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AFP To Co-sponsor Peter Mackler Award


The international news agency Agence France-Presse has joined the advisory board of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, the Mackler family announcedtoday.
“AFP is very happy to provide support for the award issued in memory of Peter, who played such a vital role over nearly three decades in building the agency’s international activities and reputation,” said David Millikin, AFP’s director for North America who will represent AFP on the advisory board.

 

 A project established in memory of long-time AFP correspondent Peter Mackler, the award annually honours an international journalist who has achieved success under repressive conditions.
“AFP brings precious international help and support to our project,” said Camille Mackler, one of Peter’s daughters and the project director. “Five years on, we all have witnessed the positive impact of the award. AFP’s contribution will strengthen our capacity to support independent journalism around the world, and more specifically in countries that impede free speech.”
The project was established in 2008 in collaboration with the international NGO Reporters without Borders, a key partner.
The late Peter Mackler spent 30 years of his journalism career at AFP in Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States as a correspondent, war reporter, editor and bureau chief, among other capacities. He mentored young AFP correspondents and established an independent journalism training program for students and foreign journalists.
The award has honored J.S.Tissainayagam from Sri Lanka, Ilya Barabanov from Russia, Karla Rivas from Honduras, Lukpan Akhmedyarov from Khazakstan and Faisal Mohamed Salih from Sudan.
“The Mackler family has created something of great importance, not only for the award’s recipients but for the nations where courageous reporters know their work is being followed and recognized abroad,” said Marcus Brauchli former executive editor of the Washington Post and former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. The honorees are selected by daughters Camille and Lauren Mackler, and Catherine Antoine, Peter’s wife.
“The award is a great source of inspiration when individual journalists, often working alone, confront powerful governments and organized criminal gangs,” said J.S. Tissainayagam who received the award while jailed in 2009.
Recipients are flown to the US in October for an award ceremony at the National Press Club. In New York, they address students and faculty of the Columbia University School of Journalism, and in Washington, D.C., they meet with policy makers in think tanks and government agencies.
The Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism is a project of the Global Media Forum, a U.S. non-profit company.

Faisal Salih Acquitted By Sudan Court Of Writing “Lies”

Faisal Salih (2nd left) Catherine Antoine (left) at Peter Mackler Award


In a bold move, a Sudan court acquitted editor and columnist Faisal Mohamed Salih, winner of the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, of writing “lies” and “insulting the state” that could have earned him a six-month jail sentence.  

The Global Post and Darfur-based Radio Dabangareported that Salih was exonerated by Judge Esmat Suleiman who said in his verdict that Salih “did not publish lies and did not insult the state” and that “a lot of media published about this case.”
Reacting to Salih’s acquittal, Catherine Antoine, co-founder of the Peter Mackler Award said, “We are relieved to learn that Faisal Salih was cleared of wrong doing while exercising his profession. We hope the Sudanese courts will also clear the other journalist accused in a similar fashion.”
Click here for this blog’s coverage of Salih and media freedom in Sudan: 1), 2), 3), 4), 5), 6) and 7)
Salih was indicted under the Criminal Code after he was one the first journalists to expose the alleged gang rape of Sudan’s democracy activist Safia Ishag by agents of the notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) by calling for “‘serious investigation’ into the activist’s allegation that she was raped in detention,” said the Global Post.
“‘It’s very positive for the freedom of the press and the role of the press in society,’ he [Salih] said, noting that the judge described his article as ‘very objective,'” reported Radio Dabanga following the acquittal.
In March 2011 after Ishag went public about her ordeal, Salih and other journalists denounced the NISS in their writings. The attorney general’s office summoned Salih and two others to be interrogatedafter the security forces accused them of spreading “false information.” Harassment in the hands of state authorities continued well into August with other journalists too being investigated or tried before courts for reporting the torture of Ishag. The NISS said Salih was defamingit by associating its officers with the rape of Ishag.
“An allegation of rape in custody is a grave matter and we are encouraged by the decision of the Sudanese court,” said Antoine in her message after the announcement of Saih’s acquittal.
Accepting the Peter Mackler Award at the National Press Club in Washington DC in October Salih said, “Sudanese journalists are not giving up. They face harassment, detention and threat of violence with great courage and honesty. They are doing all they can to serve their citizens right to know.”

Another Honduran Journalist Killed As Defeated Castro Disputes Polls


As Honduras’ unsuccessful candidate at the November 24 presidential election Xiomara Castro continued to dispute the polls result, the ensuing political turmoil has claimed another journalist’s life. What is unfortunate is that he is the third journalist killed this year in Honduras and more tragically also the third from Globo Media Group which is known to support Castro.

