22 August 2000
Volume 09 - 2000 Issue 33 (22 Aug.)
Free expression experts, commissioners and officers of the African Commission of Human and Peoples' Rights, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will meet in October in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss freedom of expression and the African Charter. The three-day seminar is being hosted by the African Commission in collaboration with ARTICLE 19. As an outcome of the seminar, participants will make recommendations on how the African Commission "can create an effective mechanism for enforcing the right to freedom of expression, media freedom and freedom of information on the continent, as well as to monitor and investigate violations wherever they may occur."
In July, civil society organisations from throughout the world met in Japan to launch the Civil Society Internet Forum (CSIF), reports the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).
Individuals and groups worldwide are strongly encouraged to sign Reporters sans frontières' (RSF) online petition addressed to religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei, demanding that he "ensure the immediate release of imprisoned journalists, the lifting of legal proceedings against the journalists, the lifting of bans on newspapers and the repeal of the press law whose articles are a violation of press freedom." With the arrests of two more Iranian journalists on 12 and 13 August, Iran has now become "the biggest jail for journalists in the world," says RSF. Fourteen journalists are presently in Iran's prisons, while an additional sixteen journalists who have been prosecuted by the Iranian Justice Ministry may be arrested in coming weeks, records RSF.
Central African Republic
Journalists in the Central African Republic are facing a trend of deteriorating press freedom standards, states the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on the occasion of the country's 40th anniversary of its independence. The trend is characterised by prosecution of journalists who report on "sensitive matters relating to the presidency." True to threats made by President Ange Felix Patasse late last year, several journalists have since been arrested and/or illegally detained on a number of allegations, including "insulting" or "defaming" the head of state, and "incitement to hatred," report CPJ and Reporters sans frontières (RSF).
On 8 August, journalist Rafael Marques was once again prevented from leaving Angola, reports Reporters sans frontières (RSF). Marques was attempting to travel to the United States to receive the Percy Qoboza Award from the US-based National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The award, which recognises "the extraordinary work of a foreign journalist while overcoming tremendous obstacles," was to be presented to Marques on 18 August at NABJ's Newsmaker Banquet.
Under a monarchy that has enjoyed absolute power without a Constitution or a Bill of Rights for over twenty-five years, the people of Swaziland are systematically denied the right to freedom of expression and to free assembly, says Thulani Mthethwa in the Media Institute of Southern Africa's (MISA) new magazine "Free Press" (Vol. 2, July 2000). In his article, "The Beautiful Land I Rule", Mthethwa states that no public debate exists within this country, where King Mswati III continues to target the media or voices critical of his rule. All radio and television outlets are presently controlled by the King, who in February also closed the only national newspaper, the monarchy-owned "The Swazi Observer". This move left only one newspaper, the independent "Times of Swaziland", reports Mthethwa. Swaziland's regression and continued, unabashed "embrace" of autocratic political trends stands in stark contrast to the wave of multi-party democracy that is sweeping over the African continent, says Mthethwa .
On 20 August, Thounaojam Brajamani Singh, editor of the daily "Manipur News" and president of the Manipur State Journalists' Association, was shot and killed by two strangers, states Reporters sans frontières (RSF). The journalist was with another media employee when he was shot at point blank range. The perpetrators did not attempt to shoot or harm the other media worker. While the police have not yet identified a motive for the murder, Brajamani Singh had received anonymous death threats on 15 August, says RSF. One day prior to his murder, Brajamani Singh urged "the people who had made the threats to either stop or make themselves known" in an editorial.
The Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP) warns that Paraguayans may again be facing "the danger of increased political violence and a risk of losing fundamental freedoms and rights," as they did under the Stroessner dictatorship and under General Oviedo. A surge of press freedom violations and violence in the wake of the 13 August vice-presidential elections signal "a renewed deterioration of the national climate," says SPP. A number of journalists and media outlets have reported intimidation, threats and censorship during the electoral process. Incomplete counts by the country's electoral commission indicate that the opposition candidate Julio César Franco has won the election, says SPP.