Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Irina Gueorguieva Bokova chosen for the post of Director-General

Irina Gueorguieva Bokova chosen by UNESCO Executive Board as candidate to the post of Director-General

Paris, 22 September

The 58 members of UNESCO’s Executive Board on 22 September designated Irina Gueorguieva Bokova (Bulgaria) as candidate to the post of Director-General. On 15 October, the nomination will be submitted to the approval of the General Conference, which brings together representatives of the Organization’s 193 Member States. Once confirmed, she will be the first woman Director-General of the Organization.

  • © UNESCO/Michel Ravassard

The 58 members of UNESCO’s Executive Board on 22 September designated Irina Gueorguieva Bokova (Bulgaria) as candidate to the post of Director-General. On 15 October, the nomination will be submitted to the approval of the General Conference, which brings together representatives of the Organization’s 193 Member States. Once confirmed, she will be the first woman Director-General of the Organization.

At the end of the fifth round of voting, the Chairman of the Executive Board, Ambassador Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï (Benin), announced the outcome of the vote. “Irina Bokova, the candidate presented by Bulgaria, was designated by the Executive Board with the majority of the ballots.” Her candidacy obtained 31 ballots.

Born in Sofia in 1952, Irina Gueorguieva Bokova is the Ambassador of Bulgaria to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. A career diplomat and politician, she studied at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and at the School of Public Affairs of the University of Maryland (USA). She served as deputy minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-97) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1996-97). In 1996, as candidate to the post of Vice President of Bulgaria, she advocated her country’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

  • Source:Press release No. 2009-102
  • 23-09-2009


From left to right:

  1. Nouréini TIDJANI-SERPOS (Benin)
  2. Farouk HOSNY (Egypt)
  3. Benita FERRERO-WALDNER (Austria)
  4. Ina MARČIULIONYTĖ (Lithuania)
  5. The Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Ambassador Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï (Benin)
  6. Ivonne JUEZ de A. BAKI (Ecuador)
  7. Mohammed BEDJAOUI (Algeria)
  8. Irina Gueorguieva BOKOVA (Bulgarie)
  9. Alexander Vladimirovich YAKOVENKO (Russian Federation)
  10. Sospeter Mwijarubi MUHONGO (United Republic of Tanzania)

The UNESCO website has confirmed that Irina Bokova has won the Executive Board election to be Director General of UNESCO.

I have three independent unofficial reports from reliable sources that Irina Bokova received 31 votes to 27 votes for Farouk Hosny in the fifth round of voting for the position of UNESCO Director General. Having received the majority of votes from the 58 members of the Executive Board, her name will be forwarded to the General Conference.



Negotiations to select the next Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) underway in France must deeply consider free speech and press freedom values of candidates, report Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and other IFEX members. But according to
RSF and ANHRI, the Egyptian candidate has been a key player for decades in government censorship, press freedom violations and arrest of bloggers.

The nine candidates being considered are: Ms Ina Marčiulionytė (Lithuania); Mr Mohammed Bedjaoui (Algeria); Ms Irina Gueorguieva Bokova (Bulgaria); Mr Farouk Hosni (Egypt); Mr Sospeter Mwijarubi Muhongo (United Republic of Tanzania); Mr Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko (Russian Federation); Ms Ivonne Juez de A. Baki (Ecuador); Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Austria); and Mr Nouréini Tidjani-Serpos (Benin).

News reports say Hosni, Minister of Culture for over twenty years, is the frontrunner. According to RSF, "Hosni has been one of the leading protagonists of government censorship in the Arab Republic of Egypt... constantly seeking to control both press freedom and his fellow citizens'
right to freedom of information."

Yet, "UNESCO's mandate includes promoting free expression and press freedom as basic human rights, encouraging media independence and diversity as preconditions for democratisation, and supporting the free flow of information, including on the Internet," says RSF.

The Egyptian government owns 99 percent of the country's newspaper retail outlets and has a monopoly of newspaper printing, and there are risks to being outspoken. "A total of 32 articles in different laws - including the criminal code, the press law, the publications law, etc. - stipulate
penalties for the media," reports RSF. There is tight regulation of Internet use and violations are punishable by imprisonment, says RSF.

RSF then met in Paris last week with Hosni, saying he voiced a "determination to defend the freedom of the media" and "to reinforce UNESCO's actions in this domain" if he were elected. RSF relayed its concern about free expression in Egypt and, in particular, the continuing
detention of two bloggers.

An opinion piece in "The Wall Street Journal" states that Hosni is unsuitable to lead UNESCO: "One can only imagine the peace in the minds of thousands of Egyptian writers, bloggers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, lecturers, broadcasters and other culture-purveyors who have been tortured, harassed, imprisoned or banned in Egypt since Mr. Hosni took office in 1987."

The Egyptian media and blogosphere have been alive with the debate. "The Daily News Egypt" writes, "The concerns over Farouk Hosni's potential ineligibility for the position of Director of UNESCO have arisen due to his anti-Semitic statements and suspicions of corruption." Hosni famously stated to parliament in May 2008 that "he would burn any Israeli books if
he found them in Egyptian libraries."

In an open letter to UNESCO published in June, members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations lauded the vital contributions of the outgoing UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura for "consolidating UNESCO as a force for freedom of expression and to furthering free speech and press freedom values." The letter was signed by five IFEX members: World Press Freedom Committee, Committee to Protect Journalists, Inter
American Press Association, the International Press Institute, and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

The Coordinating Committee members called upon UNESCO member-states to focus on a commitment to freedom of expression as the core criteria in considering the choice of the next Director-General. This includes a commitment to fostering independent news media, selecting independent journalists widely respected by their colleagues as members of the Jury for
UNESCO's annual World Press Freedom Prize, and speaking out publicly against assassinations of news media personnel and policies that obstruct the work of the news media.

