Istanbul, May 24, 2013--Turkish authorities should reverse on appeal the jail term handed down this week to a Turkish Armenian author and blogger who was convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Istanbul, May 24, 2013--Turkish authorities should reverse on appeal the jail term handed down this week to a Turkish Armenian author and blogger who was convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
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.
One day, every journalism school in the United States and beyond will offer a full three-credit, 15-week course in digital safety, along with more advanced classes. But that day has not yet come. Only a year ago, Alysia Santo reported in the Columbia Journalism Review that no American journalism school offered formal digital safety training. A number of groups, including CPJ, have tried to fill the void with digital security guides. This week, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University added to the resource stockpile with the publication of a guide that I've written, Digital Security Basics for Journalists.
With more than a billion users, Facebook is not only the biggest global social network but also an increasingly important forum for journalists. In some repressive countries it has even served as a publishing platform for journalists whose newspapers or news websites have been closed down. That is why journalists and bloggers should note today's news that after a year of standing on the threshold, Facebook has decided to step inside the Global Network Initiative tent.
The European Parliament, meeting in a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, adopted today a resolution stating that "changes in EU member state's media laws that make it easier for governments to interfere in the media should be monitored every year at EU level."
New York, May 20, 2013--Several assailants beat two reporters covering an opposition protest outside Ukrainian Interior Ministry headquarters in Kiev on Saturday in view of police officers who failed to intervene, according to local and international press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the beating and the inaction of police, and it calls on authorities to hold both assailants and officers fully accountable under the law.
When twin car bombs shook the district of Reyhanli in Turkey's southeastern province of Hatay near the Syrian border last Saturday, killing at least 51 people and wounding dozens of others, a local court issued a gag order on all news coverage of the attack. The ban was unprecedented in scope and in the way by which it came about.
When President Obama meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdoğan today, he needs to deliver the message that Turkey's failure to improve its record on press freedom is eroding the country's strategic relationship with the United States and sabotaging its regional leadership ambitions, CPJ's executive director, Joel Simon, and Reporters Without Borders' director general, Christophe Deloire, write in an opinion piece in Foreign Policy.
We received an unusual email last week. Michaella Ortega wrote to tell us that Marlon Recamata, who confessed to shooting her father, Philippine journalist Gerardo Ortega, in 2011, had been convicted and sentenced to life for the crime.
New York, May 14, 2013--Azerbaijani parliament's approval to extend criminal defamation laws to include Internet speech is a serious setback for press freedom in a country that severely curtails free expression already, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ calls on President Ilham Aliyev to veto the bill.
New York, May 13, 2013--Syrian authorities must immediately release and ensure the well-being of a German freelance journalist who has reportedly been detained for more than a week, according to the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.
New York, May 8, 2013--Today's arrest in Moscow of a local businessman suspected of organizing a brutal attack that led to the death in 2000 of investigative reporter Igor Domnikov is a long-overdue step toward justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Russian authorities must now ensure that all of those involved in planning the attack are brought to justice, CPJ said.
In advance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Moscow this week, Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Committee to Protect Journalists sent him a letter to call attention to the ongoing crackdown in Russia on non-governmental organizations--including those that support press freedom and freedom of expression.
Some years back during a visit to the Gambia--the West African nation ruled by a thin-skinned and mercurial president, Yahya Jammeh--I holed up in the sweltering Interior Ministry and pressed officials to release imprisoned journalists and ease up on the country's brutal media crackdown. The officials resisted, arguing that the press in Gambia was "reckless and irresponsible," that it made unfounded accusations, published falsehoods, and destroyed people's lives, and therefore the government had no choice but to step in and impose order and regulation.
New York, April 30, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the well-being of two European journalists who went missing in western Syria three weeks ago. News reports identified the journalists as Domenico Quirico, a veteran reporter for the Italian daily La Stampa, and Pierre Piccinin da Prata, a Belgian academic and freelance writer, although the accounts did not say if the two were traveling together.
Police in Minsk on April 26, 2013, detained for three days two reporters for the Poland-based Radio Racyja, according to the local press. The journalists, Gennady Barbarich and Aleksandr Yaroshevich, were taken into police custody on disobedience charges after reporting on a state-authorized rally, called Chernobylskiy Shlyakh, in commemoration of the April 1986 nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl.
In the past, donors and groups providing security to journalists in less-developed nations tended to export a Western, military-style of training designed for a war-time environment. But the danger of covering combat is one thing. Being fired upon by a motorcycle-riding assassin is another--as is being sexually molested in a crowd, discovering a video camera in one's bedroom, or having one's phone calls intercepted. And then there is emotional toll of losing dear colleagues, and wondering whether you or your family will be next.
