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Violence against media and censorship increase after "Charlie Hebdo" massacre

Tunisian protesters shout slogans against French newspaper
Tunisian protesters shout slogans against French newspaper "Charlie Hebdo" and their new front cover during a rally in Tunis, 14 January 2015

REUTERS/Anis Mili

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 15 January 2015.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the harassment, threats and physical attacks to which many media throughout the world have been exposed for voicing support for Charlie Hebdo, and calls on governments to do everything possible to protect journalists.

For the most part, the international media covered the Charlie Hebdo massacre and expressed solidarity, but negative reactions from certain governments and radical quarters were not long in coming.

Threats to Tunisian journalists


Moez Ben Gharbia, the former presenter of a programme called "The Eighth Hour" on privately-owned Ettounissia TV, and Naoufel Ouertani, a presenter for the Ettounissia programmes "Labess" and "Klem Ennes," have been threatened for expressing solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

In a video posted on social networks on 9 January, Kamel Zarrouk, one of the leaders of the Islamist organization Ansar Al-Sharia, urged dormant terrorist cells in Tunisia to launch an offensive against journalists and media, naming Ben Gharbia and Ouertani in particular as “non-believers.”

Ben Gharbia told Reporters Without Borders he is very worried. He and Ouertani have requested police protection but it has not as yet materialized.

Censorship and threats in Turkey

A court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir yesterday granted an urgent petition for the blocking of websites that post the Charlie Hebdo “survivors” issue cover depicting Mohammed.

Last night, the Istanbul police went to the press of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet (Republic) to examine a four-page supplement with cartoons from the latest Charlie Hebdo issue which the newspaper published yesterday.

After taking an hour to establish that there was no sign of the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cover cartoon and to get permission from the prosecutor's office, the police finally gave the go-ahead for distribution.

While a sector of the Turkish public is showing support for Cumhuriyet's move, including on Twitter, where the #JesuisCumhuriyet hashtag is circulating alongside #JeSuisCharlie, the newspaper is being excoriated in fundamentalist circles and pro-government media. Cumhuriyet editor Utku Cakirözer told AFP he had received phone threats.

Radical Islamists have been threatening Turkish cartoonists, especially those with the weeklies Penguen and Leman, ever since the Charlie Hebdo shootings. On Twitter, Vahdet columnist Ibrahim Yörük “advised” Penguen's journalists to be “intelligent,” saying: “Look at Charlie Hebdo, you mustn't try to be funny by insulting people's beliefs.”

A Penguen cartoonist, Erdil Yasaroglu, was recently charged with "blasphemy".

Leman has been targeted in other tweets. “At least 12 people need to be beheaded at Leman,” @kerem_cenk tweeted, while another person posted: “Leman needs to draw lessens from this attack.”

Censorship and intimidation in Russia

Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal agency that regulates the media and communications, announced on 13 January that caricatures of religious figures constitute “incitement to religious hatred” and would be regarded as “extremist” publications, which are subject to heavy penalties in Russia.

Both the Perm-based newspaper Novosti Permi and the 59.ru news website received phone calls from Roskomnadzor warning them it was forbidden to publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons and telling them to moderate the comments on their articles, or else they would be prosecuted under the criminal code article governing extremism.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, called the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow “Islamophobic” after it broadcast a debate about whether Mohammed cartoons should be published in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Posting on Instagram, Kadyrov described the debate as a provocation and accused the station of “offending Muslims in Russia and the rest of the world” and “sowing discord between peoples.” The station's editor, Alexei Venediktov, had turned Echo of Moscow into anti-Islamic Russia's mouthpiece, he said.

“I am firmly convinced that the authorities must call the station to order when it sows animosity and hatred between persons and people,” he wrote. “Or else, there will be someone who settles accounts (...) Muslims in Russia who are not indifferent to their mother country's destiny will not tolerate these pranks by Venediktov and company indefinitely.”

Echo of Moscow's editor filed a complaint with the police on 11 January.

Journalists forbidden to demonstrate in Iran

Police and intelligence ministry officials prevented journalists from gathering outside the Tehran headquarters of the journalists' association on 8 January in response to a call by independent journalists for a “tribute to freedom of expression and the victims of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo.”

The next day, more than 185 journalists signed a statement condemning “an act of violence against freedom of expression” and saying “we stand alongside the Charlie Hebdo victims.”

Death threats in Israel


Nao Olchowski, a cartoonist with the Israeli daily Haaretz, has received death threats over a cartoon published at the end of last week recalling that the Israel Defence Forces killed 13 Palestinian journalists in July and August last year.

According to Haaretz, the person behind the threats and hate campaign against Olchowski is Ronen Shoval, a prominent member of the Habayit Hayehoudi party, whose leader, controversial economy minister Naftali Bennett, attended last Sunday's march in Paris.

There are dozens of comments on Shoval's Facebook page expressing hate for Olchowski and calling for his death – comments such as “with God's help, the Haaretz journalists will be murdered as in France” or “why hasn't there been a terrorist attack against Haaretz?”

Newspaper firebombed in Germany


Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on 11 January condemning the previous night's arson attack on the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper after it published several Mohammed cartoons in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

A firebomb was thrown through the Hamburg-based newspaper's basement widow, starting a small fire that fortunately caused no injuries. Two suspects were released for lack of evidence after being arrested on 11 January.

Media censored

The authorities in Morocco have banned distribution of the latest issue of the French publication Courrier International, which includes a drawing of the Prophet. This is not the first time it has been banned. Its distribution was already forbidden in 2009, when it ran an article deemed to have defamed King Mohammed.

Distribution of publications that reprinted this week's Charlie Hebdo cover, such as Le Monde, Libération and Marianne, were banned today in Morocco. Communication minister Mustapha El Khalfi told HuffPost Morocco: “Publication of these cartoons constitutes an unacceptable and reprehensible defamation. Blasphemy has nothing to do with freedom of expression.”

A New York Times article referring to the latest Charlie Hebdo cover was censored in Pakistan, despite the fact that it did not show the cover.

Isolated acts of violence in the European Union

There have been isolated threats against newspapers, which the authorities have taken seriously because of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

In France, a man armed with a screwdriver was arrested after trying to break into the Paris headquarters of the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles on 8 January. The same day, the satirical weekly Canard Enchaîné reported that it had received threats that it would be “next” after Charlie Hebdo. A letter said journalists would be cut up “with an axe.”

In Belgium, the evening paper Le Soir, which had reprinted the Mohammed cartoons after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, received a threatening call on 11 January while a Charlie solidarity demonstration was taking place in Brussels.

“All hell will break loose in your newspaper, you don't take us seriously,” the unidentified caller said, condemning its coverage of the massacre and accusing it of helping the far right. The newspaper's offices were evacuated.

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