Other IFEX members are sending letters of concern to Board members.

Representatives from 58 nations who make up UNESCO's Executive Board begin voting on 17 September. If a candidate does not win a simple majority, there will be up to five rounds of voting that will finish on 23 September 2009. Following this decision, a final vote will be taken by all members of the UNESCO General Conference in October.

Related stories on - UNESCO urged to continue defending freedom of expression worldwide

More on the web: - Farouk Hosni responds to Reporters Without Borders (RSF):
- Save UNESCO:
- Election of new UNESCO Director General (UNESCO):
- The U.N.'s new censor (The Wall Street Journal):
- Le Monde keeps pressure on UNESCO (Daily News):



A number of journalists from Hong Kong are among those who have been brutally assaulted and harassed in mainland China in the last two weeks as authorities continue to control independent coverage of ethnic violence as well as local crime, report the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Three accredited Hong Kong TV journalists covering protests in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, on 4 September were "kicked, punched, shoved to the ground, handcuffed by police and detained for about three hours" reports HKJA. TVB reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman Lau Wing-chuen, and Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai were trying to get away from tear gas and were forced to remain lying on the ground, their hands tied for 20 minutes, says RSF. Tsz-Ho told RSF the police beat them with batons and confiscated the video they had recorded.

Five other Hong Kong reporters were briefly arrested in Urumqi the same day, says RSF, and the police seized the equipment of an Associated Press Television News crew, barring them from filming protests. The equipment was returned five hours later.

News reports say thousands of Han Chinese took to the streets in early September in the city of Urumqi to protest a series of syringe attacks blamed on the province's Uighur Muslims. Both Han Chinese and Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim, minority ethnic group, are responsible for killing members of the other ethnic group. Devastating violence that broke out in July points to problems with China's policies towards minorities; at least 184 people were killed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of journalists protested in Hong Kong on 13 September, over the brutality faced by colleagues in China, news reports say. They called on authorities in Xinjiang and Beijing to end media repression. The Xinjiang government has blamed the journalists for inciting unrest.

Mak Yin-ting, chairwoman of HKJA, told "Agence France-Presse" (AFP) that media workers were angry over the "outrageous and blatantly false" allegations against the journalists.

"This is a violent trampling on press freedom," she told AFP."It is not a single incident. Even last year, lots of our journalists were beaten while reporting in China. The situation is getting worse now."

Meanwhile, two Beijing-based reporters employed by Hong Kong media outlets were detained in a hotel in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, on 12 August blocking them from covering the trial of a blogger, Tan Zuoren, according to RSF. Another journalist Liu Manyuan was hospitalised after being viciously beaten by security guards in the industrial city of Dongguan (in the south eastern province of Guangdong) on 31 August. In an interview with a Guangzhou TV station, Liu said he was about to take photos at a murder scene when he was ordered to leave by uniformed guards acting on orders from a superior. They then attacked him.

"The authorities will be hard put to rein in the disturbing rise in cases of violence against the press unless those responsible are dealt with in a firm but proportionate manner," RSF said. "The climate of social and ethnic tension in Xinjiang and the rest of the country do not justify such attacks, which seem to be acts of censorship, targeting investigative journalists above all. The excuses of the local authorities are clearly not sufficient."

Related stories on - Journalists physically attacked, harassed in Xinjiang and Guangdong provinces:

More on the web: - HK journalists protest against beatings of reporters (AFP):
- Our Declaration for the Protest march on Liaison Office on 13 Sept 2009



Bloggers and journalists in Vietnam continue to be arrested for writing critically about Vietnam's policies toward China, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). China and Vietnam, where flourishing blogging cultures have encountered severe monitoring and restriction, are among Asia's worst nations for persecuting bloggers, reports CPJ.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger who writes under the pen name Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom, was arrested on August 28 by police officials who stormed her house at around midnight, the Free Journalists Network of Vietnam (FJNV), an independent press freedom group, told CPJ.

According to news reports, she agreed to stop blogging as a condition of her release. "It's time for me to put an end to this blog,'' Quynh said in a handwritten statement posted on her website after her release on 13
September. ''I was wrong and I am responsible for what I did.''
Recently, she had blogged about a controversial bauxite mining project led by Chinese investors in the country's Central Highlands region and territorial disputes with China over the Paracel and Spratly islands, says

According to RSF, Quynh was arrested for the same reason as Bui Thanh Hieu, the blogger arrested on 27 August, and Pham Doan Trang, the online journalist arrested on 28 August. They were all arrested due to the
Communist Party's desire to suppress all criticism of its relations with China in the run-up to the 2011 congress, at which the country's top posts will be decided. Hieu and Trang have been released.

Trang edits "Tuan Vietnam," an online weekly that is a part of "Vietnamnet," the country's most popular news website, says RSF. In her articles, she has criticised China's role during Vietnam's partition in
1954 and refuted China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Hieu also wrote about the bauxite mining project and the criticism it has received because of the threat it poses to the environment, says RSF. He has been on the radar of the state and questioned many times about his
political activities since taking part in an "anti-Chinese" demonstration last year.

