Saturday, September 17, 2011

NUSOJ Condemns Journalists’ Labeling by Al-Shabaab

  • NUSOJ Condemns Journalists’ Labeling by Al-Shabaab 
  • Journalists continue to be targeted in Somaliland  
  • Detention of Sub-Saharan African Refugees and Migrants in Libya  
  • Freedom for Kenyan activist charged over Uganda bombing  
  • UNESCO promotes freedom of expression ahead of elections in Liberia  
  • Chadian students to face trial over protest pamphlets  
  • Launch of the Report “Rolling Back Malaria: A Decade of Partnership and Results” 
 Plus more on Africa......

NUSOJ Condemns Journalists’ Labeling by Al-Shabaab
 The National Union of Somali journalists (NUSOJ) has on September 13, 2011 condemned statement from a prominent cleric linked to the leadership of Somali extremist group Al Shabaab, Sheikh Abdulqadir Muumin, for labeling Somali journalists as “unbelievers” who had been “sentenced to death”.
Sheik Abdulqadir, while addressing Al Shabaab followers on Saturday 10 September 2011, in Lower Shabelle region of Southern Somalia, referred to local journalists as “unbelievers” and discouraged the group’s followers not to listen to their radio broadcasts.
“You listen to the radio stations but they tell you lies,” he said. “The journalists of BBC, VOA, Radio Mogadishu and other radio stations are apostates and you are not allowed to listen to someone who is sentenced to death,” Sheikh Abdulqadir added. He ardently and repeatedly told the militia’s followers not to listen to all radio stations in Mogadishu including BBC Somali Service, VOA Somali section and Radio Mogadishu.
NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said the statement constituted “a deadly threat to the journalists in Somalia and part of the attempts by the militia to cow the media into silence”.
“Journalists in Somalia will not be cowed by such deadly threats and intimidation and we urge them to continue doing their work of informing the world about the atrocities being perpetrated by the militia and other such terror groups in Somalia,” said Osman.
Al Shabaab militants often label anyone they want to kill as “apostate”. Many journalists in Somalia have been murdered by members of the militia, especially in Mogadishu in the past. Source: National Union of Somali journalists (NUSOJ)

Journalists continue to be targeted in Somaliland
Authorities in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland are obstructing independent journalists from covering government politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on September 13, 2011. Four reporters have been harassed and arrested while on assignment since early September.
 “Somaliland authorities must end this crackdown on independent reporting,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “The government must stop harassing journalists and uphold its campaign pledge made last year to support press freedom.”
On Saturday, officers of Somaliland police Special Protection Unit in the capital, Hargeisa, prevented journalists with the private press from covering the swearing-in ceremony of the new interior minister, Mohamed Nur, local reports said. When reporter Saleban Abdi Ali of the independent weekly Waheen began to protest, officers beat him with the butt of their guns and detained him at the Hargeisa Central Police Station for roughly four hours, local journalists said. Ali sustained light injuries.
On September 5, in Burao, Somaliland’s second largest city, police arrested Waheen reporter Ahmed Muse and detained him for a week without charge, local journalists said. Muse’s colleagues said he was arrested because of a story he wrote on a purported dispute between Yasin Mohamed, the Toghdeer region governor, and regional officials in the sports ministry. Police also questioned reporter Mahad Abdullahi on September 5 over a similar report published in Ogaal, a Hargeisa-based weekly, according to local reports. Authorities released Muse on bail from Burao prison on Sunday. Abdullahi was released after several hours.
Also on September 5, police detained Waheen reporter Ali Ismail in Borama town, northern Somaliland, for several hours and released him without charge, local journalists said. Ismail had attempted to investigate reports of the local government physically removing the office doors of businesses who failed pay taxes.
Waheen has been targeted by the government before. In January, Somaliland authorities sentenced Waheen editor Mohamud Abdi Jama without bail for defamation and “spreading false news” in a 2010 story alleging public corruption. Jama was granted a presidential pardon the following month. Local journalists told CPJ they suspected the arrest was an attempt to intimidate the newspaper. Source: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Detention of Sub-Saharan African Refugees and Migrants in Libya

