Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

Yemen rebels holding more than 40 media staff: watchdogs

December 6, 2017


© AFP | A Yemeni rebel fighter stands guard outside the residence of slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on December 4, 2017

SANAA (AFP) – Yemeni rebels who seized full control of the capital Sanaa over the past week have detained more than 40 media staff, press watchdogs said on Wednesday, demanding their immediate release.They include staff of Yemen Today — a television channel affiliated with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom the Huthi rebels killed on Monday as he fled the capital following the collapse of their uneasy three-year alliance, the watchdogs said.

The rebels overran the television’s Sanaa offices on Saturday after attacking it with rocket-propelled grenades and wounding three guards, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

“This hostage-taking is typical of the climate of hostility in Yemen towards journalists, who are often targeted in this conflict,” said RSF’s Alexandra El Khazen.

A spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate release of the journalists, saying the Huthi attack on Yemen Today “shows a profound contempt for press freedom”.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for three decades, had joined forces with the Huthis in 2014 when they took control of large parts of the country, including the capital.

But that alliance unravelled over the past week as the former leader reached out to the Saudi-led coalition that has waged an air campaign against the Huthis since March 2015.

A least 234 people were killed in fighting that the International Committee of the Red Cross described as the fiercest since the start of the conflict.

An official of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) said some of the detained staff had since been transferred to prison while others were still being held in the television’s offices.

“The Huthis were exerting pressure on them to change their coverage, to issue certain statements and report the betrayal of former president Saleh and accuse him of working for the Arab coalition.

“But the journalists refused to do it,” the official said.

Addressing a mass rally in Sanaa on Tuesday, the head of the rebels’ revolutionary council, Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, said they had been left with no choice but to “confront” their former ally but were now “ensuring the safety” of his supporters.

“They are being treated in hospitals and no one is looking to eliminate them,” Huthi said.

But Yemen’s Sanaa-based national syndicate of journalists said the Huthis were posting the names of employees of media they regarded as hostile at checkpoints around the capital and demanded “an end to abuses”.


United Nations Human Rights Experts Campaign to Improve Human Rights Among ASEAN Nations at Philippine Summit

November 11, 2017
Riot police prepare to push back people protesting the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump outside the main venue of the ASEAN summit meetings Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. Trump is currently on a visit to Asia with the Philippines as his last stop for the ASEAN leaders’ summit and related summits between the regional grouping and its Dialogue Partners. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Four United Nations human rights experts urged the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss “pressing” regional rights issues during the bloc’s key summit in Manila.

From November 11 to 14, 21 world leaders—along with the UN chief—will sit down for talks in Manila for the 31st ASEAN meet.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ASEAN Summit in the Philippines

In a statement dated November 10, the UN experts, while recognizing the “important work of the many active civil society organizations across the region,” expressed concern over the “worrying deterioration in the environment” where human rights defenders operate.

They also expressed dismay at the “increasing harassment and prosecutions” of bloggers, journalists and social media users.

“Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” the experts said.

“We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” they added.

“Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.”

The Philippines, one of the bloc’s founding states, chairs this year’s ASEAN summits. Members of the 10-nation bloc take turns at chairmanship.

Among the human rights issues hounding the region were the Philippines’ bloody “war on drugs,” the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the crackdown on dissenters in Vietnam and Cambodia, and junta rule in Thailand.

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi steps down from her plane upon arrival at Clark International Airport in Clark, Pampanga province north of Manila, Philippines Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Suu Kyi is one of more than a dozen leaders who will be attending the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Manila. AP/Bullit Marquez

READ: Leaders urged to bring up regional rights issues at APEC, ASEAN

According to the UN rapporteurs, the ongoing ASEAN meetings in Manila should be used by member-states as an opportunity to “make real progress” on the region’s rights issues and to show that the bloc is “fully committed to securing human rights.”

They likewise encouraged Southeast Asian governments to see human rights monitoring and reporting, not as a threat, but as a positive tool that can help them comply with these commitments.

The statement was issued by UN special rapporteurs Annalisa Ciampi, Michel Forst, Yanghee Lee, and Agnes Callamard, who has been verbally attacked by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing Manila’s deadly drug war.