Istanbul, April 25, 2013--An Istanbul court convicted a Turkish editor of "publicly insulting the president" and sentenced him to a conditional term of 14 months in prison, according to news reports. Ali Örnek would be jailed if he repeats the perceived offense sometime in the next five years under amendments to Turkey's criminal code introduced in 2012.
That is a bogus @ap tweet.-- AP CorpComm (@AP_CorpComm) April 23, 2013
More than a quarter million Twitter accounts have been hacked worldwide, the social media company disclosed in February, but Tuesday's attack on The Associated Press's verified account, @AP, had unusual effect. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 143 points after someone hijacked the AP's account to falsely tweet that two explosions at the White House had wounded President Barack Obama. The market recovered, but the hacking--just the latest in a series of attacks on news organizations--sent shudders through a profession that's grown accustomed to breaking its news on Twitter.
Kyrgyzstan has endured a turbulent past and continues to face significant challenges, but its leaders are committed to a democratic future, Djoomart Otorbayev, the nation's deputy prime minister, told human rights and press freedom advocates in New York this week. The country still grapples with the repercussions of the brutal June 2010 ethnic conflict that left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Journalist Azimjon Askarov remains in prison on charges that CPJ and numerous human rights groups have determined to be in retaliation for his work in uncovering official abuses during the unrest.
The last several months in Italy have seen a few disquieting attacks against independent media and an investigative reporter. In one case, the widely distributed independent newspaper La Stampa received an explosive device in the mail. The Federazione Anarchica Informale/Fronte Rivoluzionario, an anarchist organization, claimed responsibility and ominously noted that La Stampa was just one of many newspapers that could be a target of the group's war against the state. CPJ research shows that the state of press freedom in Italy is among the most volatile in Western Europe, with violence and legal action sometimes perpetrated by criminal groups or political actors.
Thursday's court ruling in the western Grodno region of Belarus is not befitting a modern European country, where servants of justice--prosecutors and judges--are expected to ensure protection for press freedom and human rights. Instead, it is reminiscent of medieval Europe, where dissent was declared heresy and ordered destroyed.
The Oshmyansky District Court ruled that the 2011 edition of the Belarus Press Photo album contained extremist materials that "deliberately contort" social, economic, and political life in the country. Belarus Press Photo is an independent press photography contest that aims to support, promote, and develop local photojournalism, according to its mission statement.
There is good news from Strasbourg that follows up on my entry from earlier this week, "European Parliament has chance to take on Vietnam." Today, the European Parliament did exactly that when they unanimously adopted an Urgent Resolution on Vietnam. It was a wide-ranging document, but a large part was devoted the freedom of expression issues that are central to CPJ's concerns. In Article 7, the European Parliament:
The Italian Foreign Minister announced in a statement on April 13, 2013, that four Italian journalists abducted in northern Syria on April 4, 2013, had been released. News accounts reported that the journalists were believed to have been held for more than a week by the rebel group, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but the foreign ministry did not immediately confirm the information.
New York, April 15, 2013--Prosecutors in Abakan, capital of the Republic of Khakassia in southern Siberia, should drop the criminal defamation charges against an online journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. News accounts are reporting that after four months of investigation, Mikhail Afanasyev's case is moving to court, although no date has yet been set.
On Thursday, April 18, the European Parliament will discuss Vietnam's human rights in a plenary session. At the top of the agenda will be freedom of expression. Over the weekend, CPJ's Brussels-based Senior Adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz blogged about the issues the parliament must confront in Le Soir.
On Wednesday, more than a year after being blocked in Kyrgyzstan by government order, Ferghana News was again accessible to the public without the aid of proxy servers. Most local Internet providers, including the state-owned Kyrgyz Telecom, restored access to the website, Daniil Kislov, Ferghana's editor, told CPJ.
New York, April 9, 2013--Lawyers for Ferghana News, a website blocked in Kyrgyzstan for more than a year, have filed an appeal urging the courts to overturn the ban that they say violates fundamental civil rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists urges the court to find in favor of the website and order restoration of domestic access immediately.
Mikhail Beketov's recovery, in photos by CPJ and news agencies.
Mikhail Beketov, the former crusading editor of the independent newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda in the Moscow suburb, Khimki, died this afternoon at a Moscow hospital. A choking episode during lunch led to heart failure, Elena Kostyuchenko, Beketov's friend and a reporter for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, told CPJ by phone from Moscow. Really, though, Beketov's life was taken by the thugs who smashed his skull, broke his legs, pulverized his hands, and left him to die in the freezing cold nearly five years ago. He defied them, surviving that November 2008 night and valiantly rallying in the ensuing years, but the once robust and fearless editor was never the same.
