Archive for ‘Democracy/Freedom’

July 1, 2014

Hong Kong: Democracy rally ‘draws 510,000 protesters’

BBC News - Asia

Hong Kong: Democracy rally ‘draws 510,000 protesters’

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28102644

Tens of thousands of residents joined the annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
The demonstration brought large parts of Hong Kong to a standstill

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken part in what organisers say could be Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy rally in a decade.

Organisers said turnout was 510,000, while police said about 98,600 took part during the peak of the march.

The annual rally, marking the day Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, was to demand full electoral freedom.

It came after an unofficial referendum on how to choose Hong Kong’s next chief executive drew close to 800,000 votes.

China says it will introduce universal suffrage for the 2017 election – but wants the final say over who can run.

The Hong Kong government said the 10-day referendum had no legal standing.

BBC-Hong Kong

Organisers were hoping more than half a million people would attend, as Juliana Liu reports

While organisers put the number of those joining Monday’s rally from Victoria Park to the city’s Central district at more than half a million, the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme estimated a turnout of between 154,000 and 172,000.

The organisers’ figure would make the march the largest since 2004, when 530,000 were estimated to have taken part in a pro-democracy demonstration.

The annual 1 July rally first gained prominence in 2003, when half a million people demonstrated against proposed anti-subversion laws which were later scrapped.

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‘Unauthorised sit-in’

Roads around Victoria Park were closed off and footage showed key roads jammed with marchers.

Reports said protesters were still in the park as the first marchers arrived in the Central district four hours later, giving an idea of the scale of the rally.

Security was tight, with about 4,000 police officers on patrol.

After the march, hundreds of protesters staged a sit-in in the Central district. Police said the sit-in was “unauthorised” and began removing some of the participants in the early hours of Tuesday.

Some demonstrators linked arms in a bid to resist being moved.

Pro-democracy activists display placards before a pro-democracy rally seeking greater democracy in Hong Kong on 1 July, 2014 as frustration grows over the influence of Beijing on the city
Activists called for greater democracy in Hong Kong
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gather to march in the streets to demand universal suffrage in Hong Kong on 1 July, 2014
Protesters filled Victoria Park, where the march began
Demonstrators sit in a street of the central district after a pro-democracy rally seeking greater democracy in Hong Kong on 1 July 2014
Some demonstrators staged a sit-in in the business district after the rally
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At the scene: Juliana Liu, BBC News, Hong Kong

Chanting “genuine democracy” and “CY Leung step down”, tens of thousands braved the heat and rain to march for full voting rights.

CY Leung, the current chief executive, was elected in 2012 by a committee of just 1,200 members, who were believed to be largely loyal to the Chinese government. The protesters fear that in 2017 the shortlist of candidates to replace him will selected by a similar group, making universal suffrage essentially meaningless.

But that is exactly what is likely to happen, unless there is some kind of compromise.

A senior Hong Kong government official told reporters recently that the next chief executive must be appointed by Beijing.

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‘Stability, prosperity’

Speaking earlier at a ceremony to mark the 17th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China, Hong Kong leader CY Leung said that the government was trying hard to forge a consensus on political reform.

“Only by maintaining Hong Kong’s stability can we sustain our economic prosperity. Only by sustaining Hong Kong’s prosperity can we improve people’s livelihoods,” Mr Leung said.

The unofficial referendum, organised by campaign group Occupy Central, allowed the public to decide which of three proposals – all of which involved allowing citizens to directly nominate candidates – to present to Beijing.

Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 following a 1984 agreement between China and Britain.

China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of “one country, two systems”, where the city would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” for 50 years.

As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.

 

 

April 18, 2014

Sombath Somphon the “Nelson Mandela of Laos,”

 

Kidnapping In Laos Affects Civil Society

Sombath Somphone is “one of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s most respected civil society figures,” according  to a December 2013 press statement from Secretary of State John Kerry on the one year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was kidnapped from a police checkpoint in Laos and has not been heard from since. Sombath’s wife, Ng Shui-Meng, will be speaking about her husband’s disappearance and the challenges to free speech and human rights in Laos and in the rest of Southeast Asia while in Eugene on Monday, April 21.

“Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations,” Kerry writes. “Sombath’s abduction threatens to undermine those efforts.”

Ng Shui-Meng says that while some have called Sombath the “Nelson Mandela of Laos,” her husband was never involved in politics. He worked in nonviolence and consensus building, she says, and always worked with the approval of government officials. Sombath established the Participatory Development Training Center in Laos, which works to train young people and local government officials in community-based development.