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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.

Faced with strong criticism of the administration’s violent campaign against drugs, Duterte on Thursday floated the idea of calling for a global summit on human rights violations by other countries.

“Not zero in on me. Why just me? There are so many violations of human rights, including by the United States, including the continuous bombing in the Middle East killing civilians. Even of children… of their schools,” he said.

READ: Int’l watchdog reacts to Duterte’s plan to hold human rights summit

VPN law latest step in Kremlin online crackdown — Following China…..

October 29, 2017


© AFP / by Theo MERZ | A protester with tape covering her mouth takes part in the March for Free Internet in central Moscow in July.

MOSCOW (AFP) – A law coming into force on Wednesday will give the Kremlin greater control over what Russians can access online ahead of a presidential election next March.

Providers of virtual private networks (VPNs) — which let internet users access sites banned in one country by making it appear that they are browsing from abroad — will be required to block websites listed by the Russian state communications watchdog.

The law is the latest in a raft of restrictions introduced by President Vladimir Putin’s government and is expected to affect journalists and opposition activists, even though several VPN providers say they will not comply.

Videos by the punk band Pussy Riot and the blog of opposition leader Alexei Navalny have in the past been blocked under a law that allows authorities to blacklist websites they consider extremist.

“Journalists and activists who are using this to put out messages anonymously will be affected,” Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, told AFP.

Even if they are able to work around the new restrictions, the law will send a powerful message to activists, she said.

“If you’re thinking about taking the steps that you need to stay anonymous from the government, you think maybe it’s not worth it.”

The law will likely be selectively applied and will probably not affect foreign business people using company VPNs, she said.

The measure is part of a wider crackdown on online communications, which this month saw the popular messaging app, Telegram, fined for failing to register with the Roskomnadzor communications watchdog and provide the FSB with information on user interactions.

Starting from 2018, companies on the Roskomnadzor register must also store all the data of Russian users inside the country, according to anti-terror legislation which was passed last year and decried by the opposition and internet companies.

On Thursday, the Russian parliament’s lower house approved a draft law that would let the attorney general blacklist the websites of “undesirable organisations” without a court order.

– ‘Less safe, less free’ –

While falling short of a blanket ban on virtual private networks, the new law undermines one of their key purposes and “essentially asks VPN services to help enforce Russia’s censorship regime”, Harold Li, vice president at ExpressVPN International, told AFP by email.

“VPNs are central to online privacy, anonymity, and freedom of speech, so these restrictions represent an attack on digital rights,” Li said.

“We hope and expect that most major VPN services will not bend to these new restrictions.”

Providers ZenMate and Private Internet Access — which said it removed all of its servers from Russia in 2016 after several of them were seized by authorities without notification — have already announced that they would not enforce the list of banned websites.

Companies that do not comply are likely to see their own websites placed on the Russian blacklist.

Amnesty International has called the new legislation “a major blow to internet freedom” and Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who lives in Russia, said the measure “makes Russia both less safe and less free”.

Laws curbing internet freedoms were drafted following mass protests in 2011 and 2012 against Putin over disputed election results.

The new measures come into force ahead of presidential elections next March, when Putin is widely expected to extend his grip on power to 2024.

Russia’s opposition groups rely heavily on the internet to make up for their lack of access to the mainstream media.

– ‘Complete control’ –

“The path that Russia chose four years ago is founded on the concept of digital sovereignty,” said Sarkis Darbinyan, lawyer and director of the Digital Rights Centre.

“It’s the idea that the government should control the domestic part of the internet. Western countries do not support this concept and so what we are seeing today is an Asian-style development of the internet,” along the lines of China and Iran, he said.

But Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that even if the Kremlin’s end goal is “complete control of communications on the internet”, its technical capabilities still lag way behind China with its “Great Firewall”.

Many of the invasive measures pushed by the Kremlin are comparable with the snooping powers demanded by Western governments, she said.

