Sunday, May 24, 2009

South Caucasus: Continued Violence Against Journalists Symptomatic of Ongoing Repression in the Region

South Caucasus: Continued Violence Against Journalists Symptomatic of Ongoing Repression in the Region

ARTICLE 19 is becoming increasingly concerned that acts of violence against journalists in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are on the rise. Previous attacks have seen a lack of independent and prompt investigation, creating a climate of impunity for the perpetrators and fear amongst journalists working in these countries.

In recent weeks Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have seen an increasing number of physical attacks on journalists and media workers, especially those covering politically sensitive issues such as opposition rallies in Georgia and the recent call for the cancellation of the “Flower Holiday” in Azerbaijan.

In Armenia, the most recent assault took place on 6 May, when Nver Mnatsakanian, a prominent television anchor and host at Shant TV, was attacked and beaten by unknown assailants outside his home in Yerevan.

ARTICLE 19 specifically calls on the Armenian authorities to condemn any attacks on journalists and to undertake to end all attacks. In order to prevent other attacks, ARTICLE 19 also urges the government to fully investigate all violent incidents, thereby sending a clear message that such abuses will not be tolerated.

In Azerbaijan, police used physical force against Durna Safarli, Radio Liberty correspondent; Elchin Hasanov, from Yukselish Namina; and Afgan Mukhtarli and Layla Ilgar from Yeni Musavat newspaper on 10 May 2009 while they were covering events surrounding the “Flower Holiday”.

The “Flower Holiday” is an annual celebration of the birthday of former President Geydar Aliyev on 10 May. This year students called for it to be cancelled, to commemorate 13 people killed at the State Oil Academy in Baku on 30 April 2009. Journalists attempting to investigate these killings were also prevented from accessing information by authorities.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Azerbaijan government to set up an independent investigation into the police violence surrounding this year’s “Flower Holiday” and promptly investigate police attacks on journalists and peaceful protesters. Members of the public were beaten and approximately 50 demonstrators were detained for a number of hours on this day, simply for exercising their right to free expression.

ARTICLE 19 also calls for a complete disclosure of the findings of the investigation into the killing of 13 people at the State Oil Academy in Baku on 30 April 2009. The Azerbaijani public has the right to know what happened and who was responsible for this unprecedented massacre.

In Georgia, journalists covering political opposition activities have reportedly been subject to police ill-treatment. These included, for example, Nino Komakhidze and Ani Khavtasi from The Versia newspaper who were covering an opposition movement protest on 7 April. They were allegedly also part of another group of journalists who were assaulted on 6 May, when violence erupted outside a Tbilisi police station.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Georgian government to conduct a prompt and independent investigation into the alleged police attacks. We also call on the Georgian authorities not to repeat the excessive use of force used to quell demonstrators in November 2007, including the beating of journalists by police.

ARTICLE 19 notes that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which both guarantee the fundamental right to freedom of expression, including the protection of journalists.


• For more detailed information on individual cases, please refer to the attached appendix.
• Please contact Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, at or +44 207 239 1193

Appendix: List of Individual Journalists Attacked in South Caucasus


On 6 May 2009 Nver Mnatsakanian of Shant TV was beaten by unknown assailants, suffering injuries to his head, feet and hands.

On 30 April 2009, Argishti Kiviryan, the founding editor of Armenia Today, was severely beaten with wooden batons across the face and body on his way home from work. He was hospitalised in a serious condition. According to eyewitnesses the attackers also shot at Kiviryan, although he was not hit.

These attacks follow on from previous incidents. In August 2008, Lusine Barsegian from Haikakan Zhamanak and Hrach Melkumyan, Radio Liberty acting director, were attacked and hospitalised in separate events. Edik Baghdasarian, editor of the news magazine Hetq, was also assaulted in November 2008. The editor-in-chief of Iskakan Iravunk newspaper, Hovhannes Galajian, has been severely assaulted twice, in 2006 and again in 2007. Even though Armenian police authorities have vowed to end the spate of recent attacks, no one has so far been found guilty.


On 10 May 2009, Durna Safarli, Radio Liberty correspondent, Elchin Hasanov, an employee of Yukselish Namina, and Afgan Mukhtarli and Layla Ilgar of Yeni Musavat were the victims of police force while covering events surrounding the “Flower Holiday”.

On 26 April, ANS TV correspondents Nijat Suleymanov, Elmin Muradov and Azer Balayev reported that they were subjected to ill-treatment by police when trying to report on the destruction of a building.

Assaults, including the murder of journalists, have continued to take place with impunity in Azerbaijan. The government’s failure to meaningfully investigate violence or threats of violence, thus implicitly condoning them, is illustrated by the fact that the 2005 murder of Elmar Huseynov, the editor-in-chief of the Monitor, remains unsolved. In 2008 alone, there were at least 49 incidents involving verbal or physical assaults on journalists.

