Press freedom – GUWIV http://guwiv.com/ Sat, 20 Aug 2022 23:25:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 https://guwiv.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/guw-150x150.png Press freedom – GUWIV http://guwiv.com/ 32 32 In Tunisia, a new fight for press freedom https://guwiv.com/in-tunisia-a-new-fight-for-press-freedom/ Tue, 16 Aug 2022 11:10:06 +0000 https://guwiv.com/in-tunisia-a-new-fight-for-press-freedom/ Mohamed Yassine Jelassi remembers his days in prison under Tunisia’s pre-revolution dictatorship, but especially his heady days later – as a journalist covering the 2011 revolt that ousted him. “It was a dream to live it,” said Jelassi, president of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists, or SNJT, apologizing for choking. “I really hoped that […]]]>

Mohamed Yassine Jelassi remembers his days in prison under Tunisia’s pre-revolution dictatorship, but especially his heady days later – as a journalist covering the 2011 revolt that ousted him.

“It was a dream to live it,” said Jelassi, president of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists, or SNJT, apologizing for choking. “I really hoped that Tunisia would become a developed and democratic country that guarantees the rights and freedoms of citizens.”

Tunisia’s free and spirited press is among the biggest victories of the historic uprising that sparked the wider Arab Spring, even if it failed to create jobs and economic growth. Budding social media both covered and helped spread the protests.

Today, journalists like Jelassi could be on the front lines of a chilling rollback in freedoms, according to media outlets and rights groups, under another strong government.

The North African country, hailed for creating the freest press in the Arab world, fell more than 20 places in Reporters Without Borders’ latest press freedom rankings, after Tunisian President Kais Saied took wide powers in July 2021. He now sits in a disappointing 94th place. out of 180 – where 1 has the optimal conditions – overall.

Many fear that under the president’s new constitution, which cements his powers and erases many democratic checks and balances, hard-won freedoms will erode even further – fears dismissed by Saied and his government.

“The treatment of the Tunisian media is deteriorating day by day,” says Khaled Drareni, RSF’s North Africa representative, who describes current press freedom here as “the least worst” in the region.

“Unfortunately, with President Saied, we have many examples from the past,” adds Drareni, referring to pre-revolutionary autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Drareni himself is no stranger to restrictions. As a journalist in neighboring Algeria, he was jailed in 2020 for covering that country’s anti-government protests.

The pressures on the media are increasing here too.

The Tunisian national press union is fighting for the independence of the media. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

Normalized bullying

“Intimidation has become normalized,” RSF wrote in its 2022 Tunisia Press Freedom Index, describing a “new line crossed” this year, when a foreign correspondent was beaten and others attacked while that they were covering a demonstration.

Other journalists have been arrested, harassed and sentenced to prison terms, watchdog groups report. Two television stations critical of the president were pulled last year over apparent licensing issues.

The Tunisian press union SNJT also accuses the government of launching defamation campaigns against certain reporters. And a day after Saied froze parliament and sacked its prime minister in July, police stormed Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera and closed its Tunis office.

“It is increasingly difficult to be a journalist in Tunisia,” says Jelassi, director of SNJT, which also covers politics for Tunisian online publication Nawaat.

State television no longer invites opposition politicians to voice their opinions, either through pressure or self-censorship, Jelassi’s union has found after monitoring its coverage since Saied’s expanded powers.

“These are freedoms that journalists won,” said Salsabil Chellali, a former journalist who now heads Human Rights Watch’s office in Tunis. “Today they are fighting to keep them.”

Tunisian authorities reject accusations that these freedoms are under threat.

In all forms of media, “there are criticisms,” says Tunisian Ambassador to the United States Hanene Tajouri Bessassi, describing freedom of expression and a vibrant civil society as key gains of the revolution that remain respected and intact. “People express them freely without any restrictions. The opposition does too.”

President Saied offers similar arguments.

“Why do you think that at 67 I would start a career as a dictator?” the former constitutional lawyer asked the New York Times last year after taking office.

It was a rare one-on-one press encounter with Saied, who seems to have little time for them. “This is not a press interview,” the president told the Times reporter.

“He only speaks via videos on Facebook,” says SNJT’s Jelassi.

Yet despite growing obstacles to reporting, says Jelassi, “the difficulties are post-revolution difficulties, in a more or less democratic system – until now.”

A newsstand in Tunis with President Saïed in the image of a major magazine.  (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

A newsstand in Tunis with President Saïed in the image of a major magazine. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

“Golden pen” for dictators

Tunisia before the revolution was much worse, they and others say. Under its first post-independence leader, Habib Bourguiba, television news began with long coverage of the president’s swims in the Mediterranean.

Successor Ben Ali, who ousted Bourguiba in a bloodless coup in 1987, promised greater media freedom. But they turned out to be illusory.

