Human Remains Found In Amazon Search For Missing Journalist, Expert

Indigenous members of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), look for clues that lead to the whereabouts of veteran correspondent Dom Phillips and respected indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira. (Photo by Joao LAET / AFP)

 

Human remains have been found in the search for a British journalist and Brazilian indigenous expert who disappeared deep in the Amazon after receiving threats, Brazil’s president confirmed Monday.

Relatives of veteran correspondent Dom Phillips and respected indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira meanwhile said authorities informed them two bodies had been found — though police and local indigenous leaders denied that, adding to confusion around the case.

The families of Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, have endured an anguished wait for news since the pair disappeared a week ago Sunday during a reporting trip to Brazil’s Javari Valley, a remote jungle region rife with illegal fishing, logging, mining and drug trafficking.

“The evidence leads us to believe something bad was done to them, because human innards were found floating in the river, which are now undergoing DNA testing,” President Jair Bolsonaro said.

The development came a day after police said they had found personal items belonging to the two, including Pereira’s health card, pants and boots, as well as Phillips’s backpack and clothing.

Bolsonaro, whose government has faced accusations of failing to act urgently enough in the case, said hope was fading.

“Because of the time that’s passed — eight days now, approaching the ninth — it’s going to be very difficult to find them alive,” the president told CBN Recife radio.

“I pray to God for that to happen, but the information and evidence we’re getting suggest the opposite.”

– ‘Upset and distressed’ –

Phillips’s niece Dominique Davies told AFP via text message that authorities had informed the family two bodies had been found.

“We are waiting on confirmation from the federal police (in Brazil) as to whether they are Dom and Bruno. We all remain upset and distressed at this time,” she said.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper, where Phillips was a regular contributor, said the bodies were found tied to a tree, according to information given to Phillips’s family by an aide to Brazil’s ambassador in London.

Federal police said in a statement that reports that Phillips and Pereira’s bodies had been found were incorrect. And the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), which is taking part in the search, denied two bodies had been found.

The police have confirmed they are analyzing a blood sample and suspected human remains found during the search to determine whether they are from the missing men.

They said the results of these analyzes are expected “during this week.”

Pereira’s wife Beatriz Matos said Monday on Twitter that the police had confirmed “no body was found.”

She added that “the confusion caused by the Brazilian embassy in London cannot demobilize the searches”, which she said must be “intensified.”

“We the family members need answers and certainty, and only with real evidence will we have that,” Matos said.

Brazilian police have arrested a suspect in the case, 41-year-old Amarildo Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed “Pelado.”

Witnesses say they saw him threaten Phillips and Pereira prior to their disappearance, then pursue them in his boat just before they disappeared.

The blood sample being analyzed was found on a tarp in Oliveira’s boat.

The search has been complicated given the difficult jungle terrain in the far-flung Javari Valley, where the men had traveled by boat gathering material for a book Phillips was writing about sustainable ways to protect the world’s biggest rainforest.

– U2 adds to pressure –

Brazil’s government faces pressure from international media organizations, rights groups and high-profile figures over the case — fueling criticism of Bolsonaro’s policies on the Amazon, where illegal deforestation and other environmental crimes have surged since he took office in 2019.

Dozens of indigenous protesters marched Monday in Atalaia do Norte, the small city Phillips and Pereira had been headed to, demanding answers on their whereabouts.

“It’s been a week… and every day brings conflicting reports,” Natalie Southwick, Latin America coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a statement.

“CPJ remains deeply concerned about the government’s insufficient response and lack of transparency. Brazilian authorities must stop dragging their feet.”

Irish rock band U2 became the latest to rally to the cause, joining Brazilian football legend Pele and singer Caetano Veloso.

“We are waiting to find out what has happened to these courageous men,” the band tweeted, along with a red-and-black drawing of the pair by artist Cristiano Siqueira that has gone viral.

“Where are Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira?” it reads.

AFP

Aljazeera Journalist Killed During Israel West Bank Raid


An undated handout photo released by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV shows the channel’s veteran journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh during one of her reports from Jerusalem. AL JAZEERA / AFP

 

Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh was shot dead Wednesday as she covered an Israeli army raid on Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. 

The Qatar-based TV channel said Israeli forces shot Abu Aqleh, 51, deliberately and “in cold blood” while Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it was “likely” that Palestinian gunfire killed her.

Abu Aqleh, a Palestinian Christian who also held US citizenship, was a prominent figure in the channel’s Arabic news service.

