Getting Away With Murder 2009

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA     Phone: (212) 465‑1004     Fax: (212) 465‑9568     Web: www.cpj.org     E-Mail: info@cpj.org

Contact: Meredith Greene Megaw

E-mail: mgmegaw@cpj.org               Telephone:  (212) 465-1004 x105

 

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER 2009

 

CPJ’s Impunity Index spotlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free

 

New York, March 23, 2009—The already murderous conditions for the press in Sri Lanka and Pakistan deteriorated further in the past year, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in its newly updated Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. Colombia, historically one of the world’s deadliest nations for the press, improved as the rate of murders declined and prosecutors won important recent convictions.

 

“We’re distressed to see justice worsen in places such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Our findings indicate that the failure to solve journalist murders perpetuates further violence against the press,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “Countries can get off this list of shame only by committing themselves to seeking justice.”

 

CPJ’s Impunity Index, compiled for the second year, calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population. CPJ examined every nation in the world for the years 1999 through 2008. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on this Index, a threshold reached by 14 countries this year.

 

Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Somalia—countries racked by armed conflict—top the Impunity Index. But most of the list encompasses peacetime democracies with functioning law enforcement, nations such as Russia, the Philippines, and India.

 

Brazil is the sole newcomer to the 2009 index. Although Brazilian authorities have succeeded in prosecuting some journalist murders, those efforts have not offset the nation’s high rate of deadly violence against the press.

 

CPJ began compiling the index in 2008 to raise awareness about a disturbing pattern of impunity in countries across the world. The organization has undertaken a Global Campaign Against Impunity to seek justice in journalist murders, the world’s gravest threat to free expression, and has focused particularly on unsolved killings in Russia and the Philippines.

 

This year’s report is being released in Manila to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat, a Philippine columnist who reported on corruption in the government’s agriculture department. Garcia-Esperat was gunned down in her home in front of her family in a case that has become emblematic of the struggle against impunity. Two government officials are accused of ordering her murder.

 

“Philippine journalists are clamoring for justice in at least two dozen unsolved cases, and they need government protection from the murderous thugs who are killing their colleagues year after year,” said Elisabeth Witchel, CPJ’s impunity campaign coordinator. “We call on the Philippine government to take the hard steps needed to gain convictions: assigning sufficient prosecutors and investigators to these cases, moving trials to safe and impartial venues, protecting witnesses, and providing high-level political backing for all of these efforts.”

 

Among the other findings in CPJ’s Impunity Index:

 

  • All of the countries included in the 2008 Index remained on the list this year. Only slight changes were seen in the rankings and ratings of most countries.

 

  • Unsolved murders were reported in both Russia and the Philippines in 2008. Both countries have had stubbornly high rates of impunity in journalist slayings over the past decade.

 

  • South Asian journalists face particularly severe risks. The region’s nations make up nearly half of CPJ’s index. Six are included on the 2009 list: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.

 

  • Even in wartime, journalists are more likely to be targeted and murdered than killed in combat. In Iraq, for example, murders account for nearly two-thirds of all media fatalities.

 

  • Although conditions in Iraq improved in 2008, authorities there have yet to solve a single murder case involving a journalist.

 

  • Worldwide, the vast majority of victims are local reporters covering sensitive topics such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home countries.

 

For a detailed explanation of CPJ’s methodology in compiling this index, click here.

 

THE INDEX Continue reading

Judges’ restoration a good first step: HRCP

Press Release, March 16, 2009

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed the restoration of judiciary as a first step towards strengthening democracy and rule of law and said the people of Pakistan have sent a clear message that they will not settle for a sham democratic process.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said: “The HRCP welcomes the restoration of superior court judges and congratulates lawyers, the civil society, political parties – including the Pakistan People’s Party – and above all the people of Pakistan, who again demonstrated their ability for a worthy cause whenever they found one. We wish Monday morning’s decision had been taken earlier. Still the announcement revealed the difference of approach between a military regime and a civilian democracy. This is a clear message from the people to leaders of all political parties that they will not settle for a sham democracy.

However, this is merely the first step. Real challenges now begin and the people expect that they will get not only an independent judiciary but also justice. This will not come about automatically but will require some doing. The people also expect that the restoration of judges will ensure the rule of law and independence of judiciary and also that the parliament will make earnest efforts to save the judiciary from the harmful effects of politicization.