Instead, Ben Ali’s government censored the internet and effectively banned independent media by controlling access to printing presses and operating licenses. It allowed some journalists to be tried by a criminal court.

The Tunisian government-sanctioned press syndicate has been ridiculed by foreign watchdogs for presenting Ben Ali with the so-called “Golden Feather” award for media independence.

Mohamed Yacine Jelassi experienced difficult press conditions before and after the Tunisian revolution.  (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

Mohamed Yacine Jelassi experienced difficult press conditions before and after the Tunisian revolution. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

“In Ben Ali’s time, there was a total media blackout,” recalls Jelassi, imprisoned in 2006 as a student activist and reporter for a left-wing opposition party and its newspaper.

“People harassed us all the time, civil and military courts judged us for the slightest thing,” he adds. “You couldn’t say anything, you couldn’t protest in the street.”

But as the country’s economy began to decline, Ben Ali’s grip on power also diminished. In December 2010, the self-immolation of an impoverished vegetable vendor in central Tunisia struck a chord with other struggling citizens.

In a country where few have dared to speak to journalists, let alone criticize the government, the first street protests have erupted.

While the government-sanctioned press initially prevented the protests from spreading, opposition journalists and social media activists covered and fed them, via platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

“We were divided between those who joined the protests and those who reported on the events,” Jelassi said of his own post. “I had a lot of friends who got arrested. I was supposed to be next.”

January 14, 2011 changed this trajectory. With streets packed with people chanting for his ouster, Ben Ali fled the country. The Tunisian population had won.

“The next day,” Jelassi recalls, “my friends were released.”

Cameraman Yassine Bahri remembers fighting for the right to report freely before and after the Tunisian revolution.  (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

Cameraman Yassine Bahri remembers fighting for the right to report freely before and after the Tunisian revolution. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

good for a while

State television cameraman Yassine Bahri and his colleagues have been banned from covering the protests or Ben Ali’s secret flight to Saudi Arabia.

Restrictions dropped after the presidential plane took off. Bahri, who was at the airport when the president took off, covered the arrest of Ben Ali’s son-in-law there a few minutes later.

“We had exclusive footage, shown on national television,” he says.

A new committee of journalists overhauled the broadcaster’s coverage, shedding prominent pro-government news anchors.

“Everything was fine,” Bahri said. For a certain time.

Saied is not the only politician accused of attacking media independence.

Previous governments and parties, including the once powerful Islamist-leaning Ennahdha, have been accused of trying to manipulate media coverage, in part through the appointment of senior leaders controlling state television and newspapers.

The government of Saied’s secular predecessor, Béji Caïd Essebsi, has been criticized for restricting access to information and for dragging several journalists before military tribunals.

“We had a lot of problems with previous governments,” says Jelassi. “But there have always been channels of communication.

It ended “after July 25” last year, he says, when Saied sacked his prime minister and eventually dissolved parliament.

Yousra Chikhaoui says she was slapped by police covering a July protest in Tunis.  (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

Yousra Chikhaoui says she was slapped by police covering a July protest in Tunis. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

For Yousra Chikhaoui, who works for the online publication Hakaek, freedom of the press is now a “relative” concept.

“We can do specific subjects, like reports and interviews,” she says, “but when it comes to investigations, journalists have a lot of problems.”

Chikhaoui says she was slapped by police last month covering a protest against Saied’s constitution, which ended in tear gas and scuffles.

“They hit me with their hands,” she said of her attackers, who she said also included members of the security forces in civilian clothes. “I lost consciousness.”

She will be back to cover upcoming events.

“It’s too late to muzzle the press again,” said Chikhaoui. “We will continue to speak out. We will not give up.”

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UN rights chief investigates disappearance, DSA, press freedom, CHT https://guwiv.com/un-rights-chief-investigates-disappearance-dsa-press-freedom-cht/ Sun, 14 Aug 2022 17:55:00 +0000 https://guwiv.com/un-rights-chief-investigates-disappearance-dsa-press-freedom-cht/ UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, visiting on Sunday in separate meetings with four ministers, inquired about reports of serious human rights abuses in Bangladesh, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture in detention and abuse of the digital security law and the poor state of press freedom. In the first-ever visit by a […]]]>

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, visiting on Sunday in separate meetings with four ministers, inquired about reports of serious human rights abuses in Bangladesh, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture in detention and abuse of the digital security law and the poor state of press freedom.

In the first-ever visit by a UN rights chief to Bangladesh, Bachelet arrived in Dhaka in the morning and spent busy hours on the first day of her four-day trip holding meetings with business ministers. Foreign, Law, Home Affairs and Education who defended the actions of the government.

