The Global Digest



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UN Human Rights Committee asks Pakistan about crimes against journalists



Protest in Pakistan

Geneva Switzerland July 21, 2017: There has been a clear deterioration in the safety of journalists, the problem of impunity and of freedom of expression online. These were the main findings of the report submitted to the 120th session of UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), in collaboration with IFEX, the global network defending and promoting the right to freedom of expression and information, and RIDH, the International Network of Human Rights.

The recommendations in the PPF-IFEX-RIDH report include that the government should appoint special prosecutors for attacks on journalists, start monitoring the judicial process, and ensure the implementation of the minimum laws that it has for the harassment of women in the workplace. There is a need to revisit the extent of powers that are enjoyed by the regulatory authorities, especially by PEMRA: before taking action against the media they should get judicial approval, or there should be a fair process. The Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) also needs to be revisited. We need to look again at the defamation laws and bring them in line with the minimum requirements which are there. These are the very minimum things that the government should do if it claims to be promoting freedom of expression. Pakistan was reviewed for the first time by the UN Human Rights Committee on 11 and 12 July. The Committee, which consists of 18 independent experts, is mandated to oversee the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Pakistan ratified the ICCPR in 2010, and as such is bound to respect it.

The UNHRC met to analyze the situation in Pakistan and will make recommendations aimed at promoting and protecting human rights in the country. The Committee had highlighted in its List of Issues (shared with Pakistan prior to the meeting) its concerns about increasing control of telecommunications by the state and several Pakistani agencies, such as the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), as well as the censorship of television programs and websites.

During the examination of Pakistan, the UN Human Rights Committee tackled issues regarding freedom of expression, including blasphemy legislation and anti-terror laws, impunity for crimes committed against journalists, and an overly restrictive environment for the electronic media and film industry. Despite these concerns, the government delegation insisted that there is an “unprecedented level of freedom of the media available in Pakistan” and further claimed that all cases of terrorist violence against the media are addressed by the government and the judiciary, despite the evidence of high impunity presented by civil society organizations. The experts on the Committee noted concerns regarding impunity for crimes committed against journalists and cited PPF’s figures, stating that 73 journalists had been killed since 2002 with only five convictions for these crimes thus far.

The Committee requested detailed information and statistics regarding crimes against journalists and subsequent investigations, prosecutions and convictions, as well as the same information regarding other crimes. In response, the delegation of Pakistan stated that the allegations of a culture of impunity were inaccurate and alleged that crimes against journalists were a result of terrorists attempting to silence the media. Pakistan government delegation stressed that it investigates all cases of attacks on journalists as well as allegations of crimes committed by state agencies. However, the government failed to provide statistics on the investigations, prosecutions and convictions of these crimes as requested on numerous occasions by Committee members, confirming doubts about their commitment to fight impunity.

The Committee also reminded the government that criminal sanctions for defamation, often used to target dissident voices in the media, are not in line with the CCPR, and questioned whether the government had any plans or had taken any action to decriminalize defamation. The Committee also raised serious concerns regarding challenges to freedom of expression online and the increasingly antagonistic regulatory environment for the electronic media and film industry. Members of the Committee also raised concerns regarding the Code of Conduct issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. The Committee noted that there had been more than 20 suspensions of media channels in the past four years, and wondered what safeguards and oversight mechanisms were in place to ensure the authority did not violate freedom of expression. The delegation did not respond to these concerns.

One expert raised numerous concerns about the broad powers of the PTA expanded through the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). This law enables the state body to restrict access to information and issue guidelines to information service providers on the internet without judicial oversight. Despite the government’s claim that the powers granted to the PTA are aligned with international standards, one expert requested detailed information on how this is possible without independent judicial oversight. In response to these concerns, the delegation of Pakistan explained that open consultations in the drafting of PECA had been held, however, it noted that submissions received from civil society were vague; and, the delegation added, the final version of the act was a reasonable compromise between opposing opinions. They also ensured that there is a system of checks and balances within the PECA and that the powers of the PTA must be in line with the Constitution ensuring sufficient limitations on power.

Now that the Human Rights Committee has completed its initial examination of Pakistan, it will take note of the current human rights situation in the country and will publish its Concluding Observations on July 28, 2017. This document, which will include a list of recommendations, will provide the government with concrete steps it should take to amend its human rights record; it will also equip civil society with the tools they need to efficiently pressure the Government to make the necessary changes. Responding to Pakistan’s UN review, Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of PPF, stressed two main sources of limitations on freedom of expression – threats to the physical safety of journalists and the policy framework in Pakistan. He said restrictions implemented by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) as reminiscent of the days of dictatorship.

Ali hoped that the government would be more forthcoming in its written responses and take the safety of journalists seriously. He welcomed the government’s decision to set up an endowment fund for journalists who are injured or killed, but added that it does not address the issue of bringing to justice those who inflict violence on journalists. Unless you tackle the impunity, simply paying the victims is not going to end attacks on journalists, Ali said.

Matthew Redding, Campaigns and Advocacy Coordinator of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), noted that these limitations on freedom of expression have resulted in a citizenry that is deprived of important information. He said government delegation seemed in many cases reluctant to even acknowledge there was a problem. Even when presented with very credible information from the experts, particularly with regards to threats against journalists and the violence that they faced, they seemed to pin this almost entirely on terrorists rather than accepting any sort of government responsibility for these attacks. By Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).
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WHAT IS THE UNFC DOING?

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch),
Apr 29, 2017

UNFC's members at the meeting

The UNFC has supposedly agreed in principle on its nine demands with Aung San Suu Kyi’s peace team. Some members are even saying that they might sign the NCA.

