We released a statement Thursday--CPJ supports Pakistani journalists facing threats--about the decision of two Pakistani journalists to publicly announce the threats they had been receiving. Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times and host of a popular Urdu-language political program on Geo TV, and Jugnu Mohsin, also a Friday Times editor, said they had lived under threat for years but the level of danger had become so menacing in early 2011 that they were forced to leave Pakistan. A few months later, the two went public with the threats. Then, on Thursday, Sethi told us that he and Mohsin had decided to return to Lahore on Friday.
As Internet penetration deepens, largely religiously and socially conservative India is struggling to cope with concerns about controversial web content and its easy accessibility to a vast population, all with little oversight. Local courts have become the launching point for some of the anti-Web offensives.
Since making me aware of threats to Hamid Mir on December 20, Umar Cheema and I have been encouraging Pakistani journalists we know who are under threat to step forward with their own experiences. Ghulamaddin, producer for Samaa TV in Karachi who broke the story of students held in chains at a seminary, is coming forward today. (Like many Pakistanis, he uses only one name).
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would like to take credit for Turkey's economic growth and increasing regional influence, but when challenged on his country's abysmal press freedom record he tends to blame others, including the media itself which, he says, exaggerates the problem.
But the facts speak for themselves, as I noted in a letter CPJ sent yesterday to the prime minister. In it, we condemned the recent raids that have rounded up at least 29 journalists and we criticized the government for the politicized legal process that has led to the imprisonment of dozens of other journalists across the country.
There is one simple rule for survival in Tanzania's media - whether you are an editor, reporter, columnist, printer, or even news vendor: don't be critical. Thanks to repressive laws on Tanzania's books, an article considered libelous by the state can get anyone in trouble, even prominent journalists such as Absalom Kibanda -- the chairman of the Tanzania Editor's Forum and managing editor of the popular Swahili daily Tanzania Daima ("Tanzania Forever").
Tuesday's blog about threats to Hamid Mir generated a lot of discussion on our site.
Mir messaged overnight, saying his case was widely reported in newspapers and discussed in Parliament, and there will be a committee of Parliament established to probe the issue. The Associated Press of Pakistan noted that "Minster for Interior Rehman Malik condemned the threatening message to Mir" and the government will "ensure full protection and security to Hamid Mir and journalist community." And The News noted that "President Asif Ali Zardari has taken serious notice on threats to senior journalist/anchorperson Hamid Mir and ordered investigations into it."
You don't notice it at first. Not with the people seemingly moving as normal on the sidewalks and the happy recorded music blaring across the plaza in front of city hall to announce the annual cowboy parade. No, at first Nuevo Laredo looks like a regular border town, until the military armored car goes by a block away and rotates the heavy machine gun toward the plaza. Are the soldiers just curious? Or do they see something they want to shoot? Who will be hit if they do open fire? Then other images come into focus, like the blocks of closed shops, with for sale signs only on the most recently closed because the owners of the older, more dilapidated shops, have given up even that hope.
Amid a raging debate on Internet freedom and censorship in India, members of the government met last week with a clutch of website operators, including representatives of Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Microsoft. In a meeting scheduled to address a wider plan to leverage social media to empower the government, it's unclear whether the touchy subject of filtering content was addressed, and the government said the meeting's tone was conciliatory. In any case, there has as yet been no resolution of the question of who should be responsible for filtering content deemed offensive, or how such a determination should be made
In the next three months, users of China's microblog weibo.com --- "weibo" is the generic Chinese term for Twitter-like platforms --- run by the huge sina.com (the English site is here) news portal, entertainment and blogging site, will have to start providing their real-world identities to the site, instead of simply being able to register. It seems likely the users of competitor tencent.com (English here) will have to do the same, though the government hasn't made that clear in recent announcements, dating back to December 16.
Geo TV's most prominent television anchor, and one of the most prominent journalists in Pakistan, has just circulated a detailed email message of threats he has been receiving. Hamid Mir's open, public response to the threats is a textbook case of how to handle the steady stream of intimidation that journalists face, not just in Pakistan but in other parts of the world as well. His entire message is reproduced at the end of this post.
CPJ today released its annual tally of the journalists killed around the world. This is always a somber occasion for us as we chronicle the grim toll, remember friends who have been lost, and recommit ourselves to justice. It's also a time when we are asked questions about our research and why our numbers are different - invariably lower - than other organizations.
Kassahun Yilma left Ethiopia quickly in December 2009. He didn't have time to save money for the journey, choose a place to go, arrange housing or a job. He left his wife, his mother, his house and all his friends behind. Yilma didn't know what lay ahead. He only knew that if he stayed, he risked becoming a victim of a government-waged campaign against Addis Neger, the newspaper where he worked as a reporter. "I ran away just to save my life," says Yilma, "because I was in fear for it."
A year ago, on a November night, two unidentified assailants awaited Oleg Kashin, a correspondent for the Russian business daily Kommersant, by his home on a central Moscow street, a 10-minute walk from the Kremlin. The two had hidden steel rods in bouquets of flowers.
December 16 will be the seventh anniversary of the killing of Deyda Hydara, the dean of Gambian journalism. It is also the 20th anniversary of the first issue of The Point, the courageously independent-minded daily that Hydara founded and directed for many years. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting as he drove himself and two staff members home from an evening of somber celebration at The Point's premises. He had received multiple death threats in the preceding weeks and months. In his last column, he vowed to keep fighting to the end for Gambians' right to speak their minds.
