Bahraini and Syrian authorities try to impose news blackout, kidnapping in Yemen

first_img News October 14, 2020 Find out more Receive email alerts RSF_en June 15, 2020 Find out more to go further BahrainMiddle East – North Africa BAHRAINReporters Without Borders condemns the Bahraini government’s attempts to impose a news blackout on the ongoing demonstrations and the police crackdown. Closure of opposition media, forced resignation of senior media personnel, harassment of local journalists and foreign TV crews, intimidation of Bahrainis who talk to foreign journalists, arrests of bloggers, government propaganda and military court orders – the authorities are resorting to all possible means to limit coverage of the protests and to smear their organizers and participants.Yesterday, the information ministry announced the closure of Al-Wasat, an opposition newspaper founded in 2002. Access to its online version was also blocked. The day before, the national television programme “Media Watch” had accused Al-Wasat of trying to harm Bahrain’s stability and security and of disseminating false information that undermined the country’s international image and reputation.The Information Affairs Authority, the government agency that regulates the media, subsequently gave Al-Wasat permission to resume publishing from today but three of its most senior journalists – editor Mansour Al-Jamari, managing editor Walid Nouihid and local news editor Aqil Mirza – were forced to resign. The board of directors announced the appointment of Abidily Al-Abidily to replace Jamari as editor.Jamari told the Associated Press that the government was trying to silence independent media in Bahrain.The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) meanwhile reported that the military prosecutor general issued a decree on 28 March – Decision No.5 of 2011 – under which the publication of any information about ongoing investigations by military prosecutors was banned on national security grounds ( The decree reinforces the arsenal of measures that authorities can use to silence any reporting about human rights violations.CNN journalists Scott Bronstein and Taryn Fixel were briefly detained on 29 March while interviewing Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, at his home.Reporters Without Borders also condemns the harassment of Bahraini bloggers. Photos of bloggers and human rights activists labelled as “traitors to the homeland” have been circulating on the Internet for several days. They include Mahmood Al-Yousif and Manaf Al-Muhandis, who were arrested on 30 March and were released the following day.Mohamed Al-Maskati, who blogs under the name of Emoodz, is still being held in an unknown location since his arrest also 30 March. After blogging actively in the past few weeks and posting videos of recent events on his blog ( and on Twitter (, he was threatened by a presumed member of the royal family, Mohd Al-Khalifa (!/MohdSAlkhalifa). Since his arrest, he has been able to contact his family only once, on 31 March.Khalifa meanwhile continues on Twitter (!/MohdSAlkhalifa/status/54630188465655808) to threaten anyone calling for Makati’s release: “#FreeEmoodz anyone that’s living in Bahrain and is supporting the terrorist emoodz, will have his IP address taken and will get arrested!”There is still no news of Ali Abdulemam and Sayid Yousif Al-Muhafdah, two bloggers who disappeared on 16 March, and Abduljalil Al-Singace, a blogger who was arrested the same day. The blogosphere has reported the silence of several of its members without knowing whether they have been arrested or have gone into hiding to escape the police crackdown. Reporters Without Borders urges the government to end its hate campaign against bloggers and to immediately release all those it is holding.SYRIAJournalists working for foreign media targetedThe Associated Press reported that two of its correspondents in Syria were ordered to leave the country on 1 April. They were given one hour to comply. The Jordanian media meanwhile reported that the Syrian authorities arrested two journalists working for Arab Broadcasting Services, Akram Abu Safi and Sobhie Naeem Al-Assal, on 24 March. In all, a total of six journalists have now been deported.Reporters Without Borders condemns the way the authorities are treating the journalists who are covering the street protests taking place in Syria and urges them to release all of the Syrian journalists that are currently detained.“Whether Syrian or foreign, the journalists covering the demonstrations must not be regarded as participants,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They are there just to report what is going on. Nonetheless, they are the victims of a crackdown by the government, which is trying to block access to information by imposing a media blackout. The arrests and disappearances are part of an unacceptable policy of intimidating the media.”Reuters reported that Khaled al-Hariri, a Syrian photographer working for the agency, was released yesterday after being held for six days in Damascus. Three other Reuters journalists – two Lebanese and a Jordanian, were also released in the past few days, after being arrested. Reuters had lost contact with Hariri on 29 March. Aged 50 and based in Damascus, Hariri was the last Reuters employee still being held by the Syrian authorities. Suleiman Al-Khalidi, the Reuters correspondent in Amman, was released on 1 April. Reuters TV producer Ayat Basma and cameraman Ezzat Baltaji were expelled on 28 March after being held for two days. Khaled Ya’qoub Oweis, a Jordanian journalist who had been the agency’s Damascus correspondent since 2006, had his accreditation withdrawn