Saturday, May 21, 2011

After bin Laden, a warning to foreign journalists By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator





After bin Laden, a warning to foreign journalists
By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator
Security is always risky in Kabul, as it is in the entire Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. But the May 2 U.S. raid into Pakistan and killing of Osama bin Laden has raised the risk of retaliation against international representatives, including journalists.
Reuters reported today that the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on two U.S. consulate vehicles in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar. Two people were killed and 10 injured, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said. "We carried out today's attack to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters.
It is in that context that several foreign journalists based in Pakistan and Afghanistan forwarded us a copy of an email message from a Western embassy in Kabul, copied to scores of journalists in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. It warns:
As at 11 May 2011, we have been made aware of an increased threat of kidnap to an unidentified international journalist within Kabul. Please pass this information to any journalist contacts you may have, so that their security providers can mitigate against the threat. Unfortunately I do not have any further information on this threat.
The security officer warned the recipients to "PLEASE READ AND REMAIN VIGILANT" and to forward the message to anyone not included on the message's CC list.
International journalists with whom I've been messaging say the warning reinforces what they had prepared for even before the Abbottabad attack. Concern for personal security is part of the reality of covering the conflict. The May 11 warning is another reminder.
CPJ

Urging help from Honorable Prime Minister




CG Sen

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Following disaster, Free Press Association of Japan launches By Makiko Segawa/CPJ Guest Blogger





MP Ihiro Ozawa addresses a FPAJ press conference. (Michiyoshi Hatakeyama)

After the huge catastrophe that hit Japan this March, the country is in need of a freer media culture. A less restricted media would allow more people access to information at press conferences. In the name of this aim, in April 25, a group of Japanese freelance journalists launched a new organization called the Free Press Association of Japan (FPAJ).

Since Northeastern Japan's great earthquake and tsunami and the crippling of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, I have been even more troubled by the Kisha Club system, particularly in terms of the potential for the Tokyo Electricity Power Company (TEPCO), and the government to restrict information, possibly even endangering the lives of ordinary citizens in Japan. The Kisha Club system restricts access to press conferences held by government officials, so that only those journalists associated with large mainstream media organizations are allowed in. FPAJ is dedicated to taking Kisha Clubs on.

As Michiyoshi Hatakeyama, a freelance journalist and one of the key organizers of the FPAJ told me recently, "In Japan, it is the major media itself that plays the main role in blocking non-member journalists from access to information."

Journalists working outside of the establishment press have other issues, beyond Kisha Clubs. For instance, they are dissatisfied with the mainstream media's overuse of high-level anonymous sources, who are allowed to have their views broadcast without taking personal responsibility.

The lonely but invaluable journalists taking on practices that crackdown on press freedoms tend to be a brave lot. Take Yu Terasawa, 43, a die-hard freelancer investigating police corruption who has rebuked the overuse of police power. Many in the mainstream media have neglected this angle, afraid to lose their access to information from bureaucrats. Or prominent freelance journalist Yasumi Iwakami, who once declared, "We are fighting against the Kisha Club cartel!" Iwakami has devoted himself to working on opening press conferences.

The FPAJ was formally launched only a few weeks ago and now, press conferences hosted by the FPAJ are open to any journalists or ordinary citizens. Many internet journalists, bloggers, and even entertainers have attended. The first FPAJ press conference was held on January 27 with former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa.

"Ozawa feels mistrust towards the information manipulation by the mainstream media, who use only the negative parts of his remarks," Hatakeyama told me when I interviewed him for Shingetsu.

The independent journalists of the FPAJ also point out that their organization is paid for by private donations and member contributions, while the closed Kisha Club system is subsidized by Japanese taxpayers. Uesugi has estimated that public expenses in 2009 for maintaining official press rooms at the central government ministries amounted to more than 1.3 billion yen (about US$16.7 million). Yet the exclusive clubs clearly do not have the public interest at heart.

I can say from experience that the Japanese mainstream media have not fully exercised their duty to pick up the voices of people suffering as a result of the devastation after 3.11. Traveling as a translator with Peter Foster, a British correspondent of The Telegraph in March, I visited stricken sites in northeast Japan, such as Ishinomaki-city, Minamisanriku town, Miyagi Prefecture and Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture.

We witnessed a crowd scavenging for food on the streets of Ishinomaki city, about fifty kilometers from central Sendai. The Japanese media were emphasizing the many countries sending relief food to Japan rather than the rampant hunger of the local population.

"If you are in the media, please tell them we have no food," people told us. A construction worker named Takahashi showed us a couple of unfrozen gyoza (dumplings) and fish cakes he had picked up from the muddy streets. "I need it for my elderly parents, who are in their 70s," he told us.

