19 February 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 07 (19 Feb. 2002)
Afghanistan's interim government has signed into law a new bill guaranteeing press freedom, bringing to an end years of censorship and repression of free speech under the former Taliban regime, reports the BBC. The leader of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, says "People can have their newspapers, people can have their radios and they can write things, they can criticise us as much as they want."
The Institute for Press and Society (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS) has released a report calling Colombia's justice system "ineffective and impotent," following a joint investigation with Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) into press conditions in the war-torn country during 2001. The report finds that of the 12 journalists murdered last year, at least three were linked to the victims' investigative activities. IPYS notes with concern that the possibility of investigating these crimes and bringing their perpetrators to justice continues to be remote. In the last ten years, close to 40 journalists have been killed in the course of their duties; almost none of the murders has resulted in convictions, says IPYS.
Spanish journalist José Luis Percebal, a reporter for Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, has been found stabbed to death dead in his home in Rabat, Morocco, report the Committee to Protect Journalists and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). CPJ says the body of the long-time Morocco correspondent was discovered on 12 February. He had been stabbed in the back the day before. There was no sign of a forced entry into Percebal's home, although his mobile phone was missing, adds CPJ. Authorities have yet to establish a firm motive for the murder.
In the wake of a state of emergency declared 11 days ago by Liberian President Charles Taylor, authorities have arrested at least four journalists from the newspaper "Analyst" and ordered the publication shut down, report Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). The journalists were arrested on 13 February in the capital, Monrovia, and are being held in the police station.
As United States President George W. Bush prepares to arrive in China for an official visit this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging him to "reject Beijing's attempts to use the fight against terrorism to justify serious human rights abuses." In a recently-released report assessing China's human rights record over the past year, HRW says Chinese authorities have been tightening restrictions on freedom of expression and the Internet. In the aftermath of 11 September 2001, China has claimed that its crackdown on "peaceful expression of so-called 'separatist' views is part of the war against terrorism," adds HRW. The organisation says Bush should urge China to allow United Nations and independent human rights monitors into Tibet and Xinjiang without restrictions.
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) is calling on France's Justice Minister to amend the Criminal Law Procedure rules following revelations that a French judge ordered the government's anti-terrorist unit to monitor the phone conversations of six journalists as part of an investigation into the activities of a militant separatist leader in Corsica. The French daily "Le Monde" reported on 30 January that the French National Anti-Terrorist Service (DNAT) has been tapping the phones of Gamma reporter Jean-Pierre Rey, France 2 editor Michèle Fines, "Paris Match" reporter Delphine Byrka, Jean-Michel Verne of "France-Soir" and "Le Figaro" and freelance journalists Guy Benhamou and Roger Auque since 2000.
As the government of Moldova considers tabling amendments to the country's press law, 23 civil society organisations, including the Independent Journalism Center (IJC-Moldova), have signed a declaration protesting the government's "censorship of state-owned broadcaster TV Moldova and other actions which aim to "destroy the democratic mechanisms in society." Entitled "The Civil Society Says No," the declaration says the Communist government has imposed censorship on TV Moldova, transforming it into an "instrument of Communist propaganda." The organisations say this "represents a flagrant violation of the citizens' right to free expression."
Jailed Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, convicted of allegedly leaking information about the Russian navy's dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan, could be set free as early as next week if two recent rulings by the Russian Supreme Court go unchallenged, report the Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship (INDEX), Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). Last week, the Supreme Court's Military Collegium struck down two decrees which the ministry of defence had used to convict Pasko last year.
In what Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) calls a "goodwill gesture" timed to coincide with the visit of a United Nations Human Rights envoy to Burma,