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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 !

Pisac ACM
05. 06. 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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  imag0573_400

    An "Eugenic" loophole Amendment, which might expose to Dangers reminiscent of "3rd Reich's" notorious Genetic Abuses, hidden at the last minute inside an otherwise Good, larger Health policy Package scheduled to be voted on Thursday, was strongly denounced by a coalition of MEPs from various Political Groups and Countries, in a Press Conference held this afternoon at EU Parliament in Strasbourg.

    Mainly calling to "Select Human Embryos", via "Genetic Counselling" and "pre-implantation" Techniques including "Genetic Tests", in order to "Eradicate Hereditary rare Diseases", it might open ways to Dangerous Practices in Future, they denounced in substance.

    But they also made it clear that a much larger Report inside which this Controversial Amendment "No 15" was added in dubious circumstances, officialy destinated to struggle against "Rare Diseases", and drafted by Professor Antonios Trakatellis, was otherwise "an Excellent Report", aiming at a "completely Uncontroversial target" of Health policy on which "all MEPs and Experts are united, believing that Europe should act" to protect People's Health (See "EuroFora"'s earlier News).

    The controversy came at a particularly delicate moment for the EU in relation to Citizens, at the eve of June 2009 EU Elections, and shortly before Ireland re-votes for "Lisbon Treaty"..    

- Denouncing risks of "an Eugenic demand, very similar to what we had during the 3rd Reich in Germany, but now coming from some Scientisists themselves", German ChristianDemocrat/EPP MEP Dr. Peter Liese stressed that critical MEPs were against "Eugenic" engineering with "Selection of Human Embryos", and anything which might ultimately lead up to to a "Selection of Human Race". It doesn't help to "eradicate" Human Lives, he added.


    Several Experts and NGOs expressed "Deep Concern", as f;ex. DR M.C. Cornel of the "European Society of Human Genetics", which stressed, on this occasion, that "the importance of Non-Directiveness in Reproductive issues is a Central characteristic of Human Genetics, after the Atrocities committed in the name of Genetics in the first half or the 20th Century".

     - "This is completely Unacceptable", stressed Italian Liberal MEP Vittorio Prodi, on the Controversial Amendment, also because pushes to "eliminate early Human Life", as he noted.

     - "This opens a Dangerous Road, rather a Motorway", denounced Danish MEP Mrs Margrette Auken, from the "Greens", observing that various similar attempts were made in the Past "not only in Germany, but also in several other Countries, "even at the 1970ies", "f.ex. on forced Sterilisation of Roma" People, and other criticisable situations f.ex. in the UK, in Sweden, etc. as she said.

    + Other NGOs, as f.ex. "LebenHilfe" from Berlin, added that, among various other Risks, could also be that, by exploiting the pre-implantation Genetic Diagnostics and the Selection of "healthy" Embryos, some may "propagate" several "Eugenic" aims, starting f.ex. by pushing to eradicate Human Livies which might "Cost too much" to preserve, ultimately exposing to dangers reminiscent of the "3rd Reich"'s atrocious abuses.

    In consequence, ChristianDemocrats/EPP and "Green" MEPs "decided by Majority to vote against" this Controversial Amendment, anounced to Journalists the 5 MEPs who participated in the Press Conference, representing a wide spectrum, from Liberals to "Greens" and ChristianDemocrats, and from Hungary, Italy, Germany and Danemark up to Ireland (Gay Mitchell), etc.
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    Hungarian ChristianDemocrat MEP Laszlo Surjan said "that it was "Suddenly, at the End of the Procedure" in Committee, that "appeared this (Controversial) Amendment, which has nothing to do" with the main purpose of the Report, on which all agreed.

    He denounced an "Unhonest" move, and called to "avoid this kind of unacceptable situations". Nobody should "Select People", Surjan stressed.