She says one link to Sombath’s disappearance could be his involvement in the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF9) that took place from Oct. 16 to 19, 2012, in Vientiane, Laos, as part of his civil society work. Civil society groups are non-governmental organizations and other groups working on issues including health, education and living standards in both developed and developing nations.

The forum sought to promote universal social protection and access to essential services, food sovereignty and sustainable land and natural resource management, sustainable energy production and use, and just work and sustainable livelihoods, according to the AEPF9 website.

Ng Shui-Meng, who is also involved in civil society work, is in the U.S. to promote awareness of Sombath’s disappearance in hopes of his safe return, she says. She says she will talk about who her husband is and the type of work he has being doing the last 30 years, what happened the day of his abduction as well as the aftermath and impact on the civil society movement. “In Laos there is not much media freedom, freedom of organization or freedom of assembly,” she says.

Ng Shui-Meng speaks at 6 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1685 W. 13th Ave.

Video footage of Sombath Somphone’s disappearance Dec. 15, 2012 in Laos.

April 11, 2014

Vietnam Dissident Released, Arrives in US – เวียดนามปล่อยตัวนักโทษการเมือง

 

Vietnam Dissident Released, Arrives in US

WASHINGTON April 8, 2014 (AP)

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/vietnam-dissident-released-arrives-us-23229757

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON Associated Press

This file picture taken on April 4, 2011 shows French-trained prominent dissident and legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu (Center) in court in Hanoi during his trial. One of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents, who was jailed after trying to sue the prime minister, has been freed and has left for the United States, a US official said Tuesday. — PHOTO: AFP

ภาพถ่ายเมื่อวันที่ 4 เม.ย. 2554 เผยให้เห็น นายกู่ฮวีห่าหวู (กลาง) ยืนอยู่ในศาลกรุงฮานอย ระหว่างการพิจารณาคดี นายหวูเป็นหนึ่งในผู้เห็นต่างกับรัฐที่มีชื่อเสียงที่สุดของเวียดนาม ถูกตัดสินจำคุกหลังพยายามฟ้องร้องนายกรัฐมนตรี ล่าสุดนายหวูได้รับการปล่อยตัวเป็นอิสระและตัดสินใจเดินทางไปสหรัฐฯ.– Agence France-Presse/Files/ Vietnam News Agency.

A prominent Vietnamese dissident whose father was an associate of the nation’s founding president Ho Chi Minh arrived in the U.S. Monday after being released from prison by Vietnam, the State Department said.

Cu Huy Ha Vu arrived on a flight to Washington with his wife. He is a legal scholar and among the ruling Communist Party’s highest-profile critics.

In a one-day trial, Vu was sentenced in April 2011 to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges that included conducting propaganda against the state, calling for multiparty government and demanding the abolishment of the party’s leadership.

“The United States welcomes the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release prisoner of conscience Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu,” Aaron Jensen, a spokesman for the State Department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, told The Associated Press.

Jensen said Vu and his wife, Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, had decided to travel to the U.S. after Vu’s release. He provided no further details on the circumstance of the release, and a spokesman at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Vu is among the many government critics who have been imprisoned as the one-party authoritarian state cracks down on dissent amid widespread concerns over its handling of a stuttering economy. He’s among the highest-profile as his father Cu Huy Can was a revolutionary poet and a minister in Ho’s government.

Vu was arrested in 2010 after attempting to sue Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung twice — first for approving a Chinese-built bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s central highlands, and later for prohibiting the filing of class-action lawsuits. The first suit was rejected by a Hanoi court, and the second was ignored.

Vu reportedly went on hunger strike between late May and mid-June over alleged poor treatment in prison.

The U.S. has sought closer ties with its former enemy, Vietnam, in recent years, but relations have been hobbled by concerns over Hanoi’s rights record. President Barack Obama, however, met current Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang at the White House last July.

 Vietnam releases high-profile dissident who tried to sue PM

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/south-east-asia/story/vietnam-releases-high-profile-dissident-who-tried-sue-pm-20140408

Published on Apr 8, 2014

HANOI (AFP) – One of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents, who was jailed after trying to sue the prime minister, has been freed and has left for the United States, a US official said Tuesday.

French-trained lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, the son of a Vietnamese revolutionary leader, was sentenced in April 2011 to seven years in prison for “anti-state activity”.

The release of the 55-year-old, who last year staged a hunger strike to draw attention to his treatment in jail, followed intense campaigning by rights groups and foreign governments.

“We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release prisoner of conscience Dr Cu Huy Ha Vu,” US Embassy spokesman Spencer Cryder told AFP.

