Uzbek authorities fire newspaper editor
Authorities have ordered the editor of an independent Uzbek newspaper to resign. The move is seen by many media rights activists as renewed oppression of the free media in the Central Asian nation.
Amirkul Karimov, editor of the Hurriyat newspaper, was told to leave on March 13, but he was offered a job as the head of a government fund.
Karimov, who said he hoped the dismissal did not have any connections to the critical reporting by his newspaper, also was dismissed as head of the National Press Center. The name of the paper – “Hurriyat” – means “freedom.”
Uzbek media rights campaigner Karim Bakhriyev said the dismissal can be linked to a series of stories last year after censorship was officially lifted in the country. Bakhriyev, the first editor of Hurriyat, was forced to leave after just five issues. Bakhriyev said officials were upset with a story last fall that detailed the widespread and official practice of inflating cotton harvest figures. Uzbekistan is the fifth largest producer of cotton in the world. The export is the largest source of foreign currency for the country.
Afghan reporter detained, beaten
An Afghan journalist working for a U.S.-funded radio station in the western city of Heart was detained and beaten March 19 by security forces, according to a U.N. spokesman.
Ahmed Shah Behzad, a Radio Liberty employee, later was released, according to U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
“The new human rights office is looking into it,” Almeida e Silva said.
It was not clear why the assault – which occurred just after the opening ceremonies of a new human rights office in the city – took place. The governor of the province, warlord Ismail Khan, has been accused by human rights activists of killing, beating and torturing opponents.
Radio Liberty was founded during the Cold War to broadcast to nations in the Soviet bloc, and it is a partner station of Radio Free Europe. It still broadcasts to former Soviet republics, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Authorities can monitor journalists’ phones
The supreme court of Germany has upheld the right of law enforcement officials to monitor journalists’ phone calls when they are in contact with fugitives that have committed serious crimes.
The case was taken to the Federal Constitutional Court by three journalists after it became apparent their cell phone calls had been monitored in attempts to determine the numbers and locations of suspects they spoke with.
According to the supreme court, the orders were justified due to the severity of the crimes and a lack of other, less drastic options for investigators. Such surveillance led to the 1998 capture in France of Hans-Joachim Klein, a former leftist Red Army Faction terrorist group member. Klein had been on the run for 23 years and will now serve a nine-year prison term. He was convicted of killing three people at an OPEC oil ministers’ meeting in Vienna, Austria, in 1975.
U.S. expels Iraqi Journalist
The U.S. government expelled an Iraqi journalist, saying he was “harmful” to the security of the country.
Mohammed Allawi, a reporter for the Iraqi News Agency, received a letter of expulsion at his home in Manhattan on Feb. 13 signed by Deputy U.S. Ambassador Patrick Kennedy. Allawi reported from the United Nations for the past two years.
According to the letter, Allawi and his family of five children had 15 days to leave the United States. “The letter says I have to leave because I am harmful to U.S. interests,” Allawi said.
Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri, who wasn’t sure what recourse was available, was stunned. “He’s very a very polite and decent man. He’s always in his office or with his colleagues, so I don’t see how he could be a threat,” al-Douri said.
Qatari emir pardons Jordanian journalist convicted of spying
After a visit from the king of Jordan, the leader of Qatar decided to pardon a Jordanian journalist on March 18. The journalist, Firas al-Majali, had been sentenced to death after being convicted of spying, the official Qatari news agency said.
The reporter for state-owned Qatar Television was convicted and sentenced in October for spying and passing military and other information to Jordan about Qatar. An appeals court upheld the sentence. Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al thani issued the pardon after King Abdullah II’s visit; the pardon was part of an attempt to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Roula Abul-Rouss, Al-Majali’s wife, said from Jordan in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that “happiness overwhelmed Firas al-Majali’s family today.” She continued, saying that, “At times, we were scared. But our faith in God was great, and it was a summer cloud that passed.”
Abdullah had traveled to Doha on a Gulf tour that many saw as an attempt by Jordan’s king to determine war preparations in the Gulf Arab region. Officials from Qatar alleged that al-Majali, 30, sent information to Jordan on the status of U.S. troops, in addition to economic and social data.
Gunmen kill Colombian reporter
A Colombian print and radio journalist was killed by gunmen outside his office in the eastern state of Arauca on March 18.
Luis Eduardo Alfonso Parada, 27, was the second journalist killed in the past year from Radio Meridiano-70. He also worked as a correspondent for the Bogota-based daily El Tiempo. The paper is Colombia’s most widely read newspaper.
Parada spoke with the assailants after he arrived at the radio station, but he was shot when he tried to leave. His killers escaped on motorcycles, but a witness was able to provide descriptions to police.
Journalists working in Arauca regularly receive threats from both leftist rebels and their right-wing paramilitary foes as the two groups fight for control of the oil-rich state. The radio station’s director, Efrain Varela, was slain in June after reporting on the outlawed paramilitaries arrival in the state’s capital.
Located in the grassy plains next to the Venezuelan border, Arauca is one of the most violent Colombian states. Car bombings, murders and kidnappings frequently occur there. Additionally, Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. In the past 14 years, the Inter American Press Association said, at least 114 journalists have been killed in the country.
Exiled Iraqi journalists plan for free media after war
Exiled Iraqi journalists met in London on March 6 to discuss a code of ethics for free news media after the likely fall of Saddam Hussein from power.
The group of 20 journalists said they hope such a code will keep the United States, neighboring countries and big-money foreign investors from interfering with news organizations in a new Iraq. Numerous speakers made a call for political and financial independence for the media in Iraq, in addition to balanced news reporting – steps that would stop corruption and protect journalists against reprisals now working in Iraq under Hussein.
One of the speakers, Mohammed Abdeljabbar, said the Iraqi press had been destroyed by Hussein and that exiles must rebuild it “on a new foundation” that would be “in harmony with democracy, nationalism and modernity. Also, it must be independent of the state.”
He warned that journalists exiled from Iraq must devise an ethics code before the United States launched a war. “There mustn’t be a vacuum after Saddam’s fall,” he said. Immediately after the fall, “people will be urged to stay indoors. … We have to be able to provide them with news.”