Juan Carlos Argeñal who was a local correspondent for the ‘Radio y TV Globo’ was shot dead on December 7 outside his home in the southeastern province Danli, said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF)
“‘Globo’is one of the few national broadcasters to criticize the June 2009 coup d’état,” RSF said. “Its staff and reporters in the field have paid a high price for this for the past four years. It has included military occupation of their premises, confiscation of their equipment and targeted murders. The mere fact of working for ‘Globo‘ exposed Argeñal to danger.
“A total of 38 journalists have been killed in the past decade in Honduras, two thirds of them since the 2009 coup. Given the almost complete collapse of the rule of law, will this latest murder remain unpunished like nearly all the others? Does it signal the start of a new crackdown at a time when the country’s future seems more uncertain than ever?”
The earlier murders of Globo journalists were Annibal Barrow, kidnapped on June 24 and killed, and Manuel Murrillo Varela killed on October 24. Please see details of both killings here.
RSF goes on to say: “[Argeñal’s] murder could also be linked to his well-known support for Liberty and Re-foundation, the party led by Xiomara Castro, a candidate in the 24 November presidential election and wife of Manuel Zelaya, the president ousted by the 2009 coup.”
Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a 2009 coup by Porforio Lobo Sosa, who became Honduras’ president till elections in November.
Although Castro has challenged the poll results, election observers stated clearly that the other candidate – the leader of the conservative National Party, Juan Hernandez – was the winner with 36% of the vote. Castro from the Liberty Party received 28.8% and complained of “fraud” and “irregularities.”
“Observers from the European Union and Organisation of American States have vouched for the elections despite some imperfections. A group of Honduran computer programmers who with the help of crowd-sourcing took on the job of verifying the results have largely confirmed Hernandez’s victory,” commented Raul Gallegos in Bloomberg’sWorld View blog.
The Liberty party that is said to advance populist policies has support among the poorer sections of the population and the students. Student riots following the elections led to police crackdown and injuries to journalists, which included another ‘Globo’ journalist Victoria Aguilar.
This blog has a special interest in developments in media and politics in Honduras because the winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2011 was Honduras’ Karla Rivas, news editor of ‘Radio Progresso.’
The events taking place today were in a way foreseen by Rivas who said in her interviewto RSF before the presidential election, “As things stand, there won’t be much change in the country and it won’t matter who wins the election, given that its structures have collapsed and its institutions have been corrupted. In the world of communications, we are committed to diversity but remain true to our principles, which mean giving a voice to the sectors that have historically been marginalised.”
Gallegos laconically agrees the election has changed little: “Politicians in Honduras have been cementing the Central American country’s reputation for dysfunction.”

Journalist-Killers At Large


Reporters without Borders (RSF) called for an “overhaul of the entire media” of Honduras after elections are held on Saturday. RSF’scall comes on the international day to end impunity, which, coincidentally, has relevance to Honduras where 27 journalists have been murdered since the coup in 2009 and perpetrators have gone largely free. RSF has also named Honduran journalist Annibal Barrow with nine other murdered journalists to symbolise impunity throughout the world.
It is also a source of pride to this blog that RSF has interviewedKarla Rivas, news director of Radio Progresso on the state of the media in Honduras. Rivas was the winner of the annual Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2011. 

Speakingat the National Press Club in Washington DC as she accepted the award, Rivas gave voice to the parlous state of media freedom and impunity in her country. She said, “Within this context of high insecurity and institutional arbitrariness, the deaths of journalists and media workers remain in the shadow of impunity, because impunity characterises a society based on the rule of the strongest.”
This blog featured the state of media freedom in Honduras in relation to the killing of journalist Manuel Murillo Varela on October 25. Please click here.
RSF said that attacks on journalists and other human rights defenders in Honduras have taken place against a background of generalised violence. The media watchdog demanded, “The protection of journalists and other news providers and the fight against impunity need to be addressed during the next parliamentary period.”
RSF acknowledges that although there are few individual cases in Honduras where those killing journalists have been convicted and punished – and it gives the example of Roger Mauricio Garcia, 22, found guilty of murdering the journalist Héctor Medina Polanco in 2011 – “but motives and instigators have never been identified.”
The impunity enjoyed by those who kill Honduran journalists is not peculiar to that country. And RSF details a horrifying figure of 700 journalists killed in connection with their work in the past 10 years in another statement. Of them, there was last year alone a staggering 88 journalists 47 citizen-journalists.
“This is devastating. The impunity enjoyed by those responsible for this bloodshed encourages them to continue violating human rights and freedom of information. And it creates a climate of fear and uncertainty for journalists that fosters self-censorship,” RSFsaid.
RSF said that in order to put a “name and face” on the statistics on impunity it was presenting the names of ten journaists: Samir Kassir (Lebanon),Syed Saleem Shahzad (Pakistan), Lasantha Wickrematunga (Sri Lanka), Aníbal Barrow (Honduras),Guillermo Cano (Colombia), Norbert Zongo (Burkina Faso), Didace Namujimbo (Democratic Republic of Congo), Khadjimourad Kamalov (Daghestan-Russia),Hrant Dink (Turkey) andSattar Beheshti (Iran).
“Those responsible [for the journalists’ deaths] take many different forms and include governments, armed groups and hired killers. Their murders resulted in total or partial impunity. Investigations were sometimes launched only to turn into smokescreens. In some cases, the perpetrators were arrested but instigators were not touched,” RSF said.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is marking the international day to end impunity by writing to the governments of Pakistan, Iran and Russia asking them to address impunity for violence against journalists in their countries. IFJ’s campaign End Impunity was launched last month against the three countries with highest death tolls for journalists, IFJsaid in a statement.
IFJ said, “End Impunity is already having an important impact, with many of IFJ’s affiliates across the world, including the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate and the Association of Journalists of the Republic of Poland, showing their solidarity and support by sending their own letters to the embassies of Iraq, Pakistan and Russia in their countries.”
IFJ has also organised a series of activities to raise awareness on impunity that it has detailed in the statement. Please take a moment to read how you can help.

