Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

Sanem Altan: In Turkey ‘Justice is determined in the presidential palace’

February 18, 2018

Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan has been sentenced to life in prison for “violating the constitution.” His daughter tells DW that the verdict is a political decision aimed at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents.

Sanem Altan hugs her fatherAhmet Altan with his daughter, Sanem

DW: Your father has spent the last 512 days behind bars. Your uncle, the economics professor Mehmet Altan, is also incarcerated. Yesterday, both were sentenced to life in prison. What do you make of this verdict?

Sanem Altan: There is a very simple explanation for it. The decision clearly tells us that Turkish courts do not need evidence to convict someone, and that anyone can be jailed — even sentenced to life in prison. The sentence shows that the rule of law is disappearing, it shows how rotten it has become and how it has been transformed into a matter of personal interest. It is very clear that the decision is aimed at Erdogan’s opponents. Therefore, I find the decision to be both reprehensible, and at the same time laughable. Nevertheless, it does not make me especially sad, surprised or even fearful.

Were you allowed to see your father after the verdict was handed down? What does he think about it?

Ahmet Altan (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas)


Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan

I visited my father yesterday after the court proceedings. When I saw him, he told me something wonderful: “This verdict has made us the most popular prisoners in the world. Because the world is watching the farce that is taking place here.”

The whole world is interested in such injustices. If authorities want to destroy opponents — as my father says, life in prison really means “die in prison” — they have done just the opposite. These prisoners are now in the international spotlight. It is the most senseless strategy I have ever seen. One needs a certain amount of intelligence to commit evil acts, and it seems they don’t even have that.

Read more: Turkey ‘terror propaganda’ crackdown sees dozens arrested for social media comments

Have you seen your uncle?

The state of emergency has prohibited me from seeing my uncle for the last 18 months. As a niece, I am not allowed to visit him. But his wife and his lawyer tell me that he is doing very well.

Since my father and uncle have been allowed to see each other, I have also gotten news about him from my father. My uncle has been strong throughout this ordeal as well, especially since the whole world found out that he still hasn’t been released despite a Turkish constitutional court order to do so. Ahmet and Mehmet Altan are imprisoned but they are more relaxed than people on the outside.

The Turkish-German reporter Deniz Yücel, who had been in jail without charge for a year, was released yesterday. How did you take the news of your father and uncle being sentenced to life in prison in light of Yücel’s release?

Türkei Istanbul Freilassung Deniz Yücel (Twitter/Veysel Ok)German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel (left) has been released from prison in Istanbul

I just laughed and pondered the colossal stupidity of my opponents. By announcing both decisions on the same day, they simply made it clear that there is no justice in Turkey. While TV screens were filled with news of Deniz Yücel’s release yesterday, the crawler at the bottom announced that a new indictment was being prepared in an attempt to jail him for another 18 years. Brilliant! Deniz is set free and two more journalists are sentenced to life in prison. And people have the gall to say that we have an independent justice system in this country. Deniz, Ahmet … the names don’t matter. I was truly happy that Deniz was set free. But the one thing that connects his release and my father’s sentence is the fact that justice in Turkey is controlled by the presidential palace. I think that is clear for all to see.

Some say that Deniz Yücel was released because he has both Turkish and German citizenship and that the German government put pressure on counterparts in Turkey. Many social media commentators have claimed that Yücel would still be in jail if he wasn’t a German citizen. How do you see the situation?

Maybe some people see things more emotionally. I just read a tweet that said Ahmet Sik [another Turkish journalist currently in prison] doesn’t have an Angela Merkel. I can certainly understand that sentiment. I think that each and every one of those journalists are a bargaining chip for the Turkish government. My father, my uncle and all of the other journalists are not sitting in Turkish jail cells because of legal decisions, but rather political decisions — and their release will also be a political and not a judicial decision. They will be part of future negotiations. That is the way things work, and that is what the Turkish government’s stance on the matter is. Deniz Yücel was also part of an agreement and I think it is wonderful that he was released and can be with the people he loves.

Gezal Acer interviewed Sanem Altan.


