Category Archives: Press Freedom

2017-03-30 Update: KPFK – Middle East In Focus

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2017-03-30 Update: Freedom of the press – Global Legal Monitor

Iran: Charter on Citizens' Rights Signed (Feb. 28, 2017) With the aim of and promoting citizens' rights," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, under his constitutional authority to the program and policies of the government," signed the Charter on Citizens' Rights in a ceremony on December 19, 2016. (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding Guarantee," VOA (Dec. 19, 2016) (in Persian); Manshur-e Hoquq-e Shahrvandi [Charter on Citizens' Rights] (Dec. 2016), Hassan Rouhani website; Charter on Citizen's Rights (Charter) (Dec. 2016), Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran website (official English translation); Qanun-e Asasi-e Jomhuri-e Islami-e Iran [Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran] (1979), art. 134, Islamic Parliament Research Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran website; Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Constitution), Comparative Constitutions Project website.) The Charter, which is actually draft legislation that needs to be passed by Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament), contains no specific enforcement guarantee. (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding Guarantee," supra; Mehrnaz Samimi, Will Rouhani's of Rights" Change Anything in Iran?, ATLANTIC COUNCIL (Jan. 3, 2017).) The Charter contains 120 articles, which include the right of Iranian citizens enjoy a decent life and necessities thereof, such as clean water, adequate food, promotion of health, ‚… appropriate medical treatment, access to medicines, ‚… and safe and sustainable environmental conditions. (Charter, art. 2.) The Charter guarantees citizens' freedom of speech and expression the limits prescribed by law," and affords them the right to access public information, communicate in cyberspace, assemble and participate in demonstrations, and receive due process of law. (Id. arts. 26, 30, 33, 46 & 57.) In addition, the Charter provides for a number of women's rights, guaranteeing women's particip …

Kenya: High Court Declares Penal Code Provision on Criminal Defamation Unconstitutional (Feb. 14, 2017) On February 6, 2017, the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court of Kenya at Nairobi found unconstitutional article 194 of the country's 1930 Penal Code, which relates to criminal defamation. (Jacqueline Okuta & another v Attorney General & 2 others [2017] eKLR, Kenya Law website.) Two individuals, Jacqueline Okuta and Jackson Njeru, who were on two separate occasions each arraigned on criminal defamation charges for posting items on the Facebook page Buyer beware-Kenya, brought the petition challenging the legality and continued enforcement of the provision. (Id. at 2.) The challenge relied on two provisions of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution: the freedom of expression clause and the limitation of rights and fundamental freedoms clause. (Id. at 3; The Constitution of Kenya (2010), ¬ß¬ß 24 & 33, Embassy of the Republic of Kenya, Washington D.C.website.) The Penal Code The Penal Code states, person who, by print, writing, painting or effigy, or by any means otherwise than solely by gestures, spoken words or other sounds, unlawfully publishes any defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other person, is guilty of the misdemeanour termed libel." (Penal Code of 1930, art. 194, Cap. 63 (Aug. 1, 1930), Kenya Law website.) The Code defines the term matter" as a likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation; and it is immaterial whether at the time of the publication of the defamatory matter the person concerning whom the matter is published is living or dead." (Id. art. 195.) The general punishment imposed on conviction for a misdemeanor, including defamation, is a maximum of two years in prison and/or a fine. (Id. art. 36.) The Constitutional Provisions on Freedom of Expression The Bill of Rights chapter in the 2010 Kenyan Constitution incl …

