Google Ordered to Remove Anti-Muslim Video from YouTube

Posted February 28th, 2014 at 2:56 pm (UTC+0)
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Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in an anti-Islam movie that has spawned violent protests across the Muslim world, attends a news conference after a court hearing in Los AngelesI received an emailed press release today from Dr. Terry Jones, who I’ve interviewed in the past about his anti-Muslim sentiments.  For those who don’t know him, he is the controversial pastor from the U.S. state of Florida who helped promote the anti-Islamic video, Innocence of Muslims, which was posted on YouTube and caused a wave of angry protests across the Muslim world and death threats for the actors who claimed not to know what kind of film they were acting.

Dr. Jones is fuming; it seems that a California appeals court ordered that YouTube remove the video.  A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated a lawsuit filed against YouTube by Cindy Lee Garcia (pictured above), an actress who appeared briefly in the 2012 video.  She says she thought she was appearing in a film called “Desert Warrior,” and had she known it was a propaganda film that portrayed Muslims in a derogatory light, she would never have taken the job.

Paster Terry Jones, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 in New York.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Pastor Terry Jones, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

YouTube has until now refused to remove the video from its website, arguing that it would violate the company’s rights and protections of free speech.  YouTube also argued that because the makers of the film — not Ms. Garcia — own the rights to the film, they should be the ones to take down the video.

In his press release today, Dr. Jones exercised his own right to free speech:

“This is another example of the long arm of Islam and our spineless society that continues to bow to it,” he said.

He says his rights are being violated, calling the court’s decision “a gross violation of our First Amendment rights.”

Google Inc., which owns YouTube, removed the video, but the company isn’t happy about having been forced to do so.  It says it will appeal the ruling to a bigger court–and if all else fails, will go as high as the U.S. Supreme Court to try the case.

 

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Uganda: New Anti-Gay Law Could Cost Museveni Millions in Aid

Posted February 25th, 2014 at 1:43 pm (UTC+0)
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An asylum seeker from Uganda covers his face with a paper bag in order to protect his identity as he marches with the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force during the Gay Pride Parade in Boston, Massachusetts June 8, 2013.

An asylum seeker from Uganda covers his face with a paper bag in order to protect his identity as he marches with the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force during the Gay Pride Parade in Boston, Massachusetts June 8, 2013.

Under a newly-enacted law in Uganda, anyone caught having same-sex relations could spend the rest of his or her life in prison.  Not only that, but anyone “attempting” or “aiding and abetting” homosexuality could get jail time, and even speaking one’s opinion of the issue out loud could have serious consequences.

Despite appeals from President Barack Obamaretired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Watch and a host of other rights groups, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Saturday signed into law the 2013 “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” February 22.  Originally introduced in 2009, it was shelved when Britain and the EU threatened to cut aid to Uganda.  But it was reintroduced in December and passed by parliament.

“As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.”  – John Kerry, Feb. 24, 2014

So what does this bill really mean–and who does it target?

  • Anyone actively gay, if caught, could be locked up for life.
  • So are human rights groups and other organizations promoting gay rights or even urging an end to violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT)–such as Freedom and Roam.
  • Counselors and social service workers who counsel LGBTs are vulnerable.
  • The bill will drive most HIV/AIDS patients underground and away from much-needed treatment and medication.
  • And, as Human Rights Watch cautioned last December, the new law could encourage witch hunts and vigilantism.

betteer gayWe didn’t have to wait long to see these fears play out:  This week, the Uganda tabloid Red Pepper, published a list of 200 allegedly gay individuals.

Reactions in Washington have been strong:

President Obama said that enacting this legislation would “complicate” Washington’s relationship with Uganda; “At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons,” Obama said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the law to be repealed:

“As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.”  – John Kerry, Feb. 24, 2014

Norway, Denmark and Norway have decided to freeze or redirect aid to Uganda.  The U.S. could do the same, as was suggested by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt., President Pro Tempore, Chairman Of The State Department And Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee) this week:

“…we need to closely review all U.S. assistance to Uganda, including through the World Bank and other multilateral organizations.  I cannot support providing further funding to the Government of Uganda until the United States has undergone a review of our relationship,” Leahy said.

