Vietnam: Escalating Persecution of Bloggers


Recent Arrests, Physical Attacks Require Strong Diplomatic Response
JUNE 19, 2013, HRW
Vietnam’s strategy of repressing critics big and small will only lead the country deeper into crisis. The latest arrests and assaults on bloggers show how afraid the government is of open discussion on democracy and human rights.
Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York, June 20, 2013) – The Vietnamesegovernment should unconditionally release recently arrested bloggers and end physical attacks on critics, Human Rights Watch said today. Vietnam’s donors and trading partners should publicly call on the government to end the use of the criminal law against peaceful activists.

Human Rights Watch called for the immediate and unconditional release of recently arrested bloggers Truong Duy Nhat and Pham Viet Dao, as well as internet activist Dinh Nhat Uy, and an investigation into allegations that police assaulted internet activists Nguyen Chi Duc, Nguyen Hoang Vi, and Pham Le Vuong Cac, whose security the authorities should protect.

“Vietnam’s strategy of repressing critics big and small will only lead the country deeper into crisis,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The latest arrests and assaults on bloggers show how afraid the government is of open discussion on democracy and human rights.”

Many of the arrests have come under Vietnam Penal Code article 258, one of several vague and elastic legal provisions routinely used to prosecute people for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Recent cases of arrest and assault include the following:

  • On May 26, 2013, Ministry of Public Security officers arrested blogger Truong Duy Nhat for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens,” according to the Vietnamese newspaper Thanh Nien. The arrest at his home in Da Nang of the 49-year-old followed his posting on his popular “A Different Perspective” blog of a call for the resignation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and ruling Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, blaming them for leading Vietnam into worsening political and economic difficulties.
  • On June 7, 2013, five men believed to be police officers assaulted 26-year-old blogger Nguyen Hoang Vi (also known as An Do Nguyen) and legal activist Pham Le Vuong Cac on a Ho Chi Minh City street. According to Vietnamese bloggers, the attackers had been monitoring Nguyen Hoang Vi and her family for several days and beat her into unconsciousness, leaving wounds requiring hospital treatment. Nguyen Hoang Vi is a prominent Internet personality who was also attacked on May 5-6, 2013, after playing a leading role in an attempted “human rights picnic” in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • On June 13, police arrested 61-year-old blogger Pham Viet Dao at his Hanoi home, also for “abusing democratic freedoms,” according to an announcement by the Ministry of Public Security, thus signalling his likely prosecution under article 258. His website, like that of Truong Duy Nhat, had been critical of a number of Vietnamese political leaders.
  • On June 15, Dinh Nhat Uy was arrested pursuant to article 258. His younger brother,Dinh Nguyen Kha, had been sentenced to eight years in prison on May 16, 2013, for distributing leaflets critical of state foreign and domestic policies. Dinh Nhat Uy, 30, was arrested in Long An province after launching an Internet campaign calling for his brother’s release and posting pictures and notes on his Facebook account. He was accused of “distorting the truth and badly influencing the prestige of state organizations,” as the official news Agency VNA put it.

Article 258 is used to prosecute those whom the government maintains “abuse the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion, assembly, association and other democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens,” and provides for up to seven years’ imprisonment for those who commit this supposed offense “in serious circumstances.” Vietnam’s politically controlled courts routinely apply such provisions to imprison people for peaceful expression.

The government is increasingly cracking down on criticism of corruption and authoritarianism, Human Rights Watch said. Those recently targeted represent a spectrum of public opinion, as Truong Duy Nhat, Pham Viet Dao, and Nguyen Chi Duc formerly worked for the ruling authorities, Truong Duy Nhat worked in the official media, Pham Viet Dao was a government official, and Nguyen Chi Duc was a member of the Communist Party. Dinh Nhat Uy, Nguyen Hoang Vi, and Pham Le Vuong Cac reflect dissent among those in the younger generation without such ties.