Today, hope for peace between the government of Turkey and Kurdish rebels is closer than ever to becoming reality. A resolution to the conflict, after more than 30 years, could have ramifications for Turkey's standing as the world's worst jailer of journalists. According to CPJ research, three-quarters of the journalists imprisoned in Turkey are from the pro-Kurdish media.
New York, April 5, 2013--An Azerbaijani court has sentenced the editor of a religious news website to eight years in prison on charges related to his coverage of events involving the Muslim community. The Committee to Protect Journalists considers the charges to be fabricated and calls on the courts to overturn the conviction on appeal.
New York, April 2, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing imprisonment of independent Uzbek editor Muhammad Bekjanov, whose health has severely deteriorated in jail, and urges authorities to immediately release him so that he may receive medical care. Bekjanov and a colleague, both of whom were jailed in 1999, have been in prison for longer than any other journalists worldwide, according to CPJ research.
Jörg Armbruster, a correspondent for the German public broadcaster ARD, was seriously injured by gunfire during a military clash in Aleppo on March 29, 2013, according to news reports. After emergency surgery inside Syria on the same day, Armbruster was transferred by ambulance to Turkey, where he was treated by an emergency medical team. After his condition stabilized, he was evacuated to Stuttgart on April 1, according to the ARD subsidiary SWR.
In the most tightly controlled countries, the media is told what they are allowed to report on and what topics are taboo. Anything related to the leader's health or his family is generally in the latter category. The resulting information vacuum can lead to rumors and uncertainty.
Recent statements by Vladimir Putin and Russian Member of Parliament (MP) Aleksey Mitrofanov, as well as raids on human rights organizations, signal that the threat hanging over civil society and freedom of expression in Russia has become reality. Since Putin returned to presidential office in May, the Kremlin has passed a series of restrictive laws and provisions, but until recently authorities had not acted upon many of them.
In a joint statement today, leading international press freedom and human rights groups, including CPJ, condemned the ongoing repression of journalists and rights activists in Azerbaijan and urged authorities to address the issue immediately.
Portuguese journalists are increasingly concerned by Angola's growing investment and influence in their country. Buoyed by petrodollars and diamonds, powerful Angolan interests have been indulging in a buying spree in their former colonial power. Angolan capital invested in Portugal increased 35 times in the past decade, according to news reports. In a process often acidly described in Lisbon as a form of "reverse colonization," Angolans have gobbled up not only significant chunks of Portugal's banking, telecommunications, and energy companies, but also invested in the Portuguese media sector.
Ukrainian nationalist activists disrupted a book presentation in Kiev on March 14, 2013, and attacked journalists and other individuals present, according to news reports.
New York, March 18, 2013--An appellate court in Azerbaijan should overturn the baseless convictions of two journalists charged with inciting mass disorder, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, March 18, 2013--A member of Russia's parliament has used his public Twitter account to threaten two journalists with the independent daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, according to news reports.
A blocked website; reporting equipment confiscated; a newsroom sealed; and reporters denied information from state agencies: these things together spelled the end of Stan.kz, a local, independent Internet-based broadcaster which for two years had tirelessly reported on developments in Kazakhstan. "We are forced to shut down the Stan.kz newsroom," Bauyrzhan Musirov, owner of parent Stan Production Company, said at a press conference Wednesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan's main city.
New York, March 13, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the jail sentence handed to a journalist in Turkey and calls on authorities to overturn the ruling on appeal.
For more than six years the Committee to Protect Journalists has been working with freedom of expression advocates, investors, and giant Internet companies to promote online freedoms. Absent from the discussions under the umbrella of the Global Network Initiative have been the telecommunications companies--vital gateways to the Internet for journalists and bloggers, particularly in much of the global South. Today things have changed.
A court in the city of Adana released Özlem Ağuş, reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), from prison on February 25, 2013, pending a trial, DIHA reported. The journalist was imprisoned on March 6, 2012, on charges that included membership in the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, which the government designated a terrorist group.
New York, March 6, 2013--Ukrainian authorities must apprehend the assailants who brutally attacked an independent editor on Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On February 11, three unidentified assailants attacked and beat Victor Nedosvetey, editor of the regional newspaper Nepravilnaya Gazeta, in the city of Naryan-Mar, capital of Russia's northwestern Nenets Autonomous District, his news outlet reported.
In a letter she passed from Gebze women's prison outside Istanbul, Fusün Erdoğan, founder and director of the leftist broadcaster Özgür Radyo, details circumstances of her arrest, imprisonment, and politicized criminal charges. Erdoğan founded the broadcaster in 1995, and worked as its director until September 8, 2006--the day when plainclothes police agents detained her in the city of Izmir, she writes in the letter. She has been locked up ever since.