"We deplore the arrests of one blogger after another and the systematic suppression of online free speech," RSF said. "The Vietnamese authorities are so sensitive about relations with China that one wonders what role the
Chinese government is playing in this crackdown on bloggers writing about China and Vietnam."

A third blogger who wrote under the pen-name "Sphinx" was detained by authorities on August 29 and released four days later, reports CPJ.According to FJNV, he was subjected to sleep deprivation during
interrogations over his posts that also touched on Vietnam-China relations, including the bauxite mining project and territorial disputes.

The government announced in August that it would prosecute some or all of the 27 democracy activists arrested in recent months, says RSF. Vietnam was ranked 168th out of 173 countries in the 2008 RSF press freedom index. In 2008, CPJ found that bloggers and other online journalists were the single largest professional group in prison, more than print and broadcast journalists for the first time.

Related stories on
- Another blogger detained in Vietnam; three others released:

More on the web:
- Freed Vietnamese blogger agrees to stop writing (The New York Times):
- Another Vietnamese blogger released by police (SEAPA):



A spasm of violence shook Uganda last week in a power struggle between the government and the Buganda kingdom. State-run Uganda Broadcasting Council shut down radio stations on 11 September, ordering a halt to political debate and commentary on clashes in the capital, Kampala, according to the Media Institute (MI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other IFEX members.

News reports say tensions over land and power between President Yoweri Museveni's government and Buganda, one of the East African country's four historical kingdoms, boiled over on 12 September. Police blocked the Buganda monarch, known as the Kabaka, from visiting a flashpoint town east of the capital on territory claimed by his kingdom. Along with rumours of arrests of Buganda leaders, it was a catalyst for riots in Kampala and several central towns. Local media say at least 21 people died and over 500 were arrested. Tensions have been building between the kingdom and the government since President Museveni refused to grant Buganda semi-autonomous status through federalism five years ago, says MI.

Daniel Kalinaki, managing editor of Uganda's independent "Daily Monitor" newspaper told "Reuters" that the government was caught off guard by the protests, and shut down the Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) to cut the link between the kingdom's leaders and rank-and-file members on the streets. "Without a coherent message from the centre, the rioting became localised and criminalised as gangs ... took to indiscriminate violence and
looting, quickly turning many of the people who would otherwise support the visit into its victims."

"The government banned live radio debate programmes known as "ebimeeza" on the grounds that radio stations were unable to control their content, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Council agents backed by soldiers seized transmitting equipment, crippling CBS, reported CPJ. Council technicians and soldiers also raided Radio Sapientia, a Catholic-run station and Suubi, a commercial, youth-oriented station. Radio Two Akaboozi Kubiri was also suspended. Information minister Kabakumba Matsiko accused the stations of inciting riots, says RSF.

"The closure of CBS is a big blow to the independent media in the country, which is hurtling towards general elections in 2011," says MI. "It is the only radio that had withstood state intimidation largely because it enjoyed
the special status of being owned by the Buganda Kingdom."

A widely respected journalist, filmmaker and talk-show host of Radio One's "Spectrum," Kalundi Sserumaga, was abducted outside WBS Television on 11 September after criticising Museveni in a television debate, says RSF and the International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC).

The WiPC reported on 14 September that Sserumaga had been transferred to a hospital to receive treatment for injuries he sustained as a result of severe police beatings. He told reporters he expected to stay in hospital
for at least a day, but that he would be returned to police detention. Human Rights Watch reports that on 15 September he was charged with six counts of sedition and released on bail.

"The government is employing sweeping measures and making broad assertions to crack down on critical media," CPJ said. "They're not fooling anyone."

IFEX members are preparing a joint letter to President Museveni condemning recent attacks on the media and calling for the government to uphold freedom of expression rights, which is being released on 17 September.

Related stories on
- Four radio stations closed; talk-show host detained for "inciting riots":

More on the web:
- Riots point to more turmoil before Uganda poll (Reuters):
- End media clampdown (Human Rights Watch):

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality

September 2009

Asian Launch of ARTICLE 19’s Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality

ARTICLE 19 and Allansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) jointly hosted a regional launch of the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality in Jakarta, Indonesia today. The Principles are founded on the understanding that freedom of expression and equality are mutually supporting and foundational human rights. They describe the various ways in which these key rights reinforce each other, and also address potential tensions between the rights, particularly in the area of hate speech. Today’s Asia launch of the Principles aims to raise the profile of the Principles in one the largest and most diverse continent in the world.

Speakers at the Asian launch of the Principles included Bambang Harymurti, Corporate Chief Editor of Tempo magazine, Augus Sudibyo, Deputy Director of the SET Foundation and Coordinator of the Indonesian Coalition for Freedom of Information, and Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel for ARTICLE 19. Harymurti and Mendel participated in meetings to develop the Principles. The speakers outlined the main standards contained in the Principles and highlighted their relevance in Indonesia, and the region, which faces challenges in realising both freedom of expression and equality.

The Principles outline, among other things:
  • An overview of the key international standards regarding freedom of expression and equality
  • Aspects of the right to be heard and to speak, including through the promotion of diversity in the media
  • The need for legal and social measures to promote intercultural understanding
  • The legitimate scope of restrictions on harmful speech, including hate speech.

ARTICLE 19 and AJI call on States in Asia, as well as social actors such as the media, politicians and civil society organisations, to take steps to implement the standards set out in the Principles, as well as to promote their widespread dissemination and acceptance.


