Sunday, October 2, 2011

NUSOJ welcomes AU apology over Malaysian journalist’s killing

Senegal Singer N'Dour

NUSOJ welcomes AU apology over Malaysian journalist’s killing
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) on September 27 welcomed the apology tendered by the African Union (AU) over the killing of a Malaysian Journalist, Noramfaizul Mohd Nor, and the injuring of another, Aziz Reza Mazlan, on September 2, 2011 in Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) deployed to keep peace in Somalia.

The apology came following an investigation into the incident after the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (SRCC) and Head of Mission, Ambassador Boubacar Diarra immediately ordered an investigation into the incident in line with appropriate African Union procedures, an AU statement said. “The Board of Inquiry (BOI) established that four soldiers were involved in the shooting at the Hajji Doole Junction on Airport Road and recommended that the four soldiers, from the Burundi contingent, be brought to trial according to their country’s military and judicial processes. The four soldiers have been suspended from duty to allow for further proceedings following recommendations by BOI”.
However, NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said while the AMISOM apology was welcome, it was “urgent that a similar intervention be undertaken to probe the peace keepers role in the alleged killing of a Somali journalist, Farah Hassan Sahal, on 4 August 2011, at Mogadishu’s Bakara market.
Sahal, 45, who was working for the privately owned Radio Simba as a newscaster, was shot in the head and chest at the gate of the Radio station, as he and two of his colleagues tried to move the media house equipment to a safer area after the Radio station became a battlefield between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces with the support of African Union troops (AMISOM) and Al-Shabaab Islamists forces.
NUSOJ quoted eyewitnesses to have said “the journalist was shot at point blank range by a soldier believed to have been part of AMISON forces at Hareed mosque.”  
“We demand equal treatment of the two incidents in which journalists lost their lives and urges an urgent probe into the shooting of the Somali journalist and the taking of appropriate action against the soldiers who may have committed the heinous act,” added Osman who is also the President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ).
NUSOJ said the killings of journalists, be they from Somalia, Africa or any part of the world, more so by a legally established security force such as AMISOM, was unacceptable and deserved urgent probing and appropriate action. Source: NUSOJ

Journalists face threats in covering Isaac imprisonment in Eritrea
A Sweden-based journalist was publicly threatened Friday in connection with her reporting on the case of Dawit Isaac, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who has been imprisoned in Eritrea for a decade without charge, according to news reports and CPJ interviews.
A day earlier in New York, bodyguards for the Eritrean leader Isaias Afewerki pushed and threatened two Swedish journalists seeking to speak to the president about the Isaac case, the journalists said.
Meron Estefanos, a contributor to the leading Eritrean diaspora news site Asmarino, was confronted Friday by Tedros Isaac, a brother of the detained journalist whose strong support of Afewerki is extensively documented, after a public forum on the Isaac case at the Gothenburg Book Fair in Sweden.
“You mention my name and write about Dawit Isaac’s family one more time I’ll cut your throat,” witnesses and Swedish Radio SR quoted Tedros Isaac as telling Estefanos. In a 2010 column published on Asmarino, Estefanos wrote about the deep political divisions that have split Eritrean families into pro- and anti-government camps. In the column, Estefanos had contrasted Tedros Isaac’s ongoing support for the government that arrested his brother with the extensive advocacy to free the journalist that has been undertaken by other brothers.
Sweden’s Expressen newspaper reported Friday that Estefanos had given a statement to the police and quoted Thomas Fuxborg, a local police spokesman, as saying that a preliminary police report had been written.
“The confrontation occurred on the 10th anniversary of Isaac’s September 23, 2001, arrest. Detained in a broad crackdown on independent journalism, he has been held without charge or trial since that time, with only brief contact with his family in 2005,” the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on September 27. “Estefanos, who spoke at Friday’s forum, has been one of the leading activists in Sweden campaigning for the release of Isaac and other political prisoners in Eritrea. At least 17 journalists are now being held in Eritrea prisons.”
A statement released by the Gothenburg Book Fair and signed by Nobel Prize laureates Mario Vargas Llosa and Herta Müller, as well as John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, called on Sweden and the European Union to take a tougher approach toward Eritrea to secure Isaac’s release. CPJ research shows the Eritrean government has used agents and proxies to intimidate the country’s exile press.
A day earlier in New York, bodyguards for Eritrean President Afewerki roughed up and threatened two Swedish journalists seeking to ask the president questions about Isaac, according to CPJ interviews. “I got an elbow in the stomach,” Mats Larsson, U.S. correspondent of Expressen newspaper, told CPJ, describing how he and photographer Axel Oberg were pushed aside after they approached the president as he walked near United Nations headquarters. When Oberg later tried to take photos of Afewerki, the journalist told CPJ, another bodyguard attempted to seize his camera and made hand signals as if to slit his throat.
“We’re relieved that Swedish police are investigating the reported threats against Meron Estefanos,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “It’s disturbing that bodyguards for President Afewerki tried to intimidate journalists Mats Larsson and Axel Oberg in New York. There is no place for threats against reporters trying to do their jobs.” Source: CPJ

