Sunday, November 22, 2009



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran: Government Launches Web Crime Unit

17 November 2009

Iran: Government Launches Web Crime Unit

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

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

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

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

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


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

Document: Aggressions Against Journalists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

New Attempts to Legitimise Religious Defamation using Principles of Blasphemy

20 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sri Lanka: Journalists Still Under Threat

28 October 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Russia: UN Human Rights Committee on Free Expression

2 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florence Hartmann’s case

5 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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