balaka, a été tuée par balle dans la région de Bouar, à l'Ouest de la RCA lors d'une embuscade. A ce jour aucun des assaillants n’a pu être identifié.
A l’occasion de la visite du chef d'Etat français en République centrafricaine, Reporters sans frontières rappelle à François Hollande son engagement à ce que: “tous les moyens nécessaires (soient) mis en œuvre pour faire la lumière sur les circonstances de cet assassinat”. L’organisation souhaite qu’à l’occasion de cette visite, le Président renouvelle son appel à un progrès rapide et effectif de l’enquête, disposant de toutes les ressources nécessaires.
"Nous, la famille de Camille, avons besoin de savoir qui étaient les assaillants, déclare Maryvonne Lepage, la maman de Camille. L'incertitude est difficile à vivre. La poursuite de l'enquête sur place est indispensable et devrait permettre d'éclaircir certains points qui demeurent encore obscurs depuis deux ans aujourd'hui."
Une procédure avait en effet été immédiatement ouverte en France dès la mort de la jeune journaliste mais n’a que très peu progressé depuis. Une première et unique visite d’un groupe d’enquêteurs a eu lieu en juin 2014, suivie d’une commission rogatoire internationale reçue par le procureur centrafricain en septembre 2014. Celle-ci n’a à ce jour jamais été exécutée. Les autorités centrafricaines arguent du manque de moyens nécessaires pour faire avancer l’enquête, notamment l’absence de véhicule pour se rendre sur les lieux de l’assassinat.
En juin 2015, Maryvonne Lepage et RSF ont été reçues au Centre de crise où des engagements ont été pris, à nouveau, de signaler à l’ambassade de France en RCA l’importance de soutenir l’enquête mais les parties civiles n’ont été informées d’aucune avancée dans ce sens.
A ce jour, la juge Virginie Van-Geyte prévoit d'envoyer prochainement un groupe d’enquêteurs mandaté, entre autre, pour poursuivre l’enquête sur la mort de Camille Lepage.
“Nous saluons l’envoi de cette commission, mais nous tenons à insister sur l'importance qu'elle dispose du mandat et des personnels nécessaires pour mener l’enquête de façon efficace une fois sur place, déclare Reporters sans frontières. La République centrafricaine est actuellement dans une situation difficile et le succès de l'investigation demandera des moyens particuliers, sans quoi nous resterons au point mort."
Les parties civiles, RSF et la famille de Camille Lepage, ont formulé des recommandations dont elles espèrent pouvoir faire part à la juge très prochainement. Elles demandent à ce qu'un nombre suffisant d'enquêteurs soient spécifiquement dédiés à l’enquête sur la mort de Camille Lepage, qu’ils aient accès aux lieux du crime et soient donc autorisés à voyager hors de Bangui jusqu’à la scène de crime à Amada Gaza, et qu’au moins l’un d’entre eux ai une expertise en balistique afin de pouvoir analyser certains éléments du dossier plus avant. Les parties civiles souhaitent soumettre également une liste de personnes, identifiées lors du déplacement en RCA de Maryvonne Lepage en avril 2016, susceptibles d’être interrogées et d’apporter des informations supplémentaires à l’enquête.
Expérimentée malgré son jeune âge, Camille Lepage était une photojournaliste indépendante, engagée et courageuse qui n’hésitait pas à mettre son talent journalistique au service de ce qu’elle appelait les “causes oubliées”. Elle avait couvert la révolution égyptienne en 2011 puis s’était intéressée à la naissance du Soudan du Sud en 2012 avant de s’envoler pour la RCA en 2013. Ses clichés hors pairs, qui témoignent avec une extrême justesse du conflit embrasant le pays, avaient été largement relayés par la presse internationale.
The final sentence for former Afghan police unit commander Naqibullah was reduced from the death penalty recommended by a primary court last year. Twenty years in prison is the maximum jail sentence in Afghanistan, said Zahid Safi, a lawyer for The Associated Press who had been briefed on the decision by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruling upholds an intermediate court's decision, which was opposed by the Military Attorney General's office.
Naqibullah, who uses only one name, opened fire on Niedringhaus and Gannon without warning on April 4 as the two were covering the first round of the country's presidential election outside the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan.
An award-winning German photographer, Niedringhaus was renowned for her humane depictions of ordinary life as well as for her coverage of conflict zones from the Balkans to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. She died instantly of her wounds at the age of 48. Gannon, a senior correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan with decades of experience in the region, was hit with six bullets that ripped through her left arm, right hand and left shoulder, shattering her shoulder blade. She is recovering from her injuries while undergoing physical therapy in her native Canada.
Both Niedringhaus and Gannon have been honored by numerous institutions and organizations. The International Women's Media Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation recently created the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award in Niedringhaus's memory. Gannon in December received the Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and last month was named winner of the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage at the University of Georgia.
"It is almost exactly a year since Anja was murdered and Kathy wounded while reporting in the country they both loved," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor. "We are glad the judicial system in Afghanistan has completed the case against their attacker and trust the sentence will be carried out in full. And as the sad anniversary approaches, our thoughts and care are with Anja's family and with Kathy."
"Neither Anja nor I believe in the death penalty," said Gannon on Saturday after learning of the ruling. "I know I speak for Anja, as well as for myself, when I say one crazy gunman neither defines a nation nor a people, and covering Afghanistan and Afghans was a joy for both of us and is what I will return to once the surgeries and healing is completed. I will return for both of us."
According to witnesses and court testimony, Gannon and Niedringhaus were seated in the back seat of a car parked in a crowd of police and election officials at a police station when Naqibullah walked up to the vehicle, shouted "Allahu Akbar," and fired on them with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. He surrendered immediately. Witness and official accounts suggested the shooting was not planned.
Naqibullah, believed to be 26, was convicted of murder and treason. During his trial, Naqibullah did not offer a reason for why he opened fire but said at one point he was "not a normal person." He denied judges' claims that he once traveled to Pakistan to be trained by extremists, saying he only received medical care while there.
Judges in the original trial also sentenced Naqibullah to four years in prison for wounding Gannon in the attack. It was not clear whether that sentence would be served concurrently with the 20-year term.
Court documents showed that Naqibullah was sentenced to death by Afghanistan's Primary Court on July 22. He appealed the sentence to the Appeals Court, which decided on Jan. 6 to commute the punishment to 20 years in prison. Naqibullah then appealed that reduced sentence to the country's Supreme Court, while the military attorney general's office also appealed and asked for the death penalty. The Supreme Court sentence of 20 years in prison is final, although under Afghan law the time in prison can be reduced if a prisoner shows evidence of "social rehabilitation."
The German foreign ministry said its embassy in Afghanistan has been following the court proceedings. It said Germany respects the independence of the Afghan judiciary but also regularly expresses its rejection of the death penalty as a matter of government policy. Niedringhaus's family in Germany also said it opposed the death penalty, but urged that Naqibullah not be "spared from life in prison," according to a letter provided by Niedringhaus's sister, Elke Niedringhaus-Haasper.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the convictions and sentencing on 31 December 2015 of eight persons involved in the murder of blogger Rajib Haider in Bangladesh.
Haidar, 35, a blogger and activist calling for the execution of Islamist leaders for crimes committed in the 1971 independence war of Bangladesh, was hacked to death on February 15, 2013 near his house at Mirpur. He is the first of six secular bloggers who have been killed in Bangladesh so far.
The Dhaka Special Trial tribunal handed 2 death penalty and several jail terms to killing perpetrators.
The tribunal sentenced to death Md Faisal Bin Nayem alias Dweep and absconding Redwanul Azad Rana. Rana was considered as the mastermind of the murder while Nayeem attacked Haider with a meat cleaver. Maksudul Hasan alias Anik was given a life term sentence, Md Ehsan Reza alias Rumman, Nayem Sikdar alias Iraj and Nafis Imtiaz were given 10-year jail each, five-year imprisonment were granted to chief of militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) Mufti Jashimuddin Rahmani and Sadman Yasir Mahmud was given three years in prison.
The IFJ president Jim Boumelha said: “We welcome the verdict of the fast-track court as it is the first conviction in the murder of blogger Rajib Haider and justice was long overdue. The court pointed at some loopholes in the investigation process and we urge the investigating authorities of Bangladesh to exercise due diligence in scrutinising other murders.”
“Five other murders of bloggers remained to be examined and the Bangladesh government now has a critical responsibility to ensure those murders are duly investigated. Their perpetrators must be brought to the fast track courts to guaranty swift justice to the victims and ensure that the threat to secular bloggers is no longer withstanding”.
A Saudi Arabian prisoner convicted of the attempted murder of BBC correspondent Frank Gardner and the murder of his cameraman Simon Cumbers was among the 47 prisoners executed by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi national Adel al-Dhubaiti opened fire on the BBC reporter and Mr Cumbers while the pair were filming for a report on al-Qaeda in the oil-rich kingdom.
Mr Gardner, who is now the BBC’s security correspondent, was shot six times during the 2004 ambush in Riyadh. The injuries left him partially paralysed but he has continued to broadcast.
Simon Cumbers, a 36-year-old Irish national, was killed during the attack.
After Dhubaiti was sentenced to death, Gardner said in an interview with the Telegraph in 2014 that he would never forgive the terrorists who inflicted the injuries on him and killed his colleague.
He said: “He is completely unrepentant. He has never said sorry. He is still in the mindset that he had when he attacked us. So forgiveness is not really an option.
“It’s not like this man’s parents have written to me or anyone saying, ‘Please forgive him.’ No one has apologised.”
Gardner also declined the offer to meet Dhubaiti. He said: “I don’t want to see this guy. Why would I? What am I going to get from it? The man’s soul is dead.”
Mr Gardner told the Independent he did not want to comment on the execution.
Mr Cumber’s parents, Robert and Bronagh, from Navan in County Meath, had previously called on the Saudi Arabian authorities not to execute their son’s killer.
“Simon was a pacifist, someone who would not have wanted the death penalty and would have opposed it. We do not want this man to be executed if he is found guilty,” Mr Cumbers said in 2009.
In a statement issued to Irish broadcaster RTÉ after the Saudi court announced its decision, he said the family’s view had not changed: “I have mixed feelings about the sentencing. On the one hand, I am pleased that the murderer has had his fate decided and that the long wait is over.
“It won’t bring Simon back, but it puts an end to the waiting. On the other hand, both Bronagh and I sympathise with Dubayti’s [the sentenced man] parents, who must now suffer that tremendous loss that we feel.”
02.11.2015. Cycle of impunity must end, Ban declares on International Day, honouring journalists killed in line of duty
Marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is honouring journalists and media workers who were killed in the line of duty for merely 'reporting the truth' and is underscoring the importance of protecting their rights and ensuring they can report freely.
"More than 700 journalists have been killed in the last decade – one every five days – simply for bringing news and information to the public. Many perish in the conflicts they cover so fearlessly. But all too many have been deliberately silenced for trying to report the truth,” said Mr. Ban in a message on the second World Day.
Noting that only 7 per cent of cases involving crimes against journalists are resolved and less that one crime out of 10 is ever fully investigated, he stressed that such impunity deepens fear among journalists and enables Governments to get away with censorship.
“We must do more to combat this trend and make sure that journalists can report freely. Journalists should not have to engage in self-censorship because they fear for their life,” said the UN chief.
Mr. Ban urged collective action to end the cycle of impunity and safeguard the right of journalists to speak truth to power.
Echoing the sentiment, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that she has consistently and publicly condemned each killing of a journalist and called for a thorough investigation.
“In the past six years, I have publicly and unequivocally condemned more than 540 cases of killings of journalists, media workers and social media producers who generate significant amounts of journalism,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement.
“The near complete impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against journalists goes against everything that we stand for, our shared values, our common objectives,” she added.
Ms. Bokova stressed that each time the perpetrator of a crime is allowed to escape punishment, it emboldens other criminals and creates a vicious cycle of violence.
Further, she warned that as attacks on journalists are on the rise, UNESCO has spearheaded the
UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity which is working to end impunity by promoting concerted action among United Nations agencies, working across the world with governments, civil society, academia and the media itself.
“This work is bearing fruit,” she said. “The United Nations General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, as well as the United Nations Security Council have all adopted landmark resolutions specifically addressing these obstacles – as has the Council of Europe at the regional level,” added Ms. Bokova.
She further said that more and more States are now establishing laws and mechanisms to tackle impunity and improve safety of journalists and added that the judiciary systems and security forces have increased their engagement on the issues.
However, Ms. Bokova stressed that efforts must be redoubled to ensure the end of impunity for attacks on journalists, especially since societies are undergoing transformation at present.
She stressed that this must be necessitated to uphold Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Additionally, Ms. Bokova underscored that ensuring protection of journalists is also vital for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16.10, which aims to facilitate public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
Lastly, she urged all countries to take measures through legislation, protection mechanisms and new sources to ensure that investigations and trials relating to crimes against journalists are undertaken.
“I urge everyone to stand up on November 2 and demand that the rule of law is fully applied when journalists are attacked and killed in the line of duty,” Ms. Bokova concluded.
The International Day, was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to highlight the urgent need to protect journalists, and to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November, 2013.
The campaign will run from 2 November, the UN Day against impunity for crime targeting journalists, to 23 November 2015. The UN Day to end impunity was adopted on 18 December 2013 to be mark 2 November, the anniversary of the killings of two RFI reporters, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, murdered in Kidal, Mali in 2013. It comes ahead of 23 November which commemorates the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines when at least 32 journalists lost their lives in the single deadliest attack on media.
In a letter addressed to its affiliates on 20 October, the IFJ has called for massive support to denounce any crime targeting journalists that remain unpunished the world over. Murder is the highest form of these crimes but “all attacks targeting journalists that remain unpunished must be denounced,” says the organisation.
The 2015 campaign will put a specific emphasis on four countries: Mexico, the Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen.
In Mexico, 50 journalists and press workers have lost their lives in the course of their profession since 2010. According to the Mexican ‘National Human Rights Commission’ (CNDH) around 89% of cases of aggression are not solved.
IFJ has also recorded 15 journalists killed in Yemen since 2011, ten of whom have died in 2015. In addition, 14 reporters remain captive as a consequence of the fighting between the Houthis, the Saudi led-coalition and al-Qaida. None of the perpetrators of the killings has been brought to justice.
Furthermore, the IFJ regrets that not a single person has been convicted for their involvement since the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre of 32 journalists in the Philippines. Forty media workers were killed since 2009, including 7 in 2015, which makes the country the deadliest for journalists in South Asia.
In the meanwhole, fifteen years after the body of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze was found beheaded in the forest outside Kiev, a recent report on the violations against journalists in the country records 8 killings, 125 intimidations, 322 assaults, 162 attempts of censorship and 196 cases of impeding activities since the beginning of 2014. If 54 investigations were launched, only three cases passed to court.
“Today only one out of 10 killings in the media is investigated," said the IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “We urge all our affiliates to get involved in our campaign to denounce impunity, support our actions and run their own activities to show solidarity to those who struggle for telling the truth and their loved ones. Impunity not only endangers journalists. It imperils democracy and the right for the public to know. It is more than time for bringing those who kill the messengers to justice and we must relentlessly hold governments accountable for this.”
BUCHAREST, 7 October 2015 – On the ninth anniversary of the death of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, today called on the government of the Russian Federation to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists.
“Politkovskaya paid the ultimate price for her life-long commitment to investigative journalism,” Mijatović said. “Her death is a grim reminder that journalists’ safety should be adequately addressed in the Russian Federation.”
Politkovskaya was shot and killed in Moscow on 7 October 2006 in the residential building where she lived. In 2003, she received the OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy for her courageous professional work in support of “human rights and freedom of the media”.
In June 2014 sentences were handed down to five individuals for the murder of Politkovskaya, a move which was welcomed by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. However, the investigation was unable to name the masterminds of the crime.
“Much more needs to be done to eradicate impunity for crimes committed against journalists,” Mijatović said. “Journalists play a pivotal role in advancing democracy and human rights, often at great personal risk.”
Mijatović is in Bucharest participating in an international conference on media freedom and combatting terrorism.
QUETTA: Police and intelligence personnel have arrested two suspected militants for their alleged involvement in the murder of Baloch
journalist Irshad Mastoi and his colleagues in August last year.
Amlish and Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani on Tuesday.
Party-Mengal, policemen and others.
along with reporter Abdul Rasool and accountant Mohammad Younis on Aug 28, 2014 in their office.
journalists and they were also produced before media personnel.
Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Mama Qadeer.
the murders. “They succeeded in their efforts and arrested the accused involved in killing Irshad Mastoi, his reporter and accountant.”
that the suspects were currently still under interrogation.
was the mastermind of the plot and Sohail Marri the facilitator.
he fired at them as well.
intelligence agencies. He added that the plan to kill Senator Hamdullah and Mama Qadeer was made to pit the two factions of JUI
against each other.
been destroyed during operations carried out by security forces.
***28.08.2015. PHILIPPINES. Suspect in killing of radio broadcaster in Surigao del Sur arrested after six years (CMFR)
MEMBERS OF the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested on 18 August 2015 the suspect in the killing of a provincial radio broadcaster in Caloocan City, Metro Manila.
