CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

January 2012 Archives


Visitors wait for Salman Rushdie's video conference at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which was called off after Muslim groups protested. (AP/Manish Swarup)

Because of criticism from Hindu fundamentalists, the showing of a documentary by filmmaker Sanjay Kak at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune has been indefinitely postponed. The conservative student organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parisha protested Kak's film, "Jashn-e-Azadi" (How we celebrate freedom), which is critical of the Indian army's role in Kashmir. In fact, the whole conference, scheduled to start Friday, has been postponed, according to the investigative magazine Tehelka and the BBC.

Photojournalists raise photos of José Luis Cabezas as thousands gathered in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, February 25, 1997, to protest Cabezas' murder the previous month. (AP/Daniel Muzio)

It was a cold winter morning more than 15 years ago. As part of my daily routine as a foreign correspondent, I opened my laptop to read the Argentine papers. I was shocked by a headline: my colleague José Luis Cabezas, a photographer for the newsweekly magazine Noticias, had been murdered. His bullet-ridden body was found on January 25, 1997, inside a burned car, handcuffed and charred, on the outskirts of the beach resort of Pinamar.

The sky over Beijing, as it turns out, isn't quite as blue as the government long claimed. (Reuters/David Gray)

In China, state control over the media hasn't become more lax in recent years. Each year brings a new excuse for Communist Party censors to tighten the screws. The year of the rabbit brought the Arab Spring, and fears of a Jasmine Revolution. The year of the dragon brings a major political transition

The case of a cartoonist charged with treason and offending India's national sentiments reflects a growing debate over what constitutes freedom of expression in India. His accusers argue that while it is permissible to make fun of politicians, you cannot make fun of the state. Not everyone agrees.

Mexican writer Eduardo Lizalde speaks out at a PEN International event. (Reuters/Henry Romero)

The leading American author Russell Banks set the tone on Sunday as he stood among international writers and their local colleagues in Mexico City: "A nation's journalists and writers, like its poets and story-tellers, are the eyes, ears, and mouths of the people. When journalists cannot freely speak of what they see and hear of the reality that surrounds them, the people cannot see, hear, or speak it either." Banks is among the leaders of a high-level PEN International delegation that is meeting with top Mexican officials to pressure them to improve law enforcement in the murders of journalists, and to change the law to bring more cases under the federal government's jurisdiction. 

People remain stranded at the North Bus Terminal in Medellin, Antioquia department, on January 5, 2012 during an armed strike imposed by the criminal gang Los Urabeños. (Raul Arboleda/AFP)

At most newspapers, reporting for the society page isn't especially dangerous. But in the northern Colombian department of Córdoba, which is under siege from drug-trafficking gangs, even covering birthday parties can be risky.

Sri Lankan journalists stage the "Black January" protest, demanding the government punish the culprits responsible for killing journalists. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)

On Monday, I wrote about two demonstrations scheduled for Sri Lanka this week. Both were meant to commemorate the ugly string of anti-press attacks in recent Januaries, which has included journalists killed and abducted, television stations bombed, websites attacked, and media offices torched. But Wednesday's Black January effort, publicized by the Free Media Movement (FMM) and other media support groups, was sabotaged and had to be moved at the last minute. A source in Colombo gave the following account, the outlines of which were confirmed by other CPJ sources:

Pakistani journalists protest the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. (AFP/Rizwan Tabassum)

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl in Karachi on January 23, 2002. On February 21 of that year, a video of his beheading was released. In the wake of the judicial inquiry into the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, veteran Pakistani journalist Mazhar Abbas has taken a comparative look at the two investigations with this article from the most recent magazine section of The News on Sunday.

Hungarians demonstrate against the government's media law during a protest in support of the largest opposition radio station in Budapest Sunday. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

"Klubrádió solely wants to provide news and present different opinions and never meant to play any emblematic role. But, because of the decision of the Media Authority, it has became the symbol of free speech in Hungary," stated the broadcaster's CEO, András Arató, on Sunday when addressing thousands of demonstrators who gathered in central Budapest to express their support for the station. Once this popular talk radio broadcaster loses its frequency license (which was reallocated to a previously unknown media group that tendered a higher price) in a matter of weeks, pro-government dominance will be nearly complete in terms of broadcast news programs in the country.