Macron boots French media from presidential press room for ‘practical reasons’

February 14, 2018


14 February 2018

Macron boots French media from presidential press room for 'practical reasons'
Photo: AFP
The French presidency announced Wednesday that it is kicking reporters out of the Elysee Palace and down the street in a move that symbolises Emmanuel Macron’s desire to keep the media at arm’s length.
Reporters have had a press room inside the Elysee for the past four decades from which to cover press conferences, foreign leaders’ visits and other events.
AFP and other news agencies have permanent desks there, notably allowing them to see who is arriving for meetings with the president thanks to the press room’s location overlooking the main courtyard.
But Macron’s communications advisor Sibeth Ndiaye told reporters the presidency had decided to move the press room into an annexe down the street “in order to make it bigger”.
The move will take place by the summer, she said.



Photo: AFP


Asked if Macron was trying to “get the press out of the way”, Ndiaye said that was “not the president’s intention”.
Macron had made no secret of his desire to see journalists booted from the main Elysee building when he was elected in May, but the idea was put on the backburner after it prompted an uproar from the media.
The current press room will become a meeting room for presidential advisors, Ndiaye said, insisting the decision was made for “practical reasons”.
The move is the latest of a string of signs from Macron that he intends to keep a much tighter leash on the media than his gossip-loving predecessor Francois Hollande.
Hollande regularly chatted to reporters off-the-record and was ultimately damaged by a tell-all book, “A President Shouldn’t Say That”, published at the end of his term based on his conversations with two political journalists.
Macron gave a nearly two-hour briefing to reporters on a range of issues on Tuesday night, but press access to the president has so far been tightly controlled.
He drew mockery early in his presidency for comparing his job to that of the Roman king of the gods Jupiter, staying above the fray of daily politics and giving few interviews.
Centre-right president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, in power from 1974 to 1981, was the first to allow journalists an office at the Elysee.
His Socialist successor Francois Mitterrand moved it to its current location on the courtyard, where journalists can watch the comings and goings, in order to boost transparency.

Philippines: Spread of fake news aims to silence dissent, says chief of embattled Philippine site Rappler

January 30, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – The head of a Philippine online news site battling revocation of its licence on Tuesday said some governments have sought to “silence dissent” through the proliferation of fake news, flooding social media with hate messages.

 Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing

FILE PHOTO – Rappler CEO Maria Ressa visits the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Taft avenue in metro Manila, Philippines January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

There is now state-sponsored “patriotic trolling” designed to harass and intimidate, Maria Ressa, the chief executive of the news site, Rappler, told senators holding an inquiry into the spread of fake news in the Philippines.

“Social media provided cheap armies to potential authoritarian and dictators to control and manipulate public opinion,” Ressa said, citing a study in which Rappler participated that is set to be released in the next few months.

She did not provide details of the study, but said it mirrored the findings of a survey of 65 countries released last November by a U.S.-based group, Freedom House, that showed China and Russia were flooding social media with lies and disinformation, rather than seeking to control them.

Ressa also demonstrated for the senators how fake news was manufactured by false accounts and spread in Facebook, the top social media platform in the Philippines, with nearly 70 million users.

Governments have “weaponised the internet” to push propaganda, she said, but joined other journalists, bloggers and even the government’s communications office, to resist senators’ plans for measures to rein in social media.

In Southeast Asia, the media fear authoritarian leaders will use new laws to target legitimate news outlets critical of them, rather than focus on false stories published on social media, as they tighten clampdowns.

“There are existing laws,” she said. “I don’t believe that we should have more legislation but I think we should impose existing laws on this and demand accountability.”

The courts can deal with false information maligning people, said Roby Alampay, editor in chief of the BusinessWorld daily, asking lawmakers not to legislate controls on free speech, expression and the press.

“The important thing is to use our rights, to use your laws and to fight back,” Alampay added.


No laws will be passed to suppress freedom of the media and expression, said Grace Poe, head of the senate panel on public information, adding that senators were only interested on how to regulate the spread of false information on social media.

Rappler has invoked freedom of the press in its appeal to the Court of Appeals in the Philippines, challenging a decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission to revoke its license for violations of foreign equity curbs on domestic media.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Clarence Fernandez


From Rappler

Maria Ressa appears at NBI for cyber libel complaint

‘We have nothing to hide, I’m right here. We don’t have a copy of the complaint, so I don’t know what kinds of questions they will ask, but we’re not afraid,’ says Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Monday, January 22, for an initial hearing over a complaint for cyber libel.