Vanuatu: Right to Information Law Comes into Force (Feb. 10, 2017) On February 6, 2017, Vanuatu's first freedom of information law came into effect, following the unanimous passage of the law by the Parliament on November 24, 2016. (Right to Information Becomes Law in Vanuatu, RADIO NEW ZEALAND (Feb. 8, 2017); Jane Joshua, PINA and MAV Laud Historic RTI Law, VANUATU DAILY POST (Feb. 7, 2017); Right to Information Act Becomes Law in Vanuatu, PASIFIK (Feb. 7, 2017).) The purpose of the Right to Information Act 2016 is (a) to give effect to the right to freedom of expression under paragraph 5(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu [PacLII]; and (b) to provide access to information held by Government agencies, relevant private entities and private entities, subject to exceptions provided under Part 5 of this Act; and (c) to establish voluntary and mandatory mechanisms to give the public the right to access to information; and (d) to promote transparency, accountability, and national development by empowering and educating the public to understand and act upon their rights to information; and (e) to increase public participation in governance. (Bill for the Right to Information Act No. ‚… of 2016, cl. 1, Parliament of Vanuatu website.) Information to Be Published by Government Agencies Under the Act, government agencies and relevant private entities are required to and disseminate an initial statement of its organization in each official language," with the statement to include certain types of listed information, and to update that information every six months. (Id. cl. 6(1) & (2).) In addition, they must all relevant facts, important policies or decisions which affect the public," provide reasons for certain decisions, and publish information related to tenders and finalized contracts. (Id. cl. 6(3).) The Act also obligates the government to publish information regarding its functions and activities, including: (a) laws, rules or guidelines applicable to elections; and (b) electoral rolls …

Saudi Arabia: Journalist Sentenced to Seven Years of Imprisonment
(Feb. 7, 2017) On January 26, 2017, a Saudi journalist was sentenced to seven years in prison after a Saudi Arabian court convicted him of committing crimes against the national security of the state. ( Saudi Writer Jailed for Seven Years , KUWAIT TIMES (Jan. 26, 2017).) The Criminal Court of Riyadh, which is a specialized court that adjudicates crimes related to terrorism, found 40-year-old journalist Nadhir al-Majid guilty of participating in unauthorized protests against the state and of establishing links with foreign media outlets to provide them with information that could have harmed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ( Saudi Activist Convicted of with Foreign Journalists , ASIA NEWS (Jan. 27, 2017).)

News reports state that al-Majid was not accompanied by a defense attorney or any of his family members during the trial hearings. (Saudi Writer Jailed for Seven Years, supra.) According to a report issued by the Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda, there is a concern that the Saudi authorities might refuse to deliver a copy of the verdict to al-Majid's family. If that happens, it might prevent the family from seeking an appeal of his sentence at the Court of Appeal. ( Saudi Arabian Writer Nadhir Al-Majid Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison , Human Rghts Network for Journalists Uganda website (Jan. 27, 2017).)

Egypt: New Council to Regulate and Supervise Media Outlets (Jan. 10, 2017) On December 24, 2016, the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt issued Law No. 92 of 2016 on the Institutional Organization of the Press and the Media (OFFICIAL GAZETTE, No. 51 bis (Dec. 24, 2016), available at VETO GATE (in Arabic)). The Law provides for the establishment of the Supreme Council for the Regulation of the Media. The Council is an independent body, with corporate personality. (Id. art. 2.) The Council will be composed of a Chairman to be selected by the President of the Republic and 12 members representing such institutions as the Parliament, the Administrative Court, and the Journalists Association. (Id. art. 6.) The role of the Council is to regulate and supervise media outlets in all of their forms: print, broadcast, and electronic. (Id. art. 4.) Its tasks include in particular: expressing opinions concerning draft laws related to the Council's field of work; granting licenses to establish broadcast and electronic media outlets; establishing the framework and standards necessary to ensure that media outlets abide by the rules and ethics of the profession; establishing, in consultation with the concerned association, the professional rules and standards for media reporting; receiving and investigating complaints of libel or invasion of privacy; regulating and supervising, with other concerned authorities, the sources of financing of media outlets, to ensure transparency and legality; granting permission to representatives of foreign newspapers and information agencies to work in Egypt, in accordance with the requirements it establishes to this effect; and imposing sanctions on whoever violates the obligations established in the permits or licenses and issuing a list of such sanctions. (Id.) The term of appointment to the Council is four years, renewable only once. (Id. art. 9.) Owners of newspapers or media outlets are not eligible for appointment to the Council. (Id. art. 7.) The Chairman represents the Council before the judiciar …

