Canadian and International Law

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Human Rights Violations - Freedom of Expression If individuals were asked to immediately list a few things that they could not imagine life without, many would instantly think of food, water, family, and shelter. However, equally important are the rights that humans must be provided with by the country in which they reside in. Even if one had all the things previously mentioned, they would not be very useful if one was not allowed to live by his/her wishes. Everyone is a rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity and a set of universal human rights that no one is exempt from, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability. Yet, all over the world, various countries are denying its citizens these rights, for baseless reasons. For example, some are violating Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media - regardless of frontiers; orally, in writing, print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. The exercise of the rights provided of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: 1. For respect of the rights or reputations of others; and 2. For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals,” (The United Nations). In particular, this essay will focus on the countries violating Article 19, as it is inhumane and immoral for journalists and the media to be living their lives in constant fear; Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Germany, and Libya. An example of an Article 19 violation is that of journalist attacks by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan. The ISI is the military’s spy agency, whose officers had abducted and killed journalist Saleem Shahzad, in May of 2011. Amnesty International and many other human rights organizations have sent an open letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to punish those who have been attacking independent journalists. Shahzad was a correspondent for the Asia Times Online, and was abducted in broad daylight in Islamabad, the nation’s capital. His body was two days later with marks of torture. He had written articles about sensitive national security issues, including infiltration of the Pakistani military by Al-Qaeda, and the country’s relationship with the Taliban. Several months before his death, Shahzad had friends that he had received death threats from the ISI. Although the Pakistani government did set up a high-level investigation in 2011, related evidence has somehow disappeared, and no one has been brought to justice yet (Amnesty International - Press Releases). If nothing is done about this situation, this encourages further violence and danger toward the media in Pakistan. Last month, a journalist named Hamid Mir just narrowly escaped a murder attempt in Karachi, and accused the ISI for the attack. In a report released last month by Amnesty International, it indicates that many of the harassments, intimidations, and abuse to journalists, have been committed by the ISI. So far, 34 journalists have been killed on the job since 2008, but the perpetrators have been brought to justice in only one of them. There has been increased tension between the country’s largest private broadcaster Geo TV and the authorities, due to accusations regarding journalist Hamid Mir. In addition, some journalists from the Jang Media Group have reported to Amnesty International that they have received threats and harassment by phone and in person. Many are scared to enter their offices or confirm their association with Geo TV and other media outlets, due to fear of being attacked. “It is particularly disappointing that rival media channels and some political parties have joined to attack Jang Media Group, rather than demand a full and impartial investigation of the circumstances surrounding the attack on Hamid Mir,” said David Griffiths (Amnesty International - Press Releases). Some government officials have also tried to remove Geo TV from being broadcasted for allegedly commenting against them. There has also been a disruption of around 80 per cent of Jang Media Group’s distribution in print and on the air, under the orders of the Pakistani military. Nawaz Sharif needs to follow through on the commitments he made, to allow journalism and accurate news reporting. This holds true especially for those reporting on national security, human rights, and in areas of violence. The failure to arrest those responsible for attacks on journalists, sends a signal that violence is acceptable. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Pakistan should ensure that the media is permitted to carry out its role - of conveying the truth and facts to the public on important issues. The country must also follow the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, to improve the working conditions of journalists in Pakistan (Amnesty International). Russia has also repressed political dissent, pressured, and shut down independent media and harassed nongovernmental organizations in 2010. Peaceful public demonstrations were stopped with force, where lawyers, activists, and journalists were threatened and attacked. Since 2000, the murders of seventeen journalists - all unhappy with government policies and actions - remain unsolved. There were numerous reports of citizens being unable to exercise their opinions in regional elections to change their government. Journalists were intimidated, attacked, killed, physically abused by law enforcement officers, and given life-threatening prison conditions. Some were arbitrarily detained, the government infringed on freedoms of speech and expression, and major independent media outlets were forced to refrain from critical coverage (United States Department of State - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor). The Internet was the only way citizens were able to access information, due to the lack of coverage by state-controlled media. The reason being that corruption was widespread throughout all levels of government. Another example happened in September of 2012, in Germany, where several journalists were beaten during a demonstration, as they were taking photos for the news. They were forced to destroy all the videotapes and pictures. In addition, in South Korea, a photojournalist, Lee Si-woo, was arrested in April of 2007, as the government did not like what he was writing about the military. The South Korean National Security Law was very vaguely worded, on purpose, so that individuals would have a difficult time in fighting the charges laid against them. The news he was reporting was obtained legally, and he had abided the Freedom of Information laws, which is why he must be dropped of the charges (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus). One more major issue occurred in Benghazi, Libya, on May 26 of this year. A journalist, Muftah Abu Zeid, was killed for publicly going against the crimes that an armed group had committed. It is believed that he was shot dead, since he was delivering copies of the Burniq newspaper, in which he would regularly comment on the current state of the country’s political affairs; especially the assassinations by armed groups. He had already received several death threats previously via his phone and Facebook, but was unable to report them to the police, as the criminal justice system was not properly functioning in Benghazi. The Libyan government needs to take action and make a full inquiry as to the sequence of events, and capture those responsible (Amnesty International: Public Statement). In the past, other newspaper correspondents have seen their offices attacked, with grenades and vandalism. Some journalists have been pushed into self-censorship, hiding, and abandonment of their profession as well. Although the government did condemn Muftah’s assassination, the authorities have yet to conduct a thorough investigation. It is important to note that these attacks against police stations, courts, judges, and security officers are slowing down the processes to repairing the justice system in place. All these countries need to raise their standards concerning its international and domestic laws, in order to protect the rights to life and security of the person. The authorities need to also keep in mind the right to freedom of expression, by ensuring that journalists are safely able to report on sensitive topics, without the constant fear of threats, and physical attacks.

Works Cited

Amnesty International - Press Releases. Pakistan must investigate Inter-Services Intelligence over attacks against journalists. 30 May 2014. 31 May 2014 <http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/pakistan-must-investigate-inter-services-intelligence-over-attacks-against->. Amnesty International. Freedom of Expression. 2014. 23 May 2014 <http://www.amnesty.org/en/freedom-of-expression>. —. "Open Letter to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - Joint statement of shared concerns about attacks on journalists in Pakistan." 29 May 2014. 30 May 2014 <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA33/010/2014/en/1db00c91-6444-4a3a-91e9-35512370a875/asa330102014en.pdf>. Amnesty International: Public StatementL. Libya: Journalist killed for denouncing abuses by armed group. 29 May 2014. 31 May 2014 <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE19/004/2014/en/929ab91b-3145-4f09-923c-1301f1a76344/mde190042014en.pdf>. Human Rights. A Summary of United Nations Agreements on Human Rights. 25 January 1997. 22 May 2014 <http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cpr.html#Article 19.2>. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. Human Rights Violations in Certain Countries 2012. 2012. 26 May 2014 <http://mfa.gov.by/upload/Report2012_eng.pdf>. The United Nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Preamble - Article 19. 2014. 24 May 2014 <http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a19>. United For Human Rights. Human Rights Violations: Article 19 — Freedom of Expression . 2014. 20 May 2014 <http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/violations-of-human-rights/expression.html>. United States Department of State - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 . 2011. 24 May 2014 <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/186609.pdf>. 1
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