Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maldives: Defamation Decriminalised

25 November 2009

Maldives: Defamation Decriminalised

The Maldives parliament has passed an amendment to the Penal Code abolishing five articles providing for criminal defamation. ARTICLE 19 welcomes these developments and calls on the authorities to ensure that they are brought into force as soon as possible.

The Bill was passed overwhelmingly by the People’s Majlis on 23 November, in a clear victory for freedom of expression. This was despite the fact that the parliamentary committee reviewing the Bill, proposed by the government, had recommended that it be rejected and the crime of defamation retained. The Bill was part of the government’s wider platform to enhance respect for freedom of expression. It was also prompted by the announcement last year of the newly appointed independent Prosecutor General that he would start pursuing criminal defamation cases, reversing a prior practice of not bringing such cases. A few criminal defamation cases have been brought over the last year.

The decriminalisation of defamation was also one of the recommendations in a joint report by ARTICLE 19 and UNESCO, Assessment of Media Development in the Maldives, which applies UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators to the Maldives. The Assessment was launched in the Maldives on 28 October 2009.

ARTICLE 19 is very pleased to welcome the Maldives to the growing community of democracies around the world that have decriminalised defamation and we call on the government and parliament to continue to introduce needed reforms in the area of freedom of expression, including in the areas of broadcasting and the right to information.


• The Assessment of Media Development in the Maldives is available at:
• For more information please contact: Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Advisor,, +1 902 431-3688

Concerned About Continued Harassment of Oleg Orlov Under Criminal Defamation Laws

16 December 2009

Russia: ARTICLE 19 Concerned About Continued Harassment of Oleg Orlov Under Criminal Defamation Laws
ARTICLE 19 expresses its concern about the ongoing civil and criminal defamation proceedings against Oleg Orlov, head of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial. ARTICLE 19 is especially concerned that Orlov faces criminal charges after his civil trial – for the same alleged defamatory remarks about Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov – has already been settled.
The cases against Oleg Orlov relate to remarks he made after the kidnapping and murder of Natalia Estemirova on 15 July 2009. Estemirova was a prominent human rights defender and represented Memorial in Chechnya. She was abducted near her home in Grozny and her body was found later the same day near Nazran, in neighbouring Ingushetia.

Orlov stated that he believed that Ramzan Kadyrov was morally responsible for the murder of Natalia Estemirova and for the overall deteriorating human rights situation in Chechnya. These remarks were later published on the Memorial website and Kadyrov sued Orlov for defamation.

On 6 October, the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow partially satisfied Kadyrov’s claims and ordered Orlov and Memorial to pay 70,000 rubles (approximately USD2,400), as well as publishing a retraction saying that the statement "does not correspond to reality”. Orlov and Memorial currently have a pending appeal against this ruling.

Subsequently, on 20 October, Orlov was further charged with defamation under Article 129.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, for the same original statement. This trial is now underway and he faces up to three years’ imprisonment if convicted.

ARTICLE 19 considers that criminal defamation is a breach of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The organisation believes that all criminal defamation laws should be abolished and replaced, where necessary, with appropriate civil defamation laws. The criminalisation of a particular opinion or expression implies a clear State interest in controlling it, and imparts a social stigma to it, neither of which is justified in relation to the protection of individuals’ reputations. The use of civil proceedings in defamation cases is sufficient for the protection of one’s honour and reputation.

These proceedings against Oleg Orlov also come at a time when the Government of the Russian Federation has been specifically urged by the UN Human Rights Committee to protect the right to freedom of expression, as part of its obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UN Human Rights Committee, in its sixth periodic review of the Russian Federation’s performance under the ICCPR in October this year, expressed concern over the use of criminal defamation legislation in Russia stating “that the practical application of the Mass Media Act as well as the arbitrary use of defamation laws has served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of valid public interest, adversely affecting the freedom of expression in the State party.” In its recommendations, the Committee called on the government to de-criminalise defamation and subject it only to civil lawsuits, capping any damages awarded, and to amend its Criminal Code to reflect the principle that public figures should tolerate a greater degree of criticism than ordinary citizens and ensure that the laws have a proper balance between the protection of a person’s reputation and freedom of expression.

In addition, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is very clear that public officials should tolerate more, not less, public criticism, especially in matters of significant public interest. The Court also stresses the fact that public officials have voluntarily accepted posts that may leave them open to criticism and that there are often alternative means of redress rather defamation cases, namely by publicly countering accusations.

In particular, a 2007 ruling in the Dyuldin and Kislov v. Russia case states, “ dominant position which the government occupies makes it necessary for it to display restraint in resorting to libel proceedings, particularly where other means are available for replying to the unjustified attacks and criticisms of its adversaries or the media.”

ARTICLE 19 also stresses that the ECtHR is clear about the distinction between statements of fact and statements of opinion. In practice, the Court allows a considerable degree of leeway to statements of opinion and has been liberal in its interpretation of what constitutes a fact and what constitutes a value judgement, normally deciding in favour of the latter. The Court has also held that requiring defendants to prove the truth of value judgements is illegitimate. This is because the existence of facts can be demonstrated, whereas the truth of a value judgment is not susceptible of proof. Furthermore, even in the cases of the absence of hard proof for allegations and strong language, the Court stressed that when the discussion is on a matter of important public concern freedom of expression should prevail.
Based on the above, ARTICLE 19 therefore calls on the Russian Federation to:

  • To drop the criminal defamation case against Oleg Orlov and to take all necessary steps for decriminalisation of defamation as a matter of urgency.
  • Immediately open a full and impartial investigation into the murder of Natalia Estemirova and ensure that both the perpetrators and instigators are brought to justice.
  • Take all measures necessary to protect those reporting on human rights violations in Russia, and especially in the North Caucasus, against acts of violence, threats and intimidation.

• For more information please contact Anoush Begoyan, Programme Officer for Europe at or tel: +44 20 7324 2500.

also read

Concerns about the Retreat of Freedom of Expression in 2009

21 December 2009

Western Europe: ARTICLE 19 Raises Concerns about the Retreat of Freedom of Expression in 2009

According to an ARTICLE 19 statement, media freedom has been “retreating” in the countries of Western Europe throughout 2009. Research into incidents across the region has highlighted a number of problem areas where states have failed to abide by their obligations under international law to uphold the right to freedom of expression. ARTICLE 19 calls on the governments to fulfil their obligation to uphold the right to freedom of expression contained in international and European standards.

All countries within the region have committed themselves through key international and European treaties to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. 2009 has witnessed violent assaults on journalists, limitations on their rights to report protests as well as violations of their right to protect the confidentiality of their sources. The statement also raises over-intrusive and far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation, internet surveillance and limitations of the right to information framework as key concerns. Further, the statement criticises the continuing existence of criminal defamation on the statute books of Western Europe and the considerable chilling effect this has on free speech. Several concerns are raised in relation to the increasing usage of civil defamation law, especially in relation to disproportionate awards for damages and the targeting of speech in the public interest. Worrying trends have also been reported in relation to media ownership and media plurality.