Tanzania: New Law on Media Services (Nov. 15, 2016) Tanzania's legislature passed the Media Services Act, 2016, on November 5, 2016. (Tanzania: MPs Endorse Media Services Bill, ALL AFRICA (Nov. 6, 2016).) The text had been published as a bill in the country's Gazette on August 26. (Media Services Act, 2016, 97 GAZETTE OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA (Aug. 26, 2016).) The bill, which will come into force on the date specified in a notice to be published in the Gazette, applies to mainland Tanzania. (Id. arts. 1 & 2.) The Act establishes the post of Director of Information Services, to be appointed by the President of Tanzania and be the chief advisor and spokesman for the government on strategic communication, news publication, and the functioning of the media industry. (Id. art. 4.) The Act outlines the Director's many responsibilities, which include such tasks as licensing print media and coordinating the press coverage of major events. (Id. art. 5.) In addition, there will be a Journalist Accreditation Board and an Independent Media Council. (Id. arts. 10 & 23.) The Act also establishes crimes and penalties connected with the media. It specifies a punishment of three to five years of imprisonment and/or a fine of TZS5-20 million (about US$2,240-8,970) for intentionally publishing information that threatens the national defense, public safety, public order, or the economy or that injures the rights and freedom of other persons." (Id. art. 47.) The same punishment applies to anyone who operates an unlicensed media outlet, practices journalism without accreditation, without reason disseminates false information, or prints or distributes seditious publications. (Id.) Reaction to the Act Critics in Tanzania have argued that the Act will negatively impact press freedom and was passed hastily, without proper discussion. One of the key points of contention is the power given to the government to shutter media businesses that violate the conditions of their permits. (Id. art. 9; Tanzania: Par …

Indonesia: Revised Information Law Controversial (Nov. 2, 2016) On October 27, 2016, Indonesia's House of Representatives adopted a revision of the 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions. The amended Law is now awaiting action by President Joko Widodo to put it into effect. (ITE Law Draft Revision Passed into Law, JAKARTA POST (Oct. 27, 2016); Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 11 Tahun 2008 Tentang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik [Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 11, 2008, on Electronic Information and Transactions], House of Representatives website; English translation of Law No. 11, 2008, Press Council website.) The Minister of Communications and Information, Rudiantara, noted that there were only a few minor changes made to the amending legislation recently. The new amendment covers a number of different issues and is expected that they can answer problems posed by the current [technological] developments." (ITE Law Draft Revision Passed into Law, supra.) The changes to the Law include an expanded definition of defamation and libel, contained in article 27(3). Those convicted of defamation might now be sentenced to up to six years of imprisonment, an increase over the previous maximum of four years, in addition to up to Rp750 million in fines (about US$57,000). That highest possible fine represents a reduction from the previous ceiling of Rp1 billion. Supporting violent actions as stipulated in article 29 of the Law is now punishable with a maximum term of imprisonment of four years, with the same possible fine; this also represents a reduction in the most severe possible sentence from the previous 12 years in prison and up to Rp2 billion in fines. (Id.) Reactions to the Revised Law The revised Law has been criticized by Asep Komaruddin of the Legal Aid Institute for the Press. He focused on the potential threat to press freedom posed by article 26, which states that electronic system organizer is required to delete electronic information deemed no longer relevant by someon …

