Index Index – International free speech roundup 22/01/13

The European Commission released its report of final recommendations on media freedom on 21 January. The report from the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism outlined its desire to impose EU input into state libel laws, as well as suggesting countries should retain online data to identify trolls. It offered its concern that some members of parliament had rejected elements of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, advising the need for press regulatory bodies that have the abilities to act against the media. The report advocated giving media councils the ability to strip journalists of their titles and, in the event of an apology being required following a court case, order a correction of equal size and positioning as the original claim made.

A radio talk show host in Uganda has been suspended for featuring politicians critical of the government on a programme. Kasiriivu James, who works for Endigito FM radio in Western Uganda was suspended on 10 January by the Uganda Communications Commission and has yet to be able to return to work. The current affairs show Ekitandaro was also replaced with music by the radio station following pressure from the government. James hosts the news and political analysis shows, World Express and News Hour. Endigito FM is owned by politician Nuru Byamukama, who also owns Ugandan station Hits FM, which was also subject to censorship after it suspended its political programmes off of the air due to government pressure.

J Gerard Seguia - Demotix

   – A man protests against the Cybercrime    Prevention Act in the Philippines 

Cyber crime laws in the Philippines are being discussed by the Supreme Court today (22 January). Government lawyers will present evidence to the court to discuss the legalities of passing the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which has had its constitutionality questioned by campaigners, and also has been criticised for being too broad and vague. Topics for discussion will include internet libel, cybersex and the authority of officials to remove data seen to violate the proposed legislation. Implementation of the cyber crime law was stopped for 120 days on 9 October 2012, but it is due to lapse on 5 February. Campaigners requesting that suspension of the bill be continued.

A Russian human rights defender has been subject to a series of death threats for his work. Vitalii Ponomarev, head Central Asia expert at Memorial Human Rights Center, was initially sent anonymous threatening emails against him and his family on 12 January. The emails, written in Uzbek and Russian and sent from a single IP address in Tashkent, threatened to decapitate Ponomarev should he go southern Kyrgyzstan. After writing a press release about the incident on 18 January, he received further threats via email. He has filed a complaint to the Federal Security Service and Moscow prosecutor’s office, requesting for an investigation to be held.

Journalists in Swaziland were insulted and threatened by Senate president Gelane Zwane on 17 January, after they turned up to a meeting they had been invited to attend. During the meeting to prepare for the opening of parliament, Zwane allegedly swore at the press in attendance. He then threatened to ban them from covering the State Opening of Parliament — due to be held in February — should they print anything that was discussed in the meeting. The threats came after the clerk of parliament, Ndvuna Dlamini, said that he could not make an announcement during the meeting because of the presence of the media.


India: University professor arrested over anti-Mamata cartoons

A university protester has been arrested for allegedly spreading derogatory cartoons against “respectable persons” in India. Ambikesh Mahapatra, a chemistry professor at Jadavpur University in Bengal, was arrested on Friday (13 April) for forwarding the cartoons of Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee to a number of recipients, and mocking local government policies. The professor has been charged with cyber crime offences.