2006: Tunisia: Mohamad Abbou

Oslo, 19 December 2006

Président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali,
Président de la République,
Palais Présidentiel,

Your Excellency,

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group, a coalition of 16 free expression organisations, is calling attention to human rights violations in Tunisia, where journalists and rights activists known for criticising the government are being harassed by authorities.

The TMG has received reports that the family of jailed human rights activist and lawyer Mohamed Abbou is constantly followed and harassed by the police. The latest incident occurred on 25 October 2006 in the capital, Tunis, when Abbou’s wife, Samia, and her two children were harassed by policemen on the street.

Journalist Hamadi Jebali has been harassed for attempting to visit Moncef Marzouki, the jailed leader of the Congress for the Republic, a political party banned in Tunisia. Marzouki has been charged with «incitement to civil disobedience,» an offence punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. Another journalist, Mohamed Fourati, faces charges of belonging to a banned organisation. He appeared in court in the southern city of Gafsa on 1 December.

According to the  National Council for Liberties (CNLT) in Tunis, its mail is regularly intercepted and Internet access has been cut off. Observing that the country that in 2005 organized the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, makes access to email services such as Hotmail  inaccessible to Tunisians, and that more Tunisians have been arrested for expressing themselves on the Internet during the past three years than for views carried by the print media since the country’s independence in 1958,

I, as chair of Writers in Prison Committee in Norwegian PEN, remain concerned regarding the conditions of human rights and freedom of expression in Tunisia, and I urge you, Your Excellency, to take immediate action to remedy these conditions.

Confident that you, Your Excellency, will take action accordingly, I remain,

Yours faithfully

Elisabet W. Middelthon/sign.
Chair Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee

Carl Morten Iversen
secretary general
Tunisian Embassy, Oslo
Norwegian Embassy, Tunisia,
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2006: Turkey: Elif Shafak

September 29th 2006

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Dear Prime Minister, Your Excellency

PEN International welcomes the acquittal on 21 September 2006 of writer Elif Shafak of charges of “Insult” for comments made by fictitious characters in a novel.
And yet, we cannot celebrate the event, thinking of the scores of writers, journalists and publishers that are on trial in Turkey.

Among those listed as being prosecuted or under threat of being prosecuted, are: Hrant Dink, Ipek Calislar, Ragip Zarakolu.

International PEN is deeply alarmed by the continued and growing number of writers, journalists and publishers who are before courts for reasons that are in breach of international human rights conventions. It calls for an end to these trials and for a thorough review of the legislation that penalise freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey has stated its commitment.

We call on the Turkish governments to do all that it can to abide by its commitments to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for reading and listening to this urgent appeal.

Yours sincerely

Aase Gjerdrum
Member of Norwegian PEN WiPC

Cc to The Turkish Embassy in Oslo

2006: Niger: Mamane Abou, Oumarou Keita

His Excellency Monsieur Mamadou Tandja
Président de la République, Présidence de la République
Palais de la République, Niamey, Niger

Monsieur Hama Amadou, Premier ministre
Primature, Niamey, Niger

19. September 2006

Your Excellencies,

As Chair of The Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN I am appalled at the
sentencing of Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita, managing editor and editor of
the weekly Le Republicain newspaper respectively. Although the legality of the trial was contested by the journalists’ lawyers, Justice Chaibou Moussa allegedly disregarded an appeal against the apparent illegality of the trial in sentencing the two men. The appeal will be heard by a separate court on 11 September.

The arrest of Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita followed an article published in July by Le Republicain which suggested that the government’s strengthening of diplomatic relations with Iran and Venezuela was happening at the expense of its relations with western countries. Abou and Keita have also been ordered to pay a fine of 5 million CFA Francs.

The two journalists are being detained in separate prisons, both some distance from Niamey, which violates Niger law which states that detainees should be kept in a detention facility within the court’s jurisdiction.

The Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian strongly protest the detention of Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita for alleged «defamation of the state of Niger» and «spreading false news». We call upon the Niger authorities to release unconditionally Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita and to adopt a law decriminalising press offences in accordance with the public commitment made by President Mamadou Tandja during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Confident that you, Your Excellencies, will take immediate action and set the journalists Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita free without delay.

Yours faithfully

Elisabet W. Middelthon
Chair Writers in Prison Committee Norwegian PEN

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General

Copies to:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Niger Representative in Norway
The Norwegian Representative in Niger

2006: Kina: Zhao Yan

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032

Procurator General Mr. Jia Chunwang
Supreme People’s Procuratorate
Beiheyan Street 147
100726 Beijing
P.R.China                                Oslo, 30 August 2006

Your Excellencies,

The Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN welcomes the announcement on 17 March 2006 that the charge of revealing state secrets has been dropped against journalist Zhao Yan, but is seriously concerned that he has not been released.

Zhao Yan, news assistant at the Beijing bureau of the New York Times and former reporter for China Reform magazine, was arrested on 17 September 2004 and charged with “providing state secrets to foreigners”. He was charged for an article published in the New York Times on 7 September 2004 revealing Jiang Zemin’s retirement from the position of Chairman of the Central Military Commission and the transfer of leadership to President Hu Jintao. The article preceded the official announcement about Jiang’s retirement, which was made on 19 September 2004. The New York Times said that Zhao had no involvement whatsoever in the article. Zhao was also indicted on the lesser charge of fraud, which is still under investigation.

Norwegian PEN demands his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

Hoping that you, Your Excellencies, will take immediate action to set Zhao Yan free, I remain,

Yours faithfully,

Elisabet W. Middelthon
Chair Writers in Prison Committee

Carl Morten Iversen
secretary general Norwegian PEN

The Chinese Embassy, Oslo
The Norwegian Embassy, Beijing
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo

2006: Syria: Habib Saleh

August 28th 2006

His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace

Your Excellency

From the non-political association PEN International we learn with dismay and alarm about the imprisonment of cyber-dissident Habib Saleh. He was convicted on August 16th following a trial which reportedly lacked due process.

International PEN condemns the imprisonment of Habib Saleh and calls for his immediate release. PEN is extremely concerned by the Syrian government’s continued imprisonment of writers who have exercised their right to freedom of expression.

We call for Habib Saleh’s immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory. We also protest the detention of all writers currently detained in Syria for expressing their views, including Mohammad Ghanem, Michel Kilo, Ali al-Abdullah and  Fateh Jamous, and call for their release. We are alarmed by reports that they are kept incommunicado and are at risk of ill-treatment. We demand that whilst detained they are granted access to their families, lawyers and any necessary medical treatment.

Your Excellency, we urge you to look into Habib Salah’s case, and also the cases of the other persons here mentioned, and we trust that you will see to it that they are given fair and just treatment, according to internationally accepted standards.

Yours sincerely

Aase Gjerdrum
Translator, member of Norwegian PEN’s WiPC

2006: Kina: Guo Qizhen

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032

Oslo, 22 June 2006

Your Excellency,

The Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of Internet writer Guo Qizhen, who has reportedly been held since 12 May 2006 on subversion charges for his critical writings and pro-democracy activities. Guo is said to be in poor health and held without access to adequate care. International PEN considers journalist Guo Qizhen to be detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to PEN’s information, cyber-dissident Guo Qizhen was arrested at his home on 12 May 2006 and charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’ on 8 June 2006. His arrest appears to be linked to his participation in a rotating hunger strike which has been taking place by pro-democracy activists since 4 February 2006 to protest against human rights violations in China. The charges are believed to be based on his anti-government articles published online on overseas websites.

Guo is currently held incommunicado without access to his family, at Cangzhou detention centre No.2 in Hebei Province, central China, and without adequate medical facilities to give him the medical treatment he needs.

As chair of Norwegian PEN’s Writer in Prison Committee I protest against the detention of Internet writer Guo Qizhen, and I call for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China became a signatory in 1998.

Hoping that you, Your Excellency, will take immediate action to set Guo Qizhen free, I remain,
Yours faithfully,

Elisabet W. Middelthon/sign.                                        Carl Morten Iversen
Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN        secretary general

The Chinese Embassy, Oslo
The Norwegian Embassy, Beijing
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo

2006: Iran: Elham Afroutan

Oslo, February 14. 2006

His Excellency
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

Head of the Judiciary
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi

c/o Iranian Embassy in Norway
telefax: 22554919

Norwegian PEN fears for safety of journalist and writer Elham Afroutan and other journalists arrested for the publication of a satirical article

Norwegian PENs Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned about the arrest of journalist and writer Elham Afroutan, who is among seven journalists from the provincial weekly newspaper Tammadon-e Hormozgan (Hormozgan’s Civilisation) to have been detained since 29 January 2006 following the publication of a satirical article. The journalists are believed to be held incommunicado without charge, and to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment.  According to information from International PEN, there is serious concern for the safety of Elham Afroutan and those detained with her, and Norwegian PEN therefore seeks immediate guarantees of their well-being.  Both International and Norwegian PEN call for their immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

According to PEN’s information, journalist and writer Elham Afroutan and six other Tammadon-e Hormozgan journalists were arrested following the publication of a satirical article entitled «Let’s Expose the AIDS Epidemic of the Regime», which compared the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the advent of Ayatollah Khomeini to AIDS and gave the current physical embodiment of the disease as President Ahmadinejad. The detained journalists did not write the article, and are thought to have reproduced it in the newspaper’s health section without thorough checking because they were short of stories. Afroutan is believed to be the principle accused in the case. The article is said to have been written under an alias by somebody outside Iran, and published on the Internet.

Norwegian PEN hereby express our serious concern about the arrest of journalist and writer Elham Afroutan and up to six other Tammadon-e Hormozgan journalists detained with her, and we seek immediate assurances that they are not being ill-treated.  We urge that they are granted access to their families, lawyers, and any necessary medical attention and call for their immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

for the Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN

Carl Morten Iversen
secretary general

2005: Tunisia/UN: Concern over WSIS

October 1, 2005

His Excellency Kofi A. Annan
United Nations
Room 3800,
United Nations Headquarters
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We civil society organizations participating at the Prepcom 3 of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva (17 – 30 September 2005) express our deep concern about the conditions in which the WSIS is about to take place in Tunis from 16 – 18 November 2005. Since we learned that the second phase of the Summit would take place in Tunisia, we have expressed serious concerns over at the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Tunisian authorities. Today, shortly before the holding of the Summit, we unfortunately must note that there has been no improvement and that we have recently even witnessed a serious deterioration of fundamental freedoms as follows:

The harassment of the Association of Tunisian Judges and the disciplinary sanctions taken against its active members on 1st August; the prohibition of the holding of the founding congress of the Union of Tunisian Journalists on September 7th and the harassment of its members; the prohibition of the holding of the 6th congress of the Tunisian Human Rights League on September 9th and the police blocks of its local sections.

These new attacks come in an already alarming context regarding such threats to fundamental freedoms as:

* Assaults on the Tunisian Bar that have included physical aggressions of lawyers at the law court and the sentencing of lawyer Mohamed Abbou in June 2005 to three years imprisonment – after an unfair trial – after he published on the Internet an article criticizing conditions in Tunisian prisons;
* Denial of the right to legal accreditation of independent civil society associations;
* Threats against freedom of assembly;
* Police blocking of the approaches to association headquarters and homes of their leaders;
* Verbal and physical aggressions of human rights defenders and public defamation campaigns against them;
* Retaliations against publicly independent university professors;
* Systematic censorship of newspapers and books;
* Blocking of Internet sites, systematic surveillance of e-mails and telephones;
* Arbitrary denial of authorizations to publish new newspapers and magazines and to create independent broadcasting outlets;
* Lack of a published and transparent system of broadcast licensing;
* Systematic use of torture by police to obtain confessions;
* Use of the pretext of the fight against terrorism to sentence without proof young people following trials international observers have deemed unfair;
* Keeping in jail of more than 600 prisoners of opinion, inhumane and degrading conditions and harassment of those who have finished their prison terms by imposing administrative controls, including banishment to distant locations.

These systematic violations of fundamental freedoms, coupled with the serious dysfunctioning of the judicial system have undermined the rule of law in Tunisia. It is shocking for the Summit to take place in a country with such a deplorable record.  We recall that the participants in the first phase of the WSIS have reaffirmed in their Geneva Declaration of December 2003 the centrality of human rights for the Information Society, most particularly:

* “The universality, indivisibility and interdependence and interrelation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development as enshrined in the Vienna Declaration, as well as tight links between them. We reaffirm also that democracy, sustainable development and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as good governance at all levels are interdependent and mutually reinforcing” (§3)

* “That as the essential foundation of the information society and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (§4)

We regret that the Tunisian government has not respected its commitments to these Declaration in its capacity of host country of the second phase of the WSIS and that it is jeopardizing the chances of success of this Summit by a deliberate policy of massive human rights violations.

We hence consider that the minimal conditions for the holding of this Summit are not met and that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake, as well as that of the international community, not to legitimize practices and policies contrary to its international commitments.

We regret to inform you that if there are no significant improvements in the human rights situation in Tunisia before November 16, we would then need to reconsider the modalities and level of our participation at this Summit.

We, therefore, respectfully request you to dispatch a high representative to Tunisia to review the state of affairs in the host country and for you subsequently to seek Tunisian official conformity with its international human rights commitments.

We look forward to your early reply.

Steve Buckley, President, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasting (AMARC)
Jim Ottaway, Jr., Chairman, World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
E. Markham Bench, Executive Director, World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
Chantal Peyer, Comunica-ch

On behalf of the following international civil society entities:
Eric Sottas, Directeur, Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT)
Sean O Siochru, Campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS)
Karen Banks, Association for Progressive Communication (APC)
Sidi Kaba, President, Federation International des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH).
Aidan White, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Alexis Krikorian, International Publishers Association (IPA)
Guillaume Chenevière, Chairman, World Radio and Television Council
James H. Ottaway, Jr., Chairman, and E. Markham Bench, Executive Director, World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
Timothy Balding, World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
Gus Hosein, Privacy International, UK
Fatou Jagne Senghor, Article 19
Luckson Chiapare, Executive Director, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Susana Fernandez for WSIS Gender Caucus
Vittorio Bertola, Member of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG)
Karin Karlekar, Freedom House
Rohan Jayasakeera, Index on Censorship
Robert Ménard, General secretary,  Reporters without borders
Andrew Anderson, Deputy Director, Front Line, The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Randy Naylor, General Secretary, World Association of Christian
Communications (WACC)
Jim McDonnell, Director of Advocacy, World Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS)
Joanna Arevalo, Third World Majority (TWM)
John D.H. Downing, Director, Global Media Research Center  (Southern Illinois University)
Lisa McLaughlin, on behalf of Union for Democratic Communications
Clemencia Rodriguez for OURMedia
Dr B. Shadrach, Director for South Asia, OneWorld International Foundation
Alejo Miro Quesada, president, and Julio E. Munoz, Executive Director, Inter American Press Association,
Fernando Martins, Brazilian Association of Newspapers – ANJ-Brasil
Paulo Lima, Executive Director, Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor (RITS)
Rita Freire, Planeta Porto Alegre and Ciranda Internacional, Brasil
Felix Gutiérrez Matta, Red de comunicaciones indígenas Apachita, La Paz, Bolivia
Roberto Bissio, Executive Director, Institutdo del Tercer Mundo (ITeM), Uruguay
Daniel Pimienta, President, Fundation Redes y Desarrollo (FUNREDES)
Julian Casasbuenas, Colnodo, Colombia
Carlos Alvarez, Wamani, Argentina
Edmundo Vitale, Escuela Latinoamericana de Reds (ESLARED), Venezuela
Olinca Marino, Laneta, Mexico
Rod Macdonell, Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Spencer Moore, National Press Club of Canada
Oliver Zielke, Web Community Resource Networks, Canada
Michel Lambert, Alternatives, Canada
Carl Morten Iversen, Norwegian PEN
Rikke Frank Jorgensen, Digital Rights, Denmark
Jane Johnson, Danish United Nations Association (DUNA)
Sjoera Nas, Co-director, Bits of Freedom, Dutch digital civil rights
Meryem Marzouki, President, Imaginons un réseau Internet solidaire (IRIS), France
Jean-Louis Fullsack, President, Coopération Solidarité Développement aux PTT (CSDPTT), France
Ghislaine Glassom Deschaumes, Transeuropeennes, France
Ralf Bendrath, Netzwerk Neue Medien, Germany
Ulrich Remmel, Deutscher-Journalisten-Verband (DJV), Germany
Johannes Schunter, computer scientist, ICONICS Informations- und Computersysteme, Germany
Danièle Lenzin and Roland Kreuzer, Presidents of comedia – the Swiss media union
Olivier Labarthe, Président de la Commission d’information, Fédération genevoise de coopération, Switzerland
Carlo Sommaruga, lawyer and MP, General Secratary Asloca SR, Switzerland
Claudia Padovani, University of Padova & CRIS Campaign, Italie
Andrea Amato, Institut mediterraeen (IMED), Italie
Marco Cappato, Parti Radical, Italie
Liz Probert, GreenNet
Anastasia Roniotes, MIO-ECSDE, Grece
Corina Cepoi, Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
Pavel Antonov, Bluelink, Bulgaria
Bako Mihaly, StrawberryNet, Romania
Danijela Babic, Zamirnet, Croatia
Leandro Navarro, Pangea, Catalunya, Spain
Marise J. R. A. Fonseca, Network of Feminists Women for Gender Equity in Development (GENERA), Spain
Helene Olivan, Institut europeen de la mediterranee (IEMED), Spain
Valentina Pellizzer, UniMondo, Southern Europe
Jose Moises Martin President de la Plateforme Intergouvernemental Euromed
Jean François Courbe, Forum social Mediterreen
Chaffai Abdelhamid, Reseau marocain Euromed gerarda Ventura
Kamel Jendoubi, President, Reseau Euromediterraneen des Droits de l’Homme (REMDH)
Mokhtar Trifi, president, Ligue Tunisienne pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
Sihem Bensedrine, spokesperson, Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie (CNLT)
Radhia Nasraoui, President, Association de Lutte contre la Torture en Tunisie (ALTT)
Lotfi Hajji, president, Syndicat des journalistes tunisiens (SJT)
Naziha Rjiba, deputy president, Observatoire pour la Liberté de Presse, d’Edition et de Création (OLPEC)
Essia Belhassen, coordinatrice SMSI, Association Tunisienne des femmes démocrates (ATFD)
Samir Dilou, deputy president, Association Internationale pour le soutien aux prisonniers politiques (AISPP)
Ali Ben Salem, president, Amicale Nationale des Anciens Résistants (ANAR)
Safwa Aissa, president,Vérité-Action (VA)
Mokhtar Yahyaoui, president, Centre pour l’indépendance de la justice et des Avocats (CIJA)
Jalel Matri, president, Union des Tunisiens en Suisse (UTS)
Mourad Errahib, Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, Maroco
Naim Abou tair, Palestinian NGO (PNGO)
Amir Makhlouf, ITTIJAH (Union of Arab NGO)
Dawoud Hassan, Arab Committee for the Defense of Journalists
Georges Abi Saleh, Plateforme euromed, Liban
Ahida Taleb, Rassemblemeñt Deomcratique libanais des femmes (RDLF)
Ziad Abdessamad, ANND
Pius N. Njawé, Organisation Camerounaise Pour La Liberte De La Presse.
Natasha Primo, WomensNet, South Africa
Sohrab Razzaghi, Iran Civil Society Organizations Training and Research Center (ICTRC)
Parminder Jeet Singh, Director, IT for Change, India
Ahmed Swapan, Executive Director, VOICE, Bangladesh
Kong Sidaroth, Open Forum, Cambodia
Oh, Byoung-il, Jinbonet, South Korea
Al Alegre, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Philippines
Frederick Noronha, Bytesforall, South Asia
John Dada, Fantsuam Foundation, Nigeria
Andrew Garton, c2o, Australia

Marianne Seger, Germany
Lucia Fanini, Italy
Elizabeth Eide, Norway

2005: Nepal: General concern


King Gyanendra
Narayanhity Royal Palace
Kathmandu, Nepal
c/o press@ntc.net.np

Re: Reinstate Press Freedom in Nepal

Your Royal Highness,

The Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ), Human Rights House Foundation (HRH) and the Norwegian PEN Centre are deeply concerned about the systematic and aggressive attacks on press freedom in Nepal.

Since February 1, civil rights, including freedom of speech and expression, have been systematically eroded by the government in direct contradiction of international standards and rights guaranteed in the Nepalese constitution.

It has become clear that the government is sanctioning the use of threats, violence, detention and censorship against the media community in Nepal either through the direct government action or inaction in the face of press freedom abuses.

The comprehensive control being exercised over press rights has resulted in around 2000 journalists becoming unemployed, and put many journalists under the continual threat of arrest and violence.

Policies limiting government advertising and other revenue sources for the media, have impacted on the independence of the media and bans of the broadcast of news on FM stations have directly deprived the people of Nepal of valuable sources of information.

It is completely unacceptable to allow the harassment, intimidation and censorship of journalists in Nepal: their safety and right to free speech should be guaranteed under the democratic principles that you claim to adhere to.

The Norwegian Union of Journalists, Human Rights House Foundation and Norwegian PEN will – together with IFJ affiliates and other organisations opposed to your sanctions – be participating in a Global Day of Action for Press Freedom in Nepal on August 30 to express our solidarity for this cause.

We urge you to take notice of the global support for press freedom in Nepal and immediately reinstate press freedom in Nepal as a fundamental democratic right.

A strong, free and independent media will in turn support democracy in Nepal.

Yours sincerely

Ann-Magrit Austenå/s.    Carl Morten Iversen                Maria Dahle
president, NJ                  secretary general,N-PEN        director,  HRH

CC.: Minister for Information (info@hmgofnepal.gov.np)
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2005: Belarus: General concern

President Alexander Lukashenko
The office of the President of Belarus
Fax: + 375 17 2260610

Oslo, August 24, 2005

Dear President Lukashenko

Norwegian non governmental organisations, the Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ), the Human Rights House Foundation (HRH) and Norwegian PEN, express grave concern over recent crackdown on free expression in general, and the harassment of Polish-speaking journalists in particular, in Belarus.

We are alarmed at the increased harassment of journalists and media outlets in Belarus, in particular those working for the Polish minority press and we strongly condemn this latest crackdown on local and foreign journalists working in your country. We urge the authorities to ensure everyone’s right «to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers» as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.»

According to information from the International Press Institute (IPI), several Polish and Belarusian journalists of Polish descent were recently harassed and detained in the Belarusian cities of Schuchin and Grodno. The Norwegian Journalists Association, the Human Rights House Foundation (HRH) and Norwegian PEN are particularly concerned about the following incidents:

On 1 August, Belarusian police arrested Andrzej Pisalnik, editor-in-chief of Glos znad Niemna, a Polish minority newspaper based in Belarus and a contributor to the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita in Schuchin.

* On 6 July, Pisalnik and several of his colleagues from Glos znad Niemna, as well as Andrzej Poczobut, editor-in-chief of Magazyn Polski, and Ivan Roman, a reporter for the Solidarnost newspaper, were arrested by police in Grodno, while they were protesting in the city centre against the harassment of their newspapers.

* On 27 July, special police officers and plainclothes policemen entered the SPB headquarters and detained many of the journalists present in the offices at the time. Among them were Pisalnik, Inesa Todryk, a reporter for Glosznad Niemna, Waclaw Radziwinowicz and Robert Kowalewski, journalists for Gazeta Wyborcza, Pavel Mazheika, the head of the Grodno office of the BAJ, and Siarhey Hryts, a photographer for the Associated Press (AP).

* On 27 July, Schuchin police detained Agnieszka Romaszewska, a Polish journalist for the television channel TVP1, near the «Polish House» in Schuchin, where a conference of the outgoing members of the SPB was beingheld at the time. Reportedly, she did not have the necessary accreditation from the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

* On 27. July 2005, Andrei Pochobut, editor-in-chief of the Polish-language magazine «Magazyn Polski», was given a 15-day prison sentence for «taking part in an illegal demonstration» in the western town of Shchuchin on 3 July and for «civil disobedience» in protesting the government’s taking control of the Union of Poles in Belarus.

* On 6. August 2005 The expulsion of Adam Tuchlinksi, 25, of the weekly news magazine Przekroj. Tuchlinksi is a Polish photojournalist who was expelled from Belarus and banned from the country for five years.

* On 11. August 2005 beating of Pawel Reszka, Moscow correspondent for the Polish daily «Rzeczpospolita».

* On 16. August 2005 raids were carried out by the Belarusian secret police (KGB) in Minsk and the western city of Grodno. The KGB raided the apartments of three young members of the Third Way opposition movement who reportedly create satirical, animated cartoons for Internet distribution. The KGB confiscated at least 12 computers and other equipment used to produce the cartoons and interrogated three Third Way members.

The Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ), the Human Rights House Foundation and Norwegian PEN condemn the authorities´ attempts to worsen the relationship between the Belarusian and the Polish people. We appeal to the Committee for Religious and National Questions to respect the freedom of association and ensure that the Association of Belarusian Poles is free to operate without restrictions.

We urge the Belarusian authorities to:

– give Polish diplomats permission to enter Belarus

– recognise the election of the new leader of the Association of Belarusian Poles

Angelika Borys, who was elected chairwoman of the Polish Association in March 2005

– respect freedom of expression and stop hounding and arresting journalists from Belarus´s Polish minority as part of  your present conflict with neighbouring Poland.

Maria Dahle          Ann-Magrit Austenå             Carl Morten Iversen
director, HRH        president, NJ                       secretary general, Norwegian PEN


The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Belarusian Ministry of Justice
The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Constitutional Court in Belarus
The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kiev
Association of  Belarusian Poles
Association of Polish Journalists
Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ)
Law Initiative, Pravova Initiativa
PEN Belarus
Polish Society Assosiation in Belarus