“The countries of Western Europe must be seen as leaders in the fight for freedom of expression,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “ARTICLE 19’s research demonstrates incidents where states have actively inhibited the right to freedom of expression – in direct contravention of their international obligations.”

The statement makes a series of recommendations to Western European states to address specific problem areas and abide by their obligations under international law.


• To view the full text of the open letter, please go to:
• For more information please contact: Oliver Spencer, or Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law,, +44 20 7324 2500

Copenhagen: Transparency Disregarded

A Changed Climate for Free Expression and Freedom of Information

22 December 2009

Copenhagen: Voices of those Affected Ignored and Transparency Disregarded

The outcome of the Copenhagen summit was deeply disappointing. It failed to deliver the legally binding and fair global climate deal sought by civil society organisations and individuals, and promised by many governments. The process lacked transparency, and restrictions on freedom of expression were widespread.

“Whilst at the summit, we were especially alarmed by various restrictions on human rights - notably freedom of expression and the right to protest - which were imposed during the Copenhagen meeting,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

Over one thousand people were arrested during the middle weekend of the summit and also many accredited non-governmental organisation representatives were unable to attend the final stages of the meeting. Too much of the political negotiations took place behind closed doors and were led by the principal CO2 emitting states.

The resulting political document, the Copenhagen Accord represents the summit’s marginalisation of the voices, interests and participation of the states and peoples who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Progress can only be made by honouring and elaborating upon the transparency provisions contained in the text and the drafting of a legally binding agreement at the next possible opportunity. ARTICLE 19 calls on states to resist adopting any such legally binding agreement in small groups without the participation of countries and communities most exposed to climate threats. A planet-saving treaty requires a multilateral approach in which all voices may be heard.


• Read ARTICLE 19’s analysis of the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression in Climate Change debates in English at:
In Spanish at:
In French at:
In Portuguese at:
In Arabic at:
• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, +44 20 7324 2500

9 December 2009
Copenhagen: ARTICLE 19 Calls for a Changed Climate for Free Expression and Freedom of Information
In a report released today to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, ARTICLE 19 shows how responses to climate change will not be effective unless there is transparency in their development and implementation, a free flow of information and respect for freedom of expression.
“Across the globe, we have found instances of media reporting on climate change being silenced; scientists being censored; climate change protests repressed; activists investigating environmental disasters intimidated, arrested or even killed. Even the amount, origin and use of climate change funds are shrouded in secrecy,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

The ARTICLE 19 report – Changing the Climate for Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information – shows that climate change debates and interventions have failed so far to fully integrate a freedom of expression perspective, and that this is evident in many national and regional responses to climate change.

For example, the report details examples where journalists and others have been threatened, harassed or prosecuted by authorities or large corporations, or risked their lives to cover environmental degradation in some parts of the world. In July 2009, the French journalist Cyril Payen was arrested by security guards and handed over to the police while investigating illegal logging by a leading Indonesian industrial group in Sumatra. In November 2009, Kumkum Dasgupta, senior assistant editor with the Delhi-based Hindustan Times and Raimondo Bultrini, reporter for the Italian newspaper L’Espresso were arrested while covering a Greenpeace protest against uncontrolled deforestation in Pelalawan district in the province of Riau, on Sumatra. In Brazil, Vilmar Berna, the editor of the Niterói-based environmentalist daily Jornal do Meio Ambiente, which exposes clandestine overfishing and threats to protected marine life in Rio de Janeiro Bay, has been a constant target of threats and intimidation attempts since May 2006.

With scientists being accused of trying to manipulate the debate on one hand, and on the other, evidence that scientists in the USA were pressured to delete references to climate change in scientific papers, or were prevented by authorities from talking to the media, the importance of transparency cannot be overstated.

“To date, public participation globally in planning for effective mitigation and adaptation in the face of climate change has been marked by high degrees of inequality of access to critical information in what is an increasingly technical but opaque international debate,” adds Callamard.

“This is a profoundly wrong departure point for our joint efforts to secure the future of the planet. No matter what positive outcome emerges from the Copenhagen Conference, little will be delivered unless and until implementation is accompanied by full respect for the free flow of information, the free exercise of public debate, a free and independent media, transparency and accountability.”

The Copenhagen Conference offers the international community an unprecedented opportunity to forge a legally enforceable framework to combat climate change.

ARTICLE 19’s report includes 34 recommendations addressed to states, the media and civil society aimed at addressing some flagrant but often unrecognised flaws in current climate change agreements and practices. The recommendations call for a strengthening of the environment for effective climate change responses by ensuring that human rights, and particularly freedom of expression and freedom of information, are fully integrated into climate change strategies and respected in their implementation.

In particular, ARTICLE 19 calls for:
  • Strengthening the legal framework for protection of information and expression rights;
  • Promoting the Aarhus Principles (contained in the 1998 Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) in international agreements;
  • The pro-active disclosure and updates of high quality information on climate change;
  • Protecting and promoting the free flow of information and public debate;
  • Promoting the participation of vulnerable groups;
  • Open, effective and transparent systems of accountability at national and international level; and
  • Addressing the disparities and inequality between states negotiating climate change agreements.

• To view the ARTICLE 19 report Changing the Climate for Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information, go to:
• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer at ARTICLE 19, tel: +44 20 7324 2500; email:

Sunday, November 22, 2009



The Martin Ennals Foundation is seeking nominations for its 2010 award for
human rights defenders. The deadline is 9 December 2009.

The award, worth 20,000 Swiss Francs (US$17,500), is given annually to
individuals or organisations that have demonstrated an exceptional record
of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means.
Special consideration is given to those who are at risk and in need of
immediate protection.

This year's award went to Emad Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights
defender based in Tehran. Baghi has been a vociferous opponent of the death
penalty in Iran and has campaigned to challenge interpretations of Islamic
law on the subject. He has spent four years in prison within the last
decade and still faces charges related to his work for prisoners' rights.

To download a nomination form or get more information, please visit:
Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders:



During U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Asia as president this
month, Human Rights Watch urged him to call on the 10-member Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to resolve issues of impunity and major
restraints on freedom of expression throughout the region. As well, IFEX
members called on the President to press for the release of imprisoned
Chinese journalists and writers on his first official visit to the People's
Republic of China.

Obama met with ASEAN leaders on 15 November, the day after the annual
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore.

Human Rights Watch asked the President to communicate the importance to
ASEAN leaders of joining forces to challenge Burma and call for the release
of all political prisoners, including the democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi, as well as for an inclusive political process ahead of the 2010

The President personally asked Burmese Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein to
free Suu Kyi and other political prisoners while in Singapore, says Mizzima
News. But a post-summit statement by ASEAN did not call for the Burmese
democracy leader's release, allegedly as a result of pressure from the
Burmese junta.

