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Journalist Shot Dead Covering Egypt Clashes


A reporter was killed covering anti-government protests in Cairo. Mayada Ashraf reporting for Al-Dostournewspaper and Masr Al-Arabiya website was shot in the head by an unknown gunman during clashes that followed Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s announcement that he was contesting the country’s presidential election. 
The Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) said the last thing Asharaf had reported was that the army was using live rounds to control the protestors. Four other civilians were also killed.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to Ashraf’s family and colleagues and we urge the competent authorities to carry out an independent and impartial investigation to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished,” said Lucie Morillon, head of research and advocacy at RSF.
With culprit/s yet to be identified, supporters of the military-backed government and the stalwarts of the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed President Mohamed Morsi accused each other of the murder.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that Abdel-Kader Ismael, editor of the Al-Dostour had told a television station that an ambulance were initially unable to reach Ashraf due to the clashes. CPJ also said there Masr Al-Arabiyashowed a video of Ashraf being carried away.
CPJ said that Al-Dostour is known for its critical reporting of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party. CPJ also mentions that Ashraf had called the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists in her latest report.
Eleven journalists have been killed in connection with their work since 2011 and at least four since last July when Morsi was deposed following a popular uprising backed by the military. Egypt ranks 159th of 179 countries in RSF’s Press Freedom Index.
“We call on the Egyptian government to open an independent and impartial investigation into Mayada Ashraf’s killing,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “A journalist’s death should not be used to settle political scores -the focus should be on journalists’ right to safely cover events in Egypt.”

Another Assault On Hong Kong’s Media

Banner at a rally for press freedom in Hong Kong (Pic courtesy BBC)


Two senior executives of a media organisation about to launch a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong were attacked in broad daylight on March 19 provoking disturbing questions about press freedom in this semi-autonomous region of China, while memories of the attack on Ming Paoeditor Kevin Lao remained fresh in people’s mind.

A man and a woman identified as Lei Iun-han, director and vice-president, and Lam Kin-ming, news controller of Hong Kong Media Group were attacked by four masked men in Kowloon’s tourist spot of Tsim Sha Tsui with metal bars and suffered injuries to their to their face, arms and legs.
The suspects escaped and the Wall Street Journal said the police had not attributed motive nor had any arrests been made.
The China Post described the newspaper to be launched as “independent.” It quoted pro-democracy lawmaker James To telling reporters “I suspect the attack has something to do with the work they have put into this newspaper. Does someone not want this paper to come out?”
WSJ said “The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned the attack, saying Hong Kong upholds the rule of law and the city won’t tolerate any violent activity.”
The China Post quoted the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong statement: “After the attack on Kevin Lau, who remains in hospital with grave injuries, this latest incident only underscores the deepening shadows being cast over the media landscape in Hong Kong from violence, intimidation and interference by political and commercial interests.”
The attack is the latest in a series that media monitors say is orchestrated by interested parties in mainland China to force Hong Kong’s media to conform to the political interests of parties on the mainland. Hong Kong that was a British colony was transferred to Chinese control in 1997.
In February Kevin Lau, who was forced out of editorship of the Ming Pao a month earlier was assaulted during daylight hours on the streets by two youth riding a motor bike. Police arrested nine persons in connection with the incident and charged two earlier on Wednesday. Police sad they were connected to organised crime, WSJ said.
February also saw two protest demonstrations by people demanding greater media freedom.
“This latest assault further confirms the worsening climate for press freedom in Hong Kong,” said Joel Simon, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) about the most recent incident. “Authorities must launch a swift and thorough inquiry into this attack and bring those responsible to justice.”

Censorship in Crimea As Russian Troops Takeover

Russian soldiers in Crimea

International monitors have protested eroding media freedom in the autonomous region of Crimea in southern Ukraine, as the Russian military began overrunning the region from February 28. Crimean authorities censored media networks seen as hostile, prevented journalists from outside the region entering Crimea, while attacks on journalists have also been reported.