“Russia will frequently point to the fact that the FBI and (British Prime Minister) Theresa May want these powers as reasons why they should have them, and why they’re compatible with human rights.”

by Theo MERZ

‘Let our journalists go!’ EU’s Juncker tells Turkey

September 13, 2017


© AFP | According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 170 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested after the coup

STRASBOURG (FRANCE) (AFP) – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Turkey Wednesday to “let our journalists go” following its arrests of French and German media personnel under a broad human rights crackdown.

Juncker also called on Turkey’s leaders to stop insulting their EU counterparts as “fascists and Nazis” and said its disregard for the rule of law ruled out its membership in the bloc for the “foreseeable future.”

But Juncker saved his strongest words for the fate of German and French journalists, during his annual state of the union speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg.

“Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns,” Juncker said. “I appeal to the powers that be in Turkey, let our journalists go!”

In recent months, Turkey has arrested two French journalists on terror charges for allegedly supporting Kurdish militants, but later released one of them.

Imprisoned in February, the correspondent of German daily Die Welt Deniz Yucel has been personally accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of working as a “terror agent”.

The European journalists are among more than 50,000 people who have been arrested in Turkey under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s foiled coup to oust Erdogan.

According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 170 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested after the coup.

Juncker also came to the defence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel whose government Erdogan accused of behaving like Nazis after German authorities blocked Turkish ruling party rallies ahead of a referendum in Turkey in April.

Many expatriate Turks work in Germany.

“Stop insulting our member states by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis,” Juncker said.

“Europe is a continent of mature democracies. Insults create roadblocks,” the former Luxembourg premier said.

“Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is intentionally placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks,” he said.

“As for us, we will always keep our hands stretched out towards the great Turkish people and those who are ready to work with us on the basis of our values,” he said.

Turkey, like other accession candidates, “must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority,” Juncker said.

“This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The worsening tensions with Turkey have raised concerns over the fate of a deal struck with the EU last year that has helped stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants into Greece.

Egypt Defends Human Rights Position After Criticism From UNHCR

September 12, 2017

CAIRO — Egypt’s United Nations envoy on Tuesday criticized U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein’s remarks on systemic violence in the country, saying they reflected “flawed logic”, state news agency MENA reported.

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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein — UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré

Ambassador Amr Ramadan was quoted as saying that he had cautioned Hussein against his office becoming a “mouthpiece for paid agencies with political and economic agendas,” and he rejected his accusations, without elaborating.

At a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, Hussein said the state of emergency declared by the Egyptian government last April had been used to justify “systemic silencing of civil society.”

He cited reports of waves of arrests, arbitrary detention, black-listing, travel bans, asset freezes, intimidation and other reprisals against human rights defenders, journalists, political dissidents and those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Last week Egypt came under fire from Human Rights Watch, which said in a report that there was systemic torture in the country’s jails, leading Cairo to block access to HRW’s website.

Egypt’s human rights parliamentary committee, which was critical of the report, has also developed an action plan in response, state media reported on Tuesday.

The plan reportedly includes meeting with foreign diplomats in Egypt and outside the country to explain its efforts to defend human rights.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem in Cairo and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Control of Information Shifts Up a Gear in Run-Up to Cambodia Election — Media under pressure in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam

September 8, 2017

PHNOM PENH — Critics of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have grown used to following upstart news service Fresh News to find out what the government’s next target might be.

From treason accusations against detained opposition leader Kem Sokha to the tax demand against the now-shuttered Cambodia Daily to allegations against the recently expelled U.S. National Democratic Institute, it was on Fresh News first.

Its rise, just as pressure is growing on more critical media, reflects a shift in control of information in the run-up to next year’s general election at the same time as a crackdown on Hun Sen’s opponents.

“If any news needs to be reported, I may contact the prime minister or the prime minister may contact me,” 37-year-old Fresh News chief executive Lim Chea Vutha told Reuters.

Lim rejected accusations it publishes unsubstantiated reports to serve the government’s interest and said it was just ambitious to break news the same as any major news agency.

Cambodia has long had one of Southeast Asia’s most open media environments, but journalists with publications critical of the government say work is becoming tougher than during any period of Hun Sen’s more than three-decade rule.

“This means an imbalance of information,” said Pa Nguon Teang, head of the partly EU-funded Voice of Democracy radio station, banned from broadcasting to its estimated 7.7 million listeners last month and now trying to publish via Facebook.

