Committee to Protect Journalists – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 30 Jan 2022 04:42:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Turkish journalist Sedef Kabaş arrested for ‘insulting’ President Erdoğan Sun, 30 Jan 2022 05:02:36 +0000 Committee to Protect Journalists – (Istanbul)– Turkish authorities should immediately release journalist Sedef Kabaş, drop the charge of “insulting the president,” and cancel the fine and ban imposed on TELE1 TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On January 22, 2022, an Istanbul court charged Turkish freelance journalist Sedef Kabaş with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan based on her comments as a guest during a political talk show, according to news reports. Kabaş was arrested from her house after midnight and jailed as a “flight risk,” the reports said.

On January 14, 2022, Kabaş said on “The Arena of Democracy” show on pro-opposition TV channel TELE1, “When cattle enters a palace, it does not become king but the palace becomes a stable,” during a discussion about Erdoğan. Kabaş said she was using a proverb and changed it, from ox to cattle, and therefore did not mean to insult the president, according to reports.

Turkey’s telecommunications watchdog RTÜK fined TELE1 for the episode for “inciting hatred” and banned the show from broadcasting for five episodes, according to reports.

“Sedef Kabaş’s arrest for her comments on live TV is as unacceptable as the fine and ban issued to TELE1,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkish authorities should pay more respect to the freedom of speech and try to be more open to criticism. Kabaş should immediately be released, and the authorities should drop the charge against her, alongside canceling the fine and ban issued to TELE1 TV.”

Kabaş appears frequently on political talk shows at Turkey’s remaining opposition television stations and is well-known as a former television host. She currently runs Sedef Kabaş TV, a YouTube channel, with 87,000 followers, in which she discusses politics with her guests. Kabaş also has over 899,000 followers on Twitter.

The journalist’s lawyers have objected to the arrest order, according to reports.

A conviction for insulting Turkey’s president can carry a sentence of up to four years in prison, with an added penalty if the insult was made in public, according to Article 299 of the Turkish penal code The European Court of Human Rights has called on Turkey to change the law.

Between 2014 – when Erdoğan became president – and October 2021, 160,169 cases were investigated under Article 299, with 35,507 cases going to trial and 12,881 convictions, according to Justice Ministry data cited by Reuters. Erdoğan’s “insult” cases reach beyond the borders of Turkey, including the president suing the Greek newspaper Dimokratia and French cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo, as CPJ has documented.

CPJ emailed the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office and RTÜK for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.

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Israel’s Credibility Problem: Air Strikes destroy buildings housing more than a dozen media outlets in Gaza Mon, 17 May 2021 04:02:34 +0000 ( Committee to Protect Journalists) – New York – Israeli forces must refrain from bombing media outlets, and should ensure that journalists can work safely and without fear, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On May 11 and 12, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed the Al-Jawhara and Al-Shorouk office buildings in Gaza City, which house more than a dozen international and local media outlets, according to news reports, a statement by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, and Louay al-Ghoul, head of the syndicate in Gaza, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Residents were warned to evacuate the Al-Jawhara building before the air strike, and planes fired two warning shots at the Al-Shorouk building before firing missiles, according to multiple news reports. CPJ could not immediately confirm whether any journalists were killed or injured in the attacks; those reports said that the buildings had been evacuated, but a report by the BBC stated that there had been unidentified “civilian deaths” in the Al-Jawhara strike.

“It is utterly unacceptable for Israel to bomb and destroy the offices of media outlets and endanger the lives of journalists, especially since Israeli authorities know where those media outlets are housed,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Israeli authorities must ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely without fear of being injured or killed.”

According to reports published by the affected outlets, Israeli planes destroyed the 12-story Al-Jawhara building, which housed the offices of:

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and news reports also stated that the building housed the offices of the broadcaster Al-Nujaba TV, affiliated with the Iraqi militia Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba; the state-owned broadcaster Syria TV; and the local photo agency APA Images. CPJ was unable to find any information published by those outlets concerning the airstrike.

The nearby office of the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera was also damaged by the bombing of the Al-Jawhara building, according to the syndicate statement and a report by the broadcaster.

Israeli forces also bombed and destroyed the Al-Shorouk building, which housed the offices of:

  • Hamas-affiliated broadcasters Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Aqsa Radio
  • The media production company PMP
  • The pro-Hamas broadcaster Al-Quds Today
  • The Palestinian National Authority-affiliated newspaper Reuters.

    [Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include the IDF’s response to CPJ’s request for comment.]