on 25 March.A number of Syrian journalists and bloggers have also been arrested. According to the London-based Syrian Human Rights Monitoring Centre, Doha Hassan, a journalist who works for several websites, and Zaher Omareen were arrested on 27 March. Reporters Without Borders has been told that they are being held at the headquarters of the General Directorate for State Security in Damascus.Despite the announced lifting of the state of emergency and the release of 260 detainees, the Kurdish blogger Kamal Hussein Sheikou, the blogger Ahmed Hadifa and the journalist and writer Mohamed Dibo are all still detained. They have been held since the start of the protests.Mohamed Radwan, an Egyptian blogger with US citizenship who had been working in Syria for the past nine months as an engineer, was released on 1 April after being arrested on 25 March and held incommunicado. The Syrian authorities accused him of spying for Israel and, using a procedure beloved of the Iranian government, showed him on national television making a “confession.” His family dismissed the charges as nonsense (see:…).As a result of Syrian government pressure, the signal of Orient TV, a privately-owned TV station broadcasting from the United Arab Emirates, has repeatedly been suspended on Nilesat and Arabsat, two of the satellite services that normally carry it. An Orient TV representative told Reporters Without Borders that the station has changed its broadcast frequency several times since the start of the unrest in Syria in mid-March. “Since 25 March, we have only been broadcasting on the Internet three times a day,” he added. The station’s employees have also been harassed.YEMENAbdelghani Al-Shamiri, the former news director of the state-owned radio and TV service, was kidnapped by national security officials while on his way home on 31 March in Sanaa and was taken to an unidentified location. He was released the next day after pressure from the Union of Journalists. Shamiri recently resigned from his positions within the ruling party and declared his support for the protesters who have been calling for President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s resignation. Thereafter, he had been getting many messages threatening him or members of his family with reprisals if he continued to support the opposition movement.Samia Al-Aghbary, a woman journalist, has also received many threatening phone calls.LIBYAReporters Without Borders reiterates its concern about three Al-Jazeera journalists – Mauritian reporter Ahmed Vall Ould el-Dine, Norwegian photographer Ammar Al-Hamdane and British photographer Kamel Al-Tallou’ – who were arrested in early March and are still being held by pro-Gaddafi forces in the west of the country. A fourth Al-Jazeera journalist who was arrested at the same time, Tunisian reporter Lotfi Messaoudi, was released on 31 March and has returned to Tunisia. Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of the other three.OMANAmnesty International reports that an Omani journalist, Ahmed Al-Shizawi (…), was arrested on 29 March in Sohar while participating in a sit-in with human rights and opposition activists. April 4, 2011 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Bahraini and Syrian authorities try to impose news blackout, kidnapping in Yemen Follow the news on Bahrain Organisation center_img BahrainMiddle East – North Africa Tenth anniversary of Bahraini blogger’s arrest March 17, 2021 Find out more News News Coronavirus “information heroes” – journalism that saves lives German spyware company FinFisher searched by public prosecutors News Help by sharing this information last_img read more

Appeal to the People’s Representatives to Abandon Consideration of the Draft Law on Prosecution of Abuses Against the Armed Forces

first_img November 10, 2017 Appeal to the People’s Representatives to Abandon Consideration of the Draft Law on Prosecution of Abuses Against the Armed Forces TunisiaMiddle East – North Africa Protecting journalists Conflicts of interestJudicial harassmentImpunityPredatorsViolenceFreedom of expression December 26, 2019 Find out more Follow the news on Tunisia to go further As part of the coalition of civil society calling to abandon consideration of the draft law on Prosecution of Abuses Against the Armed Forces, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was auditioned on the 9th of November 2017 by members of the Assembly of the People’s represetatives (ARP).On this special occasion, RSF publishes the open letter of 13 national and international organizations addressed last July to the Tunisian Parliament, in which the signatory NGOs expressed their worries about a deterioration of the situation of freedom of information and expression if this bill was to be voted, in view of Articles 4, 5, 6 and 12 of the text. Organisation November 11, 2020 Find out more RSF_en News Open letter published on July 13, 2017Dear Members of the Assembly of the People’s Representatives,Our organizations are writing to urge you to abandon consideration of the “Draft law No.25/2015 on the Prosecution of Abuses Against the Armed Forces” officially listed in Parliament since April 13, 2015. On Thursday July 13, 2017, much to the surprise of civil society, the Assembly of the People’s Representatives (ARP) resumed parliamentary debate of this law.Such draft law risks silencing all criticism of the armed forces and reinforcing a culture of impunity already entrenched in the Tunisian security and judicial system, where extensive reform has been sorely lacking since the Revolution.Our organizations consider this draft law unconstitutional and contrary to Tunisia’s international human rights