Attacks On Journalists During Protests Increasing – UNESCO

 

The number of incidents of violence against journalists covering protests across the world has risen sharply, with police and security forces the main culprits, the United Nations cultural agency said on Monday.

UNESCO said it had counted 21 protests between January and June of this year where journalists were attacked, arrested or killed.

The organisation, whose role includes monitoring media developments, said in a report the spike came as part of “a wider upward trend in the use of unlawful force by police and security forces over the last five years”.

At least 10 journalists were killed during protests between 2015 and mid-2020 when there were 125 instances of attacks on, or arrests of, reporters, according to UNESCO which investigated protests in 65 countries for the report.

The reporters who died on the job worked in Syria, Mexico, Israel, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Nigeria and Iraq.

“Hundreds of journalists around the world trying to cover protests have been harassed, beaten, intimidated, arrested, put under surveillance, abducted, and had their equipment damaged,” the report said, adding that “a majority of the attacks” had been carried out by police and security forces.

“Police use of non-lethal ammunition ranging from rubber bullets to pepper balls, has injured dozens of journalists, with a few having been left blinded in one eye” it said.

Often police don’t have to fear punishment for their treatment of reporters. “Impunity has continued to remain the norm in recent years for attacks on the press covering protests,” UNESCO said.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called on governments to make sure that journalists can do their job without fear for their safety.

“Journalists have a critical role in reporting and informing audiences on protest movements,” she said in a statement.

“We call on the international community and all relevant authorities to ensure that these fundamental rights are upheld.”

UNESCO said protests are often about economic injustice, government corruption, the decline of political freedoms, and growing authoritarianism, giving some governments a vested interest in preventing balanced reporting.

“The UN in several resolutions has expressed concern at hostile rhetoric by political leaders against the press,” it said.

AFP

UN Decries Attacks On Journalists, Activists In Pakistan

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The United Nation voiced alarm Tuesday at growing attacks on journalists and activists in Pakistan, often amid cries of blasphemy, urging Islamabad to protect those facing threats and probe any violence.

The UN rights office said it was growing increasingly concerned at numerous instances of incitement to violence, both online and off, particularly against women and minority journalists and activists, as well as physical attacks.

It pointed to the case of journalist Shaheena Shaheen, who was shot dead last Saturday by unidentified men in Balochistan’s Kech district.

And last year, four journalists and bloggers were killed in Pakistan in connection with their reporting, including Arooj Iqbal, a woman who was shot dead in Lahore as she tried to launch her own local newspaper.

“In the vast majority of such cases, those responsible have not been investigated, prosecuted and held to account,” rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

He pointed out that women journalists in Pakistan last month had warned of a “coordinated campaign” of social media attacks against anyone who was critical of government policies.

He stressed that accusations of blasphemy were “especially worrying”, pointing out that they “can put accused individuals at imminent risk of violence”.

Colville said the rights office had raised its concerns directly with the Pakistani government and had urged it to take “immediate, concrete steps to ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders who have been subjected to threats.”

“We also stress the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of violence and killings,” he said.

The UN rights office had also called on the Pakistani leadership to “unequivocally condemn incitement to violence against religious minorities”, he said, as well as “what appears to be an increase in the use of blasphemy laws for personal or political score-settling”.

AFP

Taiwan Expels Two Chinese Journalists Over Political Shows

 

 

Taiwan expelled two mainland Chinese journalists Friday after a talk show on their channel pushed for Beijing “unifying” with the self-ruled island, in the latest sign of deteriorating ties between the two rivals.

The move comes after a spate of tit-for-tat expulsions of reporters between China and the United States, as the two superpowers spar over trade and the coronavirus pandemic.

The reporters with China Southeast TV were ordered to leave by Friday for violating regulations covering mainland journalists, according to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top China policy body.

They “are suspected of violating the regulations and the authorities have decided not to extend (their permits)… they are scheduled to leave on July 3,” MAC spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng told reporters.

Ai Kezhu, one of the deported journalists involved in producing the shows, told local media at Taoyuan international airport before her departure Friday that they were puzzled by the order.

“We have reported our activities in Taiwan and work content to relevant departments. We have done that in the past 12 years. We think it’s very strange that there were no problems in the past but now there is this kind of situation,” she said.

