Pakistani journalists stage a demonstration during a protest in Karachi on June 3, 2011, against the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
A year after the abduction and murder of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, little has been done to investigate the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and their possible involvement in the murder. Meanwhile another journalist, Murtaza Razvi, was killed in April 2012, and numerous other journalists in Pakistan have reported death threats.
The death threats continue.
A government inquiry into Shahzad’s murder said it was unable to identify his killers. It speculated that any of a number of state, non-state or foreign actors, including al-Qaeda or the Taliban, could have been responsible.
True, but why no mention of the ISI? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
There is an antidote to the weariness, cynicism and paralysis perpetuated by the heartless churn of our 24-hour news cycle: Just listen to the voices of those who walk the razor’s edge each day as they fight to change the world. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi addressed Amnesty activists by phone at the end of Day 2 of our 50th anniversary conference, graciously acknowledging the role of grassroots activism in her release after 15 years of detention by the military junta and encouraging us not to forget the 2,000-plus political prisoners who remain locked up in Burma.
Her brief address was followed by a riveting speech by Jenni Williams, co-founder of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a group of women who have been jailed, tortured and persecuted for their non-violent demonstrations to demand social justice. Williams recalled one August night when police abducted seven WOZA members. “The phone calls started at 3 a.m. We heard our members had been arrested in suburbs, so we called Amnesty International. By 12 noon, all seven members were delivered back to their homes by the same police officers who had abducted them,” said Williams.
Earlier in the day, I spotted New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof listening to similarly harrowing tales at the well-attended panel discussion, “Muzzling the Watchdogs,” featuring Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho, Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam and Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi. All three had been arrested, imprisoned and persecuted for their work to expose injustice, and each was the subject of Amnesty International urgent actions and/or international letter campaigns demanding their freedom.
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This past week in Mexico, eight journalists have been kidnapped (of which 2 have been released alive and one dead) in Reynosa and three people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez who have connections to the US Consulate. The perpetrators of these murders may have been involved with the ongoing battle between rival drug trafficking organizations. Violence against journalists has been a persistent problem in Mexico, where this year three journalists have been confirmed killed by the authorities, twelve journalists were killed in 2009, and 60 have been killed since 2000. The most recent kidnappings in Reynosa and the trend of violence against reporters has caused Ciro Gómez Leyva, the news director at Milenio, to write an angry column, saying “journalism is dead in Reynosa”.
Not only is it dangerous to report on the drug war in Mexico, it is dangerous to organize or advocate for human rights. In the 2009 State Department Report on Human Rights Practices in Mexico, the arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of human life was noted as a major human rights problem. One alarming case, that of Raúl Lucas Lucía and Manuel Ponce Rosas, was included in the Human Rights Report and featured in Amnesty International’s recent report called “Standing up for Justice and Dignity: Human Rights Defenders in Mexico”. These men were human rights defenders who worked with the Future of Mixtecos Indigenous Peoples group who advocate for economic and social rights regarding indigenous Me’ phaa (Tlapaneca) and the Na savi (Mixteca) people. After being assaulted by plain clothed police officers and kidnapped in the town of Ayutla de los Libres in Guerrero state at a public ceremony, their families were notified with a threatening text message of their disappearance. Several days later their injured bodies were found in Tecoanapa, Guerrero State, a 30-minute drive from Ayutla de los Libres. An investigation was opened but at the end of 2009, is still pending.
This case is emblematic of the larger problem of targeting human rights defenders which is illustrated in an Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) report. The report documented 128 attacks including 10 killings against human rights defenders from 2006 to August 2009.
The State Department Report on Human Rights noted that journalists fear revenge from police authorities and drug traffickers and that affects what they report. The news “blackouts” also have human rights implications because often that is how defenders raise awareness on abuses they encounter.
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