Another Al Jazeera journalist, producer Ali al-Samudi, was wounded in the incident, the broadcaster added.

READ ALSO: Over 40 Bodies Found Under East Ukraine Building – Officials

An AFP photographer at the scene said Abu Aqleh was wearing a press flak jacket when she was shot. The photographer reported that Israeli forces were firing in the area and then saw Abu Aqleh’s body lying on the ground.

The Israeli army confirmed it had conducted an operation in Jenin refugee camp early Wednesday but firmly denied it had deliberately targeted a reporter.

The army said there was an exchange of fire between suspects and security forces and that it was “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen”.

“The (army) of course does not aim at journalists,” a military official told AFP.

A statement from Al Jazeera said: “In a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine.”

It called on the international community to hold the Israeli forces accountable for their “intentional targeting and killing” of the journalist.

 ‘Palestinian Gunmen’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel was seeking a “joint pathological investigation into the sad death of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh”.

“Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,” Lapid added.

The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, tweeted that he was “very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh” and called for “a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death”.

The Israeli prime minister said Palestinian gunmen in the camp were likely responsible for Abu Aqleh’s death.

“According to the information we’ve gathered, it appears likely that armed Palestinians — who were indiscriminately firing at the time — were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist,” Bennett said in a statement.

The wounded Al Jazeera producer, Samudi, said there were no Palestinian fighters in the area where Abu Aqleh was shot.

“If there were resistance fighters, we would not have gone into the area,” he said in testimony posted online, stating that the Israelis “fired towards us”.

In recent weeks, the army has stepped up operations in Jenin, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several of the assailants blamed for deadly attacks on Israelis in recent weeks were from the area.

The army said that during its operation in the camp, “massive fire was shot toward Israeli forces by tens of armed Palestinian gunmen”.

People in the camp “also hurled explosive devices toward the soldiers, endangering their lives. The soldiers responded with fire toward the sources of the fire and explosive devices. Hits were identified.”

 Rising Tensions

The fatal shooting comes nearly a year after an Israeli air strike destroyed a Gaza building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and news agency AP.

Israel has said the building also hosted offices for key members of the Hamas Islamist group, which controls the Israeli-blockaded Gaza strip.

The Palestinian Authority called Abu Aqleh’s killing an “execution” and part of an Israeli effort to obscure the “truth” about its occupation of the West Bank.

Hamas called the incident “a premeditated murder”.

Qatar’s assistant foreign minister Lolwah Al Khater said Israeli troops had killed Abu Aqleh “by shooting her in the face” in what she called an act of “state sponsored Israeli terrorism”.

Tensions have risen in recent months as Israel has grappled with a wave of attacks which has killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.

A total of 30 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs have died during the same period, according to an AFP tally, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.

AFP

45 Journalists Killed In 2021 – Media Watchdog

File photo used to illustrate the story. AFP

 

A total of 45 journalists were killed worldwide in 2021, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said on Friday – “one of the lowest death tolls” it has recorded for any year.

The figure tracked closely with a toll of 46 killings of journalists given two weeks ago by another media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (known by its initials RSF), which also noted it as its lowest-ever since starting its tallies in 1995.

“While this decrease is welcome news, it is a small comfort in the face of continued violence,” the Brussels-based IFJ said in a statement.

The toll included nine in Afghanistan, the highest number suffered by a single country.

Elsewhere, eight died in Mexico, four in India and three in Pakistan.

The IFJ said the media workers “more often than not are killed for exposing corruption, crime and abuse of power in their communities, cities and countries”.

According to the group’s count, the Asia-Pacific region — which includes Afghanistan — was the deadliest, with 20 killings. Then came the Americas, with 10, Africa, with eight, Europe with six, and the Middle East and Arab countries with just one. It also mentioned the death of two journalists in a “deadly accident” in Iran.

While “the risks associated with armed conflict have reduced in recent years” because fewer journalists were able to report on the ground, “the threats of crime gang and drug cartels’ rule from the slums in Mexico to the streets of European cities in Greece and the Netherlands continue to increase”, it added.

IFJ Secretary-General Anthony Bellanger emphasised his organisation’s support for a UN convention for the protection of journalists to “ensure accountability for journalists’ killings”.

The IFJ’s figures differed slightly from those given by RSF, which counted seven journalists killed in Mexico, six in Afghanistan, and four each in Yemen and India.