Ressa was complying with a subpoena served by the NBI Cybercrime Division. Others who were subpoenaed – former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr and businessman Benjamin Bitanga – did not appear.

Ressa said Rappler was not given a copy of the complaint when the subpoena was served. The complaint was filed by Wilfredo Keng, a businessman who was the subject of an investigative report written by Santos and published in May 2012.

“We have nothing to hide, I’m right here. We don’t have a copy of the complaint, so I don’t know what kinds of questions they will ask, but we’re not afraid,” Ressa said before she proceeded to the cybercrime division with her lawyers.

Sought for legal input, Sol Mawis, Dean of the Lyceum Law School, told Rappler in a phone interview that the Cybercrime Law cannot be invoked in the case since all criminal laws are not retroactive.

The report was published in May 2012, but the law was enacted only in September 2012.

But Cybercrime Division chief Manuel Eduarte said the theory of continuous publication can be applied, meaning Keng could be presumed to have seen the report only after enactment.

Mawis does not agree. “It cannot be a continuing crime because there’s only one criminal intent. If you published today, your criminal intent today would be different from your criminal intent tomorrow.”

All 3 subpoenas, signed by NBI Director Dante Gierran, were dated January 10, a day before the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled to revoke Rappler Inc’s registration.

On January 17, Justice Sectetary Vitaliano Aguirre II formally authorized the NBI to conduct a case buildup against Rappler over issues of corporate foreign control and possible violations of the anti-dummy law.

Aguirre said the probe could also look into “other laws” that may have been violated by Rappler.

Rappler slammed the investigation as a fishing expedition, meant to harass the news organization and silence a critical press. –

US puts pressure on Turkey over Syria push, Erdogan defiant

January 24, 2018



AFP/File / by Fulya Ozerkan with Raziye Akkoc in Ankara | Turkish soldiers march in the Mount Bersaya area, north of the Syrian town of Azaz near the border with Turkey


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to press Turkey’s offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria until “the last terrorist” was killed, as the US ramped up its concerns over the campaign.

Turkey on Saturday launched operation “Olive Branch” together with Syrian rebels and Turkish warplanes striking targets to oust the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia from its Afrin enclave in northern Syria.

Erdogan said the offensive was “continuing successfully”, adding that Syrian opposition fighters and Turkish forces were “step by step taking control of Afrin”.

“Until the last terrorist is neutralised, this operation will continue,” he vowed.

Ankara views the YPG as a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) waging a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey and blacklisted as a terror organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

But the YPG is still working closely with Washington against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, in defiance of Turkey’s oft-repeated warnings. The YPG strongly denies it is a terror outfit.

There have been expressions of concern over Turkey’s action from its NATO allies, who fear the campaign will impede the fight against IS and harm efforts to bring peace to Syria after a nearly seven-year civil war.

US President Donald Trump is expected to raise Washington’s fears with Erdogan in telephone talks later on Wednesday.

“It (the Turkish campaign) detracts from efforts to fight the Islamic State group,” said a senior US administration official.

Crucial is the attitude of Russia, which has a military presence in the area and a cordial relationship with the YPG but is also working with Turkey on a peace process.

Erdogan late Tuesday held telephone talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said the men “stressed the importance of continuing joint active work… to settle the crisis”.

– ‘Fierce resistance’ –

With Turkey pressing the operation for a fifth day, an AFP correspondent saw more tanks lined up on the Turkish side of the border, as soldiers milled around, ready to head into Syria.

Sporadic artillery fire could also be heard.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish jets struck border areas in northeast and northwest of Afrin aiming to force the YPG to move back and open the way for a ground advance.

The Observatory said there was “fierce resistance” on the ground from the Kurdish fighters.

Three Turkish soldiers have been killed since the fighting began while the Observatory has said 43 Ankara-backed rebels and 38 Kurdish fighters had been killed in the fighting so far.

It has said 28 civilians have been killed but this is vehemently rejected by Turkey which says it is doing everything to avoid civilian casualties.

Erdogan said security forces killed “268 terrorists” in the operation. It was not immediately possible to verify this figure.

Ankara says the operation is also directed against IS jihadists, although analysts say the group has the most minimal presence, if any, in the area.