เวียดนามปล่อยตัวนักโทษการเมืองชื่อดัง ยังไร้สาเหตุแน่ชัด

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.manager.co.th/IndoChina/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9570000040124

เอเอฟพี – เจ้าหน้าที่สหรัฐฯ เผยวานนี้ (8) ว่า หนึ่งในผู้เห็นต่างกับรัฐที่มีชื่อเสียงที่สุดของเวียดนาม ที่ถูกโทษจำคุกหลังพยายามฟ้องร้องนายกรัฐมนตรี ได้รับการปล่อยตัวเป็นอิสระและเดินทางไปสหรัฐฯ เป็นที่เรียบร้อย

นายกู่ฮวีห่าหวู (Cu Huy Ha Vu) บุตรชายของนายกู่ฮวีเกิ่น แกนนำปฏิวัติ ถูกตัดสินโทษจำคุกเมื่อเดือน เม.ย. 2554 เป็นเวลา 7 ปี ในความผิด “ดำเนินกิจกรรมต่อต้านรัฐ”

การปล่อยตัวนายหวู ที่เมื่อปีก่อนได้อดข้าวประท้วงเพื่อเรียกร้องความสนใจต่อการปฏิบัตที่ได้ เขารับในเรือนจำ มีขึ้นหลังกลุ่มสิทธิมนุษยชน และรัฐบาลต่างชาติวิพากษ์วิจารณ์อย่างหนัก

“เรายินดีต่อการตัดสินใจของทางการเวียดนามที่ปล่อยตัวนักโทษการเมือง ดร.กู่ฮวีห่าหวู” โฆษกสถานทูตสหรัฐฯ กล่าว

“ดร.หวู และภรรยา ตัดสินใจเดินทางไปยังสหรัฐฯ หลังได้รับการปล่อยตัว และเดินทางถึงกรุงวอชิงตัน ดี.ซี. เมื่อวันจันทร์ (7)” เจ้าหน้าที่คนเดิมกล่าว แต่ปฏิเสธที่จะระบุว่านายหวู จะพำนักอยู่ในสหรัฐฯ อย่างถาวรหรือไม่

ฝ่ายรัฐบาลเวียดนาม ไม่ได้ระบุถึงเหตุผลในการปล่อยตัวนายหวู แต่ยืนยันว่า ภรรยาของนายหวูมีอาการเจ็บป่วยจากโรคหัวใจ ด้านทนายความของนายหวูกล่าวว่า เหตุผลการปล่อยตัวยังไม่ชัดเจน

นายกู่ฮวีห่าหวู ถูกจับกุมตัวในปี 2553 หลังพยายามฟ้องร้องนายกรัฐมนตรีเหวียน เติ๋น ยวุ๋ง แต่ไม่ประสบความสำเร็จ เกี่ยวกับแผนการก่อสร้างเหมืองแร่ที่ก่อให้เกิดการคัดค้านเป็นวงกว้าง

หัวหน้าผู้พิพากษาในการพิจารณาคดีระบุว่า งานเขียน และบทสัมภาษณ์ของนายหวู เป็นการป้ายสีพรรคคอมมิวนิสต์เวียดนาม

อดีตศัตรูสงครามเวียดนาม และสหรัฐฯ ได้ทำงานร่วมกันที่จะพัฒนาความสัมพันธ์ในช่วงหลายสิบปีที่ผ่านมา แต่ประเด็นปัญหาเกี่ยวกับสิทธิมนุษยชนยังคงเป็นอุปสรรคต่อการพัฒนาความ สัมพันธ์ของ 2 ประเทศ

เวียดนาม มักถูกประณามโดยกลุ่มสิทธิมนุษยชน และรัฐบาลชาติตะวันตก ต่อการไม่ยอมรับความคิดเห็นทางการเมืองที่แตกต่าง และการละเมิดเสรีภาพในการนับถือศาสนา

รองผู้อำนวยการฮิวแมนไรท์วอช ประจำภูมิภาคเอเชีย ระบุว่า การปล่อยตัวนายหวู เป็นการพัฒนาที่น่ายินดี โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งปัญหาสุขภาพของนายหวู ขณะที่ถูกจำคุกอย่างไม่เป็นธรรมโดยเจ้าหน้าที่เวียดนาม

“นายหวู ไม่ควรถูกจำคุกตั้งแต่แรก เพราะสิ่งที่ นายหวู กระทำไปทั้งหมดนั้นเป็นการใช้สิทธิของตัวเองในการแสดงความคิดเห็นอย่างเสรี” ฟิล โรเบิร์ตสัน กล่าว

เวียดนาม ไม่อนุญาตเอกชนผลิตสื่อ หนังสือพิมพ์ทุกฉบับ และสถานทีโทรทัศน์ทุกช่องล้วนเป็นกิจการของรัฐ ทนายความ บล็อกเกอร์ และนักเคลื่อนไหวมักตกเป็นเป้าในการจับกุม และควบคุมตัวอย่างไม่มีสาเหตุ

องค์กรนักข่าวไร้พรมแดนระบุเมื่อต้นเดือนว่า เวียดนามมีบล็อกเกอร์ถูกควบคุมตัวอย่างน้อย 34 คน เป็นรองเพียงแค่จีนเท่านั้น.