• The Camden Principles are available in English at:
and in Indonesian at:
• For more information please contact: Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel,, +1 902 431-3688 or Nezar Patria, President, AJI,, +62 811829135.
• Allansi Jurnalis Independen (Alliance of Independent Journalists) is an independent journalists’ association that works to promote and defend the rights of journalists, including their right to freedom of expression.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Proposed Electoral Law Restricts Internet Freedom

For immediate release – 14 September 2009

Brazil: Proposed Electoral Law Restricts Internet Freedom

Proposed reform of the Brazilian electoral rules, part of broader reforms in this area being debated by the Senate, would subject internet media to the same rules as traditional broadcasters during electoral campaigns. ARTICLE 19 calls on Brazilian legislators to respect freedom of the internet by rejecting these proposals.

The proposed amendment to Law 9.054/1997, which regulates electoral campaigns, were put forward by Senator Eduardo Azeredo. The proposals would prohibit internet providers and the websites of media outlets, during a three-month period prior to an election, from focusing on a specific candidate unless there is a “journalistic reason” for doing so. Instead, these outlets would have to guarantee the presence of at least two-thirds of the candidates in any video or audio coverage of the elections. Furthermore, only presidential candidates would be allowed to publish paid advertising on the Internet. Breach of these rules could lead to a fine of R$5,000 to R$30,000 (USD2,700 to 16,300).

Blogs, personal websites and social networks would not be subject to these rules and would be allowed to publish information about candidates, although not anonymously. National elections in Brazil will take place in October 2010. The new electoral law needs to be approved by 2 October 2009 to be applied during the next elections.

These rules unduly restrict freedom of expression on the internet, which should not be treated in a similar manner to a broadcaster due to very important differences between these two mediums. The Internet has played an important role in elections in many countries, as demonstrated effectively by the Obama presidential campaign.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Brazilian Congress to respect freedom of the internet, especially considering the importance of a public debate during electoral campaigns, by rejecting these proposed amendments to the electoral law.


• For more information please contact: Mila Molina,, +55 11 3057 0042

ARTICLE 19 Provides Analysis of Broadcasting Law

For immediate release – 11 September 2009

Montenegro: ARTICLE 19 Provides Analysis of Broadcasting Law

ARTICLE 19 has produced a Note analysing the Montenegrin draft Law on Electronic Media. The Note recognises that the draft Law has a number of positive features, but also highlights some shortcomings, including the lack of clarity as to where responsibility for licensing broadcasters lies, along with the fact that broadcasters are required to go through two licensing processes.

The draft Law on Electronic Media is part of a series of legal and other reforms in the area of telecommunications and broadcasting regulation in Montenegro, some of which have been the subject of earlier ARTICLE 19 analyses.

The Note highlights, among others, the following concerns with the draft Law:

The lack of clarity as to responsibility for licensing broadcasters as between the broadcast regulator established by the draft Law and the telecommunications regulator

The failure of the law to set out clear criteria for allocating licences

The failure of the law to recognise community broadcasting

Inadequate provisions in the law on how the system of complaints it envisages would work in practice

The independence of the proposed regulator could be improved by not providing for one member to be nominated by a minister and through more robust sources of funding

The system of sanctions unduly promotes the most extreme sanction – licence revocation – at the expense of a more graduated approach to sanctions.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Montenegrin authorities to ensure that the law that is ultimately adopted is in line with international standards in this area.


• The Submission is available at:
• The draft law is available at:
• For more information please contact: Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel,, +1 902 431-3688.
• ARTICLE 19 prepared an analysis of draft amendments to the Law on Public Service Broadcasting in September 2008, available at:

Afghanistan: ARTICLE 19 Calls for Investigation into Journalist’s Death

15 September 2009

Afghanistan: ARTICLE 19 Calls for Investigation into Journalist’s Death

ARTICLE 19 calls for an immediate investigation into the death of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi. He was shot dead on 9 September during an armed raid by British-led NATO forces to rescue him and British journalist Steven Farrell.

Sultan Munadi and Steven Farrell had been kidnapped and held captive by the Taliban in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz since 5 September. At the time, Sultan Munadi had been working as a fixer and interpreter for Farrell, who was investigating the NATO air attack on two fuel tankers which had been hijacked by Taliban militants. Media reports suggested that the air strike had killed many people, including many civilians.

At dawn on 9 September, British-led NATO forces raided the place where Taliban militants were holding Farrell and Munadi. Although Steven Farrell was rescued, Sultan Munadi was killed in the gunfire. One British NATO soldier and two civilians were also killed.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the rescue of Steven Farrell and supports the decision of journalists like him to undertake such investigations, which are clearly in the public interest, provided they are confident about their personal safety and that of their local colleagues. However, ARTICLE 19 is profoundly saddened by Sultan Munadi’s death, which raises serious questions about the safety of Afghan journalists employed by foreign media organisations in Afghanistan and the extent to which international forces are committed to protecting their right to life. ARTICLE 19 emphasises the importance of finding out how Sultan Munadi was killed during the rescue raid not only for his family but also because a lack of credible information and accountability may lead to rumours, misrepresentation and further mistrust of international forces in Afghanistan. This may exacerbate tensions and fuel the armed conflict.

ARTICLE 19 emphasises that NATO-led forces and the Afghan government must respect international human rights law by inter alia ensuring protection against arbitrary killings. Possible violations of the right to life in Afghanistan that involve NATO-led forces need to be investigated under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. ARTICLE 19 also reminds states contributing to the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan that they should comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law related to the protection of civilians,, including journalists and other media professionals.

