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What are the key findings of Freedom of the Press Report

Press freedom in 2015 declined to lowest point in 12 years

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Freedom of the Press is an annual report on media independence around the world, produced by Freedom House, a watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.

https://youtu.be/oAf3J6eF3yk

The report assesses the degree of print, broadcast and digital media freedom in 199 countries and territories.

Freedom of the Press 2016, key findings:

• Press freedom in 2015 declined to lowest point in 12 years.

• Report blames political, criminal and terrorist forces behind efforts to silence media.

• Loss of press freedom primarily linked to heightened partisanship in many countries, and the degree of extralegal intimidation and physical violence faced by journalists.

What is a free press? Area where political news is robust, safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.

Media access

31: percentage of countries with a free press
36: percentage with a partly free press
33: percentage with no free press

13: percentage of world’s population that lives with a free press
41: percentage that lives with a partly free press
46: percentage that lives with no free press

10 worst countries and territories

Belarus, Crimea, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

Countries with largest 1-year decline in press freedom

Bangladesh, Turkey, Burundi, France, Serbia, Yemen, Egypt, Macedonia and Zimbabwe

Nauru

Report cites the tiny Pacific island nation as the country with the largest loss of press freedom because it began assessing thousands of dollars in fees against journalists wanting to enter the country or blocking their entry altogether, apparently in an effort to silence reports about migrants being held in Nauru who are seeking asylum in Australia.

Bright points in report

Report found two countries moved to ease restrictions on journalists in 2015.

Sri Lanka: After new government was installed, fewer threats and attacks aimed at journalists, and blocks against Internet websites were lifted.

Burkina Faso: Officials dropped prison sentences as punishment for libel, and state interference in news content was curtailed, the report found.

Dangerous issues for media coverage

• Organized crime

• Corruption

• Environment/land development

• Religion

• Disputed Sovereignty

• Lese-majeste (injured magesty)

Countries to watch

The report attributed the declines to a rise in the authoritarian nature of some governments, such as those in Tajikistan, Egypt and Turkey; security situations that have become more dangerous, such as in Libya, Yemen and Burundi; blasphemy laws, such as in Brunei, and tighter government control of state-owned media, such as Poland.

72: Number of countries showing a decline in freedom for the year
43: Number of countries that made gains.

Middle East and North Africa region: Received the worst ratings for press freedom, followed closely by Eurasia.

Freedom on the Net Report

Internet freedom declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, report finds.

More governments

• Censored information of public interest

• Expanded surveillance

• Cracked down on privacy tools

Source: Freedom of the Press 2016, Freedom House

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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Summary Trials Have No Place In Afghan Laws: Behrooz Jahanya

Human rights organizations also criticized the Afghan government

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Relatives of Afghan woman, 27-year-old Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a mob, attend a hearing at a court in Kabul on May 6, 2015. Four Afghan men were sentenced to death for the savage lynching of a woman falsely accused of blasphemy, a landmark judgment in a nation where female victims often have little legal recourse.
Relatives of Afghan woman, 27-year-old Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a mob, attend a hearing at a court in Kabul on May 6, 2015. Four Afghan men were sentenced to death for the savage lynching of a woman falsely accused of blasphemy, a landmark judgment in a nation where female victims often have little legal recourse. VOA

Human rights organizations have voiced “grave concerns” over the rise in summary court convictions in Afghanistan after a video of one such trial was posted on social media last week.

In the video, which was filmed outside the capital, Kabul, a group of four men and a woman were convicted of adultery by men who called themselves “mujahidin,” a title the Taliban always uses to identify its fighters.

The men in the video, who appeared to have been beaten up, confessed to having been involved in the act of adultery, an offense that carries severe punishments under both Afghan and Islamic Sharia law, if proved.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said summary court convictions are grave sources of concern, “especially when it happens in areas under the control of the Afghan government.”

Afghanistan March 2009
Afghanistan March 2009, Flickr

“Lashing, beheading, killing and stoning are among the verdicts of the summary court trials conducted in Afghanistan,” Bilal Sidiqi, Afghan AIHRC spokesperson, told VOA.

During the past three months, AIHRC has recorded at least three cases of summary court convictions, while the number of such incidents reached eight last year.

Hinder justice

United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the conduct of such trials and criticized what it called “traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms.”

Responding to a VOA query, UNAMA stated: “The handling of criminal cases outside Afghanistan’s court system can hinder justice and the realization of human rights. Afghanistan’s laws and penal code do not include any legal provision allowing for the mediation of criminal cases. Traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms should not be used in criminal cases to replace the existing legal framework or court adjudication processes of the government of Afghanistan.”

Human rights organizations also criticized the Afghan government for failing to prosecute the perpetrators.

Poster-Stop terorrism
Poster-Stop terorrism, Pixabay

“We call on the Afghan government to take serious measures to prevent such inhumane incidents,” Siddiqi said.

The Afghan government is striving to expand its control all over the country’s territories so everyone has access to the justice system, the Afghan presidential palace told VOA.

“The acts [summary trials] carried out by the Taliban and other terrorist groups against the people are criminal offenses,” Afghan presidential spokesperson Shah Hussain Murtazawi told VOA.

Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are being widely accused of conducting summary trials in the country.

Also read:Taliban Ghani peace offer

“We have recorded a number of summary convictions in restive areas and frequently the areas under Taliban control. Efforts were made to investigate and prosecute those who conduct summary trials,” Najib Danish, spokesperson for the Afghan interior minister, told VOA.

Against the law

Summary court convictions by the Taliban and other radical groups contradict the Afghan constitution and Islamic law, said Behrooz Jahanyar, a Kabul-based lawyer.

“What the Taliban is doing is absolutely against the Islamic law. Summary trials have no place in Afghan laws, either. No one can be convicted or punished without going through all court proceedings and access to appeal in a higher court,” Jahanyar told VOA.

Members of civil society organizations in Afghanistan allege that the issue of summary trials is more severe than it appears to be.

“Summary trials are conducted more in remote and hard-to-reach areas, where fear of retaliation prevents people from reporting such incidents,” Kabul-based civil activist Abdul Wodood Pedram, told VOA.

Although the authenticity of the videos posted on social media cannot be confirmed, disturbing footage is being posted periodically by militant groups in Afghanistan of women being stoned and beaten with batons, men being slashed, and Afghan soldiers captured by militants being shot to death. (VOA)