February 25, 2014

Ukraine revolution: live

Ukraine revolution: live

Ukraine’s interim president Oleksander Turchinov has delayed plans to form a new government by Tuesday evening, saying that the deadline has been extended to Thursday to allow for further consultations. All the day’s developments as they happen

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/10659755/Ukraine-revolution-live.html?fb 

By

2:04PM GMT 25 Feb 2014

Latest

14.04 It’s certainly been a busy 48 hours for Russian diplomats, too (see 11.20).

Now Grigory Karasin, a deputy foreign minister, has met in Moscow with Ukraine’s Ambassador to Russia, Volodymyr Yelchenko.

The meeting was called to raise concerns over the safety of Russians in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“From the Russian side questions were raised about … the safety for Russian citizens and diplomatic representatives on the territory of Ukraine,” the ministry statement said.

13.36 Former Georgian president claims that Yanukovych openly boasted of corruption in Ukraine

13.18 With the hunt for Yanukovych in full cry, the Paddy Power publicity machine senses the biggest flood of bets since Col Muammar Gaddafi went missing in Libya. Here are the odds for those inclined to indulge in a wager:

Where is Yanukovych?

Ukraine 5/4

Russia 6/4

UAE 3/1

Georgia 6/1

Turkey 8/1

13.10 Additional information has come in about the alleged shooting of the former head of the presidential bureaucracy:

Andriy Klyuev, a former presidential aide who is said by the new Ukrainian authorities to be on the run with ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich, has been shot in the leg, his spokesman said.

Spokesman Artem Petrenko said a “trusted source” had told him that Klyuev, the head of the presidential administration until Yanukovich was toppled on Saturday, had come under fire twice and was wounded, but his life was not in danger.

Petrenko said by telephone that he had not spoken to Klyuev himself and he did not know where Klyuev was. He also said he did not know whether Klyuev was with Yanukovich, who fled Kiev on Friday and is wanted by the Ukrainian authorities to face accusations of murder.

12.55 More details emerging of Vitali Klitschko’s decision to run for the presidency.

Mr Klitschko, 42, a former WBC heavyweight champion, has been one of the main opposition leaders championing the cause of thousands of protesters who took to the streets last November.

“I will run for the post of president of Ukraine because I firmly believe that the rules of the game have to be changed in Ukraine,” he was quoted as telling journalists.

12.40 Speaking of sidekicks, one has been shot according to this newsflash:

UKRAINIAN EX-PRESIDENTIAL AIDE ANDRIY KLYUEV HAS BEEN WOUNDED BY GUNFIRE, NOT CLEAR IF HE IS WITH YANUKOVICH (Reuters)

12.35 A reminder of times past emerges from pictures from the house of a presidential sidekick:

12.30 For a background read on the alleged role of two oligarchs in Viktor Yanukovych’s downfall, see Der Spiegel’s english language version of events in Kiev here

It claims that Rinat Akhmetov (see below) and Dmitry Firtash pulled the rug from under the now missing president.

12.20 Another oligarch – this time Victor Pinchuk – has his say in the FT(£)

12.15 The baroness meets the gas baron – a picture of two of the women who play a big role in determining Ukraine’s fate in the months to come. Lady Ashton, the EUs foreign affairs supremo meets newly-freed Yulia Tymoshenko.

12.10 A lot of people are coming out of the woodwork after the horse has bolted, including Ukraine’s richest men who are lining up to say what should happen

12.00 Vitali Klitschko has confirmed that he will be a candidate for the presidency. News that was expected but it demonstrates there is no appetite for a cosy deal between the opposition candidates.

11.50 National Geographic has a slideshow depicting the faces of the Ukrainian revolution here:

11.46 Ukraine raises prospect of an international criminal court trial of Viktor Yanukovych:

Ukraine’s parliament has voted to send fugitive President Viktor Yanukovich to be tried for ‘serious crimes’ by the International Criminal Court once he has been captured.