In particular, ARTICLE 19 emphasises the obligations upon states to respect and ensure respect for Article 79 of the Additional Protocol I, regarding the protection of journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict. We also call attention to UN Security Council Resolution 1738 on attacks against journalists in conflict situations. The latter emphasises “the responsibility of States to comply with the relevant obligations under international law to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

ARTICLE 19 also recalls the UNESCO Charter for the Safety of Journalists Working in War Zones or Dangerous Areas which states that “isks to be taken by staff or freelance journalists, their assistants, local employees and support personnel require adequate preparation, information, insurance and equipment” and that “ditors should beware of exerting any kind of pressure on special correspondents to take additional risks.”


ARTICLE 19 urges the NATO-led forces and the Afghan government to:
• Ensure that the killing of Sultan Munadi is promptly and thoroughly investigated, and if a violation of applicable international human rights law and/or humanitarian law is found as a result, that the responsible parties are made accountable
• Exercise due diligence and protect the human rights of everyone under their jurisdiction, in particular both Afghan and non-Afghan journalists, including their rights to life, liberty and security of person, and freedom of expression
• Ensure that all attacks against journalists, as well as other abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, are promptly and thoroughly investigated and that those suspected of carrying out or ordering such actions, as well as those organising or assisting in such actions, are brought to justice, according to procedures that meet international standards of due process
• Ensure that all operations by NATO-led forces against armed groups, such as the Taliban, comply with applicable international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular the prohibition on attacks against civilians and other non-combatants (including journalists), indiscriminate attacks, torture and ill-treatment, excessive use of force and arbitrary detention.

ARTICLE 19 urges media organisations operating in Afghanistan to:
• Properly train their journalists and media professionals operating in Afghanistan – whether they are international, local or freelance – in safety procedures in situations of armed conflict
• Ensure that these journalists and media professionals have adequate insurance cover for illness, injury and death
• Support the establishment of a solidarity fund to compensate the families of journalists who have been killed whilst practicing their profession in Afghanistan, where insurance is insufficient or non-existent.

ARTICLE calls on The New York Times to:
• Ensure that Sultan Munadi’s family receives all necessary financial support for their loss and the damage suffered as a result of Munadi’s death. Such support must take into account the drastic loss of income resulting from his death and the material well-being of the family, including education of his children.


• For more information please contact: Dr Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, +44 20 7324 2500

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

KENYA: Kenyan PEN President released

KENYA: Kenyan PEN President released

9 September 2009

Update #2 to RAN 13/09

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN welcomes the release of Philo Ikonya, President of Kenya PEN, and a student activist following their arrest yesterday while taking part in a peaceful demonstration against corruption in Nairobi. Both were acquitted of taking part in an illegal demonstration this morning and are in good health. The WiPC thanks all PEN members who took immediate action in this case; no further action is required.

KENYA - Philo Ikonya ( Ikonya (author, human rights activist and President of Kenyan PEN) was arrested on the afternoon of 8 September 2009 while taking part in a peaceful protest and poetry reading outside the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) in Nairobi. She was detained alongside Jacob Odipo (NB: not Kenyan PEN Secretary General Kingwa Kamencu, as previously reported), who is a media student and member of a member of the civil society group Bunge la Mwananchi (People's Parliament).

Ikonya and Odipo were taken to Kilimani police station in Nairobi and charged with taking part in an illegal demonstration. They were detained overnight and appeared in court this morning. The magistrate ruled that the charges were defective and ordered their release. Ikonya and Odipo were held in a cramped and insanitary cell, but were not otherwise ill treated. Both are in good health.

Ikonya and Odipo, along with Kamencu and Kenyan PEN Treasurer Khainga O'Okwemba, were protesting against President Mwai Kibaki's reappointment of Justice Aaron Ringera as Chair of the KACC for a second five-year term despite the fact that not a single senior official has been convicted of corruption to date. Both Ikonya and Kamencu were carrying placards bearing stanzas from poems they had written on impunity. One of these was as follows:

Impunity means unity,
A Kenya without liberty;
Set Kenya free.

Ringera must go
Wako must go
Ali must go

(Ringera is the newly re-appointed Chair of the KACC; Amos Wako is Attorney General; Mohamed Hussein Ali was the Police Commissioner until yesterday afternoon, when he was reshuffled to Postmaster General following criticism of extrajudicial killings and human right violations attributed to the police under Ali's tenure - for more information on the reshuffle, see

According to Kamencu, "A very glaring issue of suppression of freedom of expression stands here. In addition to reciting the poetry, Philo was dressed in a sack-dress that had pieces of manila paper sewn on it with poems and writings expressing discontent at impunity and the re-appointment of Ringera. When she was arrested they tried to take away her dress and removed the writings she had sewn onto it."

For more information on Ikonya's arrest, see Update #2 to RAN 13/09 of 8 September 2009.

