Press Freedom


The New Zealand journalist imprisoned in Zimbabwe has not been released say his family, despite media reports that he has.

Speaking to Fairfax, Robin Hammond’s sister Jessica Doube said he was still being detained by Zimbabwe authorities.

“We’ve heard from his fiance in South Africa, and she said he hasn’t been released.”

Doube said Hammond’s fiance was in constant contact with him.

“We are obviously disappointed the reports aren’t true, we would love him to be freed,” Doube said.

Zimbabwe newspaper The Herald had reported Hammond was released and fined $183.10 for breaching media regulations, when he and Zimbabwe woman Bertha Chiguvare were arrested on Monday for illegally working on a story on irregular migration between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has not received any updates on the matter yet.

Hammond grew up in Wellington before moving first to Britain and then South Africa, where he has lived for about the past three years and has won international media awards for his work as a photo journalist. In 2009 and 2010 he won Amnesty International media awards and Life Magazine included one of his pictures in their edition of Pictures of the Year for 2010.

Hammond’s mother, Christine, said her family had not heard from him in more than a week “but it’s unlikely we would hear from him until he is back in South Africa”.

She said her daughter had rung her this morning after she heard on radio there were reports he had been freed, but the family were “waiting on tenterhooks” to try and get the information confirmed.

His arrest was his second in as many months in Zimbabwe, Hammond said. She was worried about her son’s safety and hoped he would be allowed to return to his home in Cape Town, South Africa, unharmed.

Hammond said her son was aware of the job’s dangers, “but there is a quote that says ‘be the difference you want to see in the world’ and he is making the difference he wants to see and we are so amazingly blown away by his passion and his commitment and the trueness of spirit”.

“He has seen some horrific things and the stories he tells are just gut-wrenching.”

Hammond’s sister Anna-Mareia, 29, said she was surprised her brother had gone back to Zimbabwe so soon after his initial arrest. In the first instance he was detained for about 36 hours in “some really horrible, dingy room with nothing to lie on – just concrete, and no windows or anything like that”.

She did not know the full circumstances surrounding the first arrest, but understood he was taking photos that the authorities didn’t like.

“He’s kind of cagey about it [revealing details]. He knew the Zimbabwe government wouldn’t be too pleased with it. He’s like the bravest guy that I know.”

The paper reported the pair appeared in front of magistrate yesterday (local time) charged with contravening sections of the Protected Areas and Places and Immigration Acts.

Hammond, 37, and Chiguvare, who the paper said worked for Save the Children, were stopped by officials when taking photos at the border.

At the time, an Mfat spokesperson said they were aware of the situation.

Hammond was understood to be based in Cape Town working as a teacher and photographer.

“Preliminary investigations reveal the Hammond Robin Nicholas [sic] who claims to be a teacher and photographer entered the country on Sunday morning in the company of Bertha Chiguvare who is employed by Save the Children in Musina South Africa,” Beitbridge district Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chinhengo told The Herald.

“They misrepresented to the Department of Immigration that they were on holiday. In fact they were on a mission to investigate how illegal immigrants manage to cross into South Africa,” he said.

“After being cleared at the border post they spent the night in Beitbridge and on the following day they enlisted the services of a man who facilitates illegal migration popularly know as Guma Guma. They hired a taxi and went to Dulibadzimu Gorge along the Limpopo River intending to take videos and pictures of the illegal entry points. They however, came across police and soldiers who were on patrol in the area and sped off to the border post.”

He said the two continued taking videos and photos near the commercial area.

“The duo ran out of luck since our detectives were already on the look out for them after getting a tip-off. They were arrested after taking photos of one of the travellers and we recovered equipment including video and digital cameras and a voice tracker.”

Police found a recording of an interview the duo did with a young girl and photos of the border post, Chinhengo said. Hammond had apparently been arrested in another province while on a similar mission.

Chiguvare faced charges of breaching a section of the Criminal Law Reform and Codification and the Protected Areas and Places Acts.

(Source)

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists has condemned Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara for allegedly using “intolerant and intemperate” language while answering questions from the NewsDay newspaper.

The newspaper reported on June 13 that Mutambara had accused its journalists of “writing rubbish” after he was asked about an apparent snub by SADC leaders who refused to recognise him as MDC leader.

“Who told you to call me?,” Mutambara was quoted as shouting at a NewsDay journalist, before adding: “Tell your editor to stop publishing rubbish. Your paper is writing rubbish.”