These include four separate attacks, including the stabbing of Azadlyg reporter, Agil Khalil, who was later subject to a smear campaign on government-controlled television. Sergei Strekalin was sentenced for the attack although Khalil denies he was the person who attacked him. As a result of more attacks, Khalil was forced to flee the country by the end of 2008.

Hakimeldostu Mehidyev, correspondent for the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) in the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (situated within Azerbaijan) has also been subjected to several attacks, the latest in January 2009, when he was hit with a ceramic ashtray in the face. He had been filming a gathering of the political opposition. No criminal investigation has been initiated to date. In March 2009, he had a car crash after his car was allegedly tampered with.

Idrak Abbasov, another journalist for IRFS, was hospitalised with heart problems on 20 February 2009 after returning from Nakhchivan where he stated he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse by the National Security Ministry (NSM).

In June 2008, the journalist Emin Huseynov was detained and assaulted by police, after which he was hospitalised for 24 days, and continues to receive treatment. Court proceedings in the case are ongoing.


Attacks on journalists have become increasingly common. On 7 April, police reportedly ill treated Nino Komakhidze, a journalist, and Ani Khavtasi, a photo-journalist from The Versia newspaper, when they covered an opposition movement protest.

On 6 May, the abovementioned journalists, together with Salome Kokiashvili, a Public Broadcasting correspondent, Zaza Shukvani, a Kavkasia TV Company cameraman, and Levan Kalandia, a Rustavi 2 cameraman, were seriously injured in a violent episode that erupted when opposition supporters clashed with police – who allegedly used truncheons and rubber bullets – outside a police station in Tbilisi.

Artist Alert April 2009

Artist Alert
April 2009

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

In March 1959 an invitation to the Dalai Lama to attend a military theatrical performance sparked protests by an estimated 300,000 demonstrators in Lhasa, all concerned that the show would be a cover giving the Chinese army a chance to “disappear” the young leader. 50 years later in March 2009 whilst the Dalai Lama has been in exile for almost half a century, artists in Western China and Tibet still face widespread abuse, censorship and detention.

Tibet and China: numerous artists detained and censored

Editor Kunchok Tsephel Gopey was arrested in Gansu province at the end of February and his website Chomei (The Lamp) temporarily closed down.

Chomei ( has been written entirely in Tibetan languages and aims to raise awareness of art and culture in Tibet, providing a valuable forum for poets and artists to express themselves creatively. According to Reporters sans Frontières, Chomei has been regularly censored by the authorities since 2005.

Leading rock band Oasis has been blocked from playing concerts in China due to their previous support for the organisation Free Tibet. Concerts planned for Shanghai and Beijing were cancelled in March 2009 by their promoters after it became known that lead singer Noel Gallagher had performed in 1997 at a concert raising money for the campaigners for a free Tibet.

The cancellation follows a 2008 concert where singer Bjork allegedly shouted “Tibet Tibet!” and confirms rules that ban performers from lyrics that could damage “national unity” or “stir up resentment”.

Jigme Gyatso, a monk who assisted director Dhondup Wangchen in the production of the 2008 film Leaving Fear Behind was also re-arrested in March and there are reports of his torture.

Leaving Fear Behind ( was created in the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games and contains interviews with Tibetans about the impact of Chinese policies on Tibetans and Tibetan culture. Both Jigme Gyatso and Dhondup Wangchen have been detained since filming. Jigme was released for several months in October 2008, only to be re-arrested in March 2009.

20-year-old writer Kunga Tseyang was also arrested in Golok County on 17 March. Tseyang studies at the world famous Labrang monastery and the Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies and writes about Buddhism and Tibetan arts and culture. There has been no news of his whereabouts since.

These arrests are just part of a larger campaign by the authorities to suppress debate, including their earlier blocking of Tibet Culture website ( and their jamming of radio stations broadcasting in Tibetan languages.

United Kingdom: visa denials for artists

Under the new points-based visa system for the United Kingdom, artists of all genres are repeatedly being denied access to the country because their artistic professions are not highly rated by the system. In the first quarter of 2009, three artists: Tenzing Rigdol from Nepal; Dmitry Vilensky from Russia; and Huang Xu from China, had their visa applications rejected by the UK Border Agency. All three had applied for their visas with firm support from the highly-regarded Rossi & Rossi Gallery, the Showroom Gallery and the October Gallery respectively.

According to the Manifesto Club, contemporary visual artists, musicians, academics, promoters, museum and gallery workers, a ballet company, tango enthusiasts, and international actors have all been refused entry.

Israel: Jerusalem Cultural Festival banned

Israeli Minister for Internal Security Avi Dichter banned the festival Capital of Arab Culture 2009 from taking place in East Jerusalem in March.

The festival was due to take place over a whole year but Israeli police intervened to stop all future proceedings, despite East Jerusalem being outside of Israel’s legal jurisdiction.