It bears mentioning that the United States is Uganda’s largest bilateral donor.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

UPDATE: Turkish President Signs Controversial Internet Law

Posted February 20th, 2014 at 12:23 pm (UTC+0)
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Abdullah Gül (cbabdullahgul) on Twitter 2014-02-19 16-31-00

It’s official:  Turkey’s president has signed a controversial new internet law which will enable the government to block select websites and require web hosts to turn over individual browser histories.

President Abdullah Gül used Twitter to announce the news Tuesday, and this sparked an immediate Twitter drive by angry Turkish internet users using the hashtag #UnfollowAbdullahGül.

Associated Press says more than 80,000 Twitter users stopped following Gül as a result–but he still has, at the moment of this writing, 4.28 million Twitter followers.

The legislation has the potential to sorely restrict freedom of expression in Turkey and thus has been widely slammed by media groups, the European Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups.

In an earlier post, RePRESSed spoke with Turkish analyst Thomas Sorlie, who predicted that Gül’s signature would be a signal of support for the AKP Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of Turkey’s first direct presidential elections in August.

“With President Gül signing into law the newly established internet restrictions for Turkey, Gül has signaled his backing of the political position of the AKP, a party in which he was a founding member,” Sorlie tells RePRESSed.
“The speculation by pundits that he might split with the AKP and distance himself from Prime Minister Erdoğan should now give way to the possible implications for Turkish politics going forward from this point.”  – Turkey analyst Thomas Sorlie, Feb. 19, 2014
Sorlie predicts the AKP will likely win the upcoming elections, barring any unforeseen events.
“With this in mind, the details of the political structure internally within the AKP should now be emphasized,” he said.  “As it now stands, Prime Minister Erdoğan will be limited to running for President, as per AKP party rules. It is in this light that Turkish political analysis should now focus on.”
Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Russia: Silencing Critics at Sochi

Posted February 18th, 2014 at 5:32 pm (UTC+0)
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OLY-2014-RUSSIA-ANIMAL-RIGHTS--DOGS-PROTESTSThe arrests of several activists near Sochi have renewed attention on the ways in which dissent is suppressed in Russia.  Two members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot were released after being arrested and detained for a short period Tuesday.  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina say this was their arrest in three days.

Tolokonnikova’s husband Petr Verzilov told CNN: “They were put to the floor and beaten and physical force was used to them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of their lawyer, who was on his way to the police department.”

Authorities claimed the latest arrest was somehow related to a theft at a hotel where the two were staying, but Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina say they think it came in connection with a music video they were planning to make.

Amnesty International notes that journalists and activists are being arrested in Sochi almost every day.  February 16, police picked up Semyon Simonov, lawyer and coordinator of the network “Migration and Law” of the Memorial Human Rights Center; journalists from Radio Free Europe and the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta; and local civil rights activist David Khakim, whose crime was waving a flag that read, “Freedom for Yevgeny Vitishko.”

Vitishko is an environmental activist who has actively protested  deforestation and what they say is illegal construction and fencing in a protected forest around Sochi.  He was detained February 5th for “hooliganism,” says Amnesty, after authorities learned of his plans to travel to Sochi.

Masked members of protest band Pussy Riot leave a police station in Adler during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 18, 2014. Two members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained on Tuesday in connection with a theft in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi, less than two months after their release from prison under an amnesty.         REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Masked members of protest band Pussy Riot leave a police station in Adler during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 18, 2014. Two members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained on Tuesday in connection with a theft in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi, less than two months after their release from prison under an amnesty. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

On the day after opening ceremonies in Sochi, an unnamed animal rights activist was arrested after he and two others held up a large banner which read, “Bloody Olympics” —  referring to Sochi’s plans to euthanize large numbers of stray dogs.

Even a former member of Italy’s parliament, Vladimir Luxuria, was arrested in Olympic Park for carrying a banner which read, “Gay is OK” in Russian.

Amnesty Europe and Central Asia Program director John Dalhuisen says, “In Putin’s Russia, the authorities have turned the Olympic rings – a worldwide symbol of hope and striving for the best of the human spirit – into handcuffs to shackle freedom of expression.”

Dalhuisen says people are being targeted solely because they speak their minds, which he says is outrageous, and he also called on the International Olumpbic Committee to condemn these and all arrests near Sochi.

Last July, seven months ahead of the games, Amnesty reported that human rights have deteriorated since Vladimir Putin was re-elected  in 2012.  Since then, Amnesty noted that three laws have been passed which limit the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), restrict street protests, criminalize public activities “committed to insult the religious feelings of believers” and ban gay rights protests.

As a result, 43 NGOs, including Amnesty International, have undergone “inspection.”  The new laws mean that individuals face up to 20 years in jail and heavy fines for “providing consultative assistance to a foreign organization” if that group was involved in “activities aimed against Russia’s security.” Due to the allusive wording of this law, there is a fear that the law will be used to silence NGOs.

The report also details human rights violations in the restive North Caucasus, a region in the Russian Federation comprised of the Stavropol region and the six republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and North Ossetia–including enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and torture which police and security regularly commit with impunity.

To read the six-page report, click here.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Did Bing or Didn’t It?

Posted February 13th, 2014 at 11:20 am (UTC+0)
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A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in SingaporeGreatFire.org, an online advocacy group that monitors internet censorship in China, this week accused the Microsoft search engine Bing of censoring both English and Chinese web searches to omit content offensive to the Chinese government.

Reuters reporters say that Bing search results omitted results that did show up in Google searches, such as “Dalai Lama.”  The Guardian reports similar findings for internet searches such as “Falun Gong” and “Bo Xilai,” the former high-ranking official now serving a lifetime in prison on corruption charges.

GreatFire, Reuters and the Guardian all say results were the same whether they searched in Chinese from Singapore or in English from the U.S.

We can also now trace complicit Bing Chinese censorship back to 2009…It looks like Microsoft has indeed changed its censorship mechanism after our research made headlines this week. But Bing is still seriously flawed on two fronts: its algorithm favors pro-Chinese government websites by default on all search terms in simplified Chinese and their front end mistakenly delivers explicit censorship of search results on some search terms for users from all over the world. – GreatFire.org

Microsoft denies the accusations.  In a statement to Microsoft’s TheNextWeb, senior Bing director Stefan Weitz said Bing had conducted a thorough review of the problem, and “The removal of certain search results has been credited to a technical error in the system.”

First, Bing does not apply China’s legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China.  Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.

Second, with regard to the freeweibo.com homepage being absent from Bing search results, our investigation indicates that at some time in the past the page was marked as inappropriate due to low quality or adult.  After review, we have determined the page is acceptable for inclusion in global search results…Stefan Weitz, quoted in TNW.

Western tech companies operating in China have often been accused of putting economic interests ahead of ethics, giving into China’s strict internet rules.  Back in 2004, Yahoo! was blamed for providing e-mail account information on Chinese journalist Shi Tao after he used his Yahoo! email account to send a message to a New York-based rights group, the Democracy Forum.

IT companies argue that in order to continue operating in China as in other countries, they are compelled to abide by the laws in those countries, and insist that they aren’t actively collaborating with governments.

