Verdict could be imminent for RSF’s Turkey representative, two others

first_imgNews News April 2, 2021 Find out more April 2, 2021 Find out more Journalists threatened with imprisonment under Turkey’s terrorism law TurkeyEurope – Central Asia Activities in the fieldCondemning abuses Judicial harassment April 11, 2019 – Updated on April 17, 2019 Verdict could be imminent for RSF’s Turkey representative, two others TurkeyEurope – Central Asia Activities in the fieldCondemning abuses Judicial harassment News News Human rights groups warns European leaders before Turkey summit Receive email alerts Organisation April 28, 2021 Find out more From left to right: Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu Turkey’s never-ending judicial persecution of former newspaper editor Help by sharing this information to go further Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the acquittal of its Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and the writer Ahmet Nesin. RSF will attend the Istanbul court hearing on 15 April when a verdict may finally be delivered in their emblematic trial, which has dragged on for more than two years.The prosecutor has requested prison sentences for Önderoğlu and his two co-defendants, who are accused of “terrorist propaganda,” “condoning crime” and “inciting crime” by demonstrating their solidarity with a Kurdish newspaper that was being harassed by the authorities.#SupportErolSign the petitionIn a show of support for the defendants, an international RSF delegation and many other observers are expected to travel to Istanbul to attend the 15 April hearing, at which the court could issue its verdict after the final defence speech. The RSF delegation will consist of RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, RSF Germany director Christian Mihr, RSF UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent and Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.“Erol Önderoğlu is known throughout the world for his tireless and resolute defence of press freedom,” Deloire said. “Convicting him of an imaginary crime would be an enormous injustice and would bring disgrace on the Turkish authorities. Acquitting our representative and his colleagues would be the only legitimate decision.”Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin are being tried for taking part in a campaign of solidarity in which they and some 50 other well-known figures symbolically took turns at being Özgür Gündem’s “editor for a day” in mid-2016 because it had been the victim of judicial persecution. The newspaper ended up being forcibly closed in August 2016.Önderoğlu and his two colleagues were the only ones to be placed in pre-trial detention for their role in the campaign. That was in June 2016, when their arrest caused an international outcry, with even UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon calling for their swift release. They were freed conditionally after being held for ten days.The already worrying situation of Turkey’s media has become critical since an abortive coup in July 2016. Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any effective form of recourse, mass trials are being held and Turkey now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. RSF_en Follow the news on Turkeylast_img read more

We must not forget China’s other defenders of the freedom to inform

first_img Pakistani TV anchor censored after denouncing violence against journalists June 7, 2021 Find out more Follow the news on Asia – Pacific News to go further News Help by sharing this information RSF_en ChinaFinlandGermanyAsia – PacificEurope – Central Asia Condemning abuses WomenImprisonedRSF PrizeNobel PrizeCitizen-journalists Organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the release of the artist Liu Xia, Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo’s widow, but urges the international community not to forget that more than 50 defenders of the freedom to inform are still detained in China. Receive email alertscenter_img Finally freed by the Chinese authorities this morning, Liu Xia, 57, had been under house arrest in Beijing ever since her imprisoned husband, Liu Xiaobo, a recipient of RSFs Press Freedom Prize, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010. He died in detention last year.According to diplomats, she left Beijing on a flight bound for Helsinki, from where she was due to travel to Germany.“RSF always fought for Liu Xia’s release and can only welcome this news,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “But it should not be allowed to eclipse the suffering that the Chinese authorities inflicted on her during eight long years of captivity, or the fact that more than 50 defenders of the freedom to inform are still languishing in Chinese jails.”In May, the Berlin-based dissident Liao Yiwu released the recording of a phone conversation in which Liu Xia could be heard expressing her despair about the Chinese government’s refusal to let her travel to Berlin.Her release came during a visit to Germany by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang that included a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.A statue to the memory of Liu Xiaobo is to be unveiled in Taipei by the “Friends of Liu Xiaobo” and RSF on 13 July, the first anniversary of his death.One of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. July 10, 2018 We must not forget China’s other defenders of the freedom to inform In rural India, journalists face choice between covering pandemic and survival News Mongolia : RSF urges presidential candidates to voice support for press freedom June 10, 2021 Find out more ChinaFinlandGermanyAsia – PacificEurope – Central Asia Condemning abuses WomenImprisonedRSF PrizeNobel PrizeCitizen-journalists June 2, 2021 Find out more Photo: Shenyang Municipal Information Office Newslast_img read more