***No further action is required. Thank you for taking action in this case.***

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: International PEN, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email:


Monday, September 7, 2009

26 Exchanges

26 Exchanges

26 Exchanges: Journeys between and behind the lines of language
September 21 - 25, Royal Academy of Engineering

How can we overcome barriers to understanding created by different languages? How can we create greater dialogue between cultures when such language barriers exist? A collaboration between International PEN, 26, Pentagram and UNESCO, 26 Exchanges is an exhibition resulting from the Free the Word! festival 2009 to see what happened when one language adventures boldly into another. 26 members were twinned with PEN members from around the world to translate a text and tell the story of its journey in translation. Falling back on their own resources, 26 members searched for ways to understand stories in Basque, Khasi, Ndebele and Aymara among others, to find meaning and connections across cultures. The exhibition is a digital installation of these stories with readings from and conversations between the participants.
26 Exchanges, 21 - 25 September, 9.30am - 5.30pm, Monday - Friday, Free
Royal Academy of Engineering, 3 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5DG
For more information visit

Brazil: 1st National Conference on Communication to Go Ahead

7 September 2009

Brazil: 1st National Conference on Communication to Go Ahead

On 1 September 2009, after much uncertainty, the national preparatory commission for the first Brazilian Conference on Communication has finally been made official. The main differences of opinion on the Conference have been overcome and it should now take place in December 2009. ARTICLE 19, an active member of the São Paulo State Conference Commission, calls on all levels of the Brazilian government to engage fully and cooperatively to ensure that the conference is successful in promoting a wide-ranging and productive debate about the future of communications policy in Brazil.

National conferences are official forums created by presidential decree to promote meaningful dialogue among government, civil society and the business sectors, with a view to providing substantive input into official planning and policy-making. The Conference on Communication, earlier threatened by budget cuts and issues of representation, has been long demanded by groups calling for urgent review of the seriously outdated law and policy currently applicable in this area.

The Conference will have 1,539 delegates, divided among the private sector (40%), civil society (40%) and government (20%). The approval of sensitive issues, an earlier deadlock, will require the endorsement of 60% of participants, including at least one vote from each sector. The level of private sector representation has been controversial, as civil society groups believe it is over-represented considering the greater plurality of social movements.

Discussions on communications are taking place all over Brazil currently, including through informal preparatory meetings at the municipal, inter-municipal and state levels. ARTICLE 19 was involved in the organisation of a preparatory seminar in São Paulo on 1 August titled “From the communications we have to the communications we want”. That meeting brought together over 270 people to discuss such topics as broadcasting licensing, women and the media, and the situation of community radios.

ARTICLE 19 calls on all levels of the Brazilian government to engage fully in the National Conference process so as to ensure that the final outcome reflects the aspirations of Brazilians for a democratic and public interest broadcasting system.


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

Venezuela: Authorities Threaten to Close Another 29 Radio Stations

7 September 2009

Venezuela: Authorities Threaten to Close Another 29 Radio Stations

On 5 September 2009, Minister Diosdado Cabello, Director of Venezuelan´s National Commission on Telecommunications (Conatel), announced that 29 unidentified radio stations will soon be forced to cease operations. They will bring the number of closures in the last couple of months up to 63 radios and TV stations.

Conatel notes that all the cases involve stations whose licenses are up for renewal, whose owners have died or given up their rights, or where proposed title transfers have been denied. According to reports received by ARTICLE 19, Conatel has also opened administrative procedures against more than 200 broadcasters, which may lead to temporary or permanent suspension of their licences. Minister Cabello claims that the closures are aimed at “democratising access to the airwaves”.

ARTICLE 19 notes that Conatel is not independent from the government, as broadcast regulators are required to be by international guarantees of freedom of expression, and that, as a result, Conatel is not in a position to promote broadcasting in the wider public interest.

Broadcasting is by far the most important source of information, as well as of entertainment, for most people in countries around the world. Due to its centrality as a source of information and news, and its growing profitability, governments and dominant commercial interests have historically sought to control broadcasting. Governments have exerted control through the licensing process and other regulatory measures, as well as through informal pressure, while commercial interests have used wealth and connections to monopolise the broadcasting sector, often leading to a focus on low quality but profitable programming.

Oversight by a regulator which is independent of both government and commercial interests, and which has a clear mandate to promote broadcasting in the public interest, is the key to democratising the sector and avoiding regulation being abused to allow for government control.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Venezuelan authorities to establish an independent broadcast regulator with a mandate to promote pluralism in the airwaves, through rules that are fair and objective, and that ensures that due process is respected in all administrative procedures. Radio and TV stations should not be closed down due to their political views and editorial lines.


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

Wednesday, September 2, 2009



An opposition activist in Thailand was sentenced to 18 years in jail last week for insulting the monarchy, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and international news media.

On 28 August Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was convicted on three counts of lese majeste, each carrying a six-year jail term, for remarks that she made in speeches last year criticising the 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The speeches were made at rallies of the "Red Shirts", the name given to Thaksin supporters who believe the current government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is illegitimate, and who call for Thaksin to be reinstated.

Authorities have also blocked excerpts of Daranee's speeches on YouTube, which had been the basis for the complaints filed against her, says SEAPA.

The judge hearing Daranee's case closed the court to the public and the media last month, citing national security concerns. And because Daranee showed no remorse, the court found no cause for leniency, reports SEAPA.

"It is what I expected to happen," Daranee told reporters after the verdict. "I will appeal."

Arrested on 22 July 2008, Daranee has been denied bail three times despite her lawyers' pleas, and claims that her health may be deteriorating.

The decision to fight the charges is unusual. According to news reports, human rights lawyers say the charges are difficult to beat in a nation known for its intense loyalty to the Royal Family, and most defendants choose to plead guilty and beg the King for mercy.

Several people have been charged with lese majeste in recent years, such as a Thai engineer who got 10 years for sending online pictures that offended the Royal Family, and former BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who presided over a public debate.

Police are investigating the entire board of the Thailand Foreign Correspondents' Club for possible breaches of the laws, say SEAPA and news reports.

Under current rules, anybody can file a complaint of lese majeste, which has led to many Thai politicians using the laws as a tool to silence their rivals.