The long-awaited reform of libel laws in the United Kingdom skirted with collapse this week due to political infighting in the aftermath of the Leveson report on media ethics--the public inquiry that resulted from the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal. With that disaster narrowly averted, attention has turned to what may turn out to be a very British solution to the question of how to shape the post-Leveson world.
Turkmenistan is trying to burnish its image by passing its first law on press freedom. On January 4th, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed a law that bans press censorship, bars the government from monopolizing news outlets, and grants the public access to all forms of information, including independent and foreign reporting.
Unfortunately, reform appears to be only posturing and the most repressive and hermetic country in Eurasia remains just that.
New York, February 25, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by today's defamation ruling against independent Tajik weekly Imruz News in closed court proceedings, the organization said.
More than 12 years after several police officers strangled and beheaded muckraking online reporter Georgy Gongadze in a forest outside Kiev, justice in the case is still evasive and riddled with, well, riddles.
New York, February 19, 2013--Belarusian authorities must stop harassing Irina Khalip and trying to force the prominent Novaya Gazeta reporter into exile, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement today.
On Monday, Aleksandr Kupchenya, head of the corrections department of the Minsk City Police Directorate, told Khalip that she should use the opportunity of her travel ban being temporarily lifted to leave the country permanently, she told the Minsk-based Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ).
News is rare from Uzbek prisons, where authorities are holding at least four independent reporters in retaliation for critical journalism: Muhammad Bekjanov, Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Dilmurod Saiid, and Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov. All four are serving lengthy sentences. Uzbek authorities refuse even to update CPJ or other human rights organizations on the journalists' whereabouts, status, or well-being.
CPJ's Robert Mahoney identifies the 10 countries where press freedom suffered the most in 2012. They include Syria, the world's deadliest country for the press; Russia, where repressive laws took effect; Brazil, where journalist murders soared; and Ethiopia, where terror laws are used to silence the press. (3:26)
Her son's murder unsolved, Rimma Maksimova pursues a landmark case. By Elisabeth Witchel
Countries hosting the Olympics assume global obligations. What if they renege? By Nina Ognianova and Kristin Jones
The right to news and opinion is enshrined in international law. It's not enough. By Joel Simon
Governments exploit national security laws to punish critical journalists. By Monica Campbell
Your cellphone allows authorities to locate you and uncover your sources. By Danny O'Brien
Press freedom remained in a deep freeze under authoritarian leader Islam Karimov. The authorities continued to imprison critical journalists on lengthy terms. Muhammad Bekjanov, one of the two longest-imprisoned journalists in the world, was sentenced to an additional prison term just days before his scheduled release. The handful of independent journalists in the country faced politicized prosecution, censorship, and other forms of repression. The authorities permitted minimal Western media presence. A BBC journalist who broke a story on forced sterilization of Uzbek women was barred from entering the country in February. The authorities continued their practice of hiring “experts” to build fabricated criminal cases against journalists on charges ranging from national defamation to extremism. Using that tactic, prosecutors filed criminal cases against two independent reporters in 2012. The government’s vast censorship practices earned it a place on CPJ’s 10 Most Censored Countries list, published in May. The authorities aggressively expanded censorship during the year: The state communications agency was told to block websites deemed “threatening to the nation’s information space”; the education ministry barred college students from visiting Internet cafés; and the government raided and seized control of the local branch of the Russian telecommunications company, MTS, causing up to 10 million Uzbeks to lose mobile Internet and phone access. In a July documentary, a state-owned broadcaster called online activism a weapon worse than bombs.
The Leveson inquiry, begun in 2011 after revelations of phone-hacking and other ethical lapses by the press, drew to a close with the issuance of a lengthy report that proposed the creation of an independent regulatory body backed by statute. Critics, including CPJ, warned that statutory regulation would infringe on press freedom; Prime Minister David Cameron urged instead that the industry strengthen self-regulation. Some progress was made toward the reform of libel laws, which are highly unfavorable to journalists because they allow for “libel tourism,” the practice of filing claims based on minimum circulation within the United Kingdom even when plaintiffs and defendants are not based there. Libel legislation introduced in May would limit long and costly proceedings and make it easier for frivolous cases to be quickly dismissed. Press freedom advocates said such reform would be an important step forward, but urged lawmakers to strengthen public-interest defense and protect Internet service providers. The measure was pending in the House of Lords in late year. In June, the Home Office proposed a measure to increase government surveillance of all online communications. The proposal met with strong criticism--detractors called it the “snooper’s charter”--and a Parliamentary review committee dismissed it as excessive. The government sought to allow Sweden to extradite Julian Assange for questioning in an alleged assault, prompting the WikiLeaks founder to take refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. One journalist in Belfast was threatened in 2012, and the 11-year-old murder of Irish reporter Martin O’Hagen remained unsolved.
