Tag Archives: freedom of press

EU on Apple Daily’s Hong Kong operations

Brussels 23.06.2021 “The closure of Apple Daily’s Hong Kong (pictured) operations clearly shows how the National Security Law imposed by Beijing is being used to stifle freedom of the press and the free expression of opinions. Its closing seriously undermines media freedom and pluralism, which are essential for any open and free society. The erosion of press freedom is also counter to Hong Kong’s aspirations as an international business hub” reads the statement of Statement by the European External Action Service Spokesperson.

“The European Union recalls that these freedoms are enshrined in the Basic Law, and that China made international commitments under the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms, including freedom of the press. All rights enshrined in the Basic Law under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle should be fully protected and restored”.

Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy paper Apple Daily has announced its closure, in a serious blow to the freedom of press.

The publication’s offices were raided last week over allegations that several reports published recently had breached a controversial national security law.

Company-linked assets worth HK$18m ($2.3m; £1.64m) were later frozen. Police also detained its chief editor and five other executives. The tabloid has been critical of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership.
Its founder Jimmy Lai is already in jail on a number of charges.

The paper’s management said that “in view of staff members’ safety”, it had decided “to cease operation immediately after midnight” – making Thursday’s publication the final printed edition.

EU: Belarus Ambassador summoned

Brussels 24.05.2021 Upon request by High Representative Josep Borrell, the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino, summoned the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the European Union, Aleksandr Mikhnevich, to condemn the inadmissible step of the Belarusian authorities, who forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk and detained its passenger Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent Belarusian journalist and activist.

Ambassador Mikhnevich was informed of the firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU Member States of the coercive act by which the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew.

Secretary-General Sannino conveyed the EU’s position that the outrageous action by Belarusian authorities constitute another blatant attempt to silence all opposition voices in the country and demanded the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich.

Yesterday’s unacceptable act will be raised at today’s meeting of the European Council. The EU will consider the consequences of these actions, including possible measures against those responsible.

Borrell demands release of Protasevich

Brussels 24.05.2021 Belarus: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 to Minsk on 23 May 2021:

“On 23 May, the Belarusian authorities, in an inadmissible step, forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk. The plane, owned by an EU company, flying between two EU capitals and carrying more than 100 passengers, was forced to land by a Belarusian military aircraft.

“One of the flight passengers, Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent journalist from Belarus, was retained by the Belarusian authorities and prevented from boarding the plane at the Minsk airport to its original destination. This is yet another blatant attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices.

“We call for the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich.

“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew. An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules.

“This situation will be raised at the upcoming meeting of the European Council. The EU will consider the consequences of this action, including taking measures against those responsible”.

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force landing by a fighter jet MiG29. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich is a co-founder and a former editor of the NEXTA online channel on the social media platform Telegram, which has become a popular communication medium for Lukashenko’s opponents to share information and organise demonstrations against the government.

The journalist fled the Belarus in 2019, fearing arrest, and imprisonment, but he has continued to criticise Lukashenko’s regime while living in exile in Lithuania, so much so that he was charged in absentia with public disorder and social hatred in November last year.

As a teenager, Protasevich became a dissident, first drawing scrutiny from law enforcement. He was expelled from a prestigious school for participating in a protest rally in 2011 and later was expelled from the journalism program of the Minsk State University.

The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the KGB, placed Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists. If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

The charges of inciting public disorder and social hatred carry a punishment of more than 12 years in prison.

World Press Freedom Day

Brussels 03.05.2021 This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind. The theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development.

World Press Freedom Day- In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of the violations of press freedom. It is a reminder that publications and social media are censored, fined, suspended, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked and even killed worldwide.

Mogherini concerned with disinformation

The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini (pictured) stepped forward with the declaration on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2019. In the declaration a considerable attention has been devoted to the the problem of “disinformation”, especially in the context of the upcoming European elections.

“On World Press Freedom Day we celebrate the essential role of a free press not only as a conveyer of reliable and accurate news, but as a pillar of democracy. The quality of democratic processes is linked to the state of freedom of expression as well as media freedom and pluralism. There is no democracy without a truly free press.

“While bearing the great responsibility to guarantee checked and correct news to the public, free, diverse and independent media are at the very same basis of a pluralistic and open society. Investigative journalism fulfills a necessary watchdog role that assists the public in holding governments and institutions, at all level, accountable for their actions and obligations. However, we see more and more attempts to curb the space for free media, also by systematically undermining their credibility, and too many journalists have lost their lives or have put their lives at risk for having exposed inconvenient truths.

“This year’s 26th worldwide commemoration addresses the current challenges faced by the media in elections in times of disinformation, as well as the media’s potential to support democracy, peace and reconciliation. Disinformation has a high potential to negatively influence democratic processes and public debates all over the world, and the European Union makes no exception.

“This is why we have launched the ‘EU Action Plan against Disinformation’, that steps up the European response to strengthen the resilience of our societies against disinformation. The Plan focuses on improving detection of disinformation, coordinating and joining up actions by the Union and Member States, mobilising the private sector to deliver on its commitments, raising public awareness and empowering citizens. Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate and it is our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy.

