Thursday, September 17, 2015

CPJ Announces 2015 International Press Freedom Awards 9 Ethiopian blogers - Committee to Protect Journalists

Awardees from Ethiopia, Malaysia, Paraguay, and Syria
New York, September 15, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor journalists from Ethiopia, Malaysia, Paraguay, and Syria with the 2015 International Press Freedom Awards. The journalists have endured death threats, physical attacks, legal action, imprisonment, or exile in the course of their work.
The 2015 awardees are:
  • Zone 9 bloggers of Ethiopia, a group of bloggers of which six were arrested, imprisoned, and charged with terrorism in retaliation for critical reporting;
  • Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, "Zunar," of Malaysia, CPJ's first cartoonist awardee, who is charged with sedition and faces a potential 43-year jail term for drawings lampooning high-level abuse in the Malaysian government;
  • Cándido Figueredo Ruíz, a Paraguayan journalist who faces death threats and has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past two decades because of his reporting on drug smuggling on the Brazil-Paraguay border; and
  • Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a Syrian citizen journalist collective and one of the few independent news sources that continues to report from inside the Islamic State's self-proclaimed capital.
"In a very dangerous period for journalists, these awardees have braved threats from repressive governments, drug cartels, and Islamic State," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Whether through blogs or traditional media outlets, or by drawing cartoons, they risk their personal safety and freedom to bring us the news."
The Associated Press's special regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Kathy Gannon, will receive the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in the cause of press freedom. Gannon has covered the region for the AP as a correspondent and bureau chief since 1988. In 2001, Gannon was the only Western journalist allowed by the Taliban to return to Kabul during the U.S.-led coalition's assault on Afghanistan. In 2005, Gannon authored I is for Infidel: From Holy War, to Holy Terror, 18 Years Inside Afghanistan, an examination of the Taliban and post-Taliban period, published by Public Affairs.
"Kathy Gannon has reported in South Central Asia for 18 years, through periods of extensive political turmoil and conflict," said Sandra Mims Rowe, chairman of CPJ's board of directors. "Her commitment to journalism has transcended personal risk and tragedy, including the loss of her colleague Anja Niedringhaus. Gannon is widely known as one of the most thoughtful and dedicated journalists covering the region."
All of the winners will be honored at CPJ's annual award and benefit dinner in New York City on November 24, 2015. David Muir, anchor of ABC World News Tonight, will host the event. Steven R. Swartz, president and chief executive officer of Hearst, is the dinner chairman.
Note to editors: CPJ International Press Freedom Award winners are available upon request for interviews prior to the awards dinner on November 24, 2015. For their full biographies, click here. Media accreditation for coverage of the awards dinner will begin on November 2, 2015. To purchase tickets to the dinner, please call CPJ's development office at +1 212-300-9021.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sweden’s nationalists lead polls for first time - The Local

Sweden’s nationalists lead polls for first time

    The Sweden Democrat party has been gradually rising in popularity since it scored 12.9 percent in the country’s last general election in September 2014.
    But a survey by pollsters YouGov published in Sweden’s Metro newspaper on Thursday suggested that 25.2 percent of those questioned would now vote for the nationalists, who are calling for dramatic cuts in immigration to Sweden. 
    Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s Social Democrat party - which remains in favour of helping large numbers of refugees from war torn nations - scored 23.4 percent in the poll. The centre-right Moderates, led by Anna Kinberg Batra who took over from the country’s former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt earlier this year, saw their share cut to just 21.0, having previously scored higher than their ruling rivals in recent surveys.
    The Sweden Democrats, with roots in the country's most radical extreme right, entered parliament in 2010 with the ambition of curbing Sweden's immigration and refugee policy.
    "There is a significant amount of dissatisfaction in general with the government, and not least against its immigration and integration policies,
    and the begging issue. Many don't see the Moderates as an alternative on these issues so they turn to us instead," Sweden Democrats party secretary Richard Jomshof told news agency TT in a comment on the strong poll showing.
    Political scientists were split on how to interpret the YouGov poll which was carried out last week, following both a high profile campaign by the Sweden Democrats to ban begging on Stockholm’s subway, and adouble stabbing outside an Ikea store, for which two Eritrean asylum seekers were arrested, with one admitting to the crime.
    Sören Holmberg from Gothenburg University told Metro: “This is not like this is very surprising. We have long seen this tendency that SD [the Sweden Democrats] are heading for an increase [in support]”.
    Stina Moran, another political expert, said the survey suggested that other mainstream parties had not done enough to shape debates in Sweden about immigration, but argued it was extremely unlikely that the nationalists would win the next election in 2018.
    She said that the timing of the poll provided “special circumstances” that may have made respondents more supportive of the Sweden Democrats.
    “It was made in connection with the murders at Ikea. The mood on the web and on social media was incredibly hostile just then,” she argued.
    “Of course one in four Swedes are not racist or want to throw out immigrants, they just want to stir the pot and get the other parties to listen to their concerns.”
    The YouGov survey is based on interviews with 1,527 participants partly selected through an online application process where respondents themselves sign up. Although the pollster has been known to accurately predict shifts to smaller parties in the past, its method was also widely criticized on Thursday.
    "The problem with YouGov is that they don't use randomly selected people. This is a self-recruited panel where we don't know in what way respondents differ from the population as a whole," political scientist Andreas Johansson told the Expressen newspaper.
    And the chief executive of Stockholm-based pollsters Novus hinted that his organization would be presenting a different result later in August. 
    "Take it easy and breathe," he wrote on Twitter. "At the moment [our survey] looks dramatic, but not this dramatic."