As Ukraine prepared to assume the 2013 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the nation’s leaders undermined one of the organization’s core values: freedom of the press. Censorship, denial of public information, physical attacks against reporters, and politicized lawsuits against news outlets marred the nation’s press freedom climate, the Kiev-based Institute for Mass Information, or IMI, reported. The boldest attack against the free press was parliament’s vote to criminalize defamation. Legislators were forced to withdraw the bill within weeks in the face of nationwide protests and international outcry. Protests also greeted a government tax investigation into the opposition broadcaster TVi. Starting in July, tax police and prosecutors raided the station’s newsroom and froze its bank accounts. Prosecutors eventually dropped their case against TVi owner Nikolai Knyazhitskiy but imposed a fine against the station. Impunity prevailed in ongoing assaults against reporters, as it did in the 2000 murder of Georgy Gongadze, the first online reporter in the world to be killed for his work. Although the trial of a former Interior Ministry general on charges of carrying out Gongadze’s brutal slaying began in July 2011, the proceedings ground away without resolution in late 2012. The prosecution has been pockmarked by the government’s procedural missteps. In June, an appellate court said prosecutors could not pursue a case against former president Leonid Kuchma, who has long been accused of ordering the murder.
With 49 journalists imprisoned for their work as of December 1, Turkey emerged as the world’s worst jailer of the press. Kurdish journalists, charged with supporting terrorism by covering the activities of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, made up the majority of the imprisoned journalists. They are charged under a vague anti-terror law that allows the authorities to equate coverage of banned groups with terrorism itself. A CPJ special report issued in October found highly repressive aspects of the penal code and anti-terror law, a criminal procedure code that favors the state, and a harsh anti-press tone set at the top levels of government. Intense government pressure caused media owners to dismiss critical journalists and generated pervasive self-censorship throughout the profession. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has filed several defamation lawsuits in recent years, publicly denigrated numerous critical journalists. CPJ conducted three fact-finding and advocacy missions to Turkey in 2012, meeting with journalists, lawyers, diplomats, and Turkey’s justice minister, Sadullah Ergin. CPJ urged Ergin to undertake a case-by-case review of all detained journalists.
Authoritarian leader Emomali Rahmon praised journalists' mission at a ceremony said to mark the centennial of the Tajik press, but his speech came with a contradictory message: Rahmon urged news outlets not to publish reports that could damage Tajikistan's international image, cause pessimism, or undermine public order. Such was the gap between rhetoric and reality. Rahmon signed into law a measure decriminalizing libel, even as statutes still impose prison penalties of up to five years for coverage deemed insulting to the president. The authorities blocked access to several independent news websites for up to three months after the outlets questioned the official account of a security general's killing and alleged that Rahmon had stepped up surveillance of local religious groups. Among the blocked outlets were both local and international outlets, including the popular Asia Plus, Ferghana News, Lenta, and the BBC, the Dushanbe-based National Association of Independent Mass Media in Tajikistan reported. The authorities also announced the creation of a volunteer-staffed cyberunit to identify supposedly extremist content and material insulting to the president. Citing the unit's findings, the state communications chief declared Facebook a "hotbed of slander" and ordered it blocked nationwide.
The beginning of Vladimir Putin’s third term as president was marked by a crackdown on civil society and critical opinion. Putin signed laws that suppress dissent by limiting public assembly, criminalizing defamation, and authorizing state censorship of critical websites. A Cold War-era chill settled in as lawmakers passed a measure requiring nongovernmental groups receiving international grants to register as “foreign agents,” and the administration expelled the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations children’s agency. Illustrating the growing climate of intolerance, a court convicted members of a punk band on “hooliganism” charges and sentenced them to prison in connection with an anti-Putin stunt at a Moscow church. Deadly anti-press violence persisted: Assailants in the North Caucasus city of Nalchik gunned down a news anchor for the state-owned broadcaster VGTRK. Authorities made little substantive progress in addressing impunity in previous journalist murders. A former police colonel was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of helping plot the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Family and colleagues were dismayed that the suspect made a deal with investigators to be tried behind closed doors. And the country’s top criminal investigator threatened a leading newspaper editor in response to a critical commentary.