Record 488 Journalists Imprisoned, 46 Killed In 2021- Report

 

 

 

 

There are currently 488 media professionals imprisoned around the world, the highest number since Reporters Without Borders began counting more than 25 years ago, the NGO announced Thursday. 

By contrast, the number killed this year — 46 — was the lowest since it began issuing annual tallies, due to the relative stabilisation of conflicts in the Middle East.

“The number of journalists detained in connection with their work has never been this high since RSF began publishing its annual round-up in 1995,” the NGO, which battles for freedom of the press, said in a statement.

The number has risen by some 20 percent over the past year thanks largely to crackdowns on the media in Myanmar, Belarus, and Hong Kong.

RSF said it had also never seen so many female journalists detained, with the overall number of 60 representing a third more than 2020.

China once again has the highest number of imprisoned journalists at 127, said RSF, which has routinely lambasted Beijing over what it describes as an “unprecedented crackdown” on press freedoms.

In Hong Kong, there has also been an uptick in arrests as Beijing’s national security law has taken hold. “In this special administrative region, which used to be a regional model of respect for press freedom, and which had no imprisoned journalists, the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 has been used as a pretext for arresting and detaining at least 10 journalists as of 1 December,” RSF said.

 ‘People’s tribunal’

Myanmar was second with 53, followed by Vietnam (43), Belarus (32) and Saudi Arabia (31).

The falling number of deaths since a peak in 2016 reflects changing dynamics in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where a reduction in conflict means fewer journalists have been drawn to the region.

Most of the 46 killings were assassinations: “65 percent were deliberately targeted and eliminated,” the report said.

The most dangerous countries were once again Mexico and Afghanistan, with seven and six journalist deaths respectively, followed by Yemen and India with four apiece.

RSF also counted 65 journalists and colleagues held as hostages around the world.

All are in the Middle East — Syria (44), Iraq (11) and Yemen (9) — apart from French journalist Olivier Dubois, held in Mali since April.

A “people’s tribunal” to achieve justice for murdered journalists opened in The Hague last month to defend media freedoms in an age of increasing authoritarianism and populism.

Set up by a coalition of press freedom organisations, the hearings lasting six months will focus on the unsolved cases of three journalists murdered in Mexico, Sri Lanka, and Syria.

While it has no legal powers to convict anyone, the tribunal aims to raise awareness, pressure governments, and gather evidence through what it calls its form of “grassroots justice”.

The tribunal was organised by Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Reporters Without Borders.

-AFP

Killing Of Journalist: Six Questions Left Unanswered Regarding Tordue Salem’s Death

The Vanguard reporter, Henry Tordue Salem was last seen on October 13, 2021.

 

About a month after he was declared missing, Tordue Henry Salem, a journalist with Vanguard Newspaper, was found dead.

His sudden disappearance had made the headlines for weeks with many posing theories regarding his whereabouts.

Tordue’s corpse was however discovered after 29 days in a hospital morgue; the discovery while bringing a gruesome search to an abrupt halt, stirred many more questions.

In seeking to provide an answer to the first most vital question regarding the journalist’s mysterious disappearance and awful death, the police dug deeper, following all leads possible and this seemed to have paid off.

Within days of discovering the body, police apprehended a commercial cab driver and a shocking confession was made.

The narrative was quite simple; police say it was an unfortunate case of a hit-and-run. In his own words, the driver – Itoro Clement says he was driving late at night and some persons attempted to cross the expressway and one of them got knocked down by his Camry.

When asked why he did not flinch at the incident nor thought it wise to report, Itoro’s reply was simply that he thought those who attempted to cross were mere robbers.

While on the surface its looks like a straight-jacket story, there are many who believe there is more to the tale than meets the eyes.

For those who believe that the confession of the driver and the developments leading to the discovery of Tordue’s body do not sit well, here are 6 questions they believe must be answered before the case and the corpse is laid to rest.

1.How did his phone end up totally unnoticed on the car’s windshield
While making his confession, Itoro Clement, the driver who allegedly hit Tordue said he found the victim’s smashed phone close to the wiper end of his windshield.

Curiously, the driver did not see it on the night of the incident, he found it by morning at the garage where he regularly parks his car. And what he does next is simply toss the phone away, after all, it supposedly belongs to a “robber” he just hit.

Perhaps what was revealed next is more troubling.

2.Who sold the smashed phone?