Letter to Libyan constitution drafting committee

first_img News LibyaMiddle East – North Africa Protecting journalistsOnline freedomsMedia independenceProtecting sources ImpunityPredatorsFreedom of expression On Libyan revolution’s 10th anniversary, authorities urged to guarantee press freedom Follow the news on Libya RSF_en News February 23, 2021 Find out more LibyaMiddle East – North Africa Protecting journalistsOnline freedomsMedia independenceProtecting sources ImpunityPredatorsFreedom of expression Organisation June 24, 2020 Find out more Ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Libya is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. A constitution guaranteeing press freedom, the confidentiality of sources and the safety of journalists would send a powerful message to all those who constantly violate the freedom to inform, and would do much to help combat the prevailing impunity for crimes of violence against journalists. With this aim, eleven human rights organizations have sent the following open letter to the members of the Libyan constitution drafting committee. 2 November 2017 We, the human rights organizations who sign this letter, congratulate the committee that is drafting the Libyan constitution, the latest draft of which was signed in Al Baydah on 29 July in the presence of 43 of the 60 members. We also praise the efforts so far undertaken by Libya’s parliamentarians, as the constitution is a cornerstone in the construction of a civilian and democratic state respectful of human rights, fundamental freedoms and pluralism. However, we have analysed the articles on freedom of expression and publication, on freedom of the press and media, on transparency and on the right to information and we have found that they fail to conform to international standards regarding freedom of expression. We are therefore submitting a number of recommendations designed to bring the draft constitution into compliance with Libya’s international obligations regarding the protection of freedom of the press and information, and in order to guarantee the rights and freedoms of Libya’s citizens and reflect the pluralism of its society. Insufficient guarantees for freedom of expression We note that the current draft of the constitution recognizes the right to freedom of expression in a limited manner. Many of its provisions restrict freedom of expression and recognize it only partially. Article 37 states in a vague manner that freedom of expression and publishing is a protected freedom. However, the international agreements to which Libya is party, in particular, article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, establish the principle of freedom of expression and imposes precise limits on the restriction of this freedom. Any restriction must comply with the criteria of legality, legitimacy and necessity. Article 37 should establish this principle in the same terms. The same article says that the state will take the necessary measures to protect the privacy of the individual and to combat hate speech, without providing a clear definition of these two terms. This article itself therefore contains a restriction on freedom of expression because it is vague about the limits of these rights. This also violates article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which affirms the right of all human beings to freedom of expression. This right includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of one’s choice. Insufficient protection for media independence We welcome the desire to protect media pluralism and independence that is evident in article 38. However, the constitution must clearly define the means available to the state for limiting concentration of media ownership and guaranteeing pluralism in the expression of opinions. We also point out that the ban on provisional detention during trials of journalists does not suffice to guarantee full and complete freedom of expression. Similarly, protecting media companies from being dissolved by court order is not a sufficient guarantee against abusive restrictions on freedom of expression. The draft constitution should explicitly establish the High Media Council as a constitutional entity in a dedicated article. This should also define its composition, its responsibilities and the guarantees of its independence. The council’s sole role should be regulating the broadcast media. In this regard, article 163 on “other bodies” does not guarantee the independence of the media regulatory authorities. It also fails to satisfy the requirements of international standards. We remind the members of the drafting committee that, under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (and the UN Human Rights Committee’s interpretation of this article in its General Comment No. 34), restrictions may only be imposed on freedom of expression when provision for them has been established by law. The restrictions must also be necessary and proportionate to the pursuit of one of the objectives defined in this article, which are respect of the rights or reputations of others, and protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals. Need to reformulate article on right of access to information Article 46 on transparency and the right of access to information provides for the freedom to receive, impart and exchange information, but it does not comply with the requirements of international standards. The guarantee by the state of the right of access to information must conform to international law, in particular the standards related to the right of access to information, to the protection of personal data, to combatting corruption and to transparency. Poorly defined restriction on rights and freedoms Article 65 on restricting the use of rights and freedoms lacks clarity and should specify that such restrictions must be envisaged by the law, must be necessary for the pursuit of a legitimate objective, and must be proportional to this objective. We are also concerned about the repeated reference to the Islamic Sharia in articles 6, 153 and 161 without reference to the international instruments relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms. A document as important as the constitution, involving rights and freedoms, should above all contain references to the relevant international standards and should explicitly state that religious values cannot interfere with the recognition and guarantee of these rights and freedoms. We would also like to express our dissatisfaction with the provisions on freedom of expression and information in Chapter II on rights and freedoms and in Chapter VII on constitutional entities, which contain concepts that are vague and unknown in international law. This lack of precision can obviously lead to arbitrary interpretations that violate human rights and fundamental freedoms. Main recommendations We urge the members of the Libyan constitution drafting committee and the members of the House of Representatives to: 1. Redraft articles 37 and 38 on freedom of information and publication, making a clear reference to article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which enshrines the principle of freedom of expression and information, while specifying that the use of this right must not be subject to prior control. 2. Provide for constitutional guarantees for press freedom and abolish prison sentences for media offences. 3. Redraft article 46 on the right of access to information in order to improve access and the dissemination of information in the media, which would make it possible to ensure transparency, combat corruption and safeguard the rights of journalists and the confidentiality of their sources in accordance with international standards. 4. Clarify the conditions under which use of the rights and freedoms stated in article 65 may be restricted. We suggest that this paragraph should refer to international law, under which any restriction must be envisaged by the law, must be necessary to the pursuit of a legitimate objective and must be proportional to this objective, so that no article can impair established human rights and fundamental freedoms. 5. Draft a constitutional provision guaranteeing full recognition of the High Media Council as a constitutional entity. The council would be responsible for regulating only the broadcast media and for granting licences to radio and TV stations. It should also be assured a consultative role on media legislation. The organizations: 1. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2. ARTICLE 19 3. Libyan Centre for Freedom of Press (LCFP) 4. Libyan Network For Legal Aid 5. Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies 6. Libya al Mostakbal 7. Mercy Association for Charitable and Humanitarian Aid 8. Libyan Group to Monitor Human Rights Violations9. Lawyers for Justice in Libya10. Jurists Without Chains11. Women’s Rights Defenders Organization to go further December 17, 2019 Find out more Help by sharing this information News On International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and seven other human rights organizations call on the Libyan constitution drafting committee to amend certain articles in their draft concerning freedom of expression and press freedom. November 2, 2017 – Updated on November 3, 2017 Letter to Libyan constitution drafting committee Well-known Libyan journalist missing since his arrest Receive email alerts News Six imprisoned journalists to finally appear in court in Istanbullast_img read more

Abandonment of the claim against a Japanese journalist

first_img News November 19, 2020 Find out more JapanAsia – Pacific Help by sharing this information Follow the news on Japan Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the Japanese music chart company Oricon finally abandonned its defamation action against freelance journalist Hiro Ugaya on 3 August after 33 months. It brought the suit against Ugaya in November 2006 for casting doubt on the validity of its pop music rankings in an interview for the magazine Saizo.“We welcome Oricon’s decision to abandon its action as it was clear from the outset that the allegations against Ugaya were meaningless,” Reporters Without Borders said.The lawsuit filed by Oricon on 17 November 2006 accused Ugaya of “mendacious comments” and demanded 50 million yen (318,000 euros) in damages. In his interview for the magazine Saizo (or Cyso), Ugaya questioned the validity Oricon’s hit chart on the grounds that its statistical methods were not transparent.Many NGOs including Reporters Without Borders denounced the lawsuit as a violation of free expression. A Tokyo District Court initially ordered Ugaya to pay 1 million yen (7,400 euros) in damages but Ugaya appealed to the Tokyo high court.Oricon’s decision to drop the action is extremely unusual in Japan. According to Japanese supreme court figures, only 0.1 per cent of the cases closed in 2007 were terminated as a result of the plaintiff’s decision to abandon the claim. JapanAsia – Pacific On eve of the G20 Riyadh summit, RSF calls for public support to secure the release of jailed journalists in Saudi Arabia Japanese reporter held in Myanmar is charged with “false information” News September 16, 2020 Find out morecenter_img News to go further Receive email alerts News RSF_en May 5, 2021 Find out more Organisation August 6, 2009 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Abandonment of the claim against a Japanese journalist RSF urges recently appointed Japan Prime Minister to take a new turn towards press freedomlast_img read more

Manning verdict blow for investigative journalism and its sources

first_img Reporters Without Borders regards today’s verdict in U.S. Army private Bradley Manning’s trial as dangerous. Although acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” he was found guilty of five counts of espionage and five counts of theft, for which he could receive a combined sentence of more than 100 years in prison. The sentence is due to be announced soon. The verdict is warning to all whistleblowers, against whom the Obama administration has been waging an unprecedented offensive that has ignored the public interest in their revelations. It also threatens the future of investigative journalism, which risks finding its sources drying up.“The information that Manning allegedly passed to WikiLeaks – used by newspapers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde in coordination with Julian Assange’s website ¬– included revelations of grave abuses in the ‘war on terror’ launched by the Bush administration,” Reporters Without Borders said.“The ‘collateral’ fatal shooting of Reuters employees by a U.S. Army helicopter in Baghdad in July 2007 is a well-known example (see video). Should this reality have been concealed from the U.S. public and international opinion? Which was more serious – committing such crimes or revealing them to the public?“The conditions in which Manning has been held, his unfair trial and the lack of transparency during the hearings speak volumes about the fate reserved for whistle-blowers and the way the rule of law is being flouted. Edward Snowden would have every reason to fear persecution, as defined by the Geneva Conventions, if he were to return to the United States.”Reporters Without Borders added: “Will the resumption of the debate about protection of sources at the federal level suffice to overcome the many offensives against investigative journalism, such as the recent seizure of Associated Press phone records ? The outcome of the Manning trial unfortunately suggests the contrary.”One journalist is currently imprisoned in the United States. News Facebook’s Oversight Board is just a stopgap, regulation urgently needed, RSF says Receive email alerts News NSO Group hasn’t kept its promises on human rights, RSF and other NGOs say June 3, 2021 Find out more Organisation News WhatsApp blocks accounts of at least seven Gaza Strip journalists United StatesAmericas center_img Help by sharing this information United StatesAmericas Follow the news on United States July 30, 2013 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Manning verdict blow for investigative journalism and its sources News RSF_en to go further June 7, 2021 Find out more April 28, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more

Letter to justice minister about case of imprisoned journalist beaten by guard

first_imgNews November 1, 2005 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Letter to justice minister about case of imprisoned journalist beaten by guard Reporters Without Borders wrote to Morocco’s justice minister today voicing concern about imprisoned journalist Abderrahmane El Badraoui, who was beaten by a guard on 26 October. The organisation reminded the minister that it is his responsibility to guarantee Badraoui’s safety and reiterated its call for his immediate and unconditional release. Badraoui has been in prison since January 2002.Mr. Mohamed BouzoubaâMinister of JusticePlace El MamouniaRabat MoroccoParis, 1 November 2005Dear Minister,Reporters Without Borders would like to draw your attention to the plight of Abderrahmane El Badraoui, the former editor of the weekly Al-Moulahid, who has been in prison in Morocco since January 2002.Mr. Badraoui was transferred on 5 October to Mohammedia prison, located 150 km from his home. Although a prisoner of conscience, he has since then been in a 40-square-metre cell with 41 inmates being held for ordinary crimes.He was physically attacked on 26 October by a guard, Mustafa Dindla, who had taken to subjecting him to extortion. After complaining about the guard’s behaviour to the prison’s deputy governor, Mr. Badraoui was attacked by the guard and two inmates, who hit him with keys and then gave him a beating.He was taken to the prison infirmary but did not receive any treatment.Two inspectors carried out an investigation on behalf of the prison management and the guard was suspended. This decision is encouraging but we remind you that it is your responsibility to guarantee Mr. Badraoui’s safety.Mr. Badraoui was arrested after publishing reports in late 2001 about a financial scandal in Kénitra and alleged embezzlement by senior police officers in Témara. He was originally accused in 1998 of fraudulently posing as a journalist. The case was dropped after he produced official documents proving that he was a journalist. Despite being acquitted by the Rabat appeal court, he was again tried on the same charge in January 2002 and was given a five-year prison sentence that was reduced on appeal to four years.Mr. Badraoui has been tried twice on the same charges and his imprisonment is therefore the result of a judicial error. For this reason, Reporters Without Borders reiterates its request for his immediate and unconditional release.We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.Sincerely,Robert MénardSecretary-General News News Morocco / Western SaharaMiddle East – North Africa News Follow the news on Morocco / Western Sahara Help by sharing this information Reporters Without Borders wrote to Morocco’s justice minister today voicing concern about imprisoned journalist Abderrahmane El Badraoui, who was beaten by a guard on 26 October. The organisation reminded the minister that it is his responsibility to guarantee Badraoui’s safety and reiterated its call for his immediate and unconditional release. Badraoui has been in prison since January 2002. Morocco / Western SaharaMiddle East – North Africa RSF_en April 28, 2021 Find out more Receive email alerts RSF joins Middle East and North Africa coalition to combat digital surveillance Organisation Hunger strike is last resort for some imprisoned Moroccan journalists April 15, 2021 Find out more June 8, 2021 Find out more NSO Group hasn’t kept its promises on human rights, RSF and other NGOs say to go furtherlast_img read more