According to SEAPA, lese majeste charges have surged since the 2006 coup, and are punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Earlier this year Abhisit said he would look into ensuring the laws were not abused but little progress has been made.

Related stories on
- Activist gets 18-year prison term for lese majeste:

More on the web:
-Red Shirt activist jailed for 18 years for insulting Thai Royal Family
(The Times):

August 29, 2009

Red Shirt activist jailed for 18 years for insulting Thai Royal Family

A court in Bangkok sentenced a political activist to 18 years in prison yesterday for insulting the Thai Royal Family, the latest in a flurry of cases that analysts say are inhibiting freedom of speech and stifling political dissent.

Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was convicted of three charges of lèse-majesté for remarks that she made in speeches last year criticising the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, who was then the Prime Minister.

Mr Thaksin, who was convicted in absentia last year of breaching conflict of interest laws and lives abroad to avoid a jail term, remains a polarising figure in Thai politics.

Mr Thaksin’s Red Shirt supporters plan to rally again in central Bangkok tomorrow to demand change. They are furious with the Government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister, which they deem illegitimate, and want Mr Thaksin to be reinstated.

When his supporters protested in April they disrupted an Asean summit and brought parts of Bangkok to a standstill.

The Red Shirts, known formally as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said that the rally tomorrow will be peaceful.

The Government, however, has invoked the Internal Security Act to ban gatherings at three of the locations used for Red Shirt rallies, and deployed troops and police.

Red Shirt leaders fear provocateurs will try and to cause trouble. “If any unrest occurs, it will not be caused by the Red Shirts,” Jatuporn Prompan, the UDD leader, told Thai media yesterday.

Daranee, 46, was sentenced to three six-year prison terms to run consecutively for insulting the monarchy in speeches that she gave at Red Shirt rallies. Prommas Phoo-sang, the judge, closed the court to the public and the media last month, citing reasons of national security.

“It is what I expected to happen,” Daranee said after the verdict. “I will appeal.” The decision to fight the charges is unusual.

Human rights lawyers said that the charges are difficult to beat in a nation known for its intense loyalty to the Royal Family, and most defendants choose to plead guilty and beg the King for mercy.

Several people have been charged with or investigated over lèse-majesté in recent years. They include a man who refused to stand for the royal anthem in a cinema, the Australian author Harry Nicolaides, whose book sold seven copies, and the former BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who presided over a public debate.

Police are investigating the entire board of the Thailand Foreign Correspondents’ Club for possible breaches of the laws.

Many Thai politicians appear to regard lèse-majesté laws as a tool to use against their opponents. Earlier this year Mr Abhisit said that his Government would discuss amending the laws but little progress has been made.



Popular Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam has been sentenced to 20 years hard labour on charges of supporting terrorism and inciting racial hatred,becoming the first journalist to be convicted under Sri Lanka's draconian anti-terrorism law, report Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ),Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other IFEX members.

An English-language columnist for the Sri Lankan "Sunday Times" and editor of the news website OutreachSL, Tissainayagam was arrested on 7 March 2008.

He spent five months in prison without charge before his indictment in
August 2008 for promoting terrorism through the magazine "Northeastern
Monthly", which he briefly published in 2006. The magazine criticised the government's role in the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels and accused authorities of withholding food and other essential items from
Tamil-majority areas.

On 31 August, a High Court judge ruled that Tissainayagam's articles
violated the law because they were aimed at creating "communal disharmony."

The court also found that he had received money from the LTTE to fund his website, but RSF has established that the site was funded by a German aid project.

"The imposition of this extremely severe sentence on Tissainayagam suggests that some Sri Lanka judges confuse justice with revenge," RSF said. "With the help of confessions extracted by force and information that was false or distorted, the court has used an anti-terrorism law that was intended for terrorists, not for journalists and human rights activists."

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which has been campaigning tirelessly for his release, Tissainayagam was repeatedly tortured and denied medical treatment while in prison.

Despite the end of the war, the Sri Lankan state continues to attack
journalists who do not support its policies.

According to the International Press Institute (IPI), 12 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006, and many others have been harassed, threatened and arrested. RSF has reported that Sri Lanka is one of the worst-hit countries in the world when it comes to the kidnap, arrest and disappearance of journalists.

CPJ announced that it will honour Tissainayagam with a 2009 International Press Freedom Award. Meanwhile, the Globe Media Forum and RSF report that Tissainayagam will be the first winner of the Peter Mackler Prize, "a newly created award for journalists who display great courage and professional integrity in countries where press freedom is not respected."

Related stories on
- Journalist sentenced to 20-year jail term under terror law:


Please write polite letters to the Sri Lankan authorities calling for:

  • The immediate and unconditional release of prisoner of conscience, J.S. Tissainayagam who has been targeted for his work as a journalist;

  • Protection of the rights to life, liberty and security of media workers in compliance with Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law;

  • An end to Sri Lanka's climate of impunity for attacks on the media which has made it impossible to get an accurate impartial picture of what is happening in the country.


His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka
Fax: + 94 11 2446657
Email: or

Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency Dayananda Rupasoma Perera
High Commissioner
High Commission for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
333 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1204
Ottawa, ON, K1P 1C1
Fax: + 613 238-8448

Salutation: Your Excellency


The conflict in Sri Lanka is between government forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and armed Tamil groups alleged to be aligned with the government. The conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka has continued to escalate since the end of a ceasefire agreement on 16 January 2008. There is no independent reporting of the conflict and media coverage of war has effectively been silenced – through threats, restrictions and violence. The restrictions placed on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka far exceed those which may legitimately be imposed for reasons such as national security. Violations of journalists’ right to life and freedom from torture and ill-treatment can never be justified in the name of national security and constitute violations of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law.

