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WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY EVENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Amendments to Egypt's constitution approved during a referendum in March were criticised by human rights groups as paving the way for a police state, which would allow increased monitoring of communications and surveillance of activists. That's why the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) are hosting an event on 3 May in Cairo to highlight the effects of the latest constitutional amendments on free expression. Held in collaboration with the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate (EJS), the annual event usually attracts a great deal of media attention, and has grown in significance with the harsh jail sentences imposed on journalists and bloggers this year.
See: http://www.hrinfo.net, http://www.cihrs.org and http://www.eohr.org
Two IFEX members - the Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse de l'Edition et de la Création (OLPEC) of Tunisia and HRinfo - will meet with regional partners in Morocco on 5 May for a conference on "New Media and Free Expression" - to draw attention to free expression violations in North Africa. Last June, OLPEC and HRinfo joined advocacy groups from six North African countries to form a campaign and monitoring network, the Working Group on Press Freedom and Free Expression in North Africa (WGFENA). The Working Group was launched in Casablanca, Morocco by OLPEC, the National Press Union of Morocco (Syndicat national de la presse marocaine) and the Moroccan Human Rights Association (Association marocaine des droits de l'Homme).
See: http://wgfena.org/
In Lebanon, Samir Kassir was murdered in a car bomb attack in June 2005. Later that year, Gebran Tueni was killed the same way. Mai Chidiac survived a car bombing in September 2005, for which she won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2006. So on 2 May the Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation) will bring together representatives of the Tueni and Kassir families, as well as Amnesty International and the Minister of Information, at an event in downtown Beirut to launch a campaign to prevent impunity for those responsible for killing journalists in the country. The event is being held in collaboration with UNESCO and the IFEX Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Programme with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group is also launching a freedom of expression observatory with UNESCO on 3 May.
See: http://www.maharatfoundation.org/
Hardly a week goes by without a journalist being murdered in Iraq, with the current death toll close to 200 since the war began, and at least 15 this year, according to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the International News Safety Institute (INSI). In Iraq, the Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association (IJRDA), supported by the IFEX MENA Programme and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is holding an event in Baghdad to draw attention to free expression violations in Iraq and to promote journalists' safety. IJRDA will publish a publication called "Al Ra'ay" ("The View") which includes stories on journalists and writers subjected to detention, harassment or murder.
See: http://www.ijrda.com/prees/
Don't forget that UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day website is now available in Arabic: http://typo38.unesco.org/index.php?id=741&L=4

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) also features Arabic news about 3 May on its Arab Press Network at: http://www.arabpressnetwork.org/home.php

Other events:
- The first independent daily in the Gaza Strip will soon be launched: http://www.imemc.org/
- Regional UNESCO conference on journalist safety and impunity, Amman, Jordan, 3 May: http://tinyurl.com/33lvku
(1 May 2007)

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