“The EU is promoting free and fair media not only at home but also globally in our relations with third countries, including by providing funding for targeted projects that enhance quality journalism, press freedom and access to public information.  With free journalism under increasing pressure, the EU reaffirms its determination to defend press and media freedom within its borders and worldwide.”

RSF: press freedom declines

2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) illustrates how hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media.

If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.

Norway is ranked first in the 2019 Index for the third year running while Finland (up two places) has taken second place from the Netherlands (down one at 4th), where two reporters who cover organized crime have had to live under permanent police protection. An increase in cyber-harassment caused Sweden (third) to lose one place.

Russia  went down one at 149th, where the Kremlin has used arrests, arbitrary searches and draconian laws to step up the pressure on independent media and the Internet.

At the bottom of the Index, both Vietnam (176th) and China (177th) have fallen one place, Eritrea (up 1 at 178th) is third from last, despite making peace with its neighboring Ethiopia, and Turkmenistan (down two at 180th) is now last, replacing North Korea (up one at 179th).

A considerable blow to the freedom of press was added in France: during the manifestations of Yellow Vests reporters were confronted with police violence.

MEPs to report on EU freedom of press

MEPs of the Civil Liberties Committee will monitor and report in the coming months on the situation of rule of law in the EU, with a specific focus on corruption and freedom of the press.

The Committee has set up a Rule of Law monitoring group (ROLMG), chaired by Sophia in ‘t Veld (ALDE, NL), which will build on the two ad hoc EP visits to Malta (December 2017) and Slovakia (March 2018) following the murders of the Maltese blogger and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.

MEPs will also follow up of the conclusions and recommendations adopted by plenary in its resolutions on Malta (15 November 2017) and Slovakia (19 April 2018).

The European Parliament is concerned about the lack of progress in both murder investigations, repeated claims of harassment and intimidation of journalists and persistent allegations of corruption and fraud. The aim of the new monitoring group is to give full support to all efforts to seek justice and make sure the rule of law prevails.

The group’s mandate, until 31 December, foresees the possibility of hearings, meetings, fact finding missions, reporting back to the European Parliament and the adoption of a final resolution.

The group will be chaired by Sophia in ‘t Veld (ALDE, NL). Other members will be Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT), Josef Weidenholzer (S&D, AT),  Judith Sargentini (Greens, NL), Laura Ferrara (EFDD, IT), and Auke Zijlstra (ENF, NL). The representatives of ECR and GUE have not been appointed yet.

Reporters without Borders condemn Babchenko fake news

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the distressing simulation of Russian exile journalist Arkady Babchenko’s murder, which was done with the aim of unmasking those who wanted to kill him, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) claimed today.

A day after he was reportedly gunned down at the entrance to his Kiev apartment building, Babchenko was very much alive when he appeared at a press conference organized by the SBU today in Kiev.

He said he was told a month ago that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was planning to kill him and he had no choice but to cooperate in the SBU’s simulation of his death. He apologized to members of his family who were not in the know.

SBU chief Vasil Gritsak said that, thanks to this operation, they were able to arrest the Ukrainian citizen who was recruited by the FSB to organize Babchenko’s murder, and to prevent the deaths of 30 other persons who were in the sights of the Russian authorities.

“This journalist’s reappearance is a great relief but it was distressing and regrettable that the Security Service of Ukraine played with the truth,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Was such a scheme really necessary? There can be no grounds for faking a journalist’s death.”

According to reports confirmed yesterday by the Ukrainian police, the 41-year-old journalist died while being rushed to hospital from the injuries he received when he was shot three times in the back as he was returning to his Kiev apartment.

An outspoken critic of the Russian government since its annexation of Crimea in 2014, Babchenko has often received death threats on social networks. Fearing for his safety after Russian state TV channels launched a campaign against him, he fled to Prague in February 2017 but moved to Kiev a few months later and has been hosting a programme there on the Tatar TV channel ATR since last October.

Ukraine is ranked 101st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

 

 

Journalists killed in Kabul suicide blast

Two suicide blast at rush hour in Kabul claimed lives of more than 20 people, and left many injured. In a first explosion, a suicide bomber detonated himself close to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the main Afghan intelligence agency, TOLOnews reported quoting official sources.

In another explosion that followed 20 minutes later, a second suicide bomber targeted emergency medical workers and journalists who had arrived at the scene.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghan medid said ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd of press, rushing to the place of the first attack.
AFP chief photographer Shah Marai (pictured) three other journalists were among 21 killed in two suicide blasts in Kabul.

 

Russia to retaliate for USA “pressure” on RT TV

Russia is within its rights to restrict the operations of U.S. media organizations in Russia in retaliation for what Moscow calls U.S. pressure on a Kremlin-backed TV station, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Russian officials have accused Washington of putting unwarranted pressure on the U.S. operations of RT, a Kremlin-funded broadcaster accused by some in Washington of interfering in domestic U.S. politics, which it denies.

The foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the full weight of the U.S. authorities was being brought to bear against RT’s operations in the United States, and that Moscow had the right to respond.

 “We have never used Russian law in relation to foreign correspondents as a lever of pressure, or censorship, or some kind of political influence, never,” Zakharova said in an interview with Russia’s NTV broadcaster. “But this is a particular case.”

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