16 April 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 15 (16 Apr. 2002)
A new secrecy law fast-tracked through Romania's Senate to facilitate the country's joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has "serious deficiencies" and fails to meet international standards on freedom of expression, says ARTICLE 19. Enacted on 8 April, the Law for the Protection of Classified Information undermines existing legislation which guarantees the public's right to know, the group says. Romania enacted the law only three days after NATO approved a plan requiring acceding countries to implement secrecy laws before May this year.
ARTICLE 19 has recently updated its Virtual Freedom of Expression Handbook (www.article19.org), making it one of the most comprehensive internet-based resources on laws pertaining to freedom of expression. Using the handbook's handy search engine, readers can access summaries of all the free-expression related legal cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Vicious attacks against journalists should count as crimes against humanity under the statutes of the newly ratified International Crimininal Tribunal, says Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón. Speaking at the official launch of a Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) network aimed at bringing the perpetrators of journalists' murders to justice, the judge says "through the existence of press freedom ? journalists and the media are the guarantors of human rights." Garzón won world-wide acclaim in 1998 for ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London.
A proposed media law currently being drafted by the government of Montenegro establishes an important statement of intent by incorporating the principles and legal precedents of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), says ARTICLE 19. The group has published a report suggesting further improvements to the law, which has recently been released for public comment and is slated to replace the 1998 Law on Public Information.
A new bill introduced in Bangladesh's Parliament, which provides for jail sentences up to seven years for journalists who criticise government officials and judges, is causing alarm among local journalists. The proposed law classifies anyone other than members of parliament (MPs) and staff as "strangers" in the house and prohibits journalists from reporting on "sensitive" parliamentary topics, says the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has released a report taking Canada's largest media company to task for failing to respect the free-expression rights of its employees. The 32-page report, "Not in the Newsroom: CanWest Global, Chain Editorials and Freedom of Expression in Canada," examines the controversy over CanWest Global Corporation's (CanWest Global) handling of editorial disputes with its employees and outside critics.
Calling the Philippine island of Mindanao one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists and human rights activists, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) is urging President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to launch an investigation into the recent murder of a student journalist.
Employees of Bolivia's "El Diario" newspaper are in mourning following the murder of executive director Maria Teresa Guzmán in La Paz last week. On 10 April, Guzmán was driving home from work at 10:15 PM when a bomb exploded in the back of her vehicle, says the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Her husband, "El Diario" General Director Jorge Carrasco Jahnsen, believes the bomb was meant for him instead in response to some investigations the newspaper was about to publish. Carrasco also says his wife's murder was part of a planned campaign against "El Diario," since the newspaper has endured 11 violent attacks in the last six months.
An ethnic Uighur historian and a Burmese poet whose activities have earned them jail terms totaling 32 years, have won the 2002 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards. The $10,000 awards, named after writer and PEN member Barbara Goldsmith, honour international writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to free expression.
Two members of a television news crew were killed in Colombia last week while reporting on fighting between army troops and rebels. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Héctor Sandoval, a cameraman for RCN Television, and Wálter Lopez, a driver for the station, died after coming under fire on 11 April in a mountainous region near Cali, southwest Colombia. They were traveling in an area where army soldiers had been pursuing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas who had recently kidnapped 13 provincial officials.
Amid an extraordinary turn of events last week which saw Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ousted from office then restored to power within four days, free-expression groups called attention to the death of journalist Jorge Tortoza and the wounding of three others.