Cause of Kabardian Journalist’s Death Still Unclear

Seven weeks after Kabardian journalist and human rights activist Timur Kuashev was found dead on the outskirts of Nalchik, the precise cause of his death remains unclear. In light of the trace of an injection in his left armpit, the republican division of the Investigative Committee has nonetheless opened a murder investigation on the assumption that Kuashev was killed because of his professional activities.

Kuashev, 26, left home on the evening of July 31 to go jogging. His body was discovered the following day in woodland some 15 kilometers from his apartment. His body showed no signs of violence but friends said his fingers were turning black, which they construed as evidence he had been deliberately poisoned. Pathologists from the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) Health Ministry, however, said Kuashev’s heart, brain, and circulatory system were undamaged and his body showed none of the usual signs of poisoning.

Forensic tests conducted under the aegis of the Health Ministry reportedly failed to determine the cause of death. Further tests are to be conducted in Moscow, Kuashev’s father Khambi told Kavkaz-uzel last week.

The KBR Interior Ministry and the republican subdirectorate of the Federal Security Service have similarly made no progress in establishing who might have had a motive to kill Kuashev. The Interior Ministry had rejected in May a request by Kuashev to investigate death threats against him posted on the website KavkazPress, which is rumored to be controlled by the “force” agencies. (It was the recourse by KBR Interior Ministry personnel to indiscriminate and gratuitous violence against law-abiding young practising Muslims that served as the catalyst for the multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik in October 2005.) 

Russian journalists Maksim Shevchenko and Natalya Kevorkova, who traveled to Nalchik to conduct an independent investigation into Kuashev’s death, established that he was not involved in commercial activities, had no ties to the North Caucasus insurgency (although he professed Salafi Islam), and had no personal enemies.

Shevchenko and Kevorkova further noted that while dozens of journalists and human rights activists have been killed in the Caucasus over the past 10 to 15 years, almost all of them were shot. That circumstance conveniently allowed investigators to blame the killings on the North Caucasus insurgency, with the result that the killers were never found and brought to trial and/or the investigation was shelved.

The announcement in early September by investigators in Makhachkala that they had suspended inquiries into the murder in July 2013 of journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev as all possible leads had been exhausted elicited outrage among international human rights watchdogs.

The use of a poison that leaves no trace (if that is, indeed, how Kuashev died) is a new and alarming occurrence, Shevchenko and Kevorkova say.

The two journalists acknowledge that Kuashev’s death reflects badly on Yury Kokov, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin named acting republic head last December. Although Kokov, 59, has spent virtually his entire career in the Interior Ministry, serving most recently as head of the federal ministry’s Counterterrorism Center, he has adopted a much softer stance vis-a-vis the insurgency than his predecessors. Kokov is personally monitoring the investigation into Kuashev’s death, which he termed a “terrible tragedy,” and has met personally with Kuashev’s mother.

In the absence of any other motive, it is conceivable that Kuashev was killed with the sole intention of undermining Kokov and preventing his confirmation as republic head. If so, the perpetrators appear to have miscalculated. On September 15, Putin proposed Kokov, together with two alternative candidates, for the post of KBR republic head. The new parliament elected on September 14, in which the United Russia party controls 50 of the 70 seats, is to elect the new republic head on October 9. Most observers take it as given that deputies will endorse Kokov.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

OSCE Calls For ‘Thorough Investigation’ Of Kabardian Journalist’s Death

The Representative on Freedom of the Media for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Dunja Mijatovic, issued a statement on August 4 calling for a thorough investigation into the death of Kabardian journalist and human rights activist Timur Kuashev. 

Kuashev was found dead near his home in Khasanya, south-west of Nalchik, on August 1, having disappeared after leaving home the previous evening. His body showed no signs of violence, but his friends and colleagues dispute the findings of an autopsy that concluded he died of heart failure. They are convinced he was killed, possibly by an injection of poison. 

Whatever the circumstances, Kuashev’s death is an embarrassment for acting Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) head Yury Kokov, who has still to be confirmed in that post by the new parliament to be elected on September 14. Kuashev had intended to run in that ballot as a candidate for the opposition party Yabloko. 

Two Yabloko members staged a picket outside the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic representation in Moscow on August 4 to demand clarification of the circumstances of Kuashev’s death, and Yabloko head Sergei Mitrokhin has appealed to Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin to open a criminal investigation.

Kuashev, 26, graduated from a Moscow law school in 2010 with a degree in criminal law. He then returned to Nalchik, where he sought to promote interconfessional dialogue and defend the rights of practicing Muslims. He also wrote for the independent monthly journal “Dosh,” focusing primarily on human rights violations and, in particular, the ongoing trial of 58 men charged in connection with multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik in October 2005, according to “Dosh” chief editor Abdulla Duduyev. 

Those activities earned Kuashev respect across the North Caucasus: Just days before his death he was invited to participate in a seminar in Makhachala on the situation in Gaza.  Among the 200-plus mourners at his funeral was a delegation of five people from Daghestan. 

At the same time, Kuashev’s engagement on behalf of fellow believers inevitably attracted the suspicion of the police and security organs, as did his adherence to Salafism. In December 2012, together with other Muslim lawyers from South Russia, he prepared an appeal to Russia’s Constitutional Court questioning the constitutionality of the Stavropol Krai government’s ruling that effectively prohibited school girls wearing the hijab.

In May 2014, Kuashev was detained by police for participating in a ceremony to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Tsarist war of conquest in which tens of thousands of Circassians were slaughtered or driven into exile. 

Just days later, he addressed a formal appeal to the KBR Prosecutor General and Interior Minister, to the head of the KBR subsidiary of the Investigative Committee, and to Amnesty International, demanding an investigation into death threats he had received, but the Interior Ministry declined to open a formal investigation. 

Circumstantial Evidence

Last month, Kuashev posted a diatribe on Live Journal addressed to Kokov and Nalchik Mayor Mukhamed Kodzokov detailing shortcomings in Nalchik’s public transport and markets, and demanding the construction of small local mosques.

Kuashev’s friends and associates are convinced he was killed because of his professional engagement. They cite the marks left by a hypodermic needle in his armpit and the fact that his fingers were turning black as evidence of “a planned professional killing.” 

That circumstantial evidence points to the possible involvement of the security forces, and raises the question whether the perpetrators were acting at Kokov’s behest or without his knowledge. 

Human rights activist Valery Khatazhukov points out that since, his appointment in December 2013 to replace Arsen Kanokov, Kokov  (who is a former head of the federal Interior Ministry’s Main Administration for Countering Extremism, and thus should have a clearer idea than most of what tactics are most effective in containing it) has taken a moderate approach to combating the Islamic insurgency. 

Kokov advocates dialogue with the Salafi community and allowing the bodies of slain militants to be returned to their families for burial despite federal legislation to the contrary. 

That rejection of “force” methods may have antagonized the siloviki, in which case Kuashev’s murder may have appeared a convenient way of killing two birds with one stone: getting rid of a journalist who had fearlessly criticized abuses by the power agencies, and embarrassing Kokov.

A second commentator, “Strategiya” Institute head Aslan Beshto, likewise spoke with approval of Kokov’s first efforts to restore order in the health, education and construction sectors. In early April, Beshto opined that, so far, Kokov had not set a foot wrong, to the point that he would easily win a popular election for the post of republic. 

That view of Kokov’s track record is apparently not shared in Moscow. In the most recent ranking by effectiveness of 83 federation subject heads, Kokov occupied 64th-65th place with a score of 61 out of 100. Of his fellow North Caucasus leaders, only North Ossetia’s Taymuraz Mamsurov ranked lower, in 80th place.

– Liz Fuller

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Absent International Investigators, Western Journalists Build Case That Separatists Shot Down MH17

Russian officials and state-run media have widely panned a U.S. intelligence assessment of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash that relied heavily on “social media reports.”

But 10 days after MH17 was blown out of the sky, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board — and with international investigators still struggling to gain access to the disaster site in eastern Ukraine — the combined reporting of foreign correspondents appears to corroborate social media and intelligence accounts that link the crash to a Buk missile launcher fired by pro-Russian separatists.

Here is the evidence gathered by reporters in eastern Ukraine:

Associated Press journalists saw a Buk missile launcher near the scene of the crash three hours before the plane went down

“It was hard to miss the bulky missile system, also known as a Buk M-1. It left deep tread marks in the asphalt as it rumbled by in a small convoy. The vehicles stopped in front of journalists from The Associated Press. A man wearing unfamiliar fatigues, speaking with a distinctive Russian accent, checked to make sure they weren’t filming. The convoy then moved on, destination unknown in the heart of eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russia rebellion. Three hours later, people six miles (10 kilometers) west of Snizhne heard loud noises.”

U.S. intelligence accounts say U.S. radar tracked the missile that hit MH17 taking off from a town near Snizhne. Video that has been geolocated to the town’s central street also appears to show the Buk missile-launching system:

Local residents have told Western publications that they saw a mysterious missile launcher on the day of the attack

From “The Guardian“:

“We were inside and heard a noise much louder than usual,” said one shopkeeper, who did not want to be identified. “We came running out and saw a jeep disappearing into the distance with something much larger in front of it. Later, customers said it had been a missile carrier.” In another shop further down the street, there was talk of a convoy of two jeeps and a missile launcher covered in a net driving past in the direction of the town of Snizhne. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said a middle-aged woman. She said her husband showed her a photograph of a Buk launcher afterwards and she realised that was indeed what she had seen. A group of men also said they had seen a Buk.

From “The Wall Street Journal“:

“One Torez resident who works on the main road said the SA-11 was notable because he hadn’t seen such a sophisticated ground-to-air missile system among the many military vehicles that had rolled through Torez since fighting began. He said what looked like the same truck later came back through town going the other way, without the missile.”

