Thursday, December 23, 2010

25 censored stories of 2009-2010

22 December 2010

Project Censored reveals top 25 censored stories of 2009-2010

Top 25 Censored Stories Released

Did you know that Cuba provided the greatest medical aid to Haiti after the earthquake? Or that the U.S. Department of Defense is the worst polluter on the planet? That's what Project Censored says in "Censored 2011: The Top Censored Stories of 2009-2010", now available online.

"Censored 2011" covers the stories the U.S. corporate media ignore, including reports on state crimes against democracy and "an analysis of the corporate media spin that led to the war in Iraq."

Project Censored now has students and faculty from more than 30 colleges and universities who spend the year patrolling obscure publications, national and international websites, and mainstream news outlets to compile the 25 most significant "news that didn't make the news."

This year's top story? "Global plans to replace the dollar."

Project Censored’s “Censored 2011:
The Top Censored Stories of 2009-2010″ is now available for pre-order here! This year’s volume is truly Media Democracy in Action. Not only does it cover the most under-reported stories the corporate media ignore, but this year’s Censored Deja Vu, Junk Food News and News Abuse, Signs of Health, and FAIR’s 10th anniversary of Fear and Favor in the News Room.

A full Truth Emergency section debuts this year for “Censored 2011″ to address State Crimes Against Democracy as well as analysis of the corporate media spin that led to the Iraq War and continues to hide US allied atrocities in the Middle East. Project Censored now has over 30 college and university affiliates contributing on our expanding websites and we introduce this year the Project Censored International section of the book, reviewing global trends in media control and censorship.

Former director Peter Phillips and new director Mickey Huff describe the new directions of the Project and research methodology plus an update from Dave Mathison on Being the Media, London’s Index on Censorship and much, much more!

From now to September 15th, anyone donating $30 or more to the Project will receive a signed copy of “Censored 2011″ by the editors. Regular orders can be sent through the store on the Project Censored website for $19.95 plus $3 shipping and handling. Mail orders can be sent to Media Freedom Foundation, P.O. Box 571, Cotati, CA 94931. Thank you for your support of Project Censored and for helping fight media censorship!

A few are here , to read more click the links below:

1. Global Plans to Replace the Dollar

2. US Department of Defense is the Worst Polluter on the Planet

3. Internet Privacy and Personal Access at Risk

Internet Privacy and Personal Access at Risk

Following in the steps of its predecessor, the Obama administration is expanding mass government surveillance of personal electronic communications. This surveillance, which includes the monitoring of the Internet as well as private (nongovernmental) computers, is proceeding with the proposal or passage of new laws granting government agencies increasingly wider latitude in their monitoring activities. At the same time, private companies and even some schools are engaging in surveillance activities that further diminish personal privacy.

Student Researchers:

  • Lynn DemosBen Solomon, Steve Wojanis, Trisha Himmelein, Emily Schuler, Claire Apatoff, Erin Kielty, and Tom Rich (DePauw University)
  • Alyssa Auerbach, Tyler Head, Mira Patel, Andrew Nassab, and Cristina Risso (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Jeff McCall, Dave Berque, Brian Howard, and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)
  • Jimmy Dizmang (University of San Diego)
  • Noel Byrne and Kelly Bucy (Sonoma State University)
  • Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)

In spring 2009, Senate Bill 773, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, was proposed, which gives the president power to “declare a cyber security emergency” with respect to private computer networks, and to do with these networks what it deems necessary to diffuse the attack. In a national emergency, the president would also have the power to completely shut down the Internet in the US. The proposal requires that certain private computer systems and networks be “managed” by “cyberprofessionals” licensed by the federal government. The bill permits the president to direct the national response to the cyber threat if necessary for national defense and security; to conduct “periodic mapping” of private networks deemed to be critical to national security; and to require these companies to “share” information requested by the federal government.

Such steps toward increased control over private computer networks have been taken amid an ongoing program of mass surveillance begun by the George W. Bush administration supposedly in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. In January 2002, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) established the Information Awareness Office (IAO) to “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness.” Under the Bush administration, such surveillance technology was developed and subsequently deployed through major US telecommunication and Internet service providers (ISPs) to conduct mass, warrantless dragnets of all domestic and international electronic traffic passing through switches in the US. This technology includes so-called “deep packet inspection” (DPI) technology, which employs sophisticated algorithms to parse all Internet contents (data, voice, and video), searching for key words such as “rebel” or “grenade.”

Presently no legislation exists that disallows use of such technology to conduct mass, warrantless surveillance. In fact, in January 2009, as David Karvets reported in Wired, the Obama administration sided with the Bush administration by asking a federal judge to set aside a ruling that kept alive a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s authority to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. Moreover, amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) passed in 2008—and voted for by then Senator Obama—had already made it possible for the federal government to conduct such information dragnets without warrants. The 2008 FISA amendments also require electronic communication service providers such as AT&T and Verizon to “immediately provide the Government with all information, facilities, or assistance necessary to accomplish the [intelligence] acquisition,” while granting these companies retroactive and prospective immunity against civil suits, state investigations, and criminal prosecution.

In addition, in April 2009, the Obama Justice Department invoked the “state secrets privilege” to bar American citizens from suing the US government for illegally spying on them. It also went even further than the Bush administration by arguing that the US government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying and can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy laws.

The federal government is also presently increasing its capacity to analyze the massive sea of data on the Internet. As part of an effort to gather more “open source intelligence,” the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is investing in Visible Technologies, a data-mining company that analyzes the content of social media Web sites. Visible Technologies, which has offices in New York, Seattle, and Boston, was created in 2005, and in 2006 it developed a partnership with WPP, a worldwide communications firm. This company has the capacity to examine over half a million sites per day.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also resorted to using federal court subpoenas to try to gain access to private, online information. On January 30, 2009, IndyMedia, an alternative online news source, received a subpoena from the Southern District of Indiana Federal Court for the “IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information” of all the site’s visitors on June 25, 2008. IndyMedia was then prohibited from notifying visitors of this release of otherwise private and protected information because disclosure “would impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with the enforcement of the law.” IndyMedia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) challenged the order and the subpoena was eventually dropped.

The Obama administration is also currently working with a group of UN nations on the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), “a new intellectual property enforcement treaty” to prevent illegal downloading and copying of songs, movies, pictures, and other legally protected Web content. The new law is being developed in secrecy and might allow government access to personal content on hard drives thought to be in breach of copyright. On November 3, 2009, nations participating in negotiations on the proposed law met in Seoul, South Korea, for a closed discussion of “enforcement in the digital realm.” According to a leaked memo from the conference, the US is pushing for a three-strikes/graduated-response policy and proactive policing of ISPs to ensure that any digital copyright infringements are caught, stopped, and punished.

In addition to the current trend of government surveillance, private employers are also reading employees’ e-mails, eavesdropping on their telephone calls, monitoring their Internet access, and watching them through the use of hidden cameras. Millions of workers carry company-issued cell phones, which are equipped with a global positioning system (GPS). The technology required to track cell phones is inexpensive (costing only five dollars per month for round-the-clock surveillance of an employee) and is readily available.

Company-issued laptops are also being monitored. Companies usually permit their employees to use such computers for personal purposes as well as for business. However, unbeknownst to the employees, all their private files (such as e-mails, photographs, and financial records) are being inspected by company techs when the computers are brought in for upgrades or repairs. Consequently, anything the techs deem questionable can be disclosed to management. Further, if the company-issued laptop has a webcam, the employer can use it to eavesdrop on the employee, even if he or she is in the bathroom.

Such clandestine use of computer webcams has not been limited to private companies spying on their employees. In one recent case, a suburban Philadelphia school district issued laptops to its students and secretly installed software that allowed school administrators to spy on the students.