    Thursday, July 30, 2015

    Obama Criticized for Calling Ethiopia's Government 'Democratically Elected'

    Human rights group are challenging President Barack Obama following his description of Ethiopia’s government as “democratically elected.”

    “We are very mindful of Ethiopia’s history, the hardships that this country has gone through,” Obama declared at a press conference with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. “It has been relatively recently in which the Constitution that was formed, and elections put forward a democratically elected government.”
    He admitted that “there is still more work to do” and thinks “the prime minister is the first to acknowledge that there is more work to do.”
    The last few elections in Ethiopia say otherwise. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front won 100% of the races in June to control all 546 seats in parliament. Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House, was one activist that criticized the president:
    “But the president didn’t give them blunt truths in saying they had a democratic election when their election in May had intimidation of opposition figures, arrests and detentions of political watchdogs and 100% of the seats in the parliament were filled by the ruling party,” said Mark P. Lagon, president of Freedom House, in an interview Tuesday. “The president was giving them a warm kiss when they didn’t deserve it.”
    He said Obama was “fundamentally wrong” in his comments about the election. “Calling Ethiopia’s government ‘democratically elected’ lowers the standards for democracy and undermines the courageous work of so many Ethiopians who fight to realize a just and democratic society.
    “I think it hurts U.S. credibility and I think it even hurts any partnership we may have in counter-terrorism. If the government of Ethiopia doesn’t think the U.S. is going to stand up for its very clearly avowed principles, it harms our relationship.”
    In May, Berhanu Wodajo, a 40-year-old farmer, told The New York Times he was going to vote for “the bee,” which is the symbol for the party.
    “The bee is the government,” he said. “We don’t know anything about the other options.”
    The opposition tried to appeal to voters, but it does not help that the ruling party harasses their members:
    “Our party members are being detained, and the government has arrested some of our supporters who were meant to be observers during the election,” said Yilkal Getnet, chairman of the opposition party, Semayawi.
    This campaign season “has been marred by gross, systematic and widespread violations of ordinary Ethiopians’ human rights,” Amnesty International said in a statement. The African Union is deploying international observers this year; unlike past elections, the European Union was not invited.
    Amnesty International urged the government to investigate these human rights violations, which included murder of some opposition leaders.
    “Amnesty International has received a number of reports concerning the deaths of political opposition figures in suspicious circumstances, as well as of a pattern of human rights violations against political opposition parties throughout the election period,”exclaimed Michelle Kagari, the organization’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes. “These reports must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. It is unacceptable that these violations barely warranted a mention in reports released by official observers, including the Africa Union Elections Observer Mission and the National Elections Board of Ethiopia.”
    Amnesty found that authorities arrested 500 members of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum at polling stations. These people “were beaten and injured by security guards.” At least six people “sustained gunshot injuries and two were shot and killed.” Minority Samayawi (Blue) Party lost its major candidate Samuel Aweke to unknown killers, being discovered dead in the street. His party said “his murder was politically motivated.” A member of the Medrek party “was found dead 24 hours after he was arrested at his home.” Three people attempted to strangle Tadesse Abraha, the leader of Medrek. He escaped, but died at his home.