– ‘Get rid of this calamity’ –

This is Turkey’s second major military action in Syria after it launched its first operation dubbed Euphrates Shield between August 2016 and March 2017, targeting the YPG and IS on its border.

While for now Turkey is focusing on the YPG-held enclave of Afrin, Ankara has not ruled out further expanding the operation.

The YPG also holds the key town of Manbij east of Afrin and a long strip of territory in northern Syria east of the Euphrates heading right up to the Iraqi border.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday Turkey’s campaign could be expanded to include Manbij and even areas east of the Euphrates, “if the threat continues.”

Erdogan also raised the prospect of an operation on Manbij, which could be much more tricky as there is a US military presence in the area.

“God willing, starting with Manbij (in Syria) we will continue to thwart these plans along our border and completely rid our region of this calamity,” Erdogan added.

He indicated that one aim of the operation was to create a safe zone where some of the over three million Syrians who fled to Turkey in the civil war could return.

“First we will exterminate the terrorists, then we will make the area liveable. For who? For the 3.5 million Syrian guests in our land,” Erdogan said.

The government has hit out at “propaganda” against its action, while Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has urged the media and public to be aware of “lying, fake, distortive and provocative news”.

A total of 150 people including journalists and activists have been detained in police raids across 31 provinces over “making propaganda” against the offensive on social media, state media reported, adding 11 were formally charged.

by Fulya Ozerkan with Raziye Akkoc in Ankara

Turkey ‘terror propaganda’ crackdown sees dozens arrested for social media comments

January 23, 2018

Two reporters for the Turkish branch of German newspaper Tageszeitung were detained and had their homes searched in Ankara. The arrests were part of a wider clampdown on critics of Turkey’s military operation in Syria.

Police van in Istanbul

The German daily Tagezeitung said on Tuesday that journalists from its Turkish publication Taz Gazete had been arrested by anti-terror police.

“As we write, the Ankara apartments of journalists who took positions against the war in Afrin are being stormed and searched,” the newspaper wrote on Twitter, referencing Turkey’s decision to send ground troops into Kurdish areas of Syria.

“Among them are our writer Hayri Demir and Sibel Hurtas of Arti Gercek,” the statement continued, “in the same context the journalist Idris Yilmaz was arrested in Van and Nurcan Baysas and Ishak Karatas were detained in Istanbul.”

Zur Stunde werden in Ankara Wohnungen von Journalisten gestürmt und durchsucht, die sich gegen den Krieg in positioniert haben, darunter auch einer unserer Autoren, Hayri Demir und Sibel Hürtaş von artı gerçek.

Taz Gazete journalist Ali Celikkan told DW that Demir and Hurtas were arrested shortly before midnight “for posting information on social media from local sources in Afrin that contained alternative rhetoric to that of the government.”

“They were also hosting online discussions featuring activists and lawmakers that are against the war.”

According to Celikkan, Taz Gazete contributor Demir and Hurtas are in a a 3-day detention period and have not been formally arrested, but remain under suspicion of “inciting the people to violence.”

“This is part of a larger wave of arrests of anyone who speaks out about peace. It’s hard to pinpoint how many have been detained, but it’s at least 50.”

“Everyone is worried they might be next,” said Celikkan.

Read more:NATO allies clash as Turkey attacks US-backed Kurds in Syria

 ‘Terror propaganda’

Turkish authorities are reportedly highly concerned about opposition to its new military mission in Afrin, particularly how social media could be used to spread that opposition. DW’s Dorian Jones in Istanbul said that Prime Minister Binali Yilidirim called journalists to a meeting on Sunday to lay out a 15-point plan on how the operation in Afrin should be covered in order to quash any criticism of the move.

There were dozens of arrests made on Monday night and early Tuesday over opposition to the Afrin mission, which were seen as part of a wider crackdown on press freedom in Turkey. On Monday, Ankara announced that rallies and protests were temporarily banned in the capital until the Afrin mission is finished.

Officials said they were trying to stop the spread of “terror propaganda.” Besides the journalists, many pro-Kurdish activists were detained, including the head of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the city of Izmir.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, the head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Turkey, condemned the arrest of peace advocates, especially human rights activist Nurcan Baysal.

