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Home arrow In Brief arrow CoE Human Rights Commissioner Muizinieks: Protect Journalists from Attacks to Muzzle on Issues !

CoE Human Rights Commissioner Muizinieks: Protect Journalists from Attacks to Muzzle on Issues !

Written by ACM
Tuesday, 05 June 2012
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* "Journalists need Protection" from various "Attacks", "including in Europe",  seeking "Censorship" against "Democracy", strongly declared the New PanEuropean Commissioner on Human Rights, Niels Muiznieks (2012-2018), just a few days after he replied to "EuroFora"s questions Internet Media Freedom and ECHR's Future (See: http://www.eurofora.net/newsflashes/news/coehumanrightscommissioneronwebmedia.html ), and the same Day that CoE's Committee of Ministers just started in Strasbourg to examine a crucial Semestrial meeting on ECHR judgements' application by all 47 Member States, including a review of numerous serious cases of Violations of Human Rights by Turkey (such as Torture, Murders, Arbitrary deprivations of Liberty, abusive Imprisonment, Harassments and/or Censorship,  "Missing" People, etc, most Dating since the 1990ies, but partly "freezed" since 2009), notoriously pending for execution since too many years,  in an interesting, well documented Viewpoint that "EuroFora" exceptionaly re-publishes, at variance to our general rule on Original only Journalism in News Reporting.

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- The "intention" generaly is "to Shut them up and make them Stop doing their job, which can involve exposing Corruption, Abuse of power or Discrimination against various minorities. Media freedom is the lifeblood of a Democracy, as it is an essential prerequisite for other Freedoms as well, such as freedom of association or assembly", he denounced.


- Because "attacks on journalists are not like many other assaults, where the motive is frequently materialistic or racism. These are Political Attacks. As the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic´, has recently written, “violence against journalists [..] remains a Special category of Crime, as it is a direct attack on Society and Democracy itself”.

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- That's why, all CoE's Member "States have a positive obligation to create a favourable environment for journalists to express their opinions without fear, no matter how uncomfortable those opinions may sometimes be to those with economic, cultural or political power", Muisnieks made it clear, citing the landmark "Dink v. Turkey judgment of the European Court of Human Rights", condemning Ankara on the ill-elucidated cold blood Murder of Armenian origin Web and paper Journalist Hrant Dink, (Comp. "EuroFora"s specific NewsReport on Dink's case at the ECHR, published since October 2010).


=> Therefore, "Governments and politicians need to signal very strongly that such Attacks are unacceptable and will not go unpunished. They need to initiate prompt, thorough and transparent Investigations and bring perpetrators to justice, where punishments should reflect the seriousness of this crime. If journalists have been threatened, the authorities should act quickly to protect them", CoE's New Human Rights Commissioner (2012-2018) stressed.


- Since, "even if a government does not engage in “old-fashioned” Censorship by screening and filtering media content, it can be involved in censorship if it does not take sufficient steps to combat violence against journalists. Impunity encourages repetition, which can be extremely damaging to free expression", he warned. For this reason, "a recent guidebook on the safety of journalists by the OSCE ... stresse(s) that “physical attacks and Threats of violence or Harm against journalists and members of their Family represent an extreme form of Censorship”.

- Indeed, "Journalism is a Dangerous profession, including in Europe", CoE's New PanEuropean Commissioner on Human Rights, responsible for 47 Countries, found on June 2012 :


 - Among many other, older examples, only "since the beginning of this year (2012), journalists have suffered physical Attacks in Azerbaijan on a number of occasions, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Russia.. ..What were these journalist-victims reporting on? In Azerbaijan, the story was the demolition of houses and evictions of residents for government sponsored urban redevelopment. In Romania and Russia, it was anti-government demonstrations. In France and Germany, it was Turkish-language media outlets reporting on the Kurdish minority in Turkey. In Italy, it was stories focusing on Mafia affairs. In Montenegro, it was a journalist probing shady dealings in a tobacco plant", (etc), he noted, pointing at the Diversity of "Hot" issues which may be covered by certain Media.


 - "Often, the perpetrators of the attacks are unknown assailants, usually several masked men, but sometimes they have been riot police or state sponsored security guards". But  "the attackers knew that their victims were journalists, who were sometimes wearing press badges or held cameras in their hands. In another case, the perpetrators mentioned the employer of the journalist as they beat him. In Latvia, in a brutally symbolic move, the assailants put a knife in the journalist’s mouth and sliced his cheek, grossly disfiguring him", he denounced.