As electronic surveillance technologies continue to improve, in the absence of laws to regulate their use and government watchdogs to ensure that these laws are followed, privacy in the digital age will predictably continue to decline.

Update by Liz Rose at Free Press

Deep packet inspection is a technology that gives corporations unprecedented control over Internet communications. It’s the same technology that allows Iran and other countries to try to stifle Internet freedom. The use of DPI is now pervasive and has spread to next-generation wireless networks. In this country, the adoption of DPI means that the telephone and cable companies that provide Internet service can monitor, inspect, and block Internet traffic, posing a serious threat to the open Internet.

There are two major developments in this story:

  1. Major telecommunications companies (including Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, RCN, and COX) have now purchased DPI technology. Because of this investment, and because the technology has now been applied to wireless communications, the industry’s control over the Internet is increasing. The latest generation of DPI enables companies to monitor and ultimately to charge people for every use of an Internet connection.Free Press filed ten pages of comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about DPI. See pages 141 to 151 of our comments in the Net Neutrality proceeding on January 14, 2010 ( Free Press also released a paper titled “Deep Packet Inspection: The End of the Internet as We Know It” by Josh Silver, in March 2009, before the Democracy Now! story, “Deep Packet Inspection: Telecoms Aided Iran Government to Censor Internet Technology Widely Used in US,” ran, and it provides evidence of the threat posed by corporations having the power to inspect, block, and choke traffic on the Internet: (see _The_End_of _the_Internet_As_We_Know_It.pdf).
  2. On April 6, 2010, a federal court ruled that the FCC does not have the authority under the jurisdiction that it claimed to stop Comcast—or any company—from blocking or choking Internet traffic. So right now, there is no recourse when a company does abuse its power over online communications. The FCC has indicated that it may move ahead and try to reassert its authority to set rules of the road for the Internet, but most observers think it will be a long battle ahead over the jurisdictional issues as well as over any possible rules.

4. ICE Operates Secret Detention and Courts

5. Blackwater (Xe): The Secret US War in Pakistan

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives inside and outside Pakistan. The Blackwater operatives also gather intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

Student Researchers:

  • Andrew Hobbs, Kelsea Arnold, and Brittney Gates (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Elaine Wellin and Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)

Captain John Kirby, the spokesperson for Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Nation, “We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature.” Meanwhile a defense official specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. “We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period,” the official said. “There has not been, and are not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services.” The Pentagon has stated bluntly, “There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”

Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in an interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

Jeremy Scahill’s military intelligence source said that the previously unreported program is distinct from the CIA assassination program, which the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. “This is a parallel operation to the CIA,” said the source. “They are two separate beasts.” The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the US has not declared war—knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the US and Pakistan. In 2006, the two countries struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the US is not supposed to have any active military operations in that country.

Blackwater, which also goes by the names Xe Services and US Training Center, has denied that the company operates in Pakistan. “Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the US government,” Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to the Nation, adding that the company has “no other operations of any kind in Pakistan.”

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in “counterterrorism” operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces that now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan.

The covert program in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007. The current head of JSOC is Vice Admiral William McRaven, who took over the post from General Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is “not really visible, and that’s why nobody has cracked down on it,” said Scahill’s military source. Blackwater’s operations in Pakistan, he adds, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified defense contracts. “It’s Blackwater via JSOC, and it’s a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis.”

Blackwater’s first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

According to Scahill’s source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have “conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up.” Blackwater’s Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said.

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone-bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, 2009, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The number of strike orders by the Obama administration has now surpassed the number during the Bush era in Pakistan, inciting fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths.

The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone-bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC’s drone bombings as well. “It’s Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC,” said the source. When civilians are killed, “people go, ‘Oh, it’s the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.’ Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that’s JSOC [hitting] somebody they’ve identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they’ve culled the intelligence themselves or it’s been shared with them and they take that person out and that’s how it works.”

In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps, and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan.

Blackwater’s ability to survive against odds by reinventing and rebranding itself is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA, and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals.

6. Health Care Restrictions Cost Thousands of Lives in US

7. External Capitalist Forces Wreak Havoc in Africa

8. Massacre in Peruvian Amazon over US Free Trade Agreement

9. Human Rights Abuses Continue in Palestine

10. US Funds and Supports the Taliban

In a continuous flow of money, American tax dollars end up paying members of the Taliban and funding a volatile environment in Afghanistan. Private contractors pay insurgents with the hope of attaining the very safety they are contracted to provide. Concurrently, US soldiers pay at checkpoints run by suspected insurgents in order to get safe passage. In some cases, Afghan companies run by former Taliban members, like President Hamid Karzai’s cousin, are protecting the passage of American soldiers. The funding of the insurgents, along with rumors of American helicopters ferrying Taliban members in Afghanistan, has led to widespread distrust of American forces. In the meantime, the US taxpayer’s dollar continues to fund insurgents to protect American troops so they can fight insurgents.

Student Researchers:

  • Anne Cozad (Sonoma State University)
  • Nolan Higdon (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)
  • Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)

Ahmad Rate Popal is a grand example of how those who controlled Afghanistan under Taliban rule are still controlling Afghanistan today and being paid by US tax dollars. Popal, who served as interpreter at one of the ruling Taliban’s last press conferences, is greatly increasing his wealth through the US war in Afghanistan. In 1988, he was charged with conspiring to import heroin into the United States. He was released from prison in 1997. Popal’s cousin is Afghanistan’s President Karzai. Popal and his brother Rashid (who pleaded guilty in 1996 to a separate heroin charge) control the Watan Group in Afghanistan, which is a consortium engaged in many different fields of business. One of Watan’s enterprises is to protect convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies. Popal is one example of the virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers in Afghanistan joining hands with former Taliban members and mujahideen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.

US security contractors as well as countless other private American corporations cannot provide the safety that they are paid to offer. So US military contractors in Afghanistan pay suspected insurgents to protect the US supply routes they were contracted to protect. A war-torn country such as Afghanistan has plenty of impoverished citizens, and, as a result, it is not hard for private contractors to find individuals willing to take money to protect supply routes.

Thus, an estimated 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars are paid to insurgents as the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting.

An example of these contracts are those granted to the NCL Holdings in Afghanistan run by Hamed Wardak, the young American son of Afghanistan’s current defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak. NCL is a small firm that was awarded a US military logistics contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite the fact that the firm only operates in Afghanistan, Wardak incorporated NCL in the United States early in 2007, due to his connections there.

On NCL’s advisory board is Milton Bearden, a well-known former CIA officer who in 2009 was introduced by Senator John Kerry as “a legendary former CIA case officer and a clearheaded thinker and writer.” Bearden is an incredible asset to a small defense contracting firm. Wardak was able to get a contract for Host Nation Trucking despite having no apparent trucking experience. The contract is aimed at handling the bulk of US trucking in Afghanistan, bringing supplies to bases and remote outposts throughout Afghanistan. At first the contract was small, but very quickly it expanded by 600 percent, making it a gargantuan contract worth $360 million. NCL had struck pure contracting gold. These profits, which only go to a very select and well-connected portion of the Afghan people, build a large amount of distrust from Afghan citizens toward American troops and those connected to them.

It is persistently rumored in Afghanistan that US forces are using their helicopters to ferry Taliban fighters. The rumor is strongly denied by the military. However, the helicopter rumors heard in many areas are feeding mistrust of the forces that are supposed to be bringing order to the country. The international troops deny that they are supporting the insurgents. “This entire business with the helicopters is just a rumor,” said Brigadier General Jüergen Setzer, recently appointed commander for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in northern Afghanistan. “It has no basis in reality, according to our investigations.” But the persistent rumors that foreign helicopters have been sighted assisting the Taliban in northern Afghanistan were given an unexpected boost in mid-October 2009 by President Karzai, who told the media that his administration was investigating similar reports that “unknown” helicopters were ferrying the insurgents from the Helmand province in the south to the Baghlan, Kunduz, and Samangan provinces in the north.


