China: Urgently Release Seriously Ill Journalist 15 Organizations Urge President Xi Jinping to Free Gao Yu, Others

(New York, August 6, 2015) – Fifteen human rights and press freedom organizations are urging Chinese President Xi Jinping to immediately release seriously ill journalist Gao Yu from prison. In a letter, the organizations also called for the release of all those held for the peaceful expression of their political views and in need of medical attention, as well as access to adequate medical care for all prisoners.

Gao, 71, has been incarcerated since her apprehension in April 2014 for allegedly leaking an internal Chinese Communist Party document disparaging human rights. In April 2015, she was convicted after an unfair trial and sentenced to seven years in prison. Gao suffers from chronic heart pain, high blood pressure, and other diseases. After her detention center allowed her a full checkup, a doctor found signs of blockages in her heart arteries and abnormal lymph node growth that could be malign.

“Since Gao Yu’s unjust imprisonment, her health has only deteriorated further,” saidSophie RichardsonChina director at Human Rights Watch. “Beijing has shown cruel disregard for the health of imprisoned critics of the government, as evidenced by the deaths in custody of Cao Shunli and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. Gao should be released immediately to get the medical care she needs.”

The organizations called on President Xi to:

Immediately release journalist Gao Yu;

Release all prisoners – especially those in poor health – incarcerated for the peaceful exercise of their political views;

Ensure that all prisoners receive prompt access to adequate medical care;

Accept an independent, international investigation into the deaths in custody of Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and activist Cao Shunli; and

Allow prison visits by the United Nations expert on torture.
The 15 organizations include Amnesty International, China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, The Committee to Protect Journalists, The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers, Freedom House, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, Independent Chinese PEN Center, Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, PEN American Center, Reporters Without Borders, Solidarité Chine, and Tiananmen Mothers Campaign.



Journalist missing after investigative report

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) express serious concern following the disappearance of Indian journalist Chayan Sarkar in West Bengal. The IFJ and the IJU demand urgent action by the authorities to investigate the disappearance and the deteriorating safety situation for media workers across India.

Sarkar, the Alipurduar district correspondent of the Uttar Banga Samvad daily, was last seen on Sunday, August 2. His disappearance is believed to be linked with an investigative report he published on July 28, regarding unofficial payments to guarantee admissions into graduation courses to colleges in Alipurduar. After the reports were published Sarkar received threats and supporters of the state’s ruling party held a demonstration out the front of his home.

On August 2, Sarkar received a phone call at 7.30pm and went out. He was last seen near Salsalabari railway station. His motorbike was recovered that night near Salsalabari market with his wallet and ID card in a nearby bush. His phones are still missing and switched off.

In a statement, the IJU President S N Sinha, Vice-President Ambati Anjaneyulu and Secretary-General Amar Devulapalli expressed concerns that Sarkar’s life may be in danger as he might have been abducted.

The IJU said: “It is strange that no clue is available on the missing of the journalist even after four days raises questions over the investigation process, notwithstanding the assertions of state government spokespersons that the police are conducting a special drive to trace him.”

The IJU noted that some local leaders of the ruling party had threatened the journalist after his exposé of the scam. The IJU criticized the involvement of leaders of the ruling party in the disappearance.

The IJU leaders urged the Press Council of India (PCI) to immediately intervene and direct the West Bengal government to take immediate steps to find the missing journalist.

The IFJ said: “The IFJ is seriously concerned by the disappearance of Chayan Sarkar and demands immediate action. The IFJ also condemns the government inaction to provide security to Sarkar prior to his disappearance following the threats and demonstration against him.”

The IFJ added: “The number of threats and attacks on journalists has sharply risen in India in recent months, and the IFJ urge the Indian government to take necessary steps urgently to ensure journalists’ safety.”

Stop bullying media

16 June 2015

The threat by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to cite The Standard reporter Christine Herrera in contempt unless she names members of the House of Representatives who allegedly received bribes to approve the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is a brazen act of bullying.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga’s move to cite Ms. Herrera in contempt reveals not only his ignorance or but also his propensity to violate the law that legislators like him created.

The law was precisely enacted to protect sources of reporters and the journalists themselves against any attempt to force them to identify sources who have offered information on the condition of anonymity.

We are certain our lawmakers are fully aware of Republic Act 53, or the Sotto Law, Section 1 of which clearly says:
The publisher, editor or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter, unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.

Clearly, Ms. Herrera was in the right to invoke the Sotto Law and refuse to name her confidential sources.