Guinea : RSF and AIPS call for release of two imprisoned journalists

first_img Help by sharing this information RSF calls for release of Guinean journalist held for insulting president to go further The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) and the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are joining forces to call for the immediate release of journalist Amadou Diouldé Diallo, one of the doyens of the Guinean press, who is being jailed in Conakry, and of sports journalist Ibrahima Sadio Bah. They are simply demanding that the law decriminalising press offences in Guinea be respected. April 9, 2021 Guinea : RSF and AIPS call for release of two imprisoned journalists Organisation RSF_en Amadou Diouldé Diallo et Ibrahima Sadio Bah, deux journalistes détenus depuis le 27 et le 4 février derniers. Follow the news on Guinea News GuineaAfrica Condemning abusesProtecting journalists ImprisonedImpunityJudicial harassment News Amadou Diouldé Diallo was arrested on February 27th in Conakry. He had just participated in a journalistic programme broadcast on a private Guinean radio station during which he had violently criticised the action of the Head of State, Alpha Condé, recently re-elected President of the Republic of Guinea for a third term. Charged on March 1st, for “offence to the Head of State and defamation”, he was placed under a detention order. His failing health required his transfer from the central prison to the Ignace Deen hospital in Conakry.Several days before Amadou Dioulde Diallo got arrested, another sports journalist, Ibrahima Sadio Bah, was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 500,000 Guinean francs (about 40 euros) for “defamation, public insults and slanderous denunciation” against the president of the Guinean Football Federation (FEGUIFOOT), Mamadou Antonio Souaré. He was sentenced on February 4th for an article on the website relating to accusations of corruption by an unsuccessful candidate against the winner of the FEGUIFOOT presidential election. The prosecutor had however asked for the release of the defendant for an unproven offence.“The detention of journalists, even though the law does not allow it, remains too frequent in Guinea,” RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire deplores. “They are also unprecedented in their duration. We call for the release without any condition of these journalists in accordance with the applicable laws.”Historian and journalist, Amadou Diouldé Diallo is the president of the Guinean Sports Press Association and the vice-president of the African section of the AIPS, which gathers 166 national associations of sports journalists from the five continents.“AIPS defends free access to sports events and freedom of expression for all journalists everywhere around the world,” AIPS President Gianni Merlo states. “We are shocked that two of our Guinean colleagues of which one is our member have been incriminated and jailed because of comments made in the exercise of their profession, even if, as in Mr Diallo’s case, it was not in sports reporting. We also request for the release without any condition of our colleagues in compliance with the applicable laws.”AIPS and RSF note that the pre-trial detention of Amadou Diouldé Diallo is in opposition to the constitution of the Republic of Guinea, Article 10 which stipulates that “Every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Law L002 on the freedom of the press decriminalised press offences in Guinea. The objective of this law is to prevent citizens from being arrested and put in prison for offences committed through the press.Amadou Diouldé Diallo was arrested on February 27th without prior summons. All the efforts of his lawyers to obtain his release so that he can freely prepare his defence have been in vain. His family is concerned about his health. A first letter from the AIPS to the President of the Republic of Guinea, Mr Alpha Condé, requesting the release of Mr Diallo has remained unanswered.Guinea is ranked 110th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Guinean journalist finally freed after being held for nearly three months News News May 19, 2021 Find out more Receive email alerts Guinean journalist’s continuing detention is “incomprehensible,” RSF says GuineaAfrica Condemning abusesProtecting journalists ImprisonedImpunityJudicial harassment April 15, 2021 Find out more AIPS President, Gianni MerloGeneral Secretary of Reporters without borders, Christophe Deloire    March 17, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more

Two years after Andijan, EU urged not to be “accomplice” to continuing repression

first_img Reporters Without Borders today called on the European Union not to lift or ease the sanctions adopted against Uzbekistan in 2005 without getting a clear commitment to respect human rights from the Uzbek government. The European Council is to reexamine the sanctions on 14 May, one day after the second anniversary of the bloody suppression of an uprising in the eastern city of Andijan.The government’s iron grip on Uzbek society has not let up in the two years since the violent crackdown in Andijan on 13 May 2005, which left hundreds of dead, according to NGOs and journalists who were there.Among the latest examples of the continuing repression are the seven-year prison sentence imposed on freelance journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova, followed by her release at a hearing in which she was forced to confess and recant, and the decision to extend the forced confinement of freelance journalist Jamshid Karimov, the president’s nephew, in a Samarkand psychiatric hospital for another six months.“We are concerned about the intention of certain EU member states not to set any conditions for the start of a dialogue with Uzbekistan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If the sanctions adopted in 2005 are lifted or softened by the European Council on 14 May without a tangible commitment from Uzbekistan to improve human rights, the EU could be abandoning journalists and human rights activists to their fate and could damage its credibility.”The press freedom organisation added: “Europe should not sacrifice the defence of human rights for the sake of access to Uzbek hydrocarbons and it should not become an accomplice to President Karimov’s repressive policies.”The foreign media can no longer operate in Uzbekistan and their representatives are not given accreditation. The German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle is the latest international news organisation to be forced to close down its bureau, following the BBC and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Among the correspondents of foreign media to have been attacked or arrested are Lobar Qaynarova, Vladislav Chekoyan and Tulkin Karayev.The Uzbek government passed a law in February 2006 that sanctions the correspondents of foreign media that dare to criticise its policies. It punishes meddling in the country’s “internal affairs” and insulting “the honour and dignity of Uzbek citizens” and says journalists who violate these provisions can be stripped of their accreditation.The same law also says foreigners and Uzbeks can be prosecuted if they cooperate with non-accredited journalists. Article 21 clearly likens journalists to terrorists, providing for the expulsion of those who advocate “the overthrow of constitutional rule or racial or religious hatred.” News Receive email alerts May 11, 2007 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Two years after Andijan, EU urged not to be “accomplice” to continuing repression The European Union is to reexamine its sanctions against Uzbekistan on 14 May, the day after the second anniversary of the bloody suppression of an uprising in Andijan. Reporters Without Borders calls on the EU not to lift or ease the sanctions without a tangible commitment from the government to respect human rights. October 15, 2020 Find out more Organisation Follow the news on Uzbekistan News News February 11, 2021 Find out more UzbekistanEurope – Central Asia UzbekistanEurope – Central Asia More than six years in prison for Uzbek blogger who covered corruption May 11, 2021 Find out more Uzbek blogger facing possible 10-year jail term Help by sharing this information New press freedom predators elected to UN Human Rights Council News RSF_en to go furtherlast_img read more