Human Rights Watch also called on Obama to encourage Vietnam to improve its
human rights policies and to begin by releasing the hundreds of peaceful
government critics, independent church activists, bloggers and democracy
advocates currently imprisoned on baseless national security charges simply
for expressing dissent.

As well, Human Rights Watch appealed to Obama to directly challenge
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's authoritarian rule, as he and other
ruling party officials use violence, threats, and the country's notoriously
corrupt judiciary to eliminate dissent by imprisoning opposition party
members, journalists, land rights activists and other government critics.

Elsewhere in the region, Malaysia also takes advantage of overbroad
national security laws. Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore use criminal
defamation laws to control free speech and Thailand makes arbitrary use of
the "lese majeste" law and the Computer Crimes Act.

In China, IFEX members asked that human rights not be ignored in the midst
of discussions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and trade tariffs.
Chinese authorities counted on Obama not to raise human rights, while
society activists, lawyers, and peaceful critics - the people Obama
normally allies himself with - hoped he would, said Human Rights Watch.
Obama himself is a writer and constitutional lawyer.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) reports that police clamped down on
dissidents across the country, with arbitrary detention and intimidation
tactics, so that critics would not be able to attempt to meet Obama or
foreign journalists. Others were strictly warned not to travel to Shanghai
and Beijing during the President's visit.

Obama tried to have a candid discussion with Chinese students in Shanghai
at a meeting of about 500 students. According to the International Press
Institute (IPI), Obama did respond to a question related to Internet
censorship. "I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm
a big supporter of non-censorship," Obama said. However, he also added, "I
recognise that different countries have different traditions."

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports that Chinese
authorities forbade questions to Obama on the Internet, and ordered media
outlets to delete news about questions raised at the student forum. Despite
the ban, Obama responded to a question about Twitter that he got through
the Internet: "I should be honest, as President of the United States, there
are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I
wouldn't have to listen to people criticising me all the time." According
to news reports, he added, "Because in the United States, information is
free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all
kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy
stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear
opinions that I don't want to hear."

In a letter to Obama, the PEN American Center called on the President to
intervene on behalf of more than 40 detained Chinese writers. IFEX members
highlighted several cases. Hu Jia, a freelance reporter and blogger and a
civil rights, environmental and AIDS activist, is serving a
three-and-a-half-year sentence for "inciting subversion." Liu Xiaobo, a
renowned writer, intellectual and literary critic, who has been detained
since December 2008, is facing 15 years in prison. Other detained writers
mentioned: Shi Tao, imprisoned for allegedly "leaking state secrets;" and
Du Daobin, Yang Tongyan and Zhang Jianhong, all serving long prison

PEN said: "Finding writers in prison is a warning sign not only of the
state of fundamental liberties in a country but also of the health,
character, and vitality of the ideas in play and of the ability of citizens
to act on these ideas."

IPI called on Obama to focus on the link between press freedom and elements
of sustainability, poverty and governance, citing the Chinese famine of
1958-1961 in which 23 to 30 million people died. The absence of a free and
independent press meant the central government believed its economic
policies were working; in reality, millions were starving.

Similarly, the tragic outcome of the 2008 earthquake that struck China's
Sichuan province, killing more than 80,000 and rendering five million
homeless, was made worse because of poor infrastructure which investigative
journalism might have exposed, reports IPI.

Activists Tan Zuoren and Huang Qi are facing charges of subversion for
investigating the deaths of schoolchildren in the 2008 earthquake and
posting the information they had gathered online, report IFEX members.
Huang Qi remains in prison, along with at least 50 bloggers and 30
journalists throughout China.

PEN American Center concluded: "We do not write to suggest how or when you
should raise these cases or what you should say. We only ask that you not
be persuaded by those who would argue that pressing for the release of
writers is somehow counterproductive or inappropriate to the occasion."

Related stories on
- PEN calls on President Obama to stand up for free expression in China:

More on the web:
- Obama should raise human rights in China (Human Rights Watch):
- Obama should press Asian leaders on rights (Human Rights Watch):
- IPI calls on U.S. President to raise press freedom concerns during trip
to Asia:
- United States President touches upon human rights concerns during
official visit to China (IPI):
- China enforces new restrictions as Obama speaks out (IFJ):
- U.S.-ASEAN meet fails to call for Suu Kyi's release (Mizzima News):

Iran: Government Launches Web Crime Unit

17 November 2009

Iran: Government Launches Web Crime Unit

The government of Iran has bolstered its censorship regime with the launch of a new Web Crime Unit tasked with policing the internet for “insults and lies”. The launch comes just months after the disputed election and the so called ‘Green Revolution’ which saw demonstrators utilise the web as an important tool for organising.

The 12 member Web Crime Unit will search the web ostensibly for cyber crimes and report them directly to the Chief Prosecutor. Although vowing to fight cyber crime in general, the Unit’s political nature is indicated by its emphasis on “insults and lies” – a term often used by the judiciary to describe opposition statements.

Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009 showed that the web is one of the last remaining bastions of free expression. Before, during and after the elections, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, as well as other reformists demonstrated the web’s potential to communicate views, inspire debate and organise support. The new Unit is the latest attempt to suppress the reform movement’s last real means of keeping its campaign alive. It also shows the Iranian authorities’ attempts to isolate the Iranian media and academic community from its global counterparts, and curtail cross-cultural dialogues and debates, with the view of maintaining tight control over information, ideas, and opinions.

“This new Web Crime Unit is clearly censorship and intimidation under the pretence of fighting crime,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “If the Iranian government arrests bloggers, activists and journalists, they are not only attacking individuals, but also undermining the rights of their fellow Iranians and others to hear the experiences and opinions of others.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and is therefore obliged as a matter of international law to respect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19.


• For more information please contact: For more information: please contact Amir Bayani:; Tel: +44 2073242514.
• Read ARTICLE 19’s Submission on Iran to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review at:

Document: Aggressions Against Journalists

19 November 2009
Mexico: ARTICLE 19 Releases Third Quarterly Report Documenting Aggressions Against Journalists

ARTICLE 19, in conjunction with its partner Cencos, has launched a report pointing to a continuing deterioration of freedom of expression in Mexico and stating that the authorities remain the principal perpetrators of aggressions against journalists.
This is the third quarterly report detailing a total of 59 attacks against journalists and the media, including the killing of three journalists, from July to September 2009. ARTICLE 19 and Cencos have recorded 201 aggressions so far this year, as well as eight deaths.

In Mexico, journalists work in an evironment where organised crime and drug traffickers operate largely with impunity, often colluding with the authorities. Usually the most serious violations, such as assassinations and forced disappearances, can be attributed to organised crime.

However, ARTICLE 19’s figures continue to point to state authorities as the principal aggressors in nearly 72 per cent of cases. The deployment of the military and police in many parts of the country have not only resulted in an escalation of violence but, in some cases, new human rights violations committed by security forces. The ARTICLE 19 report also details several serious incidents involving government officials, including the harassment of staff at the political magazine Proceso by officials of the Ministry for Public Security.