Sandhya Eknelygoda and sons Sanjay and Harith. (CPJ)

A couple of weeks ago, I described the terrible incidence of anti-press abuse that has come each recent January in Sri Lanka. Media activists have come to call the month "Black January" for good reason, as this email message details: 

The doses of freedom that the Tunisian revolution injected into national media have not been sufficient to revive it after decades of systematic destruction. It is not surprising that our evaluation of media one year after the tyrant fell reveals more negativity and pessimism.

Former Minister Kabakumba Masiko resigned after her private radio station was found to have been illegally using UBC equipment. (CPJ)

Ugandan police have shuttered 13 broadcasters since December, accusing them of misusing power supplies and equipment belonging to the state-run Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC). The widespread allegations of corrupt deals between the state broadcaster and ostensibly private stations reveal more than illicit transactions--they expose a lack of independence within Uganda's broadcast sector.

French satellite provider Eutelsat announced yesterday it is suspending Kurdish satellite station Roj TV after a Danish court last week levied a hefty fine against the satellite station for promoting terrorism. Eutelsat's decision comes despite Roj TV's appeal before the Danish High Court, which is pending. The case has implications for how media content is evaluated, the rights of minority media, and how terrorism laws are balanced with human rights.

Oprah Winfrey's first visit to India brought delighted coverage by the Indian media. Her meetings and tweetings with Bollywood stars, her bright orange sari, and her trips to slums and to the Taj Mahal were lovingly detailed by newspapers and TV outlets in that country. 

Protesters denounce the murder of Mukarram Khan Aatif. (AFP/A. Majeed)

It was in January four years ago that nearly 100 journalists from all over Pakistan got together to launch a new TV channel in Lahore, Dunya TV. That was where I first met Mukarram Khan Aatif, our reporter from Mohmand.

Win Maw, a journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma, is greeted by his wife as he arrives at Yangon airport after being released from prison Friday, Jan. 13. (AP/Khin Maung Win)

When President Thein Sein pardoned over 300 political prisoners last week in Burma, CPJ reported that at least nine journalists were among those released. Since then, the exile-run Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) has announced that all of its jailed reporters, including a group of eight who had remained anonymous, are now free.

With the shooting of Mukarram Khan Aatif on Tuesday, the once high-profile case of Saleem Shahzad has almost been overtaken by events. The day before Aatif's death, Umar Cheema had sent me a link to his analysis of the judicial inquiry into the killing of Saleem Shahzad.

The president's defamation case could severely damage free expression in Ecuador. (Reuters/Guillermo Granja)

A controversial 2011 defamation verdict against the leading Ecuadoran daily El Universo, which became a symbol of vastly deteriorating press conditions under President Rafael Correa, appears headed to a final determination. The nation's highest court is due to hear the newspaper's appeal, although the hearing date itself is still subject to intense debate. The ramifications are enormous for free expression in Ecuador: The verdict, if upheld by the high court, could bankrupt the newspaper, put its managers in jail, and send a chill quashing dissent for years to come. As it fights for its existence, the paper has mounted an aggressive defense that includes an allegation that the trial judge allowed the president's own lawyer to write the verdict. 

Syrians hold a candlelight vigil as the body of French tv reporter Gilles Jacquier is taken out of a hospital in Homs to be transported to Damascus early on Thursday. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

The killing on January 11 of a French TV reporter has sent a chill through the international press corps trying to cover the violence in Syria. Gilles Jacquier, 43, who was on assignment for the French public service channel France 2, was a seasoned journalist and the laureate of France's most prestigious journalism prizes. As a special reporter for "Envoyé special," France's equivalent of "60 Minutes," he had covered dozens of wars, from Kosovo to Afghanistan, and was considered one of the most professional French war correspondents.

Nigerians have been protesting for five days over the removal of a fuel subsidy. (AP/Sunday Alamba)

Protesters in Nigeria are not only angry at their government's New Year's Day decision to eliminate a fuel subsidy -- they are also upset about news media coverage of the citizens' movement, dubbed "Occupy Nigeria," and have taken their protests to local media outlets.

Eskinder Nega (Lennart Kjörling)

It would be hard to find a better symbol of media repression in Africa than Eskinder Nega. The veteran Ethiopian journalist and dissident blogger has been detained at least seven times by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government over the past two decades, and was put back in jail on September 14, 2011, after he published a column calling for the government to respect freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to end torture in prisons.