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    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    Nigeria’s New President, Hoping to Host Obama, Visits White House Instead - The New York Times

    Nigeria’s New President, Hoping to Host Obama, Visits White House Instead
    By PETER BAKERJULY 20, 2015
    Continue reading the main storyVideo
    Obama Hosts Nigerian President
    President Obama hosted Nigeria’s recently elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, at the White House on Monday, where the two discussed cooperation between the two countries. By AP on Publish Date July 20, 2015. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

    Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyShare This Page
    Continue reading the main story

    WASHINGTON — President Obama kicked off a week of renewed focus on Africa on Monday by welcoming the new president of Nigeria in an Oval Office visit full of praise for his democratic election and his avowed commitment to fighting corruption and the extremist group Boko Haram.

    The White House visit by President Muhammadu Buhari was something of a consolation prize for Nigeria, which has been displeased that Mr. Obama will skip the continent’s most populous country once again, when he heads to sub-Saharan Africa this week to visit Kenya and Ethiopia.

    But White House officials said that Mr. Obama’s decision to welcome Mr. Buhari to Washington just under eight weeks after his inauguration was itself an honor, not to mention more useful for the visiting leader since he will be able to sit down with other American officials here who can help him with his top priorities.

    Continue reading the main story

    Bodies of Nigerians killed in two bomb blasts were prepared for burial Monday in the north-central city of Jos. Attacks by the Boko Haram militant group killed at least 44 civilians on Sunday.Boko Haram’s Civilian Attacks in Nigeria IntensifyJULY 6, 2015
    interactive How Boko Haram Courted and Joined the Islamic StateJUNE 10, 2015
    “President Buhari comes into office with a reputation for integrity and a very clear agenda, and that is to make sure that he is bringing safety and security and peace to his country,” Mr. Obama said as he sat beside his Nigerian counterpart. “He is very concerned about the spread of Boko Haram and the violence that’s taken place there and the atrocities that they’ve carried out, and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside of his country.”

    Mr. Obama commended Nigeria for what has been a rare occurrence in much of Africa, the peaceful transition at the ballot box from one party to another. “It was an affirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy, a recognition that although Nigeria is a big country and a diverse country with many different parts, nevertheless the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process can change take place,” he said.

    Mr. Buhari credited Washington and its allies for helping make that happen. “The maintenance of pressure by the United States, mainly, and Europe to make sure that the elections were free, fair and credible led us to where we are now,” he said. He added that he was “very grateful” to Mr. Obama for the invitation to the White House.

    Mr. Buhari is a complicated figure for American policy makers, a former military ruler who was overthrown in a coup in 1985 after about a year and a half of harsh rule but is now recasting himself as a champion of democracy.

    American relations with his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, became strained last year after the United States refused to sell military helicopters to Nigeria, citing a law restricting such deals involving militaries with human rights violations. Nigeria rebuffed a team of American trainers sent to help teach one of its battalions.

    The United States has taken a strong interest in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group that has waged a campaign of terror in the country’s northeast. Obama administration officials said they hoped that Mr. Buhari would adopt a more comprehensive approach to the fight against Boko Haram and vowed to help him.


    Continue reading the main story
    Mr. Obama is scheduled to leave on Thursday for Kenya, his father’s home country, and then visit Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa. It will be his third planned trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president, after a 2009 trip to Ghana and a 2013 trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

    Neither Kenya nor Ethiopia has been a beacon of democracy lately. Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was charged in the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity for instigating and financing ethnic clashes after disputed elections, but the case was dropped in December for lack of evidence. Ethiopia just conducted elections in which the ruling party won every single seat in Parliament.

    All of this has made Nigerians question why they have been left off the president’s itinerary. Grant Harris, Mr. Obama’s Africa adviser, said the invitation to Mr. Buhari should make clear how much Mr. Obama values Nigeria.

    “The fact that he is visiting less than eight weeks after taking office is historic in and of itself,” Mr. Harris told reporters before the visit. “This is the signal of the importance that the United States places on the relationship.”

    Mr. Harris noted that Secretary of State John Kerry had traveled to Nigeria for Mr. Buhari’s inauguration and added that no other African head of state had been invited to the Oval Office by Mr. Obama so soon after being elected. “And so it’s an unprecedented action on our part in response to an unprecedented moment in time,” Mr. Harris said.

    Mr. Buhari was also invited to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; Jack Lew, the Treasury secretary; Penny Pritzker, the commerce secretary; and Michael Froman, the trade representative.

    Human rights activists warned the White House against rushing forward with security help without demanding reforms by the Nigerian authorities. Government forces have been implicated in incommunicado detention, extrajudicial killings and disappearances, the activists said, while noting that Mr. Buhari replaced top security officials last week.

    “Any closer ties and assistance should be approached with caution,” said Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “If the U.S. is discussing further financial or technical support for Nigeria’s security forces, it should insist on clear benchmarks on how they will ensure respect for human rights.”

