|Press Freedom Activity Report 2007 - 2008|
WAN has accomplished its day-to-day mission of monitoring and protesting the persecution, jailing and murder of journalists and the censorship, suspension and banning of newspapers, magazines and electronic media world-wide.
We have organised dozens of protest campaigns, directed at more than 30 countries, through petitions, letters, complaints to inter-governmental organisations, editorial exposure, and diplomatic pressure. In several cases, the outcome of the campaign was successful and we noted an increasingly high level of response from the governments and other authorities whom we challenged (including from the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Croatian President Stjepan Mesic and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge).
WAN campaigns dealt with cases of imprisonment and murder of journalists, cases of suspension imposed on independent publications, as well as the adoption of laws that seriously restrict and threaten press freedom.
A protest was sent to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to express dismay at the 28 March adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution that undermines the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
In the framework of its campaign against the repression of press freedom in China ahead of the Olympic Games in August 2008, WAN invited the major sponsors of the Olympic Games to express their "strong moral opposition to the repression of basic human rights in China and, in particular, the daily violation of all acceptable standards for freedom of expression."
2nd Arab Free Press Forum, Beirut
In December 2007, WAN in partnership with the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, organised a second major press freedom conference in Beirut, building on the success of the first, December 2006 event. The 2nd Arab Free Press Forum, entitled "Fighting Back - Challenges and Opportunities for the Arab Press", focused on the latest government policies that affect the media throughout the region, on independent newspapers that have managed to become profitable while upholding their editorial independence, on blogs as an alternative way of telling the news, and on existing structures and initiatives that truly benefit the Arab newspaper community.
120 leading publishers, journalists and press freedom advocates from across the Middle East discussed these challenges and opportunities in lively debates during the two-day conference.
"Beijing Olympics 2008: Winning Press Freedom" conference, Paris
WAN partnered in April with the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Asia Press, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Human Rights in China (HRiC) to organise an international conference dedicated to the press freedom situation in China.
The conference, entitled "Beijing Olympics 2008: Winning Press Freedom", spotlighted the situation of the press in China and raised awareness of the state of play for journalists going to Beijing and their audiences. Through six panels the conference dealt with the following subjects: "Press freedom and the Beijing Olympics", "How are Chinese news media controlled?", "What reporting conditions should you expect in Beijing?", "China's Internet: What freedom/What limits?", " Trading with China: What risks, responsibilities, opportunities?", and "How does China deal with foreign and peripheral news media?".
More than 160 participants attended the conference. Its quality and timeliness was emphasised by many. A comprehensive post-conference report is being published and several hundred copies will be distributed by WAN to interested parties in the run up to the Olympics.
World Press Freedom Day
WAN again organised a major campaign for 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, to bring attention to global press freedom problems. The 2008 campaign - entitled "The Olympic Challenge: Free the Press in China!" - highlighted the press freedom situation in China, with a focus on the Olympic Games. The campaign website (still open) (www.worldpressfreedomday.org) was launched in early April.
Essays and editorials by He Qinglian, Writer and Economist, Harry Wu, Executive Director of the Laogai Research Foundation, Li Datong, Freezing Point former Editor in Chief, and Li Pu, former Deputy Director of the Xinhua News Agency, as well as cartoons by leading French cartoonist Michel Cambon, an animated movie, newspaper ads, photos from Agence France Presse (AFP) and infographics, as well as worldwide statistics on killed, arrested and imprisoned journalists, were made available to news media worldwide for publication on the day.
All editorial and advertising materials were available in six languages - English, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Chinese. There were 30,126 page views on the site between 2 April and 3 May and 5,871 downloads.
"One Dream: Free Expression in China" event in Hong Kong
WAN was one of the main organisers of an international event that was held in Hong Kong from 30 April (100 days before the beginning of the Olympic Games) to 3 May. The event consisted of a press conference, a seminar on press freedom in China, a street demonstration and an arts fair. The events took on a particular significance since they were held on Chinese territory. The WAN representative participated in the press conference, spoke at the seminar and handed over a petition to the mainland authorities, calling for greater press freedom in China.
"What strategy to face up to attacks on the press in North Africa" event in Casablanca, 2 & 3 May
WAN was co-organiser of a regional round table held on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day in Casablanca, Morocco. Entitled "What strategy to face up to attacks on the press in North Africa", the two-day meeting was called by the Working Group on Press Freedom and Free Expression in North Africa (WGFENA) in cooperation with the Moroccan independent weekly Tel Quel. The status of press freedom in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Mauritania was discussed by newspaper publishers, journalists and press freedom advocates.
The 2008 China Advertising Campaign
In January 2008, WAN launched an advertising campaign inviting newspapers worldwide to run 'public service' advertisements calling for the release of all imprisoned Chinese journalists. The ads, which exist in both paper and electronic format, have been translated into eleven languages.