“We remind all parties to the conflict that they have a duty to protect journalists and allow them to work without hindrance,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“Those who hold power in Crimea and the armed militias controlling the region must do everything possible to ensure that the local media can resume operating, to restore communications infrastructure and to lift the barriers preventing some journalists from entering the peninsula,” he said.
RSF said the main independent television network in Crimea, Chernomorka, had been ordered to go off air since March 3, for reasons the organisation said was “beyond our control.” The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said “Crimea’s State Television and Radio Transmitting Center (TRTC) forced the independent Chernomorka, off the air.” CPJ added that Ukrainian media had published a letter by S. N. Dotsenko, head, TRTC, saying “broadcasting had been stopped because of reasons that were unrelated to his agency, but did not offer further details.”
RSF said that although Chernomorka continued to broadcast via cable, satellite and the internet, but its internet was brought down by a cyber attack.
RSF said the state-controlled broadcaster GRTK Krym “whose headquarters was overrun by soldiers” is the only television channel left to local viewers.
CPJ reported Aleksandra Kvitko, Chernomorskaya’s chief editor telling Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency, “Only two local channels are broadcast on the territory of the autonomous republic – Chernomorskaya Teleradiokompaniya and Crimean state broadcaster GTRK Krym. By turning off Chernomorskaya, regional residents have been stripped of their right to choose. Now, we all must have only one, ‘correct’ opinion.'”
Meanwhile, on March 1, RSF said a 30-man militia calling itself the Crimea Front had stormed into the offices of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Simferopol and prevented journalists from leaving the building for some hours. They were eventually freed and allowed to take some equipment with them. “The militia also told the journalists that the ‘Crimea Front’ was ready to provide them with enough to live on, and to reach ‘an agreement on proper coverage of the events,'” said RSF.
In a related story CPJ said, “The Center for Investigative Journalism reported today that members of the regional parliament of Crimea blamed Ukrainian media for ‘spreading panic’ and ‘imposing incorrect and biased information’ about the events in the region. The MPs threatened to ‘shut off the flow of deceitful and biased information in order to save the public from negative impact.'”
Meanwhile, RSF said journalists from the Ukraine were prevented from entering Crimea at checkpoints along the border. Bohdan Kutyepov, a reporter for television station Hromadske, said he was turned back by armed men who had “threatened to open fire if the journalists tried to take photos of them.” Kutyepov was with colleagues from Inter TV, CDFand France 24. Two other journalists, Igor Trubayev (Khersonskie Vesti) and Oleg Zaychenko(Tvoya Pravda), from Kherson were also forced to turn back from a checkpoint at Armyansk, said RSF.
RSF also reported that several journalists had been attacked in Crimea, giving details of two ATRcameramen assaulted in Simferopol while filming militiamen guarding a building used by the regional government’s ministers.  There were also incidents in eastern Ukraine, RSF added.
In another incident, CPJ reported that Tatyana Rikhtun, the chief editor of the website Sevastopol 911 was assaulted and her camera snatched as she filmed Russian soldiers surrounding the Ukrainian navy base. She had reported the incident to the regional police and asked them to investigate.
With escalating tensions in Crimea and one journalist killed over 160 journalists injured in clashes in Ukraine in the past four months, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European affiliate European Federation of Journalists issued an advisory to journalists planning to visit Ukraine.
“Given the many brutal attacks against journalists in Ukraine in recent months and the ever increasing tensions in the country, we urge journalists covering events to remain mindful of their safety at all times and to ensure they take every step necessary to protect themselves. No story is worth the loss of a life,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

Concern For Lives Of Journalists In Hong Kong

Journalists of Ming Pao at Sunday’s rally (Pic. Reuters)

As thousands of protestors in Hong Kong on Sunday condemned the knife attack on Kevin Lao, believed to be because of his hard-hitting writing on corruption and human rights abuses, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) launched the Chinese version of its ‘Journalists Security Guide.’