- "A 1st Step is for Governments to treat violence targeting journalists as attacks against the core of our Democracies", and, therefore, "with the utmost Seriousness", Muiznieks urged.


- Because, f.ex.,  "those of us who witnessed the end of the Soviet Union remember well how glasnost’ or increased openness and Media liberalisation opened the floodgates for the emergence of Civil Society and political Pluralism" in Russia, he observed the Baltic-origin experienced European Top Official, as a Positive Change regarding Human Rights and Democracy, to be further developed and followed also elsewhere, mutatis-mutandis.

***

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    The incoming Swedish EU Presidency (July-December 2009) may still remain in favour of Turkey's controversial EU bid, despite June 2009 EU Elections' results, but it has "very strong demands on Turkey"'s obligation to respect EU Rules, said the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, to "EuroFora", reacting to critical Press reports.

    - "I know (that) the link is often made also to Sweden's position on Turkey"'s controversial EU bid. Indeed, "we (Swedish EU Presidency) are very much engaged in the future membership of Turkey, but not without fullfiling all the Criteria".

    - "It's very clear that we (Swedish EU Presidecny) have very Strong Demands on Turkey, in a sort of concept for Future membership of the Union, ...which will be a Long Process...", she stressed.

    This means, in particular, "the Copenhagen Criteria (on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law), and also the adaptation to the Acquis of the European Union".

     - "If you listen to what Mr. Bildt (the Swedish Foreign Minister) says on Turkey at different occasions, it's very clear : We want Turkey to become part of the Union, in the Future. But we want it to fullfil all the Criteria : The Acquis of the European Union. That's very clear", she concluded.

    The Senior Official of the Swedish Foreign Ministry was reacting to critical Press Reports, from Brussels' Journalists invited by EU Commission's secretariat to Stockholm, who claimed that Bildt was abusing of a ..."Whip" (sic !) against Cyprus, by "threatening" the presence of UNO's Peace-keeping force at the "Green line" which separates the island's Government-controlled areas from the territories occupied by Ankara's army, if Nicosia didn't accept any political solution, regardless of Turkey's demands, before the end of 2009.

        Governing AKEL Party's new Secretary General, Andros Kyprianou, reacted by declaring that no-one can threat the People of Cyprus : -"We shall decide for our Future, and nobody else",  he reportedly said, asking to "keep calm". "In order to find a Solution soon, certain basic Principles must be respected", he stressed, calling those who feel an urgency to use their influence on Turkey. Other Political Parties were more critical.

    This was a reference to recently reported statements by Turkish Minister Bagis, Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan and Turkey's National Security Council (a Military-Political body), accused to push towards a partitionist "2 States" solution, contrary to UNO SC Resolutions for Cyprus' reunification.

    December 2009 is a crucial moment for EU's appraisal of Turkey's controversial EU bid, because EU Council has decided to review then Ankara's compliance with the European position on the recognition of Cyprus' Government, which was clearly set out by an EU reply of 21 September 2005 to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan's claims, refusing to recognize even the existence of EU Member Cyprus, in controversial statements he made to London (former EU chair) on July 29, 2005.

    EU Parliament's latest Resolution on Turkey, adopted on March 2009 in Strasbourg, warned Ankara that "the non-fulfillment of Turkey's commitments... by December 2009, may further seriously affect the process of Negotiations" with the EU.

    In practice, the issue boils down to Ankara's "embargo" against Ships and Airplanes using Cyprus' seaports or airports at the strategic EU island, which traditionaly hosts one of the World's biggest Shipping flags. EU has already "freezed" 6 relevant Chapters in EU - Turkey Negotiations since December 2006, after Ankara refused to fullfil a commitment it had undertaken when EU had decided to open controversial "accession" negotiations with Turkey, back on December 2005.

    - "As far as EU - Turkey relations are concerned, it's clear that Turkey needs to fullfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional Protocol (to "EC-Turkey Association Agreement"),  This is an important issue....and should be addresseed as soon as possible as it clearly affects the pace of the accession negotiations.Issues covered by the Declaration of September 2005 will continue to be followed up, and progress is urgently awaited", warned earlier in Strasbourg the out-going Czech EU Presidency (former vice-Prime Minister Alexander Vodra).