President Almazbek Atambayev and his ministers declared their commitment to press freedom and rule of law even as government agencies routinely subjected independent reporters to intimidation. Kyrgyzstan resisted domestic and international calls for the release of Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek investigative reporter and human rights defender serving a life term on fabricated charges, including the murder of a police officer during ethnic violence and inciting ethnic hatred. In a June special report, CPJ found that regional authorities targeted, tortured, and imprisoned Askarov in retaliation for his coverage of the June 2010 conflict between ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz residents in the south, along with his long record of in-depth reporting on abuses by regional police. The 2010 clashes continued to cast a shadow over Kyrgyzstan's press freedom record. In February, the authorities blocked domestic access to the independent regional news website Ferghana News stemming from its reporting on the conflict. Uzbek-language media outlets, which were forced to close in the aftermath of the conflict, began to make their way back into the market, but in smaller numbers, local press freedom groups reported. As in previous years, independent journalists and news outlets battled politicized prosecutions and retaliatory lawsuits. Impunity continued in the 2007 murder of prominent editor Alisher Saipov and in the 2011 attack on his brother, journalist Shokhrukh Saipov.
Nursultan Nazarbayev's authoritarian government cracked down on critical news coverage with a flurry of early-year legislation and newsroom raids that came just weeks after deadly clashes between police and striking oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen. In January, in the wake of the December 2011 labor unrest, Nazarbayev's government enacted legislation barring distribution of print or electronic news that the authorities deem a threat to national security. The authorities also imposed new regulations that require Internet café managers to block access to blacklisted websites and proxy servers, monitor client activity, and share client information with government security services. A third measure requires international broadcasters airing programming in Kazakhstan to register with the state. The government also deployed KNB security agents to harass news media that covered the violent crackdown against the strikers, which left 16 civilians dead. Agents raided the independent broadcaster Stan TV, demanded its recorded material concerning Zhanaozen, and interrogated its 15 journalists about the clashes. The KNB also detained editor Igor Vinyavsky for several weeks and intimidated his family and colleagues when they denounced the arrest. In November, just weeks after Kazakhstan was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council, authorities asked the courts to shut dozens of critical news outlets on extremism and mass disorder charges in connection to their reporting on Zhanaozen clashes. Unknown assailants shot and stabbed Lukpan Akhmedyarov, an award-winning journalist who had criticized official actions in Zhanaozen. He was among five critical news reporters who were brutally attacked in separate assaults during the year. All of the attacks remained unsolved in late year.
Despite pressure from the European Commission, the Hungarian government implemented a media law that requires "balanced reporting" and imposes fines for transgressions. The government adopted only minor amendments in response to demands from the commission. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing party, Fidesz, was able to withstand the pressure thanks to the support of the European People's Party and the underlying fears of EU member states about conceding sovereignty to Brussels. The restrictive media law was a barometer of a wider pattern of deteriorating press freedom. Opposition media faced financial pressure as most public and private advertising went to pro-government outlets. The government-controlled Media Council sought to award the FM frequency of Klubrádió, a leading opposition station, to a rival broadcaster in a long-running battle that was pending in late year. While segments of private media remain critical, public broadcasting was under tight government control.
After five years of tension between the media and Élysée Palace under Nicolas Sarkozy, a new Socialist government sought to cool down the atmosphere. President François Hollande promised to review his predecessor’s policies on public broadcasting and to give up the presidential privilege of directly appointing its executives. The judiciary brought good news for the press: A judge dismissed a criminal case against Augustin Scalbert, a Rue89 journalist indicted in June 2010 on charges of “stealing and keeping” a video that showed Sarkozy scolding France 3 journalists. And prosecutor Philippe Courroye was indicted on charges of unlawfully trying to identify the sources used by Le Monde journalists investigating the Bettencourt affair, the questionable funding of Sarkozy’s party by billionaire Liliane Bettencourt. But a number of media outlets faced new lawsuits claiming defamation or insult (Mediapart, Libération), and endangerment of life or incitement to hatred (Charlie Hebdo). Several French journalists were also victims of violence: Gilles Jacquier and Rémi Ochlik were killed and Edith Bouvier was wounded in Syria, while Roméo Langlois was abducted in Colombia.