On June 6, the New York Times reported that the House National Security Subcommittee, whose chair is John Tierney (D-MA), is holding hearings on this issue. In a March 2010 Washington Post article, Congressman Tierney cited the article in the Nation as the reason he began the investigation.

Since our initial search of corporate media coverage on this issue in February 2010, finding zero coverage at that time, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have covered part of the story on their front pages. Both mentioned President Hamid Karzai’s cousin, and both acknowledged that in all likelihood money is making its way to the Taliban. Neither paper mentioned the US connection, Milton Bearden. The Washington Post covered the story on March 29, 2010, and mentioned the Nation magazine article. The New York Times story came out on June 6, 2010, acknowledging the corruption, but included the news that President Obama was addressing the issue with President Karzai. That the two stories came out two months apart, and that the US links are left out, led to the decision at Project Censored to keep this important story in the top censored stories list for the year.

11. The H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic: Manipulating Data to Enrich Drug Companies

12. Cuba Provided the Greatest Medical Aid to Haiti after the Earthquake

13. Obama Cuts Domestic Spending and Increases Military Corporate Welfare

14. Increased Tensions with Unresolved 9/11 Issues

15. Bhopal Water Still Toxic Twenty-five Years After Deadly Gas Leak

Around midnight on December 2, 1984, the citizens of Bhopal, India, a city of over 500,000 people in central India, were poisoned by approximately forty tons of toxic gases pouring into the night air from a largely abandoned chemical insecticide plant owned by the US-owned Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). The long-predicted gas leak at UCC was, and remains today, the worst industrial disaster in history.

Student Researchers:

  • Abbey Wilson and Jillian Harbin (DePauw University)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Tim Cope and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)

Released by faulty and neglected equipment, methyl isocyanate, phosgene and other highly toxic gases killed an estimated 8,000 people immediately. The death toll attributed to “that night” in the following weeks and months eventually rose to 20,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of others were harmed, in many cases permanently, with lung, liver, kidney, and immune system damages, and blindness. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) concluded that over 520,000 exposed persons had poisons circulating in their bloodstream causing different degrees of damage to almost all systems in the body.

The 1984 disaster may have faded in the world’s memory, but in Bhopal, the damaged births continue today. The very same factory that spewed out poison gas has been leaking deadly chemicals into the drinking water of about 30,000 people. In affected communities, there are epidemics of kidney disease and cancer, with hundreds of damaged children.

Indra Sinha, a Booker Prize nominee for his book on the Bhopal disaster, Animal’s People, explained why the gas leak that killed 20,000 people twenty-five years ago—and continues to create health problems for countless more—is still a national scandal: “After the night of horror, the factory was locked up. Thousands of tons of pesticides and waste remained inside. UCC never bothered to clean it. The chemicals were abandoned in warehouses open to wind and rain. Twenty-four monsoons have rusted and rotted the death factory. The rains wash the poisons deep into the soil. They enter the groundwater and seep into wells and bore pipes. They gush from taps and enter people’s bodies. They burn stomachs, corrode skin, damage organs and flow into wombs where they go to work on the unborn. If babies make it into the world alive, the poisons are waiting in their mothers’ milk.”

A Greenpeace survey found substantial and, in some locations, severe contamination of land and water supplies with heavy metals and chlorinated chemicals. From their samples, groundwater from wells around the site showed high levels of chlorinated chemicals including chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, indicative of long-term contamination. Additionally, lead, nickel, copper, chromium, hexachlorocyclohexane, and chlorobenzenes were found in soil samples. Overall contamination of the site and immediate surroundings is due both to routine spills and accidents during the operation of the factory, and to the continued releases of chemicals from the toxic wastes that remain on site.

According to New Delhi’s Centre for Science and the Environment, water found two miles from the factory contains pesticides at levels forty times higher than the Indian safety standard. In a second study, the UK-based Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) found a chemical cocktail in the local drinking water—with one carcinogen, carbon tetrafluoride, present at 2,400 times the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

Union Carbide Corporation—now the Dow Chemical Company (Dow), following a February 2001 merger—continues to claim over sixty years of research (including research on human “volunteers”) on methyl isocyanate (the gas that leaked from the Bhopal pesticide plant) as “trade secrets.” There is more than enough research to suggest that by withholding information, propagating misinformation and the withdrawal of funds meant for medical care, Dow–UCC has impeded the efforts of the victims to help themselves. The ICMR has in turn stopped all research into the health effects of the gas in 1994 and has yet to publish the findings of the twenty-four research studies it had carried out up to that point involving over 80,000 survivors. The alarming rise in cancers, tuberculosis, reproductive difficulties, and growth retardation among children born after the disaster remains undocumented. The official agency for monitoring deaths has been closed since 1992.

The local, BMA-funded Sambhavna clinic claims that one in twenty-five—a rate ten times higher than the national average—are born with severe birth defects including lameness and twisted or missing limbs, deaf-mute, brain-damage, hare-lips and cleft palates, webbed fingers, cerebral palsy, and tumors where eyes should be. Multiple generations are now affected; one victim, Mohini Devi, claims her children and grandchildren have experienced birth defects. “My real worry is my grandchildren. Already some have been born without eyes. Why is nobody doing anything for us?” she said.

In the absence of medical information, no treatment protocols specific to exposure-induced multi-systemic problems exist. Instead, in many places, ineffective and sometimes kidney-damaging drugs are prescribed to the thousands seeking relief and medical treatment. One exception is the Sambhavna Clinic, which in 1996 began offering survivors a combination of free modern medicine, ayurvedic herbal treatments, yoga, and massage.

While today tons of poisonous pesticides and other hazardous wastes remain scattered and abandoned on the Dow–UCC factory premises, insidiously poisoning the ground water and contaminating the land, the company and its former CEO Warren Anderson have distanced themselves from the “Indian-managed company,” eventually blaming employee sabotage. As a result, the disaster has done little to affect Dow–UCC. In February 1989, after forcing a paltry compensation settlement—$470 million as opposed to $3 billion demanded by the government of India—UCC’s share price jumped 44 cents and they went back to business as usual. Survivors in Bhopal received meager compensation. Most of them got a 25,000-rupee check (about US$500) for a lifetime of suffering caused by damage to their lungs, liver, kidneys, and the immune system.

Given the hundreds of thousands of victims dead and injured, the settlement worked out to less than 9 cents a day—only enough for one cup of tea each day—for nearly twenty years of unimaginable suffering. None of the thousands since born with gas-related congenital defects or illnesses from current water contamination have received help. When Dow acquired UCC, it denied further responsibility for the disaster. A Dow public relations official maintained that the settlement was “plenty good for an Indian.”

Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson, then CEO of UCC, were charged with culpable homicide or manslaughter and proclaimed absconders by the Bhopal Court in 1992, after failing repeatedly to honor the summons of the court. Warren Anderson was arrested briefly in 1984 and then fled the country. Anderson’s whereabouts were considered unknown despite the fact that his residences, one in the Hamptons, an upscale New York suburb, are publicly listed. Neither the Indian government nor the US government is willing to support the warrants for Anderson’s arrest or Dow–UCC’s responsibilities. In fact, Indian campaigners working to hold UCC responsible for its actions claim that their government has called the now-closed factory “safe” and “open for the public to tour.” The Bhopal government also allegedly neglected to work toward any sort of allegations against UCC, and simply left the plant to continue leaking chemicals.