    Thursday, June 25, 2015

    Obama's plan to visit Ethiopia criticised as 'gift' for repressive government | World news | The Guardian

     Barack Obama during a to Wajir in Kenya, close to the Ethiopian border, before he was elected US president in 2008.Barack Obama during a to Wajir in Kenya, close to the Ethiopian border, before he was elected US president in 2008. Photograph: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images
    Barack Obama’s decision to visit Ethiopia has shocked human rights activists, who say the visit sends the wrong message to a repressive government widely accused of clamping down on dissent.
    A White House statement said Obama will visit the east African country for meetings with government officials as part of his last African trip as president. As well as meeting the leadership of the African Union, the visit will form part of US efforts to strengthen economic growth, democratic institutions and improve security in the region.
    But as activists and social media users have been making clear, Ethiopia’s track record on human rights and democracy is deeply troubling.
    In its 2014 report, Human Rights Watch noted that Ethiopia increasingly clamps down on the freedoms of its citizens “using repressive laws to constrain civil society and independent media, and target individuals with politically motivated prosecutions”.
    Last month, Ethiopians voted in parliamentary elections which were widely denounced as unfair. Though the African Union declared that the vote was peaceful, they fell short of using the words “free and fair”.
    While the US state department has expressed concerns about restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices, Ethiopia remains a significant recipient of foreign aid money and security support.
    On Twitter Hannah McNeish, a freelance journalist , juxtaposed last month’s suspicious elections results with the White House’s decision to honour Ethiopia with an official visit:

    Tuesday, June 23, 2015

    Ethiopia election: EPRDF wins every seat in parliament - BBC News

    A woman looks at the election paper before voting in Addis Ababa.
    Ethiopia's electoral commission says there was a high voter turnout

    Ethiopia's ruling party, the EPRDF, and its allies have won every single parliamentary seat in May's elections, according to official results.
    This includes the one seat held by an opposition politician following the 2010 poll.
    Election commission chairman Merga Bekana made the announcement saying the elections were credible and free and fair.
    Opposition parties have said that the process was rigged.
    African Union observers described the 24 May vote as "calm, peaceful and credible" and that "it provided an opportunity for the Ethiopian people to express their choices at the polls".

    The opposition have complained the poll was rigged but the AU says the process was credible

    Beyane Petros, the leader of Medrek, one of the main opposition coalitions, said last month that there was no election to speak of as it was not conducted in a fair way, according to the Horn Affairs website.
    Medrek has said that hundreds of its members and supporters have been arrested and beaten in recent months, according to an opposition website.
    The EPRDF has been in power since the overthrow of the military government in 1991.
    In 2005 official results said the opposition won more than 150 seats, but the opposition claimed the figure was much higher.
    More than 190 people were killed as protesters clashed with police in the wake of the announcement of those results, an independent report found.
    The government says the number was much lower.
    In the two elections since then the EPRDF has dominated the parliamen

    Thursday, June 18, 2015

    Ethiopian Opposition Party: Candidate's Murder Was Politically Motivated


    An Ethiopian opposition party said on Wednesday that one of its candidates, who took part in last month's elections, was beaten to death in a "brazen attack" it believes was politically motivated.
    A government spokesman denied that Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn's government was involved in any way.
    The Horn of Africa country has won plaudits for delivering growth for much of the past decade, but rights groups often accuse the government, which has won every seat announced so far in the May election, of clamping down on dissent.
    Samuel Awoke, a Semayawi Party candidate in the north-central Amhara Region at the May 24 vote, was attacked on Monday evening in Debre Markos, less than 300 km (190 miles) north of the capital Addis Ababa, party chairman Yilekal Getinet said.
    "His attackers approached him at 7:30 in the evening and beat him to death, right in the middle of the street on his way home," Yilekal told Reuters.
    "It was a brazen attack carried out on an individual who was critical of the government and who was a victim of a previous assault on election day. This was not some petty crime - it must have been politically motivated," he said.
    A second government official confirmed the incident but rejected claims of political foulplay, saying Samuel - a lawyer - was attacked by a client aggrieved over his handling in court of a dispute over land.
    "The attacker is in custody while another individual is being investigated," the government spokesman, Shimeles Kemal, told Reuters. "There was nothing political about it."
    The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition swept all 442 seats announced so far, out of a total 547. The opposition held a sole seat during the last term.
    Critics and the opposition say the government has quashed dissent, jailed bloggers and journalists for their views and may have rigged elections. The government denies the charges, saying it guarantees free speech and conducts fair elections.