Joel Sabatin Namoc was arrested by the police on the strength of a warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court in Surigao del Sur in connection with the killing of radio broadcaster Godofredo Linao in July 2009. According to the CIDG website, Namoc was number 13 in the Most Wanted Person list, Regional level in Surigao del Sur with a Php90,000 monetary reward on his head.
CMFR previously reported that Godofredo Linao Jr. was shot by a gunman four times along the provincial road in Purok 1, Barobo town in the province of Surigao del Sur on 27 July 2009. The gunman was accompanied by another man who was waiting on a motorcycle approximately 20 meters from where the shooting happened.
Linao hosted the blocktime public affairs program Straight to the Point with Romy Santiago over Radyo Natin (Our Radio) in Bislig City. According to Radyo Natin station manager Mario Alviso, the program was sponsored by Vice Governor Librado Navarro of Surigao del Sur, for whom Linao also worked as a spokesperson.
In Philippine broadcast practice, a blocktimer is an individual who purchases “blocks” of TV or radio time for sponsorship. Among those journalists killed in the Philippines since 2002 are 43 blocktimers and “volunteer” practitioners who are not paid by the TV or radio station where they have programs.
***21.08.2015. Brazilian photojournalist's killer gets 14 years in prison
The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction and sentencing Wednesday of Alessandro Neves Augusto for the murder of Walgney Assis de Carvalho, a freelance photographer shot dead in Minas Gerais state in 2013, and urges authorities to continue investigating to find the mastermind.
Augusto, known as Pitote, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 14 years and three months in prison for killing Carvalho in the town of Coronel Fabriciano, the prosecutor in the trial, Juliana da Silva Pinto, told CPJ on Wednesday via telephone.
The conviction comes almost two months after Augusto was sentenced to 16 years in jail for the murder of Carvalho's colleague Rodrigo Neto, and the attempted murder of a man who was with Neto at the time, the local Diario do Aço reported. The two sentences will run consecutively and Augusto plans to appeal, da Silva Pinto told CPJ.
"We praise Brazilian authorities for this conviction in the murder of Walgney Assis de Carvalho," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "While this is an encouraging sign, in this case the chain of accountability has ended with the gunman. We urge Brazilian authorities to identify and prosecute the mastermind and put an end to the cycle of deadly violence against the local press."
The court heard that on April 14, 2013, Carvalho, a 43-year-old contributor to the daily Vale do Aço, was shot in the back by Augusto as he sat at a popular fishing hole and restaurant.
Da Silva Pinto said jurors were told that Augusto killed Carvalho to silence him after the photographer told friends he had information about Neto's murder. Augusto was found guilty of shooting Neto a month before, on March 8, 2013, while Neto was getting into a car after a barbecue in the town of Ipatinga, according to news reports.
Neto was the host of the show "Plantão Policial" (Police Shift) on Rádio Vanguarda in Ipatinga and had started working the week before as a reporter at the daily Vale do Aço. He was also a press aide to the local mayor, according to Fernando Benedito Jr, a journalist in Ipatinga and a friend of Neto. Neto aggressively covered police corruption throughout his career and was frequently threatened in relation to his reporting, Benedito told CPJ.
Brazil has experienced a sharp spike in deadly violence against the press in recent years, according to CPJ research. At least 16 journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work since 2011, CPJ research shows. Brazil is ranked eleventh on CPJ's 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go unpunished. However, in the past two years there have been seven convictions in cases of murdered journalists, including the one this week.
In a meeting with a CPJ delegation in May 2014, President Dilma Rousseff pledged to continue fighting against impunity in cases of killed journalists. Rousseff told CPJ her administration would implement a mechanism to prevent deadly attacks, protect journalists under imminent threat, and support legislative efforts to federalize crimes against free expression. Rousseff said her administration had the political will to pursue a goal of "zero impunity" in journalists' murders.
***25.06.2015. COLOMBIA. Historic conviction of mastermind in Colombian journalist's murder
A Colombian court sentenced the mastermind of a journalist’s murder to 36 years in prison on Wednesday in a landmark conviction that followed years of lobbying for justice by local journalists.Politician Francisco Ferney Tapasco González was convicted for ordering the 2002 killing of Orlando Sierra Hernández, a muckraking columnist and deputy editor of the daily La Patria in the central city of Manizales, media reported. Sierra, 42, was shot in the head three times in front of his daughter.
The ruling was a victory for journalists who have been battling for years to end chronic impunity in Colombia. The Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) said it was the first time that everyone involved in a journalist’s murder had been jailed.
“After 13 years we finally have justice for Orlando Sierra whose case highlighted all that was rotten in the Colombian legal system,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York. “This shows what journalists can achieve when they band together: impunity does not have to be the norm and the powerful can be held accountable.”
The Manizales court decision came after years of delays, the killings of witnesses, and controversial judicial rulings. The court also convicted Fabio López Escobar and Jorge Hernando López Escobar in the Sierra case and sentenced them to nearly 29 years in prison. Tapasco, who has a lengthy criminal record, was also convicted in 2010 for working with paramilitary death squads, according to news reports.
Sierra frequently accused prominent politicians from the local Liberal and Conservative parties of nepotism, vote buying, and looting public coffers. Tapasco was a former mayor and veteran political boss in Manizales, capital of Caldas province, northwest of Bogotá. He also served in the state assembly and was president of the Liberal Party in Caldas.
Sierra began receiving death threats in the late 1990s after writing about how Tapasco had been removed from office following the discovery that in the 1970s he had been convicted of selling military ration cards while serving as mayor of Supia, a municipality in Caldas.
According to CPJ research, Sierra publicly backed the legal process to remove Tapasco and also used his column to highlight Tapasco’s conviction for concealing information about the 1991 murder of a schoolteacher in Caldas. Sierra also investigated possible links between Tapasco and a death squad. Shortly before his death he had told colleagues that if anything happened to him Tapasco would be to blame.
Sierra was shot and wounded on January 30, 2002 outside the La Patria office. He died two days later. On the day of the shooting police arrested 21-year-old Luis Fernando Soto Zapata, who later confessed to the crime. Soto was sentenced to 19 years in prison but served only five due to good behavior. In July 2008 Soto died in a clash with the police in the city of Cali.
Fearing the Sierra murder would remain unsolved, seven Colombian newspapers and magazines formed Project Manizales to try to investigate the case. The Sierra killing was also the subject of a documentary, “The Battle of Silence.”
But despite a mounting body of evidence, Tapasco was only linked to the case three years later and his trial started a full decade after the killing, according to FLIP. By then, FLIP said in a statement, nine witnesses had been murdered. In 2013, a judge declared Tapasco innocent of the Sierra murder.
But the case was appealed by government prosecutors and by the Inspector General’s office which monitors the behavior of judicial officials. In handing down the sentences on Wednesday, the court said that Sierra’s columns criticizing Tapasco “generated resentment towards Sierra Hernández for asking questions about his power, his political leadership. (Tapasco) would not allow anyone to interfere with him,” according to news reports.
“This Attorney General’s office has been on top of this case for many years and we have had many roadblocks, such as the earlier not-guilty verdict,” Assistant Attorney General Jorge Fernando Perdomo said in a statement. “That decision has now been overturned. We hope this brings to a close a very important case.”
Although security in Colombia has improved in recent years, impunity is entrenched and threats and violence against journalists continue, according to CPJ research. Problems such as overburdened prosecutors and mishandling of evidence have delayed criminal investigations for years. Colombia ranked eighth on CPJ's 2014 Impunity Index, an annual survey spotlighting countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free. On May 26, President Juan Manuel Santos told CPJ he would prioritize combating impunity in attacks against the press and would urge judicial authorities to speed up investigations.
***24.06.2015. BRAZIL. Gunman convicted in 2013 murder of Brazilian journalist
The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction on Friday of the gunman in the 2013 murder of Brazilian journalist Rodrigo Neto and calls on authorities to ensure all those responsible, including the mastermind, are brought to justice."The murder of Rodrigo Neto has exemplified Brazil's entrenched impunity, and CPJ welcomes every step toward justice in his case," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "Authorities must build on this momentum to identify and prosecute the mastermind and then double down on their efforts to find justice for the more than dozen Brazilian journalists murdered in recent years."
Neto was shot dead on March 8, 2013, by a man on the back of a motorcycle, according to news reports. The journalist died in a hospital in Ipatinga, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. Neto was the host of the show "Plantão Policial" (Police Shift) on Rádio Vanguarda in Ipatinga and had begun working as a reporter at the daily Vale do Aço the week before the attack. He frequently received threats, especially for his coverage of cases in which police were suspected of involvement in local murders, Fernando Benedito Jr., a journalist in Ipatinga and a friend of Neto, told CPJ at the time.
A court sentenced Alessandro Neves Augusto, known as "Pitote," to 16 years in prison on charges of carrying out Neto's murder, according to news reports. Neves was already in custody at the time of his sentence. In August 2014, former police officer Lúcio Lírio Leal was sentenced to 12 years in prison for participating in the planning of Neto's murder, according to news reports. Both men denied the charges and Neves alleged that he was being framed by the local police, according to local reports.
Authorities are still investigating to determine the motive and mastermind, according to news reports.
Neves has also been charged with carrying out the murder in April 2013 of Walgney Assis Carvalho, a freelance crime photographer who also contributed to Vale do Aço, according to news reports. His trial in that case begins in August, the reports said.
In his court testimony in Neves' case, police chief Emerson Morais said he believed that Carvalho had been killed because the journalist had apparently told people that he knew who had killed Neto, according to news reports. Morais said that authorities were looking into Neto's critical reports as the primary line of investigation.
CPJ has documented a sharp increase in lethal, anti-press violence in Brazil in recent years. At least 14 journalists have been killed in direct retaliation for their work since 2011, CPJ research shows. While Brazil has achieved an impressive number of convictions in recent years--six in the past two years, including these two most recent cases--the ongoing violence led the country to be ranked 11th on CPJ's 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go unpunished.
In a meeting with a CPJ delegation in May 2014, President Dilma Rousseff pledged to continue fighting against impunity in cases of killed journalists. Rousseff told CPJ her administration would implement a mechanism to prevent deadly attacks, protect journalists under imminent risk, and support legislative efforts to federalize crimes against free expression. Rousseff said her administration had the political will to pursue a goal of "zero impunity" in journalists' murders.
***09.06.2015. BURKINA FASO: Historic ruling calls on Burkina Faso to investigate Norbert Zongo's murder
Reporters Without Borders hails the historic ruling that the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights issued on 5 June in the case of Norbert Zongo, a Burkina Faso newspaper editor who was murdered together with three other people in 1998.
The court ordered Burkina Faso's authorities to “resume the investigations with a view to finding, charging and trying the perpetrators of the murders of Norbert Zongo and his three companions.”
It also ordered the Burkina Faso state to pay compensation of 25 million CFA francs (38,000 euros) to the spouses of each of the four victims, 15 million CFA francs to each of their children and 10 million to each of their parents.
“This ruling constitutes a major turning-point in the Zongo case, which has suffered appallingly from the impunity tolerated for all these years by Burkina Faso's justice system,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.
“This puts additional pressure on the authorities to keep the promises of justice initially given at the time of the November 2014 political transition. The reparations demanded for the families of the victims are an acknowledgment of the suffering they endured. We hope the authorities will seize this opportunity to redress an injustice that has lasted for too long.” The founder and editor of the weekly L'Indépendant, Zongo was murdered while investigating the suspected implication of President Blaise Compaoré's brother in his driver's murder. The Zongo murder investigation was closed in 2006, without any one being found guilty, in a decision that outraged civil society and human rights defenders.
In a previous decision issued in March 2014, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights ruled that Burkina Faso had failed to properly investigate the Zongo murder.
After President Compaoré was ousted last November, transitional President Michel Kafando announced that steps would be taken to combat impunity, raising hopes that the Zongo case would be quickly reopened. An investigating judge was appointed but no tangible progress has been seen since then.
The government now has six months to submit a report on the progress achieved in the Zongo case.
***23.04.2015. NEPAL. Mastermind convicted in 2009 murder of Nepali journalist Uma Singh
Kathmandu, April 23, 2015-The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction and sentencing on Wednesday of the mastermind in the 2009 murder of journalist Uma Singh. A court in the district of Dhanusha convicted Umesh Yadav of ordering Singh's murder and sentenced him to life in prison, according to local news reports.
"The conviction of the mastermind in Uma Singh's murder is a step toward addressing the climate of impunity in Nepal," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz from New York. "We hope that six years on, Singh's family and colleagues can find solace in the scales of justice that tipped in favor of accountability and rule of law."
Singh, a reporter for Janakpur Today and Radio Today, was stabbed to death in her home in Janakpur on January 11, 2009. Police arrested Yadav, a former Maoist, in September 2013 for ordering Singh's murder. Two others were sentenced to life terms in 2011 in connection with her killing. The Federation of Nepali Journalists found that Singh's murder was related to her work. The journalist had been very critical of Maoists in her region and had reported on alleged land expropriation by Maoists, according to reports.
In 90 percent of all murder cases, there has been total impunity-no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions, CPJ research shows. In dozens of cases around the world, masterminds have eluded arrest and investigations have failed to go beyond lower-level suspects, CPJ research shows. While Nepal in 2013 dropped off CPJ's Impunity Index-which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free-threats and violence against journalists continue, CPJ research shows.
***25.02.2015. PAKISTAN. Irshad Mastoi: Journalist's murder probe complete
QUETTA: The Balochistan government has yet to decide whether or not it should make public a judicial commission's report on the targeted killing of a senior journalist in Quetta Irshad Mastoi, bureau chief of Online news distribution agency, as
well as a reporter Abdul Rasul and an accountant Mohammed Younus were killed on August 28, 2014 while they were at work in their office in downtown Quetta.
After the incident, Balochistan High Court (BHC) had formed a judicial commission, which recorded statements of witnesses to probe the killing.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani said judicial commission had submitted its report around two weeks ago.
"The report is sent to Balochistan chief minister and chief secretary and they will decide whether it should be made public or not," he said.
"We asked the commission to probe murder cases of 14 Balochistan journalists. However, the commission has submitted a report on the triple murder case," he said.
He said the remaining murder cases will be referred to a sessions court judge as the high court does not have enough judges to look after such a huge number of cases.
The home secretary, however, disputed the figure of Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), which claims that as many as 40 journalists have so far been killed in Balochistan since 2007 "We have compiled the list of those who are journalists and do not have other jobs," he said.
Commenting on the issue, the BUJ President Irfan Saeed said they demand judicial investigation into all the 40 cases. He said he will not comment on the report until he himself reviews it.
Meanwhile, other BUJ members said they have the complete list of the murdered media men, adding that they challenged government officials to debate on the number of journalists killed in Balochistan.
They said the government had not properly investigated even a single murder case.
Insurgency-hit Balochistan is one of the worst places in the world for journalists as it faces multiple issues like militancy, extremism, sectarian violence and proxy wars.
Source: Express Tribune
***10.02.2015. PHILIPPINES. Dispatches: Jailing the Philippines’ Elusive Journalist Killers
Media freedom advocates in the Philippines scored a rare victory when a court convicted an alleged gunman in the killing of broadcaster Miguel Belen. The court, in the province of Camarines Sur, last week sentenced Eric Vargas to a 40-year prison term for the July 2010 murder of Belen in Sorsogon City. Killers of journalists in the Philippines almost always elude justice.
According to data from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, only 14 of the 172 such cases filed in court after the Philippines’ People Power revolution in 1986 have ended in a conviction. President Benigno Aquino III has said that his administration is pursuing the prosecution of those behind the killings “with the end in view of arresting every culprit regardless of whether [the victim] was a media individual, an activist, or any other individual.” Despite that rhetoric, convictions have been rare while the body count has steadily risen: 30journalists have been murdered since Aquino took office in 2010. Even worse, not a single mastermind of these killings has been prosecuted and convicted.
A case in point is that of Gerry Ortega, a broadcaster and environmentalist murdered in January 2011. Although one of the suspects, Marlon Recamata, confessed to killing Ortega and implicated former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes and his brother Mario as the masterminds behind the murder, both men remain at large.
Government inaction not only denies families of victims justice, but it puts others at risk. In a May 2014 report, Human Rights Watch linked the killing of broadcaster Rogelio Butalid to a “death squad” in the southern city of Tagum, financed and directed by then-Tagum City Mayor Rey Chiong Uy. A witness told Human Rights Watch that one of Uy’s gunmen killed Butalid. Former death squad members as well as a top police official also implicated Uy in Butalid’s murder. But to date, Philippines authorities have taken no action against Uy and his accomplices. Meanwhile, Uy is contemplating another run for Tagum City mayor in 2016 elections.
***04.02.2015. AFGHANISTAN. Afghan suspect arrested in Swedish journalist’s murder (IFJ)
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) welcome the arrest of a suspect in the murder of British-Swedish radio journalist Nils Horner in Afghanistan in 2014.
On January 30, the Afghan security agency announced the arrest of a commander of the terrorist organization, Mahaz-e-Fadaiyan. Horner, a 51-year-old Hong Kong-based journalist working for Sveriges Radio, was killed in a rare daylight attack in Kabul in March last year, only a few days after he arrived in Afghanistan. Two weeks after the attack, Mahaz-e-Fadaiyan claimed responsibility for the attack, accusing Horner of being an MI6 spy.
