12 February 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 06 (12 Feb. 2002)
Journalists are encouraged to apply for the inaugural Kurt Schork Awards for International Journalism. Established by the Schork family in honour of American journalist Kurt Schork, who was killed in 2000 while on assignment for Reuters news agency in Sierra Leone, the awards recognise and reward exceptional news reporting by freelance and developing country journalists. Two prizes, each worth US$10,000, will be awarded to a freelance journalist covering foreign news and a reporter in a developing nation or country in transition. Winners will be judged not only on the quality of writing and investigative effort, but also on the level of courage and resourcefulness demonstrated by the applicants. The awards are supported by Reuters and administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
A proposed bill aimed at reforming the Penal Code in Turkey will widen the number of press crimes punishable by law, warns Reporters Without Borders (RSF). On 24 January, the Turkish government released details of the proposed bill which is to be introduced in parliament shortly. RSF says a number of provisions in the bill "actually constitute a toughening of the legislation."
Dr. Saad El-Deen Ibrahim, the Egyptian sociologist and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Developmental Studies, has been granted a re-trial by the Cassation Court, report the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), Index on Censorship (INDEX) and Digital Freedom Network. Last year, El-Deen was sentenced to a seven-year prison term on a variety of charges, including the embezzlement of donations, the dissemination of false information about Egypt abroad and bribery of public officials. Twenty-seven of his associates were also sentenced to jail terms ranging from one to five years, and the Ibn Khaldun Center was shut down, notes EOHR. The Cassation Court's ruling means El-Deen and his colleagues will now be tried by a different court in another district.
In what Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls a "courtroom travesty" and a "miscarriage of justice," police abducted and beat "El Badil" newspaper director Hamma Hammami during a court hearing after he re-emerged from hiding to seek a re-trial for a previous conviction. Hammami, who is also the leader of the banned Tunisian Communist Workers' Party, had been sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison in August 1999 because of his political activities, says HRW.
Government harassment of independent media and deterioration in respect for human rights in Kyrgyzstan continued unabated in 2001 despite initial improvements in press freedom, reports Human Rights Watch (HRW). In its recently released global survey of human rights, the organisation says progress in press freedom at the beginning of 2001 proved short-lived.
Warning that Uzbek President Islam Karimov is "using the excuse of the fight against terrorism to brutally repress all independent journalism in the country," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the United States to press the government to improve its human rights record. The call follows a series of brutal attacks against independent journalist Ruslan Sharipov, a correspondent for Russian news agency Prima and president of the Uzbek Independent Journalists' Union (UIJU). In the span of one week, the journalist was attacked three times by unidentified men, says RSF. He was choked, hit on the head and stomach, and had his passport and press pass seized. RSF says Sharipov was due to travel to the United States at the invitation of the International Human Rights League to testify before a Congressional panel on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.
Julio Samuel Morales Ferron, a columnist for the daily "El Sol de Medio Día", was murdered on 1 February in Mexico City, becoming the second journalist in two weeks to be killed in the country. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports that the body of the 79-year old journalist was found in the offices of the Mexican Radio and Television Association (MRTA). His throat had been slit. Morales Ferron was the president of MRTA and also wrote for a number of other media outlets. RSF says a Mexico City prosecutor is rejecting claims that Morales Ferron's death was politically motivated or the subject of a robbery. "El Sol de Medio Día" editor Humberto Hernández says the columnist was not conducting any investigative activities at the time of his murder and his criticisms were not polemic.
Panama has enacted a new law giving citizens free access to public records and penalizing government officials if they fail to comply with requests, reports the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Enacted on 22 January, the law states that "every individual or juridical person has the right to request information from government bodies." It also stipulates that if a government official does not provide such information within 30 days, they will be subject to a fine or dismissal.
Amidst reports that "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl may be still alive, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is urging media companies and journalist associations world-wide to initiate risk awareness programmes for journalists working in dangerous areas. In partnership with International Media Support (IMS), IFJ recently completed a successful pilot training course for Afghan journalists in Peshawar. The course attracted 103 Afghan journalists, including 19 women, and covered topics ranging from ensuring personal security and medical aid to handling booby-traps, riots and hostage situations. IMS notes that "these journalists had little or no training in the areas of safety and security. It was obvious there was an urgent need for specialist training."