media freedom

 

  • The Press and the New President: A Review of Freedom of Speech in Kyrgyzstan

    By Ann-Sofie Nyman and Bobbie Jo Traut

    In November, Kyrgyzstan inaugurated its new president Sooronbay Jeenbekov who has promised to continue the previous presidential administration’s policies. This does not bode well for independent journalists and other critical voices who were publicly labeled as national enemies, threatened and taken to court under the previous president’s tenure. 

    Read on: Diplomatic Courier 

     

  • Togo’s violations of the press are out of step with democratic norms

    French

    CIVICUS speaks toKoffi Déla Frack Kepomey, the executive director of Concertation Nationale de la Société Civile du Togo (CNSC-Togo) concerning the recent closure of a television and radio station by the regulatory authority as well as the torture of a journalist.

    1. Two independent media outlets, LCF television station and radio City FM, were closed by the media regulatory authority High Authority for Audio-Visual and Communication  (HAAC) on 6 February 2017. Can you detail these closures?

    The High Authority for Audio-Visual and Communication (HAAC) issued a communiqué on 19 September and 26 December 2016 respectively saying that it had informed media outlets LCF and City FM which are under the media group Sud Média, of irregularities and invited them to comply with the rules before 5 February 2017. A failure to comply would lead to the withdrawal of their licenses the HAAC said.

    During a press conference convened by the president of the HAAC, Pitang Tchalla, on 3 February 2017, he declared that he was not aware of the existence of documents constituting a file of the Sud Média group and announced they will be closed after 5 February 2017.

    The director of the Sud Média group, Luc Abaki, confirmed that the Sud Média group complied with the rules and that all documents had been provided to the then HAAC president Philippe Evegno.

    Some questions remain to be clarified after the closure such as what exactly is the Sud Média group being blamed for? What are the underlying and unsaid reasons for this case?

    Although it is the HAAC that attributes frequencies to radio and television stations, and gives authorisation to the written press, the HAAC also does not have the authority to cancel frequencies from those with legal existence. This power belongs to the justice arm of the state. Article 130, title IX of the Constitution states, among others that “… the HAAC has the competence to grant authorisations to new installations of private television and radio stations”. Additionally, article 24 of the Organic Law establishing the HAAC specifies that the HAAC has the competence to grant authorisations for the installation and operation of television and radio stations. Analysing these two situations shows clearly that the powers that be have decided to muzzle the press.

    CNSC remains particularly concerned about the increasing restrictions for the freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Togo.

    2. Journalist Robert Avotor was violently attacked on 7 February 2017 and tortured for two hours by security forces when reporting on a land dispute in Akato-Viépé. What happened?

    The journalist Robert Avotor was carrying out his reporting work when he was arrested, handcuffed and tortured. This happened in Akato-Viépé, a suburb of Lomé, where he was reporting on a land dispute.

    According to the journalist there is a land dispute in Akato-Viépé following a decision of the Supreme Court ruled that some buildings had to be demolished. Gendarmes came to force people from the area. There were about one hundred men in combat uniforms. Robert went there to do a report. He had his press vest and his press card. He descended from his motorcycle and approached the gendarmes and presented himself and requested to speak with the chief of the gendarmes.

    Here are the facts as described by the journalist in his own words: “One of them asked me who I am and I repeated to him that I am a journalist. They responded that there was no chief among them, that they were all chiefs. After this, they asked me to show my press card, which I did. Afterwards they said: ‘We don’t eat cards here’. One of them ordered me to leave the premises. He had hardly finished saying that when he started to beat me. I ran but other gendarmes caught me and started clubbing me. They then handcuffed me, put me in a corner and walked away. Some minutes later, they came back and asked me for which press organisation I work for. I told them I came from L’Alternative. They asked me who the director was. I said it was Ferdinand Ayité. They responded, ‘This time, we have you. We always come across this name. We will make you feel what we are capable of. When you are in the crowd, you make noise. Today, it’s you alone.’ They left me in the corner. They handcuffed my hands behind my back. From time to time they came back to tighten my handcuffs. This hurt my wrists.

