Tag Archives: free press

Radio Darfur – A Beacon Of Hope For Freedom

Radio Dabanga or as it is more commonly known, Radio Darfur is produced by six Darfuri journalists who are attempting to make know the real situation in their nation and in Sudan. Gaafar Monro was a human rights activist who served in the Sudan parliament, but after he began to speak the truth about horrors in Darfur, Monro was forced to flee the country. As he describes the radio station: “I enable people to express their views, freely and frankly. And because Radio Darfur is in a free situation, we even received call from people who are pro-Bashir and we reflected their views.” His audience also serves as journalists by calling in stories concerning what is happening in Darfur and the Sudan.

Monro recently received a call from Nyala in South Darfur which said: “Hello, we are a group of around 15 students of Nyala Secondary school and we are going to form a listening club that’s called Radio Darfur Friends.” Radio Darfur is able to spark such desires to live in a free country and end the dictatorship which currently leads attacks on innocent people and the rape of the country and its women.

Iraq Journalist Jailed For Writing About Homosexuality

George Bush has continually claimed the United States invaded Iraq in order to bring the benefits of democracy, but present day Iraq continues to abuse the rights of women, and in a recent case, the right of freedom of the press. Reporters Without Borders, which protects journalism freedom, has called for the release of a freelance journalist who was jailed in northern Iraq for the crime of writing a story about homosexuality. Abdel Hussein was sentenced on November 24 to six months in jail and ordered to pay a $165 fine for writing an article that discusses the meaning of homosexuality. The international monitoring group stated it was “astonished to learn that a press case has been tried under a criminal code. What was the point of adopting– and then liberalising — a press code in the Kurdistan region if people who contribute to the news media are still being tried under more repressive laws?”

The reporter was tried under provisions of a 1969 penal code. The present law requires a representative of the journalist organization must attend trials involving journalists, but none was allowed in the court.

Such is life in “free Iraq” which celebrates democracy.

Another Russian Editor Beaten By “Unknown People”

Life in Putin Russia can be comfortable for those who toe the official line that life in Putin Russia is wonderful, but dare to utter criticism against the semi-authoritarian regime of the ex-KGB man, and the result might be uncomfortable. There are no witnesses to what happened to Mikhail Beketov, editor of the small circulation Khimkinskaya Pravda, but neighbors found the body of the newsman lying in a pool of blood close to his home. Vladmir Kursa, his half brother, said bluntly: “this was the result of the his professional activities, because he did not have a comfortable relationship with the mayor’s office.” Oleg Mitvol, a leader in the fight for environmental issues, echoed in: “Beketov is already the third editor to end up in intensive care.”

Individuals like Beketov are fighting to protect the right of freedom of speech and their enemies are those in power. His leg was amputated and he lost some fingers because he lay for so long unattended. After hesitation, city authorities finally gave the OK for a meeting and about 1,000 attended. Beketov continually challenged government activities, particularly building projects and he was rewarded, with a broken skull.

Egyptian Journalists Demand Free Press

Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Dostour, was sentenced to a prison term for the crime of writing a story that claimed President Mubarak was ill. Egyptian courts termed his offense a “dangerous crime” because by spreading false information he would cause public panic. President Mubarak, in response to world-wide anger at the sentencing, said he had “solitude for freedom of opinion and expression and for the freedom of the press” which would result in voiding the sentence against Eissa. Mr. Eissa welcomed the president’s decision but made clear he opposed the present regime and wants an end to all laws that prevent freedom of the press. Columnist Salama Ahmed Salama told Al Ahram “to a great degree it has dissolved tensions between state and press.”

Eissa pointed out there are still several cases pending against journalists who are accused of printing false information. It is important that President Murbarak finally realized the world was watching his performance as leader in a coalition that supposedly is fostering democratic ideas.

Zimbabwe Press Free To Take Consequences

Zimbabwean newspaper editor, Davison Maruziva, said there was plenty of freedom of speech and the press in his nation, the only problem is “there is no freedom after expression.”Anyone is free to express his or her opinion, but should recognize in so doing the individual subjects their body to physical torture by the guardians of peace. The brave editor is due to appear in court next month to face charges his weekly, the Standard, printed “false statements prejudicial to the state” which one can assume entailed making negative remarks about President Mugabe. Under the benevolent rule of Mugabe, printing presses are regularly blown up, foreign press organizations banned from the country, and journalists harassed, beaten or thrown in jail.

Under the agreement signed with Mugabe by opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, there were provisions for more newspapers to be published and the public media allowed to provide “balanced and fair” coverage, but it was never made clear who decides what is “balanced and fair.” Most media people were disappointed with the agreement because it never spelled out a democratic process for the media to express its views.

The Daily News which had a circulation of 800,000 was closed down in 2003 because it refused to register with the government. Before it was closed editors and reporters were beaten and the presses wrecked. The African Union must ensure the right of newspapers to be able to print the truth.

