Friday, October 16, 2009

A landmark case involving the principle of open justice

United Kingdom: ARTICLE 19 in Landmark Open Justice Case


ARTICLE 19 is part of a landmark case involving the principle of open justice and the right to know. The case is the very first in the newly established Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

ARTICLE 19 has applied with other leading media and civil liberties organisations for identification of the appellants in the case Her Majesty's Treasury (Respondents) v A (FC) and others (FC) (Appellants) and others.

Identification and publicity would benefit the appellants, as the media would be able to report the human-interest dimensions of the case. Identification is also in the public interest, as the case will show the effects of Anti-Terrorism Orders upon individuals and their family members.

Only Mohammed Al-Ghabra’s name has so far been identified, previously known as G, on the grounds that his identity is already in the public domain. The Court ran out of time and has not decided whether the identities of ‘A’, ‘K’ and ‘M’ will be publicised.

The case is considering whether measures contained in the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al-Qaida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 were unlawful. Under the orders, said to give effect to UN resolutions, the Treasury may freeze assets of people and their families who “may be” suspected of financing terrorism. The measures are being scrutinised in court because they were made without express authorisation by Parliament.

From 1 October 2009, the Supreme Court has assumed the jurisdiction of the current Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the devolution jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information please contact: Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, sejal@article19.org, +44 20 7324 2500;
• For more materials on the case at the Supreme Court, check http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/current-cases/index.html

Nepal: Government Putting Journalists at Risk

12 October 2009

Nepal: Government Putting Journalists at Risk

ARTICLE 19, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and Freedom Forum (FF) strongly condemn the Government of Nepal’s intentions to use journalists as informants, to help implement its Special Security Plan. This would significantly increase the already seriously hazardous working environment for journalists. It is also contrary to international standards, as well as the Agenda for Change, launched by ARTICLE 19, FNJ and FF in February 2009. We urge the Government of Nepal to drop this idea and, instead, to take the necessary steps to protect journalists from attacks by unidentified armed groups.

“The Government’s plan is opportunistic and irresponsible,” said Dharmendra Jha, Chairperson of FNJ. “Threats and attacks against, and even murder of journalists are rampant in Nepal and to propose to use journalist as informants is at best grossly negligent,” he added.

Key problems with involving journalists in the Special Security Plan include:
• This would seriously undermine the role of an independent media in a democracy.
• It would also undermine the independence and professionalism of individual journalists.
• It would seriously increase the risk of attacks against journalists and media outlets, whereas there is an imperative need to take action to reduce this risk.

Recommendation No. 24 of the Agenda for Change states, in part: “The government should be more proactive in fulfilling its obligation to protect journalists and media property, including by allocating greater resources and attention to this, particularly in conflict areas.” Attemping to use journalists as secuirty informants is also a breach of code of conduct issued by Nepal Press Council.

ARTICLE 19, FNJ and FF urge the Nepali authorities to withdraw immediately any proposal to use journalists as informants to execute the Special Security Plan. We also call on the authorities to take all reasonable measures to promote the safety and security of journalists and media outlets.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information, please contact Tanka Raj Aryal, ARTICLE 19 Country Representative, Nepal aryal_law@yahoo.com, +97798510 75026, Taranath Dahal, President, Freedom Forum, tndahal@yahoo.com, +977 98510 87891 or Dharmendra Jha, President, Federation of Nepali Journalists, djanakpur@hotmail.com, +977 98510 71459.
• The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) is the umbrella organisation of the journalists in Nepal. Freedom Forum is a Nepalese human rights organisation working for press freedom and the right to information

Mexico: Safety Training for Journalists

Mexico: ARTICLE 19 and the Rory Peck Trust Provide Safety Training for Journalists

ARTICLE 19, in conjunction with the Rory Peck Trust, last week delivered its third security training course in Mexico for journalists working in high-risk zones.

Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places to practise journalism and there is almost no training available to help journalists and freelancers in the region manage the daily risks associated with their profession.

ARTICLE 19 and the Rory Peck Trust believe that, to ensure their safety and security, journalists and freelancers must know their rights. They must know how to effectively protect themselves, how to analyse potential risks, and how to identify and adopt the best possible measure to counteract them.

Journalists and freelancers, including those from Reuters, Associated Press, CNN and Televisa, attended the programme. They covered journalistic practice, coverage of security forces and public demonstrations, and the relationships between reporters, editors, security forces and emergency services. Methods of self-protection based on lessons from other countries were another feature of the course. Participants also looked at the challenges and problems facing media workers in the field, as well as the identification and management of post-traumatic stress and related disorders.

Participants received a thorough briefing on the legal realities facing journalists in Mexico today, including basic media and human rights law, as well as defamation and other tools used to stifle media freedom. The Mexican Red Cross covered first aid, emergency evacuation situations, explosions, natural disasters and survival training.

“When I undertook my first security training course I was already half way through my career,” says Manuel Carrillo, Senior Cameraman for Reuters. “It is great to see that younger journalists now have an opportunity to receive this training, particularly in light of the dangers they are now facing in Mexico.”

ARTICLE 19 systematically documents, registers and follows up cases of aggression against journalists and media workers in Mexico and Central America. Through this work, ARTICLE 19 has been able to identify specific trends relating to freedom of expression which are characteristic of this region.

“Enabling journalists to look after themselves in high-risk situations, while also reporting accurately on themes in the public interest, ARTICLE 19 hopes to assist the media in holding public bodies and elected officials accountable for their actions,” comments Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “This will greatly enhance and protect the right to freedom of expression in Mexico and Central America.”

The course took place at the Mexican Red Cross training facility outside Mexico City and was made possible with the support of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Mexico.

NOTE TO EDITORS:

• For further information, contact Ricardo Gonzalez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America Office, at ricardo@article19.org, + 55 11 30 57 00 42 or Catalina Cortes, Rory Peck Trust at catalina@rorypecktrust.org, +44 (0) 20 7730 141.
• The Rory Peck Trust exists to support freelance newsgatherers and their families worldwide in times of need, and to promote their welfare and safety.

Hold Russia Accountable for abuses and violations of the right to freedom of expression

15 October 2009
Human Rights Committee: ARTICLE 19 Urges the Human Rights Committee to Hold Russia Accountable

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Human Rights Committee (“the Committee”) to hold the Russian Federation accountable for ongoing and systematic abuses and violations of the right to freedom of expression.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“the Covenant”), States must submit to a periodic review of their implementation of the Covenant’s provisions. Russia’s sixth periodic report comes under scrutiny today by the HRC at its 97th session in Geneva. In a shadow report submitted to the Committee, ARTICLE 19 provides detailed evidence of a range of abuses of the right to freedom of expression in Russia.

During the period under review, ARTICLE 19 finds that freedom of expression has steadily deteriorated in the Russian Federation. Journalists and media workers remain under constant threat of attack and there is an absence of thorough and impartial investigations into killings and assaults against journalists. Instead, a climate of impunity for crimes against journalists prevails.

Public officials, including those at the highest level of the Government, refuse to view the media as an independent critic and often regard it as a subordinate body aimed at furthering political goals. Defamation laws are regularly employed to stifle journalists and media outlets.

Opposition groups are suppressed and prevented from engaging in peaceful protest, and there are increasing incidents of attacks against minorities, including religious, sexual and ethnic groups. Legislation governing extremism and religious hatred is being used to suppress criticism of the Russian authorities, as well as artistic free expression.

“ARTICLE 19 calls on the Human Rights Committee to carefully examine and expose the deplorable human rights record of the Russian Federation, and to hold this Government accountable to its human rights obligations under the Covenant,” says Dr Agn├Ęs Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 has been working in the Russian Federation for the last decade, in close co-operation with local partners, on projects relating to freedom of expression, freedom of information and defamation. Given the severity of the violations outlined in the report, ARTICLE 19 urges the Human Rights Committee to exert pressure over the Russian Government to ensure that everyone in the Russian Federation is able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression without intimidation, violence or harassment.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

* For more information please contact: Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer, Europe, at: +44 796 985 6069 or nathalie@article19.org; or Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law, at: +44 207 324 2500 or barbora@article19.org.
* The full version of the Written Comments of ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression Concerning the Review of the Sixth Periodic Report of the Russian Federation for Consideration by the United Nations Human Rights Committee at its 97th Session, 12-30 October2009 is available at http://www.article19.org/pdfs/submissions/russia-written-comments-of-article-19-global-campaign-for-free-expression-co.pdf
* ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit www.article19.org.