President Aleksandr Lukashenko presided over one of the world's most censored nations, continuing policies that sought to suffocate critical journalism and dissenting opinion. At least four reporters, all of them known for critical coverage, were barred from traveling outside the country in March. Another four reporters were jailed during the year, while numerous others faced threats, harassment, fines, and assaults. The government's repressive practices were illustrated by its harsh reaction to a Swedish ad agency stunt in which hundreds of teddy bears pinned with press freedom slogans were airdropped over the country. The KGB jailed one reporter who covered the stunt, and interrogated and fined two others who published photos and stories about the airdrop. The episode led to the sacking of top army generals and a foreign minister, along with the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador. The country grew increasingly isolated during the year. In February, the government expelled Polish and European Union ambassadors after the EU widened travel bans against Belarusian officials due to the country's human rights failures. Lukashenko himself was subjected to an embarrassing travel restriction: He was barred from the 2012 Olympic Games in London because of an EU travel ban imposed after Minsk harshly cracked down on election protests in December 2010. In September 2012, the country's parliamentary election was marred by reports that election officials obstructed opposition candidates seeking to register, that state-controlled media refused to grant opposition candidates equitable coverage, and that the KGB cracked down on online activists. Throughout the year, critical media--both local and international--faced domestic blocking online, denial of accreditation, and distribution hurdles.
Baku viciously cracked down on domestic dissent as it hosted two major international events, the Eurovision 2012 song contest and the Internet Governance Forum. Authorities imprisoned at least nine critical journalists on a variety of retaliatory charges, including hooliganism, drug possession, and extortion. CPJ concluded that the charges were fabricated. International human rights groups, including CPJ, criticized the Eurovision organizer, the European Broadcasting Union, for standing by passively as President Ilham Aliyev’s government jailed and intimidated detractors. The broadcasting union, while expressing concern about the abuses, said the contest was an “apolitical” event. Several independent journalists, including award-winning reporter Idrak Abbasov, were brutally assaulted on assignment, but the assailants, believed to have included police and security officers, enjoyed impunity. Investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova was subjected to a contemptible intimidation campaign after reporting on the ruling family’s extensive business interests. State media smeared her reputation, and anonymous individuals circulated intimate videos and photos. Parliament responded to Ismailova’s coverage by passing legislation giving the president broad immunity from prosecution and barring corporations from disclosing a wide range of financial information. Aliyev signed the bills into law in July.
Analyses and data track press freedom conditions. Elisabeth Witchel recounts a mother's anguished pursuit of justice in Russia. Nina Ognianova and Kristin Jones examine the implications of repressive nations hosting the Olympics. And Jean-Paul Marthoz reveals the censorship imposed by religious extremists.
Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world's worst jailer. A CPJ special report
Who is allowed to talk? What are they allowed to say? Award winners seek the answers. By Kristin Jones
Editors think twice, reporters do not dig deeply, columnists choose words carefully. By Jean-Paul Marthoz
No amount of security training can make up for a lack of professional solidarity. By Frank Smyth
Police never bothered to look for cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda. It's not unusual. By María Salazar-Ferro
From conflict-ridden Syria to aspiring world leader Brazil, 10 nations on a downslope. By Karen Phillips
In an unexpected development reported in the press today, Belarusian authorities temporarily lifted a travel ban on Irina Khalip, prominent journalist and reporter for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The restriction, which includes a weekly check-in with district police and a requirement to spend every night in her Minsk apartment, was part of a suspended two-year prison sentence handed to Khalip in May 2011 on fabricated charges of mass disorder in connection to her reporting on presidential elections.
New York, February 13, 2013--A state prosecutor in Baku, the capital, asked a court today to convict imprisoned journalist Avaz Zeynally on charges of extortion and bribery and sentence him to 11 years in jail, according to news reports. Zeynally, editor of the independent daily Khural, has been held in pretrial detention since October 2011.
Every second crime committed in Russia goes unsolved, President Vladimir Putin said Friday, addressing a conference of the nation's high-ranking Interior Ministry officials. "The low crime-detection rate and impunity for the criminals do not serve justice but undermine public trust in law enforcement agencies, as well as the state per se," Putin said, according to his website.
Istanbul, February 11, 2013--The release of at least seven journalists and media workers from pretrial detention is a positive step toward restoring the press freedom climate in Turkey, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Gadzhimurad Kamalov, founder of the independent daily Chernovik, was murdered in Makhachkala, capital of Russia's southern republic of Dagestan, on December 15, 2011. The slaying was brazen, coming on the national Day of Remembrance for journalists killed in the course of their work. The late-evening assault took place outside Chernovik's newsroom, located on Makhachkala's Magomed Gadzhiev Street. Equipped with numerous security cameras, the street is a throughway for government motorcades, including that of the regional president. Nobody moves undetected there. But Kamalov's slaying is yet to be solved.
The European Union enjoys waving the banner of press freedom overseas. However, it is sometimes at a loss when it has to define its approach to press freedom among its own member states.
Last year, the EU tried and failed to convince the Hungarian government to radically amend its highly controversial media law. The conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban deflected the pressure by playing on the vagueness of EU treaties and on the fear of Brussels' intervention in the member states' "internal affairs."