Now, Satinath Sarangi, of the Sambhavna clinic in Bhopal, says the government is working to strike a contract with Dow, which would yield a $1 billion investment, and would allegedly allow Union Carbide to overlook its obligations to clean up their spill. “This is all about the money. Politicians in India would rather do this than fight for people who suffered,” Sarangi said.

16. US Presidents Charged with Crimes Against Humanity as Universal Jurisdiction Dies in Spain

17. Nanotech Particles Pose Serious DNA Risks to Humans and the Environment

18. The True Cost of Chevron

19. Obama Administration Assures World Bank and International Monetary Fund a Free Reign of Abuse

On April 24, 2009, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner hosted meetings with finance ministers from the world’s top economies to discuss increased oversight of the global financial system in the wake of the meltdown. The meetings preceded semi-annual gatherings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in Washington, DC.

The April G20 meeting in London secured a lot of positive media attention after world leaders announced a global package of $1.1 trillion for economic recovery and reform, mostly for the IMF. The plan, however, did not include specific information about the much needed operational reforms to the IMF and the World Bank.

Student Researchers:

  • Meg Carlucci and Marissa Warfield (Sonoma State University)
  • Abbey Wilson and Jillian Harbin (DePauw University)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Laurie Dawson and Elaine Wellin (Sonoma State University)
  • Tim Cope and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)

Speaking five months later on the eve of the September 2009 G20 summit, Geithner called for higher regulatory standards:

As you know, the United States Congress has a very aggressive schedule to legislate sweeping changes to our financial system that are going to make—provide greater protection for consumers and investors to create a more stable financial system and to try to make sure that taxpayers are no longer on the hook in the future to bear the burdens of financial crises. But we can’t do this alone. If we continue to allow risk and leverage to migrate where standards are weakest, the entire US global financial system will be less stable in the future. We need to see competition for stronger standards, not weaker standards.

How far will the G20 go on the regulation of financial markets? A September 2009 report from Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch emphasized that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has long advanced extreme financial deregulation under the guise of trade agreements that will undermine the current professed push for increasing regulation.

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen warned of the incredible contradiction: “While the summit communiqué is going to, on one hand, talk about regulating finance, at the same time, they’re going to talk about adopting the Doha WTO expansion, and a huge part of that agreement is deregulating finance.” Wallach continued, “The problem is that the G20 commitments aren’t binding. It’s a commitment of faith on the countries about what they’re going to do domestically. But the WTO rules are very binding and enforceable by sanctions. And so, it’s hard to know if it’s ignorance or it’s cynicism, but if the Doha round goes into place, all of the world’s countries will have a commitment not only to keep in place the existing WTO deregulation dictates on finance, but to deregulate further, right in the midst of what seems to be a global commitment to re-regulate.”

The WTO has an agreement called the Financial Services Agreement that explicitly applies to over a hundred countries and mandates major deregulation. For instance, it has a rule that you cannot have a domestic law that limits the size of a financial service firm—insurance, banking, securities—even if it applies equally to foreign and domestic companies. So while everyone talks about putting into place rules regarding being “too big to fail,” there is a WTO dictate that forbids such regulation.

In short, these binding WTO rules require countries to maintain the same policies that led to the financial crisis. This agreement was never brought to a vote in any Congress.

Jesse Griffiths, coordinator of the London-based Bretton Woods Project, under the International Finance for Sustainability program of the Mott Foundation’s environmental division, said, “The ideology of the IMF and World Bank has failed and the accompanying structures have failed.” He added, “In addition to the current enormous economic instability, the system has failed to create equity and eradicate poverty; it has failed to ensure that human rights are protected, and it has failed to address environmental issues.”

The failures of these global entities have not prevented President Obama from allowing their relatively free reign in relation to the US government. In June 2009, President Obama used his sixth signing statement to negate provisions of US legislation that would have compelled the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards. When signing the $106 billion war-spending bill into law, Obama included a five-paragraph signing statement with the bill in which he also refused to require the Treasury Department to report to Congress on the activities of the World Bank and the IMF.

The sections rejected by Obama would have required his administration to direct its World Bank representatives to pressure that institution into using metrics that “fairly represent the value of internationally recognized workers” rights. Organized labor groups had pushed for a revision of those standards.

Another section rejected by Obama would have pushed the World Bank to account for the cost of greenhouse gas in pricing projects and to more fully disclose operating budgets.

Yet another section rejected by Obama in this signing statement would have required Geithner to develop a report with the heads of the World Bank and IMF, “detailing the steps taken to coordinate the activities of the World Bank and the Fund,” to eliminate overlap between the two.

Obama said in a statement that “provisions of this bill . . . would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiating or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments.” He added, “I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations.”

20. Obama’s Charter School Policies Spread Segregation and Undermine Unions

21. Western Lifestyle Continues Environmental Footprint

22. 1.2 Billion People in India to be Given Biometric ID Cards

India’s 1.2 billion citizens are to be issued biometric identification cards. The cards will hold the person’s name, age, and birth date, as well as fingerprints or iris scans, though no caste or religious identification. Within the next five years a giant computer will hold the personal details of at least 600 million citizens, making this new information technology system the largest in the world. The project will cost an estimated $3.5 billion. The 600 million Indians will receive a sixteen-digit identity number by 2014 in the first phase of the project.

Student Researcher:

  • Danielle Caruso (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator:

  • Rashmi Singh (Sonoma State University)

India’s red tape is legendary: citizens have dozens of types of identity verification, ranging from electoral rolls to ration cards, yet almost none can be used universally. The new system will be a national proof of identity, effective for everything, from welfare benefits to updating land records. Forty-two percent of India’s population is below the poverty line and citizens frequently move in search of jobs. The government believes the ID system will help citizens because they will no longer have a problem identifying themselves. The biometric identity number will be entered every time someone accesses services from government departments, driver’s license offices, and hospitals, as well as insurance, credit card, telecom, and banking companies. By bringing more people into the banking system, Indian officials also hope to raise the number of people paying income taxes; currently, less than 5 percent of the population pays income taxes.

The head of Oxfam India, Nisha Agarwal, says a lack of identity verification is a major problem, especially for urban migrants. As a result, they are excluded from dozens of government programs, which offer cheaper food, jobs, and other benefits for poor people. “They remain treated as temporary migrants and, without that piece of paper, some form of identification, they are not able to access many of these government schemes that exist now, that have large funds behind them and could actually make a huge difference in poor people’s lives.”

The scheme is the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani, one of India’s best-known software tycoons and now head of the government’s Unique Identification Authority. “We are going to have to build something on the scale of Google, but it will change the country . . . every person for first time [will] be able to prove who he or she is. . . . We are not profiling a billion people. This will provide an ID database which government can access online. There will be checks and balances to protect identities,” said Nilekani, who has also been in talks to create a personalized carbon account so that all Indians might buy “green technologies” using a government subsidy.

The government also plans to use the database to monitor bank transactions, cell phone purchases, and the movements of individuals and groups suspected of fomenting terrorism. In January 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs began collecting biometric details of people in coastal villages to boost security; the gunmen in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 165 people, sneaked into the country from the sea.

Critics say the project will turn India into an Orwellian police state that will spy on citizens’ private lives. “We do not want an intrusive, surveillance state in India,” said Usha Ramanathan, a lawyer who has written and lobbied against the project. “Information about people will be shared with intelligence agencies, banks and companies, and we will have no idea how our information is interpreted and used.” Civil liberty campaigners fear the ID card will become a tool of repression. Nandita Haskar, a human rights lawyer, said, “There is already no accountability in regards to violations of human and civil rights. In this atmosphere, what are the oversight mechanisms for this kind of surveillance?”