Kurdish Journalists Threatened In Iraq

Iraq’s northern enclave of Kurdistan is a relative haven of peace and stability, but its independent journalists are being challenged by the political establishment who fear allowing the public to hear the truth as to what goes on in government. About 60 Kurdish journalists have been killed, threatened or physically attacked during the first half of 2008 for their outspoken advocacy for printing the truth. Last month Soran Mamahama, a writer for Livin magazine was gunned down for exposing corruption about prostitution rings. Hemen Mamand, a young radio reporter puts it bluntly when saying, “In Kurdistan there is no freedom for journalists,…we don’t know who killed him, but we do know that the government didn’t care.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) and Amnesty International have denounced these attacks on journalists and want the world to know what is going on in an Iraq that supposedly is a new democracy. Joel Campagna, of CPJ says “the recent incidents have really stripped off the veneer and reveal it’s not much different(in Kurdistan) than other parts of Iraq.”

Part of the problem is the lack of a strong opposition party in Kurdistan which leaves journalists in the role of being “the opposition.” Naturally, the Kurdish government relies on old and true ways of thinking by arguing journalists are simply smearing officials. Of course, what is one to do about reporting on the lives of corrupt government officials when the penalty is an $8,400 fine for “insulting” a government official?

Turkish Courts Move Against Freedom Of Press

The ongoing conflict between Turkey’s secular minded judiciary and those supporting the rights of Muslim women took an ominous turn when a public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against a Turkish journalist for the Star on grounds he was inciting “people to hatred an enmity” because of his columns which argue Muslim females have the right to wear a headscarf while attending the university. The Constitutional Court is currently hearing a case raised against the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) on grounds it is fostering the Muslim religion by acts such as allowing women to wear the headscarf.

On June 5, 2008, nine of the 11 members of the Constitutional Court declared illegal Parliament’s decision to end the ban on wearing the headscarf. Mustafa Karaaliogu wrote a column denouncing the decision and arguing in favor of the headscarf. He now stands charged with crimes of “provoking people to commit a crime.”

Karaaliglu wrote the following on June 6: “By canceling legislation that is designed to remove a certain violation of rights and shame and ensure that young women can attend university, the Constitutional Court exceeded its jurisdiction and violated the very law that is its raison d’etre. It trampled not only on the law, but also on the headscarf, which is the heritage of a centuries-old faith.”

It does not matter if one agrees or disagrees with the journalist, his comments were valid expression of a viewpoint and in no way incited violence or fostered hate.

Erdogan Clahes With Secularist Opponents

FFresh from a visit to Germany where he angered Chancellor Merkel by urging German Turks to remain loyal to their native land, Prime Minister Erdogan defended his government’s decision to end the ban on wearing headscarfs in universities. He blasted secular newspapers for publishing photographs of scantily dressed women. “What discrimination have you seen so far from us? Aren’t you the ones who print pictures of naked women on your pages every day against this society’s moral values? Have you ever seen anyone obstruct you? Have we interfered wtih that?” Some secularist newspapers are upset at the angry tone of the prime minister, but Erdogan defended his right to speak in forceful terms.

Ertugrul Ozkok, editor-in-chief of Hurriyet, has become a main focus of Erdogan’s anger. “The fierce manner of Erdogan scares me,” said Ozkok. “If a prime minister begins to talk to media in this way in a society, there comes an end not optimistic.” Mr. Ozkok is absolutely correct. A prime minister must learn to accept criticism and has a right to respond to it, but the tone must be measured and aware that government has powers which can end freedom of the press. If Erdogan does not curb his anger, he will doom Turkey’s chance to enter the European Union.

There is something dangerous when a government official announces that printing pictures of scantily dressed women violates “society’s values.” Obviously, some people in Turkish society want to see such pictures. A majority might have certain values, but what about the right of a minority which has differing values?

The End Of Freedom Of Press In Russia?

President Putin’s latest announcement of his most probable intention of become prime minister after he steps down as president is another example of the growing trend in Russia towards one party government. Putin has already ensured government control over all main television channels in order to prevent opposition voices from being heard. Recently, radio stations carrying BBC news reports or Radio Free Europe broadcasts were harassed into ceasing such activities with threats of losing their licenses. The highly respected Educated Media which trains journalists and fights for freedom of the press was just shut down. Several journalists have died under mysterious circumstances, the latest being Ivan Safronov who supposedly plunged to his death from his apartment. Safronov had printed an article exposing failed missile tests which reportedly infuriated the Defense Department.

In a Moscow Times story, the newspaper says, “the crackdown on Russian news media has proceeded unabated and, if anything, with even greater intensity.” Putin has undoubtedly brought stability to Russia after the free wheeling 1990s. He has slowly pushed out wealthy businessmen who in any way posed a threat to the government’s monopoly over major industries. In a sense, he has modernized communism while claiming to support free enterprise. America was blessed with leaders in its early years as a democracy who “walked away from power” to ensure democracy would survive. Putin always walks towards power and his place at the center of it. In that sense, he represents a tragedy for development of democracy in Russia.