After the phone was reportedly tossed into the thrash, police say some youngsters found the scrap and sold it. Now the question becomes who are those that sold the phone, who did they sell it to?

How badly smashed was this phone and if it was as bad as the driver portrayed it, how come it still had sale value? Who made the initial test calls from Tordue’s sim? How can we say for sure that those who sold the phone or its parts were acting independently?

3.Who was calling Tordue’s wife and how did he get the contact of other family members?

Within the period he was missing, the Vanguard reporter’s wife got several calls from a person posing as a kidnapper.

The police say he made use of some “bulk SMS service” in Rivers State, but that really says little about how the individual who we now know as Prince Eyeniyi got the contact info of the victim’s wife.

Furthermore, one wonders, what really is the link between this individual and the driver and how can they be linked to the persons who sold or bought Tordue’s shattered phone?

4.Where are the policemen at the checkpoint?

One highly appalling detail provided by Itoro Clement was that just after he hit the journalist, he was stopped by police officers at a checkpoint in Wuse 2, these policemen are said to have told the driver to go report himself.

It is very strange, in that he was already reporting himself, saying he had just hit someone. He had a badly bashed windshield and other dents on his car as proof of his claim.

These officers did not head to the scene of the accident, who knows they might have helped the victim. Why did they not take the driver in for questioning?

5.Unknown body?

Tordue’s corpse was discovered at the Wuse General Hospital where it was labelled “Unknown Body”.

What is shocking here is the fact that 29 days earlier when the victim was brought to the morgue, he had on his person, two bank cards and a valid means of identification.

So, it begs the question, did those in charge not know what bank cards were or could they not read what was on the identity card?

Were they not aware that there was a journalist missing within the metropolis, one whose name had been in the news for 29 days?

How easy is it to say that such an individual was in your possession and no one could step up the leadership ladder as to reach out to the police and members of the deceased’s family?

6.What does the autopsy say?

This is one question that needs to be answered soon enough. There surely have to be wounds that are consistent with being hit at such great speed by a car.

Also, we can determine from the body when the victim died and see if it is consistent with the timeline. Could there be other things that would tell us if truly the victim was knocked down.

Certain marks on other parts of the body may suggest foul play beyond the hit-and-run narrative.

Conclusion

While the efforts of the police so far are highly appreciated, however, there are questions that still need to be answered with respect to Tordue’s death. In line with this thought, the minority caucus of the House of Representatives has urged the police to conduct further investigations into the matter.

Minority leader of the House, Rep Ndudi Elumelu, noted that there were conflicting official security reports on the matter, saying investigations must not be foreclosed.

Police have said investigations are still ongoing as the officers who failed to follow up when they were told of the incident are being questioned.

It is hoped that proper clarifications will be made regarding Tordue’s disappearance and death, as to ensure that all questions are answered for the benefit of all.

Kogi Gov Asks Police To Launch Full-Scale Investigation Into Death Of Journalist Tordue Salem

The Vanguard reporter, Henry Tordue Salem was last seen on October 13, 2021.

 

Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello has asked the police to launch a full-scale investigation into the death of Vanguard Reporter, Henry Tordue Salem.

The journalist who had been missing since October 13 was found dead at a morgue in Wuse General Hospital on November 12.

In a statement issued on Saturday by his Chief Press Secretary, Onogwu Muhammed, Governor Bello commiserated with the family of the late journalist, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the House of Representatives Press Corps over the loss.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Suspected Hit-And-Run Driver Over Death Of Vanguard Journalist

The Kogi governor expressed sadness over the unfortunate death of the journalist, saying the circumstances surrounding his death were questionable.

According to Bello, Nigerian journalists deserve adequate protection in view of the important role they play in informing the public as well as holding the government accountable to the people.

While asking security agencies to intensify efforts in providing adequate security for citizens of the country, he prayed for God to grant the deceased eternal rest and fortitude for the family and the NUJ family to bear the loss.

Algeria Journalist Freed After Six Months In Jail

File photo of Algerian journalist, Rabah Kareche. Credit: Amnesty Int’l

 

Algerian journalist Rabah Kareche left prison on Tuesday after completing a six-month sentence for “spreading false news”, his newspaper Liberte said.

“Our reporter Rabah Kareche is free again after six months behind bars in Tamanrasset prison” in the country’s desert south, it reported on its website.

An appeals court had sentenced Kareche on October 11 to six months in prison plus six months suspended, a two-month reduction from his original sentence.

His release came as he had already served much of sentence during his trial and appeal.