Image result for Voice of Democracy, cambodia, photos

Eighteen other radio stations were ordered off air while channels were also forbidden from rebroadcasting the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper, whose editor described it as “a burr in Hun Sen’s side” since it was started 24 years ago, was forced to close by a crippling $6.3 million tax bill – news of which first appeared on Fresh News.

The three-year-old publication also published the video that formed the basis for arresting opposition leader Kem Sokha for treason charges his lawyers dismiss as nonsense.

“It’s not fresh news, it’s not even fake news, it’s bad news – bad news for the future of Cambodia,” said Mu Sochua, a deputy of Kem Sokha in his Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Cambodia is not the only Southeast Asian country where the media is under pressure, with journalists and bloggers in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam facing everything from verbal threats to arrest to violence.

Hun Sen has said his attitude to media he does not like is no different to that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has branded some liberal U.S. news organizations “fake news” and has refused to take questions from their reporters.


For Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge soldier, critical media are “like children challenging their father”, said Huy Vannak, president of the partly state-funded Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia.

“They only mock his good faith to the nation. That’s why he’s not tolerant,” he said.

Praised openly by Hun Sen, Fresh News now has more than 100 employees. At the company’s ninth-floor offices near a busy Phnom Penh junction, signs tell journalists “the first enemy of success is laziness”.

Facebook is one of the main channels for Fresh News to publish and has also been embraced by Hun Sen since the opposition almost won the 2013 election, partly with the help of their social media strategy.

While declining to give company financial details, Lim said he received no money from the government. A government spokesman said there was no funding for Fresh News or anyone publishing on social media beyond official accounts.

Lim said he was supported only by advertising. Flipping through his mobile phone, he showed ads for everything from Range Rover to Coca-Cola to local businesses thriving in an economy growing at around 7 percent a year.

But business and government are entwined in Cambodia and the leadership and its family members control many of Cambodia’s biggest enterprises – including media businesses.

Hun Sen’s oldest daughter, Hun Mana, chairs Kampuchea Thmey Daily and Bayon TV and Radio among at least a dozen other firms. Senate president and the deputy leader of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party, Say Chhum, owns Rasmei Kampuchea, Cambodia’s most popular newspaper.

According to a 2015 study, media organizations with politically affiliated owners accounted for 41 percent of print readership and 63 percent of television viewership. Of those owners, eight out of 10 were close to the ruling party.

Businesses won’t give advertising to media seen as pro-opposition because it won’t help them, said Huy Vannak.

“The government doesn’t need to sponsor you when your content is positive. Business will come to you,” he said.

Despite international awards for its reporting, the Cambodia Daily was not a big commercial success. By the end, it said it was barely breaking even and had no hope of paying a tax bill it disputed before the Sept. 4 deadline set by government.

The paper appeared to get limited sympathy from Lim.

“It’s the right of the government to shut it down,” he said. “As we reported, it’s a legal matter.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Vince Cable raises doubts about Brexit ever happening — Plus a final salute to Sir David Tang

September 2, 2017

Image result for Vince Cable, photos

FT Weekend Festival debates life after the EU and political polarisation in a post-truth era

by: Naomi Rovnick There is a growing possibility of a second referendum on Britain leaving the EU as tensions grow within the Conservative and Labour parties about the likelihood of a beneficial Brexit deal being achieved, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said.

In a debate at the FT Weekend Festival held at Kenwood House in North London on Saturday, Mr Cable said: “I think there is more than a possibility that Brexit may never happen.

He added: “The balance of probability is still that it does, but there is a strong possibility of it being stopped because tensions within and between major parties are so large, that one or other may want to let the public decide on the facts whether this is something they want to go ahead with.”

Mr Cable, who became leader of the pro-EU Lib Dems at the age of 74, promising voters an “exit from Brexit,” was replying to a point made by pro-Brexit Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan who argued that Brexit would happen, but in a gradual and low-impact way.

Mr Hannan said: “The day after Brexit is going to look very much like the day before. It’s going to be a process. We will still have all the same rules and regulations we’ve assimilated for 44 years, but that’s the day the divergence can begin.”