The channel has routinely aired pro-Beijing content, but a recent series of shows produced in Taiwan provoked public anger for featuring guests especially vocal in their criticism of Taiwan’s government and who pushed for Beijing “unifying” with the island.

“If you enjoy the powers Taiwan has given to belittle and degrade our country and people… we have to ask you to leave because Taiwanese people will not welcome you,” Chen Ting-fei, a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, wrote on Facebook.

– Rising tensions -Unlike authoritarian China, which only permits heavily censored state media and routinely harasses foreign reporters, democratic Taiwan has a rambunctious free press — although mainland reporters work under heavier restrictions than other journalists.

Some outlets are vocally pro-Beijing, others deeply critical.

Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Tensions between the sides have grown since Tsai came to power in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge Beijing’s idea that the self-ruled democratic island is part of “one China”.

Tsai, who views Taiwan as de facto independent, won a landslide reelection in January in what was seen as a strong rebuke to Beijing’s campaign to isolate the island.

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan as well as increasing military drills near the island, including its military jets breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone with unprecedented frequency in recent weeks.

 

 

-AFP

Coronavirus Kills 20 Journalists In Peru – Union

 

At least 20 journalists have died from the coronavirus outbreak in Peru, most of them infected while reporting on the pandemic, often with little protection, the country’s journalists’ union reported Tuesday.

Peru is Latin America’s second worst-hit country after Brazil with more than 170,000 cases and 4,600 deaths.

“As of June 1, the number of dead colleagues is 20 in all of the country,” said Zuliana Lainez of the National Association of Journalists.

Many of them contracted the disease while reporting from streets, markets and hospitals on the effects of the virus, without proper protective equipment, Lainez said.

“They have gone to hospitals, which are foci of infection, with homemade masks,” she said.

Seven of the victims were from Loreto, in the Amazon basin, one of Peru’s worst affected areas.

A large proportion of journalists who fell victim to the virus were freelancers, with none of the protections afforded to company employees.

“Journalists dying from COVID-19 confirms the urgency of addressing health protection and job insecurity,” the union said.

COVID-19 Lockdown: Stop Harassing Journalists, Zimbabwe Court Orders Police

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

A Zimbabwean high court on Monday ordered police to desist from arresting, detaining or interfering with the work of journalists providing coverage during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and journalist Panashe Makufa had petitioned the court to issue the order following a string of incidents in which police and other law enforcement agencies harassed or arrested journalists while carrying out their duties.

“The High Court has directed that… arrests or detention or other forms of harassment must stop,” a lawyer for the applicants, Chris Mhike, told AFP after the ruling.

“The police and all others who are working with the police in enforcing the rules of the lockdown have been interdicted from carrying out those actions that amount to harassment of journalists,” Mhike said.

Announcing the ruling in court, Judge Jacob Manzunzu gave the police hierarchy 12 hours to inform its members and other law enforcement agencies involved in enforcing the lockdown that the 2019 press card is valid.

Some police officers have raised concerns over the expiry dates of official press cards, demanding that journalists produce letters of exemption in addition to the cards.

The government had categorised journalism as an essential service during the lockdown.

But the police argued that “journalists are not exempted from the lockdown,” claiming that only journalists “from broadcasting and internet” were exempt.

The debate was laid to rest this weekend when the government exempted “the activities of persons as journalists, newspaper vendors or employees of such services” in its announcement extending the 21-day lockdown by 14 days to May 3.

MISA Zimbabwe’s executive director Tabani Moyo praised the court’s ruling, adding: “We hope the police will ensure that no journalist will be harmed going forward. We don’t want to keep on recording cases of law enforcement agencies targeting the journalists of this country.”

AFP

Lockdown: Your ID Card Is Your Pass, Lai Mohammed Tells Journalists

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the Identity cards issued to journalists would serve as their pass.

The minister advised all working journalists and other media staff in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to use their valid Identity Cards to access their places of work and assignment venues during the 14-day lockdown directed by the President in the two states and the FCT.

READ ALSO: Lagos State Discharges Five COVID-19 Patients

In a statement issued in Abuja on Monday, he said the clarification becomes necessary in view of the inadequate time to properly accredit working journalists in the affected states and the FCT during the period.