A splinter group of the Taliban, Mahaz-e-Fadaiyan is also believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of New York Times journalist David Rohde in 2008. Rohde was kidnapped while going to interview a Taliban commander, for a strory on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
AIJA General Secretary, Samandar Rahimullah said: “AIJA is happy that the Afghan government has arrested at least one of the two suspects for one journalists’ murder case. We appreciated their efforts and request the government investigate all journalist murders without press or influence. We hope they follow with similar cases.”
Jane Worthington, the IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, said: “The arrest is the first step on the road to justice for Nils Horner and a promising sign of the country’s efforts to combat its troubling record of impunity. The IFJ hopes that this arrest will lead to justice and the arrest of further suspects.”
The IFJ urged to Afghan government to ensure that this arrest is the start of commitment to end impunity for crimes against journalists, which the government outlined in November 2014.
Impunity is Afghanistan is a concerning issue. Last year 9 journalists were killed in the country – one of the highest for the region/world.
Jane Worthington said: “In order to break the cycle of impunity, perpetrators must be brought to justice swiftly. The arrest of a commander from Mahez-e-Fadaiyan is a significant breakthrough. The flow-on effect on arresting masterminds in these killings cannot and should not be underplayed.”
***24.01.2015. TURKEY. Judicial authorities urged to press ahead with Hrant Dink murder case (RSF)
This week saw the eighth anniversary of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink’s murder, while the trial of his accused killers continues today in Istanbul. Reporters Without Borders hails the recent progress in the judicial investigation and urges the authorities to press on to the end without letting politics influence the outcome.
The founder and editor of the weekly Agos and a leading civil society figure, Hrant Dink was gunned down in broad daylight in central Istanbul on 19 January 2007. A tireless campaigner for democratization and for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, he was the victim of a media and judicial lynching in the run-up to his murder.
His death was a turning point for Turkish society, which began to ignore the taboo about discussing the Armenian genocide and to debate the fate of Turkey’s minorities more freely. Will light finally be shed on a crime whose shock waves are still being felt eight years later?
At the end of a half-hearted trial concerned above all with protecting the state, a court ruled in January 2012 that Ogün Samast, the ultra-nationalist youth from the northeastern city of Trabzon who shot Dink, did so at the behest of a single instigator, Yasin Hayal.
The Court of Cassation overturned this ruling in May 2013, opening the way for a more thorough investigation into the suspected instigators and those within the state who are suspected of being accomplices or providing protection. More than a year went by before the judges in charge of the case acted on this ruling, but the judicial investigation is finally making progress.
“Now that the judicial system has at last removed its blinkers after a very long wait, the testimony of police and intelligence officers is starting to shed light on the organized nature of Dink’s murder and the involvement of state officials, something that was obvious from the start,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“It remains to be seen whether it is not too late to shed light on all aspects of this murder or whether the case will again be manipulated for political ends. Time is running out if justice is to be rendered to Hrant Dink.”Prolonged injustice
Investigative journalists such as Nedim Sener, Kemal Göktas and Adem Yavuz Arslan had revealed that members of the police and gendarmerie in Istanbul and Trabzon and members of the MIT intelligence agency received information about the plan to kill Dink and did nothing to prevent it.
The European Court of Human Rights reached a similar conclusion and issued a ruling against Turkey in 2010. And after examining the case, the offices of the president and prime minister also criticized the police and intelligence services.
Nonetheless, the Turkish judges responsible for the various aspects of the case continued for a long time to refuse to take account of these facts. Obstructive manoeuvres by the police and state agencies, combined with judicial foot-dragging, contributed to the fiasco of the first trial and its verdicts, which Reporters Without Borders condemned as “outrageous.”
What little progress was made at that time was due to the tireless efforts of the Dink family’s lawyers, who conducted investigative work that the investigating judges refused to do. It was therefore with great relief that Reporters Without Borders hailed the Court of Cassation decision recognizing that Dink’s murder was a “criminal enterprise” and not just the work of a small group of fanatics. A first step, the organization hopes, towards a thorough examination of the terrorist dimension of this crime.
The appeal trial opened in September 2013 but it was not until the end of October 2014 that the court decided to incorporate the Court of Cassation’s findings. Since then, it has been accepted that the police and intelligence services had a role in the murder.Police finally treated as suspects
Most of the various components of the case were then merged into one – an indispensible step for a better understanding. Until then, they had been handled by different courts, which helped complicate the case unnecessarily and led to delays, a lack of cooperation between judges and overall lack of effectiveness.
When Reporters Without Borders visited Trabzon in September 2013, it pointed out that it was much harder for the city’s judges to question the behaviour of the local police because of the close relations within the provincial elite.
The main investigations into the Istanbul and Trabzon police were finally merged on 7 November 2014. The case of the hit-man, Ogün Samast, who was 17 at the time of the shooting and who was originally tried before a court for minors, was also attached to the main case. Sentenced to 23 years in prison on a charge pre-meditated homicide in 2012, Samast is now additionally charged with “membership of a criminal organization.”
The Istanbul prosecutor-general for terrorism and organized crime has been questioning nine senior police and intelligence officials as suspects since November 2014. They include former Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah, former Istanbul deputy prefect Ergün Güngör, former Istanbul police intelligence directors Ahmet Ilhan Güler and Ali Fuat Yilmazer, and the former head of the intelligence department of the General Directorate for Security, Ramazan Akyürek.
As a result of the initial hearings, two Trabzon police officers, Muhittin Zenit and Özkan Mumcu, were placed in pre-trial detention on 13 January on charges of negligence and abuse of authority for doing nothing to prevent Dink’s murder. Phone calls reportedly established that Zenit had been told of the murder plans.
Ercan Demir, who was recently appointed police chief of the southeastern district of Cizre and who was working in Trabzon police intelligence at the time of the murder, was also arrested on 19 January.Caution
Nonetheless, problems remain. The case of Retired Colonel Ali Öz, who headed the Trabzon gendarmerie at the time and who is being tried before a Trabzon court on a negligence charge, has yet to be combined with the main Istanbul trial. No progress has been registered in this aspect of the case for the past three years, despite repeated requests by the Dink family’s lawyers pending a Court of Cassation decision.
The recent sudden progress in the case has come at a time of extreme tension in Turkey. The judicial system has emerged as one of the chief bones of contention in the rivalry between the government and its former allies in the Gülen Movement, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now regards as public enemy No. 1.
A major anti-corruption investigation targeting senior government officials that was launched last December was regarded by the government as a Gülen Movement “conspiracy.” The investigation was suppressed and hundreds of police officers, inspectors, judges and prosecutors have been fired in the past few months.
These purges have made it possible to question the police, but they do not necessarily make it more likely that the truth will emerge. In fact, the government could again exploit the trial of Dink’s killers for political ends, as it did already in its battle with former officials who espouse the secularist views of the Turkish Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
***23.01.2015. PHILIPPINES. Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On
The International Federation of Journalists joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in launching the report Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On. The report represents the findings of the International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines in November last year marking the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in 2009. To date, not a single killer has been convicted and at least four witnesses have been killed with the trial of 193 suspects expected to drag out for many years.
IFJ acting director Jane Worthington said: “On November 23, 2009, the Philippines showed the world in the most horrific way what impunity looks like. The slaughter of 58 people – including 32 journalists – in an “unprecedented act of political violence” in Southern Mindanao was, and is, the single biggest killing of media workers in history.”
Today, Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On sheds light on the country’s horrific culture of impunity and hands down a series of recommendations to the Aquino government. It also outlines recommendations for justice and law enforcement reform, calls for further international support and media commitments to journalist safety, including:
- President Aquino and his administration to publicly condemn all acts of violence against media workers.
- Promote the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
- Commit to provide ongoing financial support to the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.
- Ensure Task Force Usig sets targets for the arrest and prosecution of the remaining 84 suspects at large in Ampatuan massacre and for the arrest of masterminds in the Esperat and Ortega killings and to report by May 2, 2015, UN World Press Freedom Day.
- Investigate thoroughly, prosecute and report on the 54 “priority” unsolved cases of media killings outlined by Justice Secretary, Leila De Lima, and publicly disclose the progress on these cases before November 2, 2015.
- Ensure a mechanism for the immediate transfer of venue for cases in regional areas where suspects may influence proceedings.
- Adopt journalist protection initiatives and legislative reforms implemented in countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Honduras, including recognition of media workers as an “at risk” group and prevention strategies that include much-needed regional and federal structures for protecting human rights.
- Conduct an independent review of the state witness protection program to determine the efficacy and financial investment to ensure witnesses are guaranteed the expected level of protection.
- Enact a statutory framework for the nation’s law enforcement officials to make agencies more accountable through tailored mechanisms of internal review and Parliamentary oversight to report on attacks on journalists within a designated timeframe.
- Train military and police in their responsibilities for the safety and security of citizens, including media personnel. Ensure they are aware of their obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738; encourage cooperation between media and the state’s agencies in the future investigation of journalist attacks.
See the full list of recommendations here.
***13.12.2014. NEPAL jails 5 former rebels for journalist murder, torture
A Nepalese court jailed five former Maoist rebels on Sunday over the
torture and killing of a journalist, lawyers said, in the first such
ruling for crimes committed during the country's civil war.
The men, all middle-ranking cadres, were convicted and sentenced to up
to two years in prison over the abduction and murder in 2004 of
Dekendra Raj Thapa, a radio reporter and human rights activist.
Investigations have showed that Thapa was repeatedly beaten
unconscious before being buried alive during the decade-long conflict
that ended in 2006.
"The court found them guilty of their involvement in the case and
sentenced them to one to two years in prison," said Basanta Gautam,
the lawyer for the journalist's family. Gautam had appealed for life
sentences during the trial.
Rights activists slammed the sentence as too lenient, saying it set a
discouraging precedent for victims and their relatives who had been
hoping for harder justice from the country's criminal courts.
"We are appalled by the decision," said Mandira Sharma, a human rights
lawyer and activist.
"This case was representative of the crimes committed during the war.
How will people trust the country's justice system now?"
Four other former Maoists accused in the case are still on the run.
The verdict is the first by the courts despite allegations of killings
and torture on both sides during the conflict.
More than 16,000 people died in the civil war between Maoist rebels
and government forces, but rights groups say little has been done to
bring justice for those affected.
Nepal is in the process of setting up a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission on the Disappeared, aimed at healing wounds from the
***10.12.2014. IFJ and FAJ Welcomes African Courts Landmark Decision in Favour of Freedom of Expression
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) have welcomed the African Court on Human and Peoples Rightslandmark decision of 5 December in the case of journalist Issa LohKonatagainst Burkina Faso. The Court ruled that the government had violated the reporters right to freedom of expression, following his 12 months jail sentence handed down in 2012 for having accused a public prosecutor of corruption. In a binding decision which sets a precedent for all African states, the court ordered Burkina Faso to amend its law on defamation.
"We welcome this magnificent victory for press freedom. The African Court has delivered an extraordinary first ruling on press freedom which will have a knock on effect on the legislation in all African countries forcing them to change their law on defamation. African governments should now amend their laws, drop pending criminal defamation charges, and free those jailed under such laws,said IFJs President Jim Boumelha.
Issa LohKonat, editor of the Burkina Faso weekly LOuragan (The Hurricane) newspaper, was arrested in 2012, tried and convicted of defaming Burkinabe State Prosecutor, Placide Nikima. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined 6,000 euros. The arrest was a result of the publication of two articles alleging abuse of power and corruption by the prosecutors office.
I am very pleased with this judgment. The African Court has recognized the injustice I have suffered. Not only am I happy from a personal point of view, but also because this decision of the Court will have positive implications for all my fellow journalists who face great risks, including, as I did, imprisonment, for reporting on issues that matter. This is a victory for the entire profession," Konattold reporters.
In March 2014, 18 NGOs intervened in the Konatcase at the African Court in Arusha, Tanzania, to address growing concerns over the use of criminal defamation laws to censor journalists and others in Africa, arguing that they are incompatible with freedom of expression and severely undermine the democratic rights of the media and concerned citizens to hold their governments to account.
"We applaud this decision of the African Court in line with our plans to fight criminal libel through litigatigation, and campaings to decriminalise libel laws" said Mohamed Garba, President of FAJ.
According to international norms on freedom of expression standards, criminal defamations laws should be considered a civil matter and not a crime punishable with imprisonment. These laws are often used by governments to jail journalists like Konat, silence critical voices and deprive public information about officialsmisconduct. The Court has ruled that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression while it should only be used in restricted circumstances such as incitement to violence.
The decision is a victory for Konatand his legal team consisting of Nani Jansen, John Jones QC and Steven Finizio.
***31.10.2014. UNITED NATIONS EXPERT CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE MIDST OF A VERY SERIOUS CRISIS OF ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS
Statement by Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Marks First International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists
GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, calls upon all governments to take steps to prevent attacks on journalists and to hold accountable those who commit them.
Marking the first annual International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, 2 November 2014, the human rights expert reminds all Governments that accountability and a culture of respect for transparency and journalism are critical elements in reducing attacks on all journalists:
“All the data shows that we are in the midst of a very serious crisis. It’s not just one attack here and another there; dozens of journalists have been killed and hundreds detained or threatened in recent years. And yet the perpetrators are virtually never held accountable.
Impunity for crimes against journalists is a serious and pervasive problem that threatens the protection of journalists around the world. According to the UN, over 700 journalists have been killed over the last decade in the exercise of their profession. So far in 2014, says the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 40 journalists have been killed because of their reporting activities.
Most of these deaths were deliberately committed in connection with journalists’ denunciation of crime and corruption. One in ten of these cases are not investigated, either because of insufficient resources or a lack of political will. Ninety percent of the perpetrators of crimes against journalists go unpunished.
Impunity for attacks against journalists seriously endangers the right to freedom of expression and everyone’s right to information. By not fully investigating these crimes and prosecuting those responsible, States are failing to uphold their human rights obligations and perpetuating a culture of unpunished violence against journalists.
Last December, the UN General Assembly proclaimed November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity, and condemned unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers.
The UN General Assembly also urged its members to monitor and report on attacks on journalists, ensure government officials -including law enforcement and security officials- understand the critical role played by journalists in enabling access to information, and publicly condemn all such attacks.
States must adopt law and policies that generate respect for the work done by journalists. States must also take steps to prevent attacks on journalists and to hold accountable those who commit them.
“Unless potential perpetrators know that their attacks will have legal consequences,” Kaye concluded, “these instances of violence against journalists will persist. And victims are not only the journalists themselves but also societies as a whole that end up being deprived of critical information.”
David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
***31.10.2014. UN Day to End Impunity: Governments Must Protect Media Workers as Attacks Spiral Out of Control (IFJ)
The International Federation of Journalists is marking the inaugural UN Day to End Impunity by calling on governments worldwide to address the issue of impunity for violence against journalists as intimidation, abuse and violence of media workers continues to escalate.
The UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists was adopted on 18 December 2013 and will be marked for the first time this Sunday, 2 November, the first anniversary of the killings of two French RFI reporters, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, murdered in Kidal, Mali in 2013.
The first UN Day is being marked as the IFJ confirms that the death toll of killed journalists has reached nearly 100 for the year, with more deaths expected amid the increasing violence in countries such as Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Ukraine.
To date this year, Pakistan is the country with the highest number of journalists killed at 13, while nine journalists were murdered amid the conflict in Palestine during the summer, and the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine have claimed seven journalist lives so far, the same number as in Afghanistan. In Syria and Iraq, the threat of IS has introduced a new dimension to the abuse of journalists.
"2014 will be sadly remembered not just as another tragic year where journalists are routinely killed, but for the barbaric clips of the beheadings of the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff which will stay with us forever. This is a new dimension that we have never seen before and we are determined to bring to an end", said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
"We are of course grateful that the international institutions have established the UN Day to End Impunity, but they should be doing more to make governments take responsibility for the security and protection of journalists".
The IFJ has called on its affiliates and members worldwide to join its End Impunity campaign by taking actions that urge the authorities of the countries with the highest death tolls of journalists to investigate these killings and bring their perpetrators to justice.
"I appeal to all of you to help do everything you can to help us roll back this dreadful scourge and save the lives of our colleagues", said Boumelha. "There is much we can do. The only unacceptable option is to do nothing".
The UN day comes ahead of another important date of 23 November, which commemorates the Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines when at least 32 journalists lost their lives in the single deadliest attack on media. Since 2011, this day has been adopted by IFEX members as the International Day against Impunity.
From 2-23 November, the IFJ will roll out the End Impunity campaign with a series of actions including statements, video messages, a social media campaign and a Thunderclap campaign.
Find out more about the End Impunity campaign and how you can support it on the IFJ website.
***30.10.2014. The PEC welcomes a new campaign #FightImpunity – defend your right to information!
Reporters Without Borders is launching #FightImpunity, an international campaign in English, Spanish and French for the first “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” on 2 November.
Its aim is to put pressure on governments to bring those responsible for crimes of violence against journalists to justice.
Around 800 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past decade. More than 90 percent of crimes against journalists are never solved and therefore never punished. This level of impunity just encourages those who commit these crimes.
Using the examples of ten cases of impunity for torture, disappearances and murders of journalists, the campaign highlights the failings of police and judicial systems around the world.
The cases include those of Mexican journalist María Esther Aguilar Casimbe, who disappeared aged 33 in November 2009 while covering crime and police matters; Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, found dead in May 2011 while investigating links between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani army; and French journalist Guy-André Kieffer, who went missing in Côte d’Ivoire in 2004 while researching shady practices in the production and export of cocoa.
The resources deployed by the relevant authorities to solve these cases, and many others, were either non-existent or hopelessly inadequate.
The campaign is using a website, http://fightimpunity.org/, and a hashtag, #FightImpunity. Because crimes against journalists concern everyone, the website offers Internet users the possibility of taking personal action by sending an email or tweet to the heads of state or government of the countries involved.
Using an interactive mechanism, the general public can send emails with specific details about individual cases to demand that justice be rendered.
The UN General Assembly designated 2 November as “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” as a tribute to Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale who were murdered in Mali on 2 November 2012.
Co-sponsored by some 50 countries including France and adopted by the human rights committee, the resolution creating this International Day urges UN member states to “do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers,” conduct “speedy and effective” investigations into all cases of violence against journalists and bring the perpetrators to justice.
***28.10.2014. 90 Percent Of Journalists' Killers Are Never Punished, Reports CPJ
One of the greatest impediments to press freedom around the world is impunity in the murder of journalists, according to a study released Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Though the issue of violence against journalists has received a great deal of international attention in recent months 370 members of the press have been slain in the last 10 years.
But what's even more shocking? Ninety percent of their murderers faced no form of punishment nor arrest.
The problem is not just awareness, but a lack of real commitment to action from governments where such violence is most pervasive.
"While international attention to the issue has grown over the past decade, there has been little progress in bringing down rates of impunity," CPJ wrote. "States will have to demonstrate far more political will to implement international commitments to make an impact on the high rates of targeted violence that journalists routinely face."
***20.09.2014. IFJ and EFJ Welcome Call to Re-Open O'Hagan Murder Investigation
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have joined their affiliate, the National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland (NUJ), to welcome a call by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media for a re-opening of the investigation into the murder of Sunday World journalist Martin OHagan in September 2001.
On Friday Dunja Mijatovicalled on the UK authorities to re-launch a criminal investigation into the murder which happened 13 years ago. It is unacceptable that all this time has passed and not one person has been held responsible for what was a public execution,Ms Mijatovisaid. The failure to prosecute can create an environment of impunity for those who might attack journalists.
Backing the OSCE statement, IFJ President Jim Boumelha said: We join our colleagues at the NUJ in supporting this statement which would send a strong message across the world that the rights and freedom of media is respected and those who carry out such attacks will not go unpunished.
Martin O'Hagan was killed in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, on 28 September 2001. At the time of his death he was Secretary of the Belfast and District branch of the NUJ.
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the intervention serves as a timely reminder of the failure of the PSNI to secure a conviction for the murder of a journalist of commitment, courage and integrity. She added: The NUJ has long been demanding the re-opening of the investigation and it is appropriate that the OSCE should again seek to place the issue on the international agenda.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.
Read the OSCE statement HERE.
***24.07.2014. AFGHANISTAN. Afghan policeman sentenced to death for killing foreign journalist Anja Niedringhaus
An Afghan policeman who shot dead a foreign female journalist, was sentenced to jail by a court in capital Kabul on Wednesday.
The policeman, Naqibullah opened fire on Associated Press (AP) photographer Anja Niedringhaus in eastern Afghanistan during the first round of election.
Another AP correspondent Kathy Gannon was also critically injured following the incident which took place in eastern Khost province earlier in April this year.
The first verdict was announced by Kabul District Court where Naqibullah was found guilty of murder and treason over the attack.
Naqibullah was also sentenced to fours in prison for critically injuring the AP reporter Kathy Gannon.
The verdict and sentence can be reviewed to several stages under the Afghan law, which means that Naqibullah may appeal to a second court within 15 days and then ultimately to the Supreme Court.
No reason was given by Naqibullah during the court hearing regarding his intention to open fire on foreign journalists.
The defense lawyer of Naqibullah argued that the convict was not a normal person. However, his claims were rejected by judges after the convict correctly provided his name, age and the correct date.
Follow Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency
***21.07.2014. PERU. El gremio de la prensa guardó un minuto de silencio - QUE SE LLEGUE A LA VERDAD, DEMANDA
FAMILIA DE PERIODISTA HUGO BUSTÍOS
Margarita Patiño, la esposa del extinto periodista Hugo Bustíos Saavedra, demandó justicia, que se llegue a la verdad, después de casi 26 años de ocurrido el execrable asesinato en la localidad de Erapata, en la cercanía de la ciudad de Huanta, Ayacucho. Visiblemente acongojada manifestó que existen cicatrices que no se han cerrado y que pese al tiempo transcurrido, la administración de justicia se ha tornado lenta toda vez que se está a la espera de la audiencia oral que debe de ventilarse en el fuero penal.
No nos asiste ningún espíritu de venganza ni de rencor. Lo que estamos exigiendo es que no queden en la impunidad hechos de esta naturaleza, que involucran a personajes como Daniel Urresti Elera, quien actualmente, a pesar de conocer mucho de lo ocurrido aquel lejano 26 de noviembre de 1988, ahora, en la práctica, tiene la protección del poder político. Y eso es lo inexplicable cuando se cuenta con un Estado donde existen leyes que contienen deberes y derechos y también es inaceptable porque después de la muerte de Hugo Bustíos, quien fue corresponsal de la revista Caretas, hay una familia que ha tenido que hacer grandes esfuerzos para afrontar el problema en el desamparo.
Las declaraciones de Margarita Patiño se produjeron luego del minuto de silencio que guardaron los periodistas a lo largo y ancho del territorio nacional, en ocasión del 86 aniversario de la Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú, gremio al que pertenecía el fallecido comunicador y que, además ejercía el cargo de presidente de la Asociación Provincial de Periodistas de Huanta.
En términos similares formuló declaraciones Rosa Pallqui, esposa de Jaime Ayala Sulca, periodista desaparecido en el año 1984, cuando se presentó en el cuartel acantonado en Huanta para solicitar la devolución de sus archivos periodísticos, los mismos que habían sido requisados en medio de los excesos ocurridos durante los años en que el terrorismo asolaba al Perú. Manifestó que así como el caso Bustíos, lo mismo sucede con el caso de Jaime Ayala, cuyo proceso judicial no avanza y se encuentra a la espera de la audiencia respectiva para el juicio oral.
Alcira Velásquez vda. de Sedano, el reportero gráfico del diario La República, que conjuntamente con otros siete colegas fue asesinado en Uchuraccay, declaró que era menester del gobierno mostrar su respeto por la libertad de prensa, con hechos concretos, como es el caso de Hugo Bustíos, en el que su familia se siente desalentada porque no se hace justicia ni se sanciona como corresponde a quienes cegaron la vida del conocido reportero.
Al igual que en otras redacciones, de diarios impresos, digitales, emisoras radiales, revistas, se cumplió la jornada gremial demandando un paso al costado del cuestionado funcionario público Daniel Urresti. En el diario La República se registró uno de los actos más sentidos. Hombres y mujeres que forman parte de la plana de redacción, se plegaron al minuto de silencio y exteriorizaron, acompañados de familiares de un grupo de los periodistas asesinados y desaparecidos, su rechazo a la impunidad en la muerte de los periodistas.
El minuto de silencio, un acontecimiento inédito por su envergadura a nivel nacional, se cumplió en todas las regiones del país. En la capital de la república periodistas venidos de diferentes provincias se dieron cita en la Iglesia de La Merced, en pleno centro de la ciudad de Lima, en donde luego de la misa celebrada, se llevó a cabo la jornada convocada por la ANP. Omar Pérez, secretario general de la Federación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Comunicación Social, que agrupa a los sindicatos independientes, manifestó que su organización se plegaba al acto con el objeto de exigir justicia para los periodistas, que en cumplimiento de su deber, como fue el caso de Bustíos, han perdido la vida. Del mismo modo, la periodista Mary Espinoza, procedente de Satipo, declaró que era inaceptable que las autoridades actuaran con tanta lenidad y que, por tanto, eso hacía temer, como ya ha ocurrido en la peor etapa del autoritarismo en el siglo pasado, que hechos de esta naturaleza no sancione a los culpables intelectuales y materiales de los crímenes de periodistas.
Los dirigentes de la Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú recalcaron que la renuncia del actual ministro del Interior es una cuestión de moral pública, que no se trataba de oponerse a las acciones que podrían servir para poner atajo a la criminalidad en el país, sino más bien de llamar la atención del gobierno para que en cargos tan delicados como el de la seguridad ciudadana y la persecución de los delincuentes corresponda a ciudadanos que no tienen ningún problema con la ley. El caso Daniel Urresti preocupa porque se trata de alguien que se encuentra involucrado a raíz de la acusación que corre en autos del expediente del crimen de Hugo Bustíos y que, por eso mismo, en defensa de su propio honor personal, le corresponde evitar que haya confusión sobre su función como ministro político y un supuesto blindaje del régimen, amparado en una presunción de inocencia.
Lima, 21 de julio del 2014
SECRETARIA NACIONAL DE COMUNICACIONES ANP
***22.05.2014. RUSSIA. IFJ/EFJ Urge Russian Authorities to Find Those Who Ordered Politkovskaya Murder
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have welcomed the convictions of the murderers of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but they have urged Russian authorities to continue their investigations and to find those people who ordered the killing.
On Tuesday, 20 May, a Moscow court found five men guilty of murdering Politkovskaya, a renowned investigate journalist and frequent Kremlin critic. She was shot dead in what was believed to be a contract killing in the elevator of her apartment block in 2006. According to reports, three of the defendants who were convicted had been acquitted in a previous trial.
The IFJ and EFJ have joined international calls for investigations in the case to continue. It is hugely positive news that the killers of Anna Politkovskaya have been convicted of this horrific crime,said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. But the fight for justice for our colleague Anna is not over.
We urge authorities in Russia to push forward with their investigation and to ensure that those people who ordered this killing are identified and convicted for the crime. Only then can justice be truly done.
***29.04.2014. PHILIPPINES. Aquino addresses impunity in the Philippines during Obama visit
CMFR/Philippines - The Aquino administration says it has created an
inter-agency committee to look into extrajudicial killings and other human
President Benigno Aquino III made the announcement when a journalist asked him during the April 28 press conference held on the first day of US
President Barack Obama 's two-day state visit what he was doing to address
the high number of journalists killed in the Philippines and the low number
of killers convicted since he took office in 2010.
Ed Henry of Fox News asked the Philippine President, "As a journalist, I'd
like to ask you, why 26 journalists have been killed since you took office?
And I understand that there have only been suspects arrested in six of
those cases. What are you doing to fix that?"
Excluding the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre<http://www.cmfr-phil.org/ampatuanwatch/>, Aquino's presidency has the highest average number of journalists killed per year compared to other presidencies since 1986. As per CMFR's count, 22 have been killed<.https://www.facebook.com/notes/center-for-media-freedom-and-responsibility/cmfr-database-on-attacks-and-threats-against-press-freedom-and-journalistsmedia-/699962636701652>
for their work since Aquino became President in 2010.
On 23 November 2009, 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists and media
workers, were killed in a single election-related violence in Ampatuan
town, Maguindanao province.
Since 1986, only 13 cases have convictions and only gunmen have faced
justice. No mastermind has ever been convicted.
Aquino said his administration has created "An inter-agency committee to
look on extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other
grave violations of right to life, liberty and security of persons."
However, Aquino admitted that, "Unfortunately, speed is not a hallmark of
our current judicial system, and there are various steps, laws, amendments,
particular laws, even a rethink of the whole process to try and ensure the
speedy disposition of justice."
He recalled that "judicial reform" was one of his promises when he ran for
office but it was still "a work in progress."
"Perhaps we are very sensitive to personal relationships by the people who
are deceased, who are killed not because of professional activities but,
shall we say, other issues. But having said that, they were killed; that is
against the law. The people will have to be found, prosecuted and sent to
jail," Aquino said.
It was the first time Aquino announced the creation of the committee and
the first time since the 2010 election that he has admitted the need for
judicial reform. CMFR has listed 14 non-work-related killings of
journalists in addition to 22 that were work -related.
The Philippines has retained its third place ranking<http://www.cmfr-phil.org/2014/04/16/philippines-still-ranks-3rd-in-press-freedom-watchdogs-impunity-index/> in the 2014 Committee to Protect Journalists' Impunity
Index<http://cpj.org/reports/2014/04/impunity-index-getting-away-with-murder.php>, behind Iraq and Somalia. The Index ranks each country on the basis of the number of convictions of the killers of journalists relative to population. "Impunity" refers to the exemption from punishment of the killers of journalists.
The Index was released only a week after another journalist was killed in
the Philippines, which has "held the third worst spot on the Index since
2010," said CPJ.
On 6 April 2014, tabloid reporter Robelita "Ruby" Garcia<http://www.cmfr-phil.org/2014/04/07/tabloid-reporter-shot-dead-140th-since-1986/>
was shot inside her home, in front of her family. In her dying moments, she
said a police officer whom she said she had criticized could have been
responsible. The Aquino administration said it is taking the killings
***21.04.2014. PERU. A diez años del asesinato del periodista Alberto Rivera Fernández ¡NO A LA IMPUNIDAD!
La Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú (ANP), a diez años del asesinato del periodista Alberto Rivera Fernández, hace un llamado a mantener firme la demanda de justicia. Esto, en vísperas de que la Corte Suprema falle en torno a la nulidad de la sentencia que absolvió al ex alcalde de Coronel Portillo, Luis Valdez Villacorta, sindicado como autor intelectual del crimen.
Rivera Fernández, quien denunciaba a través de su programa radial la relación de Valdez Villacorta con el tráfico de madera, narcotráfico y supuestas irregularidades en la gestión de la municipalidad de Coronel Portillo, fue victimado en Pucallpa, el 21 de abril del 2004. Ha pasado una década de dolor e impunidad. Los autores materiales del crimen -sicarios a sueldo- han sido apresados. Sin embargo, el móvil del crimen y la responsabilidad de los autores intelectuales no han sido aún determinados a pesar de las pruebas presentadas ante los tribunales por la fiscalía y la defensa del periodista.
El caso Alberto Rivera, para todos los periodistas peruanos, testimonia el grado de impunidad que signa los crímenes contra periodistas en el país. En los últimos 30 años se han asesinado a 59 periodistas en Perú y todos los casos están marcados por la impunidad parcial. Se logra identificar a los sicarios pero no se determina responsabilidad de los reales instigadores de los homicidios.
La ANP de manera continua ha denunciado una serie de irregularidades producidas durante el proceso estos diez años. Postergación de audiencias, suspensión del proceso, no admisibilidad de pruebas, incidentes y vicios procesales.
La defensa del periodista ha demostrado que desde el mes de enero de 2004 se dio inicio a un plan criminal destinado a eliminar al incómodo periodista. Este plan contenía las denuncias contra Rivera por hechos que no había cometido, las sistemáticas y persistentes amenazas de muerte contra su persona, pero como nada de eso lo silenció, se le asesinó. También se ha demostrado que la única persona que tenía un "legítimo y justificado interés" para ordenar la muerte del periodista era Luis Valdez Villacorta.
Probado ello, la ANP recuerda que según prescribe la Declaración de Principios de la Organización de Estados Americanos, de la que el Perú es signataria, es deber de los Estados prevenir e investigar el asesinato, secuestro, intimidación, amenaza a los comunicadores sociales, sancionar a sus autores y asegurar a las víctimas una reparación adecuada.
El caso Alberto Rivera está ahora en la Sala Penal Transitoria de la Corte Suprema que preside César San Martín Castro. La ANP reitera su compromiso de mantenerse vigilante ante el fallo e invoca a los magistrados a garantizar que, así como los autores materiales cumplen prisión por sus actos, también respondan ante la justicia los autores intelectuales del asesinato del periodista.
***17.04.2014. HONDURAS. “La impunidad perpetúa la violencia contra periodistas y defensores de derechos humanos en Honduras” (ONU)
GINEBRA / TEGUCIGALPA (17 de abril de 2014) – Dos expertos en derechos humanos de Naciones Unidas pidieron hoy al Gobierno de Honduras que ponga fin a la impunidad en los casos de violencia contra periodistas y defensores de derechos humanos a través de investigaciones rápidas y exhaustivas.
“La impunidad sigue reinando en Honduras en los casos de amenazas, hostigamiento y violencia contra periodistas y defensores de derechos humanos”, advirtieron los Relatores Especiales de la ONU sobre la libertad de opinión y de expresión, Frank La Rue, y sobre la situación de los defensores de los derechos humanos, Margaret Sekaggya.
“La impunidad perpetúa estos crímenes”, recalcaron los expertos independientes.
“En la gran mayoría de los casos, los responsables de estos actos no llegan a ser identificados”, señalaron. “La clave para la prevención de futuros delitos está en la realización de investigaciones prontas y exhaustivas que permitan la identificación, enjuiciamiento y condena de los responsables, además del esclarecimiento y análisis de las causas y patrones determinantes”.
Los Relatores Especiales destacaron que la importancia de la lucha contra la impunidad a través de procesos judiciales también contribuye a la reparación adecuada de las víctimas y sus familiares.
Según indicaron, “ni las medidas cautelares ordenadas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, ni las reiteradas recomendaciones formuladas por los expertos de la ONU, han sido suficiente hasta ahora para que Honduras adopte medidas firmes para la protección de los periodistas y los defensores de derechos humanos”.