At least 14 media workers have been unlawfully killed since 2006 and others have been arbitrarily detained, tortured and allegedly disappeared. There is a strong need for media freedom in Sri Lanka, where deaths on all sides are very high and large numbers of civilians are caught in the crossfire. All parties to the conflict are responsible for grave violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law.

Source :

--------------- The Newyork Times ---------------------

Sri Lankan Editor Lauded by Obama Is Sentenced to 20 Years

Published: August 31, 2009
On World Press Freedom Day in May, President Obama held up J. S. Tissainayagam, the editor of a crusading magazine in Sri Lanka who has been jailed since March 2008, as a symbol of the oppression of the media.

On Monday, a judge in Sri Lanka sentenced Mr. Tissainayagam to 20 years of hard labor for violating the country’s tough antiterrorism laws by writing articles highly critical of a government military offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels who had controlled a large chunk of Sri Lanka’s north.

Mr. Tissainayagam, who is Tamil, was the editor of the now-defunct North Eastern Monthly magazine, and was accused of accepting money and other support from the Tigers. He was convicted under laws that give harsh sentences for offenses like using racially divisive language or promoting disharmony. These laws were enacted in response to the Tamil Tiger insurgency. The insurgents, members of the Hindu Tamil minority, sought a separate state from Sri Lanka’s Buddhist, Sinhalese majority. The government decisively defeated the Tigers in a bloody final battle on a strip of beach in northern Sri Lanka in May, ending one of Asia’s longest civil wars.

As is often the case with local journalists in conflict zones, Mr. Tissainayagam’s reporting reflected the prevailing point of view of the minority to which he belonged, but the government argued that his work went further.

“The Constitution itself gives freedom of press, but that doesn’t allow anybody to spread false information to spur ethnic violence,” Sudarshana DeSilva, the prosecutor, told the court, Reuters reported.

But rights advocates say that Mr. Tissainayagam’s sentence reflects the plight of Sri Lanka’s embattled press corps. At least seven journalists have been killed since 2007, including some singled out by the Tamil Tigers. Many more have fled the country.

“It is very serious blow,” said Sanjana Hattotuwa, editor of Groundviews, a citizen journalism Web site. “It sends a chilling message that the independent expression of opinion is no longer tolerated in Sri Lanka.”

Lucien Rajakarunanayake, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s president and a columnist, said that Mr. Tissainayagam had the right to appeal.

“The court has believed the evidence placed before it,” Mr. Rajakarunanayake said. “That he did accept money from a terrorist organization and did work that furthered the cause of terrorism in this country.”

The sentence is sure to increase pressure from the West on Sri Lanka’s government, which has been criticized for its handling of the last battle against the Tamil Tigers and the treatment of Tamils displaced by the war.

Mr. Tissainayagam’s lawyer told reporters that he planned to appeal. Though he confessed, he later said that the confession was given under duress. Legal experts said that the antiterrorism laws under which he was convicted violated the Constitution.

Asanga Welikala, a lawyer who has written on press freedom in Sri Lanka, said that the law was so vague that practically any speech could be prosecuted.

“Totally unacceptable that we should have such a law, and even more unacceptable that a court of law should feel that this journalist should get the maximum possible sentence under that law for simply doing his job,” he said.

Remember the Disappeared

Sunday 30th August marks the International Day of the Disappeared

Ratify the Convention against Enforced Disappearance NOW!

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006.

We only need 7 more countries to ratify the Convention in order for it to enter into force.

Sunday 30th August marks the International Day of the Disappeared

In El Salvador, Ernestina and Erlinda Serrano Cruz were seven and three years old, respectively, when they disappeared on 2 June 1982.

In Guatemala, 200,000 people disappeared or were extra-judicially executed during the internal armed conflict of 1960 – 1996.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of people who have been victims of enforced disappearances around the world. Their family members and friends have no knowledge of their fate.

Stand Together and Remember the Disappeared

Call on governments to ratify the Convention! Join the movement in sending a letter to the countries we are targeting now!


James Balao, an activist working on Indigenous Peoples rights, was forcibly disappeared on 17 September 2008 in Baguio City, Philippines. He was last seen near his home being roughly bundled by armed men into a white van. One of the men who took him shouted at onlookers, and told them not to interfere because they were police officers arresting James. A court has ordered the authorities to reveal where he is, and do no further harm to him, but has not authorised his family to look for him in places of detention. He is one of hundreds of Filipinos who have been forcibly disappeared and have not been found yet .

James, a member of the Indigenous Benguet Ibaloi tribe in the Cordillera region in Northern Philippines, dedicated himself to research and fighting for Indigenous Peoples rights, particularly ancestral land rights. He contributed to the drafting of the Philippines’ Constitution. He is one of the founding members of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA), an alliance of local organizations from the different Indigenous tribes in the Cordillera region.

Take action!
Join the call to Surface James Balao and Stop Enforced Disappearances in the Philippines.

Take photos of yourself or with friends, ideally in front of a local landmark to show international solidarity, holding up a message such as: "End Enforced Disappearances -- the world is watching" or "Where is James Balao?"

The photos will be used as part of an international solidarity campaign on the one-year anniversary of James' disappearance. Email photos to or by 31 October 2009.