“Donors and trading partners need to stand with those in Vietnam struggling for their rights and make it clear that no one should be arrested or assaulted for their opinions,” Adams said. “They should insist that the only future for countries trying to develop and modernize is a free and open society in which the authorities accept that criticism is a normal part of the political process.”

Uphold #FOE, Condemn Fabricated cases against Film and Media persons in Kerala


ViBGYOR Film Collective condemns the fabricated charges leveled against five reputed Cultural, film and media persons of Kerala. Kerala police has charged cases against K.P Sasi, the renowned Film maker and activist, I Shanmukhadas, a well known Film Critic, Prasannakumar T N, a film activist, Shafeek, a young Journalist and Deepak, a Filmmaker and Film Society activist for ‘rioting’, ‘unlawful assembly’ and ‘public obstruction’ (IPC Sections 143, 147, 149 and 283 ) for participating in a peaceful protest which occurred on February 11, 2013 at Thrissur, Kerala. These citizens along with a few dozens of writers, Film makers and activists were protesting against the very concept of capital punishment and the surreptitious manner in which Afzal Guru was accorded Death Penalty.

Inline image 1The Crimes that the Kerala police are ascribing to these distinguished personalities of kerala are totally false and trumped-up.

The entire protest had happened during ViBGYOR Film Festival, 2013.  The peaceful protest with speeches and recitals of renowned cultural personalities is organized near the entrance gate of the festival venue and lasted not more than an hour. It did in no way amounted to an unlawful assembly, public obstruction or did cause a communal riot that day or later. ViBGYOR Film collective shares the firm opinion that death penalty is a fundamental violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. We assert the right of citizens to dissent and express their opposition towards capital punishment in a peaceful manner.

ViBGYOR Film Collective and ViBGYOR Film Festival, during its eight years of existence and functioning, have always stood for the Rights that are enshrined in the Constitution of India, and have always come out openly to defend it. We, as the citizens of this democratic nation, believe that such attempt to silence democratic protests and stifle freedom of expression in any manner is a violation of our basic rights enshrined in our constitution and we demand that the false charges against these five Cultural film and media personalities of contemporary Kerala should be withdrawn immediately.

We also urge our friends and democratic forums and organizations to voice their protest in unequivocal terms against such undemocratic ways of fabricating false cases against the citizens who have all rights to exercise lawful means of protests in public space.

In solidarity,

ViBGYOR Film Collective

http://vibgyorfilm.org

 

#Odisha – Campaign on policy intervention for Women land rights #womenrights


 

The situation of Dalit, tribal & marginalize women in needs special attention. They are one of the largest socially segregated groups anywhere.  However, women facing multiple oppressions that violate their fundamental rights. Now the real situations of Dalit, tribal & marginalize women are threatened by rape as part of collective violence by in physically, socially politically and economically. However, today this violence is increasing in society. And these women are ignorance to accesses their rights of life, livelihood and dignity.

Our country is a Part of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Civil and Political Rights. & also a Part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This treaty not only identifies a range of economic, social and cultural rights, but it also requires that all peoples enjoy these rights, without discrimination.

But the ground reality that the women face sees a complete negation and violation of women’s human rights. These women are the poor, illiterate and powerless with neither access nor control over land & natural resources. They have been victims of structural and social violence making them easy targets for sexual harassment. Atrocities and violence against women are both a means of sustaining systemic discrimination, as well as a reaction when caste and gender norms are challenged.

 

Prospective of women land rights

The principle in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948) that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. World without poverty, inequality and social injustice; where all individuals are free and empowered to live in dignity and peace. This is mining less for women without land rights. Land ownership is the only way to women empowerment, dignity, social security, livelihood & human rights.