Los expertos sumaron sus voces a las condenas por el asesinato de Carlos Mejía Orellana, miembro del equipo de Radio Progreso en Honduras, y expresaron su solidaridad con sus familiares y colaboradores.
“El riesgo que corren los profesionales de los medios de comunicación en Honduras es sumamente preocupante”, subrayaron. “Las amenazas, intimidaciones y violencia vulneran el ejercicio del derecho a la libertad de expresión, que es esencial para reclamar y defender otros derechos”.
A pesar de que aún no se han esclarecido las circunstancias del asesinato del Sr. Mejía Orellana, los expertos urgieron a las autoridades a tomar todas las medidas necesarias para investigar este crimen y asegurar la protección de los periodistas y defensores de derechos humanos amenazados en el país.
Asimismo, el Sr. la Rue y la Sra. Sekaggya reiteraron la recomendación hecha a Honduras sobre el establecimiento de un mecanismo de protección para periodistas, comunicadores sociales y defensores de derechos humanos.
Ambos expresaron su deseo de que se relancen las discusiones y adopción del proyecto de ley de protección para los defensores de derechos humanos, periodistas, comunicadores sociales y operadores de justicia, y se establezca un mecanismo de protección lo antes posible. En este sentido, los expertos reiteraron su disponibilidad a ofrecer asistencia y cooperación a las autoridades en esta materia.
“Pedimos al Gobierno hondureño que muestre una voluntad decidida en favor de la lucha contra la impunidad”, concluyeron los Relatores Especiales.
***28.03.2014. HONDURAS. Three men convicted of kidnapping and killing journalist in 2012
Reporters Without Borders welcomes the conviction of three men for the murder of Alfredo Villatoro, a journalist who hosted a show on radio HRN and coordinated its programming. He was found dead near Tegucigalpa on 15 May 2012, six days after being kidnapped from his home.
A Tegucigalpa criminal court convicted Marvin Alonso Gómez and two brothers, Osman Fernando and Edgar Francisco Osorio Argujo, on 25 March, exactly 22 months after their arrest on 25 May 2012.
Accepting the detailed evidence presented by the prosecution, which included DNA identification and records of calls to Villatoro’s family demanding a ransom, the court found them guilty of aggravated abduction.
Sentences are to be announced on 25 April. According to the judges in charge of the case, the three men could receive sentences ranging from 40 years to life imprisonment under article 192 of the penal code.
“We welcome this conviction, we look forward to the sentencing and we like to think that the thorough investigation by the special prosecutor for organized crime is indicative of a desire by the authorities to reestablish justice in Honduras,” said Camille Soulier, head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.
“We hope this case will set a positive precedent and we urge the authorities to show the same commitment to resolving all crimes of violence against journalists, in order to end the impunity that has become the norm.”
More than 40 Honduran journalists have been gunned down in the past ten years. The most emblematic cases include those of: Aníbal Barrow, the host of the political show “Aníbal Barrow y nada más” on Globo TV, whose dismembered and partially burned body was found in July 2013, 11 days after he was kidnapped near San Pedro Sula, in the northern department of Cortés. The authorities vowed to catch those responsible but no one has ever been brought to trial. and Globo TV cameraman Manuel Murillo Varela, whose bullet-riddled body was found in Tegucigalpa on 24 October 2013.
***01.03.2014. PAKISTAN. Wali Babar murder case: Two sentenced to death, 4 jailed for life
SHIKARPUR: An anti-terrorism court in Kandhkot Saturday announced sentences in Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar's murder case, awarding
death penalty to two and life imprisonment to four accused.
Wali Khan Babar was gunned down in Liaquatabad area of Karachi on
January 13, 2011 when he was returning home from office.
Proclaimed offenders Kamran alias Zeeshan and Faisal Mota were
sentenced to death. Faisal Mehmood alias Nafsiyati, Naveed alias
Polka, Muhammad Ali Rizvi and Shah Rukh alias Mani were granted
imprisonment for life.
One more accused Shakeel has been set free due to lack of evidence against him.
The case became highly sensitive when six people linked with the case
including a witness and a lawyer were also killed one after another.
Talking to Geo news, Wali Khan Babar's brother Murtaza Babar expressed
satisfaction over the sentences awarded to the accused.
President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar has welcomed the court decree and
termed it good omen for media community as more than 120 journalists
have been killed in Pakistan but judgement is announced in 1st case.
He said that family of Wali Khan Babar believes that a political party
MQM was behind the murder. MQM should clear its position after the
case verdict and at least announce restrain from criminals. RMNP
demands that all the culprits of atrocities against journalists should
be brought before courts to ensure the justice.
***06.02.2014. PERU. ANP REAFIRMA PERMANENTE COMPROMISO
GREMIAL CON LA CAUSA DEL PERIODISTA PEDRO YAURI
Ante las desafortunadas declaraciones del ciudadano Marino Llanos Coca, virtual candidato a la presidencia del gobierno regional de Lima, quien ha expresado que la muerte y desaparición del periodista Pedro Yauri Bustamante son irrelevantes, la Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú, se ve en el deber institucional de:
1.- Rechazar la actitud irresponsable de quien demuestra que no sabe el significado del derecho a la vida y menos aún de la trascendente labor de la prensa en el quehacer ciudadano y que, por tanto, lo descalifica para ejercer cargos públicos en el marco de respeto a las leyes y , consiguientemente, a la democracia.
2.- Reafirmar el permanente compromiso gremial con la causa del periodista Pedro Yauri Bustamante, colega que engrosa la dolorosa lista de desaparecidos en el país desde aquel fatídico 24 de junio de 1992.
3.- Recordar que la Sala Penal Permanente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia confirmó que el asesinato de Pedro Yauri Bustamante constituyó un crimen de lesa humanidad y que como tal, hasta que se logre justicia plena, demanda un compromiso inclaudicable de periodistas y ciudadanos.
4.- Hacer un llamado a quienes participan o pretenden participar en la vida política del país para que actúen con el decoro propio de quienes aspiran a alcanzar un encargo ciudadano.
5.- Demandar del ciudadano Marino Llanos Coca una rectificación de la citada frase impropia para con un colega como Pedro Yauri cuya memoria debemos honrar y cuyo periodismo de denuncia debe inspirar nuestra labor cotidiana.
6.- Convocar, de manera particular en este año electoral, a todos los periodistas y trabajadores de los medios en general, para que en el ejercicio de su función prime siempre una firme conducta moral, honrando la verdad, la libertad, la justicia y la solidaridad gremial, como principios supremos.
Lima, 5 de febrero del 2014
COMITE EJECUTIVO NACIONAL
Roberto Mejía Alarcón
Zuliana Lainez Otero
Secretaria general ANP
***27.01.2014. HAITI. Nine indicted for radio journalist Jean Dominique’s murder 14 years ago
Reporters Without Borders responds with a mix of satisfaction and prudence to the news that nine people were indicted on 18 January in connection with Radio Haïti Inter owner Jean Dominique’s April 2000 shooting murder, in which the radio station’s security guard, Jean-Claude Louissaint, was also killed.
“We welcome this major judicial step, one that was quite unexpected after years of paralysis and impunity in a case that was handled successively by seven investigating judges,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The investigation was relaunched on 8 May 2013 when former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is reportedly linked to the nine accused, was questioned as a witness. The different degrees of responsibility must now be established with precision on the basis of the depositions of these nine people. Everyone’s cooperation is needed for this case to proceed. The truth must finally emerge, 14 years after Dominique’s murder.
“Like SOS Journaliste, we urge the authorities to do take the necessary steps to ensure that Myrlande Lubérisse appears in court in Haiti. A former senator for Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, she is named in Judge Yvikel Dabrésil’s report as the person who ordered Dominique’s murder. The authorities in the United States, where she now resides, should authorize her extradition if required.”
The indictments that Judge Dabrésil passed to the Port-au-Prince appeal court on 18 January also named former Port-au-Prince deputy mayor Harold Sévère and former Lavalas organizer and Vaudou priestess Anne “Sò Ann” Augustin, as well as alleged henchmen Frantz “Franco” Camille, Toussaint Mercidieu, Mérité Milien, Dimsley “Ti Lou” Milien (now dead, according to some sources), Jeudi “Guimy” Jean-Daniel and Markington Michel.
The last three escaped from prison in February 2005 after two years in detention.
The Dominique murder case has been politically very sensitive because of the alleged links to the polarizing figure of Aristide, who returned to Haiti in March 2011 after years in exile.
Some of the depositions taken by judges and incorporated into the 18 January report, including the deposition of former Aristide security chief Oriel Jean, support the theory that Aristide himself ordered Dominique’s murder because he posed a obstacle to Aristide’s return to power.
***29.11.2013. BURKINA FASO. Assassinat du journaliste Norbert Zongo: les plaignants accusent le frère du président burkinabè
(AFP) Les avocats des proches de Norbert Zongo ont mis en cause vendredi le frère du président burkinabè Blaise Compaoré dans l'assassinat du journaliste en 1998, au dernier jour d'un procès devant la Cour africaine des droits de l'Homme et des peuples. Depuis jeudi, la Cour, basée à Arusha (Tanzanie), examine une plainte des proches du journaliste et du Mouvement burkinabè des droits de l'Homme et des peuples contre le Burkina Faso, qu'ils accusent d'avoir failli à ses obligations de rechercher et juger les auteurs du meurtre.
"Ce que nous voulons, c'est savoir qui a tué Norbert Zongo", a réaffirmé vendredi l'avocat des plaignants, Me Bénéwendé Sankara, sans cacher que ses clients avaient "des raisons de croire" que le responsable était François Compaoré, frère du président.
"Une expertise balistique a été faite, une enquête internationale a été menée. L'Etat ne pouvait faire mieux", a répondu Me Antoinette Ouedraogo, avocate du Burkina Faso.
Le jugement sera rendu l'année prochaine.
Norbert Zongo, journaliste d'investigation et directeur de la publication de l'hebdomadaire L'Indépendant, avait été retrouvé mort calciné dans sa voiture avec trois compagnons en 1998, à une centaine de kilomètres de Ouagadougou.
Il enquêtait sur la mort de David Ouédraogo, chauffeur du frère cadet du chef de l'Etat, François Compaoré.
L'affaire avait provoqué un scandale et d'importantes manifestations populaires au Burkina Faso, et avait eu un retentissement international.
Six "suspects sérieux" avaient été identifiés par une Commission d'enquête indépendante mise en place par le pouvoir. Seul l'adjudant Marcel Kafando, ex-chef de la garde rapprochée du président burkinabè, avait été inculpé, avant de bénéficier d'un non-lieu.
En 2006, la justice burkinabè avait classé le dossier, officiellement pour manque de preuves.
Interrogée par l'AFP, Geneviève, la veuve de Norbert Zongo, s'est dite prête à poursuivre son combat jusqu'au bout pour obtenir la lumière sur ce qu'elle considère comme "un assassinat politique".
La Fédération internationale des Ligues des droits de l'Homme, qui parle dans cette affaire de "déni de justice", a estimé que la Cour avait "une occasion très importante de montrer qu'elle est aux côtés des victimes et qu'elle a une véritable utilité pour garantir la souveraineté et l'indépendance de la justice en Afrique".
La Cour, créée par l'Union africaine peut ordonner à un Etat de conduire une enquête ou de verser des dommages et intérêts.
Ses jugements ne sont pas susceptibles d'appel. Si un Etat refuse d'exécuter une décision, la Cour saisit la conférence ministérielle de l'Union africaine, qui en réfère au sommet des chefs d'Etat. er/aud/de
***26.11.2013. PHILIPPINES. Groups respond to claim that there is "no more culture of impunity" in Philippines
On 26 November 2013, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) issued the following statement in response to Secretary Herminio Coloma's claim that there is "no more culture of impunity".
Is there "no more culture of impunity" as Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma of the Presidential Communication Operations Office argued during a press conference November 22, 2013 on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre?
Secretary Coloma was reacting to allegations that the Aquino administration has pulled ahead of past administrations because of the number of journalists killed - 19, or an average of six per year - during the first three years of its watch. He bases this argument on another argument: that the number of journalists and media workers killed during the first three years of President Benigno Aquino III, from 2010 to 2013, which, as documented by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), currently stands at 19, is inflated because "a driver of a network, employees of 'fly-by-night' newspapers, and a blocktimer selling skin whiteners" are included in the count.
The CMFR includes media workers, such as drivers and grips, because of the indispensable support these give to journalists. They perform services required by journalists to do their work. CMFR also includes blocktimers and those working for tabloids who may be sponsored by political and commercial interests, because whatever the quality of their work, they remain part of the free media community, exercising a crucial role in a democracy and equally protected by the Constitution.
When they're killed in the course of their work or for their work, it has an impact on the state of the press and media because the killings serve as a deterrent against other journalists' doing their jobs without fear. The CMFR list does not look into the compliance of practitioners with ethical and professional standards, that being a separate issue altogether from the fundamental one: that no one who does journalistic work or who supports the work of journalists deserves to be killed, and their killing has a chilling effect on the way the press and the media provide the information and analysis citizens need. CMFR and other advocate groups believe that their killers must be punished.
CMFR looks very closely into every report, whether from the news media or from its own network, on the killing of a journalist or media worker. CMFR alerts and threats officers call the Philippine National Police and local journalists to confirm if indeed the killing took place. If it did, CMFR interviews the local police for the details of the killing, and the colleague of the slain to establish if the victim was indeed regarded by the local press and media community as a journalist; what he was working on; his history in the profession; whether he has received any death or other threats; and if the opinion of the press community his killing was work related. CMFR also contacts the family to verify if the slain was indeed working as a journalist and if he had mentioned any threats to his life, and from whom the slain thought they were coming from. CMFR then contacts whoever, if at all, the slain had told his family was threatening him to get his side.
CMFR, which also serves as the Secretariat for the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), continues to validate its early findings by verifying them with other sources. Only when there is a high probability that the motive for the killing was work related is the name of the slain included in the CMFR database and a report on it released to the CMFR national and international networks, and if approved by its member organizations, to FFFJ networks as well. CMFR is aware that a journalist or media worker could be killed for other than work-related reasons, such as a private dispute or a love triangle, and has excluded thirteen (13) non-work related killings from its list of journalists killed during the Aquino administration, whose three-year record would otherwise total 32.
As far as the number of journalists killed during the first three years of the Aquino government (19) is concerned, only the gunman in the January 2011 killing of Palawan broadcaster and environmental advocate Gerry Ortega has been convicted. Meanwhile, in 2013 alone, 66 threats, whimsical and politically-motivated libel suits, illegal arrests, physical assaults, being barred from covering events of public concern, and other harassments have been recorded, with no one being held to account for them.
Impunity is the name for the fact that only one gunman and no mastermind has been tried or even arrested in 18 out of the 19 killings of journalists from 2010 to 2013, and for the continuing harassments many journalists have to contend with in the course of their work.
FFFJ holds that the primary reason why the killings and harassments are continuing today is the slow progress of the Ampatuan Massacre trial, which is still hearing petitions for bail three years after it began, while 89 out of the 194 accused of masterminding and carrying out the Massacre are still at large.
But whatever the numbers - whether the driver of a TV network should be excluded from the list of 32 journalists and media workers killed during the Ampatuan Massacre or not - what is at issue is State responsibility for the safety of all its constituencies including journalists and media workers.
This has always been FFFJ's stand, which is shared by CMFR and the other members of the FFFJ. That is why it continues to ask for government action. It is also the international standard, as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue has reminded media and media advocacy groups, by which to determine the persistence of the culture of impunity in the Philippines and in other countries.
***21.11.2013. IFJ Marks International Day to End Impunity with Focus on Iraq, Russian & Pakistan
To mark the upcoming 2013 International Day to End Impunity, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today written to the embassies of Iraq, Russia and Pakistan in Belgium, urging their governments to address the issue of impunity for violence against journalists in their countries.
Signed by IFJ President Jim Boumelha and IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa, the letters express the IFJ's concern about the lack of accountability for those who carry out acts of violence against journalists and urge the governments to do everything in their power to resolve all the cases of killed journalists in their countries.
The IFJ underscores that the issue of impunity for violence against journalists is "of the highest importance for the rule of law and respect for human rights in any democratic society."
The letters have been sent as part of the IFJ's high profile campaign to End Impunity which is urging the authorities of the countries with the highest death tolls of journalists to investigate these killings and bring their perpetrators to justice. The campaign is initially focusing on Iraq, Pakistan and Russia.
The campaign, which was launched on 23 October, one month before International Day to End Impunity, is already having an important impact, with many of IFJ's affiliates across the world, including the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate and the Association of Journalists of the Republic of Poland, showing their solidarity and support by sending their own letters to the embassies of Iraq, Pakistan and Russia in their countries.
As International Day to End Impunity approaches, the IFJ is marking the important day with a range of actions and events:
- The IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa has recorded a video message calling for affiliates to take action. Watch it here
- IFJ and its affiliates across the world are holding a number of actions to mark the important day. On Saturday, the IFJ and the EFJ are holding a public debate in Kiev on the status of key cases across the former Soviet Union region and the efforts needed to e maintain pressure on authorities for action and pay tribute to the killed journalists. IFJ President Jim Boumelha and EFJ President Mogens Blicher-Bjerregård will be present to mark the day of action which will also include a silent march through the street of the city.
