Free Press

Friday, 01 August 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

France - Reporters Without Borders learned today that its website (, which has been blocked in China since 2003, can now be accessed at the Olympic press centre in Beijing and in other parts of the capital, and in Shanghai.

The tests we conducted this morning show that access to the websites of other international human rights organisation and foreign news media has also been unblocked both inside and outside the press centre as a result of protests by foreign journalists accredited to cover the Olympics.

"This is good news, of course, but it continues to be unacceptable that the Chinese government can decide, according to its mood, which websites are censored and which are accessible," Reporters Without Borders said. "And how long will these sites be available to the 253 million Chinese Internet users, who continue to be subject to massive online censorship?"

The press freedom organisation added: "This partial lifting of censorship shows that the Chinese government is not completely insensitive to pressure. If the entire world had been pressuring China since 2001, even before these games were assigned to Beijing, the situation might have been different today. And perhaps imprisoned journalists would have been freed before the opening ceremony.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

China - The Chinese authorities confirmed today that the 20,000 foreign journalists covering the Olympic Games will not have unrestricted access to the Internet during their stay. International Olympic Committee media chief Kevan Gosper nonetheless yesterday said the IOC's key concern was to "ensure that the media are able to report on the games as they did in previous games."

Reporters Without Borders condemns the cynicism of the Chinese authorities, who have yet again lied, and the IOC's inability to prevent this situation because of its refusal to speak out for several years.

"Yet another broken promise!" the press freedom organisation said. "Coming just nine days before the opening ceremony, this is yet another provocation by the Chinese authorities. This situation increases our concern that there will be many cases of censorship during the games. We condemn the IOC's failure to do anything about this, and we are more than sceptical about its ability to 'ensure' that the media are able to report freely."

Sun Weide, the chief spokesman for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), today said the authorities would only guarantee "sufficient" Internet access for accredited media.


Sunday, 27 July 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

Afghanistan  - RWB today called for the release of Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, aged 23, of the magazine Jahan-e Naw (The New World), who was sentenced to death for "blasphemy" six months ago.

Perwiz Kambakhsh's appeal hearing has been adjourned since 15 June because of the absence of witnesses. Students and professors from the Mazar-i-Sharif University were due to give evidence but they have not yet been official summoned to Kabul.

"We cannot under why the justice system does not want to release this young journalist, despite proof of his innocence. It is essential that the appeal court speeds up his trial", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"The medical examiner who saw him has confirmed that he was tortured by the security forces and the irregularities in the first trial constitute sufficient reasons to justify releasing him after already spending nine months in prison", it added.

Perwiz Kambakhsh's brother, the journalist Yaqub Ibrahimi, explained that the appeal is progressing very slowly, despite the campaign by Afghan colleagues and fellow citizens. "We have had to send a letter ourselves asking the students and professors who are witnesses to come so they can appear before the court," he said.


Wednesday, 09 July 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

Reporters Without Borders condemns new inquiry for lack of independence -  Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi died exactly five years ago tomorrow (10 July) from a cerebral haemorrhage following beatings she received in Evin prison, Tehran. In January 2008, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial because of irregularities that affected the appeal court's verdict in November 2005.

"Five years after the death of Zahra Kazemi and despite the decision to reopen the case, we have received no assurance that the second investigation will be carried out independently and without interference from the public prosecutor, Said Mortazavi", Reporters Without Borders said. "His involvement in the journalist's death is recognised although he has never been called to account for it. We are afraid this inquiry will be meaningless and will not lead to the identification of all those involved in the death."

The Tehran province high court began re-examining the case on 17 March 2008. At that first hearing, attended by lawyers for the journalist's family, Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and Mohammed Sifzadeh, the court agreed to look into a complaint filed by her son, Stephan Hachimi.

He has always called for his mother's body to be repatriated to Canada for an independent autopsy, but the journalist's mother was put under pressure to allow a hasty burial in the southern town of Chiraz on 22 July 2003. Requests for Hachimi to be exhumed have so far remained unanswered.


Tuesday, 01 July 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

Reporters Without Borders today voiced fears about a tough new media law in Belarus that is only waiting for President Alexander Lukachenko's signature to come into force.

The restrictive new law was approved on 28 June by a near unanimous 48 votes to one by the Belarus Council of the Republic (the upper chamber of the National Assembly) after being adopted at the first and second reading in the lower house.

"We repeat our deep concern about the deterioration in press freedom in Belarus. We urge President Lukachenko to reject this new law which steps up the already strong pressure on the press in Belarus", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The new law will force all media to undergo a new registration process, provides for stricter state control of online publications and simplifies official closure of a media. Reporters Without Borders already spelled out the reasons for its concern in a release on 19 June.

The adoption of the first and second readings of the law prompted numerous protests within Belarus but also internationally and the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) put forward amendments to the draft law. Five of their 30 suggestions were taken into account but the "most contentious parts stayed in" said BAJ.


Monday, 23 June 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

China - Reporters Without Borders today accused China of breaking its promises to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by preventing foreign journalists from freely covering the journey of the Olympic flame through Xinjiang and Tibet.

Only a few were allowed to go to Kashgar, Urumqi and Lhasa, and they were forbidden to talk to local people. The authorities also used the passage of the flame through these sensitive regions to mount a new propaganda campaign despite the government saying, like the IOC, that the Games must not be politicised.

"The Olympic flame relay journey has never been such a trumped-up operation where local people have been told to stay indoors because they are seen as a threat," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "And never have foreign journalists been so restricted in reporting on an event that has been outrageously politicised by the Chinese government. "Yet the IOC remains silent in the face of this new violation of the Olympic Charter by Chinese officials using the Olympic flame to justify political repression," it said.

Only about 50 foreign journalists were allowed to report on the passage of the flame through Lhasa on 21 June and nearly half of them were from media outlets in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan who were handpicked by the Chinese government. International news agencies and some TV stations with rights to broadcast the Beijing Games were allowed two days in Lhasa. Other parts of Tibet have been closed to foreigners for more than three months. No US or British daily paper was allowed in.



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