He said members of the media are expected to continue to provide essential services during the lockdown, in order to keep Nigerians well updated on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burundi Prosecutors Seek 15-Year Jail Term For Four Detained Journalists

Four journalists of the Burundi’s independent media Iwacu Press Group:(L to R) Christine Kamikazi, Agnes Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana and Terence Mpozenzi leave at the High Court in Bubanza, western Burundi, on December 30, 2019 after attending a trial for complicity in endangering the internal security of the state. 
Tchandrou Nitanga / AFP

 

Burundi prosecutors Monday sought 15-year jail terms for four reporters and their driver who were detained covering an incursion of rebels from DR Congo and charged with endangering state security.

The journalists were working for Iwacu, one of Burundi’s few independent media outlets when they were arrested on October 22.

A witness in the northwestern province of Bubanza, where they were arrested, told AFP on condition of anonymity the long jail terms were sought after two hours of deliberations.

The source said the prosecution based the hefty sentencing demand largely on a WhatsApp exchange of messages between one of the reporters and a colleague based abroad in which the former wrote: “We are heading for Bubanza … to help the rebels.”

READ ALSO: Eighteen Killed In New Militia Attack In Eastern DR Congo

A further demand was for the detained to be denied their civic rights for 20 years.

Judgement was stayed for one month.

“We had the time to assure our clients’ defence. We hope they will be acquitted purely and simply,” defence counsel Clement Retirakiza, told reporters.

Police say at least 14 rebels from the Burundian RED-Tabara group, based across the border in eastern DR Congo, were killed in an attack the day the journalists were arrested.

The rebels say they killed a dozen security personnel.

The Reporters Without Borders NGO, which places Burundi a lowly 159th on its global list of press freedom, says those detained were simply doing their job while Human Rights Watch has called for their release.

Observers see the case against the four as a signal of toughness by the Burundi government just five months ahead of elections.

The country is currently mired in violent unrest sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza announcing in April 2015 he was controversially standing for a third term. He won re-election in July.

AFP

Turkey Court Sentence Six Journalists To Jail On Terrorism Charges

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

 

A Turkish court on Friday issued jail terms to six journalists from an opposition newspaper accused of links to the group blamed by the government for the 2016 failed coup, a lawyer told AFP. 

The court in Istanbul sentenced journalists from the Sozcu daily including columnist Emin Colasan and editor-in-chief Metin Yilmaz to prison terms ranging from two years and one month to three years and six months on terrorism charges, their lawyer Celal Ulgen said.

The nationalist Sozcu is on occasion vehemently anti-government and its angry front pages are regarded with suspicion even by some liberal Turks critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It is the second opposition daily to be targeted after Cumhuriyet newspaper.

“This is an empty case,” Colasan was quoted by the paper as telling the court. “There is no evidence or witness against us.”

Sozcu condemned the verdict as a “black stain”, saying those convicted were only carrying out their work as journalists.

The court also sentenced the newspaper’s accountant to two years and one month in prison.

It said the case against its owner Burak Akbay, who is the subject of a 2017 arrest warrant but remains abroad, would be treated separately.

Lawyer Ulgen said a higher court was due to decide whether to uphold the sentences, adding that the journalists were currently free.

“There is neither a judicial control or any measure that restricts their freedom right now,” he said.

The government blames the movement of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen for the July 2016 failed coup but the Erdogan foe strongly denies the charges.

Critics say the vast crackdown in the wake of the failed putsch goes well beyond alleged coup plotters and opposition politicians and dozens of journalists have been caught up in the crackdown.

AFP

 

50% Of Journalists Could Be Jailed If Hate Speech Bill Is Passed, Says Rep Member

 

A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Musa Bagos, has said that if the proposed Hate Speech Bill is passed, about 50% of journalists could end up in jail.

He said this on Monday while briefing journalists after presenting a letter of protest titled: ‘Rejection of the proposed legislation on hate speech protection from Internet falsehood and manipulation’, from his constituents in Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, to the Senate.

Hon. Bagos lamented that the bill seeks to breach the fundamental rights of Nigerians as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

If passed into law as envisaged by its sponsor, “I’m sure half of you pressmen will be in jail,” he said.

He, however, maintained that it is dead on arrival and therefore, assured Nigerians that it will be shut down in the House when transmitted for concurrence.

