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Robert Mugabe is a predator of freedom of information
May 02, 2013
- Robert Mugabe, president
At 89, you share
the title of world’s oldest head of state with Saudi Arabia’s
King Abdallah ben Abdelaziz Al Saud and Singapore’s President
Sellapan Ramanathan. You have been your country’s president
for the past 26 years, since 1987. Before that, you were Prime Minister,
the post you assumed when Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. You
are an inflexible head of state, one who is hostile to the international
community and reluctant to compromise with the opposition, although
it is now part of a power-sharing government.
Reporters Without Borders accuses you of committing the following
crimes as Zimbabwe’s president during the past ten years:
freedom of expression ahead of the next elections, the date of
which is still unknown.
the creation of any independent radio or TV station in Zimbabwe,
thereby ensuring that the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
(ZBC) keeps its monopoly of broadcasting.
strict control over the state media, with the help of your entourage.
harassing the privately-owned print media.
the foreign media persona non grata in Zimbabwe.
the power-sharing government from functioning properly, thereby
blocking media reforms.
laws that have drastically curtailed media freedom. They include
the 2002 Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which
was designed to finish off the independent press, above all The
Daily News, then Zimbabwe’s most widely-read newspaper.
They also include an Orwellian 2007 law that lets the authorities
intercept communications without asking the courts.
reporters and editors under surveillance, as you did, for example,
after your government’s electoral
difficulties in 2008, in order to assess their loyalty to
the ruling Zanu-PF party.
- Having opposition
activists and journalists arrested after the same electoral difficulties
and subjected to grotesque trials on charges of participating
in a “terrorist” conspiracy to overthrow your presidency.
impunity for the 2007 murder of Edward Chikomba, a freelance cameraman
who used to work for ZBC. His body was found on 31 March 2007,
two days after he was kidnapped by suspected intelligence agents.
No serious investigation has ever been carried out.
You should be
called to account for these gross violations of freedom of information,
which contravene article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
groups named as Predators of Freedom of Information in 2013
On World Press
Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders is releasing an updated list
of 39 Predators of Freedom of Information – presidents, politicians,
religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor,
imprison, kidnap, torture and kill journalists and other news providers.
Powerful, dangerous and violent, these predators consider themselves
above the law.
predators of freedom of information are responsible for the worst
abuses against the news media and journalists,” Reporters
Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “They
are becoming more and more effective. In 2012, the level of violence
against news providers was unprecedented and a record number of
journalists were killed.
Press Freedom Day, which was established on the initiative of Reporters
Without Borders, must be used to pay tribute to all journalists,
professional and amateur, who have paid for their commitment with
their lives, their physical integrity or their freedom, and to denounce
the impunity enjoyed by these predators.”
Five new predators
have been added to the list: the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping,
the Jihadi group Jabhat Al-Nosra from Syria, members and supporters
of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Pakistan’s Baloch armed
groups, and Maldives’ religious extremists. Four predators
have been dropped from the list: former Somali information and communications
minister Abdulkadir Hussein Mohamed, Burmese President Thein Sein,
whose country is experiencing unprecedented reforms despite the
current ethnic violence, the ETA group, and the Hamas and Palestinian
Authority security forces, which are harassing journalists less.
To draw attention
to their abuses, Reporters Without Borders has drafted indictments
against some of these predators in the hope that they will one day
be brought before competent courts. To better highlight the gulf
between propaganda and reality, the statements of some of them have
been contrasted with the facts. And to show how some predators really
think, we have presented their innermost thoughts in the first person.
We had to use a little imagination, of course, but the facts alluded
to conform to reality.
names in the list of predators
A predator goes
and is replaced by another. It is no surprise that Xi Jinping has
taken former Chinese President Hu Jintao’s place as predator.
The change of person has not in any way affected the repressive
system developed by China’s Communist Party.
The list of
predators has been impacted by the repercussions from the Arab Spring
and uprisings in the Arab world. Members and supporters of Egyptian
President Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, have been
responsible for harassing and physically attacking independent media
and journalists critical of the party.
entry into the predators list reflects the evolution in the Syrian
conflict and the fact that abuses are no longer attributable solely
to the regime, represented on the list by Bashar al-Assad, but also
to opposition arme
d groups, which
are proving to be more and more intolerant and suspicious towards
the media. At least 23 journalists and 58 citizen-journalists have
been killed in Syria since 15 March 2011 and seven journalists are
Baloch armed groups, including the Balochistan Liberation Army,
Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Musallah Defa Army, have turned
the southwestern province of Balochistan into one of the world’s
most dangerous regions for journalists. Consisting of armed separatist
groups and opposing militias created to defend the central Pakistani
government, they have spread terror in the media and created information
“black holes.” Pakistan’s intelligence agencies
are also on the predators list because of their abuses against the
Ever since the
army mutiny that overthrew President Mohamed Nasheed in the Maldives
in 2012, extremist religious groups have tried to use their nuisance
power to extend their influence. They have become more aggressive
as the July 2013 presidential election approaches, intimidating
news media and bloggers and using freedom of expression to impose
a religious agenda while denying this freedom to others.
impunity for predators
on journalists and murders of journalists usually go completely
unpunished. This encourages the predators to continue their violations
of human rights and freedom of information. The 34 predators who
were already on the 2012 list continue to trample on freedom of
information with complete disdain and to general indifference.
of dictatorships and closed countries enjoy a peaceful existence
while media and news providers are silenced or eliminated. Such
leaders include Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Issaias Afeworki in
Eritrea and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Turkmenistan. In these
countries, as in Belarus, Vietnam, Uzbekistan and other Central
Asian countries, the international community’s silence is
not just shameful, it is complicit.
Borders urges the international community not to hide behind economic
and geopolitical interests. Thanks to their rich natural resources,
Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Kazakhstan’s Nursultan
Nazarbayev are confident that no one will rap their knuckles. Economic
interests come before everything else, as they do with China. It
is the same with countries that the West regards as “strategic.”
two predators President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have already taken steps to deter the media
from providing independent coverage of next June’s presidential
election. The waves of arrests of journalists that began on 27 January,
“Black Sunday,” are clear evidence of this.
and paramilitary groups that are often linked to drug trafficking
– Mexico’s Zetas, Colombia’s Urabeños and
the Italian Mafia continue to target journalists and media they
regard as too curious, independent or hostile. In Mexico, a country
that is especially deadly for media personnel, 87 journalists have
been killed and 18 have disappeared since 2000. Justice has not
been properly rendered in any of these cases.
Putin’s return to the presidency in Russia, the authorities
have tightened their grip even further in response to unprecedented
opposition protests. The country remains marked by a completely
unacceptable level impunity for those responsible for violence against
journalists. A total of 29 have been murdered since 2000, including
are predators never brought to justice?
high level of impunity is not due to a legal void. There are laws
and instruments that protect journalists in connection with their
work. Above all, it is up to individual states to protect journalists
and other media personnel. This was stressed in Resolution 1738
on the safety of journalists, which the United Nations security
council adopted in 2006.
states often fail to do what they are supposed to do, either because
they lack the political will to punish abuses of this kind, or because
their judicial system is weak or non-existent, or because it is
the authorities themselves who are responsible for the abuses.
of a mechanism for monitoring adherence to Resolution 1738, which
Reporters Without Borders has proposed, would encourage member states
to adopt specific provisions for penalizing murders, physical attacks
and disappearances that target journalists, would extend States’
obligations to non-professional “news providers” and
would reinforce their efforts to combat impunity for such crimes.
At the international
level, the legal protection of journalists is also guaranteed by
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, the Geneva Conventions and other
instruments. The United Nations recently published an Action Plan
on the safety of journalists and measures to combat impunity for
crimes of violence against them.
Criminal Court’s creation has unfortunately not helped advance
the fight against impunity for those responsible for the most serious
crimes of violence against journalists, although journalists play
a fundamental role in providing information and issuing alerts during
domestic and international armed conflicts. The ICC only has jurisdiction
when the crime takes place on the territory of a state that is a
party to the Rome Statute (which created the ICC) or if the accused
person is a citizen of a state party.
the Rome Statute provides for no specific charge for deliberate
physical attacks on journalists. Article 8 of the statute needs
to be amended so that a deliberate attack on media professionals
is regarded as a war crime.
from the predators list
Also know as
“Jahweyn,” this Somali politician is no longer minister
of information and telecommunications. His successor does not seem
to be directly responsible for harassment, intimidation or other
abuses against media personnel. Journalism nonetheless continues
to be very dangerous in Somalia, with a total of 18 journalists
killed in 2012.
President Thein Sein
president in March 2011, Thein Sein no longer qualifies as a predator
of freedom of information. Under his presidency, the military junta
has disbanded and all jailed journalists and bloggers, including
Democratic Voice of Burma’s 17 video-journalists, have been
freed. In 2012, prior censorship was abolished and many exile media
began operating openly inside the country. The first privately-owned
daily newspapers appeared in early 2013.
and Palestinian Authority security forces
forces of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and those of
the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip have been dropped from this
year’s list of predators because the number of their press
freedom violations has fallen considerably in the past four years.
The situation of freedom of information in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip is nonetheless still the subject of concern. The Hamas government
recent banned local journalists from working for Israeli media,
and many journalists are prosecuted for insulting President Mahmoud
ETA has been dropped from the 2013 list. It announced the “definitive
end to armed actions” in 2011 and has carried out no attacks
on journalists or news media since then. Reporters Without Borders
has of course not forgotten all the journalists who were physically
attacked or killed by ETA and continues to demand justice for those
crimes of violence. Reporters Without Borders will also continue
to be on the lookout for any future threat to media freedom by ETA.
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