The HRCP has all along been concerned about the lack of independence of the Election Commission and of a satisfactory mechanism for the appointment, tenure and terms of service of members of the superior judiciary. An independent Election Commission is crucial for the democratic system to go forward in a smooth and non-contentious manner. Similarly, mechanisms for appointments and accountability of judges must enjoy the confidence of the legal fraternity and the people. The people expect speedy progress on federation-making, guarantees of provincial autonomy and priority to economic concerns of the people, specially their need for relief from unemployment and poverty. In addition, just as people from all schools of thought had come together for the cause of the judiciary and democracy, the people expect all political parties to get together to promote democratic governance and improve the level of social justice in the country.”

Asma Jahangir Chairperson

Stop this madness, says HRCP

Press Release, March 13

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the use of force on peaceful lawyers and political workers, specially the violence that resulted in serious injury to Ms. Musarrat Hilali, and has called upon the authorities to stop their mad operations. Ina statement today, HRCP said:

The words of sane counsel, offered from both domestic and international, quarters has had no effect on the government’s power-crazy establishment. Not only lawyers and their supporters are being denied their right to freedom of movement, those joining peaceful processions are being subjected to violence. Neither women nor senior citizens are being spared. HRCP strongly condemns the use of brute force on Ms Musarrat Hilali, not only because she is HRCP vice-chairperson for Frontier province but also because she is a widely respected advocate and has done a lot for the have-nots in Peshawar and across the country. The police had no right to break into her house and intimidate and abuse her family members. In the climate of terror created by the so-called law-enforcing personnel Ms Hilali got her leg fractured. The administration cannot absolve itself of this barbaric act. Similar reports of house gates being pulled down at night in a bid to arrest MPAs, and other political workers have been received from many towns in Punjab and Sindh. This madness must stop and civilized ways found to defuse the situation that is threatening Pakistan’s most vital interests. All those taken into custody must be released forthwith and the police firmly warned against violating the peaceful citizens’ basic rights.
Iqbal Haider
Co-chairperson

Pakistani: Stop violence and repression against activists!

FIDH Press Release on Long March
Pakistani: Stop violence and repression against activists!

Paris, March 12, 2009: The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its concern regarding the wave of violence and arbitrary arrests that marked the long march that started today. Organized across the country by lawyers and opposition groups, the march intended to end with a sit-in in front of the Parliament in Islamabad, calling President Asif Ali Zardari to fulfill a pledge to reinstate all judges sacked under former President Pervez Musharraf.

According to the information received, the days before the march, government forces conducted raids and arrested opposition members, including members of the country’s lawyers’ movement. Following the raids, many opposition politicians and party leaders went to hiding. Protesters led by lawyers and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif call for judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf to be reinstated. Chief among the lawyers’ demands is the restoration of a former chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Today, the Pakistani police in Karachi used sticks to attack protesters outside the high court, as lawyers began an anti-government protest march. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested: more than 400 opposition activists in the past few days, according to officials. The opposition claims over 1000 arrests. The repression was aggravated with the authorities’ decision to ban political gatherings of four or more people at one time, under Section 144 in Sindh and Punjab provinces. The ban was allegedly extended today to the whole country for security reasons, in order to avoid bloodshed.

FIDH calls upon the Pakistani government to respect the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), signed by Pakistan, and release immediately all activists arbitrarily arrested, including lawyers and members of the opposition. “Pakistan has long experienced serious human rights violations under the regime of General Musharraf. It’s time to genuinely promote the rule of law and to ensure that the rights of citizens are fully respected ” said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.

Background information:

The arrests and rally come as Pakistan teeters on the edge of political instability following last month’s Supreme Court of Pakistan ruling that barred Sharif and his brother from holding elected office based on a past criminal conviction. The Supreme Court’s controversial decision followed continued turmoil over the country’s judiciary, which has further ruptured relations between PML-N and Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), formerly coalition partners. Opposition groups and lawyers have been mobilising support for the four-day march on Islamabad since the court ruling on 25 February and tensions are high as the country’s political and economic crisis is deepening in a volatile context of several attacks by extremists groups in parts of the country and the practical handing over of power to the Taliban in Swat in the Frontier province.

The statement is also online at http://www.fidh.org/_nouveautes.php3/IMG/article_PDF/spip.php?article6415

HRW- Pakistan: Free Detained Opposition Activists

For Immediate Release

 

Pakistan: Free Detained Opposition Activists

Curbs on Freedom of Assembly Should Be Revoked

 

(New York, March 11, 2009) – The government of Pakistan should end its crackdown against activists of opposition groups led by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Human Rights Watch said today.

 

Since March 10, 2009, authorities have detained at least 300 activists from the opposition party and affiliated groups from across Punjab province, the party’s stronghold. Scores of opposition politicians are in hiding, fearing arrest. The activists have been detained under various provisions of the Maintenance of Public Order Act or simply detained without charge.