Mr Hannan added that Britain would not be damaged by losing its access to the EU single market as it could have a “Swiss-style” deal that “keeps the essence of the single market,” despite not being a member. He also argued that leaving the EU would allow Britain to look towards a “more global future,” and strengthen trade links with non-EU economic powers.

Mr Cable, who has a reputation for being one of the most financially literate critics of British governments since 1997, argued there was “a real risk of a train crash” because it had become apparent the UK government was “woefully unprepared” for the Brexit negotiations that started with the EU in June.

The day after Brexit is going to look very much like the day before The Lib Dem leader said that prime minister Theresa May was struggling to prove Britain could strike good trade deals with non-EU economic powers. “We’ve just seen in the last few weeks how absurd this is,” he said.

“The PM has gone off to Japan to negotiate some special trade deal and they have said they would much rather deal with the EU. Mr Cable said that the government had asked India for a special deal on whisky and financial services, and that India had asked for more visas. “To which [Mrs May] said, ‘sorry we can’t, we are trying to keep people out,’ and the Indians said, ‘get on your bike’,” Mr Cable said.


Mr Hannan countered that it was normal for people to feel pessimistic about the future and that Britain had a chance of keeping the advantages of staying in the EU single market in the way Switzerland has. “We are a country of 65m people, an existing [EU] member state, a G7 country.

I can’t believe that we can’t get a similar deal,” he said. In an earlier session at the festival on fake news and social media,

Ms Gibson argued that Donald Trump’s presidential election victory was enabled by the US news audience having split into distinct information consumption spheres. “During an election campaign when the New York Times publishes a piece with maybe 162 examples of Donald Trump being mendacious,” she said, a large part of the non-NYT reading US audience would not have noticed.

“So Breitbart News jumps up and goes ‘Hillary Clinton! Emails!’ and that grabs the attention. That is polarisation.” Mr Barber said that polarisation of information and opinion had begun with the advent of Fox News and other cable news channels in the US, which “has been exacerbated by technology because it can amplify that phenomenon and it is incredibly good at picking out select groups.”

Mr Davis argued that the Facebook audience often knew to be selective about what they believed on the social platform, which has been used by some sites to spread fake news.

Ms Gibson countered: “I don’t believe people are always genuinely as sophisticated as that,” adding that some younger readers “do not know brands” enough to differentiate between trusted news brands and newer sites that may not be publishing truthful reports. An FT reader asked whether think tanks whose funding was not transparent were exacerbating the fake news phenomenon.

Ms Gibson said that when she was deputy editor of the Guardian, she had been taken in by a think-tank with an unknown agenda after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdon provided the Guardian with top secret documents leading to revelations about surveillance of internet and phone communications. “On the Snowdon story, one [think-tank] said: ‘We want to do a day’s debate on the issues of privacy and national security.’

We took part and we worked with them for a really great seminar, and at the end I realised that the think-tank was funded entirely by [rightwing US billiona0ires] the Koch brothers,” Ms Gibson said. The Kochs “were probably the Guardian’s ideological worst enemies . . . We spent an entire day doing a think-tank with them,” she added.

Vince Cable on Brexit, ballroom dancing and keeping his balance

Financial Times


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David Tang in 2004. Photo by SAMANTHA SIN – AFP – Getty Images

Sir David Tang, who died this week, had been scheduled to speak at the festival. In his place Algy Cluff, a close friend and mentor, shared stories of the vivacious businessman and FT agony uncle.

Mr Cluff, a natural resources entrepreneur and former Grenadier Guardsman who Tang said he had modelled himself on, said he had only discovered by accident how well-connected Tang was.

Mr Cluff said that he hired Tang as an unpaid intern to help with a Chinese project after receiving a series of letters from him in the early 1980s. “I put him on probation for six months working with me, so he joined as my most lowly junior unpaid employee,” Mr Cluff said, adding that “my secretary kept coming in saying: ‘David wants you to have dinner with him’.”

Mr Cluff finally relented and went to a Chinese restaurant where he asked for Mr Tang. “The waiter bowed from the waist and took me down into a private room,” Mr Cluff said.

