19 June 2009
Mexico: The Right to Freedom of Expression of Activists Threatened by Homophobia
ARTICLE 19, together with local partner organisations in Mexico, is calling on the Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, to investigate several sustained attacks against Agustín Estrada Negrete, a special needs school teacher, and his lawyer, Jaime Genaro López Vela.
In 2008, Negrete, Director of the Centro de Atención Multiple, a special needs school in the State of Mexico was pressured into taking a leave of absence, after he had appeared in a demonstration on the International Day against Homophobia in May 2007. He was threatened and suffered different forms of discriminatory behaviour after this event, partly because images identifying him at the demonstration had been published in the newspaper.
In February 2009, he returned to work after the designated break, only to be informed he would not be welcome back at the institution if he continued to be open about his sexuality.
On 8 May, Negrete arrived at the Office of the Public Prosecutor's office to argue his case. A group of supporters, comprising parents from the school, were refused entry and began a peaceful protest outside. Negrete and his lawyer, human rights defender Jaime Genaro López Vela, were arbitrarily detained and beaten at this time. Negrete was later imprisoned in a maximum security facility where he was beaten, raped, and held incommunicado until the following day. He has subsequently been refused permission to file his official complaint and has received little assistance from the State Human Rights Commission.
On 20 June, Mexico City will host its annual Gay Pride Parade and ARTICLE 19 is using this opportunity to call attention to the human rights abuses endured by many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people in Mexico.
Freedom of expression and equality are fundamental rights, whose realisation is essential for the enjoyment and protection of all human rights. This is a principle espoused in ARTICLE 19's Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, which says that pluralism and diversity are hallmarks of free expression.
International law recognises that every person is entitled to equal protection of the law and ARTICLE 19, together with CENCOS and Agenda LGBT, believes that Agustín Estrada Negrete is being denied this right. We call on the authorities to protect Negrete, investigate the attacks against him and Vela, and ensure that their attackers are brought to justice.
We also call on the Governor to ensure that Negrete is reinstated in his position as Director of the Centro de Atención Multiple.
ARTICLE 19, CENCOS, and Agenda LGBT call on the federal authorities, in keeping with their international human rights obligations, to ensure a secure environment for expressing sexual diversity throughout the country. It is necessary to strengthen the bodies that have been put in place to fight discrimination, and also to raise awareness and build capacity among all state authorities dealing with sexual diversity.
"Homophobia remains a major issue in Mexico," says Darío Ramírez, Director of ARTICLE 19: Mexico. "The media also needs to be sensitive to the consequences of its coverage of individuals who may suffer huge repercussions from public exposure. The media must take an ethical and responsible approach to covering gender and sexual diversity."
The media plays a critical role in forming opinions and establishing social norms, and they have the ability to combat prejudice through fair coverage and the promotion of diversity of ideas and opinions.
ARTICLE 19, CENCOS, and Agenda LGBT call on the national and local media to:
" Put in place effective ethical and self-regulatory codes of conduct which prohibit discrimination against the LGBTI community and which promote a LGBTI-sensitive approach to media work;
" Design and deliver media training programmes which promote a better understanding of issues relating to sexual and gender identity, homophobia and discrimination;
" Play an active role in combating prejudice against and misinformation about the LGBTI community.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
24 June 2009
United Kingdom: ARTICLE 19 Welcomes Judgment on Confidentiality of Journalistic Sources
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the landmark ruling of the High Court in Belfast in the case of investigative journalist, Suzanne Breen, which decided that a court order forcing her to hand over her notes would have threatened her life and the lives of her family, and compromised the protection of her sources.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had sought a court order forcing Ms Breen, the Northern Ireland editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune, to hand over her mobile telephone, computer records and notes about the Real IRA, following the publication of stories relating the murder of two soldiers. Ms Breen had received the group's claim of responsibility for the murder of the soldiers at the Massereene Barracks in Antrim in March. Ms Breen argued that, if she had complied with such an order, she would have placed her own life, and the lives of her partner and 14-month-old child, at risk.
The judge, His Honour Tom Burgess, concluded in his judgment that "the concept of confidentiality for journalists protecting their sources is recognised in law", specifically under the Terrorism Act of 2000 and the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10. The judge emphasised that the material sought by the PNSI would have been covered by the obligation of confidentiality that Ms Breen owed to her sources. In his view, the risk to Ms Breen would have been "greatly increased" if she had revealed her sources.
Judge Burgess stated: "There is objective evidence that we are dealing with a ruthless and murderous group of people who would regard any handing over of any information in the possession of Ms Breen over and above the publication of their claim for responsibility, as exposing her to be treated as a legitimate target with the murderous consequences that could and may follow from that."