The report further emphasises an increased number of aggressions commited by supporters of political parties, during recent elections at state level and in Congress. Local police forces and municipal officials are also responsible for attacks against media workers in various states, including Sinaloa, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Guerrero and Mexico City.

Dario Ramirez, ARTICLE 19 Director for Mexico comments: “An assassination constitutes the most severe form of aggression and is an indicator of the adverse environment in which journalists and media workers are currently being forced to operate. Many of these cases have not been effectively investigated or resolved, and this constitutes a real and sustained campaign against the right to freedom of expression in this country.”

ARTICLE 19 and Cencos calls on the authorities to make a serious effort to tackle these violations of fundamental human rights and bring Mexico into line with international standards. This includes developing prevention policies, including adequate and effective human rights training for security forces, at all levels of national, state and local government.

ARTICLE 19 and Cencos reminds the Mexican State that the right to freedom of expression, which is established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights implies a double obligation. The state is not only obliged not to violate the right, but also to protect it and promote an environment in which free expression is allowed to flourish.

ARTICLE 19 and Cencos reiterates its call on the Mexican State to tackle the impunity that is being allowed to prevail in the majority of cases of violations of the right to freedom of expression. This can only be achieved through the effective investigation of such crimes and the sanctioning of those responsible, as well as the strengthening of the bodies that are responsible for dealing with crimes against freedom of expression.


• To view the full report Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Mexico: Third Quarterly Bulletin go to:
• For more information please contact: Ricardo Gonzalez, Programme Officer Freedom of Expression and Journalist´s Protection, +52 55 10546500
• For more information please contact: Iñigo Prieto Beguiristáin, Education and Research Unit, CENCOS,, +52 (55) 55 33 64 75; +52 (55) 55 33 64 75 / 76 Ext. 108
• The Social Communications National Centre (Cencos) was the first organisation documenting attacks against the media in Mexico. Its work focused in promoting freedom of expression and press freedom as an individual right of all journalists and as a collective right of society to be informed.

New Attempts to Legitimise Religious Defamation using Principles of Blasphemy

20 November 2009

UN/Ireland: ARTICLE 19 Expresses Concern at New Attempts to Legitimise Religious Defamation using Principles of Blasphemy

ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned that the submissions on defamation of religions brought by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (“OIC”) before the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards (“Ad Hoc Committee”) adopted the exact wording of the provisions of Irish legislation on blasphemous libel contained in that country’s Defamation Act, passed in July 2009. This clearly shows that the Irish legislation is being used to legitimise the proposals of Pakistan and the OIC to establish defamation of religion as a principle of international law.

The Ad Hoc Committee is mandated to “elaborate, as a matter of priority and necessity, complementary standards in the form of either a convention or additional protocol(s) to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, filling the existing gaps in the Convention, and also providing new normative standards aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism, including incitement to racial and religious hatred” (Human Rights Council resolution 6/21). Pakistan and the OIC seek to establish defamation of religions as a new normative standard. The Irish Defamation Act 2009 has also reintroduced the offence of blasphemous libel this year. This represents a dangerous trend towards the standardisation of blasphemous libel internationally.

ARTICLE 19 has previously raised its concerns with both the Irish legislation and the Pakistan proposal to the Ad Hoc Committee, and warned that both pose serious threats to freedom of expression and have no basis in established international standards. International human rights standards protect individuals and groups on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, but do not protect religions per se. Constituting defamation of religion in international law or domestic legislation distorts and undermines existing international human rights protection of both the right to freedom of expression and the right to equality. Furthermore, the concept of defamation of religions has been abusively relied upon to stifle religious dissent and criticism of religious adherents and non-believers in a number of countries around the world.

At the adoption of the Irish Defamation Act, the Irish Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, referred to the constitutional basis of the Act and assured that the Act is formulated in a way to make it almost impossible to successfully prosecute. However, the reliance by representatives of Pakistan on the Irish legislation shows that the Irish law has provided an extremely dangerous international precedent.

Sweden, on behalf of the European Union, responded to Pakistan’s submission to the Ad Hoc Committee specifically opposing defamation of religions as a human rights concept. It is ironic that the text to which the European Union is opposed is extracted directly from the law of a Member State and consolidated democracy.

ARTICLE 19 therefore urges:
• The Government of the Republic of Ireland to recognise the effect its legislation has globally on freedom of expression, and to amend its legislation concerning blasphemy and blasphemous libel in order to uphold the right to freedom of expression and set an important example to other states;
• The Ad Hoc Committee not to accept the proposals for a convention or additional protocol that oversteps in any way the long-established limits of international human rights law, principles and values which protect individuals and groups, rather than religious ideas, objects and symbols; and
• The European Union to call on the Republic of Ireland to comply with its obligations under international law to safeguard freedom of expression.


• For more information please contact Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law, ARTICLE 19, at or +44 20 7324 2500;
• For a copy of the submission of Pakistan to the Ad hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, see
• For a copy of the Defamation Act 2009 of Ireland, see
• For a copy of open letter of ARTICLE 19 to UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, see: For a copy of the ARTICLE 19 statement on the Irish Defamation Act 2009, see

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sri Lanka: Journalists Still Under Threat

28 October 2009

Sri Lanka: Journalists Still Under Threat, Even As Conflict Ends

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that Sri Lankan journalists remain under threat, despite the official ending of the country’s decades-long civil conflict in May this year. Two editors from the Sri Lankan newspaper The Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz and Munza Mushataq, are the latest to receive death threats, handwritten in red ink and delivered on 22 October.

The death threats arrived after the paper published a report on video footage allegedly showing Sri Lankan government soldiers executing Tamil prisoners. The footage, which was broadcast in the UK on Channel Four news, was deemed inauthentic by the government. However, The Sunday Leader ran a technical report from the USA stating that it had not been faked.

The Sunday Leader’s previous editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated in January this year, three weeks after receiving a similar letter. After his death, The Sunday Leader published a posthumous editorial by Wickrematunge in which he blamed the Sri Lankan Government for attacks on journalists. He wrote: “Electronic and print media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.”

The Sunday Leader’s managing editor Lal Wickrematunge told ARTICLE 19 today that they have lodged an official complaint and written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa this morning.

Journalist and former Convener of the Sri Lankan Free Media Movement Uvindu Kurukulasuriya comments: “The Sri Lankan government has failed to investigate the murder of Lasantha and bring his killers to justice and now there are the same death threats against his successors.”

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Sri Lankan government to immediately investigate the death threats against The Sunday Leader editor-in-chief Frederica Jansz and news editor Munza Mushataq, and to ensure the safety of both women.

“It is completely unacceptable to subject journalists and editors to the kind of violence and harassment that has become so commonplace in Sri Lanka,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “The Sri Lankan government must take responsibility for the safety of working journalists and must ensure that the country’s commitment to the rule of international and domestic law is upheld.”