    Via Committee to Protect Journalists

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    ]]> Israeli security forces arrest Palestinian journalist Alaa al-Rimawi in Ramallah: Must disclose his Location, Charges Sat, 01 May 2021 04:01:14 +0000 ( Committee to Protect Journalists) – Israeli authorities should immediately make public any charges against Palestinian journalist Alaa al-Rimawi and disclose where he is being held, or release him unconditionally at once, the Committee to Protect Journalists said last week

    Early on the morning of April 21, a group of about 12 Israeli soldiers raided the Ramallah home of al-Rimawi, a reporter for the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera Mubasher and director of the local J-Media Network news agency, and arrested him, according to news reports, reports by Al-Jazeera and J-Media, and statements by the local press freedom organizations MADA and the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.

    Israeli authorities did not disclose any reason for the journalist’s arrest or where he is being held, according to those sources. In a video interview with Al-Jazeera, al-Rimawi’s wife, Maymouna al-Rimawi, said that, while he was being taken from his home, the journalist said he would go on a hunger strike in prison.

    “Israeli authorities cannot simply arrest journalists and spirit them away to undisclosed locations without any public disclosure of the alleged offenses they committed,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Israeli authorities should either disclose any charges filed against Palestinian journalist Alaa al-Rimawi or release him immediately.”

    Al-Rimawi works as Al-Jazeera Mubasher’s correspondent in Ramallah and hosts J-Media’s talk show “Palestine Votes,” where he has recently interviewed political candidates, academic experts, and journalists about the upcoming Palestinian legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for May and July.

    J-Media mainly covers local news in the Palestinian Territories, including stories about Palestinian prisoners, local protests, and Ramadan celebrations. It also provides footage and stories for partner organizations, including Al-Jazeera Mubasher.

    Previously, in July 2018, Israeli security forces arrested al-Rimawi, then the director of the Hamas-affiliated broadcaster Al-Quds TV in the West Bank, and held him for nearly one month; upon his release, he was ordered to stop working as a journalist for two months, according to news reports and CPJ’s coverage from the time.

    After the publication of this article, the Israel Defense Force’s North America desk responded to CPJ’s emailed request for comment and directed questions to the General Security Service, which it said was responsible for the operation that resulted in al-Rimawi’s arrest.

    CPJ emailed the General Security Service for comment but did not receive any reply.

    [Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include the Israel Defense Force’s response to CPJ.]

    Via Committee to Protect Journalists)


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    Exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar sentenced to 27.5 years in prison for Reporting on Ankara’s aid to Syrian Fundamentalist Rebels Tue, 29 Dec 2020 05:01:49 +0000 ( Committee to Protect Journalists) | –

    The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a Turkish court’s conviction and sentencing of exiled journalist Can Dündar.

    On December 23, the 14th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes announced that Dündar, who lives in Germany, had been sentenced to 18 years and nine months in prison for an espionage conviction, and eight years and nine months for “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member,” according to news reports.

    The court also issued an arrest order for Dündar, and ordered the journalist to pay 8,200 liras (US$1,073) to the lawyers of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, complainants in the trial, and 7,139 liras (US$934) to the Treasury for the trial costs, according to reports.

    Dündar’s lawyers did not attend the hearing, saying, “We do not want to be part of a practice to legitimize a previously decided, political verdict,” according to those news reports.

    “Turkish authorities have shown again that they will use all means at their disposal to harass and threaten members of the press,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “We condemn today’s sentencing of journalist Can Dündar, and are relieved that he is safely out of the country.”

    Dündar, then chief editor of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, was first arrested in November 2015 over his reporting on alleged MİT trucks being used to smuggle arms to rebel groups in Syria, as CPJ documented at the time.

    In 2015, Erdoğan referenced Dündar’s reporting, saying, “The person who wrote this story will pay a heavy price for it; I won’t let him go unpunished.”

    He was released pending trial in February 2016; in May of that year, he was sentenced to prison but remained free on appeal, and in August 2016 announced that he would not return to Turkey, as CPJ documented.

    In 2016, Dündar received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in recognition of his work amid government repression.

    CPJ emailed the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.

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    Israeli security forces arrest 1 Palestinian journalist, and injure another covering protests Thu, 06 Feb 2020 05:02:40 +0000 (Beirut) — Israeli authorities should reveal the reason for journalist Mohammad Malhem’s arrest or release him immediately, and should investigate the injuries sustained by journalist Abdul Mohsen Shalaldeh and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

    Yesterday, Israeli security forces arrested Malhem, a Palestinian reporter for the Hebron-based radio broadcaster Marah FM, while he was covering protests in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, according to news reports and a statement by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, a local press union, which was shared with CPJ.

    Marah FM posted photos on Facebook of Malhem’s arrest, in which the journalist can be seen in the back of an Israeli military vehicle.

    CPJ could not determine the reason for his arrest or where Malhem is being held.