To date, newspapers in over 20 countries are known to have published the ad, reaching out to millions of newspaper readers. For example, in Denmark, the JP/Politiken group published the ad 25 times in three of their papers over a period of two months. In Poland, the Metro newspaper, with a circulation of 1,5 million, ran the ad seven times. In Latin America, Clarin, the world's largest Spanish-language daily, published the ad. A number of papers worldwide have also published articles about the ad campaign. In Yemen and Morocco, the Chinese embassies protested to newspapers that ran the ad.
An additional feature of the ad is an invitation to newspaper readers to send a letter to the Chinese authorities, calling on them to release all imprisoned journalists. Over 3,000 people from countries all over the world have to date sent the letter.
The Online Platform
Under the title "The Olympic Challenge: Free the Press in China!" this website features a variety of materials relating to the press freedom situation in China, including news stories, interviews and press releases. The site also contains profiles of the journalists currently imprisoned in China.
The Declaration of Table Mountain Campaign
WAN and our World Editors Forum adopted the Declaration of Table Mountain in June 2007 in Cape Town, South Africa, to appeal to all Africans, particularly those in power, to recognise that the political and economic progress they seek flourishes in a climate where the press is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control.
The Declaration calls on Heads of State to review and abolish libel and defamation laws, where in force, and to promote and implement the highest standards of press freedom. It also urges the African Union to include in the criteria for "good governance" in the African Peer Review Mechanism under the New Partnership for Africa's Development programme, the vital requirement that a country promotes free and independent media. As part of an ongoing campaign throughout the year to gain change, WAN invited newspapers in Africa to publish exclusive cartoons created by noted French cartoonist Michel Cambon on the theme of criminal defamation, one of the major obstacles to press freedom on the continent.
Press Freedom Awards
Golden Pen of Freedom
Li Changqing, a Chinese journalist imprisoned for alerting the public to an outbreak of dengue fever before the authorities announced the danger, was awarded WAN's 2008 Golden Pen of Freedom. It is the second consecutive year that a Chinese journalist has received the award, an unprecedented decision that reflects the repressive conditions for media in China. The 2007 laureate was Shi Tao, the Chinese journalist who was imprisoned after the American search engine company Yahoo provided information to the Chinese authorities that led to his arrest. He remains in jail.
Mr Li, a reporter and deputy news director of the Fuzhou Daily in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, was sentenced to three years in prison in January 2006, for "fabricating and spreading false information" after being detained without charges for nearly a year. The charges stem from an anonymous report posted on Boxun News Network, a Chinese-language website based in the United States. Due to censorship and restrictions imposed by the Communist Party Propaganda Department on sensitive social issues, no reports of the outbreak in Fuzhou of dengue, a viral, mosquito-borne disease, had been reported in the Chinese press, nor had health officials officially announced the outbreak. Mr Li reported on government corruption and other sensitive social issues before being imprisoned.
Li Changqing was released from prison at the end of February 2008.
Gebran Tueni Award
In 2006, WAN established an award to honour the memory of Lebanese publisher Gebran Tueni who was killed by a car bomb attack in December 2005. Gebran Tueni was a unique figure in WAN affairs for almost twenty years, as a leading member of the WAN Press Freedom Committee, a Board member for more than a decade, a regular participant in missions to press freedom 'hot spots' and a constant adviser and support to the leadership of WAN on Arab and press freedom issues.
Michel Hajji Georgiou, a senior political analyst at the French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour in Lebanon since 1999, was awarded the 2007 Gebran Tueni Award.
Mr Hajji Georgiou is a member of the newspaper's editorial board and chief of its political supplement since 2005.
Arab Press Network
APN is a digital platform with a focus on media issues in the Arab world. On a daily basis, it offers the latest media news from 22 countries in Arabic, English and French.
Since two freelance writers joined the APN team in January 2008, the network has increased its production, and now publishes between 8 and 10 exclusive articles each week.
The network has over 900 subscribers and more than 9000
visitors to the website every month. APN stories are regularly picked
up by news websites and blogs both in the Arab region and beyond.
African Press Network - RAP 21
RAP 21 is a pan-African media network that was initially launched by WAN together with the Union of Publishers in Central Africa (UEPAC).
The network successfully resumed its weekly publication both in English and French in April 2007 and has seen a progressive increase of its readership (1,100 subscribers to date). High quality interviews with African publishers and editors and feature stories on important developments in the press industry and in the field of press freedom have been published since then, as well as news of direct relevance, and opportunities for African media professionals.
