Our 2010 msg

December 31, 2009 Comments Off on Our 2010 msg

** this msg is from us to you **

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.

You can be that great generation.

Let your greatness blossom.

– Nelson Mandela

In other news

December 31, 2009 Comments Off on In other news

SMH – Sri Lankans arrive to start new lives

REFUGEES from the Oceanic Viking have been welcomed to Australia by family and friends already in Sydney and Melbourne while six others were reunited with family detained on Christmas Island.

The Christian Science Monitor – Not Quite Paradise

Three weeks after 9/11, University of Arizona professor Adele Barker arrived in Sri Lanka as a senior Fulbright Scholar to teach Russian literature, feminist literary theory, and American literature to select students at the University of Peradeniya. But her own education about the history and people of the island nation takes center page in her latest title, Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka.

Economist – A market-based solution

SQUATTING under an umbrella bearing an EU logo, a woman in a faded sari dips into her blue UNICEF bag and pulls out two towels, some toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary napkins and a small bottle of disinfectant. She is soon ringed by hagglers wanting her paltry wares for even less than the pittance she asks. Another woman clambers from a bus lugging a sack of flour donated by the World Food Programme. She jostles for space among the throngs of internally displaced Tamils peddling their rations near the hospital in Vavuniya in the north of Sri Lanka. Just months ago, many of them were treated here for injuries sustained as the Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

Minnesota Public Radio – Music in the midst of Sri Lanka’s civil war

One of the stories of 2009 was the end of 25 years of brutal civil war in Sri Lanka. Government troops forced the surrender of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the island nation just south of the Indian continent.

Express India – 62 mln sq kms in Lanka cleared of mines

As the deadline for resettling displaced Tamil civilians in Wanni by January 31 nears, the demining experts from India and other countries have cleared around 62 million sq kms, filled with explosives, in northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

Daily Mirror (29/12) – Government now says no deadline to resettle IDPs

The government, despite earlier giving a pledge to resettle al the displaced people by the end of next month, now says there is no deadline for the resettlement of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) who are in camps in Vavuniya.

Outlook (27/12) – Epoch Making Year for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka ushered in a new era of peace in 2009 with the annihilation of LTTE and the death of its megalomaniac chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose pursuit for ‘Tamil Eelam’ claimed the lives of over 70,000 people in three decades.

Frontline (19/12) – Minority dilemma

THE Tamil and Muslim minorities, who account for almost 18 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, are in a dilemma on the options before them for the January 26 presidential election. They have three distinct choices: cast their lot with President Mahinda Rajapaksa; vote General Sarath Fonseka, the recently retired former Army chief who is backed by prominent opposition parties; or field their own nominee.

Express Buzz(23/12) – Lankan govt approves bail for Tamil journo

Sri Lanka’s Attorney General has informed the Court of Appeal that he will have no objection if bail is given to the veteran Tamil journalist J S Tissainayagam. The scribe was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment by the High Court of Colombo in August this year.

Reporters Without Borders 2009 roundup

December 31, 2009 Comments Off on Reporters Without Borders 2009 roundup

Reporters Without Borders / Reporters sans frontières

Round-Up 2009 30 December 2009

Press freedom in 2009

76    journalists killed (60 in 2008)
33    journalists kidnapped
573    journalists arrested
1456    physically assaulted
570    media censored
157    journalists fled their countries
1    blogger died in prison
151    bloggers and cyber-dissidents arrested
61    physically assaulted
60    countries affected by online censorship

Click here for full report

Wars and disputed elections: The most dangerous stories for journalists

Two appalling events marked 2009: one was the largest ever massacre of journalists in a single day – a total of 30 killed – by the private militia of a governor in the southern Philippines and the other was an unprecedented wave of arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers in Iran following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection.

A total of around 160 journalists in all continents were forced to go into exile to escape prison or death, often in very dangerous circumstances. The Iranian press photographers crossing the Turkish border to escape arrest or the Somali radio journalists fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid certain death had all reported essential news and information that some people would go to any lengths to suppress.

Wars and elections constituted the chief threat to journalists in 2009. It is becoming more and more risky to cover wars as journalists themselves are being targeted and face the possibility of being murdered or kidnapped. But it can turn out to be just as dangerous to do your job as a reporter at election time and can lead directly to prison or hospital. Violence before and after elections was particularly prevalent in 2009 in countries with poor democratic credentials.

No one should be surprised that, as bloggers and websites continue to flourish, censorship and repression have surged proportionately. There is almost no country nowadays that has entirely escaped this phenomenon. As soon as the Internet or new media (social networking, mobile phones etc) start to play a leading role in the spread of news and information, a serious clampdown follows. Bloggers are now watched as closely as journalists from the traditional media.