20 people were reportedly arrested for being associated with the event and Agence France Presse stated that Israeli police confiscated flags and detained university employees distributing t-shirts advertising the festival.

Russia: exhibitors arrested for “insulting Christians”

Russians Yurii Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeev were charged in April 2009 by the Taganskii District Prosecutor for curating an exhibition that, in the words of the Prosecutor, was “clearly directed towards expressing in a demonstrative and visible way a degrading and insulting attitude towards the Christian religion in general and especially towards the Orthodox faith.

The exhibition, which was entitled Forbidden Art, took place at the Sakharov Museum in March 2007 and included work by well-known contemporary artists such as Ilya Kabakov, Aleksandr Kosolapov, Aleksandr Savko, Mikhail Roginskii and the group Blue Noses.

Despite the fact that Russia is a secular state, where everybody is guaranteed the freedom to disseminate religious or atheist views, Samodurov and Yerofeev face prison terms of up to five years.

Lebanon: homelessness, prostitution and sexuality censored

Mark Abi Rached’s film HELP! was banned just four days after its release in Lebanon, despite being previously approved by the officer in charge of censorship.

HELP! addresses sex, prostitution, sexuality, homelessness and drugs in Lebanon and originally received firm approval from the authorities. Although given authorisation to be screened, a later bureaucratic change was introduced by a new censorship officer who revoked approval at the last minute. According to the Center for Defending Media and Cultural Freedoms in Beirut, the banning of the film was the result of complaints received from various Catholic institutions over the film’s content and its alleged effect on public morals.

World: STAR TV censors “gay” in Oscars

News Corporation-owned STAR TV cut sound during several references to homosexuality in the live broadcast of the 2009 Oscar awards ceremony. STAR TV is a privately owned satellite and cable channel that broadcasts mostly in Asia.

Dustin Lane Black, screenplay writer for the film Milk was cut when he said, “I think would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight ... that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you.

Later, Sean Penn, Oscar winner in the best actor category, was also censored saying, “For those who saw the signs of hatred [in an anti-gay protest outside] as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support

The television channel has an estimated audience of 300 million people in 54 countries around the world, particularly in Asia, and STAR TV spokesman answered in response to complaints that STAR has “a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration”.

Thailand: Harry Nicolaides free at last

Author and academic Harry Nicolaides was released in March 2009 from prison in Thailand by royal pardon following a long campaign by Thai and international organisations, including ARTICLE 19. Nicolaides was imprisoned for three years under lese majeste legislation after writing a historical book on the Thai monarchy. ARTICLE 19 has highlighted Nicolaides’ case and the effects of lese majeste legislation upon artists in a number of previous publications.


• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer,, +44 20 7278 9292

Defending the Right to Express Sexual and Gender Identity

Defending the Right to Express Sexual and Gender Identity

On the occasion of 17 May, International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, ARTICLE 19 announces the launch of a new project on freedom of expression, and sexual and gender identity. This year, ARTICLE 19 will work with lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT), and freedom of expression activists to raise awareness about the expression of sexual identity, and produce an advocacy manual highlighting principles and policies on the application of international freedom of expression standards and best practices in relation to sexual and gender identity. ARTICLE 19 firmly believes that freedom of expression standards and principles can and should be used to further advance and protect the rights of LGBT.

Human rights violations targeted toward persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity constitute an entrenched global pattern of serious concern. They include extra-judicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, sexual assault and rape, invasions of privacy, arbitrary detention, denial of employment and education opportunities, and serious discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of other human rights. For example, access to information on issues of particular importance to LGBT people, including health services and legal rights, may be restricted. The legacy of systematic discrimination has a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression.

Often enough, these violations are triggered by the expression of sexual identity. Whenever people suppress their identity, for fear of abuse, they are exercising a form of self-censorhip which goes against the principles of free expression.

On the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May, ARTICLE 19 calls for full respect of the right to freedom of expression and right to equality of LGBT people around the world. Protecting and respecting the freedom of expression of LGBT communities that have been historically and globally marginalised and under constant discrimination and attacks, takes on a particular urgency. Attempts to silence individuals and groups on grounds of their sexual or gender identity weaken freedom of expression and the much needed plurality of voices in our societies. It also obstructs the collective and individual right to receive information, ideas, and opinions of all kinds without restriction,” says Dr. Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 considers that the right to freedom of expression, the right to equality and the right to a life free of all types of discrimination are mutually supporting and reinforcing. They are also foundational rights, whose realisation is essential for the enjoyment and protection of all human rights. As comprehensively presented in ARTICLE 19’s Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, freedom of expression is an important empowerment and enabling right that enables other rights to be protected and exercised.

ARTICLE 19 will run a first awareness-raising event and discussion on the expression of sexual identity among the freedom of expression community at the Global Forum of Freedom of Expression on 4 June in Oslo. Panelists include Romanita Iordache (an independent expert on anti-discrimination of LGBT of the European Commission and a chair of ACCEPT, a major human rights group focused on the rights of sexual minorities in Romania), Lawrence Mute (a Commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and international human rights expert), Parvez Sharma (Indian LGBT rights activist, writer and filmmaker, director of the movie A Jihad for Love that deals with Islam and homosexuality) and Darío Ramirez (human rights activist and the Director of ARTICLE 19 for Mexico and Central America).

The 4 June event will seek to both highlight the repeated violations of freedom of expression on the grounds of sexual orientation and the limited awareness and understanding within the human rights, freedom of expression and media sectors of freedom of expression as applied to sexual identity. The meeting will also elaborate recommendations for further expansion of principles and policies on the application of international freedom of expression standards in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.


• For more information: please contact Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law, Tel: +44 20 7278 9292
• For information on the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression:
• Article 19 of the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity establishes freedom of expression without limitations in relation to gender identity or sexual preference. It states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes the expression of identity or personhood through speech, deportment, dress, bodily characteristics, choice of name, or any other means, as well as the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, including with regard to human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, through any medium and regardless of frontiers.

ARTICLE 19 Calls for Expansion of Freedom of Expression Rights to be Integrated into the New Draft Constitution of Kenya

ARTICLE 19 Calls for Expansion of Freedom of Expression Rights to be Integrated into the New Draft Constitution of Kenya

Today, ARTICLE 19 Kenya and East Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya, submitted its comments to the Committee of Experts for the new Constitutional Review Process currently ongoing in Kenya. ARTICLE 19 welcomes the review process and calls on the Committee of Experts to ensure the new Draft Constitution of Kenya is in line with freedom of expression and information best practice and international standards, as laid out in Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Kenya has signed and ratified.

The Constitutional Review Process seeks to improve the current Constitution of Kenya which was first developed in 1963, and amended in 1996. The current process to review the Constitution will be the third of its kind. The Committee of Experts is responsible for developing a new draft Constitution by 1 December 2009. The final draft is expected to be adopted by Parliament by 2 March 2010 prior to a constitutional referendum.

In its note to the Committee of Experts, ARTICLE 19 highlights the areas where guarantee of freedom of expression falls short of international human rights law and standards on the right to freedom of expression, the right to access information, and media freedoms.

ARTICLE 19’s recommendations to the Committee of Experts include:

  • That the Committee should ensure that the new Draft Constitution of Kenya protects the right of freedom of expression, including the right to information, in compliance with international and regional human rights law and standards.
  • That protection for the right to freedom of expression should be positive in nature – and should protect the right to seek, as well as to communicate and receive, information and ideas.
  • That the Constitution should permit only restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, which are provided by law, and which are necessary in a democratic society to protect a limited list of stated interests, which do not go beyond those permitted under international law.
  • That the Constitution should prohibit all prior censorship other than that which is strictly necessary to protect children.
  • That the Constitution should also provide explicitly for the right to information.
  • That the independence of bodies with regulatory or governance powers over the media should be explicitly protected in the Constitution.

ARTICLE 19’s note on the constitutional review is part of ARTICLE 19 Kenya and East Africa’s commitment to defend and strengthen the protection of freedom of expression and access to information within Kenya, as per the Machakos Declaration on Freedom of Expression agreed in April 2009 by Kenyan media, civil society and human rights bodies.


• For more information: please contact Roxanne Abdulali, Africa Programme Officer,, +254 20 3862230/1
• The note is available in English at:

Government’s Vision for Digital Bangladesh Must Include Community Radios

Bangladesh Must Include Community Radios

As part of its vision for Digital Bangladesh, the Government of Bangladesh has committed to issuing licenses for community radio stations.

Yeafesh Osman, Minister for Science and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), said: “I can assure you that the government will be issuing licenses for community radio soon. This will be a major step towards achieving the government’s vision for a Digital Bangladesh.” Osman was speaking during an interview with a community radio station broadcasting from an ARTICLE 19 and partner BNNRC exhibition stall at the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day event, held in Chittagong on 16-17 May.

As part of this event, ARTICLE 19 and partner organisation Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) promoted the theme of community radio and access to information through an exhibition stall and fully-fledged community radio station, broadcasting on FM.

The two-day event was organised by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and comprised a national seminar on “Digital Bangladesh” and “Vision 2021”, as well as an ICT exhibition displaying different information and communication innovations. With over 20 stalls, various ICT-based organisations took part in the event, including those promoting software, call-centres, internet services, telecommunication infrastructure services, video conferencing, mobile telecommunication services, vehicle tracking and community radio.

There was significant interest in the ARTICLE 19/BNNRC stall and visitors included Minister Osman, BTRC Chairperson Brigadier General (Retired) Zia Ahmed and Member of Parliament Akram Hossain Chowdhury.