“And there David was presiding over a huge table where the guests included the Lord Chancellor and the chairman of ICI.”

Mr Cluff recalled how the Lord Chancellor’s wife commented: “How fortunate you are to be working for David.” Mr Cluff added: “I realised I’d met my match and began paying David a salary from then on.” FT House & Home editor Jane Owen also recalled dealing with Tang when his copy was late.

His excuses included “the Queen said you are working me too hard” and “Kate Moss says I need a day off,” she said. Mr Cluff added that during a banquet at China’s Great Hall of the People where the Chinese president and oil minister of the time were present, he told Tang: “You know, David, you’ve found a country that respects and welcomes foreign investment.”

Tang replied: “I wouldn’t be so sure” and Mr Cluff said that, sure enough, six months later he got a $50,000 bill for the banquet. Mr Cluff also remembered how, at a rehearsal for Mr Cluff’s wedding in Hong Kong, “we smelt burning and it turned out David had left his cigar on the alter”. Ms Owen added that Tang had still insisted on his sickbed that he was going to make a planned “goodbye” party on September 6 at the Dorchester, and that it would “only be 500 of my closest friends. I want it to be intimate”. Naomi Rovnick

See also:

Sir David Tang (1954–2017)


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Chancellor Angela Merkel weighs tougher approach to Turkey after arrests

September 2, 2017

German Chancellor Merkel has called for a rethink of Berlin’s attitude towards Ankara after Turkey detained two more German citizens. Relations between the countries have been deteriorating since the failed 2016 coup.

Merkel MIT Business Treffen (Getty Images/J. Koch)

There is “no legal basis” for detention in most of these cases, Merkel said, referring to the two Germans arrested on Thursday in Turkey, bringing the total number of German citizens detained in the country for political reasons to 12.

“That’s why we need to react decisively here,” she said, adding that the government would “perhaps have to rethink” its relations with Turkey.

Read more: Two more Germans detained in Turkey for political reasons

Merkel said Germany had already “significantly revamped” its ties with Ankara, but that the latest events meant “perhaps it is necessary to rethink them ever further,” adding that there would be no further talks about Ankara’s participation in an EU customs union until the current situation is resolved.

“Our demands to Turkey are very clear,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. “We expect Turkey to release the German nationals who were arrested on unjustifiable grounds.”

Relations between the NATO allies have been frayed since Berlin criticized Ankara over the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup attempt.

Arrested developments

The arrest of the two Germans on Thursday brings to 55 the number of Germans detained in Turkey, 12 of whom are being detained for political reasons and four of these have dual German-Turkish citizenship – including the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, now 200 days in detention – the German Foreign Ministry said.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that two German citizens of Turkish origin had been detained at Antalya Airport for alleged links to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara has accused of organizing last year’s attempted coup.

Confusion reigns

Germany has not officially been informed of the two new detentions, which took place at Antalya Airport on Thursday.

Berlin’s consulate in the coastal city of Izmir learned of their arrest from “non-state sources,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told a news conference.

“We’re trying to establish what they are charged with,” said Adebahr said. “We must assume that it’s a political charge, suspicion of terrorism, as with the others.”

Diplomats had not been able to contact them, she added, with Friday’s public holiday celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha a possible reason for delays in contacting officials.

To formally warn German travelers?

There are calls for Berlin to issue a formal travel warning for Germans heading to Turkey. The government in July urged German citizens to exercise caution if traveling to Turkey but didn’t issue a formal travel warning.

Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Merkel’s main challenger in the September 24 elections, on Friday said more measures were needed to make clear Germany’s ire with Turkey over the detainments, adding that a formal warning against travel to Turkey would be one possible step.

Jürgen Hardt, a senior member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told Die Welt newspaper that a further tightening of the travel guidance “should be seriously considered.”

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Cem Ozdemir, one of the leaders of the Green party, told Bild newspaper he could no longer assure anyone they would be safe in Turkey. “Erdogan is no president, but a hostage-taker,” Ozdemir told the daily newspaper Bild.