“She has been detained in connection with her tweets calling for peace and condemning the Turkish government’s military incursion in the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin,” Sinclair-Webb wrote in a statement. Baysal was arrested for advocating violence, but, as HRW points out, “nothing in Baysal’s tweets advocates violence. If anything, it’s the opposite.”

Watch video01:46

Turkey steps up assault on Kurdish militia in northwestern Syria


Turkey stifles anti-Syria operation protests after Erdogan warning

January 21, 2018
© AFP | Turkish anti-riot police detained at least seven people at a rally in Istanbul against Turkey’s operation in Syria
ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish anti-riot police on Sunday blocked protests in Istanbul and the Kurdish-majority southeast against Ankara’s military operation inside Syria.At least seven people were detained in Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul, an AFP photographer at the scene reported.

One protester was seen with his hands tied behind by the police officers with others were carried roughly away.

The rally had been called by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose members are facing a series of legal challenges for alleged ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The police action followed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warning of a “heavy price” for anyone joining protests against the Turkish army’s operation to oust Syrian Kurdish militia from northern Syria.

It came a day after Turkey launched its operation with Ankara-backed Syrian rebels to root out the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) militia from Afrin.

Turkey views the YPG militia as “terrorists” linked to the PKK, which has fought against the Turkish state since 1984 and is designated as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

In the Kurdish-majority southeastern city of Diyarbakir, police also blocked a protest, surrounding the HDP headquarters and preventing party officials from making a press declaration, an AFP journalist in the city reported.

“People in Afrin will defend themselves. Turks … will not gain anything, it is impossible. I call on the international community … to stop Turkey,” protester Hakki Karagoz said.

Sudanese authorities detain Reuters, AFP reporters in Khartoum

January 20, 2018

A Sudanese policeman stands guard in Khartoum, in this file photo. (AFP)
CAIRO: Sudanese authorities have detained a Reuters stringer and an AFP reporter who were covering protests in the capital Khartoum, the country’s external information council, which deals with foreign media organizations, said.
Reuters last had contact with its stringer early on Wednesday before he went to report on the demonstrations which resulted in clashes between police and protesters. Sudan has seen a wave of unrest over soaring living costs.
An official in the external information council, contacted by Reuters, did not say whether charges would be brought against the two Sudanese journalists. The official had earlier said they would be released early on Thursday.
“We do not know the circumstances of the detention and are actively seeking additional information about the situation,” a Reuters spokesperson said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said five local journalists had also been arrested and called for the immediate release of all the reporters.
“By arresting and intimidating journalists, confiscating newspapers and attempting to censor news dissemination, the Sudanese authorities keep trying to get journalists to stick to the official narrative or pay the price,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.
The Sudanese authorities arrested the journalists while they were reporting on demonstrations in Khartoum, according to the statement, which cited news reports and the independent Sudanese Journalists Network.
The Sudanese official declined to comment on the CPJ report.
The US State Department said it was aware of the detentions and was closely following the reports.
“We condemn the harassment, arbitrary detention, and attacks on journalists in Sudan who are doing their jobs and exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression,” State Department spokewoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
AFP confirmed the detention of one of its journalists. In an article, the news agency said its management strongly condemned the arrest and asked for his immediate release.
Protests and clashes with security forces broke out across Sudan this month after Khartoum imposed tough economic measures in line with recommendations by the International Monetary Fund.

Turkey slams top court for ‘wrong decision’ on journalists

January 12, 2018
© AFP | Dozens of journalists have been arrested in Turkey after the failed coup bid in July 2016
ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey’s deputy prime minister on Friday slammed as “wrong” a ruling by the Constitutional Court that two veteran writers arrested in the wake of the failed coup should walk free as their rights had been violated.Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan had been accused — in separate cases — of links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says masterminded the failed 2016 coup attempt. Gulen denies the charges.

Rights campaigners hoped the Constitutional court ruling could set a major legal precedent and help could help dozens of other journalists arrested in the crackdown.

But two Istanbul criminal courts late Thursday defied the ruling and ordered that both writers should for now remain behind bars.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag accused the Constitutional Court of exceeding its powers by acting as a top court of appeal. Turkey has its own Court of Cassation, known as the Yargitay.

“With this decision the Constitutional Court has crossed over its legislative and constitutional limits,” Bozdag wrote on Twitter. “This court should not act as an appeals court.”