Freedom of information faces double threat

first_img to go further News Receive email alerts The British parliament is to consider changing the Freedom of Information Act following a government report inOctober that it has proved very expensive to provide information to the public under the act. “”We support theBritish media campaign against the proposed amendments and we hope they will not be adopted,” ReportersWithout Borders says. February 12, 2021 Find out more RSF condemns BBC broadcast ban as example of Chinese government reprisal March 23, 2021 Find out more Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about proposed legislative changes affecting Britain’s Freedom of Information Act, which was one of Tony Blair’s New Labour election campaign promises in 1997 and which did not take full effect until January 2005 although it was adopted in 2000.A report by the Blair government in October said the provision of information to the public under the Act had proved very expensive. Now the government has drafted regulations that would limit the dissemination of information by public authorities and restrict the media’s ability to make requests under the Act. The proposed regulations are being circulated for public consultation until March 8 and – following any revisions – could come into force in April. Journalists and freedom-of-information groups have been making loud protests during the consultation period.Separately, a group of MPs is sponsoring a proposed law that would exempt parliamentary correspondence from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. This move has also been condemned by press-freedom campaigners.”We must point out that freedom of information is a democratic right,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is regrettable that a right such as press freedom is being called into question in a country such as the United Kingdom.”The press-freedom organisation added: “We support the British media campaign against the proposed amendments and we hope they will not be adopted. It would be deplorable if a government were to consent to the emasculation of a law of which it was itself the instigator.”Much of the information held by state bodies can be supplied in response to a request from an individual or news organisation under the Freedom of Information Act. This has enabled the British media to report information that was kept in private in the past. Organisation Solidarity with Swedish media outlet Realtid ahead of UK defamation case hearing United KingdomEurope – Central Asia Help by sharing this information Follow the news on United Kingdomcenter_img See the BBC blog on freedom of information: News February 26, 2007 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Freedom of information faces double threat United KingdomEurope – Central Asia RSF_en News News Britain’s new Freedom of Information Act (FIA) is facing a double threat, only two years after coming into effect, say journalists and press freedom campaigners.Critics say government proposals to cut administrative costs by imposing new financial curbs on requests for information will water down the legislation and restrict investigative reporting.A separate move by MPs to pass a new law exempting parliament from the FIA has also been attacked. Legislators have been accused of seeking to hide behind secrecy – at a time when the FIA has just been used to embarrass some MPs by exposing their large travelling expenses.Much of the journalists’ ire has been directed at the proposed Freedom of Information and Data Protection Regulations. These are undergoing public consultation until March 8 and – following any revisions – could take effect in the spring. They tighten the rules on staff costs for handling information requests, making it easier for authorities to reject complex requests deemed to exceed financial limits (£600 for central government and £450 for other public bodies). The public interest in releasing the information is not considered. Further restrictions could limit the number of requests to a public body by a news organisation to as few as four per year.Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said the regulations could cut the number of requests by up to 20,000 a year from the current level of 120,000 and save £11.8 million of the annual £35.5 million FIA running costs. He wants the proposals scrapped. He said any “complex, probing or potentially contentious request” could be refused – regardless of the public interest – because the time taken to consider and consult on the issues could push costs over the financial limit. “The public would get less information and government would be shielded from scrutiny.”He said that genuinely “vexatious” serial requests for information could already be rejected under the current rules, as shown by a case reported in mid-February, in which the information arbiter ruled against a person who made 15 requests to a transport authority in less than a year. The proposed rule changes were therefore unnecessary, he argued. Another campaign group, Public Concern at Work, said the proposals ignored the financial benefits that freedom-of-information requests brought in deterring waste, inefficiency and fraud in public bodies. Nearly 1,000 journalists have signed a petition opposing the proposals, and a group of MPs have signed a separate parliamentary petition. Several newspaper editors have backed the campaign. John Witherow, editor of the Sunday Times, said the proposals “would effectively neuter” the law, adding: “The most interesting requests we submit require a public-interest test. It is exactly those requests they will be refusing on the spurious grounds of excessive costs.”The Cambridge Evening News said in an editorial: “It would be a terrible backward step if, after just two years, ministers succeed in putting up the shutters again.”In defending the proposals, Vera Baird, the constitutional affairs minister, blamed some journalists for asking too many “unfocused” questions under the FIA, which covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Scotland has a separate FOI law.) She said the government would take opposing views into account before finalising the regulations, but added: “A tiny minority of requests impose disproportionate burdens on the government, some of which frankly take weeks to deal with.”Meanwhile, another group of MPs is promoting a Bill that would exempt legislators from the FIA. Backbench Bills rarely become law, but the government has given this one time for passage through parliament. MPs have complained that the public disclosure of their correspondence infringes their constituents’ confidentiality and inhibits their constituency work.Mr Frankel said of the Bill: “Its most obvious effect would be to block requests for MPs’ expenses claims. The information commissioner recently ordered disclosure of individual MPs’ spending on car, rail, air and taxi travel… If the UK Bill succeeds, MPs … would not be troubled by such openness.”He added: “To suggest that parliament might now arrange for itself to be removed from this important legislation by an undebated private members’ Bill is extraordinary.” He expects it to encounter stiff opposition in the upper chamber – the House of Lords – in April. Read the report writed by Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent in the UK, Glyn Roberts : Safety of journalists remains active concern in Northern Ireland as BBC Panorama team is threatened February 11, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more

