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.