New York, February 6, 2013--Authorities in Kazakhstan should cease harassing the staff of embattled independent newspaper Respublika, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, February 6, 2013--Azerbaijani authorities should drop charges of organizing mass disorder against Tofiq Yaqublu, a columnist for leading opposition daily Yeni Musavat, and immediately release him from jail, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
"Let's have faith in our judiciary system," Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed told an audience Monday at London's Chatham House, the foreign affairs think-tank.
More than 11 years have passed since investigative journalist Martin O'Hagan was murdered near his home in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, and the case has not been solved. Last week Northern Ireland's public prosecutor announced a major setback to the case that has colleagues worried it never will be.
Three weeks after France's military intervention in Mali, the war remains largely "without images and without facts," as described by Jean-Paul Mari, special envoy for the newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur. Although journalists have been allowed to follow French and Malian forces into the towns that have been recovered from armed Islamist groups, the real battlefields and front lines remain off limits.
The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is quick to brand critics as "terrorists," and that's one of the main reasons that Turkey was the world's worst jailer of the press when CPJ conducted its recent census of imprisoned journalists. This week, the prime minister and two pro-government newspapers applied the label once again to critics, illustrating the extremely difficult climate confronting any Turkish journalist who challenges official positions.
In the last year, CPJ has documented a disturbing trend of attacks against the press in Tajikistan: the frequent blocking orders that the State Communications Agency has issued to local Internet service providers. Delivered in most instances via text message, the orders urge the ISPs to block nationwide access to local and international news websites that criticize President Emomali Rahmon and his authoritarian policies, and publicize issues like widespread government corruption and rising unemployment.
New York, January 29, 2013--The conviction today of a former high-ranking Ukrainian police official in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze is a long-overdue step, but justice will not be fully served until all of the perpetrators are held responsible, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Gongadze, founder and editor of the critical news website Ukrainska Pravda, was the first online journalist worldwide to be murdered for his work, according to CPJ research.
Is Irina Khalip, the prominent Belarusian journalist, free to travel? President Aleksandr Lukashenko, whose government prosecuted her on bogus charges of creating mass disorder, says that she is. That Khalip has not, the president said, shows that she would prefer to be known as a "victim of the regime." Of course, this all seems strange considering that Khalip's sentence requires her to be home by 10 p.m. daily.
The French army is often called la Grande Muette, or "the Great Silent." The war in Mali confirms the French military's well-deserved reputation of being secretive about front-line actions. "Locking the information is more in the culture of the French army than of the U.S. army," says Maurice Botbol, director of La Lettre du Continent. In the first two weeks of military operations against Islamist militant groups in Mali, the French army has released only a blurry video of an air attack at an undisclosed location.
When the story is so important but the risks are so high, journalists must keep safety at the forefront of their thinking. That's especially true for freelancers who often do not have the support of a large news organization. Preparation, peer networking, and smart planning can help improve the odds of not only surviving hostile situations but succeeding in one's work.
With Turkey recently in the spotlight because of its press freedom record--including dishonorable distinction as the world's worst jailer of journalists--many international observers wonder how Ankara will overcome its image crisis and whether it will choose to resolutely base its broad strategic ambitions on the respect of global standards of press freedom. A new report to be officially launched in Brussels tomorrow by Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Ankara and senior Turkey scholar at Carnegie Europe and the Open Society Foundation, "Press freedom in Turkey," underscores the importance of the issue. As Pierini recently told CPJ, "What kind of state and of society does Turkey want to be? To what league of nations does it want to belong?"
January 22, 2013, Istanbul, Turkey--Turkish authorities should halt their practice of jailing journalists on vague anti-terror charges and allow the local press to report freely without fear of imprisonment or harassment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
What is the humanitarian function of journalism in wartime? How does international humanitarian law protect journalists? Why is impunity the most important challenge facing journalists working in conflict zones?
New York, January 17, 2013--Tajik authorities must lift their order blocking domestic access to at least three news websites that have reported critically about issues such as energy shortages, rising unemployment, and human rights abuses, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The order, which also applied to Facebook, is at least the fourth such ban since the beginning of 2012.
Greek journalists are on the alert since five small bombs exploded Friday on the doorsteps of the homes of several journalists in Athens. Although the makeshift devices only damaged the buildings' entrances and no one was hurt, the attacks appear to be warning shots in a tense social context where journalists are increasingly in the firing line.
A journalist in Astana, the capital, said in a press conference on January 4, 2013, that he had staged his own disappearance in December to attract government attention to ongoing abuses in the country, according to news reports. Local journalists and press freedom organizations condemned the act, which they said caused "great damage" to the Kazakh press.
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