India’s plunge into biometric identification comes as countries around the globe are making similar moves. In 2006, Britain approved a mandatory national ID system with fingerprints for its citizens before public opposition prompted the government to scale back plans for a voluntary pilot program beginning in Manchester. United States senators have proposed requiring all citizens and immigrants who want to work in the country to carry a new high-tech social security card linked to fingerprints as part of an immigration overhaul.

23. Afghan War: Largest Military Coalition in History

24. War Crimes of General Stanley McChrystal

25. Prisoners Still Brutalized at Gitmo

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cambodia: Systematic Erosion of Freedom of Expression Puts Democracy at Risk

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September 2010

Cambodia: Systematic Erosion of Freedom of Expression Puts Democracy at Risk

ARTICLE 19, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and 15 other Cambodian and international organisations and unions are launching a new report, titled Cambodia Gagged: Democracy at Risk? in which the organisations highlight the deteriorating freedom of expression situation in the country. The report also shows how each of the pillars of democracy are being systematically silenced by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC).

The report, which was coordinated by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), raises concern over the continued erosion of the right to freedom of expression, especially how the judiciary is being used as an organ of repression in silencing dissent and opinion critical of the government. Despite Cambodia’s commitments to protect the right to freedom of expression through domestic and international laws, the freedom of expression situation in the country is deteriorating.

“In recent years, acts of intimidation, harassment and the inappropriate use of criminal law to thwart criticism, have created a climate of fear and widespread self-censorship, depriving Cambodians of their rights to expression and information that are crucial to genuine democratic participation,” says ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Agnès Callamard.

The government’s crackdown on freedom of expression includes the targeting and silencing of parliamentarians, the media, lawyers, human rights activists and the general public. One of the key findings of the report is that such systematic attacks on freedom of expression are putting democracy at risk.

As noted by CCHR President Ou Virak, “With the use of state power to silence debate and close the space for pluralism and diversity of opinion, we fear the emergence in Cambodia of an autocratic, authoritarian political system seriously eroding the rights and freedoms of all Cambodians. The government can however still turn the tide and give democracy a real chance by protecting and encouraging freedom of expression.”

In conclusion, the report provides a series of recommendations for the government to protect and promote freedom of expression, and recommends ways in which the international community can demand greater accountability from the government regarding respect for freedom of expression and other human rights.


• The Report is available at:
• For more information please contact: Amy Sim,, +44 20 7324 2500, or Chor Chanthyda,, +855 12 515 506
• The Cambodian Center for Human Rights is a non-political, independent, non-governmental organization, which works to promote democracy and respect for human rights throughout Cambodia.

UN urged not to support laws prohibiting "defamation of religion"

29 September 2010

UN urged not to support laws prohibiting "defamation of religion"

Five IFEX members urged the UN not to pass a law that would make defamation of any religion an internationally endorsed offense. Statements exposing the anti-free expression repercussions of such a law were made during a panel that was held to coincide with the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on 16 September. The panel was hosted by International PEN and sponsored by the Norwegian and American PEN Centers, Index on Censorship, the International Publishers Association, and ARTICLE 19.

"Human rights are attached to individuals, not to states or organised groups or ideas," said John Ralston Saul, International PEN president, while chairing the two-hour session.

The UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly have passed several resolutions in the last few years that call on countries to ban "defamation of religions." Interest in such laws has grown in light of recent events around the globe, including a Florida pastor's Koran-burning attempt, bans on the construction of minarets in Switzerland and France's recent move to outlaw Islamic face veils, said Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 director.

While noting that these developments are indeed alarming, the panelists argued that already existing laws on discrimination and preaching hate are sufficient to address hateful attacks on religious groups.

Budhy Rahman from the Asia Foundation said Indonesia's religious defamation laws "punish the peaceful criticism of ideas and disfavoured political or religious beliefs." Indonesia's blasphemy laws were passed in April 2010 and impose jail sentences of up to five years for those who "deviate" from the teachings of the country's official religions. Several IFEX organisations filed an amicus curiae brief urging Indonesia's Constitutional Court to repeal the laws, but the laws were ultimately upheld.

In March 2010, 40 IFEX members sent a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council to express their dismay over the Council's recently passed resolutions on "defamation of religion."
In the collectively signed letter, the members said any law protecting religion from defamation is "counterproductive to its apparent objective" because, in practice, it would allow for "state practices which discriminate against religious minorities, dissenting voices and non-believers."

In a video statement during the panel, writer Azar Nafisi asked the particularly poignant question, "What will happen to women right now who are fighting against being stoned to death?"

Brutal repression of human rights

29 September 2010

Brutal repression of human rights defenders in historic crackdown

BCHR president Nabeel Rajab is skyped into a Human Rights Council meeting on Bahrain, organised by CIHRS.
BCHR president Nabeel Rajab is skyped into a Human Rights Council meeting on Bahrain, organised by CIHRS.

Hundreds of Bahraini political activists, human rights defenders and Shiite religious figures have been arrested in recent months - many of them tortured in detention - in the worst crackdown on free expression the country has ever seen, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Human Rights Watch. Authorities have blocked numerous websites, shut down independent rights groups and threatened rights defenders who have criticised the torture of prominent activists.

The international community's silence about repressive measures in Bahrain only gives tacit support to authorities to continue stifling dissident voices who are potential monitors to parliamentary elections on 23 October, say 26 rights groups, including BCHR, CIHRS, ANHRI and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). It is widely expected that there will be elections abuses as part of a long-held pattern of political marginalisation of Shiite and opposition communities.

To prevent independent and critical information from being published, the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority has censored the website of Al-Wefaq Society, the largest political society in the country. The Society had recently announced plans to launch a visual and audio service on its website, as well as plans to participate in the elections.

There has been a systematic campaign to create a complete media blackout, says BCHR. Among the blocked websites is, known for its rapid media coverage and photos of protests. Most of the blocked websites are discussion forums that belong to Shiite villages that continue to deal with unrest and arrests of protesters.

The Information Affairs Authority has also banned the publication of information about detained activists and has ordered all civil society organisations to support the regime or face harassment. As a result of this intense repression, BCHR and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) have been forced to temporarily relocate to Europe. Some human rights activists have been prevented from travelling, including Nabeel Rajab of BCHR, and Laila Dashti of BYSHR, who was supposed to attend the 15th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council last week, where CIHRS was organising events on Bahrain, including delivering an oral intervention before the Council.

The minister of development and social solidarity issued a decree to dissolve the managing board of the Bahraini Association for Human Rights and replace the elected chairman with a government official - guaranteeing the government's control over the organisation. This decision came after the organisation expressed solidarity with victims of the crackdown. The society has made several statements affirming the basic rights of detainees, including access to lawyers and family members and their right to a fair trial.

BCHR and other local human rights groups have also strongly criticised the government's treatment of detainees and published reports saying that security forces have carried out torture.

Human Rights Watch has called on King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to conduct an independent investigation into recent allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prominent opposition leaders and demonstrators by security forces. Recent arrests of high-profile opposition leaders and activists are linked to their criticism of government policies.

In response to the crackdown, rights organisation Front Line went on a mission to Bahrain that was completed on 29 September. The mission focussed on the case of imprisoned blogger and human rights activist Ali Abdulemam, who has been held incommunicado for the last three weeks, denied so much as a phone call.

Iran : A blogger been sentenced 19.5 years in prison

29 September 2010

The "Blogfather" gets 19 years in regime's war on opinion

One blogger has just been sentenced to 19.5 years in prison, another faces the death penalty and three journalists have been handed multi-year prison terms in Iran, report IFEX members. Take action now to support "The Blogfather," as Hossein Derakhshan is known, by signing the petition at:

The 19.5-year sentence for Derakhshan, a dual Canadian-Iranian citizen, has shocked free expression advocates around the world, many of whom admire the 35-year-old for being the first to post Farsi instructions on how to blog in 2001. ARTICLE 19, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Index on Censorship and PEN Canada have prepared a joint action on Derakhshan's case, which they have appealed to other IFEX members to sign.

Calling on Iran to immediately release Derakhshan and for the international community to step up pressure in support of Iran's political prisoners, the statement attests that, "Prison is no place for Hossein Derakhshan or for the dozens of other writers, journalists, academics and bloggers who continue to languish in Iran’s jails."

Derakhshan's sentencing occurred in a closed-door courtroom on 28 September, but was confirmed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) with his family in Canada, who were informed via a telephone call from the judge on the case.

Derakhshan returned to Iran from Canada in November 2008 after authorities promised him he would not face charges. Yet, he was arrested at the airport on grounds of "insulting government leaders and Islam's holy texts." The blogger has published posts critical of Ahmadinejad and other fundamentalist clerics in the past but, in light of his recent writings in support of Ahmadinejad's policies, Derakhshan did not think he would be prosecuted, let alone tortured in prison.

The lengthy term does not bode well for Vahid Asghari, a 24-year-old pro-reform blogger and student who is currently awaiting sentencing and for whom prosecutors have suggested the death penalty, report several IFEX organisations. Asghari was arrested in the spring of 2008 and tortured into falsely confessing that he ran an online pornographic network. His actual crime, however, was hosting the websites of dissidents and opposition members.

Meanwhile, three journalists arrested in the months following Iran's disputed June 2009 elections, have been sentenced to prison. Shiva Nazar Ahari is a 26-year-oldreporter for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and an advocate for women's, children's and prisoners' rights. She has been convicted of "waging war against God" among other crimes and sentenced to six years. She had been facing the death penalty.

Emadeddin Baghi also received six years for a 2007 interview he conducted for the BBC during which he challenged a since-deceased cleric. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is calling his sentence "punitive and absurd."

Finally, CPJ reports that prominent columnist Issa Saharkhiz was sentenced to three years on 27 September for "insulting the Supreme Leader." Saharkhiz, a veteran journalist, has already reportedly suffered a heart attack while behind bars since he was detained shortly after the elections.

Behind the ludicrous charges is Iran's notorious security agency, the Revolutionary Guards, which was created a few months prior to the country's last election. Amid the mass street protests and state killings that marked the summer of 2009, the Revolutionary Guards announced they were going after a "network" of supposedly incendiary bloggers and journalists that were "urging the population to rebel," says RSF.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, urged the Iranian regime to consider the geopolitical consequences of its actions at a time when appeals to consciousness seem to fall on dead ears: "Going further into repressing opposition voices and violating public freedoms will only bring about more animosities with the international community at the time Iran is in bad need to keep good relations."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sign a petition for blogger facing execution

5 August 2010

Take action!

Sign a petition for blogger facing execution

Blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari
Blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging you to sign a petition to save the life of jailed Iranian blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari. She has been charged with assembly and collusion to commit a crime, propagating against the regime and, the heaviest charge of all, "mohareb", or rebellion against God. She is facing possible execution.

Ahari is scheduled to be tried on fraudulent charges before the Revolutionary Court of Iran on 4 September. She is a spokesperson for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHHR) and has been in prison since December 2009. She had been jailed for four months immediately after the disputed June presidential election and was free on bail when she was rearrested in December.

To sign, please see RSF Germany's petition at:
Save Shiva Nazar Ahari

Crackdown on rights defenders speaking out about torture and discrimination

25 August 2010

Crackdown on rights defenders speaking out about torture and discrimination

Bahraini rights defender Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace has been imprisoned for his criticism of the regime's policies of arbitrary arrests, torture and discrimination.
Bahraini rights defender Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace has been imprisoned for his criticism of the regime's policies of arbitrary arrests, torture and discrimination.
Kristina Stockwood
Four Bahraini human rights defenders are among those recently jailed incommunicado, charged with inciting violence and terrorism, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and other IFEX members. Twenty-six human rights groups, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHRS), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and BCHR, say the counter-terrorism law is being deployed to criminalise free expression and to crush dissent in the lead up to elections on 23 October.

Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace was arrested on 13 August after returning from London where he spoke to the House of Lords about an increase in human rights violations and environmental degradation in Bahrain. He has criticised the systematic use of torture in prisons and discrimination against the country's Shiite population. Al-Singace, a blogger, is the head of the human rights office of the Haq Movement for Rights and Liberties (which has advocated boycotting elections), and an academic at the University of Bahrain. He has difficulty getting around without a wheelchair or crutches and is on medications he was not able to take with him to jail.

Abdul-Ghani Al-Khanjjar was arrested on 15 August after taking part in the same seminar in London as Al-Singace. Al-Khanjjar heads the National Committee of Martyrs and Torture Victims, which documents violations of torture. He is also the spokesperson of the Bahraini Coalition for Truth and Equity, made up of 11 Bahraini political and human rights groups.

On 17 August, BCHR reports that Board member Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi and another rights activist, Jaffar Ahmed Jassim Al-Hisabi, were arrested. Al-Sahlawi has been arrested and imprisoned in the past for demanding political change. Al-Hisabi has lived in the United Kingdom for the past 15 years and was arrested at Bahrain airport, as he returned from a trip to Iran; he is known for his participation in protests in the UK demanding the release of detainees.

During this period, four religious and political activists were also arrested: Sheikh Mohammed Al-Moqdad, Sheikh Saeed Al-Nori, Sheikh Mirza Al-Mahroos and Sheikh Abdulhadi Al-Mukhuder.

All the activists are being held in unknown places and their families and lawyers have been barred from visiting them. "We fear they are at risk of maltreatment or torture inside detention facilities," say the 26 rights groups. The Bahraini Authority is moving towards charging the activists according to the Bahraini Anti-Terrorism Law, which has been condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Promoting and Protecting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the context of counter-terrorism.

The arbitrary arrests sparked a wave of protests which have been brutally suppressed with sound bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets and physical violence. Members of Al-Singace's family were forcibly removed from the Bahrain airport after declaring a sit-in to protest his arrest. The same day, security forces violently dispersed a peaceful assembly of dozens of people, among them rights advocates, expressing their solidarity with Al-Singace in front of his home. Al-Singace's sister was injured by a rubber bullet. Several communities in the country demonstrated against the regime's policies of arbitrary arrests, torture, discrimination and raids on villages by security forces.

Meanwhile, state-owned media have launched a smear campaign against the activists. As well, Human Rights Watch reports that, on 15 August, the state-run Bahrain News Agency cited a source at the National Security Agency as saying Al-Khanjjar, Al-Nori and Al-Moqdad were arrested for activities that intended to "undermine security and stability in the country."

The state is tightening control over the electoral process in the parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for late October 2010, says the joint action, in a step toward the political marginalisation of the Shiite majority. All of the activists being targeted are Shiite.

Iraq: Journalist kidnapped and killed

1 September 2010

Journalist kidnapped and killed

An Iraqi journalist was found dead on 24 August, six days after he was kidnapped, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Press Institute (IPI). Journalist Kamal Qassim Mohamed had been shot. In a separate incident in Baghdad, police stormed the home of a journalist, injuring his family members.

Mohamed's case underscores the need for legislation to protect journalists. At least 114 Iraqi journalists have been murdered in the past seven years. According to the Iraqi-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), attacks on journalists are rising.

On 27 August, police in Baghdad raided the home of the head of the Iraqi Press Agency, Haydar Hassoun Al-Fizaa, firing at his wife and relatives who were later hospitalised. Officials said the police had not known that Al-Fizaa owned the house and claimed no shots were fired.

Newspaper suspended for exposing President's brother's crimes

1 September 2010

Newspaper suspended for exposing President's brother's crimes

A Togolese court has indefinitely suspended the distribution of a Benin newspaper after crippling it with a defamation charge and heavy fines for publishing an article linking Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé's brother with drug trafficking, report the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). A newspaper photographer covering the court case was violently detained by gendarmes.

"Tribune d'Afrique", a private bi-monthly based in Benin, has a bureau in the Togolese capital of Lomé. The paper is sold and distributed in seven West African countries, with its highest circulation in Togo. Mey Gnassingbé sued the newspaper in May after it published the first of a three-part series, titled "The white powder darkening presidential palaces: Drug trafficking at the top of the state." It was charged with publishing false news and defamation.

The judge ordered the newspaper to pay US$113,000 to Mey Gnassingbé and fined Togo-based editor Aurel Kedoté, reporter Cudjoe Amekudzi and chief executive officer Marlène de la Bardonnie US$3,800 each. In a punishing twist, the newspaper has been ordered to publish the judgement in three newspapers with large circulation or risk paying US$200 each day it refuses to carry out the order. And the court has also ordered the destruction of copies of "Tribune d'Afrique" with the offending article, currently being sold.

The paper's critical coverage of the Togolese state has resulted in threats from officials and the government-controlled media regulatory authority and loss of government advertising revenue.

Didier Ledoux, a reporter for the privately owned "Liberté" daily newspaper covering the defamation trial, was arrested and beaten by security officers for photographing the court building. The gendarmes wanted to delete the photo he had just taken because they thought they were in it. The Union of Independent Journalists of Togo (UJIT) and the Committee of Newspaper Owners immediately called the head of the gendarmerie and Ledoux was released.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bangladesh: Opposition Newspaper Raided by Police And Forced to Close


4 June 2010

Bangladesh: Opposition Newspaper Raided by Police
And Forced to Close

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned that daily newspaper Amar Desh has been forced to close after 200 police entered the printing press in the middle of the night and halted production.

Police entered the printing press and the newspaper’s office following the government’s cancellation of Amar Desh’s licence to publish. Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka, Muhibul Haque ordered the cancellation following a dispute between the acting-editor and the publisher. Acting editor Mahmudur Rahman was also arrested in the raid and has been charged with resisting arrest, assault, and obstruction.

Acting-editor Rahman worked as an energy advisor to the previous Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the Bangladesh National Party, who were in government from 2001 to 2006. Since the Awami League came to power in 2006, Amar Desh has aligned with the opposition, and staff have been charged with more than 20 counts of criminal defamation.

Amar Desh’s licence was cancelled by the deputy commissioner under Article 5 and 7 of the 1973 Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act on the grounds that it has “no publisher”. The previous publisher, Hashmat Ali, had lodged a complaint on 1 June claiming that although he had left the newspaper, it continued to publish under his name, and may attract new criminal defamation cases against him as proprietor. Staff staged a sit-in when police later raided the newspaper.

Speaking to ARTICLE 19, leading journalist and former president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul commented that the: “closure and highhanded manner it was done is unacceptable, however the matter of conformity with the provisions of the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act,1973, with regard to the use of authentic publisher should be left to be determined by the course of the law.”

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned that the raid and closing of the opposition newspaper was inappropriate and disproportionate.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to match their electoral pledge of upholding “freedom of all types of mass media and flow of information” (Pledge 19 of the Election Manifesto of the Bangladesh Awami League – 2008). We call on the government to adhere to its national and international obligations to protect alternative and critical voices and sources of information.


• For more information please contact: Tahmina Rahman, Country Director, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh, +0171-303-9669.

Artist Alert: May 2010


May 2010
Artist Alert: May 2010

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

Somalia: Music, sound effects and jingles banned
Extremist religious groups in Somalia have threatened radio stations telling them to stop playing all music, sound effects and even radio jingles. According to Freemuse, on 3 April Hisbul Islam leader Ma’allin Hashi Mohamed Farah gave radio stations 10 days to stop airing music or face undisclosed penalties. In response, on 19 April the leader of the government’s regional administration Abdikafi Hilowle Osman threatened to close down any radio stations that acquiesced to the threat. Four stations, Tusmo, Somaliweyn, Voice of Peace, and Xurmo, which reside within the government-controlled area of Mogadishu, have come under direct threat of closure from the government.

Côte d'Ivoire: Music banned for critiquing government
Two musicians alleged on 22 May that Côte d'Ivoire’s national television station has refused to air their popular music because it contains social and political commentary. Newspaper L'Expression quotes musicians Fadal Dey and Lago Paulin as saying that their “subversive” music is seen as critical of President Gbagbo’s government. Highlights of some of their tracks include songs forgiving previous governments on the basis that the present government is similarly as corrupt, and others stating that human rights and social securities are absent in the country. Media Foundation for West Africa states that the national television station, Radio Television Ivoirienne, regularly broadcasts pro-government music by groups that label themselves “patriot.”

Burma: Hip-hop defiance
After studying in London’ SAE Institute and inspired by regular visits to the British Library to read about traditional Burmese folk songs, Thxa Soe has become a hugely successful hip-hop artist in Burma, singing about current affairs in the country. According to the UK Guardian newspaper, Thxa’s concerts are policed by security uniformed and plain-clothed officers, attempting to monitor growing crowds that are using hip-hop to express issues in Burma. Unlike Burmese music and lyrics, which have to be approved by government censors before broadcast, the fluidity, dynamism and underground nature of hip-hop is proving hard to control. A number of Burmese bands are utilising the growth in new technologies to share un-censored music.

UAE: Controversy over Sex and the City 2 filming location
According to Time Out Dubai, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) media council announced that they had banned the film Sex and the City 2, released on 27 May, because the “theme of the film does not fit with our cultural values.” A representative from the national media council stated that the film was also banned for attempting to portray that it had been shot in UAE, when in fact in had been filmed in Morocco. According to film company New Line Cinema, the producers had asked to shoot in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in order to highlight the growing importance and modernity of the cities. Their application was refused without reason, which is why they filmed in Morocco. Interestingly, the media council have now removed all reference to the film ban from their website.
China: Uighur banned from cultural conference
Economist and writer Ilham Tohti has been warned not to try to attend a conference on Turkic culture by police visiting his home in Beijing. Ilham Tohti who is an ethnic Uighur had both a visa and official permission to leave China and was due to leave for Turkey on 15 April when police effectively banned him from travel two days prior. According to PEN, Tohti’s case follows a similar restriction on the writer Liao Yiwu who was due to make an appearance at Cologne literary festival but was removed from the aeroplane moments before leaving China.
Iran: Tim Burton calls for release of Jafar Panahi at Cannes
In an interview at the Cannes film festival on X, Tim Burton, head of the film festival jury, called on the Iranian government to immediately free Iranian film maker and Cannes prize-winner, Jafar Panahi. Burton told a news conference: “All of us are for freedom of expression. We fight for that every day and in our lives. So of course one should be free to express oneself.” Iranian security forces detained Panahi along with his wife, daughter and 15 guests on 1 March for allegedly making a film inside his own home on the Green Movement. Whilst his wife, daughter and guests have since been released, Panahi remains in the notorious Evin prison.
Egypt/Morocco: Bans and protests for Elton John
According to the news website Monsters and Critics, the Egyptian musicians’ union successfully lobbied authorities to ban the pop star Elton John from performing in a private concert in Egypt on 18 May. The union’s head, Mounir al-Wasimi, claimed that Elton should be banned due to his sexuality, asking: “How do we allow … calls for Middle Eastern countries to allow gays to have sexual freedom?!”