For a look at the issue–and how the U.S., including the Broadcasting Board of Governors, are working to promote internet freedom in China, see the July 2012 Congressional Research Service report, China, Internet Freedom, and U.S. Policy, available online.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Three Must-Reads on Free Speech

Posted February 11th, 2014 at 3:08 pm (UTC+0)
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A student participates in a free-speech rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington March 19, 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court considers on Monday its first major dispute on student free-speech rights in nearly 20 years, a case about the power of school authorities to censor what they viewed as a pro-drug message at a school-sponsored event.  REUTERS/Molly Riley

A student participates in a free-speech rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington March 19, 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court considers on Monday its first major dispute on student free-speech rights in nearly 20 years, a case about the power of school authorities to censor what they viewed as a pro-drug message at a school-sponsored event. REUTERS/Molly Riley

 

1)  Freedom of Expression: The Gray Areas

This month, the online arts and politics magazine Guernica, in collaboration with Free Word, Article 19 and English PEN, have published their first of five themed issues, commissioning writers and artists from across the globe to submit articles on freedom of expression.  Among the contributions, Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman reflects on the ways by which technology enables governments to spy on their citizens and ultimately silence them.  And in light of the NSA scandal, Dorfman tells us, “A warning for those who bask in the glow of that self-congratulatory phrase, ‘It can’t happen here’…it can always happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

Surveillance, in any land where it is ubiquitous and inescapable, generates distrust and divisions among its citizens, curbs their readiness to speak freely to each other, and diminishes their willingness to even dare to think freely. – Ariel Dorfman, Repression by Any Other Name

In the same issue, Chinese-born, London-based writer Xiaolu Guo tells Guernica about the difficulties she faced getting her novels published,    the pervasiveness of what she calls “commercial censorship” in American publishing houses.

There’s an abortion section in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary. In the beginning my U.S. editor wanted to take it out. She said the Bush government had just issued some policies and that middle-class readers wouldn’t like it, which would reduce the market. – Xiaolu Guo, Why Do We Still Pretend We Are Free?

 

2) The People Have Lost Their Voice

In an article for the February 2014 issue of Chatham House’s The World Today, London Times special correspondent Anthony Loyd describes the risks faced by correspondents inside war-torn Syria and his decision not to return:

The ascendancy of Islamic radicalism and the terrible rate of abduction among the small cadre of reporters who ventured into the rebel zones meant that I could no longer justify the risks. The aim of any war correspondent is to survive and report. In Syria after my Friday 13th encounter with ISIS, I no longer saw that aim as achievable. – Anthony Loyd, The World Today.

Kidnappings, killings and imprisonment of journalists in Syria mean that few reporters are willing to take the risk of going there anymore.  And that means few reporters are able to tell the story of what’s really going on in Syria, says Loyd.

“…the absence of journalists from opposition areas in Syria has not only resulted in the ossification of our perception of the war, but also handed a golden card to the regime.” – Anthony Loyd, The People Have Lost Their Voice.

 

3.  Free Speech Isn’t Free

We Americans love our free speech, which is a tenet of our constitution.  In the latest issue of the Atlantic online, novelist and legal scholar Garrett Epps considers the pros and cons of free speech, which he argues isn’t always risk-free.

Specifically, Epps looks at the case of hate speech, which research shows can sometimes inflict emotional hard as painful and lasting as any harm inflicted on the physical body.  If that is the case, then, why do we promote it so?

Epps offers an interesting answer.  The freedom to speak out offers us a healthy outlet for anger—and it certainly beats turning on one another with bombs and bullets.

 

 

 

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Turkey: Tightening Up on Free Speech

Posted February 6th, 2014 at 3:55 pm (UTC+0)
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People spend time surfing the internet in a cafe in Istanbul February 6, 2014.  Turkey's parliament has approved internet controls enabling web pages to be blocked within hours in what the opposition decried as part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal with methods more suited to "times of coups". Social media and video sharing sites have been awash with alleged recordings of ministers including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and business allies presented as proof of wrongdoing. Reuters has been unable to verify their authenticity. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