Our major concern in 2009 has been the mass exodus of journalists from repressive countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka. The authorities in these countries have understood that by pushing journalists into exile, they can drastically reduce pluralism of ideas and the amount of criticism they attract. “This is a dangerous tendency and it must be very strongly condemned,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said as this review of 2009 was released.

Number of journalists killed up by 26 per cent

Almost every journalist killed in 2009 died in their own country. The exception was Franco-Spanish documentary film-maker Christian Poveda, who was murdered in El Salvador. “Less known to international public opinion than the foreign correspondents, it is these local journalists who pay the highest price every year to guarantee our right to be informed about wars, corruption or the destruction of the environment,” Julliard said.

The year began very badly with the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip. As well as refusing to allow foreign media into this territory, the Israeli government carried out military strikes against buildings housing media, in violation of international humanitarian law. Two reporters were killed in these attacks. Journalists and human rights defenders in the Russian Caucasus went through a terrifying year. The witnesses to the dirty war waged by Moscow and its local allies to be “eliminated” with complete impunity included Natalia Estemirova in Chechnya and Malik Akhmedilov in Dagestan.
Radical Islamist groups caused the death of at least 15 journalists worldwide. Nine reporters were killed in Somalia, where the Al-Shabaab militia carried out constant targeted killings and suicide attacks. Four of these journalists worked for Radio Shabelle, which does its best to provide news amidst the surrounding chaos. Reporters in Pakistan have increasingly been targeted by the Taliban in the northwest of the country.

Kidnappings have also continued to rise. Most cases are concentrated in Afghanistan, Mexico and Somalia. New York Times journalist David Rohde and his fixer managed to escape from the Taliban but Afghan reporter Sultan Munadi was killed in the military operation launched to rescue him.

“Three years have passed since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in conflict zones but governments still seem incapable of protecting reporters,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Other forms of violence, physical assaults and threats have gone up by a third (from 929 cases in 2008 to 1,456 in 2009). Journalists are most at risk in the Americas (501 cases), particularly when they expose drug-trafficking or local potentates. Asia comes next with 364 cases of this kind, chiefly in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The number of censored media is escalating alarmingly with nearly 570 cases of newspapers, radio or TV stations banned from putting out news or forced to close. This happened to a satirical magazine in Malaysia, a score of reformist newspapers in Iran, Radio France Internationale in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the BBC World Service in Rwanda.

The number of journalists arrested fell slightly (from 673 in 2008 to 573 in 2009) above all because there were fewer cases in Asia. The largest number of cases was in the Middle East.

Election violence

The 30 journalists killed in the Mindanao Island bloodbath in Philippines had been covering an attempt by a local governor’s opponent to run as a candidate for regional elections in 2010. Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik was imprisoned in the days following President Ben Ali’s reelection, while his colleague, Slim Boukhdhir, was brutally assaulted. Several journalists were attacked and others received death threats in Gabon following President Ali Bongo’s reelection. Around six media were also temporarily shut down for reporting on the post-election violence and criticising members of the new government. Protests about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial reelection in Iran prompted a horrifying wave of repression against the media.

Pluralist elections that should be a symbol of democracy and free expression can turn into a nightmare for journalists. State media are too often prevented from giving fair and balanced coverage of all the candidates’ campaigns. Such was the case during the contentious Afghan elections and the travesty of an election in Equatorial Guinea. The most committed journalists can be exposed to reprisals from a rival camp. Media access is not always properly observed, as evidenced in provincial polling in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka.

The most serious problems arise when results are announced. Overwhelmed by an opposition movement that was relayed online and in the reformist press, Ahmadinejad’s supporters launched an ultra-violent crackdown on hundreds of journalists and bloggers, accusing them of being spies in the pay of foreigners or bent on destabilising the country.

The courage shown by journalists this year before and after elections earned them periods in custody, mistreatment and prison sentences that were in some cases extremely harsh. These post-election crackdowns should stimulate the international community to seek better ways of protecting the press after rigged election results are announced.

“This wave of violence bodes ill for 2010, when crucial elections are scheduled in Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories” said Reporters Without Borders, which often carries out media monitoring during election campaigns.

More than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents imprisoned

For the first time since the Internet’s emergence, Reporters Without Borders is aware of more than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents being imprisoned worldwide for posting their opinions online. This figure is indicative above all of the scale of the crackdown being carried out in around ten countries. Several countries have turned online expression into a criminal offence, dashing hopes of a censorship-free Internet.

The Internet has been the driving force for pro-democracy campaigns in Iran, China and elsewhere. It is above all for this reason that authoritarian governments have shown themselves so determined to severely punish Internet users. This is the case with two Azerbaijani bloggers, who were sentenced to two years in prison for making a film mocking the political elite.