We do not see how anyone in the supposedly august chamber can invoke national security in trying to force Ms. Herrera to divulge any confidential information. House members would do better to undertake their own housecleaning instead of breaking the law to soothe their bruised egos.

Bullying and intimidating Herrera is forcing her to violate one of the basic tenets of journalism on the protection of confidentiality of sources.

This could set a precedent on House investigations involving journalists and poses a threat to the integrity of the media and journalists.

Rupert Francis Mangilit
Secretary General

Statement on the Murder of Tagbilaran Broadcaster Maurito Lim

We have run out of words of condemnation in the face of the murder of yet another colleague.

Maurito Lim was about to alight from his car in front of radio station dyRD in Tagbilaran City, Bohol where he hosted the daily program “Chairman Mao On Board” when a lone gunman onboard the now all too familiar motorcycle shot him around 10:35 a.m., Saturday, February 14, 2015, with reports saying the bullet hit him in the left jaw and exited on the other side of his face.

He was rushed to the Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hos pital, just across the street from the radio station where doctors tried, in vain, to save him. Lim was declared dead around 1:15 p.m.

Maurito Lim is the second journalist murdered in Bohol, the 172nd since 1986, and the 31st under the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

We beg the indulgence of our hardworking government officials if we preempt them, lest in their concern for the impunity with which journalists have continued to be murdered under their watch, they chalk this one up to another “non-work related” death, by pointing out that colleagues in Bohol have confirmed that, before his death, Lim had been hitting hard at local officials linked to the illegal drug trade.

While we seriously doubt demanding justice will get us, or Maurito Lim’s family and colleagues, anywhere, we challenge the government to prove us wrong by acting swiftly to solve the case, arrest the killers and, most important, the mastermind who ordered his death.

To the family of Maurito Lim and to the Bohol media community, we extend our sympathies and our solidarity. Rest assured that we will be with you all the way in the search for justice.

To our colleagues in Bohol, we urge you to unite and remain resolute in serving our people in the face of continued threats to press freedom.

Rowena C. Paraan

PNP miserably fails to present any proof on significant headway in the investigation of media killings – NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines welcomes the Philippine National Police’s statement that it is “implementing more tangible actions to fulfill its crucial role in complementing national government efforts to resolve media killings and other threats to press freedom,” except for one very, very crucial item — the statement miserably fails to present any proof towards achieving this goal, much more what PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac calls “significant headway in the investigation of cases.”
Sindac claims Task Force USIG of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management has investigated 42 cases resulting in “the successful prosecution of eight (8) accused responsible in separate cases of media slay(sic).”
He cites the murders of Marlene Garcia-Esperat (3 convicted), Edgar Damalerio (1 convicted), Klein Cantoneros (1 convicted), Armando Pace (1 convicted), Rowel Endrinal (1 convicted), Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega (1 convicted) and Arecio Padrigao Sr. (1 convicted).
But not only are the figures wrong to begin with, these convictions pale if seen against the 171 media murders in the country since 1986.
And, may we point out, all these convictions are of those who pulled the triggers or served as lookouts. None of these are of masterminds.
In fact, in the case of Esperat, the accused brains continue to report for work at the Department of Agriculture while, in the case of Ortega, they remain at large, allowed to slip out of the country by hirelings in government.
If this is all the PNP has to report, it is really all but admitting failure. And may we also point out that the reason most of these cases even reached conviction is because of the relentless efforts of media organizations and the victims’ families.
The PNP also says it has “intensified the campaign against Wanted Persons and Organized Crime Groups, particularly gun-for-hire syndicates who may also be involved in media killing.”
This should, of course, be welcome news not only for media but for all citizens of this republic. However, news report after news report will bear out the fact that syndicates that hire out their expertise in assassinations continue to thrive.
The Human Rights Watch report on the “Digos death squad” and its hand in the murder of broadcaster Rogelio Butalid last year remains fresh. And lest we forget, close to a hundred suspects in the Ampatuan massacre remain at large, most of them members of a private army that, at its height, boasted more firepower than the government’s security forces in Maguindanao.
Sindac says there is “no pattern” to the killings and he is right, but only insofar as there is no official program to murder journalists unlike the targeted killings of activists and other dissenters.
However, as we have pointed out again and again, there IS one pattern, not only behind media murders but, come to think of it, of the myriad of other social problems plaguing our country. And that pattern is the continued system of governance that not only tolerates but actually nurtures corrupt warlord politicians, who are the primary suspects in ordering the deaths of so many of our colleagues, but whose loyalty is indispensable to the national government.
It is likewise infuriating that Sindac, like President Benigno Aquino III, engages in the sickening charade of blaming the victims for their fates, by citing motives such as “personal grudge, double-cross, land dispute, and business rivalry” for the killings.
These are clear attempts to downplay the continued assaults on journalists and freedom of the press in the country.
And, as we have said before, questions of ethics may have played a role in a number of cases but this is still no justification for murder. For if, as Sindac and Aquino seem to imply, corruption justifies murder, it should be food for thought why those most guilty of it continue to thrive in the corridors of power.
Rowena Paraan
NUJP Chairperson