A resolution, overwhelmingly supported by the assembly, linked Yanukovich, who was ousted on Saturday and is now on the run, to police violence against protesters which it said had led to the deaths of more than 100 citizens from Ukraine and other states.

The resolution said former interior minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and former prosecutor-general Viktor Pshonka, who are also being sought by the authorities, should also be sent for trial at the ICC, which is based in The Hague.

11.33 Ukraine’s parliament has just passed a resolution saying that ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych and others caused the deaths of more than 1000 citizens. Here is another picture from the top of the building.

11.20 And in Moscow, the diplomacy continues.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has spoken to Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and David Cameron about the crisis. Today he summoned his top security officials to discuss the situation – but no details of their meeting were released.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said earlier today that Ukraine must not be forced to choose between East and West.

And yesterday Dmitri Medvedev, the prime minister, strongly condemned the new authorities, saying Monday they came to power as a result of an “armed mutiny” and their legitimacy is causing “big doubts.”

“If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government,” he said.

11.00 Meanwhile, back in Ukraine, campaigning has officially begun for the presidential election – due to be held on May 25.

Mr Yanukovych’s archrival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is widely seen as a top contender for the post. She was freed from prison on Saturday after spending two-and-a-half years there. Her lawyer said, however, that she hasn’t yet declared whether to run.

10.50 But a Conservative MP respectfully disagrees with the diversion of taxpayers money to the tussle for Ukraine.

10.45 Behind the scenes efforts to ensure a new government enjoys Western financial support are breaking into view.

10.36 More from Baroness Ashton, the first senior foreign official to visit Kiev since the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych as president.

Voicing “strong support” for Ukraine’s new leaders at a news conference, Baroness Ashton urged them to form an “inclusive” government and focus on getting the country through short-term problems.

She spelled out no details of any foreign financial assistance, saying the EU would work with the International Monetary Fund but the IMF would make its own assessment of the situation.

10.15 Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, is in Kiev today, and is speaking now.

Key points from her speech so far:

- Russia, as a neighbouring country, should help Ukraine move forward.
- The focus should be on getting Ukraine through short-term problems
- Then Ukraine needs to look at reforms to agriculture and energy

10.08 Protesters in Kiev are still hard at work – here cutting the Soviet pentagram symbol out of the parliamentary building.

“The star on top of the Verkhovna Rada is no longer there,” said Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the nationalist Svoboda party, which has been a strong force in the protest movement.

09.50 Meanwhile, the hunt for Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president, continues.

Our correspondent Roland Oliphant has sent this dispatch from the Crimea – one of the regions where Mr Yanukovych could be hiding. An arrest warrant has been issued for him.

09.45 Oleksander Turchinov, the interim president, has put off plans to vote on the formation of a national unity government until Thursday to allow consultations to continue. We were expecting the announcement of a new prime minister and cabinet today.

“The vote on the national unity government should be on Thursday,” said Mr Turchinov, the speaker of the assembly and the acting president. The vote had been expected to take place during Tuesday’s session.

Later on Tuesday he will meet law enforcement agencies to discuss “dangerous signs of separatism” in some areas.

09.30 Welcome again to our continuing coverage of the extraordinary events in Ukraine.

February 17, 2014

World press freedom index 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://rsf.org/index2014/en-index2014.php#

World Press Freedom Index 2014

Biggest rises and falls in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index

FrançaisEspañol |العربيةفارسىПо-русски | Türkçe

The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. Despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them. This year’s index covers 180 countries, one more than last year. The new entry, Belize, has been assigned an enviable position (29th). Cases of violence against journalists are rare in Belize but there were some problems: defamation suits involving demands for large amounts in damages, national security restrictions on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and sometimes unfair management of broadcast frequencies.

FALLS DUE TO ARMED CONFLICTS

The 2014 index underscores the negative correlation between freedom of information and conflicts, both open conflicts and undeclared ones. In an unstable environment, the media become strategic goals and targets for groups or individuals whose attempts to control news and information violate the guarantees enshrined in international law, in particular, article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional 1 and 2 to the Geneva Conventions.

Syria (unchanged at 177th) has been an extreme example of this since March 2011. Now one of the countries where freedom of information and its actors are most in danger, it rubs shoulders with the bottom three. The Syrian crisis has also had dramatic repercussions throughout the region, reinforcing media polarization in Lebanon (106th, -4), encouraging the Jordanian authorities to tighten their grip, and accelerating the spiral of violence in Iraq (153rd, -2), where tension between Shiites and Sunnis is growing.

In Iran (173rd, +2), one of the Middle East’s key countries, there has so far been no implementation of the promises to improve freedom of information that the new president, Hassan Rouhani, made. Coverage of the Syrian tragedy in both the official Iranian press and on the blogosphere is closely watched by the regime, which cracks down on any criticism of its foreign policy.