ARTICLE 19 views this judgment as an especially important victory for press freedom in the UK, especially since the PNSI submitted evidence at a private hearing and offered no public evidence in support of their application in reliance upon the Terrorism Act 2000. The judgment supports journalists' right to protect their sources, which has been widely recognised in international and regional human rights law.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
o For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 20 7324 2500.
o The judgment in the case is available at: http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/F8BAA113-F6B7-4D57-9138-DCCE1DD34B93/0/j_j_County117Final.htm
Azerbaijan: Media and Civil Society Under Threat from Proposed Legal Amendments
In spite of an outcry from national and international civil society groups, the Parliament of Azerbaijan, the Milli Mejlis, will take forward a debate on legal amendments to several laws governing civil society and the media on 30 June 2009. ARTICLE 19, along with partner organisations in Azerbaijan, call on the government to refrain from passing any legislative amendments that will impede the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
These draft legislative amendments include provisions allowing the government to disband organisations who have received three administrative sentences within two years for writing so-called "biased" articles. Founders of media outlets and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) closed by the government could be banned from setting up similar organisations for up to five years.
Foreign groups will be unable to open offices using international funding, unless there is a formal agreement between Azerbaijan and the country of origin. In addition, anyone who speaks on behalf of an organisation not registered in Azerbaijan (which includes foreign or international NGOs) faces the threat of an administrative sanction. Organisations may also be liable for fines up to AZN50,000 (approximately USD62,000).
The amendments were first tabled to be discussed on 19 June 2009, but the Milli Mejlis postponed the debate following a broad international and national outcry - including from ARTICLE 19 and other human rights groups - about the lack of public consultation and the negative effect they could have on the already difficult environment civil society and media organisations. Although some of the new amendments appear to have been watered down, they could still have a negative impact.
"None of these proposed amendments should be adopted as they will hamper the activities of independent NGOs, in particular human rights organisations in such a way that they will be unable to operate," says Emin Huseynov of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety in Baku. "We will end up with a situation, such as currently exists in Belarus and other totalitarian states, where registered organisations are pro-government NGOs and those critical of the government are refused registration and become effectively illegal."
Civil society and the media in Azerbaijan have been under threat for several years and the pending amendments seem to be another attempt by the government to suppress them.
"There has been no official explanation as to why these amendments have to be made," added Rashid Hajili, head of the Media Rights Institute in Baku. "Their first draft was only made public on 9 June and was put on the agenda without meaningful consultation with civil society; this is not the way legislation should be developed. Any further restrictions imposed on the media and NGOs will damage our already fragile civil society."
ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard, comments, "The last few weeks mark an escalation in the steady erosion of freedom and human rights that Azerbaijan has witnessed for several years now. The Milli Mejlis is facing an important choice: between abandoning its duty to the people of Azerbaijan or upholding and protecting their rights and freedoms. We call on them to make the right decision for the present and future of the Azerbaijan."
ARTICLE 19 urges the Milli Mejlis to uphold the obligations that Azerbaijan has as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights, and fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
o For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, email@example.com, +44 20 7324 2500
1 July 2009
Honduras: Freedom of Expression Under Threat Following Weekend Coup
The ousting of the democratically elected Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, in a military coup on Saturday 28 June is a blow for democracy and a direct threat against the rights of citizens to express their political will through democratic means. ARTICLE 19 joins the international community in condemning the coup, which also negatively impacts the media and other avenues for free expression. In particular, A19 expresses its concerns about the arrests and intimidation of journalists by military forces and the temporary suspension of radio and television broadcasts in the country.
There has been a severe clampdown on the media since the weekend. On 29 June, Adriana Sívori, María José Díaz and Larry Sánchez from the Venezuelan TV station Telesur were arrested during a live broadcast from Honduras.
Speaking to ARTICLE 19 after their release, Sivori commented, "They arrested us without any provocation and provided no explanation; it felt like we were back in the dictatorships of the eighties."
Under the state of emergency, the National Telecommunications Commission has banned cable television transmissions and blocked transmissions of regional and international broadcasters, including CNN, Español, Telesur and Cubavisión Internacional.
Journalists, students and union leaders are also reportedly being harassed and at least seven media workers are now missing. These include: Mónica Ceoane of Telesur; cartoonist Allan McDonald; Esdras Amado Lopez of television station Canal 36; Patricia Arias of television station Canal 8; and Martinez and Aníbal Barrow of television station Hondured. Gustavo López, a journalist from the C-Libre Centre for Information, has also been threatened.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the interim Honduran government to fully protect the right to freedom of expression and to ensure the free flow of information. This includes respect for the Honduran people's political expression and for the rule of law, and for the media to report freely on unfolding events.
"The current situation in Honduras constitutes a grave threat to human rights, including the right to freedom of expression," states ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard. "This is a serious setback for democracy in Latin America."
ARTICLE 19 calls on those in power to guarantee the safety of media workers and journalists, to respect the right to freedom of expression, and to protect the free flow of information both into and out of Honduras.
ARTICLE 19 reminds the interim government of Honduras that the Preamble of the Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expressions states:
Freedom of the press is essential for the full and effective exercise of freedom of expression and an indispensable instrument for the functioning of representative democracy, through which individuals exercise their right to receive, impart and seek information.
"It is of the utmost importance that the current situation be addressed through peaceful means, respectful of, and based on, freedom of expression and the free flow of information," says Callamard. "History has shown us the importance of free and independent reporting to expose abuses and chronicle events, and it is a vital tool in strengthening democracy and the rule of law."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
o For more information please contact: Ricardo González, Official of Program for Freedom Expression at firstname.lastname@example.org or +52 55 1054 6500