Inquiry into the death of Norbert Zongo

first_img Receive email alerts News RSF_en Reports to go further 1. Summary of the caseAt about 4pm on Sunday 13 December 1998, Norbert Zongo, his younger brother Ernest, his driver Ablassé Nikiema and one of his employees Blaise Ilboudo, died on the road to their ranch, Safari Sissili, about 4 miles from the village of Sapouy, 60 miles south of Ouagadougou. The bodies of Norbert, Ernest and Blaise were found badly burned inside the cabin of their four-wheel-drive vehicle. Fire had destroyed the inside of the Toyota Landcruiser, registration number 11 J 6485 BF. According to a report in the daily Sidwaya, the driver’s body lay “in a shallow channel to the left of the vehicle (…) the lower part of his body licked by flames and covered by only the tattered remnants of a pair of jeans”. The state daily went on: “The vehicle (…) was parked on the left-hand verge. There were no tyre marks to indicate that it had braked sharply. The doors were still closed and all traces of paintwork had been destroyed by the flames, as well as all inflammable accessories”. These observations were confirmed by the Burkinabe Human Rights and Peoples’ Movement (MBDHP), which sent a team to the scene on Monday 14 December: “From its initial observations made on the spot, the delegation noted the following facts: no sign of skid marks on the road; the vehicle had not struck an obstacle; it had neither overturned nor left the road; from the outside, it seemed to have burned from;the top downwards; the tyres were intact; there were bullet holes in the rear right-hand door; four bodies found at the scene: one outside the vehicle and three burned inside.” The MBDHP concluded: “In the light of the elements noted, (we have) serious reason to believe that this was not an accident but an odious crime which was apparently carefully planned and carried out.”2. Who was Norbert Zongo?Norbert Zongo, alias Henri Segbo, aged 49, was publishing manager of the weekly L’Independant and chairman of the Private Press Publishers’ Society (SEP). For many years he had specialised in investigating the “dark side of the Fourth Republic”, to use the term coined by one of his friends. Norbert Zongo trained as a primary school teacher in Togo and Cameroon. He later worked with the state press, resigning when the Burkina News Agency (AIB) wanted to transfer him to Banfora, in south-western Comoé province. He joined the privately owned weekly Le Journal du Jeudi before starting La Clé, then in 1993 launching L’Independant, which is the biggest weekly on the market with a circulation of several thousand. He was also the author of two novels: “Parachutages” and “Rougbeinga”.3. Reactions to the journalist’s deathTension increased in the days that followed the death of Norbert Zongo and his companions. On Tuesday 15 December, thousands of students demonstrated outside the headquarters of the ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), throwing stones and entering the courthouse. The protest was broken up by police using teargas after the students set fire to a CDP coach. The next day 15,000 people – according to AFP – followed Norbert Zongo’s coffin to the cemetery. More than 1,000 people attended a meeting at the trade union centre on 19 December. A diplomat posted to Ouagadougou commented: “The sum of these demonstrations goes far beyond the opposition’s usual ability to rally support.”On 21 December, President Blaise Compaoré was sworn in for a second mandate. The chairman of the supreme court mentioned in his speech what had become known as the “Zongo case”, saying he hoped the investigation by the independent committee put forward by the authorities would be “properly carried out in order to strengthen the construction of our democracy”. But Blaise Compaoré made no reference to the death of Norbert Zongo in his reply. Help by sharing this information Burkina FasoAfrica 4. Setting up an “independent committee of inquiry”Three days earlier, the authorities had published a decree, number 98.0490, “concerning the establishment, composition and powers of an independent committee of inquiry”. Article 6 stipulates that “the committee is given the task of making all necessary inquiries to determine the causes of death of the occupants of the vehicle (…), including journalist Norbert Zongo”. The opposition, trade unions and human rights organisations rejected the government’s proposal because they thought the state was “too heavily represented” (four people out of a total of 14) and suggested setting up an “international committee that could include international organisations such as Amnesty International, the International Committee of Jurists and Reporters Sans Frontières”.The organisations were quick to respond. Amnesty International, noting that the government had announced the opening of an inquiry, expressed its concern: “In the past, this type of investigation has never reached a conclusion. In the past ten years, the deaths of Guillaume Sessouma, Boukary Dabo, Clément Ouédraogo and David Ouédraogo have never been officially explained”. Reporters Sans Frontières said in a letter to justice minister Larba Yarga: “Over and above the outrage provoked by Norbert Zongo’s death, RSF does not want to neglect any line of investigation that might help us to have a fuller understanding of how he died. In these circumstances, our organisation wishes to go to Burkina Faso very shortly to conduct an independent inquiry and meet all those involved in the case. We do not have the pretension of taking the place of the national legal authorities; we merely wish to help them shed light on the case and thus stop the spread of the rumours that have already reached all parts of the country.” For RSF, the circumstances of the journalist’s death are “dubious, and require further clarification”.The government reacted to the criticism. On 17 December the CDP said: “It was by no means in our interests, just after we had won the elections brilliantly with a transparent candidate, that such a situation should occur. (…) The false remarks and gratuitous statements of the (opposition, Ed.) 14 February Group, alleging that we are in some way responsible for this tragedy, are only the visible parts of a coldly calculated plot by politicians on the way down, who are willing to fish in troubled waters”.After the opposition declared a national period of mourning of 48 hours on 21 December, it was the turn of the press to organise a stoppage on Thursday 24 December. The journalist’s death came as L’Independant was conducting a campaign for a full investigation of the murder of David Ouédraogo, the driver of François Compaoré, the president’s brother.5. The David Ouédraogo caseIn December 1997, François Compaoré handed David Ouédraogo over to members of a military barracks, alleging that the driver had stolen money from him. David Ouédraogo was reportedly tortured to death, and his body was never found. François Compaoré was due to be charged with “murder and concealing a corpse”, but he was out when an official came to give him the papers and he failed to turn up to answer a court summons. Norbert Zongo was organising a committee of support for David Ouédraogo’s family.Norbert Zongo’s newspaper had thrown itself into getting to the bottom of the case, which was the lead story in practically all the last 15 issues of the weekly. This led to a large number of threats, which he referred to in number 274, dated 8 December, of L’Independant: “Let us suppose that L’Independant ceases publication definitively for one reason or another (the death or imprisonment of its publishing manager, or a ban on publication…). We would remain convinced that the David Ouédraogo issue must be faced, and sooner or later resolved.”6. Might it have been an accident?Almost all the people the RSF delegation spoke to, including those close to the investigation, thought that the theory of an accident did not stand up. Speculation that a fire may have started due to an electrical short-circuit was refuted by the various people who examined the vehicle. They did not believe it was possible that a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a diesel engine could catch fire so suddenly and violently. Only the driver managed to get out. One of the employees of Norbert Zongo’s ranch, who went to the scene of the blaze the next day, said: One of the bodies was bent as if there had been an explosion. The