• For more information please contact: Oliver Spencer,, +44 20 7324 2500

Russia: UN Human Rights Committee on Free Expression

2 November 2009

Russia: Government Must Respect Recommendations of UN Human Rights Committee on Free Expression

ARTICLE 19 welcomes recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Committee) in its concluding observations on the Russian Federation’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR). At the same time, ARTICLE 19 urges the Russian Government to take immediate steps to implement these recommendations, in particular those related to freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 submitted a shadow report for the 97th session of the Committee from 12- 30 October 2009 in Geneva that provided detailed evidence of a range of abuses of the right to freedom of expression in Russia.

In the Concluding Observations issued on 29 October 2009, the Committee expressed its concern “at the alarming incidence of threats, violent assaults and murders of journalists and human rights defenders, which has created a climate of fear and a chilling effect on the media, including for those working in the North Caucasus, and regrets the lack of effective measures taken to protect the right to life and security of these persons.” These concerns are similar to those of ARTICLE 19 in the shadow report.

Likewise, the Committee also recommended an amendment to the Criminal Code, in order to reflect the principle that public figures should tolerate a greater degree of criticism than ordinary citizens, and to decriminalise defamation, making it a civil matter with a cap on potential damages.

“These recommendations are particularly relevant today as Yuri Orlov, head of the Moscow-based human rights organisation Memorial, currently faces charges of criminal defamation,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “ARTICLE 19 wants defamation to be decriminalised worldwide because it has such a chilling effect on freedom of expression,” continues Callamard.

In addition, the Committee also reiterated previous recommendation to revise the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity, making the definition of "extremist activity" more precise and excluding any possibility of arbitrary application. ARTICLE 19 had expressed concerns that anti-extremist legislation had been used to suppress independent and critical viewpoints, especially with regard to definitions of “extremist literature” and “social groups” accused of inciting hatred in Russia.

When determining whether written materials constitute “extremist literature”, the Committee recommended that the government ensure that the experts giving evidence in court cases must be independent and that defendants in such cases must be able to offer counter-expertise. The Committee also found that the loose definition of “social groups” was open to interpretation by courts in a manner that afforded protection to state organs and agents.

ARTICLE 19 noted several cases from around Russia where law enforcement agencies, state prosecution officials and the military were recognised as “social groups” by experts and the courts, and subsequently effectively protected from public criticism or scrutiny under anti-extremism and hate speech laws. This practice clearly illustrates a tendency to use legislation to silence criticism of powerful state actors.

The Human Rights Committee has issued a clear call to the Russian Federation to make urgent changes to its domestic laws and practice, in order to bring the country fully in line with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. ARTICLE 19 endorses these recommendations, especially those that apply to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and intends to continue monitoring the government’s implementation of these recommendations, along with all of the country’s freedom of expression obligations.

• For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer: Europe at or +44 20 7324 2500.
• For a copy of ARTICLE 19 shadow report, submitted to the Human Rights Committee as part of its preparation for the review of the sixth periodic report by the Russian Federation, see
• For a copy of the Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee on the sixth periodic report of the Russian Federation, see (advanced version).

Five Years After Van Gogh's Murder, Free Speech Is Under Attack

Five Years After Van Gogh's Murder, Free Speech Is Under Attack

by David J. Rusin • Nov 2, 2009 at 9:26

On November 2, 2004, Dutch columnist, filmmaker, and all-around provocateur Theo van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death as he biked to work on an Amsterdam street. The killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, insisted that Islam "compels me to chop off the head of anyone who insults Allah and the prophet." He targeted the anti-Islam van Gogh because of his movie Submission, which graphically highlights Koranic verses often used to justify the mistreatment of women.

A half decade later, Islamists still answer free speech with violence. Two Chicago-area Muslims were charged last week with plotting attacks against those involved in publishing the Danish Muhammad cartoons. Shortly before that, Dutch MP Geert Wilders was welcomed to the UK by Islamist thugs who warned him — and everyone else — to "take lessons from people like Theo van Gogh," because "whoever insults the prophet, kill him."

Yet the greatest threat to free speech does not come from homegrown jihadists who wish to make examples of rabble-rousing Westerners. It arises from governments and related entities blinded by the fanciful notion that radicals will leave us alone if we only stop saying things that offend them. Some recent happenings:

  • Last month the UN Human Rights Council passed yet another resolution — this time, with support from the U.S. and Europe — urging governments "to take all necessary measures" to combat "religious stereotyping" and "hatred." While noting a few improvements over previous years' text, law professor Eugene Volokh called it "a step backward" for the constitutional rights of Americans. The resolution will be considered in November by the General Assembly, where the Islamic bloc hopes to use it as a springboard for banning criticism of Islam and enacting global blasphemy statutes.
  • Paul Belien reports that "if all goes as planned, the 27 member states of the European Union will soon have a common hate crime legislation, which will turn disapproval for Islamic practices … into crimes." The text names an "intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment" as one (extremely subjective) facet of discrimination. No doubt Bouyeri would be pleased. It passed the European Parliament and will be debated by the Council of Ministers this month.
  • Geert Wilders continues to serve as a lightning rod for those who wish to stifle Islam's critics. First, a court order was needed to convince the British government to let him set foot on UK soil last month. Second, Pennsylvania's Temple University, which accepts state funds, pressured students to cancel an October appearance by the legislator; they refused. Third, in what may be the trial of the century, at least in the Netherlands, Wilders is preparing to defend himself against speech crime charges; the start date is January 20.

Daniel Pipes referred to the van Gogh slaying as "education by murder," part of the "slow and painful way people wake up to the problem of radical Islam." Unfortunately, for many of our drowsy leaders, the only lessons learned are the wrong ones.

Florence Hartmann’s case

5 November 2009

ICTY: ARTICLE 19 Submits an Amicus Brief in Florence Hartmann’s case
ARTICLE 19 has today submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case of a French journalist, Florence Hartmann, who has been convicted of contempt of court by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for disclosing confidential information.
On 14 September 2009, a Specially Appointed Chamber of the ICTY found Hartmann guilty of disclosing the contents of two Appeals Chamber Decisions from the case against Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević in a book and an article.

These decisions granted confidential status to documents of the Serbian State’s Supreme Defence Council related to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The exact content of these documents has never been disclosed but they are reported to contain details of contact between the Serbian government and the Bosnian Serb army, which would establish a link between the government in Belgrade and war crimes such as those committed at Srebrenica. Hartmann had served for a number of years as spokesperson for the Chief Prosecutor for the ICTY.

The ICTY Specially Appointed Chamber found that Hartmann’s conduct could deter sovereign states from cooperating with the Tribunal where the provision of evidentiary material is concerned, and sentenced her to a fine of 7,000 Euros.

While recognising that the tensions between the principles of freedom of expression, and the need for some degree of confidentiality to protect the administration of justice, ARTICLE 19’s amicus brief maintains that the judgment of the Specially Appointed Chamber departs in significant ways from well-established principles of freedom of expression.

By referring to the international standards justifying restrictions on media freedom to safeguard the administration of justice, the amicus brief maintains that any conviction of contempt of court must be justified on the ground of necessity and proportionality. Accordingly, it states that freedom of expression can to be invoked to excuse an accused person’s conduct, even if valid orders have been breached.

The amicus brief claims that, in the circumstances, the restriction of Hartmann’s freedom of expression was unnecessary. ARTICLE 19 points out that the disclosures were a serious and well-informed contribution to a debate about international justice. They were made a long time after the Milosevic trial ended and concerned information which was already in the public domain. The amicus brief claims that the Specially Appointed Chamber failed to apply the proportionality test and to consider the potential chilling effect on freedom of expression of imposing criminal liability on journalists reporting on matters of public interest.

• For more information please contact: David Banisar, Senior Legal Consultant, or +44 20 7324 2500.
• The full text of the amicus brief and the leave for amicus brief can be found at
• ARTICLE 19 appreciates the assistance of Guy Vassall-Adams, Barrister with Doughty Street Chambers, who is acting as counsel for ARTICLE 19 in this case.

Mexico: Calls for Immediate Investigation into Attacks as Ninth Journalist Murdered

ARTICLE 19 Calls for Immediate Investigation into Attacks as Ninth Journalist Murdered

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Mexican authorities to fully and immediately investigate the killing of journalist José Bladimir Antuna García, in the state capital of Durango in northern Mexico.

Garcia’s body was found on 2 November, some twelve hours after he had been abducted from the centre of Durango. He had two bullet wounds. According to a number of sources there was a sign left on the body which read, “This happened to me for giving information to the military and writing what I shouldn´t have. Check the texts of your articles well before publishing them. Yours faithfully, Bladimir."

Garcia was a reporter for a local newspaper called El Tiempo de Durango, where he worked as editor of the police section. He had apparently been subjected to threats for some time: his house had been attacked earlier this year and he had spoken openly of receiving a number of threats both to his cellular phone and at the newspaper offices. He had reported these threats to the State’s General Attorney’s Office but no measures seem to have been taken.

Garcia is the second journalist from this particular newspaper to have been killed this year and the third in Durango. In May, Eliseo Barron of the newspaper Milenio was abducted from his home in Durango and later found murdered. Earlier the same month, Carlos Ortega, of El Tiempo de Durango was shot dead in his car.

So far, nine journalists have been killed in Mexico this year, while eight remain missing and hundreds more have suffered threats or aggressions.

“The violence and deaths that have occurred in the north of the country in recent months, and particularly in the state of Durango, have resulted in a chilling effect on the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and more particularly press freedom,” comments Dario Ramirez, Director of ARTICLE 19 in Mexico. “Journalists living in fear for their safety are much more likely to censor themselves, being cautious about what they write and fearful of being critical.”

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, local journalist Antonio Meraz stated that: “The majority don’t want to get involved in topics related to the drug trafficking industry. For security reasons they have stopped writing about the situation.”

Mexico has an obligation under international law to protect freedom of expression. This means that the State has a duty to protect this fundamental human right, making sure that violations of free expression are swiftly and appropriately addressed through the courts.

According to a ruling by the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the Mexican State has an obligation to “prevent, investigate, and castigate” all violations of human rights that take place under its jurisdiction. Yet, out of the nine murders of journalists that ARTICLE 19 has recorded in 2009, a perpetrator has only been identified in one case so far.

ARTICLE19 calls on the Mexican authorities, and particularly the authorities of the State of Durango, to tackle the climate of impunity that is currently being allowed to prevail in cases of attacks against journalists. Only through the full realisation of the right to freedom of expression will the consolidation of democracy and a solution to the current violence and insecurity be possible.

• For more information please contact: Omar Rábago, ARTICLE 19 México and Central America Office,, +52 55 10 54 65 00 ext 102

Sunday, October 25, 2009



Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its latest press freedom index on 20 October, showing how European countries, Israel and Iran have all slid in the rankings. The index ranks the degree of press freedom throughout the world as well as efforts made by governments to protect journalists' rights.

Although the first 13 places are held by European countries, many have
fallen in the index: "It is disturbing to see European democracies such as
France, Italy and Slovakia fall steadily in the rankings year after year,"
RSF said. "Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties.
How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave
irreproachably at home? The Obama effect, which has enabled the United
States to recover 16 places in the index, is not enough to reassure us."

The United States now ranks at 20 because President Barack Obama is "less hawkish" than his predecessor, says RSF. However, the U.S. also has an additional ranking at 108 specifically for its extraterritorial actions. Both the U.S. and Israel have rankings for their actions outside their own countries.

Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip has affected its ranking as it dropped 47 places to 93, falling behind several other countries in the region. Journalists have been illegally arrested and imprisoned. Israel received a second ranking at 150 for its extraterritorial actions. Around 20 journalists were injured by the Israeli military forces in the Gaza Strip and three were killed while covering the conflict.

The main threat in Europe comes from new legislation that compromises the work of journalists, says RSF. In Slovakia (44) the culture minister wields great influence over publications. In the Western world, Canada also dropped a few spots to 19.

Scandinavia comes out on top. Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden
share first place as the five freest countries for the media.

In Iran, automatic prior censorship, state surveillance of journalists,
mistreatment, illegal arrests and imprisonment has now brought its ranking
close to the worst cluster of states for press freedom. It ranks 172,
followed by Turkmenistan (173), North Korea (174) and Eritrea (175). Burma
remains at the bottom, right behind Iran at 171. Laos, China and Vietnam
round out the cluster of Asian countries in the bottom ten.

In Sri Lanka (162), the state sentenced a journalist to 20 years in prison
while other journalists under threat are forced to flee the country, says
RSF. Pakistan came in at 159, "crippled" by murders of journalists caught
between the military and the insurgency. It shared a record with Somalia
for the world record of journalists killed during the RSF review period.

In Yemen (167) journalists continue to "pay for the government's
scorched-earth policies towards any form of separatism." A similar downward
trend has occurred in Syria (165). In Africa, violence takes the worst toll
in countries like Somalia (164) and Democratic Republic of Congo (146).

And in the Americas, Venezuela (124) is now among the region's worst press
freedom offenders, dropping down close to Colombia (126) and Mexico (tied
with Gambia at 137). Honduras comes in at 128 after the recent coup d'état.
Cuba, where RSF says "where press freedom is non-existent," holds a spot in
the bottom ten.

The index is drawn from a questionnaire completed by hundreds of
journalists and media experts around the world. Countries are given a
ranking and score based on press freedom violations from September 2008
through August 2009. It takes into consideration physical assault,
imprisonment and murder of journalists, as well as censorship, confiscation
of newspapers, harassment and the degree of impunity enjoyed by those
responsible for press freedom violations. It includes the measure of
self-censorship and the ability of media to investigate and challenge those
in power, among many more criteria.

More on the web:
- Press Freedom Index 2009 (RSF):

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Turkey: Threats to Freedom of Expression in Turkey

16 October 2009

Turkey: ARTICLE 19 Concerned about Continuous Threats to Freedom of Expression in Turkey

Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code remains a dangerous tool to silence critical voices in Turkey, despite being amended in April 2008 and official reports that charges under this article have decreased this year.