Find out what other actions are being taken across the world at: http://www.ifj.org/en/pages/end-impunity-international-day-to-end-impunity-page
IFJ Affiliates can show their support for International Day to End Impunity by:
- Supporting the IFJ's End Impunity campaign by sending their own letters to the embassies of Iraq, Pakistan and Russia in their regions, or directly to the governments of the three countries. To print off or download a copy of each of the letters go to: http://www.ifj.org/en/pages/end-impunity
- Visiting the IFJ's?End Impunity' Facebook page, which is full of information and updates on the issue of impunity in Russia, Pakistan and Iraq. We encourage you LIKE the campaign page and write a message of support.
- Following theIFJ Twitter page @IFJGlobal. You are welcome to share and schedule tweets to go out, culminating on Saturday 23, the International Day to End Impunity. Wherever possible, please use our hashtag #EI_IFJ
Below are some sample tweets you can use to highlight impunity in Russia, Pakistan and Iraq:
#EndImpunity for Violence Against Journalists in #Iraq #EI_IFJ @IFJGlobal
#EndImpunity for Violence Against Journalists in #Russia #EI_IFJ @IFJGlobal
#EndImpunity for Violence Against Journalists in #Pakistan #EI_IFJ @IFJGlobal
***01.11.2013. IFEX network launches 2013 International Day to End Impunity campaign
When those who commit crimes against free expression are not held to account, it hurts us all. IFEX, the global network defending and promoting free expression, is launching its third annual campaign to end impunity on 1 November. The campaign culminates on 23 November – the International Day to End Impunity.
Today IFEX launches the third annual International Day to End Impunity campaign. And while there is a growing awareness of the problem of impunity and how it allows – even exacerbates – violations of human rights, the pressure needs to be kept up. The IFEX network comprises over 80 organisations working in more than 60 countries around the world. With this campaign we join our voices to raise awareness about how a culture of impunity stifles freedom of expression, and to inspire people to take action to weaken its power.
Countless citizens, artists, bloggers, scientists, musicians and journalists have been harassed, threatened, tortured, intimidated, jailed and worse for exercising their basic human right to free expression. Over 500 journalists have been killed in the last decade. Most of the perpetrators of these crimes can count on never being brought to justice.
This year’s campaign includes calls for actions to be taken now in support of five courageous individuals: Yorm Bopha, a Cambodian human rights activist repeatedly threatened, beaten and currently in prison for peacefully protesting against land grabs; Eren Keskin, a rights defender in Turkey threatened and shot at while seeking justice for women who have been raped and tortured; Doaa Eladl, an Egyptian cartoonist threatened for creating cartoons which have been deemed blasphemous; Martin Pallaras, an Ecuadorean journalist threatened for reporting on government corruption; and Rommy Mom, a lawyer in Nigeria fighting for government transparency and accountability, who has had to flee his home following death threats and a public denunciation over the radio by the governor of the state. Joining in this effort IFEX member organisations around the globe will be launching their own initiatives, adding their voices to the call to end impunity.
The campaign’s hub is daytoendimpunity.org. Something new will be featured there every day between 1 and 23 November – the International Day to End Impunity. We’ve created multimedia resources to help people understand the problem and find ways to add their voices to a global network of activists working together. Through infographics, videos, online interactive experiences, articles, country profiles and interviews, we hope to engage more people than ever in this campaign that strikes at the very roots of the injustice and insecurity that silence expression.
The right to free expression is not only an important right in itself; it is the right that allows violations of other rights to be exposed. Visit daytoendimpunity.org every day from 1-23 November, and take action to end impunity.
For more information, contact email@example.com
***23.09.2013. NEPAL. Police arrest alleged mastermind of journalist’s 2009 murder
Reporters Without Borders welcomes last week’s announcement by the police that they have arrested the suspected mastermind of the murder of journalist and women’s rights activist Uma Singh in the southeastern city of Janakpur in January 2009.
“We hail this determination to bring the person responsible for Singh’s murder to justice and we hope that five years of impunity in this case will soon be over,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We also urge the police to keep investigating the murders of two other journalists, Arun Singhaniya and Jamin Shah, in 2010.
“As the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) has said, last week’s arrest in the Singh murder has helped to make the police more credible and, we hope, will help to deter other attacks against journalists.”
A reporter for Radio Today and Janakpur Today Daily, Singh was fatally stabbed in her Janakpur apartment on 11 January 2009 by around 15 intruders armed with knives.
The police thought the murder motive was of a personal nature but the Federation of Nepali Journalists pointed out that Singh was an outspoken critic of the region’s Maoists and blamed them for the deaths of her father and brother in 2005.
The police announced on 19 September that the suspected mastermind of Singh’s murder, Umesh Yadav (also known as Swamiji), was arrested as he was about to cross the border into India. He was being actively sought by the police and is suspected of involvement in other similar cases.
Prosecutors intend to request a sentence of life imprisonment and confiscation of all his property for Singh’s murder.
The police have also announced that they are pursuing a lead in the murder Arun Singhaniya, the owner Janakpur Today and Radio Today, and hope to make an arrest soon.
When Singhaniya was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in Janakpur on 1 March 2010, three armed groups claimed responsibility. They were Teri Janatanrik Party-Madesh (TJPM), Terai Army (TA) and Janatanrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM).
***09.08.2013. BRAZIL. Gunman sentenced in murder of Brazilian journalist
New York, August 9, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Tuesday's conviction for the 2010 murder of Brazilian radio journalist and blogger Francisco Gomes de Medeiros. João Francisco dos Santos was sentenced to 27 years in prison on charges of shooting and killing the journalist in the northeastern city of Caicó, according to news reports."This conviction is an important counter-step to Brazil's worsening record on impunity," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "Authorities must now ensure that all those involved in the crime--including the masterminds--are brought to justice in order to send a clear signal to those who wish to violently silence journalists that they will not go unpunished."
Gomes was shot at least five times in front of his home on October 18, 2010, and pronounced dead that night at a local hospital, according to news reports. The news director of local broadcaster Radio Caicó, Gomes had reported on local topics including government corruption, crime, and drug trafficking.
Authorities investigated several possible motives linked to Gomes' reporting. Francisco, who is known as "Dão," was arrested a day after the murder and confessed to committing the crime, the reports said.
In 2011 and 2012, authorities accused a group of local men of having ordered, planned, and carried out the crime. The individuals, reports said, had grievances with Gomes in relation to his coverage of local crime, corruption, and drug trafficking. Police charged a businessman, Lailson Lopes, known as "Gordo da Rodoviária," as the mastermind of the crime. Lopes has been indicted and is awaiting trial. Four other men, including a local army lieutenant colonel, military police officer, lawyer and a former pastor who is currently serving a jail sentence for drug trafficking, have been charged and are awaiting trial, according to news reports. All five men deny any involvement in the murder.
A spike in lethal violence has made Brazil one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world, according to CPJ's annual publication, Attacks on the Press. In June, a media executive was shot and killed in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. In 2013, Brazil was the 10th worst country in CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and the killers go free. The country was also named to CPJ's Risk List, which identified 10 places where press freedom suffered in 2012.
***03.08.2013. SOMALIA. NUSOJ Welcomes the Somali Military High Court decision against the Journalist’s Killer
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today welcomed the
decision by the Military high court against the convict, who was
Shabab member and was identified as Aadan Sheik Abdi Sheik Hussein,
The convict was accused of killing the Somali journalist, late Hassan
Yusuf Absuge, who was assassinated after leaving the premises of the
Radio Maanta, in Yaqshid neighborhood, where he worked as an editor on
September 21, 2012.
A regional military court sentenced the alleged criminal to death on
17 March 2013, according to the court judgment received by NUSOJ.
Later, he appealed against the ruling to the Military high court. On
August 3, the military high court sentenced again to death and
announced he will be executed in a short time.
The Secretary General of the National Union of the Somali Journalists
(NUSOJ), Mohamed Ibrahim who spoke to the journalists at the court
following the decision by the military high court, welcomed the
decision and called it, “a beginning for justice to the murdered
“We welcome this decision of the military high court for justice to
our murdered colleague.” Mohamed Ibrahim, NUSOJ Secretary General
said, “This is a beginning to the road for justice to all our murdered
colleagues and call for the other remaining criminals be booked and
At least 18 media workers and journalists were killed in 2012, where
14 of them were killed in Mogadishu. In 2013, five journalists were
killed, two were killed in suicide bombing attacks and three were
assassinated and none of the killers have caught and brought to court.
NUSOJ urges the Federal Government of Somalia to take a thorough
investigation into the journalists’ murders and bring the criminals to
a court of justice.
***24.07.2013. RUSSIA. Politkovskaya family boycott murder trial over jury (BBC, news agencies)
The alleged killers of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya have gone on trial in Moscow, with her family boycotting proceedings.
Her children Vera and Ilya said the court had chosen the jury without asking them and rushed the trial date.
In their statement, they said they had waited nearly seven years for a trial that was now "patently illegitimate".
All five defendants, who include four members of the same Chechen family, say they are innocent.
Three of the accused were acquitted of the murder in 2009 but that verdict was overturned by Russia's supreme court.
Politkovskaya, a strong critic of the Kremlin, was gunned down in the lift of her Moscow apartment block in October 2006, in a crime that was condemned internationally.
A Moscow city court spokeswoman said the jury had been selected in full compliance with the law.
Ilya and Vera said the court had rushed the trial date knowing full well they both could not take part on that date, as they were outside Moscow.
"In this way, the court has violated our legal rights," they said in a statement released on Tuesday.
"We have waited almost seven years for the killers to stand trial but the state could not wait a few days. Tomorrow [Wednesday], a patently illegitimate process begins. We refuse to take part in such a trial."
They called on the jurors to recuse themselves.
The editor of Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya's former paper, said he supported the children's decision.
"We are not doubting the jurors..." Dmitry Muratov told Russian news agency Interfax. "We do not trust the procedure by which the jurors were selected so frenetically and rapidly."
At the opening of the trial on Wednesday, the judge rejected a request from the defence to halt proceedings, given the absence of the dead woman's family, AFP news agency reports.
Lom-Ali Gaitukayev is accused of organising the assassination while one of his nephews, Rustam Makhmudov, is suspected of being the actual gunman.
Two other nephews, Ibragim and Dzhibrail Makhmudov, and a former policeman, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, are accused of being accomplices.
Last year a former police lieutenant-colonel, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was convicted of supplying the murder weapon, and was sentenced to eleven years in jail.
But investigators have yet to provide any details of who they believe ordered the killing.
***13.07.2013. PHILIPPINES. NEW DELAYS in the TRIAL OF THE AMPATUAN MASSACRE (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ).
The deferment of the arraignment of two of the principal accused in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan town massacre adds to the already long list of delays in the judicial process that for four years have thrown one obstacle after another in the path of credibly concluding the trial of those accused. Justice for the victims is the only sign that would demonstrate to the killers of journalists and other citizens of this country that they cannot keep killing with impunity.
Sajid Islam and Akmad "Tato" of the Ampatuan clan are charged with 58 counts of murder. Sajid Islam is the son of Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr. and was the Officer-in-Charge of the province of Maguindanao at the time of the massacre. Akmad "Tato" is the son-in-law of Andal Sr., who is also among the principal accused.
Sajid Islam and Akmad "Tato" were originally scheduled for arraignment on June 26, 2013. This was moved to July 3, 2013 when their defense counsel filed a motion seeking the deferment of their arraignment until their separate petitions before the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Supreme Court (SC) are resolved.
On July 2, 2013, the trial court denied the motion on the ground that the pendency of such petitions before the higher courts is not a ground for deferring arraignment.
Despite its own written order denying the motion, the trial court nevertheless granted the oral motion of the defense counsel of the two accused to have their arraignment postponed for another month. Their arraignment has been reset to August 7, 2013.
The defense counsel of Sajid Islam and Akmad "Tato" argued that for the two to be arraigned despite the pendency of their CA and SC petitions would violate their right to due process. He also claimed that the postponement will not damage or injure the People of the Philippines, the plaintiff in the 58 consolidated murder cases.
Sajid Islam and Akmad "Tato" were arrested in early December 2009 right after then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo placed Maguindanao under Martial Law. They were indicted on February 2010 for 56 counts of murder. On May 2010, they were also indicted in the 57th murder case, that involving the killing of Victor Nunez, and on June 2012 in the 58th case for the murder of Reynaldo Momay.
Like their fellow accused, both have availed of every possible legal remedy allowed under the law and the Rules of Court. They have repeatedly cited the pendency of their various petitions, motions and appeals to delay their arraignment.
Arraignment marks the completion of a court's jurisdiction over the accused, and is an important stage in the criminal proceedings. It is that part of the judicial process in which charges are read to the accused followed by his plea of guilty or not guilty. The arraignment of the accused would finally, after nearly four years, begin the equally tedious and lengthy process of presenting evidence to establish guilt.
The deferment - for the third time - of the arraignment of Sajid Islam and Akmad "Tato" will continue to delay the trial, despite the urgency of concluding it not only for the sake of justice for the families of the 58 murdered victims, but also for the People of the Philippines, for the press, and for the democracy that supposedly reigns in this land.
***03.07.2013. BANGLADESH. Nine individuals sentenced in 2005 killing of Bangladeshi journalist (Media Watch)
The culture of impunity has been dealt a serious blow in Bangladesh. For the first time in the 42-year history of the country, on Thursday 27 June 2013 a Dhaka court handed down life sentences to nine individuals, accused of murdering journalist Gautam Das eight years ago. Judge Shahed Nur Uddin, of the Dhaka Speedy Trials Tribunal-1, pronounced the verdict.
Gautam Das was the Faridpur Bureau Chief for the daily Samakal. He was killed inside his office on 17 November 2005, for publishing a report on corruption. He was tortured and suffocated to death for exposing corruption and irregularities involved in the restoration of Mujib road in the town of Faridpur.
Almost eight years after his killing, nine individuals were sentenced to life in prison and a fine of Tk 50,000 (approx. US$640). Failure to pay the fine will lead to another year of imprisonment. The Judge noted that Gautam Dad had legitimate reasons for publishing his report on corruption.
Of the 10 originally accused in the case, one, Jahid Khan, had passed away. The others are: Asif Imran, Asif Imtiaz Bulu, Kazi Murad, Kamrul Islam Apan, Asad Bin Kadir, Siddiqur Rahman Mia, Tamzid Hossain Babu, Rajib Hassan Mia and Abu Taher Mortaza, all of whom were sentenced to life. Another accused named Mortaza, alias Apollo, is at large. The rest of the accused and their relatives were present at the court when the verdict was pronounced
However, the convicted seemed indifferent to the verdict. Complainant Hasanuzzaman, who is a local correspondent for Samakal, told bdnews24.com that they would have been happier if the accused were hanged. "This verdict paves the way for justice for all the journalists who have faced a similar fate," he noted.
After the verdict was pronounced, Dipali, the wife of the slain journalist Gautam Das stated: "I am not happy with this verdict. I was hoping that the murderers would be severely punished and that they would be sentenced to death. But that is not what happened. I waited year after year for justice, but I have not received it . . . I demand that the Samakal authorities appeal against this verdict."
Gautam's mother, Satee Rani, passed away on 2 September 2007, while his father Bolram Das died on 23 November 2008 while awaiting for a judgment in the case.
The case's plaintiff, "Gautam Das Smriti Shongshod", and his colleagues from the Faridpur Press Club also had similar reactions. The plaintiff in the case Hasanuzzaman said, "We did not receive justice. I am not happy with the verdict. An appeal will be filed in the High Court."
Siraj-e Kabir Khokon, the Secretary of "Gautam Das Smriti Shongshod", said, "Gautam was brutally killed. I was hoping that the killers would get an exemplary punishment."
The President of the Faridpur Press Club Kabirul Islam Siddiky said the verdict has disappointed the people of Faridpur. "They were waiting for justice for long. Sadly they didn't receive it."
***25.06.2013. Bahrain. Court upholds acquittal on charge of torturing journalist (RSF)
Reporters Without Borders and Media Legal Defence Initiative condemn yesterday’s decision by a Manama appeal court to uphold Police Lt. Sarah Al-Moosa’s acquittal on charges of torturing and mistreating Nazeeha Saeed, Bahrain correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya.
“The appeal court’s decision to confirm the police officer’s acquittal clearly shows the lack of independence of the Bahraini judicial system and the duplicitous nature of the government’s concern for its image in the eyes of the international community,” RWB and MLDI said.
“We call on the prosecutor-general to take charge of the case and refer it to the Court of Cassation.”
“This verdict encourages impunity among security system in Bahrain. I have three medical reports, two of them from Ministry of interior, and still nobody is punished", Saeed said to RWB.
Saeed was tortured and mistreated at Rifaa police station on 22 May 2011, when she was summoned for questioning about her coverage of pro-democracy protests and was accused of lying in her reports. She was also interrogated about possible links with the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manah and Iran’s Arabic-language TV station Al-Alam. The treatment Saeed received during interrogation was condemned by Reporters Without Borders at the time.
The Media Legal Defence Initiative sent a Letter of Allegation to UN Special Rapporteurs earlier this year, asking them to make enquiries with the Bahraini authorities on the handling of Nazeeha’s case.
A Manama court originally acquitted Lt. Al-Moosa on 22 October 2012, describing Saeed’s evidence as “contradictory” and “not consistent with the forensic report.”