Madagascar: Controversial Mass Media Code Approved (Sept. 9, 2016) A draft law on a Code of Media Communication was adopted by Madagascar's Senate and National Assembly on July 13, 2016, and July 14, 2016, respectively. (Loi no 2016-029 portant Code de la Communication Médiatisée [Law 2016-029 Establishing the Code of Media Communication] (Code de la Communication Médiatisée), National Assembly website (July 14, 2016).) The Code comprises 209 articles divided into ten titles. After being passed by the two chambers of the Madagascar Parliament, the legislation was approved by the High Constitutional Court (Haute Cour Constitutionnelle) on August 12, 2016. The Court has the authority to decide on the compliance of laws with the Constitution. (Décision no 30-HCC/D3 du 12 ao√ªt 2016 relative √† la loi no 2016-029 portant Code de la communication médiatisée [Decision No. 30-HCC/D3 of August 12, 2016 Concerning Law No. 2016-029 on the Code of Media Communication], High Constitutional Court website.) The Court decided that, with the exception of article 6, which concerns the right to freedom of information, the legislation is consistent with the Constitution and can be enacted. (Madagascar: le nouveau Code de la communication jugé conforme √† la Constitution [Madagascar: the New Communication Code Judged Consistent with the Constitution], RFI (Aug. 12, 2016).) The key purposes of the legislation are the provision of security measures for media professionals; protection of journalists' equipment and sources of information; and creation of the National Regulatory Authority of Media Communication (l'Autorité Nationale de Régulation de la Communication Médiatisée), an institution with the mission of regulating activities in the media communication sector. The Code punishes with fines traditional offenses such as contempt, defamation, or insult carried out through the media. Other offenses, such as those classified as crimes or common crimes, remain governed by Madagascar's Penal Code or other specific legal provisions. (Code de l …

Sri Lanka: Electronic Media Authority Being Considered (Apr. 26, 2016) Sri Lanka's government is considering establishing an independent body that would regulate electronic media. The authority would be empowered and required to investigate complaints made against electronic media. The authority would be created with the input of media stakeholders; government officials noted that the body would not be designed to control media organizations and would not have government involvement. (Yohan Perera, Authority to Regulate Electronic Media, DAILY MIRROR (Apr. 19, 2016).) The new body would be parallel to the existing Press Complaints Commission, which describes itself as voluntary self-regulatory mechanism inaugurated on October 15, 2003 by the media industry following an international conference whose outcome was the Colombo Declaration on Press Freedom and Social Responsibility of 1998 and re-visited in 2008." (Overview, Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka website (last visited Apr. 21, 2016).) In its first ten years, the Commission's dispute resolution council investigated 1,000 press complaints and conducted workshops on ethics and self-regulation for journalists. (Sri Lanka's Press Complaints Commission Marks Tenth Anniversary, INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SUPPORT (Feb. 5, 2104).) Press Freedom in Sri Lanka The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report gives Sri Lanka a relatively high mark on press freedom, particularly in the last year, stating: The law provides for freedom of speech, including for members of the press, and the government generally respected these rights. Following the January election of President Sirisena, the government substantially curbed its activities prohibiting free speech and the right to peaceful assembly, but some government officials nonetheless continued to harass members of the media. (U.S. Department of State, Sri Lanka, COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 2015, ¬ß 2(a), State Department website.) The report goes on to state that media were generally …

United Nations: Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Arrests French Journalist (Apr. 6, 2016) The United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) on March 24, 2016, arrested French journalist Florence Hartmann, based on a warrant issued in November 2011 by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). (Press Release, MICT, Mechanism Arrests Contempt Convict (Mar. 24, 2016); Jacqueline Jones, International War Crimes Court Jails Journalist for Contempt, PAPER CHASE (Mar. 27, 2016).) According to its website, the MICT established by the United Nations Security Council on 22 December 2010 to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)" and the ICTY the completion of their respective mandates." (About the MICT, MICT website (last visited Mar. 28, 2016).) Handling of Hartmann Case The ICTY Trial Chamber had found in 2009 that Hartmann and willfully" obstructed justice by releasing information despite orders from the Appeals Chamber not to do so. The information concerned the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and was published both in a book by Hartmann in 2007 and an article she wrote that appeared the next year. Hartmann's original penalty was a fine of ‚Ǩ7,000 (in 2009, equivalent to about US$10,430). The sentence was affirmed by the Appeals Chamber on July 19, 2011, but when the fine was not paid, on November 16, 2011, the ICTY converted the penalty to imprisonment for seven days. (Mechanism Arrests Contempt Convict, supra.) Hartmann's attorney, Guéna√´l Mettraux, said that the earliest possible release date for the journalist was March 29. (Jones, supra.) He complained that her treatment in the prison, located outside The Hague, includes solitary confinement and a suicide watch that requires that a light be on 24 hours a day. Mettraux argued that while appropriate for war crimes convicts, this treatment was for a journalist. (Marlise Simons, French Journalist Is De …

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