Over 2000 Internet experts and users gathered to examine international Internet governance challenges
In 2010, 143 countries commercially offered 3G services compared to 95 in 2007. Internet access at home has increased from 1.4 billion in 2009 to almost 1.6 billion in 2010. Mobile cellular growth in developing world increased from 53 per cent in 2005 to 73 per cent in 2010
Over 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries, representing a multi-stakeholder community of Governments, the private sector, civil society, the Internet community, international organizations and the media, on September 27 converged in Nairobi, Kenya to examine cross-border Internet governance challenges at the sixth meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), starting today till Friday, 30 September 2011. The Nairobi meeting of the IGF is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.
This year the annual meeting IGF has as its main theme: “The Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation.” The many dimensions of this theme have been thrown into sharp relief, for example, by political turmoil and changes this past year in North Africa and the Middle East and, an unprecedented exposure of confidential cables from the US embassies across the globe by WikiLeaks.
“Throughout the world, increased access to the Internet has brought about new development opportunities, freedoms and innovations. Across each country, individuals, communities, and society at large have enjoyed differentiated rights to these opportunities and this has fueled a global debate on the nature of these freedoms,” a statement from the United Nations Department of Public Information said on Monday.
“Building on the momentum of previous years, this year’s IGF will help set the agenda for a way forward on Internet governance. The world is relentlessly adopting the information and communication technologies and the discussions around Internet governance have become ever more crucial in setting the agenda and solidifying the Internet as a catalyst for positive change.”
The growth in access to and use of the Internet has brought about new challenges – challenges which attract profound public policy debates. The issues that have arisen are genuinely global in their importance as well as national and local. The IGF process has been in the vanguard of bringing together the global policy community with regard to Internet governance and is shaping a truly global agenda.
There has been an increase in access, for example: 
       • In some countries, more than 80 per cent of households have Internet access, almost all of them through a broadband connection and many of them through mobile networks.
  • The developing world increased its share of mobile subscriptions from 53 percent in 2005 to 73 percent in 2010.      
       • Access to mobile networks is now available to 90 per cent of the world’s population and 80 per cent of the rural area population. 
       • It is estimated that the number of people with the Internet access at home has increased from 1.4 billion in 2009 to almost 1.6 billion in 2010. 
       • In Kenya, over 60 per cent of the population uses a mobile phone and there are 4.7 million Internet subscribers with the vast majority gaining access via mobile devices. 
       • Kenya is known for highly advanced mobile banking services that have brought financial services to much of the population for the first time.
The debate in Nairobi will continue to refine understanding of the appropriate local and international institutional arrangements. Discussion on security, openness and privacy will highlight the increasing number of young Internet users, in addition to internet security, cybercrime and cloud governance in an attempt to make the Internet sustainable and a tool for positive change. The potential of the Internet rests, in part, on the availability and use of critical Internet resources and, hence, one of the key issues to be discussed will be the adoption and diffusion of IPv6. The debates on access and diversity will also lead delegates to think in terms of ensuring the Internet as a meaningful tool for development, freedoms and innovations.
A cross cutting theme of the Internet Governance Forum, since its inception, has been Development. The meeting in Nairobi will place renewed emphasis on this theme and the meeting will generate discussion on the relationship between Internet governance and development and how the Internet can foster economic growth, freedoms and innovation; for example through improved education and knowledge while empowering citizens.
Internet governance and the spread of ICTs offer both opportunities and also create challenges for development. Therefore, the rise in access to the Internet means that the debates over fixed versus mobile access have been eclipsed by more profound issues – such as the need to analyze specific global Internet governance issues relevant to development, and to determine how to promote capacity building in critical Internet resources and to foster innovation while addressing cross-border Internet security issues.
According to the United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General, Mr. Thomas Stelzer: “The IGF encourages open discussions on emerging issues such as cloud computing services for development, Internet governance in Africa and digital technologies for civic engagement and political change. More and better information can bring public value and greater transparency in public life. More information freely available enriches people’s lives and contributes to better governance (e.g. more informed public debate, and strengthened transparency of government and business). But we also know that digital literacy is a key element in ensuring that better information leads to a more inclusive society and helping all realize the development potential offered by the Internet.”
He said the IGF provides an open and inclusive dialogue and an opportunity to create new dynamics between participating institutions, “…through information exchange, best practices, while risks and challenges are addressed and a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities is bolstered – which is valuable for all players involved.”
The Internet Governance Forum is an outcome of the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, which took place in 2005. In the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, Governments asked the United Nations Secretary-General to convene a new forum for policy dialogue to discuss issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development.
The Internet Governance Forum is not a decision-making body, but rather a space for dialogue where all participants are equal in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet. While there will be no negotiated outcome, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors.
The UN Department of Public Information noted that the IGF is also a space that gives developing countries the same opportunity as wealthier nations to engage in the debate on Internet governance and to facilitate their participation in existing institutions and arrangements. Ultimately, the involvement of all stakeholders, from developed as well as developing countries, is necessary for the future advancement of the Internet.
Five previous meetings of the Forum have been held, in Athens, Greece in 2006; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2007; Hyderabad, India in 2008; Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in 2009; and Vilnius, Lithuania in 2010. The government of Kenya is the host for this year’s IGF.