Kyiv has accused Moscow of providing Russia-backed separatists with the missile system and other advanced weaponry amid increasingly sophisticated attacks on Ukrainian targets. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has released video footage of what it claims is the Buk missile system, with one missile missing, heading back toward Russia. An investigation by “The Interpreter” magazine geolocated the video to Krasnodan, near Ukraine’s border with Russia.

Some separatists have acknowledged their role in the attack — albeit anonymously

Associated Press:

“A highly placed rebel, speaking to the AP this week, admitted that rebels were responsible. He said a unit based in the hometown of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, made up of both Russians and Ukrainians, was involved in the firing of an SA-11 from near Snizhne. The rebel, who has direct access to the inner circle of the insurgent leadership in Donetsk, said that he could not be named because he was contradicting the rebels’ official line.”

Corriere Della Sera” (Italian daily):

“On Thursday afternoon, our commanders ordered us to get into the lorries with our weapons and plenty of ammunition. Perhaps ten minutes earlier, there had been a huge explosion in the sky. ‘We’ve just shot down one of the Kiev Fascists’ planes’, they told us, warning us to take care because at least some of the crew had reportedly baled out. White objects had been seen floating in the clouds.

In audio released by Ukraine’s National Security Service, rebel leaders apparently discuss seeing a potential target in the air minutes before MH17 is shot down then brag about hitting a Ukrainian military plane until they inspect the scene and realize it is a civilian aircraft. 

A separatist leader has said rebels had access to a Buk missile launcher

Aleksandr Khodakovsky, a commander of the powerful “Vostok” separatist battalion, told Reuters he “knew a Buk was coming from Luhansk” towards Snizhne. Reuters released audio of the admission after Khodakovsky denied making the claim.

Analysts say photos taken by “New York Times” reporters shows damage consistent with a “supersonic missile”

“The perforation holes that are visible indicate that they are consistent with a foreign object entering from the exterior of the aircraft to the interior of the aircraft, given the contour of the aluminum around a majority of the perforations as well as the visible blistering of the paint around some of the holes themselves,” Reed Foster, an analyst at IHS Jane’s, wrote in an assessment provided to The Times.

A reporter for the “Telegraph” saw evidence of what could have been blowback from a missile launch at a site pegged by some as the Buk firing location

Blackened grains of wheat mark where the heat must have been fiercest. Among the scorched grass, melted fragments of plastic and discarded bottles litter the ground. On its own the scene is relatively benign. But then there is the context. The patch of blasted wheat and wildflowers lies just a few miles from the Russian border, 12 miles from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines, and – as the Telegraph discovered – just a few hundred meters from concealed rebel positions.

The “Telegraph” reporter said the environment fit with data on the rocket launch path released by the United States but that he could not conclude definitively that the site was used to launch the Buk.

Kyiv has been battling pro-Russian militants since April, when armed separatists began occupying key cities in Donetsk and Luhansk. Some 500 people — including soldiers, rebels, and civilians — had been killed before MH17 fell on July 17.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kazakh Journalists’ Union Honors WikiLeaks Founder

The Union of Journalists in Kazakhstan (KZO) has awarded a top prize to Julian Assange, the founder of the controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, for his oustanding efforts in investigative journalism.

KZO Chairman Seyitqazy Mataev said on June 24 that the award was given to Assange because WikiLeaks had provided plenty of “interesting” material that was used by journalists in Kazakhstan.

Mataev said the award — a trophy and an undisclosed amount of cash — will be sent to Assange by mail.

Assange has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 19, 2012.

The Ecuadorian authorities have granted political asylum to the WikiLeaks founder, who is wanted in the United States for disclosing classified materials and in Sweden for questioning over alleged sexual offenses.

With reporting by Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Egypt finds Al Jazeera journalists guilty

Two Al Jazeera English journalists have been sentenced to seven years in jail and one to 10 years by an Egyptian court on charges including aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news.

The guilty verdicts were announced by a judge on Monday against Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed.

Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional three years for possession of ammunition. Mohamed was in possession of a spent bullet casing he had found on the ground during a protest.

Other Al Jazeera journalists being tried in absentia were sentenced to 10 years. Their names are Alaa Bayoumi, Anas Abdel-Wahab Khalawi Hasan, Khaleel Aly Khaleel Bahnasy, Mohamed Fawzi, Dominic Kane, and Sue Turton.

Al Jazeera has always rejected the charges against its journalists and maintains their innocence.

Greste, Fahmy, and Mohamed were arrested in December in Cairo as they covered the aftermath of the army’s removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July.

The prosecution said Greste, Al Jazeera’s East Africa correspondent, and his Egypt bureau colleagues aided the Brotherhood and produced false news reports of the situation in Egypt.

The Brotherhood, which supported Morsi, was listed as a “terrorist” organisation by the interim Egyptian government shortly before the accused were arrested.

The prosecution produced a number of items as evidence including a BBC podcast, a news report made while none of the accused were in Egypt, a pop video by the Australian singer Gotye, and several recordings on non-Egyptian issues.

The defence maintained that the journalists were wrongly arrested and that the prosecution had failed to prove any of the charges against them.

‘Absurd allegations’

Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said the verdicts defied “logic, sense, and any semblance of justice”. 

“Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. ‘Guilty’ of covering stories with great skill and integrity. ‘Guilty’ of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world,” Anstey said in a statement.

Peter, Mohamed, and Baher and six of our other colleagues were sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them.  At no point during the long drawn out ‘trial’ did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny.

“There is only one sensible outcome now – for the verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognised by Egypt.”



Chechen Leader Claims Credit For Release Of Russian Journalists

In an interview with the Russian daily “Izvestia,” Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed to have personally negotiated, on orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the release by the Ukrainian authorities of journalists Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko. But a senior Ukrainian security official denied this, saying the two men were released in response to appeals from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Sidyakin and Saichenko, who work for the Russian TV channel LifeNews, were apprehended by the Ukrainian military on May 18 in the eastern town of Kramatorsk. The following day, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Deputy Secretary Viktoria Syumar said a portable antiaircraft missile had been found in their car. She added that her agency had video and photographic evidence that the two journalists were collaborating with “terrorists,” meaning pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities denied members of the OSCE mission access to the detainees for several days while investigating their suspected illicit activities.

Kadyrov, who in recent months has repeatedly condemned both the Ukrainian authorities’ efforts to retain control over the eastern part of the country and the international community’s support for those efforts, posted an Instagram statement on May 21 demanding the immediate release of the two journalists. He again accused the Ukrainian leadership of resorting to “fascist measures,” and warned that if the Ukrainian leadership failed to free the two men, “we have the real strength and possibilities to bring pressure to bear on those” who are holding them captive, and “we shall be forced to take harsh measures.”

Kadyrov publicly condemned the way the journalists were forced to kneel with carrier bags over their heads, although that treatment pales in comparison with the kind of torture that those fortunate enough to have survived say they have seen inflicted on detainees in Kadyrov’s private prison. He also condemned as “an inhuman crime” “detaining people who have not done anything [wrong].”

Also on May 21, President Putin told journalists in Shanghai that the detention of the two journalists was “unacceptable” and the charges against them of illegally transporting weapons and abetting terrorism “nonsense.”

By that time, however, according to Kadyrov, negotiations between his personal envoys and unnamed Ukrainian officials were already under way. Kadyrov said, first, that those envoys spent three days in Kyiv, then that they shuttled between Kyiv and Grozny three times, rather than communicate by phone and thus risk details of the “secret talks” becoming public knowledge. Then in a further seeming contradiction, Kadyrov pinpointed Putin’s statement about the detainees as having finally persuaded Kyiv to agree to their release.

Similarly implausible is Kadyrov’s claim that the two men were released unconditionally. The Ukrainian authorities could, after all, have demanded as the quid pro quo the withdrawal from Ukrainian territory of the Chechen security personnel who, according to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, are fighting on the side of the pro-Russian forces.

As noted above, the Ukrainian side denies any Chechen involvement in the release of Sidyakin and Saichenko, but has offered no explanation why a plane should have been waiting to transport them to Grozny after their release late on May 24. Viktor Yagun, deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service, was quoted as telling “Ukrayinska pravda” that the two men were released after UN and OSCE envoys appealed to the Ukrainian leadership. He rejected as a PR exercise all “alternative claims by citizens of the neighboring state.”

Center for Military and Political Research director Dmytro Tymchuk was quoted by the same newspaper as likewise denying categorically any personal role by representatives of the Russian Federation in the talks that led to the journalists’ release. Tymchuk described the Ukrainian decision to allow the men to go free as “a gesture of goodwill and a demonstration of respect for the opinion of the international community.”

– Liz Fuller

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Georgia Protests Visit Of Turkish Journalists To Abkhazia

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tbilisi, Zeki Levent Gumrukcu, on May 13 over the visit of Turkish journalists to breakaway Abkhazia.

About 80 members of the Federation of Turkish Journalists (TGF) visited Abkhazia on May 9-12 via Russia.

They held the federation’s 44th assembly, as well as the first congress of Turkish and Abkhaz journalists, both in Sukhumi. They also met with senior separatist Abkhaz officials.

Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said on May 13 that the visit was a violation of Georgia’s law on occupied territories.

Moscow recognized Abkhazia and Georgia’s other breakaway region of South Ossetia as independent states after a short war with Tbilisi in August 2008.

Russia has been keeping troops in the separatist regions since then.

Georgia considers the two regions as its territories.

Based on reporting by and

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Al Jazeera journalists’ trial adjourned again

The trial in Egypt of three Al Jazeera English journalists, accused of spreading news and belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has been adjourned until May 3.

Correspondent Peter Greste and producers Mohammed Fahmy and Barher Mohamed, who have been imprisoned in Cairo for 115 days, were not granted bail at Tuesday’s hearing and are to remain in prison until the next hearing.

It was the sixth session of the trial heard in the Cairo court and was supposed to be the final opportunity for the prosecution to present evidence against the journalists.

Egyptian prosecutors submitted new evidence including audio tapes against the defendants although lawyers disputed their quality.

“If anyone understands the content, please inform us,” one of the lawyers told the judges.

One judge responded: “I can hear it from my side.”

But journalists reporting on the trial also talked of poor sound quality.

Prosecutors also submitted photographs of maps said to be of the area housing the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Cairo, a site of some pro-Morsi protests, and leaflets calling for protests.

Photographs also showed bodies on the ground covered in blankets.

At the trial’s last hearing, prosecutors had aired video footage and showed random photographs that were not linked to the case in which the authorities accused 20 defendants – including another six Al Jazeera staff who are being tried in absentia –  of Brotherhood links.

Trial of Al Jazeera’s journalists enters sixth session

Shahira Amin, a journalist from the Index on Censorship, an organisation that promotes free speech, told Al Jazeera it was difficult for journalists to get information about the hearing as they were ordered to leave.

“All journalists were ordered to leave by the judge and that’s because during the recess, the break in the court session, journalists were asking the defendants questions, talking to them,” Amin said.

“This has happened in every single trial session before, so we didn’t quite understand why it was different this time round that we weren’t allowed to have access to the defendants and talk to them. Also because some of the journalists were taking photographs…we had repeatedly been told not to photograph them in the cage.

“The video clips shown in the court today were just standard TV footage that any journalist would have shot,” she said.

Al Jazeera strongly rejects all the charges and has called for the immediate release of its staff.

Abdulla al-Shami, a fourth Al Jazeera journalist in detention who works for the company’s Arabic arm, has been held in Egypt for more than six months and has been on hunger strike since January 21. His detention was extended by 45 days on March 13.

Another Al Jazeera journalist, Mohamed Badr, was arrested on July 15 and released on February 5, when he was acquitted of a series of charges including being involved in the protests in Cairo’s Ramses Square.

More than 40,000 people have been actively involved in the campaign for the release of the journalists, with events held in more than 30 countries and in every continent.

There have been more than 800 million impressions of #FreeAJStaff on Twitter and there have been repeated calls from governments, international institutions and media organisations for an end to the imprisonment of the journalists.

The US, the UK and the EU have all called for the release of Al Jazeera’s staff imprisoned in Egypt.



Kidnapped French journalists in Syria freed

Four French journalists have been found by Turkish soldiers on the border with Syria after being kidnapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Syria last June, Turkish media has reported.

Nicolas Henin, Pierre Torres, Edouard Elias and Didier Francois were found in Sanliurfa province with their hands and eyes bound, the Dogan News Agency said.

An unknown group brought the journalists to the Turkish border last night, the news agency reported. 



Russian Journalists Detained In Ukraine Released

Three Russian television journalists who were detained in Ukraine’s eastern region of Kharkiv have been released.

Russian media reports said that Ukrainian authorities had detained a television crew working for Russia’s State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) on April 16.

Reporter Yevgeny Reshetnyov, cameraman Sergei Truskov, and technician Vadim Klivanov were released on April 17.

Details of the reasons behind their detention have not been provided.

The Russian Embassy in Kyiv has sent a note to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry requesting an explanation for the three journalists’ detention.

Ukraine has accused Russia’s state-controlled media outlets of misinforming the Russian population about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine’s eastern regions, where armed pro-Russian groups have seized a number of official buildings in the last several days.

Based on reporting by Rossiya 24 and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Georgian Journalists Detained Near South Ossetia Freed

Three Georgian journalists have been freed after being detained earlier close to an administrative boundary line of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The press service for the security service in South Ossetia said on April 16 the three journalists were freed, without paying any fines, as a “gesture of good will.”

The Tbilisi-based TV3 television channel said its reporter Bela Zakaidze, cameraman Vakhtang Lekiashvili, and a broadcast technician, Mikheil Mikhoev, were detained by Russian forces on the afternoon of April 15.

The TV crew was working on a report about “borderization” issues and attempts by Russian forces to shift boundary lines deeper into Georgian-controlled areas.

South Ossetia’s official news agency RES reported that the breakaway region’s authorities confirmed the detention of the three journalists “for violating the state border.”

Russia maintains troops in South Ossetia and Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Moscow recognized the two regions as independent states after a short war with Tbilisi in August 2008.

With reporting by

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

OSCE: Journalists Face Violence, Intimidation In Ukraine

The media-freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says the situation for reporters in Ukraine has reached a dangerous stage.

Dunja Mijatovic spoke to reporters on April 16 after making a three-day trip to Kharkiv, Odesa, and Kyiv, where she spoke with journalists from those regions as well as with reporters from Donetsk, Mykolayiv, and Crimea.

She said journalists in Ukraine’s conflict areas are “under attack, both physically and as part of ongoing psychological warfare.”

Mijatovic said: “Journalists in conflict areas face violence, seizure, and destruction of equipment, and threats on a daily basis.”

She said journalists in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia in March, must contend with additional problems such as re-registration, possible eviction from the region if they are deemed as disloyal and do not obtain Russian citizenship, threats, and denial of access to public information.

Mijatovic urged journalists in Ukraine to have solidarity, and to “report the truth and to stay safe.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Georgian Journalists Detained Along South Ossetian Boundary

Three Georgian journalists have been detained close to an administrative boundary line of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The Tbilisi-based TV3 television channel says its reporter Bela Zakaidze, cameraman Vakhtang Lekiashvili, and a broadcast technician, Mikheil Mikhoev, were detained by Russian forces on the afternoon of April 15.

The TV crew was working on a report about “borderization” issues and attempts by Russian forces to shift boundary lines deeper into Georgian-controlled areas.

South Ossetia’s official news agency RES reported that the breakaway region’s authorities confirmed the detention of the three journalists “for violating the state border.”

Russia maintains troops in South Ossetia and Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Moscow recognized the two regions as independent states after a short war with Tbilisi in August 2008.

With reporting by

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Two Kyrgyz Security Officers Arrested In Connection With Journalist’s Murder


Gennady Pavlyuk died after being thrown from a building in 2009.

By RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service

BISHKEK — Two officers of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security have been arrested in connection with the murder of a journalist.
Representatives of the Kyrgyz prosecutor-general told RFE/RL on April 7 that the men, whose names were not revealed, were arrested on April 5 after investigators in neighboring Kazakhstan had named them as suspects.
Kyrgyz journalist Gennady Pavlyuk, who was of Russian origin, died several days after being thrown from a building in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty in December 2009.
His arms and legs had been bound.
His relatives and colleagues allege that the murder was politically motivated because Pavlyuk had joined the opposition movement against former President Kurmanbek Bakiev and his government.
A former Kyrgyz security service officer and two Kazakh citizens were found guilty of involvement into Pavlyuk’s murder and handed prison sentences in 2011.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Politicians Alarmed by Maliki’s Promise to ‘Avenge’ Journalist’s Death

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following the killing of a journalist by a presidential guard on Saturday in which he vowed to “avenge his blood” has overshadowed the incident and caused a stir among politicians.

“It will be my responsibility to avenge this killing, and blood can only be expiated by blood,” said Maliki as he arrived at the scene of the shooting.

Hamid Mutlaq a member of the parliamentary defense and security committee criticized this comment, saying, “Iraq can not be ruled based on blood for blood because it won’t get us anywhere.”

Though some Iraqi and Kurdish officials have said that the killing was “an individual act” and shouldn’t incriminate the entire presidential guard unit, the Iraqi prime minister has personally taken up the case and promised to punish those responsible.

Others believe that the Iraqi prime minister is using the death of Muhammad Bidaiwi, a university professor and head of Radio Free Iraq as a means to get back at the Kurds amid political disputes with Erbil.

In a statement, the Change Movement (Gorran) warned of politicizing the incident and inciting nationalist and sectarian feelings, while demanding a fair trial for the Kurdish officer charged with killing Bidaiwi.

Shortly after the shooting, interior ministry forces arrived at the gates of the presidential compound to arrest the Kurdish guard, which led to a tense standoff between both sides. However, it was reported that the guard was eventually handed over to the Iraqis after talks between Iraq’s First Lady, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed and Prime Minister Maliki.

“The guard has been handed over to the court so that the law takes care of the case,” Jabbar Yawar, chief of staff of the Peshmerga Ministry told Rudaw.

On Sunday there was a call by some Iraqi politicians to expel the Kurdish presidential guards from Baghdad and handing over the task to Iraqi forces. But Brigadier General Kahdar, the commander of the presidential guards told Rudaw that they would only leave on orders from the presidential office.

Kahdar said that the guards are under the Iraqi defense ministry and not the Ministry of Peshmerga as claimed in the media.

“The Bridges 1 and 2 have been in Baghdad for 10 years and have played an effective role in enforcing the law in Baghdad,” he said.

Kahdar said that the presidential guards are hailed as the best military force in Baghdad and that they have been praised by the office of PM Maliki for providing security in the capital.

Kahdar’s version of Saturday’s incident dismissed initial claims that Bidaiwi was killed after he had refused to stop at the presidential checkpoint.

“The journalist who was killed had wanted to drive on the wrong lane of the presidential guard checkpoint, but an officer did not allow him and it later led to a quarrel between him and the officer and the officer killed the journalist,” Kahdar explained.

For his part, Qassim Mashkhati, a Kurdish member of parliament accused the Iraqi authorities of ‘hypocrisy”, saying that they should have taken the case of other journalists killed in the past as seriously.

“The killers of Kamil Shiaa, Hadi Mahdi and Muhammad Abbas who were killed in front of the cameras, should have been talked about too and caused the same uproar,” he said.

Meanwhile in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, a group of Peshmarga officers, civil society and human rights activists gathered in Shanaidar Park to condemn Maliki’s talk of “revenge and blood” and to demand a fair trial for the Kurdish presidential guard.


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Belarusian Opposition Activists, Journalists Detained In Minsk

MINSK — Police in Belarus have detained eight activists, including the leader of the opposition United Civic Party, Anatol Lyabedzka, and two journalists.

The activists were detained at Minsk’s central Kamarouka marketplace on March 16 while campaigning for seats in next week’s local elections.

They were wearing T-shirts bearing the photographs of political prisoners.

Lyabedzka and four other activists spent the night in custody.

The remaining five were released.

All were expected to be tried on March 17.

The exact charges are not known.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Journalists, Activists Reported Missing In Crimea

At least five Ukrainian activists and journalists opposed to Russia’s invasion of Crimea have gone missing in the peninsula.

Andriy Shchekun, the head of Crimea’s Ukrainian Council, and Anatolyy Kovalskiy, the director of the board of trustees of the Ukrainian School in Simferopol, have been active in denouncing the Russian takeover of their region.

They appear to have been abducted on March 9 in Simferopol, just hours before the start of a rally they had organized to protest the Russian occupation.

According to information gathered by RFE/RL, Shchekun and Kovalskiy were apprehended at Simferopol’s train station, where they had gone to pick up a parcel from Kyiv.

Several men who identified themselves as vigilantes and members of Russian Unity, the party headed by Crimea’s new pro-Russia Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, reportedly searched the pair before escorting them to the railway station’s police department.

A second group of men eventually picked up the activists after police officers declined to formally detain them.

Case Opened

Crimean prosecutors said a criminal case has been opened into their disappearance.

The Center for Journalistic Investigation, a Ukrainian online publication, reports that the two activists were beaten up and that Aksyonov himself sanctioned their detention.

The deputy speaker of Crimea’s parliament, Hryhoriy Ioffe, confirmed that Shchekun was briefly taken to the office of Russian Unity on March 9.

Kovalskiy’s son, Serhiy Kovalskiy, said the pair was being held together at a secret location in Simferopol.

Also on March 9, two Ukrainian journalists and a spokeswoman for Automaidan — a group of motorists supporting the pro-European protests — went missing as they attempted to enter Crimea near its northern town of Armyansk.

Olena Maksymenko, a reporter with “Ukrainian Week,” independent blogger Oleksanda Ryazantseva, and Automaidan’s Kateryna Butko are not answering calls on their mobile phones.

According to Euromaidan SOS, a civil initiative group set up since the protests began last November to monitor rights abuses and track missing activists, the women were detained by local Berkut riot police.

The group believes they were handed over to officers from the Sevastopol branch of the SBU, the state security service.

Several unconfirmed reports have emerged of other journalists being detained at Crimean checkpoints.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ukrainian Journalists Rush To Fish Out Deposed President’s Dirty Secrets

KYIV — Someone wanted the records to disappear without a trace under the gray waves of the Kyiv Reservoir. Instead, they are ending up on the Internet for everyone in the world to see.

When ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage were fleeing the lavish presidential residence at Mezhyhirya, outside of Kyiv, on the night of February 21-22, they dumped hundreds of documents into the reservoir in an amateurish attempt to conceal the information they contain.

But journalists and scuba divers showed up on the scene just hours later and began recovering the soggy papers. Some were floating surreally along the edges of the water; others were recovered in stuffed file folders from the depths.

LIVE BLOG: Crisis In Ukraine

For the last three days, a group of journalists and criminal investigators from the post-Yanukovych government has been working to dry out the papers and the first 500 have now been photographed and placed on a special website  for all to see.

According to the website, the trove includes nearly 200 folders of documents, although the exact number of pages is unknown. The 500 pages posted so far are only a small fraction, not more than 2 percent, of the total.

‘Like A Medieval Fiefdom’

So far, it appears that the papers mostly tell the sordid story of the pompous Mezhyhirya estate itself — how it was questionably privatized by murky companies that now can likely be traced to Yanukovych and how it was remodeled and appointed at great expense. Other documents tell similar tales about Yanukovych’s Sukholuche hunting lodge and other presidential retreats.

Many of the records seem to relate to cash payments ranging up to millions of dollars. One document from September 2010 apparently records the transfer of $ 12 million in cash for an unknown purpose.

According to “Kyiv Post” deputy chief editor Katya Gorchinskaya, who is among those working on the documents, Yanukovych emerges “as an ugly man who ran both his home and his nation like a medieval fiefdom.”

An anti-Yanukovych activist poses at the Mezhyhirya residence near Kyiv on February 24.

There are also “blacklists” of Yanukovych’s antagonists, including journalists, Femen activists, and members of Ukrainian nationalist organizations.

Journalist and activist Tetyana Chornovol, who miraculously survived being abducted, beaten, and left to die on a freezing January night, was among those whose dossier was found at Mezhyhirya. Yanukovych’s police at the time dismissed the incident as “road rage.”

‘No Idea About Morality’

Kyiv’s Vernadskyy Library has provided special hot-air cannons that are used to rescue water-damaged documents, and they have been set up in a room in one of the presidential estate’s outbuildings. A group of archivists who specialize in document restoration and preservation have also been working at the scene.

Journalists, fearing their access to the documents could be restricted at any moment, have worked around the clock to photograph them. After the papers are dried, they will be properly scanned and the images placed on the Yanukovychleaks website.

Project organizers are now promising that all the records, without exception, will be made available in the next few days.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was quoted in “The Guardian” on February 25 as saying Yanukovych would openly brag about corruption and malfeasance in his government at international gatherings. At the UN General Assembly in 2011, Saakashvili said, Yanukovych talked openly about how he “corrupted” top officials and judges.

“He didn’t care who he was talking to,” Saakashvili reportedly said. “The guy did not have any idea about morality.”

Robert Coalson contributed to this report from Prague

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Egypt to put Al Jazeera journalists on trial

An Egyptian court is to try Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed for allegedly having links to a “terrorist organisation” and spreading false news.

Since their arrest, journalists have staged protests worldwide demanding their release, and rejecting claims the three have links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s former ruling party which has since been designated a “terrorist” group.

The case is one of many that have led to criticism of Egypt’s military-backed government, with rights groups pointing to growing intolerance for dissent in the Arab world’s most populous country.

“Journalists should not have to risk years in an Egyptian prison for doing their job,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“The prosecution of these journalists for speaking with Muslim Brotherhood members, coming after the prosecution of protesters and academics, shows how fast the space for dissent in Egypt is evaporating.”

Some of the charges levelled against the journalists carry prison sentences of five to 15 years.

‘Deadly’ for journalists

In total, nine journalists from the Qatar-based media network are among a group of 20 facing charges related to the case. The rest of the group have no connection to Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes – indicted though she does not work for the network – are to be tried in absentia.

Australian PM Tony Abbott urges press freedom in Egypt

A fourth Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah al-Shami of the network’s Arabic channel, has been held since August. He has been on hunger strike for more than a month to protest his imprisonment.

In 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Egypt the world’s third deadliest country for journalists. At least five journalists were killed and 45 assaulted last year, according to CPJ. Security forces raided at least 11 news outlets that year.

Greste, an award-winning journalist who has worked for the BBC and Reuters, has written letters from prison, one of which described what he sees as a lack of press freedom in Egypt.

Al Jazeera denies all the charges against its staff and has demanded their release.



Azerbaijan’s “Spy Network” Charge Escalates Pressure On RFE/RL Journalists

Accusations of espionage were made against two journalists from RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan Service this week, marking an escalation of longstanding campaigns to silence them.

Investigative reporter and Radio Azadliq journalist Khadija Ismayilova was summoned to Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s office February 18 as a witness in a criminal case for revealing state secrets, several days after media reports accused her of spying for the U.S. Also this week, Radio Azadliq correspondent Yafez Hasanov received death threats and accusations of working as a “foreign agent” via Facebook.

An article published on February 13 on, a pro-government website, accused Ismayilova of passing along information discrediting members of Azerbaijan’s political opposition to two U.S. congressional staffers who were in Baku, allegedly to gather intelligence.

The article was picked up by other pro-government media and amplified by leading members of the Azeri parliament, who demanded an investigation of Ismayilova and referred to RFE/RL as a “spy network of the U.S. in Azerbaijan.”

Developments escalated Tuesday when Azeri authorities opened a criminal case against Ismayilova after she posted a scan to her Facebook page that appears to be a contract used by the Ministry of National Security to hire an informer. Stipulating terms and threatening blackmail, the document suggests evidence of the government’s efforts to infiltrate the political opposition.

RFE/RL President and CEO Kevin Klose called these latest attacks “alarming,” adding, “Accusations of espionage in pro-government media against dissidents and independent voices were common during the Soviet era, and we are seeing them again in many of the states that emerged from the Soviet Union. These latest accusations are absurd — and dangerous. I believe they are politically motivated and fabricated to persecute our colleagues.”

The U.S. Embassy in Baku in a statement today also called the allegations of intelligence gathering “absurd.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Azerbaijan’s “Spy Network” Charge Escalates Pressure On RFE/RL Journalists

Accusations of espionage were made against two journalists from RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan Service this week, marking an escalation of longstanding campaigns to silence them.

Investigative reporter and Radio Azadliq journalist Khadija Ismayilova was summoned to Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s office February 18 as a witness in a criminal case for revealing state secrets, several days after media reports accused her of spying for the U.S. Also this week, Radio Azadliq correspondent Yafez Hasanov received death threats and accusations of working as a “foreign agent” via Facebook.

An article published on February 13 on, a pro-government website, accused Ismayilova of passing along information discrediting members of Azerbaijan’s political opposition to two U.S. congressional staffers who were in Baku, allegedly to gather intelligence.

The article was picked up by other pro-government media and amplified by leading members of the Azeri parliament, who demanded an investigation of Ismayilova and referred to RFE/RL as a “spy network of the U.S. in Azerbaijan.”

Developments escalated Tuesday when Azeri authorities opened a criminal case against Ismayilova after she posted a scan to her Facebook page that appears to be a contract used by the Ministry of National Security to hire an informer. Stipulating terms and threatening blackmail, the document suggests evidence of the government’s efforts to infiltrate the political opposition.

RFE/RL President and CEO Kevin Klose called these latest attacks “alarming,” adding, “Accusations of espionage in pro-government media against dissidents and independent voices were common during the Soviet era, and we are seeing them again in many of the states that emerged from the Soviet Union. These latest accusations are absurd — and dangerous. I believe they are politically motivated and fabricated to persecute our colleagues.”

The U.S. Embassy in Baku in a statement today also called the allegations of intelligence gathering “absurd.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. Criticizes ‘Spurious’ Charges Against Egypt’s Al-Jazeera Journalists

The United States has criticized the Egyptian government for bringing charges against Al-Jazeera television journalists, saying Egyptian prosecutors acted with “an egregious disregard” for basic rights and freedoms.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described the charges of “airing false news” against the 20 journalists — including four foreigners — as a “spurious” claim.

Eight of the journalists are being detained by the Egyptian authorities.

Psaki said Washington was “alarmed” by the reports that more journalists are now facing trial in Egypt.

She insisted that no reporters “regardless of affiliation” should be “targets of violence, intimidation, or politicized legal action.”

She also called on the military-installed government to reconsider the detentions of journalists and the charges brought against them.

The charges are reportedly connected to Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo formally declared a terrorist organization in December.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Former Russian Official Spared Jail For Journalist’s Murder

A Russian court has found the former deputy mayor of the Siberian city of Tulun guilty of killing a journalist who had criticized his activities, but ruled he should not go to prison.

The court in Irkutsk ruled on January 16 that Gennady Zhigarev, 57, stabbed 74-year-old journalist Aleksandr Khodzinsky in July 2013 while in a “state of emotional disturbance.”

Zhigarev left the courtroom a free man after receiving a sentence of one year and 10 months of “limitation of freedom.”

Regional ombudsman Valery Lukin told journalists he was “disappointed by the court verdict and the sentence.”

According to Russian law, convicted murderers would normally serve a minimum prison sentence of six years.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Russia was the ninth-deadliest country for journalists last year.

Based on reporting by Interfax and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

RFE/RL Condemns Harassment Of Ukrainian Journalists

RFE/RL has condemned the harassment and intimidation of independent journalists in Ukraine, including a smear campaign targeting RFE/RL contributor Vitaliy Portnikov.

In December, a video containing intimate and illegally obtained images of the journalist appeared on the Internet.

His Kyiv apartment was also picketed last week by some 50 protesters who carried threatening posters and accused Portnikov of “immoral behavior.”

RFE/RL President Kevin Klose called the actions “an orchestrated effort to discredit independent, professional journalists, reminiscent of the most reprehensible tactics of Soviet times.”

Portnikov is a prominent Ukrainian journalist who heads the TVi channel.

He began working with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in the early 1990s.

He is a member of the public committee of Euromaidan, the organizing body of pro-EU demonstrations that emerged after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an agreement on closer ties with the European Union in November.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. Media Condemn Attacks On Euromaidan Journalists

Harassment, intimidation and attacks on independent journalists, including of those of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America, have spiked in the wake of mass protests in Kyiv, Ukraine.

RFE/RL reports a smear campaign targeting veteran journalist Vitaliy Portnikov, intended to discredit him and undermine the pro-democracy Euromaidan movement. Portnikov’s Kyiv apartment was picketed on January 9 by a crowd of approximately 50 people with threatening posters and Ukrainian flags who accused him of “immoral behavior.”

VOA Ukrainian Service TV reporter Ruslan Deynychenko has faced repeated attempts at intimidation following his recent coverage of the Automaidan motorcade protest aimed at President Viktor Yanukovych’s residence outside of Kyiv in late December. State Auto Inspection officials in the city where his vehicle is registered have visited Deynychenko’s parents and in-laws numerous times, asking them to sign papers about alleged traffic violations which can lead to a six-month suspension of his driver’s license.

“There is clearly an orchestrated effort to discredit independent, professional journalists, reminiscent of the most reprehensible tactics of Soviet times,” said Kevin Klose, RFE/RL President and CEO.

Portnikov is an award-winning free-lance journalist and prominent public speaker who has been a regular contributor to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service since 1991. He is a member of the public committee of Euromaidan, the organizing body of pro-EU demonstrations that erupted after Yanukovych rejected an agreement on closer ties with Europe in November.

“The threats to our journalists are among numerous acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against independent voices over the last several weeks that Ukrainian authorities should denounce and prosecute consistent with President Yanukovych’s New Year’s pledge to move forward toward mutual understanding and national consolidation,” said David Ensor, VOA Director.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of the Representative for Freedom of the Media reported on December 2 that more than 40 journalists were physically assaulted and injured while covering the public protests in Kyiv. The most serious attack to date occurred on December 25, when Ukrainian journalist Tetyana Chornovol, who has investigated high-level corruption, was severely beaten by unknown men.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Former Serbian Secret Service Officials Arrested Over Journalist’s Killing

Two former Serbian senior secret service officials have been arrested over the killing of a prominent independent Serb journalist and publisher nearly 15 years ago.

Media reports in Serbia quote police as saying that former Belgrade spy agency head Milan Radonjic and operations chief Ratko Romic were arrested on January 14 on suspicion they had planned the assassination of Slavko Curuvija in April 1999.

The killing took place in Belgrade during NATO air strikes against Serbia over Kosovo.

Curuvija was a fierce critic of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Days before he was gunned down, Curuvija was singled out by Milosevic’s powerful wife, Mirjana Markovic, as a supporter of the NATO bombing.

Curuvija’s family and friends have accused Markovic of ordering the attack.

Failure to solve the case has burdened all subsequent Serbian governments.

Based on reporting by AP and

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Patience Is Key For Women Journalists, According To Mashaal Correspondent

There are very few Pashtun women working as journalists in Pakistan, but Rabia Akram is one of them. As a reporter for RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal, she has worked since 2012 in the Islamabad bureau, where she is the only female correspondent. Akram spoke to RFE/RL about the obstacles facing women journalists in Pakistan and the challenges of reporting on women’s issues.

RFE/RL: Pashtun society is quite conservative, and not many Pashtun women appear in public, let alone go out to work. Why are you one of the few exceptions?

Akram: I’m the first girl in my family to go to university and get an MA, and on top of that, I won a fellowship for journalism training in Germany. It’s a big deal for a Pashtun woman to be allowed to travel alone at all, and especially to a foreign country. I’m grateful to my family, and above all to my father and my brother, who supported me in this. In a traditional Pashtun family, higher education for girls is not considered important, though that trend is changing a bit now and more women go to university than was the case 8 or 10 years ago.

RFE/RL: How can you work effectively as a journalist under these conditions?

Akram: I practice journalism within my social and cultural norms while respecting traditions, but doing so one needs a lot of patience. For example, because of my work at Radio Mashaal, I had to move from my family home in Peshawar to Islamabad where the bureau is, and to observe custom and tradition, my mother had to relocate with me. My family could not possibly have let me go on my own. Journalism is about patience, and if I can do it, any Pakistani girl can do it.

RFE/RL: What are the biggest challenges for a woman reporter in Pakistan?

Akram: Well, in general it can be rather complicated to be a reporter in Pakistan, mainly because of security reasons, as the situation in some areas of the country can get rather volatile.  There were quite a few female students in my class at Peshawar University, but only a handful of them are actually working in the field now. I’ve travelled in the tribal areas (FATA) many times. It was hard. I was always escorted by policemen or security people; I was never allowed to travel there on my own. Pashtun society is very traditional, and though in general men respect women highly, in rare cases they may refuse to talk to you because you are a female reporter. This is because men are shy to talk to women; it’s not our tradition. It’s not the norm for Pashtun women to take jobs.

RFE/RL: Could you describe your background and how it prepared you for this type of work?

Akram: I graduated from Peshawar University’s Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication in February 2010. In the final year at university, I joined the Peshawar University Campus Radio, and soon afterwards I began contributing to Khyber Radio, which covers the Khyber Agency of the FATA. I reported mostly on women and social issues. I also worked with Internews and Intermedia on their projects in the tribal areas.  My career so far has centered on that region, and mainly on the Khyber Agency.

In 2010 I also worked with the BBC on their special project “Lifeline Pakistan,” covering the devastating floods that had hit Pakistan in late July that year. About 20 million people were directly affected–it was a huge humanitarian disaster. I led the Pashto team, and this particular project gave a boost to my career. I became known in the field of journalism.

RFE/RL: What is your most memorable report?

Akram: If I had to name the report which had the greatest impact, it would be the one about women in Khyber-Paktunia’s Charsadda district who lost their husbands during bombing raids there. If the breadwinner of the family is killed, it’s difficult for a woman to find a job, especially in such a remote area. In general it is very difficult to gather accurate information about Pashtun women. Because of cultural constrains, they are not very willing to talk about their problems to a reporter, especially on radio and TV. After Radio Mashaal aired my report about the women of Charsadda, many NGO’s approached these women offering them help. I’m happy that my report had such an impact and resulted in concrete help.

–by Zydrone Krasauskien

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Suspect In Kazakh Journalist’s Beating Faces Trial

A trial begins on December 27 in Kazakhstan of a man suspected of beating and robbing a journalist in the northwestern city of Aqtobe.

The journalist died later in hospital.

Mirbolat Sultanov was apprehended in August, two days after a correspondent for the independent “Svoboda Slova” (Freedom of Speech) newspaper, Igor Larra, was severely beaten by several men.

Larra died in hospital in October of complications from gallbladder surgery.

His wife insists his death was directly linked to his beating.

Larra’s relatives and colleagues say they believe the attack was connected to his professional activities.

Police say the incident was a robbery, adding that Larra was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Human Rights Watch urged Kazakh officials in August to thoroughly investigate the incident.

– RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Protesters Call For Probe Into Ukrainian Journalist’s Assault

KYIV — Several hundred Ukrainians have gathered outside the Interior Ministry in Kyiv to demand the resignation of Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko after an opposition journalist known for her investigations into government corruption was attacked.

Tetyana Chornovil, 34, was dragged out of her car and savagely beaten near Kyiv early on December 25, just hours after an article she wrote on the assets of top government officials was published.

Chornovil, who writes for the “Ukrainska Pravda” opposition website, is a prominent activist who has given speeches at recent antigovernment protests.

Protesters condemned the attack and vowed not to leave Independence Square, where weeks-long antigovernment demonstrations continue.

“This [attack on Tetyana Chornovil] was very brutal. It was a brutal action by the people who did that. I watched on television yesterday how this all happened. It is not hooliganism, it is an attempted murder,” one protester, Oleksiy, said.

The Interior Ministry says police believe three people were involved in the assault, two of whom have already been arrested.

Dwindling Numbers

Pro-EU demonstrators have been occupying central Kyiv but their numbers began falling after Russia offered Ukraine a $ 15 billion bailout this month.

However, the attack against Chornovil appears to have given a new impetus to protesters. One of them, Mykola vowed to continue the demonstrations into next year: ”We came here to stay until the very end and we are not planning to leave. We will be celebrating the New Year here on the square.”

In Focus: Does Russia Deal Change The Game For Maidan Protesters?

On December 26, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) raised its outlook for Ukraine to stable from negative.

S&P said the cash injection of $ 15 billion — about 8 percent of Ukraine’s predicted 2014 gross domestic product — “should cover the government’s external financing needs over the next 12 months.”

S&P added that “based on our expectations of Russia’s support” it no longer expected a devaluation of the Ukrainian hryvnia.

But the agency also warned that the Russian support appeared subject to good diplomatic relations between the two ex-Soviet states being maintained.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP, and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Turkey Bans Journalists From Police Stations

Istanbul (CNN) — Turkish authorities Sunday announced a ban on journalists entering police stations, in the midst of a government purge of dozens of police commanders.

The wholesale dismissal of scores of senior police officers in recent days appears to be retaliation for the arrests of the sons of two Cabinet ministers, as well as dozens of other suspects, in a corruption investigation that Turkey’s prime minister claimed is a “dirty, dirty operation” aimed at toppling his government.

Journalists accredited with the Turkish police have been ordered to hand in their credentials as well as keys to the media briefing rooms in some police stations. “If there are any developments or press statements press members will be invited,” read a statement from the police.

Reporters who had long worked the police beat said the ban was unprecedented.

One veteran police reporter, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the ban was the first of its kind during a 16-year career.

“It was very surprising to me. On the one hand you talk about press freedom, then you ban the press from police stations. It is very bizarre,” the reporter said.

“Imagine you’re a police beat reporter, how do you do your job?” the journalist added. “So they are going to invite us for the stories they want us to write, then when there is a corruption probe they are going to say don’t come.”

The journalist feared this was the beginning of more severe measures that the government may take in trying to silence coverage.

“This is a forewarning of bigger precautions they are going to take, that they are going to take even more serious steps. Everything aside, this is them trying to completely eradicate the position of the media,” the reporter said.

Turkey already has a dismal ranking when it comes to freedom of the press. According to a number of international press freedom groups, Turkey is the No. 1 jailer of journalists.

Sunday’s police press ban comes at the end of a week of political turmoil that has shaken the value of the Turkish lira and unsettled the Istanbul stock market.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be in an open power struggle with a former political ally, Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, whose supporters are thought to be key in positions within the police force and the judiciary.

Top government officials accused Gulen recently of trying to establish a “parallel state” within the Turkish government. They have also justified the purge of police officers by accusing them of carrying out the corruption arrests outside of the chain of command.

According to press reports, Interior Minister Muammer Guler, who controls the police force, had no prior knowledge of the corruption probe which led to the arrest of his son and the son of the economy minister. In his first statement since the arrests, Guler denied any wrongdoing. “We have no illegal doings, there is nothing we cannot account for. Everything will be revealed in the coming days,” he wrote on his official Twitter account.

Erdogan has repeatedly claimed, since the corruption probe began on Tuesday, that international organizations with branches inside Turkey are trying to destabilize the country.

“This country has never been and never will be the operational space of international organizations. We will not allow the interest lobby, the war lobby, the blood lobby to carry out an operation under the guise of a corruption operation,” he said during a speech on Sunday in the Black Sea town of Giresun. The speech echoed similar accusations Erdogan made when he blamed an unidentified “interest lobby” for organizing mass anti-government demonstrations that roiled the country in June.

On Saturday, Gulen fired back at the government in a videotaped sermon released on one of his movement’s websites.

He denied links to the police officers and prosecutors carrying out the corruption investigations but also sent a fiery warning laced with religious rhetoric.

“Those who don’t see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don’t see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people, then may God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unity,” Gulen said.

Last month, Erdogan announced that he would shut down college admission tutorial centers, a decision denounced by the Gulen movement. Gulen presides over an international network of schools and universities, in addition to the Turkish prep schools that would be closed by Erdogan’s new policy. Soon after, Hakan Sukur, an ex-soccer star and member of parliament from Erdogan’s ruling political party, resigned in protest.

Turkey is expected to hold nationwide muncipal elections in March. After widespread anti-government protests over the last year and now an open battle against a former ally, many political analysts in Turkey see the coming elections as a test of Erdogan’s grip on power.

On Sunday, thousands of demonstrators chanted “Help, there are thieves” at an authorized anti-government protest in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district.

Some activists demonstrated with shoe boxes in front of a branch of the state-owned bank Halkbank.

The director general of the bank was arrested on Saturday in conjunction with the corruption investigation. Turkish media reported police found millions of dollars in cash stored in shoe boxes in the banker’s home.

CNN’s Joe Duran contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

Turkey Named As Worst Country for Jailing Journalists — Again

Turkey Named As Worst Country for Jailing Journalists — Again

Posted 2013-12-19 01:43 GMT

(AP) — More journalists have been jailed in Turkey than in any other country for the second consecutive year, followed closely by Iran and China, according to a media watchdog.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its annual prison census that the three countries accounted for more than half of the 211 journalists behind bars on 1 December.

The rest of the top 10 worst were Eritrea, Syria, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.

CPJ’s Joel Simon said: “Jailing journalists for their work is the hallmark of an intolerant repressive society.”

He said it was “frankly shocking” to see Turkey in the top spot for the second year and to see the number of journalists behind bars rise in countries such as Egypt and Vietnam.

Assyrian International News Agency

CPJ: Turkey, Iran, China Lead World In Jailing Journalists

Turkey, Iran, and China are the top jailers of journalists, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) media watchdog.

More than half of all the imprisoned reporters, bloggers, and editors in the world are in those three countries, the CPJ said.

Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan also made the top 10 list of countries with jailed journalists.

It is the second consecutive year that Turkey and Iran topped the CPJ’s list.

The CPJ says there are currently 40 journalists in Turkish prisons who are jailed for their work, down from 61 in October 2012.

In Iran, the number of jailed journalists is 35, down from 45 one year ago.

The remaining list of top 10 countries for jailing journalists is, in order: Eritrea, Vietnam, Syria, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Uzbekistan.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Pakistani Journalists Protest Attack On Media Office

Journalists are holding demonstrations across Pakistan to protest an attack on the offices of one of the country’s leading media groups.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists will hold rallies in front of the national parliament in Islamabad and in major cities across the country on December 3.

They are protesting a bomb and gunfire attack by unknown assailants late on December 2 on the offices of the Express Media Group in the southern port city of Karachi.

The group publishes the Urdu-language “Daily Express” and the English-language “Express Tribune” dailies. It also runs a popular television news channel, Express News.

Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with nearly 50 killed during the past five years.

But armed attacks on major media houses in the country are still rare.

Based on reporting by and BBC Urdu

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia Apologizes To Norwegian Journalists

Russia has apologized to two Norwegian reporters who were repeatedly questioned and detained by police during a trip to report on preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Norway’s official games broadcaster TV2 said its journalists Oeystein Bogen and Aage Aune had been questioned, detained, and searched by police, who said one of them had been using drugs.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that local police officers abused their positions, leading to “a series of unwarranted actions towards the citizens of Norway.”

The statement offered an apology to the two reporters and pledged that “those [who are] guilty will receive a corresponding punishment.”

A statement by Human Rights Watch said the journalists had been detained several times traveling in and out of the Sochi region.

With reporting by Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Two French journalists executed in Mali

Two French journalists have been killed in the northern Mali town of Kidal after being abducted by gunmen, French and Malian officials say.

Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, both journalists with French radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI), were seized on Saturday afternoon after they had finished an interview with a Tuareg rebel leader when several armed men grabbed them, according to a city official.

“A few minutes after a pursuit began for the abductors of the two French, we were informed that their bodies were found riddled with bullets outside the town,” said Paul-Marie Sidibe, prefect of the town of Tinzawaten, who is based in Kidal.

A senior Tuareg official also said the bodies had been recovered outside Kidal. A Mali security source said the journalists were killed about 12km outside the town.

The executions occured as the government is trying to talk with rebels in the north to prevent a wider conflict in the country.

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed their deaths in a statement, saying they were abducted by an armed group.

“The French government, in conjunction with the Malian authorities will make every effort to find out as soon as possible about the circumstances of their death,” said the statement.

RFI described Dupont, 51, and Verlon, 58, as professionals with long experience in challenging areas.

Dupont was a journalist who was “passionate about her job and the African continent that she covered since joining RFI in 1986″, it said in a statement.

Verlon was “used to difficult terrain throughout the world”.

Staff members “are all in shock, profoundly saddened, indignant and angry”, it said.

While it was still unclear who carried out the killing, Malian government officials pointed the finger at the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist movement that is in nominal control of much of the north of Mali.

Since 2003, northern Mali has also acted as a rear base for al-Qaeda’s North African branch, which has used the country’s vast deserts north of Kidal to train fighters, amass arms and prepare for war. They have bankrolled their operations by kidnapping Westerners, especially French nationals.

According to global intelligence unit Stratfor, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has carried out at least 18 successful kidnappings of foreigners in the past decade, netting at least $ 89m in ransom payments.



Journalists Desert Mosul Amid Continued Attacks

Press Freedom Observatory severely criticized that attacks committed against journalists in Mosul, calling security officials to “put a clear-cut strategy to protect the journalists there”.

The Observatory called “not to neglect the threats made by the gunmen there.

The source added that the threats were exposed by a list that threatened to liquidate them after one month of killing four journalists.

This state obliged about 40 journalists leave the city for another safe haven, as the Observatory added.

It added that 12 journalists left the country for Turkey, 6 for the Kurdish region and 20 to adjacent villages under Kurdish control.

According to the Observatory, Mosul is the most dangerous area for the journalists.

More than 265 Iraqi and foreign journalists were killed since 2003.

Assyrian International News Agency

Islamists Repress Syria’s Citizen Journalists

Syrian media activists working to establish a credible alternative to the state broadcaster in areas of the country held by rebel groups were dealt a blow this month in the northeastern province of Raqqa, where a radio station that aired criticism of Qaeda-linked militants was closed down by the Islamists and one citizen journalist was kidnapped.

According to the British-Syrian activist Rami Jarrah, who has been working to transform a network of media activists into citizen journalists in areas of Syria outside government control, militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, raided his group’s office in Raqqa on Oct. 15, seizing equipment, two weeks after they detained one of his journalists, Rami al-Razzouk.

Speaking by Skype from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, Mr. Jarrah told The Lede that the militant group’s attacks on his ANA New Media Association came after residents of Raqqa had complained on a call-in radio show about repression by the Islamists, who control the town. In addition to closing down the Radio ANA broadcast center there, the militants have also carried out reprisals against callers, Mr. Jarrah said. After one man voiced concern about ISIS on the air, the activist said, his cousin was kidnapped by the Islamists.

ANA has also angered the Islamists by posting video online in which other rebel factions criticize ISIS.

Mr. Jarrah, who adopted the pseudonym Alexander Page to report on the uprising from Damascus in early 2011, has been a frequent critic of the Islamist militants he accuses of hijacking the peaceful, secular uprising his network of media activists has helped to document on video.

By Robert Mackey
New York Times

Assyrian International News Agency

Journalists Call For Russian Release Of Greenpeace Photographer

Several dozen Russian journalists have rallied in St. Petersburg for the release of a Russian photographer detained along with the crew of a Greenpeace ship during a protest against Arctic oil drilling.

During the October 13 protest, blindfolded photographers and other journalists held placards reading “Who is next?” and “Photographer is not a pirate.”

Denis Sinyakov was photographing the Greenpeace protest — which included an attempt to scale a Gazprom oil platform — when he was detained, along with 29 Greenpeace activists last month.

EXPLAINER: Five Things To Know About Greenpeace’s Russia Drama

They were detained by the Russian Coast Guard on piracy charges after several activists tried to scale a Gazprom oil drilling platform.

They could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

The group have been placed in pre-trial detention in Murmansk until late November.

A court has turned down pleas to release Sinyakov and others on bail.

International rights groups and the Dutch government, whose flag the Greenpeace icebreaker “Arctic Sunrise” was flying, have challenged the Russian actions.

The chairman of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, has said there is “not the slightest basis” for piracy charges in the case.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the environmental protesters’ actions constituted a crime but conceded on September 25 that “they are not pirates.”

Based on reporting by AFP and ITAR-TASS

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. ‘Troubled’ By Azerbaijan Attack On Journalists

The United States says it is “troubled” by an attack on journalists in Azerbaijan last week and has urged respect for rights ahead of presidential elections on October 9.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, “We urge the authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.”

RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reported that a group of independent and opposition journalists were attacked by a pro-government mob in the town of Sabirabad at a rally for the country’s united opposition presidential candidate, Camil Hasanli, on October 4.

Harf said Washington urges “a free, fair, and transparent process leading up to and on election day,” saying there were both “positive and negative aspects” of the campaign period. The country’s autocratic incumbent, Ilham Aliyev, is expected to win a third term.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Teheran Targets Iranian Journalists Abroad

The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) has accused Iran’s national broadcaster of orchestrating threats against Iranian journalists working abroad.

RSF condemned a letter written on behalf of Hojbar Afshar, a London-based reporter who works for Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), accusing U.K.-based freelancer Masih Alinejad of defamation and warning her of possible legal proceedings.

“IRIB is a government propaganda mouthpiece and, in some cases, tool of repression,” RSF said. 

RSF also cited recent efforts by Iranian intelligence ministry officials to intimidate Arash Sigarchi, a reporter with the Voice of America in the U.S., by subjecting his relatives in Iran to arbitrary interrogations and threats.

“The regime must end its harassment of Alinejad and its reprisals against the relatives in Iran of Sigarchi and other exile journalists,” RSF said.

Iranian reporters working abroad have suffered government attempts to silence them since the aftermath of the 2009 elections in retaliation for their efforts to provide uncensored information about events at home.

Journalists with Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Prague-based Persian Language Service, experienced over a dozen incidents of online harassment earlier this year.  In addition they, like Sigarchi, were subject to pressure to stop reporting for Radio Farda as a result of intimidation tactics targeting their family members in Iran.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Egypt listed as dangerous for journalists

The recent violence and political turmoil in Egypt has seen many journalists arrested on the front line.

Six journalists have been killed and at least 25 more arrested, with Al Jazeera being among the most frequently targeted.

Among those arrested were Al Jazeera’s Abdullah al-Shami and Mohammed Badr, who are still being detained in Abu Zabaal prison.

All this means Egypt has now been listed within the top five most dangerous countries for journalists, where three years ago it did not even make the top 10.

That is why a symposium is being held in Geneva, Switzerland, alongside the UN’s Human Rghts Council meeting, highlighting the importance of press freedom.

Al Jazeera’s Charlie Angela reports from Geneva.



Christian Journalists in Iraq Subjected to Death Threats, Violence in Kurdistan Region

Christian Journalists in Iraq Subjected to Death Threats, Violence in Kurdistan Region

A Christian activist from the predominantly Christian area of Ankawa, Erbil, in the capital of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, has revealed that journalist Jinan Bolous, editor-in-chief of Beth Ankawa, a local newspaper, was recently threatened – setting a dangerous precedent in the volatile region.

“This threat came to the journalist in a text message sent by an unknown person via a mobile phone with a number of Asiacell Corporation about a month ago after she published an article in the newspaper,” the activist, who preferred anonymity, told Mideast Christian News.

The source added that the police are still investigating the matter related to the circumstances of the threat.

There have been calls to amend a number of paragraphs related to the laws that protect the rights of journalists in the region because activists insist that the current laws do not meet the most basic rights needed for the media to function, but rather hampers their movement and reduces the freedom of journalists to exercise free speech.

It should be noted that the commission on defense of the rights of journalists in the Journalists Association of Kurdistan has been issuing semi-annual reports on the most important events, violations and problems faced by journalists in Kurdistan.

In its 11th semi-annual report on the situation of the press in the region, the association recognized more than 40 incidents involving journalists in the region during the first half of this year.

Assyrian International News Agency

U.S. Senators Urge Karimov To Release Jailed Uzbek Journalists, Activist

WASHINGTON — A group of 12 U.S. senators has called on Uzbek President Islam Karimov to “immediately and unconditionally” release two journalists and one human rights advocate whom supporters say were jailed for their work.

In a letter sent to the Uzbek leader, the lawmakers said the release of journalists Salijon Abdurakhmanov and Dilmurod Saidov and human rights advocate Akzam Turgunov would “further our important bilateral relationship.” They cited “deeply troubling questions regarding the validity of the cases” against the men.

The senators also requested information about the health of the men, who are considered prisoners of conscience by organizations including the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Human Rights Watch.

Press-freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders also repeated its call on June 26 for the release of Abdurakhmanov.

“After five years in prison in appalling conditions, this 63-year-old man’s continuing detention is criminal,” the group said.

It also called for the release of nine other Uzbek journalists “held in connection with their journalistic work.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

France Calls For Release Of Two Missing Journalists In Syria

French President Francois Hollande has urged the immediate release of two French journalists missing in Syria.

French radio station Europe 1 said one if its reporters and a photographer have been missing since June 6.

The two were reportedly headed for the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Hollande called for their release at a news conference during a visit to Tokyo.

It’s not clear who might be holding them.

Hollande declined to provide further information on the journalists so as not to endanger their lives.

But Europe 1 named the pair as reporter Didier Francois and photographer Edouard Elias.

The media-rights group Reporters Without Borders says that since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March 2011, at least 24 journalists, including several foreigners, have been killed in Syria.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Muslim Abducton of Young Coptic Girls in Egypt Showcased to Western Journalists

The disappearance of young Coptic girls in Egypt has been highlighted in several meetings with Western journalists by the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (AVAFD).

The meetings aimed to bring the issue to the forefront of the international media and send reports to various international human rights organizations.

“The association has filed 45 complaints with the Prosecutor General and a memorandum to the military junta during its rule of the transition period, in addition to memorandums to most of the ministers of interior. It held meetings with Hossam Ghiryani, president of the National Council for Human Rights, a number of the council’s members, and a number of members of the Shura Council,” Ibraam Lewis, founder of the association, said in a statement.

Lewis noted that the association was able to register about 500 cases of Coptic girls being abducted after the revolution.

“The Association has agreed to organize a meeting with the girl returned after kidnapping in one of the provinces of Upper Egypt and the French journalist talked with her about the abduction period, which lasted for 60 days. He saw the removal of the cross from her hand,” he added.

The association met on Thursday evening with Dr. Mohamed Mohi el-Din, professor at the University of Menofiya, who is now conducting research on the status of religious minorities in Egypt that would be submitted to the European Union.

The association intends to prepare a documentary that will be produced by the BBC after receiving a call from the editors of the channel in London.

Assyrian International News Agency

Ukrainian Journalists Protest Decision To Bar 10 From Cabinet Coverage

About 100 journalists have demonstrated in front of the Ukrainian government building, protesting the prime minister’s decision to bar 10 reporters from covering cabinet meetings.

Kyiv-based lawyer Ihor Rozkladay, who represents the journalists, said that depriving the reporters of their accreditations is in violation of Ukraine’s law on media.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov ordered the withdrawal of the accreditations on May 22 after the journalists stepped in front of television cameras at a cabinet session and turned their backs on the ministers.

The reporters were protesting an earlier attack on two journalists, a husband and wife.

The beating took place on May 18 when supporters and opponents of President Viktor Yanukovych clashed in Kyiv.

The journalists had signs pinned to their backs that read, “Today, it’s a female journalist [beaten up], tomorrow– your wife, sister, daughter. Do something!”

Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Missing U.S. Journalist’s Family Believes He’s In Syrian Prison

The family of a U.S. journalist who has been missing in Syria since November 2012 says they believe he is being held by the security services of President Bashar al-Assad.

James Foley’s family made the statement on May 3, which was being observed as World Press Freedom Day.

The statement said Foley was kidnapped by unknown gunmen in northwest Syria on November 22.

An investigation by GlobalPost, to which the freelance journalist was filing video reports, led investigators to conclude Foley is being held in a prison near Damascus, possibly with other Western journalists.

Foley’s family appealed to Syria to release the journalist.

In the two years since the Syrian uprising began, 23 journalists and 58 citizen journalists have been killed, according to the NGO Reporters Without Borders.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia, Pakistan and Iran Top ‘Risk List’ for Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the US-based press monitoring group, has issued a “CPJ Risk List” of the 10 countries where press freedom suffered the most in 2012 through “fatalities, impunity, imprisonment, censorship, restrictive laws, and exiled journalists.”

The list includes Iran, Pakistan and Russia, all countries within RFE/RL’s broadcast region.

CPJ’s findings track with RFE/RL’s annual incident report documenting attacks against its journalists in 2012.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

RFE/RL Reports Threats Against Azerbaijan Journalists Ismayilova and Hasanov

WASHINGTON – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports persistent campaigns of intimidation against two of its Radio Azadliq journalists, Khadija Ismayilova and Yafez Hasanov, in retaliation for their reporting. The threats to these Azerbaijan Service reporters come days before a UN-mandated review of Azerbaijan’s human rights performance and months ahead of presidential elections that President Ilham Aliyev has pledged will be free and fair.
In a return to the defamation tactics that targeted Ismayilova in March 2012, on April 25 a pro-government website posted a pornographic video that was fabricated to portray Ismayilova engaging in sexual acts. Ismayilova’s investigative reports for RFE/RL, which earned her the 2012 International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Courage in Journalism” award, have implicated the president’s family in financial activities and arrangements worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


Radio Azadliq Naxichivan correspondent Yafez Hasanov, 02Sep2011

Over the past two weeks, Hasanov, who was abducted and threatened in Naxichivan in August 2011 following his investigation into the death of Turac Zeynalov and who was threatened by text, email and social media in November 2012, has been targeted in new incidents that he believes are intended to silence him.
On April 4, a package was sent to Hasanov’s home with documents that suggested he was having illicit relationships with several women. Soon after, Hasanov received a call from a man who identified himself as an agent of the Naxichivani Ministry of National Security (MNS), who recited orders from Naxichivani regional governor Vasif Talibov to cooperate with MNS. The caller also warned that if Hasanov reported on Naxichivan again he would be “exposed” and his life and the lives of his family members would be in danger. On April 19, the pro-government Internet TV station “Ses” aired recordings of cellphone conversations between Hasanov and residents of Naxichivan that Azerbaijan’s Media Rights Institution told the website could only have been obtained from the country’s security services.
In addition, three close relatives of Radio Azadliq’s Baku Bureau Chief Babek Bagirov were dismissed from their jobs on April 11, an act Bagirov said was reprisal for his work and as an effort to intimidate him and other bureau employees.
Azerbaijan Service Director Kenan Aliyev called these latest attacks shameful and said, “An attack against Khadija and Yafez and any of our journalists is an attack against the entire Radio Azadliq staff and an attack against all independent voices in Azerbaijan. “
“These are actions of a deliberate and serious nature that the Azeri authorities must take very seriously, especially since many directly or indirectly suggest the involvement or endorsement of official Azeri entities and agents,” said Kevin Klose, Acting President and CEO of RFE/RL. “Yafez and Khadija are exercising their rights and professional duties as journalists and, as a journalists, their well-being is a matter of public and societal concern. I urge the Azeri authorities and President Aliyev personally to take steps immediately to stop the threats.”
Naxichivan, an Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, is an exclave bordered by Iran to the west and Armenia to the east, and Radio Azadliq is one of the only media organizations reporting on the region.
Azerbaijan will hold presidential elections in October in which President Ilham Aliyev will run for a third consecutive term. A joint statement issued in March by the Committee to Protect Journalists and leading international press freedom and human rights groups condemns the recent imprisonment of at least seven journalists in Azerbaijan, criticizes recent government attempts to restrict local press freedom groups and on-line expression and warns that such a crackdown threatens the integrity of the October polls.
Freedom House characterizes Azerbaijan as “not free” and ranked it 172 out of 197 countries surveyed in its 2012 Freedom of the Press Index. The Reporters Without Borders 2013 Press Freedom Index placed Azerbaijan at 156 on a scale of 179 countries.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Turkey Puts 44 Journalists on Trial for Terrorism and Backing Pro-Kurd Group

Posted GMT 9-11-2012 0:16:27

Istanbul — The first hearing of Turkey’s biggest trial against members of the press has started, involving 44 journalists. Thirty-six of those have been in pre-trial detention since December, facing terrorism charges and accused of backing the illegal pan-Kurdish umbrella group, the KCK.

“This trial is clearly political,” said Ertugrul Mavioglu, an investigative journalist, whose terrorism charges for interviewing Murat Karayilan, a member of the KCK — which includes the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) — were dropped in December last year.

“The government wants to set an example; it wants to intimidate,” he added. “Journalists are being told: ‘There are limits on what you are allowed to say.’”

Human rights groups repeatedly criticise the Turkish government for the prosecution of pro-Kurdish politicians and activists and journalists who exercise the right to freedom of expression.

Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International, said: “This prosecution forms a pattern [in Turkey] where critical writing, political speeches and participation at peaceful demonstrations are used as evidence of terrorism offences.”

Amnesty International will, in October, publish a report entitled Criminalising dissent: freedom of expression under attack in Turkey. The document is expected to cover a wide range of cases involving the country’s journalists.

More than 100 journalists are in jail in Turkey (more than in Iran or China), and many of these work for Kurdish media outlets. About 800 more face charges, and numerous journalists have been fired or have had to leave their jobs because of pressure from the Turkish government.

In a recent speech, the minister of the interior, Idris Naim Sahin, compared writers and journalists to PKK fighters, saying there was “no difference between the bullets fired in [the Kurdish south-east of Turkey] and the articles written in Ankara”.

Meral Danis Bektas, a lawyer, said Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was openly threatening journalists and dictating what they wrote. “This attitude creates a terrible climate for press freedom.”

Mavioglu said it was becoming increasingly difficult for Turkish journalists to do a good job: “You can write anything, but only under constant threats of unemployment, fines, arrest or worse.”

The government said none of the journalists on trial had been arrested for their work as members of the press, but because of terrorist offences.

However, the 800-page indictment includes a charge of “denigrating the state” against one journalist, who wrote about sexual harassment at Turkish Airlines.

Özlem Agus, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Tigris News Agency (DIHA), is standing trial for exposing sexual abuse of minors in Pozanti prison, in Adana.

Other offending articles include interviews with Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish Freedom and Democracy party (BDP), and reports on casualties in the conflicts between the PKK and Turkish armed forces.

Bektas said: “All of the defendants stand trial for doing their jobs. A free press and freedom of expression are cornerstones of democracy. Without them, democratic political participation becomes impossible.”

With about 8,000 pro-Kurdish politicians, lawyers, academics, writers and members of the media, arrested on KCK terrorism charges since 2009, violence in Turkey’s Kurdish south-east has intensified.

According to the International Crisis Group, more than 700 such professionals have died in the past 14 months, the highest number of casualties in the past 13 years.

“If open discussions are banned, if the channels of political dialogue are shut down, violence becomes a last resort,” Bektas said.

By Constanze Letsch

Assyrian International News Agency