This negative correlation is also seen in the big falls registered by Mali (122nd, -22) and Central African Republic (109th, -34). The open or internecine warfare destabilizing Democratic Republic of Congo (151st, -8) and the activities of guerrillas and terrorist groups in Somalia (176th, unchanged) and Nigeria (112th, +4) prevented any significant improvement in their ranking.

The formation of a government led by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt (159th, unchanged) in the summer 2012 was accompanied by an increase in abuses against journalists and all-out efforts to bring the media under the Muslim Brotherhood’s control. That was brought to a complete halt by the army’s return to power a year later. The ensuing persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood affected not only Egyptian journalists but also their Turkish, Palestinian and Syrian colleagues. In the Persian Gulf, especially the United Arab Emirates (118th, -3), bloggers and journalists were arrested and tried on charges of links to the Brotherhood.

The upsurge in violence against journalists finally elicited a response from the international community – in terms of resolutions, at least. The United Nations General Assembly adopted its first-ever resolution on the safety of journalists by consensus on 26 November. It included a call for 2 November to be celebrated as International Day to End Impunity for crimes of violence against journalists.

It was unquestionably a step in the right direction, complementing Resolution 1738 condemning attacks on journalists in armed conflicts, which the Security Council adopted in December 2006 on Reporters Without Borders’ initiative, and the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Impunity, adopted in April 2012. Reporters Without Borders now wants the UN to create a group of independent experts with the task of monitoring respect by member states for their obligations, in particular, their obligation to protect journalists, to investigate all cases of violence against them, and bring those responsible to justice.

INFORMATION SACRIFICED TO NATIONAL SECURITY AND SURVEILLANCE

Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.

This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government.

The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) distinguished itself in the war on terror by the disgraceful pressure it put on The Guardian newspaper and by its detention of David Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner and assistant, for nine hours. Both the US and UK authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy, a democratic value cherished in both countries.

The “special intelligence protection bill” that the National Diet in Japan (59th, – 5) adopted in late 2013 would reduce government transparency on such key national issues as nuclear power and relations with the United States, now enshrined as taboos. Investigative journalism, public interest and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources are all being sacrificed by legislators bent on ensuring that their country’s image is spared embarrassing revelations.

2014 World Press Freedom IndexThe “war on terror” is also being exploited by governments that are quick to treat journalists as “threats to national security.” Dozens of journalists have been jailed on this pretext in Turkey (154th), especially for covering the Kurdish issue. In Morocco, unchanged in 136th position, the authorities readily confused journalism with terrorism since the case of online newspaper editor Ali Anouzla. In Israel (96th, +17), freedom of information is often sacrificed to purported security requirements.

In India’s northern Kashmir region, mobile Internet and communications are suspended in response to any unrest. In the north of Sri Lanka (165th, -2), the army reigns supreme, tolerating no challenge to the official vision of the “pacification” process in Tamil separatism’s former strongholds. Alarmed by the Arab Spring turmoil, authoritarian regimes in the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia have stepped up media censorship and surveillance to head off any “attempt at destabilization.”

PRIVATIZATION OF VIOLENCE

Non-state groups constitute the main source of physical danger for journalists in a number of countries. The militias fomenting chaos in the new Libya (137th, -5) and Yemeni armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are leading examples of this privatization of violence. Al-Shabaab in Somalia (176th, unchanged) and the M23 movement in Democratic Republic of Congo (151st, -8) both regard journalists as enemies. Jihadi groups such as Jabhat Al-Nosra and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) use violence against news providers as part of their drive to control the regions they “liberate.”

Organized crime is a fearsome predator for journalists in many parts of the world, especially Honduras (129th, -1), Guatemala (125th, -29), Brazil (111th, -2) and Paraguay (105th, -13), but also Pakistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and the Balkans. In organized crime’s shadow, it is hard if not impossible to refrain from self-censorship on such sensitive subjects as drug-trafficking, corruption and criminal penetration of the state apparatus. The passivity or indifference often shown by authorities towards crimes of violence against the media, or sometimes even their connivance or direct involvement, reinforces the impunity enjoyed by those responsible and fuels the cycle of violence against news providers.