In a country like Bangladesh, low-cost tools and information technologies such as community radio will usher in a new era in promoting the right to information,” said Tahmina Rahman, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh Country Director, in a live radio interview. “I hope the Government will take the necessary steps for speeding up the approval of licenses allowing for the first time, fully functional community radio stations in Bangladesh.


• For more information: please contact Tahmina Rahman, Director ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh;; +0171-303-9669

ARTICLE 19 Calls on Yemeni Government to Improve its Draft Information Law

ARTICLE 19 Calls on Yemeni Government to Improve its Draft Information Law

Today, ARTICLE 19 released a Memorandum analysing the Yemeni government’s draft Information Law. Whilst welcoming the draft Law as a positive step towards protecting the right of access to information, the Memorandum highlights a number of significant shortfalls of the draft Law.

In particular, the Memorandum emphasises that the draft Law currently protects only the rights of Yemeni citizens to access information. It does not protect the right of access to information for all.

The draft Law also sets out a very broad range of exceptions, and excludes outright certain types or categories of information. It also provides very limited possibilities for appealing a decision not to release information and accords a high degree of discretion to the bodies covered by the draft Law.

ARTICLE 19 finds it especially troubling that the draft Law accords such significant power to the National Centre for Information, apparently established as both the hub and depositary of a national system to control information, and the regulator for the means and mechanisms for storing information at bodies covered by the scope of the law.

Finally, the draft Law provides for a series of very broadly defined offences and severe penalties in connection with violations of the draft Law.

ARTICLE 19 suggests a number of recommendations for the draft Law, including that all persons in Yemen should enjoy the right of access to information. Further, the draft Law should cover all bodies undertaking public functions; an independent and autonomous oversight body (such as an Information Commissioner) should be established; and a list of exceptions should be set out in precise and narrowly drawn terms.

ARTICLE 19 presented these recommendations at a workshop for Yemeni parliamentarians and journalists which was held in Sana’a on 5-8 May 2009. As part of the organisation’s ongoing engagement in Yemen, ARTICLE 19 will continue to work with stakeholders to achieve legal reform.


• For more information: please contact Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer at or +44 20 7278 9292.
• To view the Memorandum, go to:



The Kyber Union of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are
appealing to fellow media and press freedom organisations to raise
emergency funds for Pakistan's journalists who have fled Swat Valley.

According to RSF, more than 30 journalists and their families have sought
refuge in Peshawar and other cities since the army launched its offensive
against the Taliban earlier this month.

No security measures have so far been taken that would enable the media to
resume operating in the valley.

"The humanitarian crisis is likely to persist so these funds must be seen
as just a first step paving the way for massive support for these
journalists, whose flight has left Swat Valley without media coverage,"
said RSF.

RSF has sent 5,000 Euros (US$6,800) in emergency funds that the Khyber
Union of Journalists will distribute to help meet housing, food and medical
care for journalists and their families.

To make a donation, contact RSF correspondent, Iqbal Khattak, at: khattak63

Related stories on
- Journalists flee Swat Valley:

More on the web:
- Emergency funds for journalists who have had to flee Swat valley fighting



A Cuban journalist has been sentenced to three years in jail on charges of
"disrespect for authority," report the Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ), the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), the
Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Reporters Without Borders

Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, director for the independent news
agency Habana Press, was arrested on 18 April just outside of Havana while
he was visiting relatives. The police claimed Du Bouchet Hernández was
shouting anti-government slogans in the street.

According to news reports, he was allegedly denied a fair trial, including
access to a lawyer. It is unclear if he is also facing charges for
distributing enemy propaganda.

Miriam Herrera, an independent journalist based in Havana who has spoken to
Du Bouchet Hernández since he's been jailed, told CPJ she believed he was
imprisoned in reprisal for his work - he had recently reported on social

The IFEX members are asking the Cuban government to make public the reasons
for Du Bouchet's arrest and imprisonment, and, if he is being charged for
the non-violent expression of his views, to release him.

Du Bouchet Hernández has previously been jailed on "disrespect"
("desacato") charges, say the members. He was arrested in August 2005 a few
months after covering the congress of the Assembly to Promote Civil
Society. The two-day gathering, unprecedented in Cuba, brought together 200
opposition activists and guests to discuss ways to create democracy in
Cuba. Du Bouchet Hernández was released in August 2006 after serving a
one-year sentence.

Du Bouchet has appealed his sentence but it is unlikely he will succeed.
According to WiPC, of the many writers, journalists and librarians
imprisoned during the "Black Spring" crackdown in April 2003 who appealed
their sentences, none were successful.

According to CPJ, 21 independent reporters and editors are currently jailed
in Cuba, which is the second-worst jailer of journalists in the world after

Related stories on
- Independent journalist sentenced to three years in prison:



Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taken from her home last week
and put in Insein Prison on a charge of breaching the conditions of her
house arrest order. ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch are demanding that
the international community pressure the Burmese military government not to
continue Suu Kyi's 13-year detention.