    At a certain point, I felt the need to relieve myself. I asked them if they would permit me to urinate. They categorically refused. I then urinated in my pants and this amused them. They also brought in another person that they had discovered filming the eviction. I was there, handcuffed, for more than two hours. They then handcuffed us together (with the other person that had also been arrested), and we got into their vehicle. Once we arrived at the Gendarmerie of Sagbado, they erased all the images in our phones and on our devices. They gave us back our phones and asked us to leave. They took note of our identity numbers and we left around 14.30.”

    According to Ferdinand Ayité, director of L’Alternative, journalist Robert Avotor has been subject to anonymous calls and harassment since the attack on 7 February. On the night of 19 February, while going home by motorcycle, he was followed by a car that sped up and hit the rear of his motorcycle, leading him to fall.

    The Minister of Security, Yak Damehame, has received the journalist a couple of days later, together with the director of l’Alternativenewspaper and other media actors, in which he reassured to take the necessary sanctions to those responsible.

    3. How would you describe the situation of freedom of expression in Togo?

    The closure of these two independent media described above and the attack on and torture of journalist Robert Avotor by security forces are incidents that bear a heavy cost for freedom of expression in Togo.

    The mission of the High Authority for Audio-Visual and Communication (HAAC) is “to guarantee and ensure the freedom and protection of the press and other ways of mass communication” and the first article of Organic Law 2004-021/PR of 15 December 2004 regulating the HAAC, modified  by Organic Law  2009-029 of 22 December 2009 and Organic Law 2013-016 of 8 July 2013 says the HAAC is an “independent institution, independent of the administrative authorities, of all political power, of all associations and pressure groups”. The HAAC does not have the calling/ vocation to close media.

    Togo has ratified international agreements, and in particular, it has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and also its Constitution does not permit torture.

    These incidents constitute an obstacle to the exercise of the freedom of press and the freedom of expression, also protected by the Togolese Constitution and are an attack on human rights. They risk to annul all the efforts the government has implemented in that sense, and above all eligibility for different programmes of the Millenium Challenge Corporation.

    4. How has Togolese civil society reacted to these developments?

    Confronted with these events, civil society in Togo has mobilised to express their indignation through press statements, open letters and public marches. A public march was organised on 25 February in Lomé by CSOs and press organisations, joint by certain political parties, to condemn the closure of LCF and City FM. Although the march was authorised by municipal authorities, the crowd was dispersed by security forces using teargas grenades and batons, and chased protestors into the compound of the University of Lomé. CSOs and press organisations condemned strongly this violation of peaceful assembly.

    Joint press statements were organised to denounce the violations of the freedom of expression, and open letters were written to government structures to use their influence to guarantee the freedom of expression. For example, CNSC has written to the MCA Cell, a structure put in place by the government to assist Togo to benefit from the Treshold and Compact of the Millenium Challenge Corporation.

    5. Can you tell us some more about the environment for civil society in Togo?

    At the moment we can say that there is a beginning of awareness within Togolese civil society in terms of mobilisation that needs to be encouraged. However, civic space is still under threat and there is need for more sensitisation and capacity enhancement to preserve civil society.

    6. What support can international and regional groups offer to CNSC-Togo and other civil society organisations in the country?

    Togolese CSOs not only need capacity enhancement for the effective preservation of civic space but also institutional support. There is a need to strengthen CSOs and activists on the preservation of civic space by accentuating the use of technology and including them in regional and international networks in order to share experiences and information.

    Institutional support is a big need of CSOs in Togo, for them to achieve increased effectiveness and sustainability. Additionally regional and international groups must advocate, to the international community and the partners for Togo to respect regional and international instruments in practice.

    Confronted with this situations, CNSC-Togo has addressed a communication to the Coordinator of the Cell MCA – Togo, a cell that was set up by the state to improve the indexes of development, freedom, corruption in order for Togo to benefit from the Millenium Challenge Corporation. We have asked the cell to use its influence to bring the president of the HAAC to reconsider its decision to withdraw the authorisation to close the LCF and City FM stations of the Sud Média group.

