9 July 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 27 (09 Jul. 2002)
Mexican journalist Jesús Blancornelas, known for his courageous coverage of Mexican drug cartels, has been awarded the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Grand Prize for Press Freedom. Blancornelas won the prize for his article, "Los Intocables" (The Untouchables), published in the Miami-based "Revista Poder."
The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN is currently campaigning on behalf of freedom of expression in the Horn of Africa. The campaign, from 19 June to 16 July, includes parallel efforts in support of journalists in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Eritrean side of the campaign focuses on 23 missing journalists, presumed to be in detention or carrying out enforced national service. It also includes demands for the immediate restoration of licences for eight private newspapers shut down in September 2001. The Ethiopian campaign emphasises the case of jailed newspaper editor Lubaba Said and the government tactic of bringing endless court actions against independent journalists, usually for alleged publication of false information or defamation. The final week of the campaign, 10 to 16 July, focuses on court cases against journalists in Ethiopia.
At the recent Hemisphere Summit on Justice and Freedom of the Press, judges and journalists agreed on the essential role that both the judiciary and the press play in consolidating democracy and the public's right to information, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) reports. More than 250 delegates participated in the summit, organised by IAPA from 20-22 June in Washington D.C. The meeting's main objective was to find common ground and establish open dialogue between the judiciary and the press, which participants described as "twin institutions" and "two wings of the same bird."
Despite the October 2001 ouster of Slobodan Milosevic, progress toward a free and democratic media in Serbia and neighbouring Bosnia remains limited. The Serbian government has withdrawn a bill to democratise electronic media, reports the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM). Meanwhile, a new Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report highlights ongoing threats of violent attack against journalists and the lack of progress in police investigations into the killings of journalists.
The Vietnamese government has renewed its efforts to control information and curtail free expression, report the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).
Independent journalists in Zimbabwe are facing a "spiralling pattern of arrests and legal charges," says ARTICLE 19 in a new briefing note on media repression in the country. Since March, 36 journalists have been arrested and 13 charged - 8 for allegedly publishing "false news." Several have reportedly been beaten in custody. ARTICLE 19 adds that, as of 1 July, all journalists must apply for registration with a government-controlled Media Commission and may be refused if they do not meet criteria to be set by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.
Fears that the September 11 attacks on the United States and the subsequent "war on terrorism" would create a crisis for journalism and civil liberties have been confirmed, concludes a new International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report.
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) began its work on 1 July, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Damocles Network published an "impunity black list" of 21 countries where "murderers, abductors and torturers of journalists enjoy full impunity." The two organisations say that "in these countries, torture is often sanctioned by government policy and the judicial system is controlled by the executive branch or by corrupt political leaders who shield the criminals." The blacklist includes: Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burma, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Russia, Haiti, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan and Ukraine.
Freedom-of-expression organisations have raised concerns over the fate of Hassan Bility, a prominent Liberian newspaper editor. The journalist is missing and feared dead, say the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), while Human Rights Watch (HRW) is concerned that he may be at risk of torture and ill-treatment.