Read  Also: Lawyer Says Hate Speech Bill Is A ‘Distraction, Waste Of Time’

The lawmaker believes that Nigeria does not require such a ‘draconian and tyranical law’ in the 21st century, as there are existing laws that address such issue raised in the proposed bill.

The letter read: “I humbly write in view of the above subject matter, having received series of complaints and objections via text messages, calls, emails, WhatsApp messages and direct contact with some of my Constituents who are aggrieved and had to express their concerns over the Hate Speech and Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bills currently undergoing passage into law by the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The views expressed by my Constituents, many Nigerian citizens and even foreign nationals who have reached me all voiced out against the passage of the two Bills.

“The views so expressed align with my thoughts and position as the Honourable Member, Representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, Plateau State. More so that there are extant laws in our Jurisprudence and under the Law of Tort like the Defamation of Character, Libel and Slander, that addresses the concerns raised by the two Bills.

“Having sworn to an oath to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended), I am herein guided and constraint to categorically and unequivocally state in strong terms, that I and my Constituents will not be a party to, nor grant consent to any proposed legislation that will compromise nor subvert the Fundamental Rights and Justiciable Rights of citizens as enshrined in Chapter VI of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) and in particular, Section 33 the right to life, also Section 39 (1) which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and the press which clearly states that; “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and import ideas and information without interference” and bearing in mind that the Constitution is the grand norm of Nigeria.

“This approach is even more crocodile and draconian in nature seeing that death sentence has been advocated for as penalty in the Hate Speech Bill. Thus, to endorse these bills is tantamount to taking our dear nation back to the days of anarchy and tyranny that deprives citizens of the right to freedom of expression and the press thereby reaping the citizens from the right to dignity of human person as provided for in Section 34 (1) (a)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”

19 Journalists Suffered Attack In Nigeria Within Nine Months – Amnesty International

AFP photo

 

 

Amnesty International says no fewer than 19 journalists and media practitioners have suffered attack in Nigeria between January and September 2019.

The human rights organisation disclosed this in its report entitled, Endangered Voices: Attack On Freedom Of Expression In Nigeria.

In the 42-page document launched in Abuja on Monday, the group noted that the figure was the highest recorded in the country since 2015.

One of the cases highlighted in the report is that of Jones Abiri, a journalist based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, who was arrested and detained for more than two years without trial for publishing a story about oil blocks and politics in Nigeria.

Another incident is that of Ahmed Salkida who was declared wanted by the Nigerian government for publishing an article and proof of life video of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, among other cases.

READ ALSO: Police Uncover Islamic Centre With Chained, Maltreated Children In Daura

Amnesty decried that the civic space has continued to shrink, stressing that clear examples of such were the attacks on freedom of information and expression as well as media freedom.

“Since 2015, attacks on journalists and media activists have continued unabated. Amnesty International has been closely monitoring these attacks and now reports on how they have contributed to the violation of other human rights in Nigeria.

“These attacks take the form of verbal and physical assault, as well as indiscriminate arrest and detention by Nigerian authorities,” Amnesty said in the executive summary page of the report.

 

Death Threats?

It accused the security forces of perpetrating most of the violations, adding that they occur when journalists and media practitioners seek access to information, share information or express critical views that could drive public opinion.

The group was worried that dissenting views expressed by media practitioners were often criminalised, particularly when they revolve around sensitive issues.

It also noted that there was stifling of freedom of expression in circumstances where journalists were pressured to disclose their sources of information.

“Those who spoke to Amnesty International confirmed that they came under intense pressure from Nigeria’s security officials to reveal their sources of information, particularly when they published stories that focused on corruption, elections, and armed conflict.

“Some of the journalists were kept under surveillance, while others received death threats via telephone calls from unidentified people.

“Many journalists also came under attack while reporting the 2019 General Elections across Nigeria,” the report revealed.

According to the group, the failure of the Nigerian government to investigate cases of indiscriminate arrest, detention, and prosecution of journalists and media practitioners ensures that perpetrators are not held to account for human rights violations.

It said while many of the victims faced indiscriminate charges such as ‘defamation’ and ‘terrorism’, others had charges such as ‘kidnapping’, criminal trespass and theft of state documents brought against them.

Amnesty accused the government at both federal and state levels of violating and repressing the human rights of bloggers, journalists, broadcasters and social media users.