L’indice annuel de la liberté de la presse, inauguré lors du Classement 2013, confirme une dégradation, à l’échelle mondiale, de la situation du droit d’informer et d’être informé. L’indice passe de 3 395 à 3 456 (+61), soit une augmentation de 1,8 % qui révèle une légère dégradation globale de la liberté de l’information entre l’édition 2013 et l’édition 2014 du Classement mondial.Si l’année 2013 a été moins meurtrière pour les journalistes que la précédente, marquée par une hécatombe pour la profession, les agressions et menaces ont été plus nombreuses. La hausse de l’indice s’explique par l’évolution non seulement des exactions, mais aussi de l’ensemble des indicateurs utilisés pour compiler le classement :

— Pluralism, meaning the representation of different views in the media; — Independence of the media vis-à-vis political, economic, religious and military centres of power; — Quality of the legislation governing the media; — Transparency of the bodies regulating the media; — Performance of the infrastructure supporting the media; — Overall climate for freedom of information.

The indicator is a tool for measuring overall performance. The breakdown of the indicator’s scores by region shows a worsening in all continents except Asia, where it was unchanged. Like last year, the European Union and Balkans obtained the best score (17.6), followed by the Americas (30.3), Africa (35.6), Asia-Pacific (42.2), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (45.5) and finally Middle East and North Africa (48.7).

Annual media freedom indicator: 3456 in 2014 (3395 in 2013)

  • European Union and Balkans: 17.6 (17.5)
  • Americas: 30,3 (30,0)
  • Africa : 35,6 (34,3)
  • Asia-Pacific: 42,2 (42,2)
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia: 45,5 (45,3)
  • Middle East and North Africa: 48,7 (48,5)

NOTEWORTHY FALLS

In the Americas, the 13-place fall registered by the United States (46th, -13) was more than doubled by Guatemala (125th, -29), which saw a two-fold increase in the number of physical attacks on journalists, including four murders, and was equalled by Paraguay (105th, -13), where the pressure on journalists to censor themselves keeps on mounting. Paraguay had already plummeted last year, following a coup in June 2012, three years after a coup sent Honduras (129th, -1) to the level where it remains in the current post-election chaos.

In Africa, the two most noteworthy falls, by Mali and Central African Republic, were due to armed conflicts mentioned above. In Burundi, where a presidential election is imminent, the senate passed a law restricting the freedom of journalists. In Kenya (90th, -18), the government’s much criticized authoritarian response to the media’s coverage of the Westgate Mall attacks was compounded by dangerous parliamentary initiatives, above all a law adopted at the end of 2013 creating a special court to judge audiovisual content.

In Guinea (102nd, -15), journalists found it dangerous and difficult to work during elections marked by many protests. Several journalists were attacked or injured by over-excited demonstrators or by members of the security forces dispersing the protests. Zambia (93rd, -20), which had progressed in recent years, was dragged down by measures to censor and block news websites. Finally, rulers who have clung to power for years and fear change got tougher with the media, resulting in abusive prosecutions in Chad (139th, -17) and several closures in Cameroon (131st, -10).

The 13-place fall by Kuwait (91st) reflects the tougher measures being taken with the media including the adoption of a law that allows the authorities to fine journalists up to 300,000 dinars (1 million dollars) for criticizing the emir or the crown prince, or misrepresenting what they say, and impose sentences of up to 10 years in prison on journalists who insult God, the Prophets of Islam, or the Prophet Mohamed’s wives or companions.

These spectacular changes should not make us forget the tragic immobility at the bottom of the index where Vietnam (173rd, -1), Uzbekistan (166th, -1) and Saudi Arabia (164th, unchanged), to name but three, continue to tighten their grip on news and information and adapt their methods of radical censorship to the digital era. The cruellest punishments await those of their citizens who have the courage to resist. In Kazakhstan (161st, unchanged) and Azerbaijan (160th, -3), media pluralism is in the process of succumbing to the increasingly repressive tendencies of rulers clinging to power.

NOTEWORTHY RISES

Violence against journalists, direct censorship and misuse of judicial proceedings are on the decline in Panama (87th, +25), Dominican Republic (68th, +13), Bolivia (94th, +16) and Ecuador (94th, +25), although in Ecuador the level of media polarization is still high and often detrimental to public debate.

The past year was marked by laudable legislative developments in some countries such as South Africa (42nd, +11), where the president refused to sign a law that would have endangered investigative journalism.

In Georgia (84th, +17), the 2013 presidential election was less tense that the previous year’s parliamentary elections, which were marked by physical attacks and hate campaigns against journalists. Thanks to political cohabitation and then a change of government through the polls, Georgia has recovered some of the terrain lost in recent years as the Saakashvili administration’s reforming zeal ran out of steam. Media polarization will nonetheless continue to be a challenge in the coming years.