The newspaper said earlier, Mutambara had accused it of “writing stupid stories”.

But ZUJ, which recently criticised Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa over attacks on journalists, said Mutambara’s outburst made its membership “uneasy”.

“The DPM has been very intolerant against journalists over the last few days while being interviewed over his participation in the just-ended Extraordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Johannesburg, South Africa,” ZUJ secretary general Foster Dongozi said in a statement.

“The Union would like to condemn in very strong terms the DPM’s abusive statements and call on him to use language which contributes towards peace and national healing in Zimbabwe.”

ZUJ said it feared attacks by politicians on journalists had the capacity to “endanger the lives of journalists as their supporters may take it as a cue to abuse, harass or assault journalists, newspaper vendors and media organisations.”

Mutambara, who has been battling to regain control of the MDC party now led by Welshman Ncube, was invited to the SADC summit in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister and not leader of the party.

Mutambara had recently purported to have fired Ncube, despite giving up the party leadership at a congress in January.

Meanwhile, ZUJ also launched an attack on Harare councillor Joyce Kariwo who reportedly accused journalists of staying until late at council meetings “in order to eat councillors’ food”.

“We reject and condemn Clr Kariwo’s statements and would like to draw to her attention that the only reason why journalists attend council meetings until late is because they would be on assignment and are dedicated professionals seeking to provide quality service under extremely difficult working conditions,” Dongozi said.

(Source)

It is thanks to its president that Zimbabwe’s privately-owned print media are constantly harassed and that the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has a monopoly of radio and TV broadcasting.

Robert Mugabe blocks everything, prevents the national unity government from functioning properly, makes sure the independent media are unable to express themselves freely and, with the help of his closest aides, keeps the state media under tight control.

Mugabe stepped up the pressure on the media after his government’s electoral setbacks in 2008. Editors were placed under electronic surveillance to check their loyalty to the party, while opposition activists were abducted and tried for “terrorist plots” in grotesque trials.

Despite being hailed as a “liberator” when he came to power in the 1980s, Mugabe has no problem with the arbitrary arrests and harassment to which most of the country’s journalists are exposed. In 2002, he was the architect of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the sole aim of which was to finish off the privately-owned press, above all The Daily News, then the country’s most widely-read daily. In 2011, “the old man” was preparing for the next elections – for which a date has yet to be set – by continuing to curtail free speech.

Seven press freedom predators in Africa

Africa’s seven press freedom predators are Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki, Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Rwandan President Paul Kagamé, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Swaziland’s King Mswati III and Somalia’s Islamist militias (Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam). Read their portraits on the Reporters Without Borders website (www.rsf.org)

They are not the only enemies of press freedom in Africa but, more than any others, they embody the persecution of journalists and have a direct responsibility for the disturbing situation of the media in their countries. Ogbonna Onovo has been dropped from the list because he is no longer Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police. The National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo came close to being included because of its arbitrary arrests of journalists and heavy-handed interrogations. Reporters Without Borders will continue to keep a close eye on the ANR during 2011, which is an election year and therefore a dangerous one for journalists.

The situation in some countries such as Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire has been extremely worrying without there being any one predator who stood out from the others. Middle East: predators of press freedom start to topple The kingpins of repressive machinery, political leaders of regimes hostile to civil liberties and direct organizers of campaigns of violence against journalists – they are the predators of press freedom. They prey on the media. See all the predators (http://en.rsf.org/syria-bashar-al-assad-03-05-2010,37213.html)

There are 38 predators this year. Pride of place goes to North Africa and the Middle East, where dramatic and sometimes tragic events have taken place in recent months.

It is the Arab world that has seen the most important changes in the 2011 Predators list. Heads have fallen. The first to go was Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced to step down on 14 January, thereby giving his people the chance to explore the entire range of democratic possibilities.

Other predators such as Yemen’s Ali Abdallah Saleh, who has been overwhelmed by the wave of protests sweeping his country, or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who is responding with terror to his people’s democratic aspirations, could also fall. And what of Muammar Gaddafi, the Guide of the Revolution, now the guide of violence against his people, a violence that is deaf to reason? And Bahrain’s King Ben Aissa Al-Khalifa, who should one day have to answer for the deaths of four activists in detention, including the only opposition newspaper’s founder, and the vast repressive operation against pro-democracy protesters?