Honduran Authorities Kill Journalists To Send A Message

Manuel Murillo Varela (Pic courtesy RSF)


Targeting of journalists in Honduras, on the increase in recent months as the country’s general elections approach, continued with a freelance cameraman in Tegucigalpa the latest victim. Manuel Murillo Varela’s killing on October 25 comes four months after the abduction and murder of Anibal Barrow‘s.
To the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, media freedom in Honduras is of special interest because the third winner of the prize – in 2011 – was Karla Rivas working for Radio Progresso. 

Rivas (R) speaking at award ceremony

 Speakingat the National Press Club in Washington DC as she accepted the award, Rivas said, “Within this context of high insecurity and institutional arbitrariness, the deaths of journalists and media workers remain in the shadow of impunity, because impunity characterises a society based on the rule of the strongest.”

Violence against journalists has heighted after the military coup of 2009 that installed President Porforio Lobo Sosa in power. A transit point in drug trafficking and political strongmen, Honduras’ journalists have not only been killed but threatened and tortured. The Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had told the police to afford Murilloextra protection “after a score of policemen kidnapped and tortured him and a colleague for 24 hours in February 2010.” RSF also said that Murillo had complained “that policemen seeking video footage of demonstrations by opponents of the June 2009 military coup had threatened to kill his family.”
“We call on the authorities to organise a thorough and independent investigation to shed light on all aspects of this murder,” RSF said. “We also call for an end to impunity for all crimes of violence against journalists, because investigations have been slow to produce results.”
Anibal Barrow (Pic. courtesy RSF)

On July 9, the dismembered and partially-burned body of Anibal Barrow was discovered near Villanueva. RSFsaid it is believed that Barrow was killed on the day he was abducted – June 24 and a sum 15,000 Euros was paid by a “highly-placed person” to hit men. The media watchdog went on to say that four men had been arrested and the police was on the lookout for four others.  

“While the investigation has already produced some results, the murder will remain unpunished as long as the instigators have not been identified and brought to trial,” RSF said.
Following Barrow’s killing the Washington DC-based Inter-American Commission Human Rights even called for a special investigative body: “The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists that the State needs to create special investigative bodies and protocols, as well as protection mechanisms designed to ensure the safety of those who are being threatened because of their work in journalism.”
On April 9, Fidelina Sandoval with the radio and television station Globo survived a murder attempt unhurt in Tegucigalpa. RSF berated Honduran authorities for not providing Sandoval protection. RSF attributed the attempt to silence Sandoval was connected to illegal mining interests and land disputes. It called on the government to disarm militias working for these interests if effective end to the murder of journalists with impunity was to be brought to an end.
Fidelina Sandoval (Pic. courtesy RSF)

 “What will Fidelina Sandoval’s fate now be? The secretary of state for justice and the High Commissioner for Human Rights must, as a matter of urgency, put protective measures in place that are appropriate for journalists, as their security is not in any way guaranteed,” said RSF.

Sandoval fled abroad.
In a bid to give context to the killings of journalists among others (Honduras has the highest murder rate in the whole world: 91 to every 1000), the Index on Censorship (IOC) said that criminal gangs, drug cartels and government politicians used the killings to give messages to others.
“Last July, body parts of a man, which appeared to have been partially burnt, floated on a small lagoon near sugar cane fields in San Pedro Sula.  It was the body of Aníbal Barrow … Barrow was a close friend of President Lobo and was the second journalist with known links to the President murdered violently in the last two years. In May 2012, police found the body of Ángel Alfredo Villatoro, also a television broadcaster …  His body was found dressed with a police special forces uniform.  Nobody understood the uniform and the message.  A few days before Villatoro was kidnapped, the police had taken away bodyguards that had been assigned to the reporter because of death threats.”
 
IOC goes on to say that due to threat the media does not provide context or details in its reportage for the killings, nor is there investigative reporting into the murders because of the connections between the deaths and important political figures that have impunity.
“‘We have examined some cases deeply but can never reach any conclusions,’ said one editor (to IOC). Part of the reason many journalists are afraid to dig too deep in the cases of their dead colleagues is because they fear that in these cases, as in others in Honduras today, the authors could come from political, journalistic or police sectors, who may be operating in tandem with members of organized crime,” says IOC.