Although China continued to be the leading Internet censor in 2009, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan have also resorted to frequent blocking of websites and blogs and surveillance of online expression. The Turkmen Internet remains under total state control.

This year, bloggers and ordinary citizens expressing themselves online have been assaulted, threatened or arrested as the popularity of social-networking and interactive websites has soared. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail, while the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar still has 34 years of his prison sentence to serve. The approximately 120 victims of Internet policing also include such leading figures in the defence of online free expression as China’s Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo and Vietnam’s Nguyen Trung and Dieu Cay.

The financial crisis has joined the list of subjects likely to provoke censorship, particularly online. In South Korea, a blogger was wrongfully detained for commenting on the country’s disastrous economic situation. Around six netizens in Thailand were arrested or harassed just for making a connection between the king’s health and a fall in the Bangkok stock exchange. Censorship was slapped on the media in Dubai when it came for them to report on the country’s debt repayment problems.

Democratic countries have not lagged far behind. Several European countries are working on new steps to control the Internet in the name of the battle against child porn and illegal downloads. Australia has said it will set up a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression. Turkey’s courts have increased the number of websites, including YouTube, that are blocked for criticising the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“The number of countries affected by online censorship has doubled from one year to the next – a   disturbing tendency that shows an increase in control over new media as millions of netizens get active online,” said Lucie Morillon, head of the Internet and Freedoms Desk. “That is why Reporters Without Borders will launch a new campaign against the Enemies of the Internet on 12 March.”

Media on trial

At least 167 journalists are in prison around the world at the end of 2009. One would need to go back to the 1990s to find so many of them in jail. Although the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression keeps reiterating that imprisonment is a disproportionate punishment for press offences, many governments keep laws that allow them to jail journalists, and continue to abuse these laws. The sentences given to journalists in Cuba, China, Sri Lanka and Iran are as harsh as those imposed for terrorism or violent crime.

Imprisonment and brutality are too often the only way authorities react to journalists.  At least one journalist is assaulted or arrested every day in the Middle East. More than 60 journalists were physically attacked or arrested in Iraq in 2009. In the Palestinian Territories, more than 50 journalists were detained by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and by Fatah in the West Bank.

Africa and Asia were neck and neck in the numbers of journalists detained. More than 10 journalists were arrested in 2009 in Niger, Gambia and Somalia, while Eritrea maintained its dubious distinction of jailing the most journalists in Africa, with 32 of them behind bars. In Asia, arrests are thankfully down, but the Chinese and Pakistani security forces continue to arrest foreign or local journalists when they crossed the “red lines” they are supposed to observe.

The 28 June coup in Honduras, which was backed by the conservative press, resulted in the persecution of journalists suspected of sympathizing with the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, and the suspension or permanent closure of their media. Finally, Cuba drew attention to itself again this year with at least 24 arrests and two new long jail sentences, bringing to 25 the number of journalists in prison.

When the powerful are not arresting journalists, they are harassing them by constantly dragging them before the courts. One editor in Algeria, Omar Belhouchet, was summoned before judges 15 times in 2009. The opposition press in Turkey and Morocco have been bombarded with law suits, which almost always lead to convictions or closures because the courts are more inclined to favour the plaintiff than the media.

Choosing exile to stay Alive

For the first time, the Reporters Without Borders annual roundup includes figures for journalists who have been forced to leave their countries because of threats to their lives or liberty. A total of 157 journalists went into exile in the past year, often in very harsh conditions. Among the countries where the exodus of journalists and bloggers was particularly dramatic were Iran, with more than 50 fleeing, and Sri Lanka, with 29. In Africa, some 50 journalists fled the chaos in Somalia while scores of Eritreans sought refuge abroad for fear of being targeted for reprisals by the continent’s worst dictatorship. Journalists also fled Guinea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia and Ethiopia.

This new measure is an indication of the level of fear that exists within the media in some countries. Journalists encounter many hazards as they go into exile and seek an uncertain future. Some wait months, even years, to get protection and possible resettlement.

Update on Merak

December 31, 2009 Comments Off on Update on Merak

Australia Network – Catholic priest urges Australia to help Merak port asylum seekers

A catholic priest who has been denied access to around 250 asylum seekers on board a boat in the Indonesian port of Merak says Australia should do more to help end the stand-off.

Father Adrianus Suadi went to Merak to pray with and counsel around 30 Christrian members of the Tamil asylum seekers last week, but he was prevented from getting on board the boat.

He says Australia should be doing more to help resettle them.

“Australia maybe can do something for them to offer them resettlement in Australia knowing that they are refugees, asylum seekers,” he said.