Following the arrest of human rights activist Peter Steudtner earlier this year, Berlin promised measures to impact tourism and investment in Turkey and a full “overhaul” of relations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August called on ethnic Turks in Germany to vote for Schultz in the elections, then said they should not support any of Germany’s main parties.

jbh/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)


Trump may be inciting ‘violence’ against media — Frequent ‘reckless’ comments — Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says

August 30, 2017


© AFP/File / by Ben Simon | The UN rights chief voiced alarm over US President Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post 
GENEVA (AFP) – The UN human rights chief said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on the media could trigger violence against journalists, suggesting the US leader would be responsible.In a broad condemnation of Trump’s conduct in office, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he viewed the US presidency as the driver of “the bus of humanity”, accusing Trump of “reckless driving”.

Zeid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also blasted Trump’s decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt last month for illegally profiling Hispanic immigrants.

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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré

On the media, Zeid voiced particular alarm over Trump’s verbal assaults on CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post.

“To call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way, I have to ask the question, is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?

“And let’s assume a journalist is harmed from one of these organisations, does the president not bear responsibility for this, for having fanned this?” Zeid told reporters in Geneva.

“I believe it could amount to incitement,” he added, saying Trump had set in motion a cycle that includes “incitement, fear, self-censorship and violence.”

According to the rights chief, Trump’s assault on the media has emboldened other countries to crack down on press freedoms.

“The demonisation of the press is poisonous because it has consequences elsewhere,” Zeid said.

He expressed specific concern over Trump’s speech in Arizona earlier this month in which journalists were condemned by the US leader as “dishonest people” who “don’t like our country”.

– Supports ‘racial profiling’? –

Turning to the pardon for Arpaio, a hugely controversial figure intially targeted for prosecution by former president Barack Obama’s justice department, Zeid said he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s decision.

“I had to ask myself the question what does this mean? Does the president support racial profiling of Latinos in particular? Does he support abuse of prisoners?

“Arpaio at one stage referred to the open air prison that he set up as a ‘concentration camp'”, Zeid said, asking “does the president support this?”

Arpaio, who was known to make detainees wear pink underwear to humiliate them, housed prisoners in tent camps surrounded by barbed wire, in the scorching Arizona desert.

The former sheriff once likened the encampment to a concentration camp, although he later backed away from that remark.

– Dangerous? –

Reacting publicly for the first time to the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Zeid denounced the racist and anti-semitic actions of neo-Nazi and white supremacists demonstrators as “an abomination” and “a nightmare.”

Zeid, who has not minced his words in previous criticism of Trump, indicated that the world was is in a perilous state with the New York billionaire in a position of global leadership.

“I almost feel that the president is driving the bus of humanity and we are careening down a mountain pass and, in taking these measures, at least from a human rights perspective it seems to be reckless driving,” he told reporters.

“You asked me in November if I thought he was dangerous,” Zeid continued. “Today the only person who can confirm that is the president himself by dint of his own actions.”

OSCE urges Trump to stop ‘attacks’ on media

August 28, 2017


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President Donald Trump speaks to the press about protests in Charlottesville after his statement on the infrastructure discussion in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York on August 15, 2017. Credit Reuters

VIENNA (AFP) – The OSCE’s media freedom watchdog on Monday called on US President Donald Trump to tone down his virulent attacks on the press, warning that they “degrade” the media’s key role in a democracy and open journalists to abuse.

Since taking office in January, the 71-year-old leader has made a habit of publicly bashing mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, which he regularly denounces as “fake news” on his Twitter account.

“I urge the United States administration to refrain from delivering such attacks on the media,” Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said in a letter to the White House.

“The US president’s statements are deeply problematic in that they degrade the essential role the media plays in every democratic society, holding governments to account and offering a platform for a diversity of voices,” read the letter addressed to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Desir highlighted remarks Trump made at a rally in Arizona on January 22, during which the billionaire accused the media of being “truly dishonest”, “crooked” and of “making up stories”.

“In addition to undermining the credibility of the media, such statements, especially those identifying the media as the ‘enemy of the people’, could also make journalists more vulnerable to being targeted with violence and abuse,” Desir said.

The Vienna-based OSCE, an international election and war monitor, also keeps track of media freedom issues throughout the OSCE’s 57 member states, which include the US and Russia.