Kareche was arrested in April after reporting the Tuareg, a Berber minority who have long complained of economic and social marginalisation, had protested over “expropriation” of their historical lands.

He was sentenced on August 12 to eight months behind bars plus four months suspended for “spreading false information liable to damage public order”.

He was also accused of posting reports that could trigger “segregation and hatred within society”.

“I’m the victim of a grave injustice,” Liberte quoted him saying as he left prison.

“I did nothing more than my job as a journalist with professionalism.”

Algeria ranks a lowly 146th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

 

US Won’t Compel Journalists To Reveal Sources  – Officials

File photo used to illustrate the story. AFP

 

The US government pledged Monday to steer clear of legal orders that force journalists to reveal their sources, with only rare exceptions, reversing course after revelations of secret efforts to obtain information from the media.

A statement from the agency said it would no longer use the “compulsory legal process” including subpoenas or warrants to obtain records or identify sources from journalists involved in newsgathering activities.

The new policy comes following revelations that former president Donald Trump’s Justice Department secretly obtained phone records of journalists investigating his administration, inducing from CNN, the Washington Post and New York Times.

The statement said the policy shift was made “because a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy.”

It said the new policy applies to reporters, publishers, third-party service providers and others involved in newsgathering, and to physical or digital documents as well as phone records.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the new policy in a memo and called for “a review process to further explain, develop and codify the policy.”

Monday’s announcement comes after news that the Trump administration sought records of journalists investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, while obtaining “gag orders” to keep that effort secret.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month that the use of such orders in leak investigations “is not consistent with the president’s policy direction.”

The Garland memo said exceptions to the policy would be made if the journalist were the subject of an investigation, or was suspected of being a foreign agent or member of a terrorist group, or in cases of “imminent” risk of death or bodily harm.

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File photo: Former President Donald Trump points at the press box speaks of “Fake News” during his campaign-style rally in Wellington, Ohio, on June 26, 2021.  STEPHEN ZENNER / AFP

 

While the cases involving the Trump administration have drawn scrutiny recently, the policy change addresses a longstanding concern on press freedom and follows several cases where journalists have been threatened with jail for refusing to reveal sources.

“The attorney general has taken a necessary and momentous step to protect press freedom at a critical time,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

“This historic new policy will ensure that journalists can do their job of informing the public without fear of federal government intrusion into their relationships with confidential sources.”

AFP

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer Killed In Afghanistan

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed in clashes in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city in Afghanistan on Friday.

 

 

A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with the Reuters news agency was killed Friday covering fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near a border crossing with Pakistan, the media outlet reported, citing an army commander.

Afghan forces were fighting to retake Spin Boldak when Danish Siddiqui and a senior officer were killed in Taliban crossfire, the commander told Reuters.

The agency reported Siddiqui, an Indian national, had been embedded with Afghan special forces in the former Taliban bastion of Kandahar since this week.

“We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region,” Reuters president Michael Friedenberg and editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement.

“Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.”

Reuters said Siddiqui, 38, had earlier reported being wounded in the arm by shrapnel while covering the fighting.

He was treated and had been recovering when Taliban fighters retreated from the fighting in Spin Boldak.

The agency reported an unnamed Afghan commander told them Siddiqui had been talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked again.

It said it was unable to independently verify the details.

Siddiqui was part of a team to share the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis.

The agency said he had worked for them since 2010, covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Rohingya refugees crisis, the Hong Kong protests and Nepal earthquakes.

Afghanistan has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

In May, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked it 122nd out of 180 countries on its latest World Press Freedom Index.

Several journalists, including women, have been killed in targeted attacks since the Taliban and Washington signed a deal in February 2020 that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Prominent television anchors, reporters and freelancers have been shot dead in rush-hour traffic in Kabul and other cities, while scores have been threatened.

Officials blame the Taliban for the murders, although some assassinations have been claimed by the jihadist Islamic State.

Around 1,000 Afghan media workers have left their jobs, an Afghan journalists’ safety committee said in May.

“The threats and violence against journalists have a direct impact on the media and make their work especially difficult,” RSF said.

 

Here is some of his work below.

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB: People supporting the new citizenship law beat a Muslim man during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi, India, February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

 

A man supporting a new citizenship law throws a stone at those who are opposing the law, during a clash in New Delhi, India, February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Algeria Supreme Court Orders Retrial For Prominent Journalist

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Prominent journalist Khaled Drareni, a symbol of the struggle for a free press in Algeria, is to face a retrial after the supreme court accepted his lawyers’ cassation appeal on Thursday.