Following a great deal of media criticism of the verdict, the prosecutor’s office appealed against the acquittal in an apparent attempt to emphasize Bahrain’s respect for its international obligations.
But, operating out of sight of the cameras, the judicial system stood by its decision to clear the policewoman on grounds for which there has been little substantiation.This denial of justice is unfortunately not isolated. Other cases have highlighted how difficult it is for journalists to work freely in Bahrain, which is ranked 165th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
***23.05.2013. TURKEY. Hrant Dink murder to be retried, but concerns remain
A decision last week in the murder case of Hrant Dink will lead to a retrial, but Dink's supporters are still not satisfied. The ruling on May 15 by Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals in Ankara acknowledged that there was a criminal conspiracy to murder the ethnic Armenian journalist, but stopped short of opening the way to a deeper investigation into potential involvement by Turkey's powerful institutions.The Supreme Court reviewed a verdict by an Istanbul court, passed on January 17, 2012, which was heavily criticized for failing to recognize Dink's murder as an organized and deliberately planned crime, or that state agents bore responsibility, at a minimum, for neglecting threats against the journalist prior to his murder.
Dink, founder and former chief editor of the weekly newspaper Agos, was murdered in front of his Istanbul office in January 2007. The suspects were quickly arrested and put on trial, but the journalist's family and friends--as well as human rights defenders--believed the masterminds were protected by the state. Dink had received threats for a long time before he was killed, and he had publicized those threats through his columns. Hate mail and threatening calls to Agos were part of the newspaper's daily routine.
Supporters of the journalist from the independent Hrant Dink's Friends Platform repeatedly pointed to evidence that government officials, police, military personnel, and members of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) had played roles in the murder--at least, by neglecting their duty to protect the journalist. Evidence presented in court showed that more than one intelligence unit had been aware of the planning stage of Dink's murder but had done nothing to prevent it. The defense also pointed out the triggerman and his immediate associates were not sophisticated enough to organize the professional hit that was Dink's assassination.
On Wednesday, while the Supreme Court acknowledged the existence of a "criminal organization" behind the murder, it failed to recognize that an "armed terrorist" group was responsible for masterminding it. The distinction between the two formulations is crucial in Turkey's law; the latter provides ground for the prosecution to treat the crime as a conspiracy that could involve government officials. The former essentially downgrades the murder to the stature of a regular crime. The investigation is therefore exempt from going beyond the immediate killers of Hrant Dink to seeking the commissioners of the murder among power structures.
The date for the retrial is yet to be determined. The details of the Supreme Court ruling are as follows:
Ogün Samast, the convicted triggerman who had confessed to the murder, had received 22 years and 10 months in prison (a relatively lighter sentence since he was not an adult on the day of the murder and was tried by a juvenile court in Istanbul) on July 25, 2011. The Supreme Court upheld this sentence.
A second defendant, Yasin Hayal, who had confessed to arming Samast and instructing him to kill Dink, had received the punishment of life without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court upheld this sentence but demanded that Hayal also be tried for founding and leading the criminal organization behind Dink's murder.
Back in January 2012, a third suspect, Osman Hayal (Yasin's brother), was tried and acquitted of aiding the conspiracy to murder Dink. The Supreme Court overturned his acquittal, saying that the investigation into his alleged involvement had been insufficient. Dink's defense team claims that Osman Hayal was with Samast on the day of the murder, based on security camera records.
Also in January 2012, a fourth suspect, Erhan Tuncel, a police informant accused of involvement in the conspiracy to murder Dink, was acquitted of the charge of being a leader of the armed terrorist organization behind Dink's assassination. With the Supreme Court of Appeals' ruling that no such organization existed, Tuncel will be retried on the lesser charge of being a member of a criminal organization.
Three other defendants will be retried on similar charges as Tuncel.
Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin told CPJ that justice cannot reach the masterminds of the murder when the perpetrators are classified as a "criminal organization" rather than an "armed terrorist organization." Any group of persons that join together for the purpose of committing even a petty crime may be considered a criminal organization under the Turkish legal system, Çetin said. The term "terrorist organization" would invoke a different set of legal articles that would allow the investigation to go deeper--or, in this case, higher.
The Hrant Dink murder was "committed by an extremely well organized and professional organization," Çetin said. The planning before, during, and after the murder, including removal of the evidence from the scene, shows that this was not the work of just another fanatical nationalist who one day decided to kill a public figure, Çetin said, and the investigation must go further to catch the culprits.
***08.04.2013. IFJ Marks 10th Anniversary of Palestine Hotel Attack with Iraq War Documentary Screening
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today marked the 10th anniversary of the attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, with the screening of a powerful documentary telling the stories of journalists who were killed and kidnapped during the war in Iraq. Two journalists were killed on 8 April 2003 when a US army tank fired a mortar at the hotel from which foreign reporters were reporting on the conflict.
The documentary, ‘Shooting v. Shooting; Dying for the Truth’, was made by Nikos Megrelis, a Greek journalist who also led the discussion after the screening.
The groundbreaking documentary uses real time news and archive footage to examine deliberate attacks and kidnappings of journalists as well as other cross fire incidents involving media personnel during the US led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
“The evidence provided by the groundbreaking documentary screened today helps to prove that there should be a review of the case and a convincing process of investigation that honours the commitment of the United States to democracy, human rights and justice," said Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary.
The film focuses on the story behind the shelling of the Palestine Hotel on April 8 by a US tank, which killed José Couso, of Spain’s Telecinco, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters. It has also a detailed account of the attack on the same day by US forces on the offices of Al-Jazeera in Baghdad, in which reporter Tareq Ayyoub died.
The IFJ has campaigned to have these attacks investigated and urged governments whose nationals lost their lives to secure the American administration’s cooperation in this regard.
“The failure to investigate and hold accountable those involved in bombing Hotel Palestine and the Al-Jazeera offices, is a denial of justice to the victims, their families and colleagues,” added Costa. “These incidents stand out as bad precedents likely to entrench further the culture of impunity for violence against media.”
***29.03.2013. SOMALIA. Al –Shabab Militant Convicted of Journalist’ Murder (IFJ)
A military tribunal in Somalia has convicted an alleged Al-Shabab militant of killing journalist Hassan Yusuf Absuge, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
Absuge, who worked for Radio Maanta as head of programmes, was gunned down in Mogadishu on 21 September last year. Yesterday, dan Sheikh Andi Sheikh Hussein was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death, NUSOJ says.
“We hope that the investigation and prosecution of this case signal the commitment to eradicate the impunity for crimes against journalists in Somalia,” said Beth costa, IFJ General Secretary. “Many families of Somali journalists who died in violence deserve justice. This conviction raises their hopes of achieving that and they should not be let down.”
NUSOJ, an IFJ affiliate, quoted the presiding judge as saying that there was compelling evidence against Hussein, including the murder weapon which was seized on him by security forces. The tribunal was also shown message exchanges on his mobile phone discussing the journalist’s murder with his superiors.
Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ’s General Secretary, said that this is the first case of a journalist’s murder to be resolved by Somali authorities. He urged them to pursue other killers who continue to enjoy impunity.
“We hope that justice will be similarly done for colleagues who were murdered by criminals who are not afraid of rule of law,” he added. “This verdict sends a powerful message to them that their crimes will not remain unpunished.”
Hussein was put on trial before a military tribunal as an Al-Shabab fighter. The Islamist group claimed responsibility for Absuge’s murder, accusing him of ‘spying against Allah’s forces’.
Last year, Somalia was ranked as one the deadliest countries for journalists in the IFJ annual report on journalists and media staff killed in 2012, with 18 killings.
NEW YORK: The family of slain US journalist Daniel Pearl welcomed Monday the arrest in Pakistan of a former leader of a banned militant outfit allegedly involved in his 2002 murder.Qari Abdul Hayee, popularly known as Asadullah and from Karachi’s eastern Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighbourhood, was detained in a raid on his hideout on Sunday, according to a spokesperson for Rangers paramilitary force. Hayee was the former Sindh chapter chief of banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
Ruth and Judea Pearl, who live in the Los Angeles area, hailed the news, in a statement issued through the New York-based Daniel Pearl Foundation.
“We are gratified with this latest arrest and hope that justice will be served in a timely manner on all those who were involved in the abduction and murder of our son, Danny,” they said.
Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi on January 23, 2002, while researching a story about militants.
A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.
***15.03.2013. COLOMBIA. IFJ Welcomes Indictment of Former Security Operatives over Journalist’s Torture in Colombia
Seven former members of the former secret service in Colombia, the Administrative Department for Security (DAS), face charges of ‘psychological torture and intimidation’ inflicted on prominent journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, the office of the national human rights prosecutor announced on 10 March.
They include a former deputy director general of the service, three former heads of intelligence, a former head of counterintelligence, a former chief of operations and a former chief of the technological intelligence. Five are currently in detention while two are fugitives.
“We welcome the prosecutor’s action which is long overdue,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “This is an opportunity to ensure accountability for those who broke the law and caused terrible hardship to our colleague. However, we must also unravel the entire chain and identify who ordered these unlawful activities.”
The prosecutor has ordered the arrest of the men, accusing them of subjecting the journalist and her family to years of harassment, including illegal surveillance, communications interception and threats. In charging them, he stressed that the “systematic abuse was designed to morally and psychologically undermine a human rights defender and a journalist who was critical of the former government.”
The IFJ has learned that it is the first time a charge of ‘psychological torture’, which carries a 20 year jail term, is brought against a defendant in Colombia.
Claudia Julieta Duquet has long campaigned against the practice of psychological torture within the secret service in Colombia and spoke of her relief at the announcement of the charge. “This is the culmination of years of campaigning not only by me but by human rights activists all over the world, including the IFJ,” she said. The Federation, through its International Safety Fund, supported her participation in the court proceedings which concluded in the charges announced last week.
The journalist, who was made an honorary member of the National Union of Journalists in England and Ireland (NUJ) - IFJ affiliate, recounted her ordeal between 2001-2008, after she had exposed irregularities in the investigation into the murder of journalist Jaime Garzon.
During this period of time, she was subjected to threatening phone calls, including a threat to kill her daughter. “Your daughter is going to suffer, we will burn her alive, we will spread her fingers throughout the house,” one caller said.
Claudia was kidnapped in 2011 and escaped another kidnap in 2004. In 2009, she uncovered a guide reportedly produced by the DAS, giving graphic details on how to intimidate her, which included tips on making threats to kill her and rape her daughter.
The IFJ shares her hope that the prosecution of former DAS members will lead to justice for other journalists who were victims of similar systematic abuses in Colombia and abroad.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Claudia for her dogged determination to report independently in the face of a ruthless campaign to silence her,” added Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary. “The infamous DSA was active in many countries in the region and beyond, hunting any journalist who crossed them. Today, the victims can finally put behind them such horrific experiences.”
***08.03.2013. MEXICO. PEN International Report to UN Warns of Continued Violence Against Journalists and Writers in Mexico Due to Slow Reform
March 7, 2013—Three years after Mexico accepted United Nations (UN) recommendations for combating violence against journalists and eradicating impunity for human rights violations, “the rate at which journalists are being attacked and killed in the country continues to spiral,” PEN International warned today in a submission to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, calling government initiatives to stem the violence since the 2009 review “largely cosmetic.” A PEN delegation will be visiting Mexico next week to press for concrete action on the dozens of unsolved killings and disappearances of journalists and writers.
In a keynote speech at the Inter-American Press Association in Puebla, Mexico on March 8, PEN International president John Ralston Saul will be raising concerns about freedom of expression and highlighting measure that should be implemented to protect journalists, writers and advocates of freedom of speech in the country.
Since the 2009 UPR review the Mexican government has introduced a number of institutional and legal measures aimed at protecting journalists and the right to freedom of expression, but these mechanisms have proved largely ineffective and superficial. The rate at which journalists are being killed in Mexico continues to accelerate, while those who commit crimes against journalists go unpunished. Since December 2006 at least 46 print and internet journalists and writers have been killed in the country. There is little or no investigation into these cases with less than 10 per cent of attacks resulting in convictions.
This climate of impunity owes much of its existence to the corruption and inertia that are so prevalent throughout the Mexican states. Police and employees of local administrations are frequently implicated in attacks on journalists, and threats to journalists’ right to free expression often come directly from the state authorities themselves.
In January 2012, the President of PEN International, John Ralston Saul, led a delegation of writers to Mexico, to raise concerns about the continued violence suffered by Mexican writers and journalists in meetings with key government figures. On 27 January 2012 PEN International published a letter in the Mexican paper El Universal and Canadian Le Devoir standing in solidarity with the writers and journalists of Mexico. The letter was signed by 170 of the world’s leading authors, including seven Nobel Laureates.
As part of its continued efforts in Mexico, PEN International launched Write Against Impunity in August 2012. The campaign brought together PEN Centres across Latin America in a wide-reaching literary protest with over 40 writers contributing poetry and prose commemorating murdered colleagues and protesting against impunity. In October, PEN International was at Hay Festival Xalapa highlighting the escalating violence against writers in the region.
In its UPR submission PEN International calls for full and transparent federal-level investigations into the murder and disappearance of journalists and writer and for all allegations of attacks carried out by government entities to be fully and promptly investigated PEN also calls for the strengthening of Mexico’s new protection mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders, among other recommendations.
PEN’s full UPR report on Mexico, with a full list of recommendations, can be viewed here.
For more information contact Tamsin Mitchell: firstname.lastname@example.org
For press contact Sahar Halaimzai: email@example.com
For more information on Write Against Impunity campaign click here.
For more information on PEN Protesta! click here.
For information on PEN International’s participation in UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity click here.
***17.02.2013. SOMALIA. NUSOJ Welcomes Somali Prime Minister’s Pledge for Justice to the Somali Journalists
Mogadishu, 17 February, 2013
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) welcomes the Somali
Prime Minister’s pledge for justice both the slain journalists and the
jailed journalist during meeting with the Somali Journalists and the
media representatives on Saturday 16 February, 2013 held at the prime
Minister’s office at Villa Somalia.
Journalists’ leaders and media representatives met with the Somali
Prime Minister, Abdi farah Shirdoon at his office at Villa Somalia in
a roundtable meeting. The minister of Information, Posts and
Telecommunication, Abdullahi Elmoge Hersi and his deputy, Abdishakur
Mire were also present at the meeting.
The Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists
(NUSOJ), Mohamed Ibrahim who spoke on behalf of the Somali Journalists
at large raised the concerns of the Somali Journalists including
getting justice for the slain colleague, the working conditions of the
Somali journalists and getting fair trail for Abdilaziz Abdinur who
was sentenced to one year in prison.
Somali prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon, responded to the concerns
raised by the Union’s Secretary General and pledged justice for the
slain journalists and the jailed journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim.
“I respect the important work you do in Somalia in what are often
extremely difficult circumstances and I understand your concern,” the
Prime Minister said. “One journalist killed is one journalist too
many. We don’t want any to be killed.”
The Prime Minister said the government would provide a reward of
$50,000 for information leading to the arrest of any person involved
in the murders of the slain journalists.
Regarding the case of Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, the prime minister
said that, “after listening to your concerns, I will personally stand
for making sure journalist Abdilasis gets a fair trail in the appeals
The appeals court set 20 February, 2013 for the trail hearing of the
appeal of Abdilasis against the one year prison term.
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) welcomes the prime
minister’s pledge for justice to the slain Somali journalists and his
personal commitment for justice for the trail of Abdiaziz Abdinur
“We welcome the prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdoon’s assurances for
justice and respect for the freedom of the press and the freedom of
expression.” Mohamed Ibrahim, Secretary General of the National Union
of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said, “We urge the trail of the jailed
journalist be conducted without political interference.” <END>
***08.02.2013. PEC aplaude creación de comisión mexicana para detener crímenes a periodistas (EFE)
Ginebra (EFE) La asociación Campaña Emblema de Prensa (PEC, por sus siglas en inglés) celebró hoy el establecimiento de una Comisión Especial del Senado de México para investigar las agresiones que sufren los periodistas y detener la criminalidad contra este colectivo profesional.
La Comisión investigará unas 843 quejas de agresiones a periodistas, el ochenta y uno por ciento aún sin resolver, que han sido registradas por la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos desde 1999 y dirigidas a las autoridades mexicanas, según la PEC.
"México es el país más peligroso para ejercer la profesión en toda América y el segundo en el mundo. Desde el año 2000 unos 93 periodistas han sido asesinados, 78 de ellos lo fueron a partir de el comienzo de la guerra contra el narcotráfico en 2008", denunció la PEC en un comunicado de prensa.
En este sentido, la organización no gubernamental llamó al gobierno mexicano a enfrentar la seria situación de las matanzas de periodistas y de acoso a medios de información.
"El Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto, que de momento tiene un saldo blanco de crímenes contra la prensa, debe refrendar el compromiso de respetar y hacer valer la Ley para la Protección de Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas promulgada en junio de 2012", señaló la organización.
La PEC agregó que es el mejor momento para que esta ley no sea olvidada por falta de recursos financieros y humanos, y consideró que enfrentar la impunidad y promover la justicia pondrá coto a los asesinatos de periodistas.
"Los periodistas en México son el blanco directo tanto de instituciones del Estado como del crimen organizado. Ahora es cuando México tiene la oportunidad de dejar de ser el país más peligroso para los periodistas en el continente americano", sentenció la organización.