lower parts of the legs were severed. It might have been an incendiary grenade. It was the work of experts. It’s not possible that it was an accident. A diesel engine doesn’t catch fire just like that.”A report by Dr Guira Oumar, of the hospital in Léo, 40 miles from where the car was found, carried out the initial autopsies. He said the driver’s body, found two yards away from vehicle, had the following injuries to the head: “Three lateral wounds about half an inch long with clean edges in the right zygomatic-jugular region, a distortion of the columella with a bilateral epistaxis, a frontal contusion about one inch long with a local haematoma, sunken eyeballs. The skull and face were smeared with dried blood.” He added that the body had “second- and third-degree burns, mainly located in the lower half, the left hemithorax and hemiabdomen, covering an estimated surface area of 27%”. Dr Guira also mentioned “traumatism of the bones”. In other words, some of the driver’s facial wounds were probably caused by a “sharp object”. Dr Guira continued: “It is very unlikely that the burns to Ablassé Nikiema’s body are sufficient to explain his death”. In the case of the three other bodies, whose lower limbs were severed: “It is hard to say if that was due to the fire or if there was another reason. Nothing can be excluded.”A witness the delegation spoke to in the village of Sapouy, who asked to remain anonymous (“I’m scared”, he explained), said: “On Monday 14 December, at around midday, I met a Peul who told me he had seen what had happened. Two men in a car fired their guns at the vehicle, then set fire to it. They were wearing civilian clothes. The driver gave a shout. Then they went back to Sapouy.” The witness added: “The Peul won’t tell you anything. He’s as scared as I am.”Another witness, also from Sapouy, said: “I was in my field which is about 400 yards away from the road. I heard a car engine – it was very loud. The noise frightened me, so I didn’t go and look. I saw some smoke. I was afraid people would say it was me that had caused the accident.” Contradicting the account of the first witness, he added: “I didn’t hear any shots. There was no shouting.”Two more people in Sapouy said there had been some “strange events” that day. The manageress of a village bar said: “A blue Toyota, with a tarpaulin over the back, went past at full speed about 15 minutes after Norbert and his friends stopped here. It had no number plates. It went past again about 15 minutes later, still going very fast. It seemed suspicious.” Her account was corroborated by a neighbour: “We were playing cards about 100 yards away from the road. I noticed the vehicle because it was going so fast. There was a sign on the front door saying “State property”.7. The murder theory: a journalist under threatQuite apart from these accounts and Dr Guira’s report, the circumstances in which Norbert Zongo died also point strongly to the possibility that he was murdered. The investigation carried out by L’Independant into the death of François Compaoré’s driver had already led to serious threats against Zongo. On this point, all the witnesses are in agreement. Germain Nama, a professor of philosophy, a member of the Unesco National Commission and chairman of the MBDHP’s arbitration committee, said: “I knew he was severely threatened. But by the time he took the threats seriously it was too late. They even went to see him, saying them had been sent to bump him off. As proof, they recounted his schedule in such detail that Norbert was afraid. The plan was to get rid of him and arrange for his body to be found in the bush a few days later. The men said they had been sent by François Compaoré. He saw them at least twice during October. The man who was to kill him, known as D., belonged to the commando that murdered opponent Valentin Kinda in Abidjan, at the time of Thomas Sankara’s government”.Geneviève Poda, Norbert Zongo’s wife, was in no doubt that he had been threatened: “As far back as 1997, he had been followed by a car while he was on his motorbike. In October 1998, Frank Alain Kaboré, with whom he had business dealings, came to see him here at home. He said he had been sent by a minister, who had been asked by François Compaoré to warn Norbert”.S., a close friend of Norbert Zongo, was even more specific: “On 27 October he told me about the threats he had received. An informer known as D. had told Norbert he was planning to murder him. To prove that he was serious, he told him he knew all the details of his schedule, quoting, for example, the number of times we had been together to such and such a restaurant. He even said he would be murdered on his ranch, and that François Compaoré would have hired the killer.” Like Mrs Zongo, S. said that Frank Alain Kaboré had been given the task of warning Norbert Zongo. A member of the government apparently told him, quoting the president’s brother: “I don’t understand why he (Zongo) insists on talking about that case (David Ouédraogo). I’ve protected him in the past, but now I can’t do anything more for him.”Bénéwendé S. Sankara, the Ouédraogo family’s lawyer, was just as categorical: “On several occasions, he told me there was a chance he would be killed. I could discern in him the anguish of a hunted man.” Confirming other accounts, including that of the director of a haulage firm, the lawyer said Norbert Zongo was approached by men from the government who told him to stop writing about the Ouédraogo case. “At the start of 1998, when he was starting to take an interest in it, Oumarou Kanazoé, a wealthy businessman, met with him. Just like Frank Alain Kaboré. Each time, the idea was to get Norbert to drop the matter.”8. François Compaoré was behind several “cases”It should be recalled that the David Ouédraogo case was not the first time Norbert Zongo had crossed François Compaoré’s path. Zongo had already had dealings with the president’s brother when he accused François Compaoré’s mother-in-law of enjoying a monopoly on leather exports. This became known as the “Tan-Aliz case”. S. said: “The day before he died, Norbert told me he had received a phone call from Mrs Dupuch, the wife of the Frenchman at the centre of the CEMOB scandal, a massive gold mining fraud. Mrs Dupuch had talked about a new element in the scandal, and Norbert said the Compaoré family was involved.” S. added: “Every time he came to see me, he said he was afraid. On Friday 11 December, he didn’t want to go to an appointment at the town hall on his moped. He took a taxi and explained: ‘The threats are becoming more specific.’ When he came back, he said: ‘They’re going to murder me.'”The threats and pressure did not prevent L’Independant from receiving a grant of 7 million CFA francs from the State Subsidy Fund for the Private Press in 1998. Communications and culture minister Mahamoudou Ouédraogo said: “The only criteria are technical ones.”The “attempted poisoning” of Norbert Zongo, in Kaya on 8 November, offered further evidence that some people were willing to go to any lengths to reduce him to silence. That day, after giving a lecture, he went to eat with friends. The whole family suffered from food poisoning, but Zongo was particularly badly affected and was taken to hospital. A few days later, he wrote about “rotten food” in his newspaper because, his friends said, he was convinced it was an attempt to poison him. One of his brothers said: “We looked at the date on the tin of tomatoes that was thought to be responsible, but it was not past the limit.”9. Norbert Zongo and “Safari Sissili”While Norbert Zongo had made some serious enemies through his writing, he had another occupation that had also caused him a few problems. Since 1992, he had held a hunting concession on over 12,000 acres of land, which was known as “Safari Sissili”. Salif Diallo, minister of state responsible for water and the environment: “Although the area has been protected since 1935, in the early 1980s the National Office for Animal Resources had allowed a group of farmers to use the forest. The ministry protested at this.” There were also difficulties with the new concessionary: “Although Norbert Zongo had the law on his side, the Peul farmers continued to occupy a large part of the land. That explains why the journalist was paying a contribution to the state covering roughly a third of the area for which he was theoretically responsible.”After a series of incidents, an agreement was finally