People spend time surfing the internet in a cafe in Istanbul February 6, 2014. Turkey’s parliament has approved internet controls enabling web pages to be blocked within hours in what the opposition decried as part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal with methods more suited to “times of coups”. Social media and video sharing sites have been awash with alleged recordings of ministers including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and business allies presented as proof of wrongdoing. Reuters has been unable to verify their authenticity. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

 

Turkey this week took a step toward stifling critics and limiting free speech.  Parliament passed a new law Wednesday which, if signed by President Abdullah Gül, will allow communication authorities to block access to internet sites within four hours–even without a court order. The legislation will require web hosts to store all internet browsing histories for up to two years–and if they are asked to provide authorities with that information, they will have to do so without a court order and without the user in question knowing anything about it.

The opposition is furious with AKP Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Deutsche Welle online quotes opposition lawmaker Hasan Oren as complaining to Erdogan:  “When you came to power you talked of enhancing democracy in Turkey, now you are trying to implement fascism.”

Now, the big question is whether the president will sign or veto the law.

“A telling factor as to where Turkey goes ahead politically is the signal that Gül will give concerning his decision whether or not to endorse the recently passed internet bill,” Thomas Sorlie, a research analyst and consultant focusing on Turkish politics, told RePRESSed.

“If he signs it into law, it will be ‘a tip of the hat’ to the Erdoğan-led AKP.  If he stalls or does not sign it into law, it could possibly signal a rupture within the AKP that would not be repairable,” Sorlie said.

Gül and Erdogan founded the AKP together in 2001 and, says the Wall Street Journal, they are expected to reach a power-sharing agreement before the presidential election this summer.  It’s expected that Erdogan will run for president and Gül, who can’t run for another term, will be named prime minister.

Thomas Sorlie

Thomas Sorlie

The European Union has also expressed concern over the new internet law. London’s Financial Times quotes European Parliament president Martin Schulz, who tweeted that the Turkish parliament’s approval of the bill was a “step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom”.

The Times also quotes European Commission spokesman Peter Stano, who says the law needs to be revised “in line with European standards.”

Sorlie says there has been a lot of speculation about Turkey joining the European Union lately, in light of the political crisis it is undergoing.

“The concern for both Turkey and the EU should not at this point in history be focused on this political process; instead the domestic political stability within Turkey should be at the forefront. If there is a risk that Turkey could become destabilized enough it could see Syria’s conflict enter into its own borders, then this should be the central theme discussed between the EU and Turkey,” Sorlie said.

In separate news that speaks to a growing repressive media climate in Turkey, Today’s Zaman reports the government has ordered the deportation of one of the publication’s own correspondents, Mahir Zeynalov, over tweets that criticize the government.

Mahir Zeynalov

 

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Egypt: Video Released of the Interrogation, Arrest of Al Jazeera Reporters

Posted February 4th, 2014 at 4:24 pm (UTC+0)
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Egypt’s Al-Tahrir TV aired footage of the three Al-Jazeera journalists who were arrested in December and, as RePRESSed blogged earlier, charged with “belonging to a terrorist group and broadcasting false news that harms national security.”

The 22-minute report (see above YouTube video), aired Sunday night, opens with an Al-Tahrir TV anchor introducing video of what he terms the “Marriott Cell.”  The segment is dubbed with a soundtrack lifted straight from a Hollywood adventure film.  It shows the inside of the hotel room where the journalists had set up a makeshift studio that included studio lights, computers, cameras and other equipment used by the Al Jazeera journalists in reporting for the Qatar-based network.

The segment also shows Al-Jazeera acting Cairo bureau chief, Mohammed Fahmy, and Australian reporter Peter Grest, being interrogated by state security about the identities of  their cameramen, their work methods and how they were funded.

On January 16, state prosecutors released a statement accusing the Al-Jazeera English reporters with “possessing unlicensed broadcast equipment used to damage Egypt’s national security, publishing false news to disrupt national peace and possessing false images aimed at tarnishing the country’s reputation and weakening its financial trust.”