It stated that the Nigerian authorities have legally binding obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information, media freedom and personal liberty in the country.

The group, therefore, asked the government to immediately end violations and abuses of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information, as well as media freedom and personal liberty.

It recommended that journalists, bloggers, and media activists must have access to information and be able to do their job freely without any fear of reprisal.

Amnesty also called for thorough and effective investigations into allegations of attacks against victims and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible through fair trials.

Among other demands, it called on the government to issue clear directives to the police, military, and other security agencies to refrain from applying existing laws in a manner that restricts or interferes with rights to freedom of expression.

2019 General Elections Is The ‘Most Extensively’ Covered Event In Nigeria – INEC

INEC To Conduct Supplementary Elections In Kano, Sokoto, Four Others March 23
File Photo: INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, at a press conference in Abuja on March 7, 2019. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

A total of 1,799 journalists from more than 150 domestic media organisations were accredited to cover the 2019 General Elections.

This is according to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke at a meeting with the media to review the last general elections on Thursday in Abuja.

He also said that 332 journalists from 52 foreign media organisations from different parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, Australia and Asia came to cover the elections, describing it as the ‘most extensively’ covered event in Nigeria in 2019.

Mr Yakubu added that the meeting is aimed at addressing salient aspects of the election processes that require improvement.

“The Headquarters of the Commission alone accredited 1,799 journalists from more than 150 domestic Media organisations to cover the 2019 General Election.

“Foreign Media presence was also impressive. We had 332 journalists from 52 foreign Media organisations from different parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, Australia and Asia to cover the elections. It was, indeed, an engaging experience. The General Election was the most extensively covered event in Nigeria in 2019.

“The purpose of this meeting, therefore, is to discuss all the salient aspects of the process which require improvement. You were accredited to cover all aspects of the processes. The Commission wants to hear from you how processes can be improved upon.”

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He assured that all the observations will be considered during the Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship elections scheduled for Saturday 16th November 2019.

“Let me remind you that the Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship elections have been scheduled for Saturday 16th November 2019. I assure you that we will consider all the recommendations arising from this meeting that can be implemented administratively by the Commission before the conduct of the Governorship elections in the two States.”

New Guidelines: ‘It’s Not The Job Of NASS To Demand Tax Clearance From Journalists’

The publisher of National Daily Newspaper, Sylvester Ebodaghe, has questioned the National Assembly on the new guidelines released for the accreditation of journalists.

Ebodaghe during an interview on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said it is not the job of the Parliament to demand a journalist’s tax clearance before authorising them to cover plenary.

“All around the world, we have guidelines. We are not against guidelines; we want you to be clear as to who is coming into your space.

“But to start demanding for tax clearance that you must have a patron or circulation figure verifiable of not less than 40,000, the US Congress is not asking for your patron. They just want to be sure that you are gainfully employed.

READ ALSO: SERAP Urges Saraki, Dogara To Withdraw New NASS Media Accreditation Guidelines

“And that you will not abuse your privilege of having access to the chambers. And I think that is what we should be looking at. And not necessarily your tax clearance. They are not CAC; they are not FIRS. So it’s not their job to start asking for a tax clearance,” he said.

National Assembly Releases Details Of Its 2018 Budget

His comment comes two days after the National Assembly released new guidelines for accreditation of media organisations, journalists/correspondents covering the Senate effective June 11, 2019.

NASS in a letter signed by its Director of Information, Agada Emmanuel noted that all previous accreditation granted will lapse with the dissolution of the 8th Assembly.

Ebodgahe during the interview on Wednesday recalled that when the Senate had issues on the invasion and theft of mace, the media was solidly behind it.

He then wondered why the Parliament would issue out such a directive suggesting it may have a problem with media practitioners.

“This Assembly when it came under intense pressure during the invasion and all the crisis it has gone through, the best friend the National Assembly had was the media.

“So what problem do they possibly have with the media? All the tweets that were reproduced on various platforms, they were enjoying the manage. So it didn’t really matter who was drawing the attention to their plight as it were,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said that the leadership of the Eight Assembly are not aware of the new guidelines to journalists reporting the National Assembly.

The Speaker, on Tuesday, said the leadership of the legislative arm is committed to the freedom of the press and promised to investigate the allegation promptly.