Foster, who had reported on other natural disasters in India and Indonesia, also expressed his exasperation with the Japanese media. "Why does the media here refrain from broadcasting stories about people who are clearly short on food?" Foster asked me. "They seem to only care about maintaining the beautiful image of their country." He wrote the same in his Telegraph article.

Takashi Uesugi, a director of the FPAJ, testified at an April 6 media session with dozens of ruling Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers--including former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama--that the performance of the established Japanese media system following recent disasters had been abysmal. Immediately after 3.11, he said, the government excluded all online and foreign media from official press conferences on the "Emergency Situation," except for the special sessions eventually set up for the international media. "Freelance journalists and the foreign media are pursuing the facts, even going into the government's high-radiation exclusion zone around the plant, yet the government continues to restrict their attendance at official press conferences at the prime minister's office," he told the session. In Uesugi's view, the lack of trust that Japan's media system engenders has contributed to the rumors circulating at home and overseas.

With so many evacuee and civilian voices unheard, and so many needing more information on radiation problems and disaster relief, FPAJ has arrived not a moment too soon.
Makiko Segawa is a Tokyo-based staff writer for the Shingetsu News Agency.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Take action before the federal government brings medical marijuana programs to an end.

Medical marijuana patients across the country are under attack!
Despite the Obama Administration's promise to respect state laws, lawyers in the federal government are now threatening to arrest and prosecute people who are legally licensed to grow medical marijuana under state law.
These ideologues are trying to block sensible regulation – and they've already succeeded in Washington State.
We must stop them from erasing all the progress we've made and from leaving patients out in the cold.
Write U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today to demand that the federal government keep its promise to respect state medical marijuana laws.
Back in 2009, the Obama Administration said they wouldn't use "justice department resources to circumvent state laws" on medical marijuana. They've kept their promise for the past two years, even issuing a memo that made this hands-off approach official policy.
But now, federal government lawyers are intimidating states with new medical marijuana programs in an attempt to end these programs before they even get started. It's already happened in Washington State, where the governor vetoed a promising medical marijuana bill. And if these threats continue, they could jeopardize our efforts in every state where medical marijuana legislation is on the table.
These lawyers are playing politics with the lives of patients who need medical marijuana to cope with debilitating pain and nausea. Take action now and ask the Attorney General to keep the Administration's promise to leave state medical marijuana programs alone.
To put a stop to these scare tactics, we don't need any laws changed – we just need the Attorney General to tell the handful of people sending the threats to stop.
Write Attorney General Holder today and ask him to keep his word by respecting patients' needs.
Then please spread the word – everything we've worked so hard to achieve is at risk!
Thank you again for your help.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Government Accountability for Torture and Ill-Treatment in Health Settings An Open Society Foundations Briefing Paper

The absolute prohibition under human rights law of all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is commonly applied to prisons and pretrial detention centers. However this prohibition also applies to places such as schools, hospitals, orphanages, and social care institutions—places where coercion, power dynamics, and practices occurring outside the purview of law or justice systems can contribute to the infliction of unjustified and severe pain and suffering on marginalized people.

This briefing paper focuses on torture and ill-treatment in health settings, including hospitals, clinics, hospices, people’s homes, or anywhere health care is delivered. It focuses on government accountability for placing health providers and patients in unacceptable situations whereby torture and ill-treatment is neither documented, prevented, punished, nor redressed.

People who are perceived as “deviant” by authorities, who pose a “nuisance” to health providers, who lack the power to complain or assert their rights, or who are associated with stigmatized or criminalized behaviors may be especially at risk of torture in health care. This briefing paper documents examples of torture and ill-treatment against specific populations, including:

* People needing pain relief
* People with disabilities
* Women seeking reproductive health care
* People living with HIV
* People with TB
* Sex workers
* People who use drugs
* Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons
* Roma

Torture and ill-treatment are antithetical to every notion of health care and human dignity. Health settings should be places where human rights are realized and fulfilled, not debased and violated. To stop the scourge of torture and ill-treatment in health care, health providers and anti-torture advocates must come together to listen to the stories of victims, understand the problem and its roots, and propose solutions.

A necessary first step is for human rights organizations and official mechanisms to systematically include health settings among the places they document and advocate against torture and ill-treatment. Courts and tribunals which are confronted with cases of severe abuse in health settings should likewise consider whether these abuses rise to the level of torture and ill-treatment.

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Government Accountability for Torture and Ill-Treatment in Health Settings
PDF Document - 319K

Open Society Foundation

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SAFE WATER TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTION



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