Commonwealth Finance Ministers Call for Aid Reform
Commonwealth finance ministers, meeting in Washington DC on 21 September 2011, called on the international community to strengthen mutual accountability backed by transparency in delivery and use of aid, in order to make it effective in creating jobs, improving livelihoods and combating poverty.
A statement from the Commonwealth Secretariat said the ministers noted that the manner in which aid is delivered can impact domestic accountability of both partner and donor countries, and therefore said that there is need for greater openness and better tracking for both parties.
“We agreed that the achievement of results often hinges on factors beyond the control of partner countries and that care needs to be taken to prevent the escalation of conditionality for external assistance based on these results. We also recognised the inherent tensions which can emerge in the interplay between political systems and administrative and bureaucratic systems, each with differing expectations, processes and accountabilities,” said Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s Finance Minister who chaired the meeting.
The ministers noted that aid reforms have been uneven, with recent evidence signalling relatively stronger progress among partner countries, where reforms have taken hold and momentum sustained through political changes and through external crises; while with some noticeable exceptions, many donors have proved risk averse and reluctant to make a number of anticipated changes.
In his remark, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said that the Commonwealth contains an increasing share of the world’s poorest people, placing significant importance on the ability of the association’s poorest, smallest and most vulnerable members to secure reliable, consistent and additional sources of financing for development, including protecting existing flows of aid.
“The sustainability of such aid therefore remains crucial to the Commonwealth’s developing countries,” Mr Sharma said.
Ministers also discussed the role of the G20 – the group of the twenty most industrialised countries – in accelerating global recovery, and pointed out that while the G20 represents a systemically important group, it does not possess all the elements of a solution to global recovery.
“Many solutions can in fact be found in a wide range of other developing countries. The G20 has the responsibility to ensure that the voices of those not in the G20 are continuously heard, and the Commonwealth is well placed to reflect the views of these countries, particularly the smallest and most vulnerable, because of the organisation’s potential and effectiveness as a forum through which consensus on global policy issues can emerge,” Mr Gordhan said.
Ministers shared experiences in both providing and utilising existing sources of innovative finance for development, and noted that securing new funds is crucial for developing country members of the Commonwealth as they strive to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals targets by 2015. They noted that within the Commonwealth there are a wide range of examples of successful development and use of innovative finance instruments and practices, which deserved closer analysis and which offered the potential for scaling up and broadening the use of innovative finance instruments across the Commonwealth. Ministers agreed that the Commonwealth Secretariat will pursue a focused programme of work to widen the sharing of experience and knowledge within the Commonwealth on current and potential future sources of innovative finance for development.

(Reuters) - Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour has stepped up his drive to hold politicians in his West African country to account ahead of February elections that could fuel resentment against President Abdoulaye Wade's 11-year rule.
In a speech broadcast on the singer's television channel TFM (Television Futurs Medias) late on Wednesday, N'Dour said he wanted to stop politicians believing they could govern with impunity once in office.
"For my part, I've decided to get involved. I will not let the situation in my country, which I did not leave for other places, deteriorate," N'Dour said. "God willing, I will play my part."
N'Dour stressed he was not planning to run for office, but wanted to be of service to the Senegalese people and help them overcome their innumerable difficulties and challenges.
Senegal has long cherished its reputation as the region's most stable and democratic country and has had many peaceful elections since independence from France in 1960.
But there are increasing concerns over the concentration of power around octogenarian Wade, and growing frustrations over worsening public services and higher food prices.
Simmering resentment boiled over in June when Wade proposed cutting the score needed to win an election to 25 percent from 50 percent -- a level Wade's rivals said would have assured him a first-round victory against a fractured opposition.
Protesters, also enraged by chronic power cuts, clashed with riot police in the capital Dakar leaving more than 100 injured and forcing the president to back down.
One of Wade's chief rivals, former prime minister Macky Sall, said the attempt to rework the constitution amounted to "treason", and the main opposition party had said it would call for a popular uprising if the bill passed.
N'Dour is widely respected in Senegal for having stayed in his country, despite winning international acclaim and wealth thanks to hits such as "Seven Seconds" with Neneh Cherry.
He sparred with the government last year when he tried to launch the television channel, to add to his radio station and a daily newspaper that is often critical of the government.
The authorities initially denied N'Dour a broadcast licence saying the channel would be influenced by "foreigners" funding the station, prompting him to launch a movement called "Fekke Ma Ci Boole" (FMCB) in the Wolof language.
Loosely translated, the phrase means: "I'm taking part because I'm a witness."
The government backed down after N'Dour showed he was funding the channel without the help of foreign funds and it was launched in September last year.
N'Dour said in his speech that he wanted the FMCB movement to be a place for free and democratic expression, and a forum for presidential candidates and politicians to present their policies to voters.
"Swearing loyalty to my people ... I am and will remain by their side," he said. "I am prepared to respect my commitment to my compatriots and to defend myself against any attacks. I am determined."

