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 civil.ge

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 civil.ge

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

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

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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 Yanukovychleaks.org  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.

426

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

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 Haqqani.az, 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 Haqqani.az, 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 vesti.rs

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 Tribune.com.pk 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.

384

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

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.

http://en.aswataliraq.info

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.

115

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

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.

http://www.christianpost.com

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.

http://global.christianpost.com

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.
 

x

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 contact.az 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
www.guardian.co.uk

Assyrian International News Agency

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
www.guardian.co.uk

Assyrian International News Agency

BBG Demands Syrian Authorities Release Information on Journalists

Washington, D.C. — The Broadcasting Board of Governors calls on the Syrian government to release any information they have on the capture and whereabouts of Alhurra correspondent Bashar Fahmi and cameraman Cüneyt Ünal.

Fahmi and Ünal have been missing since August 20, when they entered Syria to report on events there. On Sept. 4th, the Syrian Information Ministry released a statement saying that Fahmi is not with the Syrian authorities.  This follows an August 26th video on a Syrian government channel of Ünal giving a brief statement in which he describes himself as part of an international militant force. The Turkish Foreign Minister has said that Ünal was forced to make the statement.

“Fahmi and Ünal were captured together in Aleppo on August 20th. Ünal alone appeared in the disturbing video on Syrian Television. Now the Syrian government claims to have no responsibility of Fahmi,” said Michael Meehan, a member of the BBG board and Chairman of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. “We remain concerned about the lack of information as to the whereabouts and well-being of both journalists.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Wives of Missing Alhurra Journalists Call for Support

The wives of missing Alhurra correspondent Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman, Cuneyt Unal, say they are consumed by fear and worry since the pair were captured on August 20.

In interviews with Alhurra TV and Alhurra.com, Arzu Fahmi said that she was hoping for Bashar’s safe return and cited his extensive experience as a “talented and courageous reporter.” During an interview with Alhurra TV, Nuran Unal admitted the uncertainty has been difficult to endure. Here are excerpts:

Arzu Fahmi

“I am not well.  I can’t take it anymore and I am worried. If I were able to hear his voice or see him, I would be more comfortable.  I have not been able to tell my kids anything since the time of his abduction. I have to pretend for them in this way.  There is no explanation I can provide my daughter and my son regarding their father.  When I go out, they ask me to bring their father back with me and say they are waiting for him.  And I always promise to bring him back with me.  If I could just lay eyes on him, I would be more comfortable and patient.”

She added that her 10-year old son “is always crying and he knew that his father was on a formal mission in Hatay province.  But when we had to came back to Turkey from Jerusalem after the abduction, I told him what happened and that his father is in Syria and he will come back to us God willing.”

“Since the beginning of this incident when I heard the news, I called the Turkish Foreign Ministry and they were concerned…when I came back to Turkey, I was in touch with them, especially with Mr. Osman Sert who kept in touch with me regularly.  I thank them for all of their efforts.  Also, the channel where my husband works (Alhurra) has undertaken efforts in regards to this matter.  We pray that this ordeal will be over and Bashar will come back to us,” Bashar’s wife concluded.

Nuran Unal

“How can I take this anymore?  I can’t endure anymore. Every day I feel hopeful but then I start to lose hope.”  She appeals to the abductors of her husband “I ask them to set him free.  I ask them to set free not only Bashar and my husband Cuneyt, but also all the hostages.  They went to do their job as unbiased journalists to inform and cover news.  (The abductors) know very well that they are journalists too,” She said.

“When I saw the images of my husband, the first thing came to my mind was relief that that he is alive.  I felt good. But the way he was speaking, his movements, and the bruises on his face, made me realize that he is not in a good situation.  He is being tortured,” Cuneyt Unal’s Wife added.

In regards to her husband holding a rocket propelled grenade (RPG), she said “this is absolutely impossible. It is obvious to everyone that it is a Photoshopped image.”  She committed herself to joining all the organizations that work on the release of her husband and she “hopes that support comes not only from Turkey, but also from all around the world. We need to look at this incident more generally.  Bashar and Cuneyt should be supported by everyone.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Two Journalists Fined Over ‘Teddy Bear Air Drop’

Two Belarusian journalists have been fined the equivalent of $ 360 each for posing with a teddy bear in a photo session.

Iryna Kozlik and Yulia Darashkevich were arrested on August 8 in Minsk when posing and taking pictures of themselves with a teddy bear, expressing their solidarity with blogger Anton Surapin and businessman Syarhey Basharymau.

Surapin and Basharymau were arrested last month for their alleged involvement in the parachuting of teddy bears from a Swedish plane on the Minsk area accompanied by texts supporting Belarusian dissidents and the country’s opposition.

Belarus expelled the Swedish ambassador last week and announced on August 8 that it was withdrawing all staff at the Belarusian Embassy in Stockholm.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated August 9 that the current Minsk-Stockholm row has nothing to do with the teddy bear air drop.

Based on reporting by Reuters, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Two Journalists Fined Over ‘Teddy Bear Air Drop’

Two Belarusian journalists have been fined the equivalent of $ 360 each for posing with a teddy bear in a photo session.

Iryna Kozlik and Yulia Darashkevich were arrested on August 8 in Minsk when posing and taking pictures of themselves with a teddy bear, expressing their solidarity with blogger Anton Surapin and businessman Syarhey Basharymau.

Surapin and Basharymau were arrested last month for their alleged involvement in the parachuting of teddy bears from a Swedish plane on the Minsk area accompanied by texts supporting Belarusian dissidents and the country’s opposition.

Belarus expelled the Swedish ambassador last week and announced on August 8 that it was withdrawing all staff at the Belarusian Embassy in Stockholm.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated August 9 that the current Minsk-Stockholm row has nothing to do with the teddy bear air drop.

Based on reporting by Reuters, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Montenegro Jails Man Over Journalist’s Beating

A Montenegro court has sentenced the attacker of an investigative reporter, whose beating in March sparked international condemnation, to nine months in jail.

Ivan Buskovic, 29, was found guilty of “violent behavior” for an attack in March on journalist Olivera Lakic.

Lakic was struck on the head several times in the attack near her home in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica.

Lakic had authored a series of articles in 2011 alleging fraud in connection with the production of counterfeit cigarettes at a Montenegrin tobacco factory.

The attack on Lakic came at a sensitive time for the nation of 650,000 people, as Montenegro is in accession talks with the European Union since last month and must meet EU standards on fighting organized crime and corruption.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Israeli Border Police Conduct Surveillance on Israeli Protesters and Journalists

Long story short: the Israeli Border Police’s Lebanese listeners have come to Tel Aviv to keep tabs on J14 (July 14 movement) marchers.

Or to paraphrase a paraphrase of Leon Trotsky, “you may not be interested in the Occupation, but the Occupation is interested you.”

As our domestic and international readers know, it is common for metropolitan police forces to videotape and photograph demonstrators, as well as journalists at the protests (and then, following standard post-9/11 counterterrorism procedures, match up faces or license plates with police records and other publicly available information in “data centers“). Anyone who had encountered an “Occupy” protest march since last September has surely seen police officers videotaping the march, and knows that the aforementioned data centers can and have been keeping tabs on Occupiers. Surveillance towers, aircraft and vans are deployed as well, most recently in Chicago, Illinois to surveil anti-NATO demonstrators. 

And, it almost goes without saying, the Israeli security services do the same beyond the Green Line and on Israel’s borders day in and day out, monitoring the movements of demonstrators, militants, infiltrators, undocumented immigrants, even shepherds. “The Raccoon,” more widely known as the Israeli-built STALKER system, is merely one of their many tools. War is a mother to innovation, after all.

So what makes its deployment these past nights so unnerving for J14? Because it is clear now that in addition to the police, the Border Police are videotaping and photographing Israeli demonstrators, as well as Israeli journalists at the protests. Protests that are taking place inside the Green Line not at all focused on the Occupation. And yet Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino has reportedly told his subordinates to “to document every ‘involvement of the Arab community in the protests’.” 

The already blurred line between the West Bank and Israel proper is getting ever more blurred, +972′s Noam Shezaif notes.

Considering Israel’s national service policies, I wonder if it would be fairly easy for the military to identify most people there based on file photos in their service records using face recognition software. Not a pleasant thought to have as a protestor in any country. Though certainly not one that will deter them.

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Russian Feds Take Over Probe Of Daghestan Journalist’s Death

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has decided to take over the reportedly stalled investigation into the death of a journalist in the Daghestan region of the troubled North Caucasus.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told journalists that the decision was made in reaction to a request by about 100 deputies of the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, that federal investigators take charge of the probe.

Prominent Daghestani independent journalist Khadzhimurad Kamalov was shot dead in the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala, in December 2011.

Kamalov’s independent Russia-language weekly, “Chernovik,” was known for covering North Caucasus politics and local government corruption issues.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. Congressman Expresses ‘Alarm’ Over Intimidation, Violence Against Azeri Journalists

U.S. Representative Howard Berman has expressed concern over increasing reports of intimidation and violence toward journalists in Azerbaijan.

In a letter to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on World Press Freedom Day, the congressman said recent “incidents have highlighted long-held concerns regarding the ability to express one’s thoughts and opinions freely” in Azerbaijan.

Berman (Democrat-California) said five journalists were beaten up by security personnel of a state oil company as they were reporting on the demolition of houses that the company said were illegally built on its land.

Berman also noted that RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Khadija Ismayilova was the focus of a campaign of intimidation and coercion due to her investigative journalism.

Berman urged Baku to prosecute those responsible for the cases, and to protect journalists against future threats.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Azerbaijan To ‘Investigate Abuses’ Against Journalists

Europe’s largest association of national broadcasters says a top Azerbaijani official has pledged that his government will probe accusations of abuses against journalists.

Ali Hasanov, who heads President Ilham Aliyev’s political department, told the European Broadcast Union (EBU) during a daylong closed meeting on May 2 in Geneva, that the authorities would fully investigate “alleged cases of jailed and mistreated journalists.”

A statement from EBU after the meeting said Hasanov also agreed for the government to change legislation “to reduce defamation to a civil, and not a criminal, offense.”

Hasanov was speaking as the country prepares to host the Eurovision Song Contest.

Azerbaijan is to host the glitzy televised competition on May 22, 24, and 26.

With reporting by AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty