***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.
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 newsreports.
"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.
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
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 Dinkwas 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.
***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 conflict. -AFP
***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.”
***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
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.
***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 rights violations.
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?"
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.
***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. Source.RMNP
***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 Presidente ANP 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.
- 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.
***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, announced today.
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 Somali journalists.”
“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 tried.”
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.
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.
***19.03.2013. PAKISTAN. Daniel Pearl Family Hails Murder Suspect's Arrest (AFP)
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 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 court.”
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 Ibrahim.
“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.
***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.
***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."
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.
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.
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.