“The supreme court overturned the decision. The cassation appeal of the defence was accepted, so Khaled Drareni will be retried,” Abdelghani Badi, a member of the defence team, told AFP.

“I hope that in this new trial, there will be no pressure on the judiciary, as has been the case before,” he said.

During Drareni’s trial in September, his defence team said there had been “pressure (from the executive) on judges”.

Drareni was arrested in Algiers in March 2020 while covering the pro-democracy Hirak protest movement, which swept former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 and carried on demonstrations to demand a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s 1962 independence from France.

The 40-year-old correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was provisionally released last month after almost a year in prison along with dozens of other activists under presidential pardons issued ahead of the Hirak’s second anniversary.

READ ALSO: EU Regulator Calls In Experts Over AstraZeneca Jab

On Thursday, Drareni told AFP he and his defence team had hoped for an end to the proceedings against him but expected the retrial.

“We hope… the new trial… will correct the two trials that I underwent in the first instance and in the appeals court,” he said.

The founder of the Casbah Tribune online news site was sentenced on appeal in September to two years in jail on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity”.

– Press freedom fight –

The harsh sentence for a media figure outraged Drareni’s fellow journalists and sparked an international support campaign.

He was also accused of having criticised Algeria’s political system on Facebook and of publishing a statement by a coalition of political parties calling for a general strike, according to RSF.

Authorities have charged Drareni with having worked for foreign media outlets without gaining press accreditation — an opaque bureaucratic procedure in Algeria — as well as being an “informer” in the pay of “foreign embassies”.

The former television presenter’s case has become a symbol of the fight for freedom of the press and expression in Algeria, at a time when authorities have cracked down on dissent, detaining and prosecuting activists, opposition figures, journalists and social media users.

Despite the recent release of some 40 political prisoners, around 30 people remain in custody on charges linked to the Hirak uprising or civil liberties, according to prisoners’ rights group CNLD.

RSF ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a 27-place drop from 2015.

AFP

Journalist Abducted In Rivers Regains Freedom

Chidiebere Onyia

 

A journalist who was abducted last Tuesday, February 9, 2021, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital has regained freedom.

Chidiebere Onyia, a reporter with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) at the Port Harcourt Zonal Office was released at about 11:30 am on Sunday, February 14, 2020.

In a statement by the Police spokesman in Rivers State, Nnamdi Omoni said  “the rescue was made possible due to the intense pressure mounted by the Command as directed by the authorities”.

He explained that the abductors abandoned the journalist who is a nursing mother at a location after becoming aware that the police were closing in on them.

According to him, the freed journalist, Chidiebere Onyia is currently receiving medical attention at an undisclosed facility and will be debriefed and released to reunite with her family.

The police command spokesman described her release on February 14 as a “modest gift to the pen Profession”, while urging journalists in the State to sustain the bond with the command and remain resolute in providing the enabling environment for all to live and do business in Rivers State.

Rivers NUJ Calls For Immediate Release Of Abducted Journalist

Abducted journalist.

 

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Rivers State is asking the Rivers State Police Command to take immediate action to secure the release of a journalist who was abducted in Port Harcourt on Tuesday night.

The victim, Chidiebere Onyia, who is also a nursing mother, is a reporter with the Nigerian Television Authority NTA at the Port Harcourt zonal office.

Mrs Onyia was abducted at gunpoint along the railway line, Woji in the Obio/ Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State on her way home after the close of work at about 8:00 pm.

The Rivers State Council of the NUJ in a statement jointly signed by the Chairman, Stanley Job Stanley and Secretary, Ike Wigodo, on Wednesday condemned the incident, describing it as inhumane and heinous, especially against a journalist and a nursing mother.

The group also asked the police and other security agencies to put a stop to further attacks on journalists as the abduction of Mrs. Chidiebere Onyia is coming less than one month after unknown gunmen attempted to attack the South-South regional Business Manager of Silverbird Television and Head of News, Rhythm FM Port Harcourt, Segun Owolabi.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police Command says it has intensified effort to secure the release of the journalist.

Spokesman of the Command, SP Nnamdi Omoni told Channels Television that the vehicle belonging to the journalist has been recovered by the command.

He assured that the Police is committed to protecting everyone living or doing business in Rivers State.