“They have an obligation to protect them.”

Refugee advocates say conditions on board the boat are becoming more unsanitary and leading to sickness.

A nurse at Krakatao Medica hospital near Merak has confirmed that a 7 year old girl from the group has been getting treatment for a chest and stomach infection for the past few days.

Meanwhile Indonesian immigration officials in Merak have told the ABC they’ve run out of ideas to end the standoff.

ABC – Australia prepared to help resettle Merak asylum seekers

The Indonesian Government is hoping Australia will be part of the resolution of a long-running asylum seeker standoff in the Javanese port of Merak.

Another 16 Sri Lankan refugees from the Oceanic Viking are on their way to Australia this morning.

Melbourne will take 10 refugees, while another six are being flown to Christmas Island – three to reunite with other family members in detention, and three for further security and identity checks.

But more than 200 people remain on a large wooden boat in Merak after their boat was intercepted by the Indonesian navy on its way to Australia in October.

Indonesian officials met last night to draw up a strategy to encourage them to disembark.

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor says Australia will help resettle some of those on board the boat, but only after their asylum claims are processed by the UN refugee agency.

“Australia has a very fair offshore humanitarian program enabling people to be settled here if they’re found to be genuine refugees,” he said. More

The murder of Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh

December 30, 2009 Comments Off on The murder of Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh

Tamil Week – Surrendered LTTE leaders were killed by Sri Lanka Special Forces

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

In the current climate both Government and opposition ranks are in a state of denial about the alleged incident. The focus now is not whether the alleged incident occurred or not but on whether any reference should have been made about it at all.

In such a situation the important question of “Who killed Cock Robin” or in this instance who killed Nadesan and Pulidevan and how they were killed is being sidetracked, overlooked or ignored. More

Election boycotts and other news

December 30, 2009 Comments Off on Election boycotts and other news

Colombo Page – Tamil party to boycott Sri Lanka presidential elections

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), a constituent party of the Tamil national Alliance (TNA) has decided to boycott the upcoming presidential elections.

The General Secretary of ACTC, TNA MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam moved a motion to boycott the elections at a special meeting of the party’s General Council held yesterday at its office in Jaffna. The resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority, according to the state-owned radio.

News Today – Vaiko behind bars

MDMK general secretary Vaiko along with thousands of his supporters including farmers was arrested today for resorting to a road roko condemning the Kerala government, which is trying to construct a dam over Mullaperiyar.

Hindustan Times – Will a troubled peace pay dividends in 2010?

As December in 2008 came to an end, the Sri Lanka army surrounded the Tamil Tiger’s administrative centre, Kilinochchi. Few would have forecast the rapid developments of the next five months.

The Australian (28/12) – Sri Lankan aid projects investigated

NEARLY $537 million in tsunami aid for Sri Lanka is unaccounted for and more than $686m has been spent on projects unrelated to the disaster, an anti-corruption watchdog says.

The Island (26/12) – Indian companies plan to make huge investments in Sri Lanka

Seven months after the bloody civil war ended in Sri Lanka, Indian companies that are already working in the island are now busy making plans to make huge investments to expand their business their.

AFP – S.Lanka takes more time to study war crime charges

Sri Lanka’s president has given legal experts four more months to study a US State Department report cataloging alleged war crimes on the island, the presidency said in a statement Monday.

Is disease spreading on Merak?

December 30, 2009 Comments Off on Is disease spreading on Merak?

ABC – Asylum seeker stand-off continues in Merak

The Indonesian Government is calling on Australia to stick to the spirit of the negotiations over the Oceanic Viking asylum seekers.

Indonesia wants Australia to help out with the resettlement of a further 250 asylum seekers refusing to get off a boat in Merak.

The asylum seekers were brought to the port by the Indonesian navy in October after a call from the Australian Government to assist them. More

The Australian – Twist as Tamil refugees arrive today

SIXTEEN Tamil refugees rescued by the Oceanic Viking will begin arriving in Australia today, six via the Christmas Island detention centre.

Forty of the Sri Lankan Tamils left Indonesia’s Tanjung Pinang detention centre yesterday morning, courtesy of a special deal underwritten by the Rudd government to fast-track their resettlement in exchange for ending their month-long standoff aboard the Customs boat. More

Australia News Network – Asylum seekers test Australia-Indonesia negotiations

FEARS of a disease outbreak are causing tensions to rise among asylum seekers on a boat moored at the Indonesian port of Merak since October.

The 12-week stand-off continues as a further 16 refugees from the Oceanic Viking head to Australia for resettlement.

The Sri Lankan Tamils, including women and children, were among 40 refugees from the Australian customs ship due to fly out of Jakarta last night. More

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