A press statement from Victoria Nuland, US State Department Spokesperson stated that the United States is deeply concerned about reports of arbitrary detention and abuse of sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees.
We also understand that some Libyans are also being victimized based on the color of their skin. Nobody should be detained or harassed due to the color of their skin or their nationality, and measures must be taken to protect individuals from acts of violence.
We have welcomed the Transitional National Council’s (TNC) assurances of their commitment to safeguard the well-being of individuals throughout Libya and the TNC leadership’s cooperation with those international agencies engaged in identifying and assisting those at risk and/or detained, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration. We look forward to prompt implementation of these measures.

The United States is working with its international partners to facilitate safe passage out of Libya for those foreign nationals, including sub-Saharan African migrants, who wish to depart for their own safety. Source: US Department of State

Freedom for Kenyan activist charged over Uganda bombing
The release of a Kenyan human rights activist held for a year in connection with a bomb attack in Uganda is long overdue, Amnesty International said on September 13, 2011.
The charges against NGO director Al-Amin Kimathi and four other defendants were dropped today at the start of their trial.
Kimathi was arrested a year ago after he travelled to Uganda to observe the trial of six Kenyans charged in connection with the July bomb attacks in Kampala, which killed 76 people who were watching the 2010 World Cup final.
“It’s a relief that Al-Amin Kimathi has been released, although it is long overdue,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Programme director.
“The fact he was held for nearly a year without the authorities ever producing any specific evidence against him strongly suggests that the terrorism charges were simply a pretext to detain him for carrying out his human rights work.”
Al-Amin Kimathi was detained, along with Kenyan lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, on 15 September 2010 after the two travelled to Uganda to observe the court hearing of six terror suspects.
Mureithi was released after three days and deported to Kenya. Kimathi, head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, was held incommunicado for six days before being charged with terrorism and murder on 21 September.
He spent almost a year in pre-trial detention, during which time the Ugandan authorities refused to provide him or his lawyers with any evidence against him.
The trial of the 14 remaining defendants on charges in connection with the bombings will go ahead in Kampala.
Over the past year, the Ugandan government has denied entry to, and deported, several human rights activists and lawyers who travelled to Uganda to monitor the case against Al-Amin Kimathi.
Authorities also restricted the work of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, in monitoring the treatment of Kimathi while in detention. Prison authorities refused to allow Amnesty International delegates’ access to Kimathi on four occasions.
The Muslim Human Rights Forum had challenged the legitimacy of the transfer to Uganda of several Kenyan suspects in the case.
“As it appears that no evidence has ever been, or will be, presented to justify Al-Amin Kimathi’s detention, the Ugandan authorities must ensure he has access to a prompt and effective remedy including compensation,” said Michelle Kagari. Source: Amnesty International