Freedom of expression has been one of the first demands of the region’s peoples, one of the first concessions from transitional regimes, and one of the first achievements, albeit a very fragile one, of its revolutions.

Attempts to manipulate foreign reporters, arbitrary arrests and detention, deportation, denial of access, intimidation and threats – the list of abuses against the media during the Arab Spring is staggering. Those determined to obstruct the media did not stop at murder in four countries – Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. The fatalities included Mohamed Al-Nabous, shot by snipers on the government’s payroll in the Libyan city of Benghazi on 19 March, and two journalists directly targeted by the security forces in Yemen on 18 March.

There have been more than 30 cases of arbitrary detention in Libya and a similar number of foreign correspondents have been deported. Similar methods have been used in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, where the authorities make every possible effort to keep the media at a distance so that they cannot broadcast video footage of the repression.

The media have rarely played such as key role in conflicts. These oppressive regimes, already traditionally hostile to media freedom, have treated control of news and information as one of the keys to their survival. Journalist have been direct targeted by the authorities or caught in the crossfire of the violence between activists and security forces, reminding us of the risks they take to perform their essential job of reporting the news.

The need to be at the reporting front line, and often the front line of the violence, has taken a heavy toll on photojournalists since the start of the year. Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to the Franco-German photographer Lucas Melbrouk Dolega, who was hit by a police teargas grenade in Tunis on 17 January and died three days later, and to Tim Hetherington, a British photographer working for Vanity Fair, and Chris Hondros, an American photographer working for Getty Images, who were killed by a mortar shell in the Libyan city of Misrata on 20 April.

Rest of the world

In Asia, some leaders have been replaced by others without any change to the repressive systems they control. Thein Sein has replaced Than Shwe at the head of the regime in Burma (where 14 journalists are in prison). The Communist Party chose Nguyen Phu Trong to succeed Nong Duc Manh in Vietnam (where 18 netizens are currently jailed). In both countries, one predator has taken over from another. They are the figureheads of regimes that use imprisonment as a way to censor and allow no hope of a political opening. One-party system attitudes, clan interests and a national unity ideology characterize these impenetrable dictatorships, now jittery about the pro-democracy movements sweeping the world.

The shockwaves from the Arab Spring have affected the policies pursued by China’s predator, President Hu Jintao, and Azerbaijan’s predator, President Ilham Aliyev. They fear that this is a virus that could spread. More than 30 dissidents, lawyers and human rights activists are being held incommunicado in China. There is no way of finding out what has happened to them. One of the latest victims is the internationally famous artist Ai Wei Wei. No one knows where he is being held. The Azerbaijani authorities have adopted various tactics with the opposition and media in response to attempts to hold Arab-style demonstrations in Baku. Facebook activists have been jailed. Reporters for the opposition newspaper Azadlig have been kidnapped and threatened. Journalists trying to cover the protests have been arrested and beaten. The Internet has been blocked.

Other predators remain tragically true to themselves. Issaias Afeworki in Eritrea, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in Turkmenistan and Kim Jong-il in North Korea head the world’s worst totalitarian regimes. Their cruelty is staggering. Their extreme centralization of authority, their purges and their ubiquitous propaganda leave no space for any freedom.

Iran’s predators – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reelected as the Islamic Republic’s president in June 2009, and Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader – are the architects of a relentless crackdown marked by Stalinist-style trials of opposition politicians, journalists and human rights activists. More than 200 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since June 2009, 40 are still held and around 100 have had to flee the country. An estimated 3,000 journalists are currently out of work because their newspapers have been closed down or have been banned from rehiring them. Reporters Without Borders calls for a special human rights rapporteur to be sent to Iran as a matter of urgency, in line with the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 24 March.

The other side of the Atlantic has seen an unusual addition to the list of Predators of Press Freedom – the militias of Honduran businessman landowner Miguel Facussé Barjum, which have had their hands free to harass opposition media since the June 2009 coup d’état – especially the small and often modest community radio stations that wage a David-and-Goliath battle against big business and political interests.

Pakistan and Côte d’Ivoire – two of the priorities for the coming year

Reporters Without Borders plans to continue working on the issue of organized crime’s violations of media freedom. The initial report on this subject, issued in March 2011, will be developed, especially with a view to the visit that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay is due to make in the coming months to Mexico, where seven journalists were killed in 2010.

Violence is also the major problem in Pakistan, where 14 journalists have been killed in a little more than a year. It continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media. Media organizations in the most hazardous regions must reinforce mechanisms for protecting their journalists, who are too often exposed to danger.