Israel’s 17-place rise must be offset against its 20-place fall in the 2013 index as a result of Operation “Pillar of Defence” in November 2012, when two Palestinian journalists were killed, and the many raids it carried out against Palestinian media. Security needs continue to be used as an excuse to limit freedom of information. The Israeli media are able to be outspoken but media located in “Israeli territory” must comply with prior military censorship and gag orders. Investigative reporting involving national security is not welcome.

Abusive treatment of Palestinian and foreign journalists by the Israel Defence Forces is common, especially during the weekly demonstrations at the Separation Wall. Many photojournalists were deliberately targeted when leaving the demonstrations in November 2013. On 4 December, an Israeli high court endorsed the seizure of equipment from Wattan TV during an IDF raid in February 2012.

Timor-Leste (77th) rose 14 places in the wake of a historic journalists’ congress in Dili on 25-27 October at which a code of professional conduct and the creation of a seven-member Press Council were approved. But continuing vigilance is needed. The media law currently before parliament is the next challenge for media freedom in Timor-Leste.

REGIONAL MODELS IN DECLINE?

The movements of some countries in the index, which are indicative of their approach to freedom of information, has an impact not only on their own population but also on neighbouring countries because of their regional importance and influence and the fact that they are regarded – rightly or not – as models to be watched or followed. South Africa’s 11-place rise to 42nd position contrasts with the performance of other countries regarded as regional models, which have either shown no improvement or are in decline.

The European Union’s members are becoming more dispersed in the index, a development accelerated by the effects of the economic crisis and outbreaks of populism. Greece (99th, -14) and Hungary (64th, -7) are the most notable examples. In Greece, journalists are often the victims of physical attacks by members of Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party that entered parliament in June 2012. The government’s actions have also contributed to the fall. By closing the state broadcaster under pressure from the Troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF), Prime Minister Antonis Samaras seems to be cutting back on democracy to save money.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government gives the impression of having abandoned EU values in its zeal for draconian reforms. As a direct result of the European model’s erosion, the EU is finding it harder to get membership candidates to improve their position in the index. Membership negotiations are no longer necessarily accompanied by efforts to increase respect for civil liberties. Macedonia (123rd), for example, has never been so low in the index.

The western hemisphere’s giants – United States (46th, -13) and Brazil (111th, -2) – have not set an example either. Since 9/11, the former has been torn by the conflict between national security imperatives and respect for the principles of the First Amendment. Thanks to organized crime’s impact, the latter is one of the continent’s deadliest countries for the media, while its media pluralism is handicapped by the phenomenon of powerful politicians who are also big businessmen and media owners, with the result that Brazil has been dubbed “the country of 30 Berlusconis.”

Russia (148th) might have been lower in the index had it not been for the stubbornness and resistance shown by its civil society. But the authorities keep on intensifying the crackdown begun when Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 and are exporting their model throughout the former Soviet Union. From Ukraine (127th, unchanged) and Azerbaijan (160th, -3) to Central Asia, Russia’s repressive legislation and communications surveillance methods are happily copied. Moscow also uses UN bodies and regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its efforts to undermine international standards on freedom of information.

Despite its regional aspirations, Turkey (154th) registered no improvement and continues to be one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. The Gezi Park revolt highlighted the repressive methods used by the security forces, the increase in self-censorship and the dangers of the prime minister’s populist discourse. In view of the upcoming elections and the unpredictability of the peace process with the Kurdish separatists, 2014 is likely to be a decisive year for the future of civil liberties in Turkey.

Chine (175th, -1) failed to improve its ranking because, despite having an astonishing vital and increasingly militant blogosphere, it continues to censor and jail dissident bloggers and journalists. This new power is also using its economic might to extend its influence over the media in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, compromising their independence.

India (140th, +1) experienced an unprecedented wave of violence against journalists, with eight killed in 2013. They are targeted by both state and non-state actors. Almost no region is spared but Kashmir and Chhattisgarh continue to be the only two where violence and censorship are endemic. Those responsible for threats and physical violence against journalists, who are often abandoned by the judicial system and forced to censor themselves, include police and security forces as well as criminal groups, demonstrators and political party supporters.

The substantial reforms in Burma, which could become a regional model for a transition to democracy, were reflected in a big leap in the 2013 index. As the reform process begins to flag, the “Burmese model” has yet to prove itself.

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Methodology

Download pdf (450Kb)

Sources

Download the map

Download the index

Head of the World Press Freedom Index : Antoine Héry – index [a] rsf.org

Press contact : Isabelle Gourmelon – presse [a] rsf.org

Data visualisation by Pierre-Alain Leboucher and Dorian Ratovo
with D3.js by Mike Bostock, and THREE.js by Mrdoob

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