 

“It’s a disgrace for elected officials to mimic the discredited military government by using old and repressive laws to stifle political expression,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The protesters who were arrested should be freed right away and allowed to demonstrate peacefully without fear of violence or arrest.”

 

Supporters of the party, headed by the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, are being arrested to prevent them from converging on the capital, Islamabad, for a “sit-in” in support of the restoration to office of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the Supreme Court chief justice who was illegally fired in November 2007 by Pervez Musharraf, then the country’s military ruler.

 

The Punjab and Sindh provincial governments have imposed a discredited colonial-era legal provision, section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which bans gatherings of four or more people, to prevent the protest march to Islamabad. The Punjab police, acting on orders from the provincial government, have set up police checkpoints and roadblocks across the province.

 

Pakistan has been gripped by a political crisis since February 25, 2009, when the country’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling that banned Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections because of a previous criminal conviction. The court also disqualified Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, from continuing as the chief minister of Punjab province.

 

Nawaz Sharif declared “rebellion” against the government and vowed to force a resolution of political disputes “on the streets” at a rally in the city of Lahore on March 5. Along with lawyers seeking the reinstatement of Chaudhry, Sharif announced a protest march to Islamabad, scheduled to arrive in the city on March 16 and culminating in an indefinite sit-in until Chaudhry is restored to office.

 

Human Rights Watch said that by placing curbs on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, Pakistan’s government was making use of the same authoritarian tools it had decried when in opposition.

 

“Pakistan’s transition to democracy is imperiled by the government reacting to a political dispute with unnecessary force,” said Hasan. “Regardless of political differences, rights-respecting leaders don’t lock up people for trying to participate in their country’s political process.”

 

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Pakistan, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/pakistan

 

For more information, please contact:

In Lahore, Ali Dayan Hasan (English, Urdu): +92-300-842-5125 (mobile)

In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-79-0872-8333 (mobile)

In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)

Govt adopting dictatorial ways: HRCP

Press Release, March 11, 2009

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed dismay at curbs on freedom of assembly, arbitrary arrests and harassment of lawyers, political figures and civil society activists ahead of the lawyers’ long march.

 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, HRCP said: “A wave of indiscriminate arrests has been reported from across the country ahead of the long march. Such arrests, snatching and placing of containers on roads, and imposing curbs on the right to peaceful assembly are measures disturbingly similar to the path military ruler Pervez Musharraf had taken against dissent and peaceful protest. The government is abusing legal process to prevent the people from exercising their democratic rights.

 

There is no justification for the government’s undemocratic decision to impose Section 144 curbs on the right to assembly and unleash a spate of arrests and harassment against lawyers, political workers and civil society activists. In Punjab, the enforcement of Section 144 restrictions has compounded the already tense situation created by the imposition of governor’s rule.

 

All the marches, rallies and protests of lawyers in the past two years have been peaceful without exception. The government, therefore, has no justification in preventing gathering of lawyers.

 

Indiscriminate actions – such as arrest and confinement in police stations of people like Tahira Abdullah, an HRCP board member – are hardly a distinction for a government that prides itself at being democratically elected.

 

The government’s resort to ways of authoritarian regimes has cancelled out whatever goodwill it had achieved by not interfering with the lawyers’ long march last year.

 

The government’s action is undemocratic, counterproductive and will only fuel confrontation. Whatever the outcome of the present protest, the government’s reckless policy is posing a grave threat not only to the democratic experiment but also to the state’s integrity.

 

There is still time for the government to give up the policy of conflict and defuse tensions by accommodating the demands of lawyers, ending governor Raj in Punjab, and allowing the Punjab Assembly to exercise its right to elect its leader.

 

The government must release all the detainees and desist from impeding in any way the people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly and protest.”

 

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chairperson

141 suicides in one month: HRCP

Press Release, March 9, 2009

 

LAHORE: At least 141 people committed suicide in the country in one month ending February 25 according to statistics available with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and published in its monthly journal.

 

Of those committing suicide between 26th January and 25th February, 104 individuals were male and the rest female.

 

Thirty-five people, including a 12-year-old boy, committed suicide over their failure to find employment or on account of poverty. Fifty-five people took their own lives by consuming poison, insecticide or various chemicals, 29 used firearms, while 28 hanged themselves.

 

Two unidentified men died on February 19 after they had set themselves on fire in protest against excessive utility bills.

 

The youngest person to commit suicide was a 10-year-old and the oldest was 70. The age of the victims could not be ascertained in many cases.

 

At least 59 incidents of attempted suicide were reported during the same period.

 

Over the corresponding period the previous month, at least 138 people – 98 men and 40 women – had committed and 78 had attempted suicide.

 

 

I. A. Rehman

Secretary General