12 March 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 10 (12 Mar. 2002)
The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) recently concluded a five-day conference in Fiji by issuing a declaration pledging to promote greater awareness of human rights in the Pacific region. With the theme "News Media, Human Rights and Democracy," the conference brought together journalists and news executives from the Asia Pacific region. The Mocambo Declaration stresses that human rights and good governance are vital for development and the elimination of poverty, adding that "freedom of speech and the media are a fundamental human right which should be protected at all times." The declaration also stresses that news media in the region should make a "concerted effort" to provide information on human rights, democracy, gender and good governance.
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) will convene a conference in June bringing together senior judges, journalists and academics from 22 countries in the Western Hemisphere to foster greater dialogue and support for press freedom and freedom of expression in the Americas. Taking place from 20-22 June in Washington, D.C., the conference will include the participation of International Court of Justice Judge Thomas Buergenthal, Inter-American Court of Human Rights President Antônio Cançado Trindade and United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
The Thai government has reinstated the visas of "Far Eastern Economic Review" journalists Rodney Tasker and Shawn Crispin, allowing them to stay in the country for the time being. The decision follows the magazine's public apology to the Thai Parliament last week for "any offence caused" from a 10 January article which referred to differences between King Bhumibol and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, reports the BBC. After the article was published, Tasker and Crispin were placed on a blacklist of individuals deemed threats to national security and threatened with expulsion [See IFEX "Communiqué" #11-8
Tamrat Zuma, the last remaining imprisoned journalist in Ethiopia, has been released from jail. Authorities freed him on 4 March after international and local organisations secured the 16,000 Birrs (approximately US $1,915) bail required for his release, a sum the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association called "shockingly large."
The resignation of an influential editor at one of Pakistan's leading English-language newspapers allegedly due to political pressure has elicited alarm from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). CPJ says Shaheen Sehbai, editor of "The News", circulated a letter among colleagues and friends in which he said he was resigning due to pressure from the government. Sehbai said Pakistani officials had pressured the newspaper's publisher, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, to fire him and three other reporters, identified as Kamran Khan, Amir Mateen and Rauf Klasra, says CPJ.
Threats against journalists in Panama - where close to 50 per cent of working reporters face defamation charges, fines and jail sentences - gained attention last week at a hearing convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C. Three journalists, supported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Journalists Against Corruption (Periodistas Frente a la Corrupcion, PFC) and the Center for Justice and International Law (Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional, CEJIL),
Natalia Skryl, a business reporter for "Nashe Vremia", was killed on the night of 8 March near her home in Rostov-sur-le-Don, southwestern Russia. Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) says Skryl was discovered unconscious with head injuries and taken to a hospital. She died shortly after arrival. The editor-in-chief of "Nashe Vremia", Vera Ioujanskaïa, believes that the murder is connected to Skryl's investigations into the business activities of several large companies in the region, says RSF. An investigation into her murder has been opened.
As Zimbabwe tallies its election results, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) -Zimbabwe warns that the volatile political environment continues to make it dangerous for journalists to report freely on the situation. In a recently released report on journalists' working conditions during the presidential election, the group says it did not receive any serious reports of incidents in which journalists were assaulted or arrested. However, MISA-Zimbabwe emphasizes that the "stringent" limitations on accreditation has meant that journalists were not free to report on the actual election and the period preceding it.