On the Murder of Mindoro’s Nilo Baculo Sr.

9 June 2014
In 2008, Mindoro journalist Nilo Baculo Sr. petitioned the courts for protection after learning of a plot to kill him from the hired gun contracted to carry out the hit.
On June 27 of that year, the Court of Appeals denied his petition for a writ of amparo, calling the reported threat “unsubstantiated.”
Reacting to the ruling, Baculo said: “Our justice system is rotten. You have to die first before you can prove” that a threat does exist.
Alas, six years later, Baculo’s words have proven sadly prophetic.
At noon of Monday, June 9, 2014, the 67-year old Baculo, who hosted the program “Isumbong Mo kay Ka Nilo” over radio station dwIM in Calapan City, was gunned down.
He was the 165th journalist murdered in the country, the 33rd under the watch of President Benigno Aquino III and the fourth this year.
Between a president who dismisses media killings because, to him, most victims are targeted “not because of professional activities, but, shall we say, other issues,” courts that, as Baculod sadly foretold, will believe lives are in danger only when those lives are actually lost, and security forces that, as a recent Human Rights Watch report and a number of other investigations into journalists’ murders have noted, are most likely involved, demanding, even hoping for, justice may seem to be an exercise in futility.
But we cannot give in to despair and cynicism.
We will continue to cry out for justice.
We will continue to call out Mr. Aquino, as we have called out the presidents before him, for their accountability in our colleagues’ deaths, not least of all because of their apathy.
We will never tire of pointing out that the State’s failure to protect its own citizens makes it accountable for each and every extrajudicial murder that makes a mockery of all claims to our being a democracy.
We will never tire of urging our colleagues and our people to join us in demanding accountability and justice.
For, more than apathetic or even complicit government, the other sure way to ensure that the impunity with which extrajudicial killings are committed will continue to thrive is indifference.
Rowena C. Paraan
NUJP Chairperson

Freedom of expression cannot be negotiated

29 May 2014
It was, perhaps, to be expected of our “honorable” politicians, that they again use media as their whipping boy when scandal blows up in their faces.
And so we once again have lawmakers angered by the allegations raised by ONE newspaper slavering to sic the right of reply bill wholesale on media.
Worse, we have the chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights making like a drama queen withdrawing support for the decriminalization of libel.
But it was obvious he never intended to back libel decriminalization in the first place.
One only has to recall his statement after the hearing on the proposal when he blurted out the classic cop-out that there were bound to be even more media killings if libel were decriminalized.
And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Pimentel has bared himself as a stereotypical abuser of the criminal libel law, with his desire to “take advantage” of the statute while it remains in the Revised Penal Code to exact revenge on Janet Lim Napoles and “some media outfits” for deigning to drag him into the mud and filth of the pork barrel scam.
Yes, we have admitted and will admit it again that ethics, or the lack thereof, are a serious concern for the Philippine media and, to some extent, is among the reasons – NOT justification – for the continued assaults on and vilification of journalists, as well as, sadly, the erosion of public sympathy and trust.
But, NO, we will not allow the profession to be butchered and mangled into a servile mouthpiece for the very people responsible for the massive thievery that constitutes governance in this benighted land.
We will not, as those who wish to force the right of reply bill on us, allow them to take over newspaper, air and online space to freely spout their lies and inanities without challenge.
While we will never condone irresponsible journalism, neither can they use it as an excuse to expropriate what is not theirs.
Besides, being abused by a single entity does not deprive them of their right to reply to the charges in other media or, as so many of these suddenly sensitive creatures are known to do, set up their own “outlets” or purchase their own airtime to freely inflict on those who would read or listen to them their own brand of “public information and opinion.”
As for the senator’s theory that decriminalizing libel will lead to more media killings, why then, if indeed corruption were a valid justification for murder, do the corrupt continue to thrive in the halls of Congress and the corridors of power?

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