Freedom House Condemns Crackdown on Peaceful WOZA Protest in Zimbabwe
Freedom House, a US-based freedom world freedom watchdog condemns the September 22 arrest of members of the Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) during a peaceful demonstration.
In a statement, Freedom House strongly condemns the continued crackdown on freedom of expression and other basic human rights by Zimbabwean authorities, saying it is concerned that those arrested face imminent danger of abuse and torture in prison and calls for their immediate release.
The demonstration, which took place in the Mhlahlandlela government complex, was to commemorate the International Day of Peace. WOZA was distributing leaflets and flowers when interrupted by nearly 50 riot police, who rounded up the group and beat them with batons, claiming they had “no permission” to march.
Police arrested 12 women, according to a lawyer from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, including WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magadonga Mahlangu.
“WOZA has been a frequent and brutal target of Zimbabwean authorities as a result of their legitimate activities that address many of the most crucial human rights issues facing Zimbabwean women, including domestic violence and rape, the rights to food and education for children, and the rights to participation and association,” Freedom House said. “The group has called for police to follow standards set out in the Police Act and has fought against corruption in parliament as well as sued the co-Ministers of Home Affairs over inhumane conditions in the Harare Central Police Station.”
“The horrific use of violence by police against peaceful demonstrators on a day intended to bring about peace is an unacceptable violation of the fundamental human rights of Zimbabweans, including freedom of speech and assembly. Freedom House is particularly concerned that ZANU-PF will follow through on threats to place these women in male prison wards,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Freedom House calls for the immediate release of all twelve women, and for the Zimbabwean authorities to halt its targeted assault on WOZA and like-minded organizations.”
State-sponsored political violence in Zimbabwe is a serious and chronic problem. Independent activists, politicians, and supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) continue to suffer from harassment, assault, and arbitrary detention by security forces and militias aligned with ZANU-PF.
“The nongovernmental sector in Zimbabwe is vibrant and resolute, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have faced increasing legal restrictions and extralegal harassment,” according to Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
In February 2011, 46 academics, students, and other onlookers were arrested, detained and tortured for allegedly planning a revolt against the government while watching a video of street demonstrations in Cairo. At a recent workshop for youth on politics, ZANU-PF militants ransacked the meeting and prevented U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, from addressing those assembled.
“Zimbabwe is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. Source: Freedom House

For more information on Zimbabwe, visit: Freedom in the World 2011: Zimbabwe; Freedom of the Press 2010: Zimbabwe; Freedom on the Net 2011: Zimbabwe; and Countries at the Crossroads 2010: Zimbabwe

 AU launches the Pan-African Media Network Project
The African Union (AU) and its partner, the Pan-African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI) who are committed to promoting freedom of expression, access to information and the practice of independent journalism, on 19th September, 2011 launch the Pan-African Media Network (PAMEN) in Cape Town, South Africa
The launch followed a September 17-20 Pan-African Conference on Access to Information in Cape Town. This major event brought together the cream of journalism in Africa and commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on freedom of expression.
The PAMEN platform is an African Union initiative, run by the African Forum for Media Development of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and the African Media Initiative (AMI). It will operate as a forum for exchange of information and practices among media professionals. It also aims to promote media development across Africa by fostering synergies between the initiatives of AU Member States, international institutions and development partners, including the media themselves.
The network will pool projects for media development in Africa. On the whole, the PAMEN will serve as a reliable source of information for the AU and its partners to enable them to evaluate and monitor the changing media landscape in Africa. The PAMEN will also be a strategic tool that will help the AU to formulate better policies on aid and support to the media on the continent.
A workshop was dedicated to the launch of PAMEN. It was held in partnership with the African Forum for Media Development of the GFMD, the AMI, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the Africa Bureau of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and others.
“The commitment of the African Union to respect democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance as well as the promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic development as enshrined in the Constitutive Act justifies the active participation of the organization at the PACAI,” according to a statement from the Directorate of Information and Communication. Source: AU


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