Irrespective of whether South Africa actually implements the most draconian parts of state secrets legislation now under consideration, the media in the continent's most open democracy already feel under threat. The prospect of 25-year jail sentences for journalists publishing "classified" information has galvanized disparate news outlets and journalists groups to work together like never before.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju is shaking things up at the Press Council of India, where he was appointed chairman in October. The statutory body, mandated to look at media freedom and address complaints against the print media since 1966, has often been criticized for ineffectiveness, its role limited to admonishing news outlets.
A founder of Mexican news weekly Ríodoce, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, traveled to New York in November to receive CPJ's International Press Freedom Award at our annual benefit dinner. No sooner had he returned to Mexico than Ríodoce's website was thrown offline by a denial of service (DOS) attack, in which multiple computers are used to flood a webserver with fake requests, slowing down the site so that it cannot serve legitimate requests.
A couple of weeks ago, newspaper editor Dawit Kebede, an International Press Freedom award winner, fled Ethiopia. Sadly, Dawit's Awramba Times is the latest in a long list of Amharic-language private publications to vanish from the market following the incarceration or flight into exile of their editors.
Press freedom in Turkey is under assault. Thousands of criminal cases have been filed against reporters, the Criminal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act are used routinely to silence critical news coverage, and Kurdish journalists face constant persecution.
Today CPJ released its annual prison census, which tracks cases of journalists jailed for their work globally. (The list counts those who were incarcerated at midnight on December 1, 2011, but does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year.) Since 1990, when we first began compiling this census, Turkey has appeared regularly on the list; in the mid-1990s, it was the world's leading jailer of journalists. Some Turkish journalists have written us to inquire why CPJ's 2011 census lists eight imprisoned journalists in Turkey, while other organizations list as many as 64.
For the first time in more than a decade, China is not the world's worst jailer of the press in CPJ's annual census of imprisoned journalists. Among the 27 jailed in China, one group has seen a massive jump in imprisonments. In another first since CPJ began taking its census, more than half of those behind bars for reporting in China are ethnic Uighur or Tibetan. What's more, two Uighur journalists have been unaccounted for since their scheduled 2011 release. The lack of information available about these cases is added proof that they were arrested to deprive their communities of a voice.
Three years ago, I met Minister Bereket Simon at his office at the center of Addis Ababa. I was with my colleague Abiye Teklemariam -- who was recently charged with terrorism, treason and espionage along with five other journalists, including myself.
Following Sunday's elections to the Russian Duma, news reports abound of the wave of opposition protests that have hit Russia's current and historic capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. In demonstrations unprecedented in the past decade, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets chanting "Russia without Putin!" and calling for the vote to be annulled, local and international press reported. And for the third day in a row, authorities have sent police and interior military troops to disperse and detain the civilian protesters, as the independent news website Lenta reports. As of Tuesday, at least 500 were in police custody, including several independent journalists detained while reporting on the rallies, the independent business daily Kommersant reported. CPJ protested the detention of journalists, one of them a Kommersant reporter, and demanded their release.
Six years after the murder of journalist Hayatullah Khan, his brother Ahsan Ahmad Khan has asked CPJ to put pressure on the government and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ensure that a special investigation carried out in September 2006 into the journalist's death be released. (A copy of Ahsan Ahmad's message can be found here, and CPJ's translation from Urdu is below.)
Unfortunately, we have been down this road before. CPJ has met with officials in the governments of Presidents Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari, but none have followed through on their promises to make the results of the investigation known. CPJ joins with Hayatullah Khan's family in their renewed call for the release of Justice Mohammed Reza Khan's September 2006 investigation into his death. After a phone call with Ahsan Ahmad, we sent a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik today.
The crime reporter for Uganda's vibrant Daily Monitor, Andrew Bagala, went to an odd funeral over the weekend. Last week, he covered the murder of online journalist Charles Ingabire, 32, who was shot dead in the early hours of Thursday morning by unknown gunmen at a bar in a Kampala suburb. "I decided to follow up the case and attend the funeral," he told me. "It was first funeral I have ever been to in Africa where there was silence."
The name Solomon Abera will forever be etched in the collective memory of Eritrea's press corps. On September 18, 2001, as the world focused its attention on the terrorist attacks on the United States, the government of Eritrea borrowed Abera's voice to sound the death knell, on state-controlled airwaves, of the Red Sea nation's independent press. Shortly after Abera read the announcement, the government rounded up leading independent newspaper editors and a dozen ruling-party dissidents calling for democratic reform -- all of whom have disappeared in custody.
Ten years to the day after being handed one of the most chilling news items he ever read on Dimtsi Hafash radio during his 14 years as a reporter, presenter, producer, and commentator, Abera reflected on the experience on our blog.
Today, we learned that Solomon Abera, who lived in exile in Germany after fleeing government censorship and intimidation in 2005, is no more.
In late October, a regional court in Jalal-Abad, southern Kyrgyzstan, convicted and sentenced in absentia to hefty prison terms two ethnic Uzbek media owners, Dzhavlon Mirzakhodzhayev of Mezon TV and Khalil Khudaiberdiyev of Osh TV. Both men were tried in connection to the ethnic conflict that ravaged southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Authorities accused both media owners of stirring up the violence and participating in the mass killings--charges that CPJ research established to be politicized and unfounded. CPJ reached out to Khudaiberdiyev, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail, to comment on the prosecution and the state of press freedom in Kyrgyzstan.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.