The UN rights chief also inquired about the many brutalities taking place in Bangladesh, the protection of Rohingya rights and abuses at Chattogram Hill Tracks and their land rights, attacks on religious minorities , religious harmony and the delisting of Bangladeshi rights group Odhikar in June, among other issues.

Bachelet also asked about the training modalities for Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers.

Bachelet avoided questions from the press about his meetings with Bangladeshi ministers.

Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters that Bachelet inquired about the list of 76 victims of enforced disappearance.

The minister said he informed the high commissioner that two of them remain in prison, 10 others have been found in their respective homes and 32 others are wanted in various cases.

Asaduzzaman said he told the UN human rights chief that three categories of people had gone missing.

Asaduzzaman said he told Bachelet the following: the first category of missing persons committed heinous crimes and tried to escape justice, the second category of people escaped loan sharks after suffering a loss in business or went bankrupt, and the third category of people disappeared after a conjugal marriage. quarrels, Asaduzzaman says he told Bachelet.

“We showed video footage of people killing police officers and destroying public property. We have porous borders and many have fled and taken refuge in India, Myanmar or elsewhere. “We have the rest with us,” he said.

“There was no reason for these 76 people to have been forcibly disappeared by law enforcement,” he said.

He said the government had prosecuted members of the Rapid Action Battalion for seven killings in Narayanganj in 2014 and that Cox’s Bazar police officials had also been prosecuted for one murder.

Rights group Odhikar said that between 2009 and March 2022, a total of 613 people were subjected to enforced disappearance and many of them were found killed, arrested, imprisoned or released. Among them, the fate of 86 others could not be confirmed, Human Rights Watch said.

Asaduzzaman said he told the UN rights boss that Bangladeshi media enjoys the highest level of freedom and he placed a list of 3,154 newspapers, 50 TV stations, 27 FM radio stations and other media.

He said that social media disseminates information about everything they have and that is why the Digital Security Act was enacted.

“Only 3% of the cases were filed by the state,” he said, adding, “As the Attorney General has instructed us to use the law more carefully and we are following the instructions.”

The UN rights chief inquired about the CHT, and the minister replied that the government was delivering on the promises made in the 1997 agreement by gradually resolving the land dispute through consultation and employing the police to maintain peace and order in the region.

According to Asaduzzaman, the NGO provided falsified information on missing persons during the Hefajat-e-Islam protest in May 2013, and it also failed to share the audit report with the government.

During his meeting, Minister of Justice Anisul Huq briefed the High Commissioner on the progress made in revising the Digital Security Law.

After his meeting with Bachelet, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the UN rights chief raised issues relating to press freedom and civil society.

He said that the UN side had stressed that there was no freedom of the press and there was no civil society.

“They think the press has no freedom here and the government is imposing censorship,” Momen said.

The Minister of Education, Dipu Moni, informed Mrs. Bachelet of the measures taken by the government to ensure quality education.

Later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a press release, said High Commissioner Bachelet appreciated Bangladesh’s regular reporting to human rights treaty bodies and suggested a mechanism to further streamline this.

Bachelet is expected to hold a series of meetings with government officials, youth representatives, civil society leaders and academics in Dhaka and meet forcibly displaced Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar during his visit.

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Arrest of Zimbabwean journalists ‘out of step’ with press freedom standards https://guwiv.com/arrest-of-zimbabwean-journalists-out-of-step-with-press-freedom-standards/ Mon, 08 Aug 2022 22:58:15 +0000 https://guwiv.com/arrest-of-zimbabwean-journalists-out-of-step-with-press-freedom-standards/ HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Zimbabwe has charged two journalists under its Cybercrimes Act, which media advocates say goes against global trends of supporting and promoting press freedom. Harare police have charged two journalists from the national newspaper, news dayunder provisions of the National Cybersecurity and Data Protection Act that cover “false data messages”. Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi […]]]>

Zimbabwe has charged two journalists under its Cybercrimes Act, which media advocates say goes against global trends of supporting and promoting press freedom.

Harare police have charged two journalists from the national newspaper, news dayunder provisions of the National Cybersecurity and Data Protection Act that cover “false data messages”.

Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and senior reporter Desmond Chingarande were asked last week about their coverage of a legal dispute involving local authorities and a memorial park in Harare.

A screenshot from the News Day website shows the story of the newspaper’s editor and reporter being arrested. News Day is published in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Both deny the charge and Chingarande said he was surprised when the police called.

“They allege that I posted a false statement on the internet, but I view this as an intimidation tactic. There have been allegations that they were burying people in a part of Glen Forest Memorial Park called Chikomo Chemhute, which is located at the confluence of the Mazowe River, without the approval of the responsible ministries,” he said.

Chingarande said he sought comment from all sides of the story before posting it. But, with the story now part of a police case, he says he is unable to say much more.