Missions and Cooperation
IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG)
In July 2007, WAN, as a member of the TMG chairing committee, addressed a letter to French Foreign Affairs Minister to highlight the continuing violations of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Tunisia on the eve of a State visit to Tunis by the French President. The letter called on the French government to pressure the Tunisian authorities to respect its domestic and international obligations in the field of human rights. The letter notably referred to the case of Mohamed Abbou, a Tunisian human rights lawyer and writer, sentenced to three and a half years in prison for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Abbou was released on 24 July.
On behalf of the IFEX TMG, WAN addressed a second letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister to protest the vicious attack against journalists and freedom of expression advocates Sihem BensÚdrine et Omar Mestiri upon their return to Tunisia from a trip abroad in March 2008.
Centres of Excellence in Journalism Training
In March, the Press Freedom team participated in a meeting to set up Centres of Excellence in Journalism Training across the African continent. The meeting, which took place in Grahamstown, South Africa, brought together representatives from journalism schools in Africa as well as donor and media development organisations. The WAN representative introduced the media development work of WAN and explained how the organisation could contribute to the programme.
WAN endeavours to support, cooperate with and advise as many organisations as possible on press freedom and media development issues.
In the past year WAN has consolidated its cooperation with organisations such as the International News Safety Institute (INSI), the International Press Institute (IPI), International Media Support (IMS), the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations, the European Newspaper Publishers Association (ENPA), the International Publishers Association (IPA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Human Rights in China.
With its special status of Associate Relations with UNESCO, WAN has continued to work closely with the freedom of expression staff of that organisation on a wide range of initiatives in different areas of the world.
WAN also continues to be an active player in the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, an electronic network linking dozens of press freedom and human rights groups world-wide.
Monitoring and Updating of Journalists Killed
In the past year, WAN monitored and published cases of all journalists killed worldwide. A total of 95 cases were documented in 2007. The highest number of journalist casualties occurred in Iraq, with 44 killings.
Media Development Programmes
WAN seeks not only to defend press freedom, but to promote it. In essence, this means to help newspapers in developing and transitional countries to acquire the legal guarantees and economic means to fully exploit their freedom and to resist pressures.
In a move to give new dynamism and ambition to all WAN's press freedom initiatives, former President Bengt Braun was appointed Chairman of a Management Board for the Press Freedom Development Fund. It was decided that the Fund's Board would over time co-opt committed personalities who can be instrumental in achieving the Fund's objectives. Immediate action points, including meetings with the Heads of States of Azerbaijan, Cuba and Eritrea to address press freedom violations in these countries, were agreed.
In one of the first new actions, press freedom staff met in May with two senior European Union officials to talk about jailed journalists in Eritrea in the light of an EU aid programme for that country.
Iraqi Newspaper Development Programme
This programme, aimed at independent Iraqi newspapers, which was launched in December 2006, was completed in October 2007 when WAN organised a Newspaper Layout and Design Course for the newspaper designers from five independent newspapers in Iraq.
On the request of the United Nations Development Programme, WAN submitted a second project proposal in September 2007, applying for funds to continue working with the independent press in Iraq. The project is still pending.
The aim is to create a group of five to six Newspapers of Excellence, which will receive relevant training in various fields of media management, and in the future serve as models for other independent newspapers in the country.
Arab Newspaper Development Programme (ANDP)
The goal of the Arab Newspaper Development Project (ANDP) is to support and promote the collective intelligence that editors, publishers and press managers represent when they act together. The project encourages exchange between newspapers throughout the Arab region and supports them in implementing successful commercial and editorial strategies. In practice, the ANDP project will support a total of twelve selected newspapers from the Arab region. In the first phase of the project, there are three core partners: the El Watan newspaper in Algeria, the An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon and publisher Hisham Kassem in Egypt, who is currently in the process of launching a new independent daily.
Each of the three core ANDP partners devises and implements a commercial or editorial strategy, with the support of an external consultant. Once carried out to completion, each newspaper, in collaboration with the WAN team and its external consultant, develops a programme to disseminate the expertise and lessons learned from their own projects to three newspapers in countries within the region. Significant progress was made on all three projects during the year.
Vietnam Press Leaders Training Programme
In 2005, WAN launched a training programme for Vietnamese newspaper executives. Designed to accelerate the growth and professionalism within the newspaper market, the programme was tasked with identifying the key training needs of the Vietnamese press.
All of the six scheduled programmes have now been completed successfully. The latest programme, Newspaper Marketing, was completed in January 2008, and was attended by 28 senior managers, sub editors and general reporting staff. The other programmes, which were carried out in 2006 and 2007, dealt with Advertising, Editorial Issues, Digital & New Media and Circulation & Newspaper Sales and Management of People.
WAN is currently planning for the last phase of the training programme, which will consist of five in-depth media management workshops for a selected number of Vietnamese newspapers. These papers will also be invited to next year's WAN annual Congress in India, to be followed by a ground-breaking seminar with Vietnamese overseas publications.