commitments, particularly with regard to respect of the right to life, the fight against impunity and respect of the right to freedom of expression.The provisions of the draft law could criminalize the behavior of journalists, whistleblowers, human rights defenders, and anyone who criticizes the police. They could also allow the security forces to use lethal force when not strictly necessary to protect human lives.Civil society believes that the ARP does have a duty to ensure that the Tunisian security forces are able to protect the public and their own lives against potentially deadly attacks, through measures that are compatible with human rights. However, the draft law goes far beyond this objective by making the security forces, as well as their relatives and property, almost untouchable – all in a context in which human rights violations committed by the security forces in the framework of the state of emergency, the fight against terrorism and the repression of peaceful demonstrations almost always go unpunished.We are putting forward the following arguments to demonstrate the extent to which this draft law is incompatible with Tunisia’s Constitution and international commitments. In view of the arguments below, our organizations consider that members of parliament, who have sworn to respect the rules of the Constitution, have a responsibility, according to Article 58 of the Constitution, to abandon the draft law or vote against it if it is submitted to a plenary vote in the Assembly.Incompatibility between the criminalization of the disclosure of national security secrets and freedom of expression Articles 5 and 6 of the draft law provide for up to 10 years’ imprisonment, as well as a 50,000 dinar fine, for individuals who disclose or publish a “secret linked to national security.” The draft law defines secrets linked to national security as “all information, data and documents linked to national security […] whose knowledge should be restricted to individuals entitled to their use, possession, circulation or conservation.”The draft law also provides for a sentence of up to two years’ imprisonment for any person who disseminates, without authorization, audio-visual material filmed inside national security buildings, on the sites of security operations or in vehicles belonging to the armed forces. Such an article would lead to the imprisonment of people who might want to denounce abusive behavior by the police by publishing videos or photos documenting abuses in order to alert public opinion.These provisions are incompatible with Tunisia’s obligations to protect and respect the right to freedom of expression which includes the public right of access to information, particularly in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Tunisia is a party. Such information could be essential for denouncing human rights violations and guaranteeing accountability in a democracy. While governments have the right to restrict the dissemination of certain kinds of information that could seriously endanger national security, the very vague definition and the absence of any exception or excuse on the grounds of public interest could enable the authorities to prosecute those who denounce reprehensible actions by the government.According to Article 32 of the Tunisian Constitution, “the State guarantees the right to information and the right of access to information.” In addition, Article 31 guarantees freedom of opinion, thought, information, and publication and prohibits prior control of these freedoms.The Johannesburg Principles on national security, freedom of expression and access to information, an influential body of principles issued in 1996 by international law experts on the applicability of human rights protection to information on national security, state: “No person may be punished on national security grounds for disclosure of information if (1) the disclosure does not actually harm and is not likely to harm a legitimate national security interest, or (2) the public interest in knowing the information outweighs the harm from disclosure.”The Principles specify that “to establish that a restriction… is necessary to protect a legitimate national security interest, a government must demonstrate that: (a) the expression or information at issue poses a serious threat to a legitimate national security interest; (b) the restriction imposed is the least restrictive means possible for protecting that interest; and (c) the restriction is compatible with democratic principles.”In addition, the Principles define legitimate national security interest as the protection of “a country’s existence or its territorial integrity against the use or threat of force, or its capacity to respond to the use or threat of force, whether from an external source, such as a military threat, or an internal source, such as incitement to violent overthrow of the government.”In its General Comment No.34 interpreting Article 19 of the ICCPR, the United Nations Human Rights Committee notes that governments should take “extreme care” to ensure that laws on national security are not invoked “to suppress or withhold from the public information of legitimate public interest that does not harm national security” or to prosecute journalists, researchers, activists, or other individuals who disseminate such information.Denigrating the Police and Freedom of ExpressionThe draft law would criminalize “denigration” of the police and other security forces, thereby jeopardizing freedom of expression.Article 12 of the draft law provides for a criminal sanction of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars for any person found guilty of intentionally denigrating the armed forces with the aim of “harming public order.”The criminalization of denigration of state institutions is incompatible with the strong protection of freedom of expression laid out in international law as well as with rights guaranteed by the 2014 Tunisian Constitution.Moreover, the vague concept of “denigration of the armed forces” is incompatible with the principle of legality – the cornerstone of international human rights standards – which obliges States to ensure that criminal offenses are clearly and precisely defined in law (see General Comment No.34, paragraph 25).Article 12 risks giving the authorities considerable scope to carry out arrests for unjustified reasons such as arguing with the police or taking a long time to carry out their orders, or in reprisal for filing a complaint against the police. The requirement that the denigration should be aimed at “harming public order” is so broad that it barely limits the authorities’ discretionary powers of prosecution.The denigration clause would add a new offense to existing laws which already contain numerous articles criminalizing freedom of expression, in particular provisions on defamation of state institutions, offenses against the Head of State, and offenses against the dignity, reputation or morale of the army. Our organizations have long denounced these articles and called for their withdrawal.The UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No.34 specifies that “state parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”In its 2008 review of Tunisia, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the criminalization of “criticism of official bodies, the army or the administration.” During Tunisia’s Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012, Tunisia complied with Recommendation No.114.59 to review the legislation of the Ben Ali era that stifles freedom of expression in order to fully protect these rights, in accordance with international standards. During Tunisia’s Universal Periodic Review in 2017, several States asked Tunisia to strengthen freedom of expression, including press freedom and the right of access to information.Reinforcing Impunity by Exonerating the Security Forces from Responsibility in Cases of Excessive Use of ForceThe draft law would exonerate the security forces from criminal responsibility if they use lethal force to repel attacks on security buildings, their homes, their belongings, and their vehicles, when the force they used proved necessary and proportional to the danger. This provision would mean that the security forces would be legally authorized to respond with lethal force to an attack on property which would not endanger their lives or the lives of others and would not cause serious injury.According to Article 18 of the draft law, a “member of the armed forces is not criminally responsible for damages resulting from the act of injuring of killing a person who has committed one of the offenses mentioned in articles 13, 14, and 16 of the law, if the action was necessary to reach the legitimate aim of protecting life or property, and if the means used were the only ones capable of repelling the aggression, and the use of force was proportional to the danger.”This article mirrors the directives on the use of force in articles 20-22 of Tunisian law 69-4 of January 24, 1969 regulating public meetings, while broadening it to the use of force not only during demonstrations, but also in cases of individual attacks against property or vehicles belonging to the police or other security forces.Article 18 therefore gives the armed forces significant leeway to respond with potentially lethal force to an attack that does not threaten lives or risk causing serious injury. This is contrary to the State’s obligation to respect and protect the right to life.International law does not authorize the use of firearms solely to protect property. See, for example, Article 9 of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. These standards also require an independent authority to assess whether the use of firearms by the armed forces resulting in death or serious injury was necessary and proportionate.The Tunisian security forces have long benefited from impunity for the excessive use of force or ill-treatment. Killings of demonstrators during the revolution, excessive and unjustified use of force in policing demonstrations, torture, and ill-treatment of detainees during anti-terrorist operations as well as arbitrary practices during the arrests of citizens have all gone largely unpunished. Exonerating the security forces from responsibility, as envisaged in the draft law, risks reinforcing this culture of impunity and sending a message to the security forces that they have a green light to use force illegally.SignatoriesTunisian Human Rights LeagueNational Union of Tunisian JournalistsTunisian Forum on Economic and Social RightsTunisian Organization Against TortureHuman Rights WatchWorld Organization Against TortureInternational Federation for Human RightsAmnesty InternationalLawyers Without BordersInternational Commission of JuristsReporters Without BordersEuroMed RightsDemocratic Transition Human Rights Support Centre (DAAM) TunisiaMiddle East – North Africa Protecting journalists Conflicts of interestJudicial harassmentImpunityPredatorsViolenceFreedom of expression Forum on Information and Democracy 250 recommendations on how to stop “infodemics” Receive email alerts News News Tunisia : RSF asks Tunisian president’s office to respect journalists News Help by sharing this information Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder November 12, 2019 Find out morelast_img read more