“The guide has been available in other languages for more than a year but, frankly, we didn’t see a Chinese version as a priority… The Chinese version has been up for a few days, but now, in the wake of Wednesday’s attack on former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to in Hong Kong, seems a good time to draw attention to it,” writes Bob Dietz, director Asia programme at CPJ.
Reuterssaid that over 13,000 demonstrators had participated in the march which was 8600 strong at its peak. Journalists, wearing black with blue ribbons, had carried a large banner saying, “They can’t kill us all,” while others read “Freedom from fear” and “Protect press freedom.”
Lao was stabbed in his back and legs, Wednesday, by two men riding a motorbike who are yet to be apprehended. It is believed the motive for Lao’s attack, and others on media organisations and journalists recently, is to stifle mounting criticism in the Hong Kong media of the anti-democratic practices of Beijing and Hong Kong SAR.
“We’re not going to bow to the intimidation,” said Shirley Yam, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, one of the organizers of the protest, reported Reuters. “That’s the strong message we want to send whoever it is that the Hong Kong media is going to stand firm and do whatever’s best for press freedom and the right for our citizens to be informed.”
While journalists on Sunday came together to protest repression and the stifling of free speech, CPJ’s ‘Journalists Security Guide’ deals with more immediate concerns of journalists protecting themselves while doing their job.
“There are several sections of the guide that deal with being aware of one’s surroundings, varying one’s routes (Lau was apparently attacked outside his regular morning restaurant stop), and responding to threats – though there have been no reports of threats directed toward Lau. There is also a valuable section on information security, and for Hong Kong journalists working under ever-closer scrutiny, it is a useful resource,” says Dietz.
Click for Journalists Security Guide in English hereand in Chinese here

“I am the victim of a political conspiracy” – Le Quoc Quan

Le Quoc Quan speaks to court during his appeal (Pic. courtesy CPJ)


Hanoi‘s Peoples’ Court of Appeals rejected Monday the appeal of blogger and dissident Le Quoc Quan, 41, against a 30-month jail sentence imposed in October. The sentence for tax evasion also includes a hefty fine of 1.2 billion dong (US$57,000).

Quan who has been on hunger strike protesting prison conditions for the past 17 days briefly fainted during the proceedings, said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF). However Quan’s Ha Hui Son lawyer told Voice of America that he had become very tired but did not faint.
The appeals court said after a half-day session that no new evidence had been presented to overturn the lower court’s decision. “The defendant did not show regret and took a disrespectful attitude towards the court,” said court president Nguyen Van Son, confirming the jail term and a fine of around US$ 57000,” said Agence France Presse (AFP).
AFP quoted Quan saying “I am the victim of a political conspiracy. I object to this trial.”
Although he was tried for tax evasion there is widespread conviction that Quan has been imprisoned as punishment for his outspoken blog focusing on official corruption and human rights abuses including religious freedom.
“Today’s appeal court ruling against blogger Le Quoc Quan underscores the severe constraints on judicial independence in Vietnam,” said Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “It is clear that Quan was imprisoned for his expression of dissenting opinions, not a faulty tax disclosure. We call on Vietnamese authorities to release all imprisoned journalists immediately and unconditionally.”
While Hanoi’s Court of Appeals upholding the 30-month sentence is cause for outrage, of equal concern are prison conditions under which Quan is held as well as his health. On February 2, Quan, who is a devout Catholic, began a hunger strike protesting that he was not given access to legal documents, a copy of the Bible and a Catholic priest. 
 
“We also sound the alarm about Quan’s state of health. He has been on hunger strike for the past 17 days in protest against the treatment he is receiving, and he briefly lost consciousness during today’s hearing. So we call for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” said Benjamin Ismail head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
RSF has also drawn attention to the lack of process in the way the appeal was conducted. The organisation said in a statement, “We condemn the way the hearing was conducted. Hundreds of people who had come to support Quan were kept away from the courthouse and only his mother and wife were allowed to attend.”
RSF went on to say that journalists watching proceedings on CCTV in another room could not see Quan’s reaction to the judge’s ruling as the feed was cut off immediately after the order.
Quan was arrested on December 27, 2012 after the BBC published his article criticising a constitutional provision that accorded the Communist Party of Vietnam a preeminent position in the country. Prior to that Quan was arrested in March 2007 when he returned to China after completing a stint as Reagan Fascell Fellow at Washington DC’s National Endowment for Democracy. He was released without charges after being detained for 100 days. He was arrested again in 2011 and released without charges. In August 2012 he was severely injured in an assault.  
Following the failure of the appeal RSF promised, “In the coming days, we will do everything possible to ensure that this blogger’s voice can be heard more easily. We are going to start translating and circulating his articles so that more people can read his criticism of Vietnam’s human rights violations – criticism that the authorities did not want to hear.”