In Mexico and Pakistan, as in the Philippines, protection of the media is handicapped by impunity. The negligence of local officials, the insolent freedom with which criminal gangs operate and corruption all conspire to ensure that investigations into violence against journalists rarely lead to arrests. Media freedom cannot progress if impunity is not combated effectively.

As regards the Internet, the priority for Reporters Without Borders will be to defend net neutrality, which is being threatened by proposed legislation in several countries. The organization is concerned about the growing pressure – varying in intensity according to the nature of the regime – on Internet sector companies, especially Internet service providers, to assume the role of Internet regulator.

A big news story in recent months, Côte d’Ivoire continues to be a priority for Reporters Without Borders and has been even since it monitored the media during the two-round presidential election in October and November. From the attacks on journalists who support Alassane Ouattara to the recent threat of a witch-hunt against Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters after Ouattara took office in early April, Reporters Without Borders has followed the crisis closely and will continue to monitor developments.

In Turkey (which received a Reporters Without Borders country visit in April), the problem is not just repressive laws, especially the counter-terrorism and state security laws, but also and above all abusive practices by the courts and judges due to their lack of knowledge of investigative journalism. The latest example is the jailing of Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, two journalists who are well known for their investigative coverage of the Ergenekon conspiracy case and the functioning of the Turkish police and judicial systems.

In northern Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan, the security forces of the two parties that control the government have responded with violence to a recent wave of street demonstrations and journalists have been among the first to suffer.

More and more journalists and netizens are being prosecuted in Vietnam, where the Communist Party follows its Chinese big brother’s model as regards governance and repression. Reporters Without Borders continues to closely monitor China and Iran, two countries that devour their journalists.

The international community’s silence on many countries such as Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Eritrea and the central Asian dictatorships (especially Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) is more than culpable, it is complicit. We urge the democracies not to continue hiding behind their commercial and geopolitical interests.

(Source)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is among Africa’s seven worst press freedom predators who regularly harass and persecute journalists, media rights group Reporters Without Borders or Reporters sans frontières (RSF) has said.

In statement released ahead of World Press Freedom Day tomorrow, the RSF said journalism in Zimbabwe remains a risky and dangerous operation despite formation more than two years ago of a unity government between Mugabe and pro-democracy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The RSF said Mugabe has maintained a tight grip on the state-owned broadcasting and newspaper publishing empire, the most dominant in Zimbabwe, while making sure the make sure the small but vibrant privately-owned media are, “unable to express themselves freely.”

The RSF, a France-based non-governmental organisation campaigning for freedom of the Press, also mentioned unconfirmed reports that some state editors have been “placed under electronic surveillance to check their loyalty to the (ZANU PF) party of Mugabe.

“Despite being hailed as a “liberator” when he came to power in the 1980s, Mugabe has no problem with the arbitrary arrests and harassment to which most of the country’s journalists are exposed,” the group said, adding that Mugabe has stepped curtailment on free speech as he prepares for the next elections whose date is yet to be set.

Other top African press freedom violators on the RSF list are Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki, Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Rwandan President Paul Kagamé, Swaziland’s King Mswati III and Somalia’s Islamist militias (Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam).

Others outside Africa named as press freedom violators include the leaders of North Korea, China, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

While Zimbabwe’s coalition government has implemented some of the media reforms agreed in a power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai it has avoided instituting far-reaching measures that would drastically open up the country’s media space.

The reforms instituted so far include the establishment of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and the licensing of at least nine private newspapers to compete with the state-run titles that have dominated the country’s media landscape since 2003.

But Mugabe’s allies in the Ministry of Information that oversees the media have continued to hold back reforms especially in the key broadcasting sector.

More than a year after the coalition government was formed, the government broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) still dominates the country’s media.

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has refused to license private television or radio stations, forcing several radio stations to broadcast into Zimbabwe from Europe or United States.

It however allowed the ZBC to launch a second television channel last May underlining its dominance of the airwaves.

The Information Ministry that is controlled by Mugabe loyalist Webster Shamu and the President’s influential press secretary George Charamba has also held on to the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and other laws that restrict media freedom.

The AIPPA requires journalists and media houses to register with the government and also criminalises the publication of “falsehoods”. The law has been solely used to harass and arrest journalists working for the private media or state media reporters who fail to toe the line.

(Source)