    But the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, dismissed "interpretations" by "some" that Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was reportedly "threatening" Cyprus with consequences on the UNFICYP, if it doesn't accept any solution until December 2009, while Turkey is reportedly delaying in an attempt to impose a partitionist "2 States" solution.

    On the contrary, Julin, stressed that "Sweden has strong demands on Turkey'"s respect of "Copenhagen Criteria and EU Acquis".

    Meanwhile, Sweden  is "concerned" about the risk of "Stalemate" in Cyprus' Talks, but is well aware that "the main responsibilities lie with the two leaders and the UNO", Europe playing only a role of "facilitator".

    After carefully verifying, the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, stressed to "EuroFora" that Bildt's reference to UNFICYP "was not linked to a Threat", and dismissed those who "interpreted" it so.

    On the contrary, the Swedish EU Presidency acknowledged the fact that Peace Talks are mainly for the UN and the leaders of the Cypriot communities, EU's role being limited into that of a "facilitator".

    As for Turkey's reported attempts to impose a "2 States' solution", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service sharply replied by stressing that Turkey must respect the "EU Acquis" rules.

    In particular :

    - "Basically he (Bildt) underlined that it's the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus and the UN that have the main responsibilities for solving the problem", started to say the Swedish Senior Official to "EuroFora", referring to the above-mentioned "briefing".

    - "But the EU had a role in sort of pointing out the benefits and facilitating a little bit the outcome for the settlement of the whole Cyprus' issue", she added.

    - "And he did state the Fact, that the rest of the World (i.e. USA, etc) will, of course, look at the differend issues which are at the table, and the future of the UN Peace keeping force is part of what is at the table", she admitted.

    - "I understand that some have interpreted that as a Threat, by the Swedish Minister" "But", in reality, "it's a statement of a Fact, that, when we'll look at the differend issues, one of the issues on which we shall have to take a stand on, is the future of the UN Peace keeping force in Cyprus".

    Indeed, one of the questions usually raised for a Solution of Cyprus' issue is what International and/or European or other Guarantees, by a Peace-keeping force, might be needed afterwards, eventually for a transitory period.

    Questioned anew by "EuroFora" whether (according to critical Press Reports) this could be taken as a veiled warning that, if Cyprus didn't accept any Turkish demand for any solution whatever, it might be left alone to face Ankara's Military Invasion/Occupation, she denied :

    - "He (Bildt) didn't say it in that way"... "It was not linked to a threat, or anything like that", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service stressed.

    On the contrary, "he (Bildt) underlined that the main responsibility lies with the parties concerned on the island". "The EU can try to facilitate and show the benefits of reaching a settlement. But also, when the EU and the rest of the World (i.e. USA) will have to look at it, they will look at all the Facts on the table, and the presence of the UN Peace-keeping force is one".

    And "he (Bildt) didn't speak about that at all", she replied to "EuroFora" question on Turkey's reported attemps to impose, in one way of another, a partitionist "2 States solution".

    Asked whether Bildt's aim was to incite both parties to move forward efficiently, she agreed :

    - In fact, "the EU is really very concerned with the Stalemate in the situation. Yes !", the Head of Sweden's Foreign Ministry's Press Service anounced. That's why Bildt "was hoping for the two parties (i.e. for Turkey's also) to engage and break, a little-bit, the present stalemate, come to a solution of the issue" of Cyprus.

    But, replying  to a "EuroFora"s question on the risk, denounced by several politicians in case of strict Time Deadlines, for Turkey to provoke a stalemate and wait for the time to come to impose a partitionist "2 States' solution", she reacted by pointing at Turkey's obligation to respect "EU Acquis" :

    - "Turkey must fullfil the EU Acquis : That's clear !", the Swedish Senior Official stressed.

    More details are expected when Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt will debate his Programme with new MEPs at EU Parliament's plenary mid-July in Strasbourg, that he has visited already in 2008.

    Foreign Minister Carl Bildt became familiar with Strasbourg's CoE last year, when Sweden chaired the PanEuropean organization of Human Rights. As EU chairman-in-office, he will also chair the 27-member States strong EU Group inside the 47-member States strong CoE.

    Minister for EU affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom is well known at EU Parliament, where she has been an active MEP of the Liberal Group for many years, following also Press Freedom issues.

    Both have already made various statements at "EuroFora", on differend topical matters.

    ***

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