    - "We (MEPs) had No Chance to Discuss" this last-minute Amendment earlier added at a Committee's level, said German MEP Peter Liese

    Speaking to "EuroFora", Dr. Liese, the Spokesman of the ChristianDemocrat/EPP Group in EU Parliament, said that MEPs didn't oppose other references of the Report f.ex. on "Genetic Tests", because they were "no proposals" to impose them, while, on the contrary, there was "a Problem" if anyone attempted to "impose" f.ex. this or that Genetic Technique and "Genetic Counselling", etc. to the People on human reproduction.
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The precise Text :
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    Controversial parts of Amendment No 15 ask mainly "to lead finally to the Eradication" of "Hereditary" "rare diseases", "through Genetic Counselling .., and ..pre-Implantation Selection of healthy Embryos".

    But  EU Rapporteur Professor Trakatellis, said to "EuroFora" that fears should be alleviated by Guarantees that all this should be done only "where appropriate", when it's "not contrary to existing National Law", and "always on a Voluntary basis", according to other Parts of the Amendment.

    He stressed that the main aim was to allow "a free and informed choice of persons involved", without imposing them anything :  - "It's not an obligatory, but advisary" text, he said.

    To make that point clear, he was ready, in agreement with many MEPs, to eventually drop at least that part of the controversial Amendment which initially called for "efforts to ..lead finally to the Eradication of those rare diseases" "which are Hereditary".

    But, until late Wednesday evening, reportedly together with many other MEPs, he stood by all the rest of the controversial Amendment, (fex. on the "Genetic Counselling" and the "pre-implantation Selection of healthy Embryos"), so that critical MEPs, going from ChristianDemocrats as Dr. Liese, to "Greens" or "Ind/Dem", observed to "EuroFora" that "this was not enough" to close the dangerous loophole.

    Particularly since, as Professor Trakatellis noted himself, "this is already allowed to the U.K.", and "other National Legislations would probably follow, sooner or later" in a similar direction. As for a general call to "Eradicate Hereditary rare Diseases", this "should happen, at any case, in practice, de facto", to protect public Health.

    On the contrary, "our goal should be to help patients suffering from rare diseases, not to eradicate the patients. In case of genetic disease risk, the decision should not be guided by scenarios" made by politicians. "Perents who may decide to accept a child, even if handicapped or with genetic disease, must be respected and supported with solidarity", critical MEPs stated.

    - "Any Pressure" to "a patient or couple (who "should be able to make an informed choice consistent with their own values"),"from health Professionals, Public Health Policies or Governemental Institutions, or Society at large, should be avoided", stresses the "European Society for Human Genetics".

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Each MEP's vote will be registered !

-----------------------------------   

The Socialist Group requested a "Split vote" on the Amendment 15, first without, and afterwards with the words "lead finally to the Eradication" etc.


    But the first "split vote" leaves intact all the other parts of the Controversial Amendment, (i.e. "Genetic Counselling", "Selection of healthy Embryos", etc).

    That's why, 3 Groups of MEPs : ChristianDemocrats/EPP, "Greens/EFA", and "Ind/Dem", have asked for "Roll Call Votes", on everything regarding the Controversial Amendment No 15, and on the final outcome of the resulting Report as amended, which will register all the individual positions to be taken by each MEP.   

Something which will obviously make each MEP think twice before voting for one or another choice, to be sure that he/she will make the right choice in front of EU Citizens, particularly at these pre-Election times...


    Crucial Votes were scheduled between 12 Noon and 1 p.m. local Strasbourg time, in the middle of a long series of various other Reports, and after a long Public Debate on the larger Health policy package, from 9 to 11.50 am.

    The specific Report inside which was hidden the controversial Amendment is due to be debated between 11 and 12 am.

    So that more last-minute Surprises may not be excluded a priori...

    Particularly at the present Historic moment, when even the Institutional Future of the EU depends on the result of a second Referendum on "Lisbon Treaty", later this year, in ...Ireland, a mainly Catholic country, where People are particularly sensitive in such kind of socio-cultural and values issues...
 

      ***     
 
     (Draft due to be updated).
 
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