    Also in Hebron yesterday, Shalaldeh, a freelance Palestinian journalist working on assignment for Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera Mubasher, suffered a skull fracture after being hit by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli security forces, according to news reports and the journalist’s brother, Loay Shaladeh, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

    Both journalists were covering protests against the proposed peace plan for the region recently announced by U.S. President Donald Trump, according to those news reports.

    “The arrest of Mohammad Malhem and the injuries suffered by Abdul Mohsen Shalaldeh are part of a pattern of Israeli security forces showing little regard for the safety of Palestinian journalists,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Israeli authorities should investigate the injuries sustained by Shalaldeh, and should either file charges against Malhem or release him immediately.”

    The Israeli Defense Forces did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment on either case.

    In a video shared widely on social media, Shalaldeh is seen immediately after being shot and is wearing a clearly marked press vest.

    “A female soldier shot him directly in the head with a rubber bullet and, even though he was wearing his helmet, he suffered a skull fracture,” Loay Shalaldeh told CPJ, relaying what his brother had told him. “He was transferred to Al-Ahly Hospital, where he stayed for 24 hours and was discharged earlier today.”

    The journalist’s brother said that doctors requested Shalaldeh return for check-ups over the next three days.

    CPJ has documented multiple instances of Israeli security forces arresting and injuring journalists with live and rubber bullets in recent months.


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    Assange Indictment Marks Alarming New Stage in US Gov’t’s War on Leaks Sun, 02 Jun 2019 05:55:40 +0000 Mexico City ( Committee to Protect Journalists) – The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment last week of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The administration of President Donald Trump disclosed 17 charges against Assange under the Espionage Act, relating to his receipt and publication of classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.

    The indictment marks the first time the U.S. government has prosecuted a publisher under the Espionage Act. The act, which was passed in 1917 following the U.S. entry into to World War I, criminalizes the copying, obtaining, communicating, or transmitting of national defense information.

    The charges are part of a superseding indictment against Assange; an indictment dated March 2018 charged him with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, as CPJ reported. Assange is fighting a U.S. extradition request in the U.K., where he is serving a 50-week sentence for violating his bail conditions, according to reports.

    The expanded indictment, disclosed yesterday and reviewed by CPJ, cite as evidence Assange’s public statements encouraging leaks, his communications with U.S. Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning, and the publication of classified documents.

    “The Trump administration has bullied reporters, denied press credentials, and covered up for foreign dictators who attack journalists. This indictment, however, may end up being the administration’s greatest legal threat to reporters,” said CPJ North America Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck. “It is a reckless assault on the First Amendment that crosses a line no previous administration has been willing to cross, and threatens to criminalize the most basic practices of reporting.”

    Courts have not previously weighed in on whether such a case violates First Amendment protections.

    In a briefing with reporters yesterday, John Demers, the head of the National Security Division for the U.S. Department of Justice, said that Assange was not a journalist, and that it “is not and has never been the department’s policy to target [journalists] for reporting,” according to the New York Times.

    Military and diplomatic cables obtained and shared by WikiLeaks disclosed civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, cases of torture in Iraqi prisons that the U.S. did not appear to investigate, U.S. opposition to a minimum wage law in Haiti, and a video showing a U.S. helicopter attack that killed two Reuters reporters.

    At least three counts of the indictment charge Assange with creating a “grave and imminent risk to human life” through the publication of unredacted documents that included the names of individuals who had assisted the U.S. in conflict zones. In its prosecution of Manning, U.S. prosecutors argued that the leaks put hundreds of lives at risk, according to news reports.

    The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, and other news organizations all obtained and published classified information from the documents published by WikiLeaks.

    Matthew Miller, a former chief spokesperson for the Justice Department under the Obama administration, told Politico that the Obama administration declined to pursue an indictment of Assange out of concern for the press freedom precedent and doubts about whether charges would hold up in court.

    “The Espionage Act doesn’t make any distinction between journalists and non-journalists,” he told theNew York Times. “If you can charge Julian Assange under the law with publishing classified information, there is nothing under the law that prevents the Justice Department from charging a journalist.”

    In a thread on Twitter, Carrie DeCell, a First Amendment lawyer with the Knight Institute, said, “The government argues that Assange violated the Espionage Act by soliciting, obtaining, and then publishing classified information. That’s exactly what good national security and investigative journalists do every day.”

    Previous administrations have considered using the Espionage Act against reporters: the Nixon administration convened a grand jury to investigate the reporters who published the Pentagon Papers, and the Obama Justice Department opened a grand jury investigation into Assange, but decided against pursuing prosecution under the act.

    Under the Obama administration, which pursued more Espionage Act indictments against journalistic sources than all previous administrations combined, eight government employees or contractors faced Espionage Act prosecutions for allegedly shared classified information with the media, according to CPJ research.