reached. The minister of state went on: “In August 1998, we decided to force the farmers to leave the area. But as they had already sown crops, we decided to wait until after the harvest.” Robert, Norbert Zongo’s younger brother, was even more specific in his allegations: “We have problems with the Peuls. They cut down trees and allow poachers onto the land. The poachers shoot animals to sell their meat in Ouaga. So we had set an ultimatum of 16 December for them to get out. Now that Norbert is dead, that’s all fallen through.” He added: “All the people in high places have herds in the Sissili, such as that minister, who is a relative of the Peuls. I think he didn’t appreciate our wanting to get rid of his family.”It is only a short step to deduce from these facts that Norbert Zongo’s death might have been connected with problems over his hunting land, and some people have taken that step. But the journalist’s family and friends are convinced this is not the case, such as the ranch worker who told the RSF delegation: “I have the feeling that it wasn’t a hunting problem. I think we should look more towards small-time criminals, underlings, who were of course being paid by someone.” The minister of state shared this view. “A consensus had been found”, he said, pointing out that there was even a budget for setting aside a new area of pasture for the Sissili farmers.10. Conclusions: Police inquiry ends suddenlyThe initial findings of the RSF investigation show that the police inquiry was not started immediately after Norbert Zongo’s death, as one would normally expect. On 31 December, not one of the witnesses questioned by RSF had been interviewed by the police. Neither family, friends, colleagues, ranch employees nor those who claimed to have seen the “accident” had been asked to make statements. In fact, they were not asked anything at all. A national police chief tried to explain why: “We were confused. Should the police continue with their inquiries when the government had decided on 18 December to set up a committee of inquiry?” Although we didn’t specifically tell the local superintendent to call off the investigations, we did think it was not wise to have two inquiries going on at the same time.” Other officers pointed out that more thorough investigations outside the scope of the independent committee of inquiry might have been regarded as biased. But an official legal investigation, with examining magistrate Wenceslas Ilboudo in charge, was only opened on 24 December – which seems a long delay for anyone seriously wanting to shed light on the case.Harmful delays in the setting up of a committee of inquiry. The question of the composition of the committee of inquiry – over which the government disagrees with the opposition, which in turn has the support of human rights organisations – should on no account absolve the authorities of their responsibilities. On 31 December there had been no local police inquiry, no interviews of the chief witnesses, no selection of ballistics experts, no full autopsies. As one national police officer rightly pointed out: “The more you delay matters, the more leads you lose.” Not forgetting that it will be necessary to call on expert witnesses from abroad, as those working on the investigation in Burkina Faso do not necessarily have all the proficiency required, concerning explosives, for example. The political squabbles over the setting up of the independent committee of inquiry do nothing to advance the cause of those anxious to find out the truth.Unfounded rumours. A full and thorough investigation would get rid of certain rumours that are weighing down the atmosphere. For instance, the RSF delegation only had to meet one of Norbert Zongo’s colleagues to be able to state firmly that the flask found at the scene, and which some people saw as proof that petrol had been thrown at the vehicle before it was set on fire, belonged to the driver. As for the 12-calibre cartridges found near the Toyota, they were the same as those used by Zongo for hunting. It is also worth pointing out that although a suspicious bullet hole was found in the right side window, the holes in the back right door came from inside the vehicle, and not from possible attackers outside. It is possible that ammunition belonging to Norbert Zongo and his friends exploded because of the heat.Frightened witnesses. In a country that claims it is trying build a law-governed state, the fear felt by most of the people the RSF delegation spoke to is worrying. It is based on the conviction that “the people at the top” always manage to escape justice. “It wouldn’t be the first time a committee of inquiry appointed by the authorities had come up with nothing”, one said. This was true of the murder in 1991 of Clément Oumarou Ouédraogo, who was killed when a grenade exploded in his car. The justice minister said at the time that the investigation had reached “no firm conclusions”. The fact that François Compaoré, the president’s brother, had managed to evade a court summons concerning the investigation of the death of his driver only serves to reinforce this impression. This fear, shared by all the witnesses, also affected Norbert Zongo. “He no longer felt safe”, one of his employees said. “He felt he was being watched”, his younger brother added. He told a friend the day before he died: “I think they’re going to kill me.” It is still difficult to talk about Norbert Zongo. The edition of the national television programme “Médiascopie” that was to have been devoted to the case was not broadcast as scheduled on the Sunday after his death; nor did it go out on Sunday 27 December. “The order came from above”, said a state television official.It was not an accident. It will be easier to give an opinion on the exact cause of Norbert Zongo’s death when fuller investigations have been made by a ballistics expert and the autopsies have been carried out. But there is every indication – including the findings of the initial medical examination – that the accident theory is wrong. Observers who have been following the case closely have said the circumstances surrounding the death of Zongo and his companions were “suspicious”, and while they are reluctant to say so categorically, they tend to favour the murder theory.Murdered by whom? Hard-to-check rumours have been making the rounds. There has been talk of hold-ups, trafficking between Ghana and Burkina Faso (“Safari Sissili” runs alongside the border) and groups of extremists trying to destabilise President Blaise Compaoré’s government – but there is not a shred of evidence. The theory of a hunting dispute also seems hard to justify, as everyone interviewed admitted that the problems were being sorted out. “I think they had found a solution that suited the authorities and the farmers. He no longer mentioned it much”, said Basile Baloum, a subeditor with L’Independant. What remains is the theory of a murder due to Norbert Zongo’s investigative journalism, and in particular to his inquiries about the death of François Compaoré’s driver and the immunity from prosecution apparently enjoyed by the president’s brother in the case.Staying vigilant. The Zongo case has to be resolved if the impunity that has tainted political life in Burkina Faso for too long is to be ended. After playing the card of transparency initially, the Ouagadougou authorities seemed to be hesitating. The opposition is equally wary – and it is true that the past does not include much reason for optimism. Everyone involved suspects everyone else of more or less Machiavellian plotting, and the shortcomings in the inquiry so far are numerous, as the RSF delegation observed. But this is not the time to put anyone on trial. The investigations that have not been carried out must go ahead now as a matter of urgency. RSF, which aims to take a constructive view, is ready to follow the case and, if asked, to make its own contribution to resolving it.Ouagadougou, December 31 Follow the news on Burkina Faso Organisation Time is pressing, 20 years after Burkinabe journalist’s murder June 7, 2021 Find out more Two Spanish journalists killed in eastern Burkina Faso Burkina FasoAfrica News French reporter says he has been kidnapped in northeastern Mali May 5, 2021 Find out more December 31, 1998 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Inquiry into the death of Norbert Zongo News April 27, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more