9 December 2004
Volume 13 - 2004 Issue 49 (7 Dec. 2004)
Around the world, there is a growing recognition of the need to ensure that citizens can access information held by public authorities. In recent years, many governments have adopted laws recognising the public's right to request and obtain official records. That recognition was affirmed on 6 December 2004 in a joint declaration by the free expression rapporteurs of the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in the Caucasus region that has seen heavy fighting in the past between Armenia and Azerbaijan, is a place that provokes fiery debate and even deep-seated hatred among citizens of both countries. Local journalists compare it to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and governments on both sides use the media to stoke fear and fan the flames of ethnic tension.
Journalists in the Central African Republic (CAR) can no longer be jailed for press offences, following the passing of a new law that decriminalises defamation and the publication of "false news," says Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).
Thailand's reputation in Asia as a champion of free expression is being tarnished by defamation laws that are increasingly being used to silence public debate, says ARTICLE 19. In a legal analysis, the IFEX member says the laws violate international standards on freedom of expression and should be reformed.
Yet another journalist has been murdered in the Philippines. On 28 November 2004, the body of Stephen Omaois was found in a garbage can on the outskirts of the northern city of Tabuk, reported the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).
IFEX members have welcomed the release of four Cuban journalists from prison but are calling on the government to free dozens of others who remain behind bars.
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) aims to focus international media attention on press freedom in Russia when it holds its 2006 congress in Moscow, saying it will be an opportunity to gauge the state of democracy a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union.