    Manning, who was charged under the Espionage Act and spent seven years in prison before President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017, was arrested again in March for refusing the testify in a grand jury hearing about Assange; she was briefly released in early May after the term of the grand jury expired, but was rearrested on May 16, according to news reports.

    CPJ sent a letter to the Obama administration in 2010 urging against prosecuting Assange for the publication of classified information. CPJ has since covered the Democratic National Committee’s lawsuit against WikiLeaks and the potential dangers posed by the initial count of computer hacking leveled against Assange in April.

    Via Committee to Protect Journalists


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    Assange: Press Freedom Endangered by Charge of Conspiracy between Publisher and Source Sat, 13 Apr 2019 04:07:34 +0000 (Committee to Protect Journalists) – New York, April 11, 2019–The Committee to Protect Journalists today said it was deeply concerned by the U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Authorities in the United Kingdom arrested Assange this morning at the Ecuadoran Embassy as part of an extradition agreement with the U.S., according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The statement said Assange faces a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge relates to Assange’s interactions with Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who was convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks and spent seven years in prison. According to the indictment, Assange allegedly offered to help Manning break a password to a secure government database.

    The indictment does not explicitly charge Assange for publication, a move that would have wide-ranging press freedom implications, but it does construe his interactions with Manning as part of a criminal conspiracy. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States,” count 20 of the indictment states.

    “The potential implications for press freedom of this allegation of conspiracy between publisher and source are deeply troubling,” said Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “With this prosecution of Julian Assange, the U.S. government could set out broad legal arguments about journalists soliciting information or interacting with sources that could have chilling consequences for investigative reporting and the publication of information of public interest.”

    The arrest took place after the Ecuadoran Embassy withdrew asylum protections from Assange. Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno said on Twitter that the decision was made because of Assange’s “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.”

    Assange took refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in 2012 while facing questioning related to accusations against him for sexual assault in Sweden. Assange denied those accusations and argued that arrest in Sweden or the U.K. would lead to his extradition to the U.S. where he would face prosecution for his publishing activities.

    CPJ has long raised concerns about the legal implications for a prosecution of Assange, primarily related to legal theories that he could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. In 2010, CPJ wrote a letter urging the DOJ not to prosecute WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act for publishing activities. In 2018, CPJ published a blog arguing that conspiracy charges against Assange could set a dangerous precedent.

    Via Committee to Protect Journalists

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    In Bid to Erase Arab Spring from History, Egyptian Junta Arrests Legendary Blogger Wael Abbas Mon, 28 May 2018 04:45:17 +0000 New York (CPJ) – Egyptian authorities should release immediately Wael Abbas, a blogger who has documented Egyptian police abuse, and end their senseless campaign against the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police at dawn today detained Abbas at his Cairo home and took him to an undisclosed location, according to news reports, which quote the journalist’s lawyer, Gamal Eid, and anonymous security officials.

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, an Egyptian human rights organization headed by Eid, reported that police did not show a warrant or give reason for the arrest before blindfolding Abbas and taking him away in his pajamas. The human rights organization also said that police seized Abbas’ computer, phones, books, and several other unspecified personal items.

    Abbas was arrested on accusations of “spreading false news” and “joining a banned group,” The Associated Press stated quoting unnamed security officials. CPJ was unable to confirm if Egyptian authorities formally charged Abbas.

    Following President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s March reelection, the government has waged an uncompromising crackdown on the press, CPJ has documented

    “Egyptian authorities are degrading themselves in the eyes of the international community by rounding up all of the country’s independent media,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch from Washington D.C. “Egypt should free Wael Abbas immediately and halt its frenzied attack against journalists.”

    The Egyptian Embassy in Washington D.C. did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment.

    Abbas, who has been blogging since 2004, has reported critically on the Egyptian government and alleged human rights abuses committed by Egyptian security forces, and has also contributed to CNN Arabic, the news website al-Manassa, and other Arabic-language publications.

    Abbas has previously faced backlash for his reporting. Last year, the journalist told CPJ that hackers he believed were sponsored by the state tried to access his email and social media accounts in March 2016, after he reported on the Egyptian government’s crackdown on NGOs.

    In 2010, Abbas was convicted on charges of “providing telecommunications service to the public without permission from authorities,” following the publication of critical blogposts he wrote accusing the government of human rights abuses including torture, CPJ reported at the time.

    Abbas’ arrest came a day after an Egyptian military court sentenced freelancer Ismail Alexandrani to 10 years in prison, CPJ documented.

    Egypt is the world’s third largest jailer of journalists, with at least 20 behind bars, including Alexandrani, at the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census.

    Via Committee to Protect Journalists