DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST AGAINST VENEZUELAN PAPER
Police fired into the air, sprayed tear gas and used a fire hose in early January to disperse protesters supporting the Venezuelan president.
Demonstrators had gathered in front of the Caracas daily El Nacional to protest the newspaper’s critical coverage of President Hugo Chavez’s leftist government, according to The Associated Press.
They banged pots and pans, waved signs and chanted “tell the truth” and “liars, liars.”
After police moved in, demonstrators threw bottles and then began moving away. No serious injuries were reported.
El Nacional Editor Miguel Otero accused the Chavez government of instigating the demonstration to “keep the press from publishing what is going on in the country.”
Police said the protesters, who did not have permission to demonstrate, blocked newspaper workers who were entering and leaving the building for four hours.
RUSSIAN JOURNALIST WON’T SEEK PARDON
Journalist Grigory Pasko, whose treason conviction prompted international protest, will not ask for a pardon despite President Vladimir Putin’s offer to consider such a request, his lawyer said in January.
“To ask for a pardon would mean to admit guilt and agree with the verdict,” lawyer Anatoly Pyshkin told reporters.
Pasko, 39, released a statement from prison through his lawyer, saying, “I am not guilty, and I will continue the struggle for my honest name and a full acquittal.”
Pasko also thanked Putin for saying that he would consider an appeal for a presidential pardon.
In December, a military court in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok sentenced Pasko to four years in prison for illegally attending a secret meeting of Pacific Fleet commanders and possessing the notes he made there, The Associated Press reported. The court ruled that Pasko could have passed the sensitive notes containing an analysis of naval maneuvers to Japanese media, with whom he had worked.
In the minds of civil-liberties watchdogs in Moscow, Pasko’s battle bears a disturbing similarity to a string of other cases against journalists, academics and foreigners who have attracted unfavorable attention from Russia’s security organs, according to The New York Times.
RUSSIAN STATION MAY STAY ON AIR
A Russian court ordered the closure of the last national television network outside the government’s control in January – a decision prompting concern about media freedom in Russia.
Meanwhile, journalists from Russia’s TV6, the largest independent television station, said they expect to win permission to stay on the air if they break ties with the majority owner, tycoon Boris Berezovsky, according to interviews.
Pavel Korchagin, executive director of TV6, sent a letter to Media Minister Mikhail Lesin asking him to allow the journalists – well-known reporters and commentators who have criticized the Kremlin – to continue broadcasting.
In the letter, Korchagin said he was voluntarily surrendering TV6’s broadcasting license in what he described as a deal with the government to win temporary broadcasting rights in exchange for severing ties with Berezovsky.
On Jan. 15, 50 TV6 journalists founded a new corporation – also named TV6 – that they said will bid for broadcasting rights in place of Berezovsky’s Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corp., according to The Associated Press.
Two courts have ruled to shut down TV6 because of losses incurred over several years.
THAI POLICE SEIZE U.S. MAGAZINE
Thai police removed copies of Far Eastern Economic Review from news stands in January after allegations the U.S.-owned magazine printed a story that was deemed to be insulting to the Thai prime minister and royal family.
National Police Chief Gen. Sant Suranond ordered the confiscation of the magazine’s Jan. 10 issue on grounds it contained “inappropriate” information about an alleged rift between Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and country’s king, according to United Press International.
The article said Thaksin “is known to have business links with the king’s son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn,” which was frowned upon by the king, indicating a possible confrontation between the prime minister and the palace.
“That would have serious and worrying implications for the future stability of Thailand,” said the magazine, which is owned by Dow Jones Co.
Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai said the mention of a confrontation between the government and the palace was “a serious allegation” and was seen by some as insulting to the monarchy.
Haitian journalists seek asylum in United States
At least six Haitian journalists fled their homeland and are preparing asylum cases in the United States after December’s failed coup.
The Associated Press reported that as many as 40 journalists went into hiding after supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide attacked reporters outside the National Palace on Dec. 17, the day of the coup attempt.
Radio journalists Phares Duverne and Yves Clausel Alexis, who were among the six who came to the United States, said a mob held them at gunpoint and forced them to yell “Long live Aristide!”
“They let us leave, but they told us, ‘If you ever give news critical of the government, we will kill you,’” said Duverne, who is in South Florida on a temporary visa.
At least a dozen journalists were assaulted following the coup attempt, according to the French-based Reporters Without Borders.
Meanwhile, Aristide condemned the violence and urged his supporters to “respect the rights of journalists.”
Later that day, a radio station run by Aristide’s private Foundation for Democracy said, “Unfortunately, some of the press prepared people psychologically for the coup.”
Since the April 2000 assassination of Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, conditions for Haitian reporters have steadily worsened. On Dec. 3, Aristide supporters hacked to death provincial journalist Brignol Lindor.