ARTICLE 19 believes that the risk of prosecutions under Article 301 continues to pose a significant threat to freedom of expression in Turkey.

Article 301 makes it a crime to insult “Turkishness” as well as the Turkish Republic and its institutions, carrying sentences of up to four years. Since it came into force in 2005, more than 60 charges have been brought against journalists, intellectuals, academics and publishers. Some of these charges relate to published or spoken opinions questioning the official version of sensitive issues, such as the reality of the Armenian genocide during and after the First World War, or human rights abuses against Kurds in Turkey.

There have also been several high-profile prosecutions under this provision. The writer and Nobel laureate, Orhan Pamuk, was charged in 2005 after he made a statement to a Swiss magazine about the killings of Armenians and Kurds. Although the charges were later dropped, the case generated an international outcry, as well as rallies in Turkey to burn Pamuk’s books.

The journalist Hrant Dink was also prosecuted under Article 301 in 2006 and he received a six-month suspended sentence. Dink was later assassinated and his sentence was posthumously overturned in 2007 by the Appeal Court.

In April 2008, Article 301 was amended, following widespread national and international criticism. The amendment made it obligatory for the Minister of Justice to approve the filing of cases under Article 301.

At a Conference on Freedom of Expression held last week in Ankara, the Turkish authorities reported a significant decrease in prosecutions under Article 301 and attributed the drop to the 2008 legislative reform. According to statistics, the Minister of Justice allowed only eight cases to be filed (out of 523 requests) in 2009.

ARTICLE 19 strongly believes that, despite this decrease in prosecutions, the new Article 301 remains a serious threat for freedom of expression in Turkey. First, we note that the number of requests for prosecutions has not diminished. Prosecutors in Turkey continue to take prompt action against people who are critical of the government or question official versions of historical events and personalities. Second, the number of investigations for denigration of “Turkishness” and the Turkish Republic has decreased only because the current Minister of Justice wants to avoid further scandals concerning charges under Article 301. It is therefore likely that the number of prosecutions may increase if the next minister has a different attitude.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Turkish authorities to protect of the right to freedom of expression, as required by international law, by abolishing Article 301 altogether for the following reasons:

• It is inherently illegitimate for the State to impose a blanket ban on the discussion of historical matters, or individuals and institutions.
• In violation of international law Article 301 is used to prosecute individuals who express opinions which diverge from official dogma regarding the history of the country.
• The term “Turkishness” is vague and gives opportunity for the arbitrary criminalisation of criticism.
• The provision is unnecessary in a democratic society since generic hate speech laws already prohibit incitement to hatred.
• It is unreasonable to spend taxpayers' money for the preparation of numerous requests for prosecutions under Article 301 which are later rejected by the Minister of Justice.


• For more information please contact: Boyko Boev, ARTICLE 19 Legal Officer, or +44 20 7324 2500.

Concern over New Religious Defamation

22 October 2009

United Nations: ARTICLE 19 Joins Other Human Rights Groups to Express Concern over New Religious Defamation Submission

ARTICLE 19 joins 26 other human rights groups in an open letter expressing concerns about recent submissions on religious defamation brought before the UN Ad Hoc Committee for the Elaboration of Complementary Standards.

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), represented by Pakistan, and the African Group, represented by Egypt, has made submissions to the Ad Hoc Committee in advance of its Second Session currently taking place in Geneva.

The letter raises concerns that the OIC and the African Group submissions propose:
• The apparent inclusion of religions, religious ideas, objects and personalities as subjects that warrant protection under international human rights law
• The development of new binding international standards on the “defamation of religions”
• The protection of religions from offensive speech
• The defining of concepts of religion-phobias based on the presumption that all religions are internally uncontested.

The letter reaffirms the fact that international human rights standards protect individuals and groups on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, but do not protect religions per se. It is also noted that international law has consistently protected “offensive speech” because of the subjective nature of the concept. Adopting the proposals submitted by the OIC and the African Group would distort and undermine existing international human rights protection of both the right to freedom of expression and equality.

The open letter strongly recommends that the Ad Hoc Committee focus on measures to promote diversity and pluralism, as well as promoting equitable access to the means of communication, and guaranteeing the right of access to information and creating an enabling environment for both freedom of expression and equality.


• To view the full text of the open letter, please go to:
• For more information please contact: Dr Sejal Parmar at:, or +44 20 7324 2500

More Support for Media Freedom in Africa

23 October 2009

European Union: More Support Should be Provided for Media Freedom in Africa

On the occasion of the European Development Days, ARTICLE 19 joins with the Africa Forum for Media Development, the African Media Initiative, the Global Forum for Media Development, the International Federation of Journalists and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers in calling for stronger dedicated European Union support to media freedom in Africa.

“Everyone agrees that media freedom and development are central to democracy and sustainable development,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “The EU needs to do more to support this central pillar of human progress.”

In their Statement to European Development Days, Stockholm, October 22-24, 2009, the organisations welcome the priority that the European Union (EU) and African Union have agreed to give to the issue of media development. However, the organisations called for a meeting to be held with key stakeholders to focus on the way forward and to consider the practical proposals that have been made, and in particular the proposal to institute an African Peer Review Mechanism for Media Freedom and Access to Information.

The six organisations also outlined ten points to promote media freedom and development in Africa, including the following:
• A clear political commitment should be made to implement the principles of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press and the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.
• Dedicated funds should be allocated to media development, which should not be channelled through government.
• Support should be provided to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information
• An African Peer Review Mechanism for Media Freedom and Access to Information should be created as a matter of priority.

ARTICLE 19 urges the EU to provide more support for media freedom and development initiatives in Africa and urges African governments to do more to respect media freedom.


• The Statement is available at:
• For more information please contact: Martin Clark +44 20 7324 2500

Friday, October 16, 2009

A landmark case involving the principle of open justice

United Kingdom: ARTICLE 19 in Landmark Open Justice Case

ARTICLE 19 is part of a landmark case involving the principle of open justice and the right to know. The case is the very first in the newly established Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

ARTICLE 19 has applied with other leading media and civil liberties organisations for identification of the appellants in the case Her Majesty's Treasury (Respondents) v A (FC) and others (FC) (Appellants) and others.

Identification and publicity would benefit the appellants, as the media would be able to report the human-interest dimensions of the case. Identification is also in the public interest, as the case will show the effects of Anti-Terrorism Orders upon individuals and their family members.

Only Mohammed Al-Ghabra’s name has so far been identified, previously known as G, on the grounds that his identity is already in the public domain. The Court ran out of time and has not decided whether the identities of ‘A’, ‘K’ and ‘M’ will be publicised.

The case is considering whether measures contained in the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al-Qaida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 were unlawful. Under the orders, said to give effect to UN resolutions, the Treasury may freeze assets of people and their families who “may be” suspected of financing terrorism. The measures are being scrutinised in court because they were made without express authorisation by Parliament.

From 1 October 2009, the Supreme Court has assumed the jurisdiction of the current Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the devolution jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer,, +44 20 7324 2500;
• For more materials on the case at the Supreme Court, check

Nepal: Government Putting Journalists at Risk

12 October 2009

Nepal: Government Putting Journalists at Risk

ARTICLE 19, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and Freedom Forum (FF) strongly condemn the Government of Nepal’s intentions to use journalists as informants, to help implement its Special Security Plan. This would significantly increase the already seriously hazardous working environment for journalists. It is also contrary to international standards, as well as the Agenda for Change, launched by ARTICLE 19, FNJ and FF in February 2009. We urge the Government of Nepal to drop this idea and, instead, to take the necessary steps to protect journalists from attacks by unidentified armed groups.

“The Government’s plan is opportunistic and irresponsible,” said Dharmendra Jha, Chairperson of FNJ. “Threats and attacks against, and even murder of journalists are rampant in Nepal and to propose to use journalist as informants is at best grossly negligent,” he added.

Key problems with involving journalists in the Special Security Plan include:
• This would seriously undermine the role of an independent media in a democracy.
• It would also undermine the independence and professionalism of individual journalists.
• It would seriously increase the risk of attacks against journalists and media outlets, whereas there is an imperative need to take action to reduce this risk.

Recommendation No. 24 of the Agenda for Change states, in part: “The government should be more proactive in fulfilling its obligation to protect journalists and media property, including by allocating greater resources and attention to this, particularly in conflict areas.” Attemping to use journalists as secuirty informants is also a breach of code of conduct issued by Nepal Press Council.

ARTICLE 19, FNJ and FF urge the Nepali authorities to withdraw immediately any proposal to use journalists as informants to execute the Special Security Plan. We also call on the authorities to take all reasonable measures to promote the safety and security of journalists and media outlets.


• For more information, please contact Tanka Raj Aryal, ARTICLE 19 Country Representative, Nepal, +97798510 75026, Taranath Dahal, President, Freedom Forum,, +977 98510 87891 or Dharmendra Jha, President, Federation of Nepali Journalists,, +977 98510 71459.
• The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) is the umbrella organisation of the journalists in Nepal. Freedom Forum is a Nepalese human rights organisation working for press freedom and the right to information

Mexico: Safety Training for Journalists

Mexico: ARTICLE 19 and the Rory Peck Trust Provide Safety Training for Journalists

ARTICLE 19, in conjunction with the Rory Peck Trust, last week delivered its third security training course in Mexico for journalists working in high-risk zones.

Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places to practise journalism and there is almost no training available to help journalists and freelancers in the region manage the daily risks associated with their profession.

ARTICLE 19 and the Rory Peck Trust believe that, to ensure their safety and security, journalists and freelancers must know their rights. They must know how to effectively protect themselves, how to analyse potential risks, and how to identify and adopt the best possible measure to counteract them.

Journalists and freelancers, including those from Reuters, Associated Press, CNN and Televisa, attended the programme. They covered journalistic practice, coverage of security forces and public demonstrations, and the relationships between reporters, editors, security forces and emergency services. Methods of self-protection based on lessons from other countries were another feature of the course. Participants also looked at the challenges and problems facing media workers in the field, as well as the identification and management of post-traumatic stress and related disorders.

Participants received a thorough briefing on the legal realities facing journalists in Mexico today, including basic media and human rights law, as well as defamation and other tools used to stifle media freedom. The Mexican Red Cross covered first aid, emergency evacuation situations, explosions, natural disasters and survival training.

“When I undertook my first security training course I was already half way through my career,” says Manuel Carrillo, Senior Cameraman for Reuters. “It is great to see that younger journalists now have an opportunity to receive this training, particularly in light of the dangers they are now facing in Mexico.”

ARTICLE 19 systematically documents, registers and follows up cases of aggression against journalists and media workers in Mexico and Central America. Through this work, ARTICLE 19 has been able to identify specific trends relating to freedom of expression which are characteristic of this region.

“Enabling journalists to look after themselves in high-risk situations, while also reporting accurately on themes in the public interest, ARTICLE 19 hopes to assist the media in holding public bodies and elected officials accountable for their actions,” comments Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “This will greatly enhance and protect the right to freedom of expression in Mexico and Central America.”

The course took place at the Mexican Red Cross training facility outside Mexico City and was made possible with the support of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Mexico.


• For further information, contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America Office, at, + 55 11 30 57 00 42 or Catalina Cortes, Rory Peck Trust at, +44 (0) 20 7730 141.
• The Rory Peck Trust exists to support freelance newsgatherers and their families worldwide in times of need, and to promote their welfare and safety.

Hold Russia Accountable for abuses and violations of the right to freedom of expression

15 October 2009
Human Rights Committee: ARTICLE 19 Urges the Human Rights Committee to Hold Russia Accountable

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Human Rights Committee (“the Committee”) to hold the Russian Federation accountable for ongoing and systematic abuses and violations of the right to freedom of expression.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“the Covenant”), States must submit to a periodic review of their implementation of the Covenant’s provisions. Russia’s sixth periodic report comes under scrutiny today by the HRC at its 97th session in Geneva. In a shadow report submitted to the Committee, ARTICLE 19 provides detailed evidence of a range of abuses of the right to freedom of expression in Russia.

During the period under review, ARTICLE 19 finds that freedom of expression has steadily deteriorated in the Russian Federation. Journalists and media workers remain under constant threat of attack and there is an absence of thorough and impartial investigations into killings and assaults against journalists. Instead, a climate of impunity for crimes against journalists prevails.

Public officials, including those at the highest level of the Government, refuse to view the media as an independent critic and often regard it as a subordinate body aimed at furthering political goals. Defamation laws are regularly employed to stifle journalists and media outlets.

Opposition groups are suppressed and prevented from engaging in peaceful protest, and there are increasing incidents of attacks against minorities, including religious, sexual and ethnic groups. Legislation governing extremism and religious hatred is being used to suppress criticism of the Russian authorities, as well as artistic free expression.

“ARTICLE 19 calls on the Human Rights Committee to carefully examine and expose the deplorable human rights record of the Russian Federation, and to hold this Government accountable to its human rights obligations under the Covenant,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 has been working in the Russian Federation for the last decade, in close co-operation with local partners, on projects relating to freedom of expression, freedom of information and defamation. Given the severity of the violations outlined in the report, ARTICLE 19 urges the Human Rights Committee to exert pressure over the Russian Government to ensure that everyone in the Russian Federation is able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression without intimidation, violence or harassment.


* For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, at: +44 796 985 6069 or; or Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law, at: +44 207 324 2500 or
* The full version of the Written Comments of ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression Concerning the Review of the Sixth Periodic Report of the Russian Federation for Consideration by the United Nations Human Rights Committee at its 97th Session, 12-30 October2009 is available at
* ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit