Who Wants to Kill Honduran Journalist Héctor Longino Becerra?

Hector Longino Becerra LanzaIf you care about the crucial role of human rights defenders as much as Amnesty International, you want to know the answer to this question. Longino Bacerra is the Executive Director of the Committee for Free Expression, C-Libre. On April 20, an anonymous caller warned him, “I lead a campaign to kill you, your mum, your dad, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your friends and your friends’ friends. If they are dead, I will revive them and kill them again, did you hear me?”

Unlike Amnesty, the Honduran government has not demonstrated interest in identifying and punishing those behind attacks on journalists. In its 2012 report on conditions in Honduras, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) indicated that the government has not solved 80% of the cases of journalists murder in the nation. 15 of these murders took place since the 2009 coup. Last month, the CPJ reported an attempt on the life of Honduran television journalist Fidelina Sandoval.

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Top Ten Reasons to Write for Rights

Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.

In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to participate, but in case you need more, here are my top ten reasons to Write for Rights: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Finding the Disappeared

Gao Zhisheng with his family.

Disappeared human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng with his family. © AI

On August 30, Amnesty International and other human rights groups around the world will observe the International Day of the Disappeared.  We’ll be pressing governments to disclose the status of  the disappeared and to prosecute those responsible for enforced disappearances.  Here’s how you can join us:

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Lydia Cacho Threatened Again

Lydia Cacho, a journalist and human rights defender based in Cancún, Mexico, received new death threats last month by email and telephone.

On June 14, Cacho received a death threat by email, which was sent to the Lydia Cacho Foundation (Fundación Lydia Cacho) based in Spain. Three days later on June 17, she received another death threat by telephone from an unknown man. Both threats referred to her work as a journalist and warned her to shut her mouth or she would be killed.

As complaints were filed with the Police both in Mexico and in Spain, Amnesty International released an Urgent Action asking members to write to the Mexican authorities to provide adequate protection to Lydia Cacho. Take online action for Lydia right now.

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Remembering The Disappeared

Amnesty International condemns all enforced disappearances as crimes under international law.  And on August 30, we’ll be doing something about them.

Sandya Eknaligoda

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, Sri Lanka, 10 January 2011

An enforced disappearance occurs when a person is arrested or abducted by the state or agents of the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.

Enforced disappearances take place around in the world, including in countries such as China, Nepal, Chad, Sri Lanka and North Korea.  In Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of enforced disappearances occurred during decades of civil conflict on the island.  One recent example is the journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing after work on Jan. 24, 2010.

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Global Day of Action for Sri Lankan Journalist

Next  Tuesday, August 10, will be the 200th day since the Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda went missing after work.  Amnesty International and other organizations have been calling on the Sri Lankan government to investigate his disappearance.  In Sri Lanka, the Alliance of Media Organizations (Alliance) will mark this day by holding a protest and a seminar.  The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is asking its affiliates to support the protest by contacting Sri Lankan embassies around the world on Tuesday to express concern over his disappearance.

Amnesty supports these actions by the Alliance and IFJ.  Please join in this day of action by doing the following on Tuesday, August 10:

1. Send an online letter to the Sri Lankan government asking them to effectively investigate Prageeth Eknaligoda’s disappearance, make the results public and hold accountable those responsible for his disappearance.

2. Call the Sri Lankan embassy in your country and express concern about his disappearance (in the U.S., the Sri Lankan Embassy‘s phone number is 202-483-4025).

It’s long past time for the Sri Lankan government to provide justice for him and his family.  With your help, we may see it happen.

Six months later, no sign of missing cartoonist

On Mar. 11, I wrote on this site about Prageeth Eknaligoda, the Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist.  He’s been missing since leaving work on Jan. 24.  Amnesty Interrnational and other organizations (like the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders) have all expressed concern and have called on the Sri Lankan government to investigate his disappearance.

Well, it’s been six months since he disappeared and we haven’t seen any evidence of an effective investigation so far.  His wife, Sandhya Eknaligoda, has repeatedly said she holds the government responsible.  This past Saturday, she reportedly went to a famous Hindu temple and prayed for help in finding her husband, having lost faith in the Sri Lankan legal process.

The Sri Lankan government needs to live up to its responsibility here.  Please write to the government and ask that it conduct a proper, effective investigation into his disappearance and hold accountable those found responsible.  Thanks.

Tissa is finally free!

The Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam (often referred to as “Tissa“) is finally free!  As I wrote on this site earlier, Tissa had been sentenced last year to 20 years’ hard labor, after an unfair trial, for criticizing the Sri Lankan government’s conduct of the war against the Tamil Tigers in a couple magazine articles.  Amnesty International had adopted Tissa as a “prisoner of conscience,” since he was being prosecuted solely for his legitimate journalistic activities.  While the Sri Lankan government had announced on May 3  that President Rajapaksa had decided to pardon Tissa, as of June 9 the pardon still hadn’t been issued.  Nor did we know whether his rights would be fully restored, including the right to leave the country.

Well, his pardon has finally come through and he has gotten his passport back.  As the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported, Tissa arrived in Washington, DC yesterday morning.  Thank you very, very much to all those who wrote on his behalf; I’m sure it helped a lot in getting his freedom restored.

Now’s the time for the Sri Lankan government to take other steps to demonstrate its respect for media freedom and human rights, including determining the fate of the disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda and repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the emergency regulations.  I hope I’ll be able to report more good news again soon.

Tissa's pardon – we're still waiting

On May 4, I wrote on this site about the Sri Lankan government’s announced pardon of the journalist J.S. Tissainayagam (often referred to as “Tissa”), who’d been unjustly convicted and sentenced to 20 years’ hard labor just for criticizing the government’s conduct of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.  Amnesty International has adopted Tissa as a “prisoner of conscience” since we believe that he was imprisoned solely for his journalistic activities.  I was reluctant to start celebrating until details of the pardon had been clarified.

Well, it’s now been 37 days since the announcement of the pardon, and the government still hasn’t issued it!  The Sri Lankan Attorney General said in mid-May that Tissa’s lawyers had to withdraw his appeal against his conviction, and then the pardon could be issued in a “couple of days.”  His lawyers reportedly withdrew his appeal on May 31 but the pardon has still not been issued.

Why all the delay?  Please write the Sri Lankan government and ask that the granting of the pardon be expedited.  Let the  government know that the world is still watching and that we won’t rest until Tissa’s rights are fully restored.  Thanks.

License Free Dialogue in Zimbabwe!

Radio Dialogue Zimbabwe road show

Radio Dialogue Zimbabwe road show

On World Press Freedom Day, Amnesty USA is calling attention to fearless journalists fighting every day to tell the stories that matter and remind us how fragile freedom of expression remains. Repression of journalists, including imprisonment, violence and even death, continues frequently in many places around the world. In Zimbabwe, media repression opened significantly in the past year, with the government allowing foreign reporters to return to the country. But the government continues to lock down domestic reporting.

The only daily newspapers, radio and TV stations in Zimbabwe are state run. The Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed by Zimbabwe’s three main political parties in September 2008, provided for “the immediate processing of all applications for registration in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act”. Despite this, repressive legislation restricting the ability of the independent media to operate remains in place. More than a year since it was created, the new government has failed to honour its commitment to issue licences.

Radio Dialogue is a non-profit community radio station consistently denied a licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) since it’s foundation in 2001. The station aspires to broadcast to the community of Bulawayo and its surrounding areas, engaging in discussions of political, social, cultural and economic issues affecting the community. Their slogan ‘Giving You a Voice’ expresses their aim to enable all sections of the community to engage as a means of promoting tolerance, understanding and community relations.

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