Suu Kyi went on trial on 18 May for violating the conditions of her house
arrest by sheltering U.S. citizen John William Yettaw, who swam to her
lakeside home to secretly visit her earlier this month. In a surprise move,
on 20 May the junta allowed journalists and the public to cover her trial,
reports the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA).

"China, India, and the ASEAN members, through their indifference and
ineffectiveness, each bears responsibility for the bricks and mortar of
Aung San Suu Kyi's prison," said ARTICLE 19. ASEAN has since expressed
"grave concern" at Suu Kyi's trial, but the chair of the regional group,
Thailand, ruled out sanctions.

Burmese law states that it is mandatory to notify the military authorities
about any overnight visitor, and foreigners are not allowed to spend the
night in a Burmese home. Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison under the
State Protection Act, which is frequently used to imprison other
pro-democracy activists.

Yettaw is being tried separately for violations of immigration law and a
statute covering swimming in the city's Inya Lake.

"The Burmese military government is blaming a prisoner for somebody
breaking into a prison," said ARTICLE 19. "This would be laughable if it
was not so unbelievably sad."

Coincidentally, Suu Kyi's appeal against her imprisonment was rejected
earlier this month, even though she was scheduled to be freed on 27 May.
The junta was widely expected to extend her detention yet again. The UN has
declared that her imprisonment is illegal under international law and even
under Burma's own legal code, which allows for a maximum of five-years in

The latest charges are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep
Suu Kyi detained past elections it has scheduled for early next year. Suu
Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy, has announced
that representatives will not take part in the 2010 elections if Suu Kyi
and other political prisoners are not freed.

ARTICLE 19 is also urging interested stakeholders to write to the editors
of India's most popular newspapers asking them to call attention to their
government's role in propping up the illegitimate Burmese regime. For
addresses, see:

In the wake of Suu Kyi's re-imprisonment, the junta has stepped up its
restrictions on Internet usage, making it more difficult for Burmese to
send emails or access websites, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The increase restrictions "suggest that the military government is once
again trying to isolate Burma, as it does whenever there is political
tension," said RSF.

Then on 15 May, journalists working for various Rangoon-based publications
complained about their inability to cover Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest because
of government censorship, according to the online exile publication

In a separate case, two U.S. journalists who were teaching students in
Mandalay were arrested on 6 May and deported to Bangkok the following day,
reports Mizzima News. Jerry Redfern and Karen Coates believe their case
could be the fallout from the recent actions of fellow U.S. citizen Yettaw,
whom they do not know.

Related stories on
- Aung San Suu Kyi facing trial and incarceration in Insein prison:
- Military government imposes new restrictions on Internet usage (RSF):
- Two American journalists deported (Mizzima News):

More on the web:
- Free Aung San Suu Kyi petition (

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brazil: Supreme Court Strikes Down Press Law

Brazil: Supreme Court Strikes Down Press Law

On 30 April 2009, the Brazilian Supreme Court held that the 1967 Press Law, adopted by a military government, was void as it breached the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. This important victory should be followed up by the adoption of legislation on privacy and defamation which respects constitutional and international guarantees of freedom of expression.

The Press Law was originally passed in 1967, during a period of dictatorship, and it was historically used to silence and manipulate the press. The Law authorised a number of abusive measures against journalists and media outlets, such as the seizure of newspapers without a judicial order, the banning of newspapers and magazines, and censorship.

The Press Law also regulated civil defamation and the right of reply. The Criminal Code and electoral legislation continue to provide for criminal defamation, but there is no longer a specific legal framework for civil defamation and the right of reply. Research by ARTICLE 19 suggests that this legal gap is likely to create serious legal insecurity, in particular since no clear standards apply to the question of damages for defamation, which will be now at the sole discretion of individual judges.

ARTICLE 19 participated in the Supreme Court challenge by filing an amicus curiae with the Court. In its brief, ARTICLE 19 argued that the Press Law criminalised the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right. Our brief demonstrated that criminal defamation rules were applied abusively to convict journalists and human rights defenders, including when reporting on human rights violations and corruption.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the revocation of the outdated and repressive Press Law. At the same time, we call for social consultations leading to the adoption of new laws on defamation and privacy which are consistent with international and constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, as well as other rights. In particular, we call for defamation to be addressed exclusively as a civil matter. We also call on the judiciary to ensure that their decisions are consistent with international and constitutional standards, particularly in the absence of a clear legal framework in these areas.


• For more information: please contact Paula Martins,, +55 11 3057 0042

Burma: Military Regime Rejects Aung San Suu Kyi Appeal

Burma: Military Regime Rejects Aung San Suu Kyi Appeal

ARTICLE 19 is dismayed and deeply saddened to learn that the appeal for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi has been rejected yet again by her captors. The governments that continue to support the Burmese authorities, particularly China, India, and the ASEAN members, through their indifference and ineffectiveness, each bears responsibility for the bricks and mortar of Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison” said Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

Nobel Peace Prize winning Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention, submitted in October 2008 an appeal to be released, via her lawyer Kyi Win.