    • For more information on CNSC-Togo and their activities, visit their website,www.cnsctogo.org
    • Please describe in one paragraph what CNSC-Togo does.CNSC (Concertation de la Société Civile du Togo) is a Togolese civil society network with 72 member organisations, working mainly on the themes of democracy, good governance, and the promotion and protection of individual and collective rights of Togolese citizens.

    Togo is ranked as obstructed by the CIVICUSMonitor.

     

  • Urgent Appeal: Civil Society Call for Moroccan Authorities to Cease Intimidation of Journalist Omar Radi

    Arabic

    The undersigned civil society organisations call for an immediate and unconditional end to the intimidation and harassment of independent Moroccan journalist, Omar Radi, who has been summoned by police to appear for interrogation seven times over the past several weeks. Radi has been targeted by the authorities for his critical investigations and reporting, as one of the few journalists in Morocco who covers the corruption and business relations of the monarchy and its networks. Radi had been subjected to a sophisticated spyware attack, whereby his private communications were intercepted by a third party as documented in a public report by Amnesty International. Since the release of the report, the Moroccan government has undertaken an intimidation and harassment campaign, and has accused Radi of working with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, among other unsubstantiated allegations.

     

  • We are in this together, don’t violate human rights while responding to COVID-19

    As governments are undertaking extraordinary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, we recognise and commend the efforts states are making to manage the well-being of their populations and protect human rights, such as the rights to life and health. However, we urge states to implement these measures in the context of the rule of law: all responses to COVID-19 must be evidence-based, legal, necessary to protect public health, non-discriminatory, time-bound and proportionate.

     

  • World Press Freedom Day - Journalism Assailed On All Fronts

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, marks today’s World Press Freedom Day with a call for greater protection and respect for journalists and the vital contribution they make to healthy societies.

    Rising authoritarianism and regressive politics signal a new front in the fight to protect and extend press freedom – and the right of citizens to be informed. Globally journalists are on the front line of a sustained assault on civic freedoms from state and non-state actors.

    The determination of populist leaders to shape and control dominant narratives, together with the rise of fake news, extremist groups and increasing commercial pressure means journalists now not only face detention without trial and criminalisation for doing their jobs, they also face physical attacks, loss of life and livelihoods.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that assesses the quality of civic space in every country, records 101 attacks on journalists between June 2016 and March 2017. It indicates that journalists are often at risk of attack for reporting on political issues, protests, conflicts and state corruption.

    The International Press Institute (IPI) provides further evidence of the risks that journalists face, reporting that at least 83 journalists died as a direct result of their practice in 2016, with almost half of all deaths occurring when journalists were covering armed conflict, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

    The findings underline the inextricable link between media freedom and civil society freedom - where one is weakened, so is the other. If dissent is to be accepted as an essential part of participatory democracy, then the essential civil society freedoms – of association and peaceful assembly, as well as expression – must be fought for.

    “At a time when independent, critical journalism is desperately needed, such journalism is desperately assailed. A free and independent media is a key ally of civil society in the quest for sustainable development, social justice and human rights. Attacks on the media usually go hand-in-hand with attacks on civil society, and are a barometer of the levels of injustice, corruption and authoritarianism in any society,” warns Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

    "The fight against the current regressive politics, in defence of human rights, can only be won if stronger connections are made between civil society and the independent media. We are being attacked together, we must fight back together," concludes Tiwana.

    ENDS

    EDITORS’ NOTE:

    CIVICUS is the global alliance of civil society organisations and activists

    www.civicus.org

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  • Yemen: Over 150 NGOs appeal for death sentences of four journalists to be overturned

    Arabic

    Organisations which support human rights, press freedom and journalists are calling on United Nations mechanisms and member states to help save the lives of four Yemeni journalists who were sentenced to death in April 2020 in the capital Sana’a on charges of “spying” and “spreading false news.” Of the six other journalists in the same case whom the judge ordered to be freed, after five years in detention, only one has been released so far. The de facto authorities in Sana’a, the Houthis, must immediately overturn the death sentences and free the other nine journalists who have been convicted in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

     

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