Palestinians protest Israeli restrictions on journos

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Dozens of protesters suffered temporary asphyxiation from teargas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a rally in support of Palestinian journalists in the occupied West Bank on Saturday.

Israeli soldiers used teargas to disperse the protest, which was staged at the Qalandia checkpoint north of East Jerusalem, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area.

A number of journalists were reportedly injured during the protest.

Saturday’s protest came amid rising Israeli restrictions against Palestinian journalists in the occupied territories.

According to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, an NGO, Israeli authorities are increasingly restricting the movement of Palestinian journalists in an attempt to prevent them from doing their work.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), for its part, estimates that Israeli forces had carried out 833 attacks against media groups and personnel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2016.

Meanwhile, three Palestinians were injured by Israeli live ammunition during a protest in the West Bank town of Urif, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC).

Dozens of protesters also suffered asphyxiation from teargas fired by Israeli forces during the rally, the PRC said.

Khartoum to drop all pending legal cases against press

By Mohammed Amin

KHARTOUM (AA) – Sudan on Thursday announced its intention to drop all pending legal cases against journalists and media organizations.

Addressing reporters, Salah Abdullah Gosh, head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), said the government hoped to “turn a new page” in its relations with the Sudanese press.

“Today, the NISS announces its intention to drop all legal cases raised by the NISS against newspapers and journalists,” Gosh declared.

“This represents a new page in our relations with the press in Sudan,” he said.

Sudanese Parliament Speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Omer, meanwhile, announced the reversal of an earlier decision banning journalists from covering parliamentary affairs.

Alsadig al-Rizigi, head of the Sudanese Journalists’ Union, for his part, welcomed the move, describing it as a “historical decision” that would usher in a “new era of free expression”.

“We welcome this decision by the NISS,” al-Rizigi said, describing the move as “a positive step towards better relations between the press and the national security apparatus”.

Sudanese journalists frequently complain of heavy-handed treatment by Sudan’s security apparatus, including the frequent confiscation of newspapers and harassment of reporters.

According to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Sudan ranks among the 10 worst countries in terms of press freedom and the freedom of expression.

Nigerian journalists protest Khashoggi’s killing

By Adam Abu Bashal

ABUJA, Nigeria (AA) – A group of Nigerian journalists and activists on Friday held a protest against the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The crowd gathered at a square in the capital Abuja and marched to the Saudi Consulate in the city.

The group carried placard reading “Justice for Khashoggi,” “Journalism is not a crime,” “Stop violence against journalists,” and chanted slogans against Saudi Arabia.

Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, a local journalist, told Anadolu Agency that the murder of Khashoggi was “horrifying act of Saudi Arabia.”

“Turkey has shown it stands by justice,” he said, adding Ankara is doing its best to reveal the truth.

“Whoever has a hand in [this murder] should be brought to justice,” Abdulaziz said.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, had gone missing since entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

After weeks of denying any knowledge of his whereabouts, Saudi officials last week admitted that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate building.

Turkish police have been investigating the case. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said 18 suspects arrested in Saudi Arabia over the killing should be extradited to Turkey to face the trial.

Moroccan press calls for probe into Khashoggi case

By Khalid Mejdoub

RABAT (AA) – The National Union of the Moroccan Press (SNPM) on Sunday called on Saudi authorities to launch an independent investigation into the disappearance of veteran journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

In a statement, the SNPM voiced deep concern over Khashoggi’s disappearance after entering the Saudi Consulate, calling on Moroccan journalists to join a planned rally outside the Saudi Embassy in Rabat on Oct. 25 to pile pressure for knowing the fate of the veteran journalist.

On the same day Khashoggi arrived at the consulate, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the building while journalist was also inside, police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of Khashoggi’s fate, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S., and the U.K — are pressing the case to be cleared up as soon as possible.

Two Tunisian journalists’ bodies found in Libya: Report

By Walid Abdullah

TRIPOLI (AA) – The bodies of two Tunisian journalists have been found in Libya after having been abducted four years ago, according to local media reports.

“The bodies of Tunisian journalists Sufian al-Shawarbi and Nadeer al-Qatari were discovered in the Bu Mesafir forest on the outskirts of the city of Derna,” Alnabaa, a private Libyan television channel, reported late Monday.

Found by forces loyal to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, the bodies have since reportedly been taken to Benghazi and the slain journalists’ next of kin contacted.

Neither Haftar’s forces nor Tunis have yet to comment on the reported discovery.

Al-Shawarbi and al-Qatari were both abducted in Libya in September of 2014 by an unidentified armed group while covering events in the conflict-ravaged country.

Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of long-serving President Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.

Indonesian journalists slam Reuters reporters’ verdict

ANKARA (AA) – The Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI) on Tuesday condemned Myanmar after a court sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in jail.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

According to a statement by AJI, the two journalists had been working on stories about military crackdowns in the Rakhine state.

“The verdict is a serious threat to press freedom, a bad precedent and a major setback for Myanmar's democracy,” the AJI statement read.

It said, “AJI believed it is important for Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries to have a press freedom and freedom of speech, which will encourage transparency and accountability within the government.”

AJI called on Myanmar authorities to respect the rights of the journalists in “carrying out their professional work, including their freedom of expression.”

The alliance also offered its support to both the journalists and to Reuters.

“We called organizations and individuals in various regions to support both Reuters journalists as a part of collective actions to preserve press freedom in southeast Asia,” it added.

Israel breaks up demo for detained Palestine journalist

By Qays Abu Samra

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Several Palestinian journalists suffered from teargas after Israeli forces dispersed a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday.

The protest was held to show solidarity with Palestinian journalist Ali Dar Ali, who remains incarcerated in Israel’s Ofir prison west of Ramallah.

“Israel continues to target Palestinian jouranlists to cover up its crimes against the Palestinian people,” Naser Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told demonstrators.

“We will continue to work with the International Federation of Journalists, along with other advocacy groups, with a view to holding Israel accountable and securing the release of detained journalists,” he added.

Dar Ali was detained by Israel last month on charges of “inciting violence”.

According to Palestinian figures, some 6,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli prisons, including roughly 350 minors, scores of women and at least six lawmakers.

UPDATE 5 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH REACTION FROM GERMANY

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

"The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar," it said in a statement.

France has also slammed the sentence and reiterated its call for the release of two imprisoned journalists, as well as allowing free access of media in Rakhine.

"France reaffirms its constant commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and respect for these freedoms is a cornerstone of any democratic society," French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Germany sharply criticized the court decision, with the government’s Human Rights Commissioner Baerbel Kofler saying that it was a “serious blow” to press freedom in Myanmar.

“The two journalists were found guilty of treason based on a law from the colonial era. They have done nothing other than supporting the pursuit of truth in Rakhine (state),” she said in a statement.

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

"The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

London-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) also condemned the conviction of the two Reuters journalists, saying that it signaled "another failure by the National League for Democracy administration to protect human rights and press freedom in Burma."

"… and stands in stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by the military for the crimes that these reporters exposed," the statement published on Monday added.

UPDATE 4 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH REACTION FROM BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

"The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar," it said in a statement.

France has also slammed the sentence and reiterated its call for the release of two imprisoned journalists, as well as allowing free access of media in Rakhine.

"France reaffirms its constant commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and respect for these freedoms is a cornerstone of any democratic society," French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ​

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

"The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

London-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) also condemned the conviction of the two Reuters journalists, saying that it signaled "another failure by the National League for Democracy administration to protect human rights and press freedom in Burma."

"… and stands in stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by the military for the crimes that these reporters exposed," the statement published on Monday added.

*Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this report from Ankara

UPDATE 3 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH REACTION FROM FRANCE

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

“The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar,” it said in a statement.

France has also slammed the sentence and reiterated its call for the release of two imprisoned journalists, as well as allowing free access of media in Rakhine.

"France reaffirms its constant commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and respect for these freedoms is a cornerstone of any democratic society," French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ​

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

“The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

* Hajer M’tiri contributed to this report from Paris