***05.02.2013. BRAZIL. Police think they have solved sports reporter’s murder (RSF)
Reporters Without Borders notes that Mauricio Sampaio, the former deputy chairman of the Atlético-Goiás football club, was arrested during the weekend on suspicion of hiring a hit man to murder sports journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira in Goiânia, the capital of the central state Goiás, last July.
A reporter for Radio Jornal 820 AM, Luiz was one of a total of five journalists who were killed in connection with their work last year in Brazil. Aged 49, he was gunned down outside the station on 5 July.
“Sampaio’s arrest seems to support that theory that Luiz was killed as a reprisal for criticizing the Atlético-Goiás management on the air,” Reporters Without Borders said. “While respecting the presumption of innocence, we welcome the progress in the police investigation.
“The grave security problems to which Brazilian journalists are exposed, especially at the local level, had an impact on Brazil’s ranking in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. But the efforts it often makes to combat impunity distinguish it from other countries in the region.”
Sampaio was arrested at his home on 2 February, a day after the arrest of three other men on suspicion of involvement in the murder. One was Marcos “Marquinhos” Vinicius, a butcher by trade, who immediately confessed to being the perpetrator, police said. The other two – a military policeman and a friend and business partner of Luiz – allegedly paid Vinicius 200,000 réais (74,000 euros) to do it.
Sampaio, who is due to give a statement to the judicial authorities today, has so far denied any role in Luiz’ murder. Luis was very critical of Sampaio and both he and other members of the radio station’s staff had been banned from visiting the football club.
Read the Reporters Without Borders report on Brazil, entitled “The country of 30 Berlusconis”.
***04.02.2013. SEEMO/IPI Press Release: SEEMO welcomes Serbia commission to investigate journalist murders
Vienna 4 February 2013- The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), supports the establishment and work of the Commission to investigate the murders of journalists Radislava Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic in Serbia.
The decision to establish the Commission came into force on 2 February, 2013. The goal of the Commission is to determine the agenda and time frame for fact-gathering and ascertaining other circumstances related to the investigations into the murder of the journalists, thus establishing cooperation with the bodies authorised to lead investigations. Based on the gathered information and circumstances related to the ongoing investigations, the commission will prepare a review of the current course of the investigations, including preparing its opinion on the effective ways of leading the investigations that could result in further progress, and offering concrete measures to be taken in that respect.
SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: “SEEMO supports the work of the Commission established with the aim of resolving the murders of the journalists Radislava Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic. It is notable that the Commission's establishment was initiated by journalists, and that they successfully exerted pressure on the Government of the Republic of Serbia to make this initiative offical. Up till now, there have been several initiatives and investigations, but never has such a strong front been formed by the united forces of journalists and representatives of the authorised institutions. The advantage of a Commission established in such a manner lies in its diverse character. Due to their personal relations with the journalists in question, journalist-members of the Commission, will most certainly make the work of the Commission more effective, which will, in turn, contribute to its achieving expected results. We call on international institutions and experts to contribute their experience and professional practice to the work of the Commission which - due to the way in which it was established and due to its constitution and mandate - represents novelty on the international level”.
“We expect to get impartial information on what were the major obstacles in the investigations, and who is responsible for them, and that the final outcome of the Commission's work will be the solving of these murders, including revealing the perpatrators and those who gave the orders, as well as convictions in criminal trials - which will bring relief to everyone, especially to the families of the victims”.
“It is of the utmost importance that the Commission works without any pressure to come up with the results as soon as possible, as the most important thing is to achieve its aim, a process supported by the broad mandate of the Commission. It would be very significant to make the best of the investigations conducted so far, in a process resulting in the identification of the perpetrators, as this would be the best way to dispel suspicions concerning its establishment, its members and the motives involved – all of which should be completely separated from everyday political influences seeking to maintain the status quo”.
SEEMO will offer all its existing resources in order to support the Commission and its activities.
***31.01.2013. UKRAINE. IFJ/EFJ welcome conviction of Gongadze’s killer in Ukraine
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today hailed as a step to end impunity in Ukraine the conviction of General Oleksiy Pukach with the murder of Georgy Gongadze by a court in Kiev on 29 January. The Federation joined its affiliates in Ukraine and Europe in welcoming the decision which capped a long and hard campaign waged by journalists and the journalist's family.
"After more than a decade of tireless pursuit of justice for Gongadze, the conviction of his killer is good news indeed," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Unfortunately, the decision feels like partial justice as others involved in his murder are still being shielded from responsibility."
Ukraine media reported that the court found General Pukach, a former chief of surveillance department in the Interior Ministry, guilty of strangling the journalist and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The defendant, who confessed to the killing in 2009, told the court the murder had been ordered by former President Leonid Kuchma, his former chief of staff Volodymyr Lytvyn and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko who died in 2005 in suspicious circumstances.
Prosecutors brought charges against Kuchma in 2011 but dropped them, citing lack of evidence. Pukach's trial was held behind closed doors, restricting access of families to court hearings and raising suspicions of a cover up.
Georgy Gongadze, publisher of the Internet journal Ukrainska Prawda, was kidnapped on 16 September 2000 and his body found later beheaded. The journalist had been investigating corruption at senior levels of the Ukrainian government led by former President Leonid Kuchma. Revelations of secret tape recordings of Kuchma ordering Interior Ministry' services to kill Gongadze sparked accusations of his involvement.
The IFJ spearheaded journalists' campaign to have his killers face justice and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists, has warned that failure to hold all suspects in Gongadze's murder would delay further the true rule of law in Ukraine. The IFJ/EFJ is opposed to the idea of holding a Court in a closed mode, which may give reasons to doubt the fairness of the sentence, and they call for greater openness in the proceedings.
"We urge the authorities to reconsider their decision not to prosecute other individuals mentioned by Pukach," added Arne König, EFJ President. "They should answer for their role in a public and transparent trial. It is the only way to do justice to Gongadze and allow his family to move on."
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 00
***30.01.2013. SERBIA. OSCE media freedom representative welcomes commission on unsolved murders of Serbian journalists, stresses responsibility of government
VIENNA, 30 January 2013 – Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, welcomed today the establishment of a commission to assess progress in the investigations of unsolved murders of journalists in Serbia, but emphasized that the government needed to step up its own efforts to protect journalists.
“I fully support the new commission and I hope it will help to ensure that justice is served and will raise awareness of the issue of journalists’ safety. The journalists’ families and colleagues deserve justice and deserve to know who was behind their deaths,” said Mijatović.
“However, the responsibility remains with government institutions and the commission should in no way be perceived as relieving the government of this responsibility to investigate the murders and to ensure a safer working environment for media workers in general.”
“There is still a long way to go to end the impunity of those who instigate violence against journalists, in Serbia and beyond.”
The initiative by the Serbian government to establish an international commission to assess the progress of the investigations into the killings of Dada Vujasinović in 1994, Slavko Ćuruvija in 1999 and Milan Pantić in 2001was raised during Mijatović’s visit to Belgrade in 2012.
The international commission is headed by the Editor-in-Chief of Serbian broadcaster B92, Veran Matić. It is part of the Balkan Freedom Network, which is composed of representatives of journalist associations, human rights NGOs, independent regulatory bodies, and associations of prosecutors and judges.
For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/fom/99008
***25.01.2013. NORTHERN IRELAND. No prosecutions over the murder of ‘Sunday World’ journalist (Independent.ie)
EIGHT people investigated over the murder of a Northern Ireland journalist more than a decade ago will not be prosecuted because of concerns about a key witness's evidence, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the North said today.
Sunday World reporter Martin O'Hagan, 51, was shot dead by loyalists in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in September 2001.
Neil Hyde gave an account to police which could not be independently verified, the prosecution authority said.
DPP Barra McGrory QC said: "The prosecution of any of the accused in this case would depend on the evidence of Neil Hyde.
"Having regard to all the circumstances, it has been concluded that, in the absence of any corroboration, the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any individual."
Mr O'Hagan worked for the Sunday World, a Dublin-based tabloid which targets terrorism and organised crime, and built a reputation for covering paramilitary and drugs-related stories.
He was the first journalist believed to have been murdered in the line of work in the history of Northern Ireland's troubles, killed as he returned from the pub in his home town.
A car pulled alongside and a gunman shot him. Marie O'Hagan escaped death when her husband pushed her into a hedge to protect her.
During the police investigation a suspect, Hyde, indicated that he was willing to assist the authorities. He was interviewed at length by detectives about his knowledge of the killing and his own involvement.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) prosecuted him for a range of offences including conspiring to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with the murder, which had been claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Hyde was jailed for three years last February. Sentencing judge Patrick Lynch QC told him if he had not agreed to identify the alleged culprits in Mr O'Hagan's murder and give evidence about the activities of the outlawed LVF, he would have been imprisoned for 18 years.
The PPS is considering whether Hyde should be referred back to court so his sentence can be reviewed and that decision hinges on whether he gave an untruthful account.
Mr McGrory said: "I know this decision will be disappointing to Mr O'Hagan's widow, family, friends and colleagues but the evidence that can be given by an assisting offender must be carefully evaluated and the test for prosecution applied on a case by case basis.
"Every case is different and the question whether the test for prosecution is met can only be determined on the merits of each individual case."
He said his approach had been assisted by detailed consideration given by Mr Justice John Gillen, who highlighted the dangers of convicting on the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice after an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) supergrass trial last year. Twelve of the 13 men were acquitted of all charges following one of the longest trials in Northern Ireland's legal history.
The judge in that case said the supergrasses confused the roles of those they alleged were present.
Sunday World northern editor Jim McDowell said he was disappointed, annoyed and angry.
"Myself and the staff have worked hard since that black Friday in September 2001 to try to get justice for Martin O'Hagan.
"It now seems, that old adage, while there there may be a law in this country, where is the justice?"
He added that today's announcement had come as a complete shock to him and the dead man's family.
"This will not diminish in any way our resolve to continue to try to get justice for Martin," he said.
Mr McGrory insisted he had no reservations about legislation covering the use of supergrasses and said it set off the process of evaluating the evidence of an accomplice.
"There is a legislative framework which is helpful rather than a hindrance," he said.
"The legislation is structured in such a way that there are safeguards built in."
He said the absence of corroboration did not in itself mean no prosecution could be taken but meant the evidence of an accomplice had to be scrutinised to an even greater degree than it might otherwise have been.
"It becomes all the more difficult to prosecute, not necessarily impossible," he added.
"I have to apply as the DPP, in as fair and accurate a way as possible, the test for prosecution, requiring me to act only on evidence which I feel I can confidently bring to court and it will be relied upon and in this case I do not feel that that is the case. In this case the principles of justice are being rigorously applied."
- Michael McHugh
***11.01.2013. PHILIPPINES Ampatuan Massacre trial update
THE TRIAL of the accused killers and masterminds of the Ampatuan Massacre continued in 2012—but with hardly the kind of progress that press freedom groups and the families left behind by the 58 men and women killed Nov. 23 have been demanding.Three years have passed since the Ampatuan Massacre. The trial of the 196 alleged masterminds and perpetrators has been stalled by the lengthy processes involved in addressing the bail petitions of 58 of the accused.
(The Department of Justice originally filed murder charges against 197 persons. But the court has dismissed charges against a police officer for lack of probable cause in 2010.)
On Nov. 23, 2009, more than 100 men intercepted the convoy of Genalin Mangudadatu which included 32 reporters, editors, publishers, photographers, and cameramen. All 52 members of the convoy were killed on a hilltop in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province; six others who happened to be on their way to Cotabato City were also stopped with the convoy and were also shot to death.
Genalin Mangudadatu together with relatives and supporters of her husband, former Buluan town vice-mayor and now Maguindanao governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, was supposed to file the latter’s certificate of candidacy for the 2010 gubernatorial race.
Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City is currently hearing the 57 counts of murder filed against 197 alleged perpetrators in connection with the Nov. 23, 2009 Massacre. The alleged perpetrators include prominent members of the Ampatuan clan—Andal Sr., Andal “Unsay” Jr., Zaldy, Sajid Islam, Akmad “Tato”, Anwar Sr., Anwar “Ipi” Jr. and Anwar Sajid “Ulo” who are all detained in the Quezon City Jail-Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan. Other members of said clan such as Bahnarin and Kanor are still at large.
The case for Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay was filed by the Department of Justice in September 2012.
Only 81 out of the 98 (QC RTC figure) arrested suspects have been arraigned by the QC court as a result of delays caused by the numerous petitions and motions filed by both the defense and the prosecution.
Observers have criticized the prosecution’s strategy which included everyone mentioned during the preliminary investigation without assessing the ability of the police to arrest and detain suspects and the lengthy trial of over 100 persons in a system hat has not been noted for speed.
Simultaneous bail hearings and evidence-in-chief
Sadly, the trial of the Ampatuan Massacre has been stalled by the need under the rules of court to show “strong evidence of guilt” on the part of the 58 suspected perpetrators who have filed petitions for bail.
Observers have noted with surprise how a bail hearing can last so long, and can involve the presentation of the “evidence-in-chief,” or the evidence that wll be presented during the trial itself. (For the accused who did not file petitions for bail, the proceedings are already in the trial stage.) In many court systems around the world, bail hearings are simply about whether the accused should be allowed liberty while the trial proceeds, involving a judgment of the gravity of the crime he or she is accused of and the risk of flight.
Even during the extended bail hearing, the defense lawyer of three accused members of the Ampatuan clan achieved delays with nine motions so far asking the judge to recuse herself. This number is much more limited in other judicial systems. In the Philippine courts, there is no limit to this delaying option.
Petitions in higher courts
During the bail hearings, the accused can ask for clarification of some of the court’s decisions, as defense lawyers representing different accused have asked the appellate courts and the Supreme Court to nullify their indictment in the multiple murder case, petitions which of course have delayed their arraignment.
One such petition was filed by defense counsels for Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the primary suspects and a brother of Unsay, with the Court of Appeals (CA) in June 2010. It was denied in November 2011 and again in April 2012; it was raised to the Supreme Court (SC) in April 2012.
SC affirmed the CA decision “with finality” in November 2012, saying the appellate court did not commit any reversible error and that the subsequent motion for reconsideration lacked merit.
There are four more pending petitions for certiorari, three for primary suspects, all members of the Ampatuan clan and one for a member of a civilian voluntary organization or CVO: Anwar Ampatuan Sr., Sajid Islam Ampatuan, Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr., and CVO member Nicomedes Tolentino.
Defense Petition of Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. questioning the dismissal of the indirect contempt charges against lawyer Nena Santos Unsay’s petition questioning the admission of police officer Rainer Ebus’ testimony (Post-facto evidence) by the QC RTC Andal Ampatuan Sr.’s petition of a Manila RTC resolution dismissing his civil case vs DOJ seeking asking indictment of witness Kenny Dalandag
Prosecution Petition for certiorari asking for the reversal of the trial court’s dismissal of their motion to discharge Mohammad Sangki to be state witnesses
Last Oct. 3, the First Division of the SC upheld the filing of multiple murder charges against Anwar Ampatuan Sr. The Court in its resolution said Anwar failed to show that the CA committed mistake in retaining him as an accused in the Ampatuan Massacre trial.
The multiple petitions and motions by both the defense and the prosecution have delayed the trial. From January 2010 to October 2012, the defense has filed approximately 540 pleadings (motions/manifestations/petitions/comments) before the QC RTC Branch 221. The prosecution filed about 210 pleadings.
According to SC, Judge Solis of QC RTC Branch 221 had resolved 204 out of the 307 motions (excluding oral manifestations) filed by both defense and prosecution. This leaves 103—including 58 bail petitions—still unsolved.
A month before the third year anniversary of the Massacre, SC revoked its earlier ruling allowing live broadcast media coverage of the hearings on the Ampatuan Massacre. The 23 October 2012 decision gave weight to the appeal of Andal Ampatuan Sr. , saying that allowing real-time showing of the trial would be undermine his and the other accused’s right to due process.
The court, however, ordered the establishment of out-of-court viewing areas where the press and other interested citizens can watch the proceedings. Viewing areas will be put up in General Santos City, Koronadal City and Cotabato City.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which led in the petition for the live coverage request, filed a motion for reconsideration last Dec. 7. But it is unlikely that the Court would change its original decision.
***14.12.2012. RUSSIA. Amnesty International Hails Verdict to Politkovskaya Killer
LONDON, December 14 (RIA Novosti) – Human rights organization Amnesty International welcomed on Friday the conviction of the killer of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and called on Russian prosecutors “not to rest” until the masterminds of the killing are brought to justice.
“While we welcome today’s verdict and the long-awaited prosecutions of Anna Politskovskaya’s killers, this case can never truly be closed until those who ordered her murder are named and brought to justice,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
A Moscow court sentenced a former police officer to 11 years in prison on Friday for his role in the 2006 killing of investigative journalist Politkovskaya. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was convicted in a separate trial from the others accused of involvement in the killing, the mastermind of which remains at liberty.
“We are urging prosecutors to keep digging up the truth, no matter how politically inconvenient,” Dalhuisen said in a statement.
Politkovskaya, a reporter with opposition-minded Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building on October 7, 2006. Investigators suspect the murder was linked to her work, which frequently produced reports critical of the Kremlin’s policy in the North Caucasus and the leadership in Chechnya.