He described the decision as “bad and wrong”, saying it was reminiscent of the same court’s ruling in February 2016 to order the release from jail of the former editor of the Cumhuriyet daily Can Dundar.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had at the time fumed over that decision, saying he had “no respect for it”.

The Constitutional Court, Turkey’s top court, is one of the very few public institutions in Turkey not controlled by Erdogan who enjoys the support of armed forces, parliament and government.

Most of its 17 members were appointed during the rule of Erdogan’s predecessor Abdullah Gul or the previous president Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

“Now we know why they weren’t released last night,” commented Emma Sinclair Webb, the Turkey director of Human Rights Watch, on Twitter after Bozdag’s remarks.

The Istanbul courts said that the men could not be released as Constitutional Court had not formally communicated its rationale.

But the top court hit back with a rare message on Twitter, saying its full ruling could be read by anyone on the internet.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir said he was “deeply concerned” by the Istanbul courts’ decision. “Journalists must be freed immediately.”

Alpay, 73, is a political scientist who wrote a column for the now closed staunchly pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper.

Mehmet Altan, 64, has written books on Turkish politics. His brother Ahmet, a novelist and journalist for some of Turkey’s leading dailies, is also being held in the same case.

Pakistan reporter says he escaped kidnapping attempt

January 11, 2018


Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui speaks during a press conference after being assaulted by armed men in Islamabad on January 10, 2018. He is known for criticizing the powerful military. (AFP)
ISLAMABAD: When armed men tried to kidnap and threatened to kill him, Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui feared he would become another statistic in a growing list of activists and bloggers who have disappeared in Pakistan after criticizing the country’s powerful military or advocating peace with hostile neighbor India.
Siddiqui, the Pakistan bureau chief for the World is One News, a New Delhi-based 24-hour television news channel, said he suspected the attack Wednesday was payback for his critical reporting on Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence agencies.
Siddiqui was heading to the airport to catch a flight to London when his taxi was stopped. He was ordered out of the vehicle, beaten and threatened.
He escaped, fleeing into oncoming traffic and flagging down a passing car. Behind him he said he heard the gunmen shout: “Shoot him! Shoot him!“
“They wanted to make me a missing person,” Siddiqui said in a telephone interview from a local police station where he went after the attack to file a complaint and demand police protection. “This has been coming. It’s all about what I write.”
The gunmen took his computers, several hard drives, his telephone and his passport, said Siddiqui, who is also a reporter for the France 24 television network and has had past run-ins with Pakistani intelligence.
In May, he received threatening calls from the counter-terrorism wing of the Federal Investigation Agency, ordering him to come in for questioning. Siddiqui, who did not comply, filed a complaint with the courts and said he was told by the FIA that he was being investigated because of his critical stories about the military.
On Wednesday, Siddiqui’s World is One News website, was inaccessible in Pakistan. Visitors to the site were told: “The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan.” It’s not clear when the site went offline in Pakistan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists Asia program coordinator Steven Butler said the attempted abduction on Wednesday “sends a chilling signal to the entire press community.”
The CPJ “is very concerned about the recent pattern of disappearances,” Butler said in an email interview. “While most of the recent disappearances have been mainly social activists, or even students, these abductions amount to severe intimidation for anyone who exercises free speech.”
The spokesman for Pakistan’s main intelligence service, the ISI, did not respond to a written request for comment about the attack on Siddiqui. The government says it is investigating the allegations and has set up a commission to investigate complaints of “enforced disappearance.” In its year-end report, obtained by The Associated Press, the commission said there are 1,532 people who remain missing, suspected of being taken by Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Among them is peace activist Reza Khan, who was taken from his home in the eastern city of Lahore in December by armed men, who also ransacked his apartment, seizing his computer, his files and his telephone.
He hasn’t been heard from since and human rights activists accuse the country’s intelligence agencies of kidnapping him to stop Khan’s attempts to improve relations between Pakistan and India through interactions between school children.
“We are convinced he was taken by the intelligence because of his work trying to improve relations with India,” said I.A. Rehman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “His neighbor saw the men take him. He took the number of the car, but the police said it was fictitious. In Pakistan only the intelligence agencies have the right to use license plate numbers that are fictitious.”
Khan’s father, Mohammed Ismail Khan, has gone to the courts to petition for his son’s freedom but has heard nothing since he was taken last month.
“The nights are very long for his mother and me. We console each other and we pray for our son. God knows where he is and what condition he is in,” the elder Khan said in a telephone interview.
Early in 2017, six bloggers and social activists, all of whom had criticized the military on social media, disappeared. Five were freed and the sixth is still missing. Those who were freed all said they had been held by the country’s powerful intelligence agencies and were tortured. They have all fled the country.
Zeenat Shahzadi, a young Pakistani journalist, was abducted by armed men in 2015 while investigating the disappearance of an Indian national. Pakistani human rights groups blamed intelligence agencies. Local media reports said she was released late last year after being held for two years.
Zahid Hussain, a security analyst and author of two books on militancy in Pakistan, said the country’s intelligence agencies have become increasingly sensitive to attacks against the military on social media because of social media’s penetration in Pakistan and the difficulty of controlling it. “Pakistan is very sensitive about anything linked with India,” believing New Delhi has stepped up its covert operations inside Pakistan, he said.
Having fought three wars against each other, India and Pakistan, both nuclear weapons states, regard one another with deep suspicion and accuse each other of fomenting violence on their territory.
Butler, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, noted the lack of accountability of those behind the wave of abductions.
“We certainly, like many others, suspect that intelligence agencies are behind many of these abductions,” Butler said. “It’s worrisome because they do not appear to be accountable to anyone. The best remedy would be to find the perpetrators, arrest them and bring them to justice.”


