26 March 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 12 (26 Mar. 2002)
IFEX's 2002 annual conference will be held in Dakar, Senegal, this fall. Hosted by the West African Journalists' Association (WAJA), the conference and accompanying development workshops will take place from 8-13 September.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has appointed a "defender of journalists" to be its new Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Argentine lawyer and academic Dr. Eduardo A. Bertoni, who has worked for Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) and has acted as legal advisor to Asociacion Periodistas, replaces Dr. Santiago Canton. Canton served as Special Rapporteur from November 1998 to November 2001.
In a case that the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) says reveals the extent to which Turkish laws are used to suppress legitimate criticism, six writers were to appear in court on 26 March for publishing a book on freedom of expression. The writers - Yavuz Onen, Cengiz Bektab, Mehmet Atilla Maras, Erdal Oz, Etyen Mahcupyan and Sanar Yurdatapan - are among 15 individuals who are being prosecuted for publishing FoX 2000 ("Freedom of Expression 2000"), a book that contains 60 articles which violate various free-speech laws. WiPC says four separate courts are hearing cases related to the articles. The group urges the government to drop the charges against the individuals and calls for a review of the laws under which the defendants are being tried.
More than two years after the murder of Colombian journalist Jaime Garzon, the government has decided to press charges against paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño and two other alleged killers. The Attorney General's Office (AGO) believes it has found sufficient evidence to convict Castaño, Juan Pablo Ortiz Agudelo and Edilberto Antonio Sierra Ayala although it says that it will continue to investigate other leads as the case develops, reports the Institute for Press and Society (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS). Castaño is the leader of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC); forces under his command have murdered at least four journalists since 1999, says the Committee to Protect Journalists.
A new anti-terrorism law in Uganda, under which journalists can be put to death for "promoting terrorism," should be amended to ensure freedom of expression is guaranteed, warn the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). Passed by the Ugandan parliament on 20 March, the Anti-Terrorism Bill contains a provision stating that "any person who disseminates material that promotes, trains or mobilises any institution for the purposes of terrorism" can be convicted of terrorism, notes IPI. Those convicted of terrorism are subject to the death penalty.
In Ethiopia, at least nine newspaper editors have been taken to court in recent weeks for various offences, many of them for alleged defamation of government officials, says the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA). The press freedom group has issued a report documenting the cases of "Tobbia" editors Ato Kebebew Gebyehu Filate and Arega Wolde Kirkos Ayele; "Ith'op" editor-in-chief Wondwossen Gebre Kidan; former "Ethio-Time" editor Shimelis Asfaw; "Madona" publisher and editor Abinet Tamrat; Gezaw Taye Wordofa of "Lamrot"; and "Tinkish" editor Tigist Behailu. Five of the editors are being charged with either defaming various public officials or "disseminating fabricated information that could affect public opinion." All of them except Wordofa were arrested on these charges and have had to secure bail ranging from 1,000 -3,000 birr (approx. US$120-$360) for their release.
The September 11 attacks and subsequent "war on terrorism" precipitated a press freedom crisis that was global in scope, although it seems "premature" to draw conclusions about a long-term impact, says the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The group has released its annual report "Attacks on the Press 2001" documenting close to 600 cases of attacks against the press in 137 countries.
Violence, authoritarian regimes and legal restrictions are the main obstacles to press freedom in the Americas. This is the conclusion of a report issued last week by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) at its mid-year meeting in the Dominican Republic. Attended by more than 300 journalists and media executives, the meeting produced 18 resolutions on subjects ranging from violence against journalists to restrictive laws and limitations on access to information. IAPA says in the past six months, four journalists have been killed - two in Colombia, one in Haiti and another in Mexico.