Pakistani journalists protest the death of Wali Khan Babar, killed one year ago today. (AFP/Asif Hassan)

Today is the first anniversary of the killing of Geo TV broadcast reporter Wali Khan Babar in Karachi, a case that has almost been forgotten, particularly in the shadow of the release of the judicial inquiry into the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad. The report on Shahzad has been posted on the Ministry of Information's website.

Fiji's military leadership on Saturday lifted emergency regulations it had been using to stymie the country's press since 2009, according to local government websites. Good news? Maybe. Yet the regime still restricts the media, and anyone else who dares to question the legitimacy of the 2006 coup that brought its leaders to power--suggesting they are more concerned about appearances than press freedom.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in Tashkent in October 2011. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Last week, President Obama signed into law a bill that expands sanctions against Belarus, whose authoritarian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko continues to imprison his opponents and critics. Lukashenko unleashed the latest crackdown hours after the flawed December 2010 presidential vote, which declared him winner of a fourth term. Repression in Belarus is ongoing. Last week, authorities further tightened their grip on the media by restricting access to blacklisted websites. On Monday, a district court in Minsk jailed an independent reporter for filming a one-man protest vigil in front of the KGB headquarters.

About six months after it was launched, the commission investigating the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad submitted its report to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday. In the past, the government has not released results of such investigations into the deaths of journalists, but there might be an exception this time. There are early media leaks of its content: The Express Tribune's bylined story is "No culprit named in Saleem Shahzad report," and Dawn's story ("Posted by a reporter," the byline says) is here. Dawn echoes The Express Tribune's headline a bit further down in its posting:  "According to sources, the commission has stopped short of fixing responsibility for the journalist`s killing." But with no names named, the government might find it politically viable to make the report public.

A quick pointer to a statement issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Monday: It said, in part, that "The HRCP is alarmed at reports of threats received by journalists on account of their work." The commission asked the government to ensure that threats to journalists end and that risks associated with practicing journalism in general are eliminated, as noted in the English-language daily Dawn.

South African President Jacob Zuma, center, and other members of the ANC cut a cake celebrating the 100th year of the party. (EPA/Elmond Jiyane)

On January 8, 1912, South African intellectuals--including pioneering black newspaper publishers Pixley ka Isaka Seme, editor of Abantu-Batho, and John Langalibalele Dube, editor of Ilanga lase Natal--formed Africa's oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC), in the Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein.

For Sri Lankan journalists, January might be the cruelest month. In January 2011, Sonali Samarasinghe wrote about the death of her husband Lasantha Wickramatunga two years earlier on January 8, 2009. In January 2010 I reported in "Sri Lanka: A year later, still failing to fight media attacks" about the government's inactivity in investigating Wickramatunga's death one year on. That was a follow up to the February 2009 "Failure to Investigate," in which CPJ had investigated his death and two other January attacks --- one a bombing raid on an independent television station and the other -- an attack similar to that on Wickramatunga, though not fatal -- on Upali Tennakoon, the editor of a Sinhala newspaper.

Samuel Kiendrebeogo (Courtesy Voice of America)

The African media community lost a central voice this week with the passing of Samuel Kiendrebeogo, the veteran host of weekly media magazine Médias d'Afrique et D'Ailleurs on Voice of America's French service. Sam, as he was known, died while vacationing in his native Burkina Faso. He was 63.

Newsprint manufacturer Papel Prensa is the recent focus of an ongoing battle between two dailies and Argentina's government. (AP/Natacha Pisarenko)

Argentine Secretary of Commerce Guillermo Moreno made headlines in August 2010 when, at a meeting with the directors of newsprint manufacturer Papel Prensa, he whipped out a pair of boxing gloves, told the women present to clear out of the way, and after dimming the lights, challenged the men to a fight. Moreno's invitation to spar, though presumably in jest, set the stage for last month's legislative debate on Papel Prensa's future, which though lacking for props was no less combative.

Henry Nxumalo in 1953. (Jurgen Schadeberg)

Just over 55 years ago, on New Year's Eve 1957, trailblazing South African journalist Henry Nxumalo was murdered while investigating suspicious deaths at an abortion clinic in Sophiatown, a suburb west of Johannesburg.

« December 2011    |    Blog Home    |    February 2012 »
Blog Authors
Full author list »

Recent Categories