Myanmar court charges Reuters journalists under Official Secrets Act

January 10, 2018

Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act, after almost a month behind bars. They were reporting on the persecution of Rohingya in Rakhine state.

Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo arrive at the court building (Reuters/STR)

A Myanmar court on Wednesday accepted charges against two journalists under the Official Secrets Act, their lawyer said.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo (pictured above), 27, work for the international news organization Reuters. They were arrested on December 12 in Yangon for allegedly possessing “important secret papers” related to the ongoing crisis in Rakhine state, which they say they acquired from two policemen.

Read more: Myanmar judge extends detention of two Reuters journalists over Rohingya reporting

The journalists had been reporting on the military crackdown in the northern Rakhine state, which has prompted about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to bordering Bangladesh and claimed around 6,700 lives since August.

Reuters journalist Wa Lone speaks outside the court (Reuters/STR)Reuters journalist Wa Lone speaks outside the court

One United Nations official said that the campaign seemed to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

A district judge told the court that a police officer had “filed the case to charge under the state secret [Official Secrets] act, section 3.1(c).”

“We will face the charges filed against us,” Wa Lone told reporters as he and Kyaw Soe Oo were led out of the court to return to Yangon’s Insein prison following their 30-minute hearing.

The prosecutor objected to an application for bail, the journalists’ lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said. The court said it would take it under consideration and make a decision at the next hearing, he said, adding: “We are still far from the verdict.”

Read more: At least 6,700 Rohingya people killed, says Doctors Without Borders

Section 3.1c of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act punishes anyone who “obtains, collects, records or publishes … any official document or information” which could be “useful to an enemy.” It carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

The act dates back to 1923, when Myanmar, then known as Burma, was a province of British India.

‘Protect our journalists’

The journalists’ family members and fellow reporters showed their support at the court on Wednesday.

Dozens of journalists wore black to protest the arrest of their colleagues, carrying banners reading: “Journalism is not a crime.”

Read more: Myanmar bars UN human rights investigator

“Please tell the people to protect our journalists,” Kyaw Soe Oo shouted to the court.

His colleague Wa Lone said his wife was pregnant, adding: “I’m trying to be strong.”

‘They have done absolutely nothing’

The arrest of the two journalists has drawn criticism internationally from governments and human rights organizations.

Read more: HRW: Myanmar continues to destroy Rohingya villages

The United States and the European Union have both called for the journalists to be freed.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International repeated its demand for their immediate release. “They have done absolutely nothing but carrying out their legitimate work as journalists,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Former US President Bill Clinton also commented on the journalists’ arrests this week. “A free press is critical to a free society — the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable,” he tweeted on Monday. “The Reuters journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately.”

At least 11 journalists were arrested in Myanmar in 2017, including two foreign correspondents and a local reporter working for Turkish state broadcaster TRT.

law/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)