In a related development Sunday, an Egyptian court acquitted Al-Jazeera cameraman Mohamed Badr, who was arrested with others in July following clashes that took place in Cairo just after the former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted.  Sixty-one others were also acquitted.

“This attempt to criminalize legitimate journalistic work is what distorts Egypt’s image abroad. The government’s lack of tolerance shows that it is unable to handle criticism,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists said. “We call on authorities to drop these outrageous charges and release all journalists from jail immediately.”

Today, journalists have launched a global Twitter campaign calling for Egypt to end its crackdown on journalists, tweeting under the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.

TwitterAJ

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Colombia: Journalist, Animal Rights Activist Goes Into Hiding Over Death Threats

Posted February 3rd, 2014 at 9:24 am (UTC+0)
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Photo of Eva Duran taken from Twitter feedReporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on authorities in Cartagena, Colombia, to take steps to protect a freelance journalist who has been forced into hiding after receiving death threats for her writing.

In a January 7 editorial which appears on the Las 2 Orillas website, Eva Durán stated that the district of Barranquilla was planning to build an animal “slaughterhouse”  in a nearby village, where stray animals would be euthanized unless their owners paid a fee to get them back.

Cartagena’s El Universal newspaper reports Durán received a phone call on January 18 from a man claiming to be a fellow journalist and animal rights defender who threatened to cut out her tongue when she refused to meet with him.  He said he knew her address–and even the clothing she was wearing at the time of the phone call.  She also says she has has been the target of hostility from some local media outlets.

A day after her article appeared, the mayor of Barranquilla responded in the same publication, denying any policy of animal extermination. He also said previous plans to build an animal welfare facility had been shelved.

“Threats of the kind Durán has received must be taken seriously in a country like Colombia,” RSF said.

“Facts that reflect badly on certain officials can jeopardize the safety of the journalists who report them. It is essential that there should be a swift investigation into the origin of these ‘warnings’ and that Durán and her family should receive a level of protection that is proportionate to the danger.” RSF, Jan. 21, 2014

Colombia. CIA

Map of Colombia, from CIA World Factbook

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that earlier this month, three radio journalists from the southern state of Guaviare received death threats for their coverage of an upcoming recall votefor the local governorship.

The RSF ranks Colombia 129th among 179 countries for press freedom, which makes it one of the most dangerous places for journalists in Latin America.  The Infosurhoy website reports  140 journalists were murdered between 1977 and 2012.  In 62 of those cases, no one was punished.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

US: Congressman Threatens TV Reporter With Violence

Posted January 30th, 2014 at 4:56 pm (UTC+0)
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A U.S. Congressman under investigation for alleged campaign fundraising improprieties this week threatened to kill a New York reporter who questioned him about his finances.

The incident took place at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Tuesday night, following President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address.  As the YouTube video segment (above) shows, NY1 News reporter Michael Scotto attempted to ask Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) about alleged finance improprieties.

NY1 provides a transcript of the exchange which took place after Grimm refused to answer the question:

“And just finally before we let you go, we haven’t had a chance to talk about some of the–” Scotto said.

“–I’m not speaking to you off-topic, this is only about the president,” Grimm said, cutting Scotto off, and he walked off camera.

“So Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances,” Scotto said to the camera.

Grimm walked away and then returned with a warning for the reporter.

Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this [expletive deleted] balcony.”

Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”

Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Grimm later issued an apology for the incident.  I was wrong,” Grimm said in the statement. “I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool. I have apologized to Michael Scotto, which he graciously accepted, and will be scheduling a lunch soon.

Grimm has been the subject of a House Ethics committee investigation since November, 2012, and was under FBI investigation prior to that over allegations that he sought higher campaign donations in his 2010 run for Congress that exceeded finance limits, that he illegally accepted money from foreign donors, and filed inaccurate Federal Election Commission reports. 
Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

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About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.

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