Discrimination and women Rights over land & natural resources is one of the most complicated issues that are today faced with. As such this is not a new question; however the current format is a relatively newer one. There are specific reasons and compulsion for raising this question at this juncture of history as the betrayal of the betrayed continues for centuries unknown till today. Dalit, tribal & marginalize Women have been active throughout history.  They were actively involved in the land & forest protection Movements & today also they are the strongholds in thousands of villages. They continue to play a critical role in the movements for land rights. For them, land, forest is not only property it is the identity & relationship of the human and mother earth. They have been 78% participation in the land protection, promotion & agricultural production. Which is a great contribution on GDP growth .but However, they are unable to put an end to the structural discrimination and exclusion.  And impunity is used to keep them in their place. It has caused them to start building their own praxis, identity and agency, and build an effective nonviolence struggle to restoration of their relationships with land &forest. That is clearly need in its place is an articulation base on the consciousness of the mother land.

Women need to develop a wider understanding and proper perspective about the diverse dynamics of women rights. One needs an understanding of the logic of the underlying forces that govern the current pattern of ownership. Access to land entitlement is deeply important for Dalit community especially women, where the incidence of poverty is highly correlated with lack of access to land are also an imperative for food security. Without land security and land Bess livelihood efforts to use natural resources in a sustainable manner may not be fruitful. Land ownership is a powerful tool that allows the Dalit community to escape extreme poverty especially women. Secure land right to increase nutrition, school enrolment and reduces the conflict of the community. Hence the crisis of Dalit women and rights over natural resources has to be understood in its historical perspective.

Why this campaign

In the process of life struggle, women were realized their relationship with land and forest. and the obstacles of women empowerment  so they are being initiated in the country by various land rights movement in the women’s perspective.  Govt. also takes some important decision in fever of women like joint entitlement. But in reality it was the partnership not to ownership. Also that not to be changes of the mindset of the society and system also the policy of land reform & women empowerment in women prospective of security & dignity.

So there is a strong need to space for women’s perspective and leadership for land and natural resource rights to consolidate our strategies toward claiming, retaining, distribution and development of land ownership in the name of women for the future generations. As women we have a greater responsibility towards achieving this cause.

The national task force initiated by the government of India is in place for addressing the land question in India. The process is already started. Perhaps this is an opportunity for all of us & the right time to share women’s perspectives with the government of India & state govt. to addressing the land rights in name of women. We shall have more information & experience on women land rights struggle which we send our recommendations and demand about women land rights in ground level women opinion.  Also take as an issue in coming election.

ODWF Action in Odisha

Odisha Dalit women forum is a collective power of Dalit women in Odisha, an initiative to strengthen leadership of dalit, tribal & marginalize women and to build their capacities, knowledge and skills. Which raise their voice & concerns, on security, livelihood and dignity with campaign on women land & natural resources rights in a nonviolence action process ODWF create a mass opinion against violence, discrimination on cast, class, and gender.

As the continue process of our women land rights campaign it is a opportunity for ODWF  to initiate this mass awareness about the recommendation to national taskforce process for land reform policy to get more accountable of govt. for women dignity and security. So ODWF group decided that initiate this mass campaign for more participation of women in this national policy intervention process.

 

Objective of the campaign:

  • Create awareness about Importance of Land Rights among all women.
  • To reduce conflict in the society by enabling women to gain access and ownership over mother earth and natural resources.
  • To create awareness among the tribal, Dalit women on their rights over life and livelihood and sensitize the people on different legal aspects related to land, forest and natural resources.
  • To build up a relationship of women for their common action to achieve land rights.
  • To make accountability the Government for proper implementation of the women Land Rights Law & sensitize the administration.
  • Awareness to Collection of signature and demands for women land rights and to send the national and state govt.

This programme will sensitize to understand the land and mother relationship and linkage established with state, national and global movement and generates a support for women land rights prospective. This understanding will help to develop sustainable livelihoods of society to peace and justice that build to protect towards both, violence as well as the Risks of Globalization.

