In Turkey, the crackdown on independent journalism continues. Mehmet Baransu remains in jail, apparently a victim of the government’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement. Other journalists in Turkey have been charged under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Meanwhile, a pattern of media outlets sacking voices deemed critical of the government continues, with the newspaper, Milliyet, firing seven journalists this past month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Laura Haigh, Amnesty International Myanmar team
Journalists critical of the authorities in Myanmar pay dearly for their stories. Five journalists at the Unity newspaper paid with their freedom. On World Press Freedom Day we remind the government of their promises to foster a free press and demand freedom for the ‘Unity Five’.
“What I want is more media freedom.” These are the words of Tint San, Chief Executive Officer at the Unity newspaper in Myanmar during his trial. His crime? Doing his job. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Back in December, Amnesty activists responded to an Urgent Action on the murder of Honduran journalist Juan Carlos Argeña. Not only has there not been any progress in this case, Amnesty has had to issue a new Urgent Action on behalf of Mario Argeñal, Juan Carlos’ brother.
Unidentified men have threatened and intimidated Mario in response to his public statements about the killing of his brother and his calls for justice in the case.
In a major report this week, Amnesty International has outlined the wide range of legal tools that Turkish authorities have used to target political dissent and limit freedom of expression. Scholars, students, journalists, human rights activists, and thousands of others have been subject to prosecution and lengthy punishment under these statutes. But you can join us in working for real reform in Turkey!
Amnesty has noted that:
The most negative development in recent years has been the increasingly arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws to prosecute legitimate activities including political speeches, critical writing, attendance of demonstrations and association with recognized political groups and organizations – in violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Out of almost 300 cases of human rights abuses covered in Amnesty International’s new report, Transforming Pain into Hope: Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, only four have resulted in the conviction of those responsible.
One of the main reasons why violators continue enjoy impunity is that they target precisely those individuals who expose their crimes. The report therefore emphasizes the danger posed to journalists, bloggers, and trade unionists who speak up for human rights.
Just within the relatively small region of Central America, the report highlights four important cases of attacks on freedom of expression that seek to cover up other human rights abuses: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Dina Meza, Honduran journalist
26 years ago I decided to study journalism at the National Autonomous University of Honduras.
I began my studies in 1986, and dreamed of working for the big press outlets and speaking freely. But I never imagined that speaking, writing and telling the truth about what was happening could mean walking the line between life and death if anyone powerful in Honduras felt threatened.
Serious threats to freedom of expression are on the rise in Honduras. One of the first killings of journalists took place on November 26, 2003, when the environmental journalist German Rivas, of CMV Noticias, Channel 7, was killed. Eight months previously he had been attacked, but the Attorney General’s Office never investigated, or brought the culprits to justice.
Four years on, the crimes continued, and with the coup d’etat in 2009, intolerance grew to such an extent that censorship and self-censorship are now the inseparable companions of every journalist.
Since the coup d’etat, 20 journalists have been killed in Honduras. The files on these deaths carry on gathering dust in the drawers of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, impunity tries to silence a story which was never told.
The Russian Federation has had an unenviable place in the news of late. With the outrage over the government’s disastrous and unconscionable opposition to meaningful UN Security Council action on Syria, to Amnesty’s recent findings that Russian weapons continue to supply the machine of misery unleashed on the people of Darfur and Sudan, it would be easy to be blinded to the risks to rights protection in Sunday’s Presidential election.
Last Saturday, thousands rallied in St. Petersburg in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for a third presidential term, chanting “Russia without Putin.” On Sunday, over 30,000 people organized together to create a human chain spanning 15.6 kilometers in length throughout Moscow in solidarity over growing discontent over the election.
Dink, an ebullient public intellectual and journalist, was a key figure in Turkey’s dwindling Armenian community and an important activist in Turkey’s long struggle for a more liberal, tolerant society. For this, he was rewarded with state harassment, a public vilification campaign, and, finally, an assassin’s bullet.
The triggerman, Ogün Samast, was quickly arrested and, earlier this week, was sentenced to more than twenty years in prison. This is an important step. But given the remarkable discrepancies in the case, it is clear that more needs to be done.
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.
Today, World Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate the fundamental human right to freedom of expression. Every day, journalists around the world face the threat of intimidation, censorship, imprisonment and violence, including torture, for their efforts to report on human rights violations.
We are shining a light on 8 specific cases in places including China, Zimbabwe, Russia and Egypt where rights to free speech and expression have been harshly denied.
It was during this same time last year when we witnessed the release of American journalist Roxana Saberi. She was arrested in Iran and initially sentenced to eight years in prison on trumped-up charges of espionage. But because we sounded the alarm and refused to let free speech be ignored, justice was served.