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):