Mdzungairi and Chingarande are the first journalists charged under new provisions of the Cyber ​​Security Act Zimbabwe enacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa said such laws are a way to target journalists and citizens.

Tabani Moyo, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, is seen in a photo from March 2022. (Colomb Mavhunga/VOA)

Tabani Moyo, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, is seen in a photo from March 2022. (Colomb Mavhunga/VOA)

Tabani Moyo, who heads the regional media watchdog, said: “These are some of the challenges we continue to have in Zimbabwe, where we are making progress in repealing acts such as the freedom of information and protection of privacy, then government claw(s) revert to using other pieces of legislation to keep things that will further target journalists Have criminal or sedition provisions in our collections of laws that target journalists [is] so out of step with global trends towards the promotion and protection of media and journalistic expression.

Zimbabwe is not alone in passing such laws, Moyo said. Zambia, Eswatini and Tanzania have enacted cybersecurity laws and Namibia and Lesotho are in the process of finalizing similar legislation.

Moyo says harsh sentences, including up to 20 years in prison for those deemed to have shared fake news, go against democratic standards.

A screenshot from the News Day website shows the story of the newspaper's editor and reporter being arrested.  News Day is published in Harare, Zimbabwe.

A screenshot from the News Day website shows the story of the newspaper’s editor and reporter being arrested. News Day is published in Harare, Zimbabwe.

“It is anathema to democratic existence and out of step with our own constitution which provides for freedom of expression and freedom of the media, also violating international and regional conventions and tools,” Moyo said.

Ruby Magosvongwe, chairwoman of the Zimbabwe Media Commission – a government-appointed body to promote and protect journalism – said she was aware of concerns about violations against the media.

Speaking at a conference on journalists’ safety, organized by UNESCO and media watchdogs in Africa on Friday, she called on the government to get more involved in complaints about attacks on the media.

“My wish, my desire, is that in the future we include our line ministries so that they get the first hand reports, as they provide the link between us as media institutions, media entities, with respective governments across the continent, across Africa, because examples have been given where journalists have suffered violence, but if line ministries are not involved, it becomes a kind of conspiracy,” said Magosvongwe.

For News Day reporters Mdzungairi and Chingarande, they are now waiting to hear from court officials on when a trial in their case will take place.

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Zimbabwe: Arrest of Journalists ‘Out of Line’ with Press Freedom Standards https://guwiv.com/zimbabwe-arrest-of-journalists-out-of-line-with-press-freedom-standards/ Mon, 08 Aug 2022 07:00:00 +0000 https://guwiv.com/zimbabwe-arrest-of-journalists-out-of-line-with-press-freedom-standards/ Harare – Zimbabwe has charged two journalists under its Cybercrimes Act in a decision that media advocates say runs counter to global trends supporting and promoting press freedom. Harare Police have charged two journalists from the national newspaper, News Day, under provisions of the national Cybersecurity and Data Protection Act which cover “false data messages”. […]]]>

Harare – Zimbabwe has charged two journalists under its Cybercrimes Act in a decision that media advocates say runs counter to global trends supporting and promoting press freedom.

Harare Police have charged two journalists from the national newspaper, News Day, under provisions of the national Cybersecurity and Data Protection Act which cover “false data messages”.

Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and senior reporter Desmond Chingarande were asked last week about their coverage of a legal dispute involving local authorities and a memorial park in Harare.

Both deny the charge and Chingarande said he was surprised when the police called.

“They allege that I posted a false statement on the internet, but I view this as an intimidation tactic. There have been allegations that they were burying people in a part of Glen Forest Memorial Park called Chikomo Chemhute, which is located at the confluence of the Mazowe River, without the approval of the responsible ministries,” he said.

Chingarande said he sought comment from all sides of the story before posting it. But, with the story now part of a police case, he says he is unable to say much more.

Mdzungairi and Chingarande are the first journalists charged under new provisions of the Cyber ​​Security Act Zimbabwe enacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa said such laws are a way to target journalists and citizens.

Tabani Moyo, who heads the regional media watchdog, said: “These are some of the challenges we continue to have in Zimbabwe, where we are making progress in repealing acts such as the freedom of information and protection of privacy, then the claw of government(s) revert to using other pieces of legislation to retain elements that will further target journalists Having criminal or sedition provisions in our collections of laws that target journalists [is] so out of step with global trends towards the promotion and protection of media and journalistic expression.”

Zimbabwe is not alone in passing such laws, Moyo said. Zambia, Eswatini and Tanzania have enacted cybersecurity laws and Namibia and Lesotho are in the process of finalizing similar legislation.

Moyo says harsh sentences, including up to 20 years in prison for those deemed to have shared fake news, go against democratic standards.

“It is anathema to democratic existence and out of step with our own constitution which provides for freedom of expression and freedom of the media, also violating international and regional conventions and tools,” Moyo said.