According to Kyi Win’s assistant, Hla Myo Myint, the military regime summoned the lawyer to a meeting and told Hla that the appeal would be rejected.

The Burmese military regime imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi under legislation that will run out on 27 May 2009. But with non-free elections due to be held in early 2010, the regime is trying to block Aung San Suu Kyi, the landslide winner of the last elections, from taking part.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, has also announced that they will not take part in the 2010 elections if Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are not freed.


• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, +44 20 7278 9292

Yemen: Seven Newspapers Confiscated and One Daily’s Office Under Siege

Yemen: Seven Newspapers Confiscated and One Daily’s Office Under Siege; ARTICLE 19 and HOOD Declare High Alert for the Media in Yemen

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Yemeni government to immediately lift all forms of censorship on the media and return confiscated newspapers.

Between 4 and 5 May, Yemeni authorities confiscated from the market copies of seven independent newspapers, including Al Diyar, Al Share’, Al Masdar, Al Nida’, Al Mustaqilla, Al Watani and Al Ayyam. According to an official government statement, the newspapers had published material “harmful to the national unity”.

In addition to confiscating copies of independent daily Al Ayyam, the Yemeni authorities also detained Al Ayyam employees and imposed a siege on its offices. On 6 May, the government had shut down Al Ayyam website and prevented all access to it. The authorities were allegedly annoyed with Al Ayyam’s coverage of events in the south.

Such measures are unjustified and constitute a dramatic blow to media freedom in Yemen” said Dr. Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “ARTICLE 19 and HOOD call upon the Yemeni Authorities to put an immediate stop to these intimidating tactics against journalists and newspapers, and return the confiscated newspapers copies immediately.

The Ministry of Information has ordered Al Ayyam not to go to print until further notice. Al Ayyam had been under strenuous pressure lately for not following the official line. Lawsuits have been filed against its staff, and authorities have repeatedly confiscated and burned its copies as well as harassed the paper’s distribution drivers. The authorities have been said to be unhappy with the publication of photos of clashes between government forces and opposition groups in the south.

The article that broke the camel’s back was an op-ed by Munir Almaweri published in Al Masdar weekly. It called on Yemenis in the north to show solidarity with their brethren in the south who are disgruntled and marginalised by a high rate of unemployment and poverty, and to demonstrate against the regime’s policies. The piece, which appeared on the confiscated issue of Al Madar on 5 May, called on the president to step down so as to foster unity between north and south.

According to Arafat Mudabish, chief editor of the leading Al Tagheer news website, leading journalists and activists in Yemen have regarded the confiscation measure and harassment tactics against all media as an “unprecedented massacre” that has damaged journalism in Yemen. Journalists in Yemen are systematically under attack, and newspapers suffer from government harassment and extreme measures, he said.

There has been unrest in the impoverished country for a few years now, especially in the south where certain groups feel they are marginalised. Tension mounted in recent months and escalated at times into armed clashes between opposition protesters and government forces.


• For more information: please contact Sa’eda Kilani, ARTICLE 19 MENA Programme Manager, sa’ or Oliver Spencer, at: +44-207278 9292

Serious Concerns over Assault on Political Cartoonist

A prominent political cartoonist, Mario Robles, of the newspaper Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca in western Mexico was violently assaulted and subjected to death threats by members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) on 19 April.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, Robles reported that he was set upon by Indalesio Cruz Alcázar, and his son Isalesis Cruz, both of whom are campaigning for the PRI in Roble’s neighborhood in the upcoming July elections. The men approached him and began kicking him repeatedly, leaving him with a number of visible wounds. They told him that he needed to modify his cartoons, and threatened to kill both him and his family.

According to reports following a press conference held later that evening, it is not the first time that these particular individuals have attacked local people due to their political affiliations.

In his thirty-year careers as a cartoonist in Mexico, Robles has won the state journalistic award on six separate occasions, and is considered a prominent political commentator in the region.

Roble reported the attack to the Department of Justice of the State of Oaxaca but has received no offer of protection from them. Until now, the matter has gone no further.

There have been a number of problems in recent years for both journalists and human rights defenders in this Oaxaca. Both the men named in the attack on Robles are campaigning for the PRI, which has been in power in the state for over seventy-five years.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that this sort of attack constitutes censorship of political commentary – it negatively impacts the individual involved but also denies citizens the opportunity to receive information. Access to information and political comment is fundamental to any functioning democracy, particularly during elections.

“Cartoons serve a particular purpose in terms of political commentary,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “They are particularly influential because an image can often be more effective in making an impression than words. This is therefore a unique but particularly relevant form of social commentary that needs to be protected under the right to freedom of expression.”

Mario Robles has suffered a violation to his human right to freedom of expression. The Mexican government is obliged, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. ARTICLE19 calls upon the Mexican State and particularly the authorities of the State of Oaxaca to investigate all acts of violence, intimidation or harassment directed against the media, particularly where there is reason to believe that the act was motivated by the intention to interfere with media freedom, and to ensure that those responsible for such acts are brought to justice.

ARTICLE19 is also concerned about outbreaks of violence that reflect a lack of political tolerance in the state of Oaxaca in view of upcoming elections.

ARTICLE19 calls on the PRI to ensure, particularly in this sensitive period in the run-up to elections, that all of its members are under the direct control of the party, and that intimidation of this sort is not allowed to take place.


• For more information, please contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico, at, + 55 11 30 57 00 42

Protect Freedom of Expression on World Press Freedom Day

As the global media and human rights communities mark the event of World Press Freedom Day, ARTICLE 19 calls attention to the ongoing need to ensure that freedom of expression is safeguarded and enhanced in all parts of the world.

The theme for UNESCO World Press Freedom Day 2009 is “Fostering Dialogue”. In line with this topic, ARTICLE 19 continues to fulfil its core mandate by working closely with partners from the media and civil society to promote the right to freedom of expression in various parts of the world.

Camden Principles

ARTICLE 19 launched the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, a ground-breaking document that will guide legislators, policy-makers and civil society in balancing the mutually enforcing rights to freedom of expression and equality. A key principle of the document is to “promote dialogue among different communities” and addresses a number of global requirements for media diversity.


In April, ARTICLE 19 East Africa co-ordinated a gathering of media professionals, human rights defenders, academic and community representatives in Kenya which developed the Machakos Declaration on Freedom of Expression. This document affirms the fundamental principles of free expression enshrined in international human rights frameworks and recognises that freedom of expression is crucial for democratic reform, good governance and poverty reduction.

This comes at an important time for Kenya, where an uneasy coalition government is in office after the post-election violence in 2007. The Machakos meeting recognised that not all elements of the media had reported the elections and subsequent violence objectively; indeed some segments had worsened the situation through biased and unprofessional reporting. It is critical for the democratic future of Kenya that the media is given the freedom to report independently on societal events, and that it also acts responsibly to provide balanced and fair reporting.

There is an ongoing constitutional review process and ARTICLE 19 is actively working with partners to ensure reform of existing freedom of information legislation and broadcasting legislation, in order to provide a more enabling framework for the media.


ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh will launch a new handbook on the Right to Information, in question-and-answer format, for the media and legal sectors in Bangladesh on World Press Freedom Day. This forms part of the organisation’s continued work in this country to promote freedom of information and strengthen the ability of the media to report on issues of importance.

At the event on Sunday 3 May, ARTICLE 19 will also present awards to a group of women journalists, drawn from grassroots and community media structures, who have recently undergone a fellowship programme through ARTICLE 19. This programme is helping to promote diversity in the media and empower locally-based journalists to better report stories within their own communities and in the national press.


ARTICLE 19 is using the launch of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership on 7 May to cast a spotlight on continued human rights abuses, including the intimidation and censorship of dissenting voices, and repression of the media. The Eastern Partnership is an initiative promoting good governance, free trade and economic development between the EU and six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. One of the stated shared values of the Eastern Partnership is a commitment to human rights and the rule of law. ARTICLE 19 has been documenting cases of abuse, harassment and violence against media workers and also calls for legal reform of media and broadcasting legislation to protect freedom of expression in each of these countries.

Latin America

Throughout 2009 ARTICLE 19 Mexico is running a campaign to protect journalists titled “What you don’t know can hurt you”. Part of the campaign will this year include an international seminar bringing together different stakeholders to discuss how best to document and raise alerts on abuses against journalists and to publish a “Protocol to Monitor, Document and Follow up on Aggressions against Journalists” for Mexico. A website together with television and radio spots are also being launched to widen understanding of the situation and identify the best way to support a free press.

Middle East

From 5-7 May ARTICLE 19 will host a training programme in Yemen on international human rights law and international best practice standards on both the right to freedom of expression and the right to information. The training course will aim to provide a group of 25-30 key stakeholders, in particular journalists and other media professionals and NGO activists, with an understanding of the main implications of the right to freedom of expression and the right to information as protected under international law. The initiative aims to empower participants with the ability to advocate for and exercise their own right to freedom of expression in the Yemeni context.


• The Camden Principles was drafted by ARTICLE 19, with the participation of a high-level group of UN officials and representatives from other intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and academic experts, following two meetings in London on 11 December 2008 and 23-24 February 2009.
• “What you don’t know can hurt you” can be visited at
• For more information: please contact Nicola Spurr, Senior Press Officer at +44 772 686 7868 or