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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.”

Will Russia Use Cyberattacks In Crimea Conflict?

OSCE Media Freedom Rep. Dunja Mijatovic


Even as media freedom in Crimea became increasingly threatened with television stations taken off the air and journalists assaulted, experts are watching possible cyberattacks accompanying Russia’s takeover of peninsula and predict that it could become a reality as confrontation on the ground grows.
“Russia has limited themselves to the things they usually do in the onset of a conflict to try to shape opinion, stifle critics, and advance their own viewpoint,” James Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C told MIT Technology Review. “They are doing the informational side, which is the opening move in the playbook.”

He added, “If violence breaks out in the Crimea, I think they will bump it up a notch.”
  
The article said that Russia watchers in the US were waiting to see the Russians would use its cyber war capabilities, which they have integrated into their military doctrine. “But it may be they have decided they don’t need to show what they’ve got, and won’t do it,” said Stewart Baker former chief of policy, at the Department of Homeland Security.
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“Moderate” Rouhani’s Government Executes Iranian Poet Hashem Shabani


The Iranian government executed by hanging poet and human rights activist Hashem Shabani on January 27 for blasphemy (“speaking against God”). Before his execution 31-year-old Shabani was imprisoned for nearly three years and reportedly tortured.
“The crazy thing is that by the logic of the Iranian government, Shaabani had to be killed. He criticized God and the punishment for blasphemy is clear: death.  Technically, Shaabani criticized the regime by speaking out against repression of ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan province, but since the regime sees itself as the representative of God on Earth, his fate was sealed,” writes David Keyes for the Daily Beast.

Shabani was an Ahwazi Arab minority, and member of al-Hiwar, an organisation promoting Ahwazi culture among the country’s majority Persians and campaigning for mother tongue education. Al-Hiwar was banned by Iran in May 2005 soon after anti-government riots.
Shabani and four others, including school teacher Hadi Rashedi, were arrested in 2011 and had no access to lawyers or family during the first nine months of their detention. They were also reportedly tortured and otherwise ill-treated says PEN America.
More controversially, a “confession” by Shabani was publicised by Iranian television admitting that he was a member of Popular Resistance, which had ties with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadaffi. “Later, in a letter alleged to have been written by Sha’bani in prison, he denied having used or advocated violence and said that he had been tortured to make his ‘confession’ and that his three attempts to retract his ‘confession’ in front of a judge were ignored” said PEN.
PEN said that Shabani’s relatives had been told the poet had been executed “on charges of ‘enmity against God,’ ‘corruption on earth,’ ‘gathering and colluding against state security,’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system.'”
Keyes asks how the US and its western allies negotiating a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme could claim the regime of President Hassan Rouhani is “moderate” when it executes people like Shabani.
“As world powers attempt to negotiate an accord with Iran, they would do well to keep Shaabani in mind.  What does the hanging of a poet have to do with nuclear negotiations?  Everything. It gets to the heart of the nature of the regime. Can the world trust a government which doesn’t even trust its own people?  Can the West rely on a regime which so fears dissidents that it puts them to death?” asks Keys.
Reacting to Shabani’s hanging, Marian Botsford Fraser, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee said, “While the releases last year of prominent writers such as lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and journalist Jila Bani Yaghoub were welcome, the authorities [in Iran] must show that they are truly committed to respecting freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.”

Murder of Cambodian Journalist Latest In Saga Of Impunity

Cambodians read local newspaper (Pic courtesy AFP/RFA)


Suon Chan, 44, who worked for a local Khmer-language newspaper Meakea Kampuchea, was murdered on the evening of February 1, in Peam Chhkork in central Cambodia, allegedly by a group of fishermen. Though yet to be officially confirmed, the likely motive is because he wrote against illegal fishing.

Chan was killed after he was attacked outside his home, apparently when he stepped out to buy cigarettes. He was beaten with bamboo sticks and stones and others who came to help him were also assaulted. He died on the way to hospital from head and neck injuries. The attackers have escaped.
“Like the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM) and the United Nations, we urge the authorities to shed light on this act of savagery, to not rule a possible link to the victim’s work, and to bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, head, Asia-Pacific desk of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
There is however some ambiguity regarding the motive of the killing. RSF reported that Peam Chhkork’s police chief, Duong Vuthy, had initially attributed the murder to Chan’s articles about illegal fishing, but had later retracted saying the police were investigating the motive. He had said however admitted that four main suspects and were being sought by the police.
The Washington DC-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) also reported contradictory statements by the police. It said Chhokiri District’s police chief, Morm Thon, had told RFA’s Khmer service that three persons had been identified, but had denied Chan was killed because his recent articles had led to a raid b the police on illegal fishing.
“Through my investigations, the murder is not related to these articles,” he said. “It was a violent fight. We are working to arrest the suspects,” RFA quoted Thon saying.
But unlike what he told RSF, RFA quoted Duong Vuthy attributing the killing to Chan’s reporting on illegal fishing. “So far, we do not know the exact reason for this journalist’s assassination, but according to our preliminary investigation, it is related to the rancour between the victim and the group of suspects, because he used his influence as a journalist in reporting and writing about the suspects’ illegal fishing activities in the commune,” he said.
What is disturbing is the killing is another example of impunity that murderers of journalists enjoy because the government and the police are reluctant to pursuing perpetrators.
RFA said the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) issued a statement, Monday, saying the killing was an affront to freedom of expression in the country. The statement said journalists “are regularly targeted for their work and where a culture of impunity for these crimes reigns. The majority of these deaths have not been properly investigated, with the perpetrators still at large and rewarded with complete impunity for their crimes.
“CCHR urges the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure that a full and impartial investigation into Suon Chan’s death is conducted and that the perpetrators are brought to justice, not only to ensure justice for Suon Chan’s family but also to promote a culture of respect for and protection of journalists and their work.”
RSF echoed CCHR’s warning against impunity. It said, “If it is confirmed that Suon Chan was killed because of his work as a journalist, this murder would constitute yet another grave violation of freedom of information in Cambodia. A thorough investigation is needed to end the tradition of impunity for those who murder journalists in Cambodia.”
Chan is the 12th journalist killed in Cambodia since 1994.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) while condemning the incident also drew attention to recent attacks on media freedom in Cambodia. It said, “Chan is the 12th journalist to be killed in Cambodia and the first since Virakchun (Hero) Khmer Daily journalist Hang Serei Oudom was brutally murdered in an axe attack in Rattanakiri province in September 2012.
“The IFJ is deeply concerned about journalist safety in Cambodia in recent weeks, following an attack by Cambodian authorities on an AFP photographer during a peaceful protest on January 27. The demonstration, led by president of independent station Radio Beehive FM Mr Mom Sonando, was held to demand a TV license and an expansion of radio frequency,” IFJ said.
In 2013, Cambodia ranked 143rd of 179 countries in RSF’s press freedom index.