Elton John held another concert in front of 60,000 fans in Morocco on 26 May, despite calls from the Islamist Justice and Development Party to ban his attendance. According to Reuters, Mustapha Ramid stated the ban was because: “This man - sorry, I should say this person, not this man - is known for bragging about his homosexuality.”
Burma: Poet released five months after sentence finished
Burmese poet Saw Wei has been freed from detention five months after his sentence had officially run out. Sam Wei had served almost three years in prison because one of his poems was deemed by the government as “inducing crime against public tranquillity”. PEN American Centre states that Sam was detained in January 2008 for the poem titled ‘February the Fourteenth’, a short poem published in Love Journal in Burma for Valentines Day. The journal quickly sold out in Rangoon as word spread that the poem’s first letter on each line spelled out “General Than Shwe is crazy with power.”
Egypt: Minister attempts to ban Sufi ceremony
In May, the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior attempted to ban Sufi dhikr (a religious group ceremonial activity) from taking place in mosques, following the submission of an obscenity case by lawyers in the country against traditional stories One Thousand and One Nights. The government claims that such ceremonies are undermining public morality by allowing men and women to mix in tents and dance in ways that are not officially approved of.
• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer,, +44 20 7324 2500
• ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world 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.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thailand: Attacks on Media Must Stop

20 May 2010

Thailand: Attacks on Media Must Stop

Following the surrender of “Red Shirt” leaders and the imposing of curfew in Bangkok, all sides must stop attacking the media in order to allow the media to report freely on the development of the crisis. The media must also uphold the professional standards of objectivity to gain public trust and credibility.

Protests across Thailand have continued today following weeks of growing conflict. Yesterday the Thai army surrounded and used live arms to disperse protesters calling for the dissolving of parliament and announcing early elections, killing many. Members of the Red Shirts, largely consisting of rural poor, have in recent weeks targeted national media houses claiming that they are biased towards the urban elite. The government, on the other hand, has blocked around 4,500 websites and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Twitter feed amongst other censorship measures.

On Wednesday, the Red Shirts stormed national TV station Channel 3 and set cars on fire. Journalists at The Bangkok Post and The Nation also evacuated their building in fear of their safety. Following the crackdown, some protestors also turned on the media, threatening photographers taking pictures of retreating Red Shirts in particular.

The crisis has taken a heavy toll on journalists. International and national journalists have been killed and injured in the course of the crisis. In Wednesday’s army crackdown, Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photojournalist was killed by gunshot. He is the second journalist to have lost his life after Japanese cameraman for Reuters, Hiroyuki Muramoto, who was fatally shot on 10 April. At least five other international journalists from the Netherlands, USA, Canada and the UK, and a Thai photographer working for Australian Broadcasting Corporation have been injured thus far. Besides journalists working for foreign media, two local newspaper photographers - one working for Matichon and the other for The Nation – also suffered injuries in recent clashes.

“Such attacks, as well as threats to journalists and media censorship, seriously undermine a free media environment much needed at this critical moment when the public needs updated information from all sources to understand the situation,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 calls on both sides to end the attacks on journalists and media censorship, and to ensure the right to information and right to expression are not compromised.

ARTICLE 19 also urges journalists to adhere to the professional standards of reporting, upholding objectivity and refraining from inciting violence.


• For more information please contact: Amy Sim, Asia Programme Officer,, ARTICLE 19, +44 20 7324 2500

Pakistan: Freedom of Expression on Internet Must be Respected

For immediate release – 21 May 2010

Pakistan: Freedom of Expression on Internet Must be Respected

Decisions by a Pakistani High Court to ban numerous international websites and services violate international human rights law.

The Lahore High Court on 19 May ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block the social network website Facebook and hundreds of other pages in response to a Facebook user calling for an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”. The court later ordered the blocking of YouTube for the same reason. The ban has resulted in numerous other websites also being affected, including Flickr, Wikipedia, Google, Twitter, some parts of the BBC, and accessing the internet through the Blackberry mobile service. The Express Tribune has reported that the total number of blocked websites has reached 1,000.

Participants of a media forum held yesterday in Karachi to discuss the ban were attacked by protesters accusing the organisers of blasphemy.

Previously, Pakistan has banned access to YouTube, Blogspot and Flickr, along with sites relating to corruption by political officials, human rights abuses by the army, nationalist political parties and religious minorities. An attempt to block YouTube in 2008 resulted in most of Pakistan being cut off from the internet after Pakistan Telecom rerouted all YouTube visitors worldwide to a false site, leading to a massive overload of traffic and YouTube being blocked worldwide for a short time. A cybercrime law adopted in 2008 authorises the death penalty for some offenses.

These expansive blocks of internet content violate Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that all individuals have a fundamental human right to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers … through any other media of his choice.” Pakistan signed the ICCPR in 2008.

Any curbs on the right to free expression must be strictly limited. The curb must be provided by a law which is clear and understandable, the interference must pursue a legitimate aim as set out under Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, and the restrictions must be necessary and proportionate. The blocking of millions of pages is clearly disproportionate.

“Leaders of countries around the world must understand that speech and information in new media such as the internet are equally protected under the fundamental right to freedom of expression,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director . “It is not lawful to ban millions of pages to prevent access to a few.”

ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to remove all blocks that are not justifiable under international human rights law and to reform legislation that allows for blocks to be imposed without due consideration of the freedom of expression.


• For more information please contact: David Banisar, Senior Legal Counsel, ARTICLE 19, +44 20 7324 2500

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mexico: A Fourth Journalist Goes Missing in Michoacan State‏

8 April 2010
Mexico: A Fourth Journalist Goes Missing in Michoacán State
Another journalist has been reported missing in Mexico, the fourth to disappear in Michoacán since 2006. Ramón Ángeles Zalpa, a journalist with more than ten years’ reporting experience, was last seen on 6 April at 13h00, when he left home for the National Pedagogical University, where he is also a professor.
ARTICLE 19 has initiated legal proceedings with local and federal authorities in an attempt to speed up the search for Ramón Ángeles. The organisation has also requested that the National Human Rights Commission grant him “precautionary measures”, a special status intended to guarantee the safety of an individual at risk, along with their family. The Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists and the local Office of the General Attorney’s in Michoacán has now opened a file (number ACPGR/MICH/U-II/034/2010).

Ramón Ángeles is a correspondent for the local newspaper Cambio de Michoacán in Uruapan and Paracho municipality. He has covered government policy, public safety, and agricultural and environmental issues. Recently, he reported on an armed attack against an indigenous family on the boundaries of the municipalities of Angahuen and San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro.

Ramón Ángeles is the tenth journalist to have disappeared in Mexico since 2000 and the climate for media workers trying to exercise their professional duties remains risky across the country.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, his family explained that they had received several unusual phone calls on Friday 2 April, the last of which was answered by Ángeles himself. The caller never spoke or identified themselves and the family was unable to say whether Angeles had received a message or not.

On 11 November 2009, Maria Esther Aguilar Casimbe, a crime reporter in Zamora working for Cambio de Michoacán, also went missing in similar circumstances. She has not yet been found.

ARTICLE 19 expresses its solidarity with the family of Ramón Ángeles, his colleagues and all employees of Cambio de Michoacán.

ARTCLE 19 is deeply concerned about the escalating number of attacks against journalists in Mexico, and especially about the evident pattern of violence in Michoacán

ARTICLE 19 urges the local and federal authorities to undertake all necessary measures to find Ramón Ángeles Zalpa, with all the urgency that is required in such cases. We also urge the authorities to launch a proper investigation into the perpetration of this abduction and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.


• For more information please contact: Nicola Spurr, Senior Media Officer,, +44 20 7324 2500 or +44 772 686 7868.
• For information in Spanish, please contact Ricardo González,, +52 551 054 6500 ext. 103 or +52 1 551 452 9008.