ODWF Coverage area

Sl. No. District Nos. of coverage Villages No of peoples participation Campaign in charge
1 Baleswar 14 217 Ms. Charubalajena
2 Balangir 10 168 Ms. Nirupama mahar
3 Bhadrak 7 145 Ms. pritirekha jena
4 Cuttack 9 146 Ms. Nayana nayak
5 Dhankanal 10 170 Ms. Rasmirekha
6 Jagatshingpur 5 90 Ms.Bijayalaxmi
7 Nayagad 10 160 Ms.sumitra nayak
8 Khordha 40 680 Ms. Nalininayak
9 Kalahandi 60 970 Ms. Sakuntala harpal
10 Rayagada 14 260 Ms. Nurjahan pani
 11 Nabarangpur 10 136 Ms. Swapnalata babu
12 Malkanagir 15 340 Ms. S .susan
13 Koraput 10 180 Ms. Nalin khemund
14 Kaujhra 15 245 Ms. Kanak nayak
15 Maurbhanja 17 350 Ms. Minati sahoo
16 Sambalpur 5 150 Ms. Anita bag
17 Kandhamal 20 350 Ms. Antima nayak
18 Gangam 25 420 Ms. S .jamuna
19 Gagapati 11 180 Ms. Anusaya sabhapati
20 puri 6 150 Ms. Swati
21 Baragad 5 125 Ms. Jogeswari
22 Subarnapur 10 170 Ms. Mamdodari  chatria
23 Baudh 10 190 Ms. Sebati  behera
24 Jajpur 10 210 Ms. Nerupama naik
25 Debgarh 7 120 Ms. Mamuni sarbhang
26 Nuapara 8 150 Ms. Suravi seth
27 Kendrapada 10 170 Ms. Kausalya mallik
28 Sundargarh 10 190 Ms. Anna kujur
373 6832

 

ODWF also collaboration with other women forum for this campaign and send their recommendation to stat & national govt. from their respective area of Odisha.

 

Campaign Action

Organize rally, awareness yatra, foot march, mass meeting, signature campaign, media mobilization; give memorandum through local authority to stat CM & PM of India

Appeal

At this occasion we welcome & appeal all the women and community to come together and articulate a clear demand and peoples plan for achieve the women land rights ,for secure our mother, family community &Society.

 

Mother earth call to mother come together achieve to rights over me for security, dignity& empowerment of mother hood.  We believe change the world.

                  JAY BHEEM

 

                                                Sandhya Devi

                             ODISHA DALIT WOMEN FORUM

                        At- Banpur, Dist- Khurda, Odisha, 752031

                      Ph- o6756-223439 (o), 9437140550, 8280056895

             Email-odwforissa@yahoo.in  & savetribal@yahoo.com

 

Amnesty asks India to commute Guru’s death sentence #deathpenalty


BJP wants Afzal Guru hanged next

 

London, December 14 (KMS: The human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has expressed concern over the fate of mercy petitions including that of a Kashmir youth, Afzal Guru whose sentence, according to the Amnesty, by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law.

Amnesty International Chief Executive, G Anantha Padmanabhan in a letter to the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, on Thursday asked New Delhi to abolish death penalty and stop further executions after Ajmal Kasab and commute death sentences to imprisonments.

Referring to the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the Amnesty chief executive said that “by executing him, the Indian government has violated the internationally recognized right to life and signalled a step away from the regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty.”

Anantha Padmanabhan said Amnesty is concerned about the manner in which Indian authorities carried out Kasab’s execution on 21 November, 2012. “A notification by Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, published on the same day, stated that you had rejected his petition for mercy on 5 November”.

“According to reports, Ajmal Kasab himself was only informed of this rejection on 12 November. It is unclear whether he was aware of possibility of seeking a review of the decision. Information about the rejection of the petition for mercy and the date of execution was not made available to the public until after the execution had been carried out. Authorities in India have made public claims that this lack of public announcement and secrecy surrounding the execution were to avoid intervention by human rights activists,” he said.

“Transparency on use of death penalty is among fundamental safeguards of due process that prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life. Making information public with regard to legislation providing for the death penalty as well as its implementation allows for an assessment of whether fair trial and other international standards are being respected. In resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights called upon all states that still maintain the death penalty “to make available to the public information with regard to the imposition of the death penalty and to any scheduled execution,” the Amnesty official added.

“Amnesty is disappointing that the Indian State has chosen to carry out Ajmal Kasab’s execution in this manner,” he said.

“Amnesty is concerned about a further nine petitions for mercy involving 14 individuals that have been sent to the (Indian) Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration for a second time, which we understand is usual practice when there is a new minister in office. On December 10, 2012, Indian Home Minister told reporters he will review the petitions before him after the end of the winter session of Parliament. One of these petitions concerns Mohammad Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. Mohammad Afzal Guru was tried by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Amnesty has found that these trials did not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law,” Anantha Padmanabhan said.

He said Amnesty opposes death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. “It opposes it as a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

He said the use of death penalty in India is riddled with systemic flaws. Of particular concern are: the broad definition of “terrorist acts” for which the death penalty can be imposed; insufficient safeguards on arrest; obstacles to confidential communication with counsel; insufficient independence of special courts from executive power; insufficient safeguards for the presumption of innocence; provisions for discretionary closed trials; sweeping provisions to keep secret the identity of witnesses; and limits on the right to review by a higher tribunal.

“On behalf of Amnesty International, I urge Indian president to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment Immediately halt plans to carry out further executions, and establish an official moratorium on executions as the first step to abolishing the death penalty,” Anantha Padmanabhan said.

He said wherever mercy petitions have been rejected, the government should respect the practice of promptly informing the individual, his/ her lawyers, his/ her family, of the decision, reasons for the decision, and proposed date of execution, as well as the public, of any scheduled execution.

We are WOMEN and Our VOICES COUNT!- #HumanRights Day-2012


Dear Friends,

Greetings from IWRAW Asia Pacific!

It is the 10th of December once again and we would like to wish you all a Happy Human Rights Day!

The theme this year – My Voice Counts –reminds us about the guarantees in the UDHR on freedom of speech, thought, belief and the right to participate in public life and impact policy and decision making.  It acknowledges and respects each individual’s voice and helps us to remember that it is about the person no matter our differences and that there are those of us whose voices are silenced or ignored because we lack the political power to make ourselves heard.

Yet it implies so much more in terms of vision:  it speaks towards a world of inclusion, diversity, respect for difference of opinion, free and open social debates, right to collective action and the recognition of the legitimate role of CSOs and NGOs in public policy and social change towards equality, non-discrimination, justice and peace, the right to take part in politics and hold office.

In the past year, we have seen numerous attempts to silence women’s voices, including the heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring story of Malala, a young girl nearly killed for expressing her right and the rights of young girls to education. For women, marginalisation and exclusion from representation and decision-making, spells danger and risk to their individual freedoms and collective rights. Examples have shown that exclusion of gender perspectives and obstacles to women’s participation in public and civic roles negatively impact democratic principles, good governance and rule of law. Women’s demands for equality in the family and in the workplace, and struggles to end domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace, recognition of the separate reality of women, need to be heard and acted upon by governments, society and private actors.

To pursue gender equality, it is important to ground and socialise the culture of international human rights norms, including an appreciation for the principles of substantive equality and non-discrimination established by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The ability to articulate these will strengthen their demands for equality, justice and recognition as a cohesive, political constituency; grounded ideologically in principles of democracy, peace, respect for rights and being knowledgeable in the practice of citizen governance.

We can celebrate the fact that CEDAW nears universal ratification with 187 ratifications, and further ratifications of its optional protocol (OPCEDAW).  The CEDAW state dialogue process and the OPCEDAW mechanism is a way for women’s voices to be heard by their states and supported by the global standards practices of the member states of CEDAW articulated by the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee and challenges states to prioritise and act in compliance with international law to address violations to women’s human rights.

64 years ago, this day would have been celebrated very differently. But today, we are lucky to have successes that we can commemorate. It is a good time for all of us to reflect on the good and the bad and continuously challenge ourselves to think of creative and innovative rights-based approaches to achieve our human rights goals to have a better future together.

In the coming year IWRAW Asia Pacific will undertake efforts to strengthen women’s voices in public policy and decision making through  specific projects including one to strengthen the voices of young feminists in Asia Pacific, supported by the UN Women Gender Equality Fund.

There is still a lot of work to be done so let’s continue as a global women’s movement, seeking to make governments, families, business more accountable in ensuring promotion, protection and realisation of human rights
On this day, IWRAW Asia Pacific congratulates and thanks courageous men and women who have fought and are still fighting for the right to express our thoughts and feelings about the world and who fight for the rights and freedoms inherent in our shared humanity. We raise our voices in support of this struggle – We are WOMEN and Our VOICES COUNT!

Warm wishes,

The IWRAW Asia Pacific team

10 December 2012

 

Snapshots- May 3, World Press Freedom Day 2012


Theme 2012:
New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoekis celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day. It is an opportunity to:

  • celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • defend the media from attacks on their independence;
  • pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The recent uprisings in some Arab States have highlighted the power of the media, the human quest for freedom of expression and the confluence of press freedom and freedom of expression through various traditional and new media.

This has given rise to an unprecedented level of media freedom. New media have enabled civil society, young people and communities to bring about massive social and political transformations by self-organizing, and engaging the global youth in the fight to be able to freely express themselves and the aspirations of their wider communities.

Yet, media freedom is fragile, and it is also not yet within the reach of everyone. Furthermore, as more reporting is transmitted online, more and more online journalists including bloggers are being harnessed, attacked and even killed for their work.

SAFMA, SAMC appeal for safeguarding media freedom

In a joint statement issued ahead of the World Press Freedom Day which falls on May 3, the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) and the South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) have urged governments in South Asia to safeguard the freedom of expression against repressive provisions, measures or groups.

The two media bodies termed the commemoration of this year’s Press Freedom Day, with its theme as “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies,” an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of media freedom. It would also serve as an occasion to evaluate media freedom, to defend the media from attacks on their independence, and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Freedom of expression is a precious right that bolsters every other freedom and provides a foundation for human dignity. Free, pluralistic and independent media is essential for exercising this right,” said SAFMA secretary-general Imtiaz Alam and SAMC president Kumar Ketkar.

The SAFMA and the SAMC called on the governments in the region to commit themselves to supporting and expanding press freedom and the free flow of information in the digital age. “New media have enabled people to bring about massive social and political transformations. Yet, media freedom is fragile, and it is also not yet within the reach of everyone. Furthermore, as more reporting is transmitted online, more and more online journalists including bloggers are being attacked and even killed for their work,” Mr. Alam and Mr. Ketkar said.

According to statistics with the two media bodies, 185 journalists have been killed since 1992 for their work. Of these, Pakistan tops the tally with 58 followed by India 39, Afghanistan 28, Sri Lanka 25, Bangladesh 18, and Nepal 17.

A free press is a form of freedom of expression, providing citizens with access to knowledge and information, thus safeguarding any political system based on the will of the people.

Photo: Reuters
Members of the media tape their mouth as they protest against the arrest of journalists in Panama. (file)

A free press is a form of freedom of expression, providing citizens with access to knowledge and information, thus safeguarding any political system based on the will of the people.  On May 3rd, we celebrate World Press Freedom Day.   It is a day to consider the importance of freedom of the press, and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as stipulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But Freedom of the Press Day serves not only to highlight the importance of an uncensored press: it also serves as a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down; that in many countries, journalists, editors and publishers and bloggers are harassed, attacked, jailed and even murdered.  It aims to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to Press Freedom, and to journalists

This day also serves as a reminder to professionals of their responsibility to society, and of the importance of maintaining professional ethics. It is a day of support for media which are targets for the censorship, or abolition of press freedom. And it is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino once said that “Freedom of the press guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of democracy.”

A free press is sometimes called the Fourth Pillar of Democracy.  That is because a free press reports abuses of power by public officials.  It shines a spotlight on government decision makers and those who influence them.  It keeps the citizens informed of news critical of the government, gives them the opportunity to exchange information and opinions about public affairs without interference by government officials. It spurs them into pressuring the government to right wrongs.

As one-time U.S. Supreme Court Judge Felix Frankfurter once said, “Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of [achieving] a free society.”

A silent press means the end of democracy.

Call for code of ethics for citizen journalism

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom day is “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies”.

In the open letter, Smith and Achtelstetter draw attention to the transformative power of new media technologies and social media. They cite the ongoing uprisings in the Middle-East which highlight “the potential of citizen journalism to counter attacks on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

However, they caution that while emerging media technologies and social media platforms offer new channels for increased information flows and strengthening communication rights, using them demands greater responsibility. “Part of that responsibility is developing and adapting professional standards to guide journalistic practice,” they say.

WACC believes that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are basic human rights. Media independence and pluralism strengthen democratic processes and promote both government accountability and citizen participation. WACC’s new Strategic Plan 2012-2016 focuses especially on the role communication rights play in giving voice to poor, marginalized, excluded and dispossessed people and communities.

Read full letter here

‘Censorship on Journalists a Threat to Democracy’

New Delhi, May 2 (IANS): Violence and censorship against mediapersons are a “threat” to democracy and also constrains their ability to operate freely, an international body of journalists said Wednesday.The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) also condemned state repression against media in countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“Without a free press and freedom of expression, governments can impose bad policy and abuse power with impunity,” said Rita Payne, president of CJA, underlining the consensus at a meet on ‘Threats to Democracy’.

Violence and censorship remains an everyday threat for many journalists and such constraints their ability to operate, the CJA said in a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day May 3.

“The CJA unanimously condemns instances of state repression against media reported out of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some African member states of the Commonwealth,” Payne said.

“With some Commonwealth countries, including India and Pakistan resisting a draft UN Action Plan on safety of journalists, the CJA warned that democracy itself is under threat due to constraints on the ability of journalists to operate,” she added.

Putting action to words, the CJA has endorsed the Table Mountain Declaration, aimed at abolishing criminal defamation and promoting a free press in Africa.

In 2011, 179 journalists were imprisoned worldwide, up from 145 the previous year while another 67 were killed last year; 17 more so far this year. They were murdered, killed on dangerous assignments or died in crossfire, Payne said.

Pakistan is rated among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. South Africa has enacted strict censorship measures that limit reporting on corruption and attempt to control the press.

The CJA’s efforts are global, with its branches in Pakistan, Sarawak, Uganda, Cameroon, India and Britain among those holding educational workshops and awareness-raising events to mark World Press Freedom Day.

“It is time for all Commonwealth countries to uphold the same values of a civil society. The onus here is on governments. Press freedom and freedom of speech must be protected and promoted,” Payne said.

Appeal from a daughter in Bangladesh – ‘ Give justice to my mother Saira “


Sami  Ahmed says

Twenty  years ago the Bangladesh government broke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when they allowed the child marriage of my mother, Saira Ahmed, to a British paedophile. The purpose of this petition is to generate enough support that the Bangladesh government will recognize that they have broken several articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and press charges against the family my mother was married into. All facts stated here are verified in the feature film that is in development based on these events.

Me and my mum want to say thank you to all that sign our petition because in doing so you make us feel like we do have a family here, and that we are not alone. Your signature means you are now family members. I want to keep you all updated monthly about the progress of this campaign, so kindly do provide an email address and continue to share this petition with others.

The act of child marriage is not rare: from 2000-2008, 64% of women aged 20-24 in Bangladesh were married before they were 18 years old.

We have all the legal documents and court papers to prove Saira’s husband was a paedophile here.

1:Saira during her child marriage. 2 & 3: Saira now

PLEASE SIGN ONLIEN PETITION HERE AND SHARE WIDELY

contact
Sami Ahmed
Website: http://justiceforsaira.wordpress.com/

Facebook Censorship – Abortion Rights


On Decemeber 30, 2011 , Facebook removed the profile picture of Rebecca Gomperts, which was text with information about how women can do abortions safely by themselves. Dr Gomperts is a well-known abortion rights activist and the Director of Women on Waves. Women on Waves is a charitable organization focused on women’s health and human rights.

Its mission is to protect maternal health by preventing unsafe abortions. Women on Waves sails a ship to countries where abortion is illegal. On board the ship the medical staff provides sexual education and healthcare services.

With the ship, early medical abortions (up to 6 1/2 weeks of pregnancy) can be provided safely, professionally and legally. Applicability of national penal legislation, and thus also of abortion law, extends only to territorial waters; outside that 12-mile radius it is thus Dutch law that applies on board a ship under the Dutch flag, which means that all our activities are legal.

Women on Waves’ efforts serve to draw much-needed public attention to the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe, illegal abortion. To date, the ship has sailed to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Women on Waves also supported the launch of safe abortion hotlines in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. (for more information see http://www.womenonwaves.org)

In 2005 it founded Women on Web, a telemedicine abortion service that provides medical abortions to women in countries where there is no access to safe abortion (www.womenonweb.org)

By removing the profile picture, Facebook is in gross violation of Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human rights. Facebook has a social responsibility to guarantee human rights. Dr. Gomperts reposted the screenshot of the Facebook censorship message with the picture. She called upon all Facebook users that support abortion rights to repost the message on their page.

The picture is  actually a sticker  designed to provide information on how women can safely induce an abortion using a medicine called Misoprostol. The text is based on information and research from the World Health Organisation. So it is really quite safe.

The English-language text says that to induce a safe abortion women should buy 12 Misoprostol tablets at a pharmacy. They are advised to say the drugs are intended for ‘their granny who has arthritis.’ When the tablets are taken a few hours apart they will induce labour accompanied by abdominal cramps and vaginal bleeding eventually leading to a miscarriage after about 10 hours. Diarrhoea is the most common side-effect. In case of a high fever and severe pain women are advised to see a doctor, who should be told the patient suffered a miscarriage.

Legally unassailable


Women on Waves says the removal of the photograph is in violation of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which specifically mentions ‘the right to … seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media’ – and the European Convention on Human Rights. However, media and privacy lawyer Quinten Kroes says this not entirely true:

“Women on Waves refers to very basic human rights, such as the freedom of expression. These fundamental rights are primarily intended as protection from government interference, which is not what this is about. Facebook has not removed the profile photograph as a result of pressure from any government, but on its own initiative. From that perspective, Facebook could argue its own freedom of expression was at stake here. Facebook cannot be made to spread ideas the company does not support.”

Mr Kroes says Facebook’s legal right to remove the text is based on its’ extensive and legally unassailable terms of use: “They will undoubtedly include articles granting Facebook the right to remove specific texts because the texts violate certain norms or prompted complaints from other users.”

Dr. Gomperts reposted the screenshot of the facebook censorship message with the picture and called upon other facebook users to repost the image, which was done by hundreds of facebook users. However this picture was removed again and Gomperts was blocked from using her facebook account for 2 days. After receiving inquiries by journalist, facebook send an email to apologize and acknowledged that the picture did not violate any facebook users regulations.

Then Facebook apologised and restored the profile pic


The P.R. flap is reminiscent of what happened when Apple launched Siri late last year. Customers complained that they couldn’t search for abortion clinics using the software, which was widely reported in the media and blogs. Apple attributed the bug to a kink in the software, not any sort of corporate-wide abortion bias.

Do you think Facebook handled this situation appropriately?

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