    Monday, June 1, 2015

    Ethiopian opposition rejects the results of parliamentary elections | Diplomat News Network

    Ethiopian Electoral Board employees work at a polling station in Addis Ababa on May 24,2015

    Ethiopian Electoral Board employees work at a polling station in Addis Ababa on May 24,2015
    Addis Ababa (Sudantribune + DIPLOMAT.SO) – One of Ethiopia’s main opposition, Semeyawi (Blue) party rejected both the election process and the preliminary results issued on Wednesday from Sunday’s parliamentary election.
    “The Blue Party does not accept the process as free and fair and does not accept the outcome of unhealthy and undemocratic elections,” the opposition party said in a statement it issued on Friday.
    Partial results announced by the country’s National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) showed that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party and its allied regional political organizations have so far won 442 seats declared out of the 547-seat parliament.
    “This 100 percent win by the regime is a message of disgrace,” stressed the statement, adding that the sweeping victory was an indication that a “multi-party system is over in Ethiopia”.
    The youngest Ethiopian political force which participated at national elections for the first time, accused the ruling party of using authoritarian tactics to guarantee victory.
    The Blue Party’s spokesperson, Yonatan Tesfaye said that candidates were denied for registration and some others were illegally cancelled by the Election Board after they were registered.
    Tesfaye claimed that some 200 party candidates were denied the right to stand for parliament and 52 party members and many other supporters were arrested in the run-up to the polls.
    “The security forces and cadres of EPRDF continued in harassing, beating, arresting and some cases killing candidates and potential observers of opposition parties without any valid reasons and the order of courts,” he said.
    “We don’t think there is an independent justice system to deal with our complaints. We’ll continue our peaceful struggle,” the spokesperson concluded.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    AU Observers Avoid Words ‘Free & Fair’ In Ethiopia Election Assessment VOA

     African Union observers have declared Ethiopia's recent election "Calm, peaceful and credible," but they stayed away from using the words 'Free and Fair" to describe the national poll held on May 24, 2015. (VOA)
    By Anita Powell
    AU Observers: Ethiopian Poll Was ‘Calm, Peaceful and Credible’
    ADDIS ABABA— Calm, peaceful and credible: Those are three of the key words the African Union election observer mission used to describe Ethiopia’s national election, which is widely expected to produce yet another landslide for the nation’s longtime ruling party.
    But “free and fair,” two critical adjectives, were missing from the assessment by the only foreign election observer mission present as tens of millions of Ethiopians voted Sunday.
    “The AU Election Observers’ Mission concludes that the parliamentary elections were calm, peaceful and credible as it provided an opportunity for the Ethiopian people to express their choices at the polls,” said mission head Hifikepunye Pohamba, a former Namibian president.
    Pohamba said the mission did not hear any reports of major violence or problems on election day. But he said observers saw ruling party allies openly urging voters inside the polling station and some stations opened before the stipulated 6 a.m. start time. He added the dark canvas ballot boxes in many stations were insufficiently transparent.
    When VOA asked if the election was fair, free and transparent, AU observer Chika Charles Aniekwe did not answer directly. “We want you be guided by our pronouncement. We do not want to pronounce on what we have not seen. So our judgement on the election is that it was peaceful, it was calm and credible. So we do not want to delve into all we have not pronounced,” said Aniekwe.
    Preliminary results due soon
    This is the first vote since the 2012 death of Meles Zenawi, who had led the nation since 1991, first as president, then as prime minister. Meles’ successor, former academic Hailemariam Desalegn, is widely expected to stay in charge as head of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.
    Meles encountered an electoral roadblock in 2005, when an swell of support for the opposition overflowed into street protests. Government security forces opened fire on opposition supporters who accused officials of vote-rigging.
    A public inquiry determined that 200 people were killed. Tens of thousands of opposition leaders and supporters were jailed.
    The ruling party then won all but a single seat in parliament in the 2010 polls, though European Union observers criticized the ruling party for creating an unfair playing field for the opposition.
    Before this election, the opposition accused the government of hindering their campaigns through arrests, harassment, intimidation and unequal access to funding. The government has denied the allegations.
    AU observer chief Pohamba urged calm. “The AU Electoral Mission encourages political parties, candidates, their supporters and the electorate to maintain the prevailing atmosphere of peace that characterized pre-election and election day and urges for the use of the legal channels of complaints and appeals should there be any post-electoral disputes,” he said.
    Ethiopia’s election board says it will soon release preliminary results. Final results are due June 22.