UNESCO promotes freedom of expression ahead of elections in Liberia
As Liberia’s second post-conflict legislative and presidential elections approach, the Strengthening Freedom of Information in the Mano River States project, financed by the Danish government and implemented by UNESCO, is striving to promote freedom of expression in this troubled region.
A free press depends on universal access to information and on the ability of media to operate independently. However, in Liberia, as a result of both logistical difficulties and the absence of an engrained culture of transparency, access to media and information is still limited: available mainly to people who live in or near the capital, Monrovia. Furthermore, the financial instability of the Liberian media industry means that journalists lack the hardware, training opportunities and remuneration, necessary to produce high quality journalism.
In cooperation with three partner organizations, the Liberia Media Centre (LMC), the Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) and the Washington-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), as well as ICFJ’s International Knight Journalism Fellow, Luisa Handem Piette, UNESCO is addressing these issues in a number of ways.
The Strengthening Freedom of Information in the Mano River States project coordinates advocacy and sensitization campaigns for legislators and journalists, increasing awareness of the importance of freedom of information. This includes training workshops in conflict-sensitive, non-partisan election and political reporting for journalists and media management mentoring schemes for Liberian media outlets. As Director of LMC, Lawrence Randall explains, ‘the project also incentivizes non-partisan journalism through the provision of hardware for conducting interviews and capturing images, Internet access and a free call for the exchange of election news and information’. Finally, this initiative will ensure that comprehensive media monitoring takes place during the October 2011 elections, providing an early warning system for conflict and violence, and increasing the pressure on media owners and editors to ensure the quality of their output.
In the words of Director of ICFJ’s Knight International Journalism Fellowships, Elisa Tinsley, ‘the biggest challenge ahead of the October 2011 elections is getting accurate and balanced information, mainly through the radio, to the 75% of people who live outside of Monrovia’. Balanced coverage can play an important role in ensuring free and fair elections.
Liberia has recently become the first West African country to enact a Freedom of Information law. Its media landscape is one ripe with possibilities for the future. Indeed, UNESCO’s activities there provide an excellent opportunity to pilot initiatives which may then be implemented in the wider Mano River region (which encompasses Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire).
With this in mind, a conference bringing together media representatives, legislators and international experts is scheduled for the next year. This will allow for an exchange of experiences as each of the countries grapple with different issues related to freedom of information and expression in post-conflict environment. Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO

Chadian students to face trial over protest pamphlets
Chadian authorities must immediately release two students who have been held for four months for allegedly trying to organize pro-reform protests, Amnesty International said on September 12, 2011 ahead of a fresh court hearing this week.
Bebkika Passoua Alexis and Nedoumbayel Nekaou were arrested in May at a bus station in the capital N’Djamena for allegedly carrying documents calling for Chadians to organize demonstrations inspired by protests earlier this year in Tunisia and Egypt.
“If these students are being held merely on suspicion of supporting peaceful protests, we would consider them to be prisoners of conscience and they must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Erwin Van Der Borght, Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Chadian authorities must carry out a full investigation into allegations they were tortured in custody, and bring those responsible to justice.”
The students were first arrested and detained incommunicado by the Chadian security service before being transferred to the N’Djamena central prison, where they are reportedly suffering from a contagious eye disease and a serious skin disease.
The trial proceedings on the students’ case have been postponed three times after National Security Agency officials failed to appear in court to testify, and a new trial date has been scheduled for 15 September.
Chadian security services allegedly found two documents – A letter to the youth and Enough is Enough – in their possession, which called for young people to organize demonstrations against President Idriss Deby Itno’s rule. The documents made references to the pro-reform protests that resulted in leaders stepping down in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.
According to the N’Djamena Prosecutor’s Office, the two students have been charged with a “provocation directly linked to an unarmed demonstration.” Although no demonstration took place, if a court finds them guilty they could still face up to six months in jail under Chadian law.
“We have seen copies of the documents in question and we consider that the content would fall under what is permissible under the right to freedom of expression. This is a blatant attempt by the authorities to prolong the students’ detention using what appear to be politically motivated charges,” said Erwin van der Borght.
“Chadian authorities must uphold its citizens’ freedom to express opinions, even if they differ from those of the government.” Source: Amnesty International

Launch of the Report “Rolling Back Malaria: A Decade of Partnership and Results”
The United Nations (UN) Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, particularly in Africa, established in 2001, will conclude this year.
 In this context, the Secretary-General, Banki Moon launched a report on 13th September, 2011 titled “A Decade of Partnership and Results”. A regional launch was also held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi on the same day, in cooperation with the Kenyan Ministry of Health. 
The report takes stock of achievements and gives direction to the anti-malaria community for the next five years. The report is the most comprehensive document to date, providing robust, evidence-based calls for action and outlining examples of remarkable achievements and lessons learnt. Source: UNITED NATIONS

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