Press Cuts – 7: Media Freedom round-up

Turkey | Egypt | Vietnam | Iraq


A number of journalists, civil society groups, Turkish government bodies, and a coalition of 11 international organisations will be engaging with the government authorities regarding the country’s increasingly restrictive press freedom. A controversial social media legislation that came into effect in early October has given the Turkish government more ammunition to restrict freedom of speech and expression within the country.    

Reporters Without Borders said that under the new legislation, three news websites, and 347 news articles were banned. On October 6, Free Web Turkey, an anti-censorship organization, tweeted about the ban of Germany-based pro-Kurdish opposition news site Nupel, as well as NuçeCiwan and minority sect Alevi news website, AleviNet.

In two other separate instances, news reports on the suspicious death of a woman were banned and a columnist for a left-wing daily was fined $25,000 for accusing publications under a pro-government media group of producing fake news.

Also, the state-run Radio and Television Supreme Council warned of legal consequences on journalism that “wears down” state institutions.

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Egyptian journalist Basma Mostafa was arrested while covering the death of Awais al-Rawi, who was killed by a police officer during a raid. Al Manassa, the news platform that Mostafa covered the story for, said that shortly after Mostafa reached Luxor on October 3, all contact with her was lost. The next day, she was seen at the State Security Prosecution in Cairo and the prosecutors ordered her to remain in custody for 15 days after an interrogation. However, following public outcry from international press freedom agencies, she was released by Egyptian authorities on October 6.

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The Vietnamese police, on October 6, arrested Pham Doan Trang, a prominent independent journalist and democracy activist, for allegedly making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Trang recently published a report on a land dispute case between the Vietnamese government and Dong Tam village, in which the government’s attack on the village resulted in the death of the village leader, three police officers, and the arrest of several villagers in January 2020. Previously, she has been vocal about numerous issues on environmental concerns and land rights. 

Incidentally, the arrest happened just hours after the annual US-Vietnam dialogue on human rights. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, have demanded the release of Trang.

Will Nguyen, a Vietnamese democracy activist, released a letter written by Trang titled, ‘Just in case I am imprisoned,’ in which she said, “I don’t want freedom for myself; that’s too easy. I want something greater: freedom for Vietnam.”

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Sherwan Amin Sherwani, an Iraqi Kurdish journalist and editor-in-chief of magazine Bashur, was arrested by police officers on October 7 according to Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group. The warrant produced by the police did not have information about the reason of his arrest.

According to Arab News, Sherwani had called for demonstrations over unpaid salaries of civil servants of the Kurdish Regional Government.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that Sherwani had criticised Kurdish region’s PM Masrour Barzani for his inaction on the killings of journalists and human rights activists in the region through his Facebook account, which was taken down shortly after the arrest. CPJ’s Middle East & North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado demanded that if the charges of his arrest cannot be disclosed, he should be released immediately.

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Editor’s Guild condemns UP govt for hindering media coverage of Hathras case

The Editor’s Guild of India has issued a statement condemning the law authorities of the UP government, led by Yogi Adityanath, for preventing journalists from covering developments in and around Hathras district after the ‘forced’ cremation of a 19-year-old Dalit woman. The Guild also criticized the UP government for tapping the phones of journalists involved in covering the case and selectively leaking phone conversations on social media.

The statement follows the recent incident of a few upper caste Thakur men sexually assaulting a 19-year old Dalit woman, who later died of complications in a Delhi hospital.

Following a hasty overnight cremation of the woman’s body by the UP police on September 30, authorities closed the district border and prevented media and the Opposition from entering Hathras. All roads to the woman’s village were blocked and section 144 was imposed in the district on October 1.

The Guild also condemned and demanded corrective actions for the growing trend of attacks against the media in recent times. 

Press organizations demand release of Malayalam Journalist arrested by UP police

The Press Association and the Indian Women Press Corps have condemned the arrest of Siddique Kappan, a Malayalam journalist, and three other people under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Sedition, on October 5, while on their way to Hathras. The Press Club of India has demanded the immediate release of Kappan, and called the arrest an illustration of the “ham-handed methods used to stop the media from doing its work.” (Press Association, IWPC Condemn Arrest of Malayalam Journalist; Demands Immediate Release)

Statement issued by Editor’s Guild of India:

The Editors Guild Of India condemns the manner in which the law enforcement agencies of the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, have prevented media persons from reporting on developments in and around Hathras after a brutal assault on a woman leading to her death and the hurried cremation of her body by the authorities without the presence of the family of the deceased.

Equally reprehensible is the way the government has tapped the telephones of journalists engaged in covering the Hathras incidents. Worse, the tapped conversation of the journalists has been selectively leaked, leading to a social media calumny against them.

Not allowing the media to visit the incident spots and tapping the phone conversation of journalists undermine and obstruct the functioning of the media. The Guild demands that the government creates conditions in Hathras that do not obstruct journalists in any way.

Hathras is the worst such case in the scale of interference but the Guild also notes with concern that such attacks against the media are becoming part of a growing trend seen in recent months, in which a few other state governments have also indulged in such harassment of journalists. The Guild condemns these and demands corrective action.

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