The problem with this is that agreeing “in principle” means nothing. It means absolutely nothing! The nine points have to be IMPLEMENTED, which will never happen, hence the UNFC members should never sign the NCA. Here are the nine points.

1. Bilateral ceasefire agreement between the government-military and the UNFC; 2. To build a federal union with result achieved from 21CPC; 3. Agreement of tripartite dialogue composition; 4. Drafting and promulgation of constitutional law based on the outcome of 21CPC;

5. Advance agreement on Military Codes of Conduct (CoC) and monitoring on Terms of Reference (ToR); 6. Formation of military Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) with representatives from government, EAOs and international figures acceptable to both parties; 7. Formation of a neutral, enforcement tribunal for NCA involving domestic and international law experts and judges that are acceptable to both parties;

8. Developmental projects to be tackled according to Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), in cooperation with the public and the EAOs; and 9. Signing of the NCA after the above points are in agreement. (Source: via Kachinland News, UNFC Statement – December 13, 2016)

Point 1 is to declare an actual on the ground ceasefire, which the military dictatorship will never, ever do. What the hell is going on? Why are the UNFC members acting like there is progress, when for the only party that matters, the Tatmadaw, there is none? If they are just “negotiating,” trying to be nice, that’s one thing. But the alliance members should never sign anything until an agreement that truly protects their peoples, the ethnic nationalities of Burma, is achieved.
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Campaign on the “Union Day” of Myanmar

Feb. 12, 2017

Campaign in front of Myanmar Embassy in Seoul

We are a group of ethnic people from Myanmar and a collection of other human rights activists. Today, we are holding a democracy and ethnic freedom rights demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy. This is in commemoration of Union Day, which started in Panglong Town, Shan State, Myanmar on February 12, 1947. 

The “Union Day” is the birthday of the Myanmar nation, which was formally formed a multi-nations state for the first time. On this day, 23 representatives from four territories, which comprised of the Shan state, the Kachin state, the Chin state and mainland Burma, signed an agreement in Panglong to form the Union of Myanmar. To honor this historical agreement, all Myanmar people celebrated the day as a “Union Day” across the nation on February 12th every year. This day is the most important day in modern Myanmar’s history. 

These four territories are also representative of almost the entire territory of the current Myanmar region as drawn in the country’s map. Not only did the Panglong agreement pave the way for the formation of the Myanmar nation, it also enabled the country to gain independence from the British emperor. 

Significantly, the Panglong agreement guaranteed the people freedom in both the ethnic minority territories and mainland Burma, and included such things as equality and justice, unity and sharing together resources for the country’s prosperity. The core issue of the Panglong agreement was to setup “a multi-nations state” to be a peaceful and prosperous country. 

However, the country’s successive rulers, Myanmar military governments, have never implemented the Panglong agreement and have not respected the “Union Day” since 1962, when the country fell under the military government’s rule completely. From that time, the military abolished the Panglong agreement and the “Union Day” has never been honored in its original spirit since then. Instead, the military government wrongly represents “Union Day” and misleads the people from the real essence of its goal. 

In 2008, the military government deliberately drafted constitution in order to keep military control over the country, which is against the principle of the Panglong agreement, such as a 25% limit on seats for the military in parliament. Several ethnic groups requested that the draft constitution be a genuine one ahead of its creation. However, the military government flatly rejected this proposal. Military government continued conflict with ethnic minority in peripheral areas and human rights violation. It is clear that the Myanmar military’s attitude has been shown to be deceitful with regards to its country’s people and before the international community. 

Therefore, we, the All Ethnics Democracy and Human Rights Network (AEDHRN), demand that the Myanmar government: 

1. Stop the military interfering in civil government. 2. Eradicate the constitution which guaranteed 25% military representation in the parliament and amend the constitution according to democratic and international human rights principle. 3. Immediately cease its human rights violations and religious repression in the peripheral of the country. 4. Prevent from extremists crime against innocent people and activits. [Even heavily militarized country failed to prevent extremists crime in the downtown city, e.g. U Ko Ni case]. 5. Relief the country from economic oppression.

Furthermore, we ask that the Korean people and the international community show staunch support the end of ethnic repression in Burma/Myanmar.
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Korea-Dokdo-Love held a campaign

Dec 27, 2016

Members of Korea-Dokdo-Love Campaign

Korea-Dokdo-Love members held a brief campaign in front of the International Migrant Center in Wongokdong, Ansan City. The group also protests against leaders of Imjin Japanese Invasion to Korea, Japanese annexation of Korea.

In Korean, the first invasion (1592–1593) is called the "Japanese (倭 |wae|) Disturbance (亂 |ran|) of Imjin" (1592 being an imjin year in the sexagenary cycle). The second invasion (1597–1598) is called the "Second War of Jeong-yu" (丁酉). Collectively, the invasions are referred to as the Imjin War.

Hwang Ineon and Korea-Dokdo-Love Chairman Oh Sunggon(R)

In Japanese, the war is called Bunroku no eki (文禄の役). Bunroku referring to the Japanese era under the Emperor Go-Yōzei, spanning the period from 1592 to 1596. The second invasion (1597–1598) is called "Keichō no eki" (慶長の役). During the Edo period (17–19th centuries), the war was also called "Kara iri" (唐入り "entry into China").

The total military and civilian casualties, as estimated by the late 19th-century historian, Geo H. Jones, were one million, and total combat casualties were estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000. A total of over 185,000 Korean, and an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 captives were taken by the Japanese throughout the war.

Members of Korea-Dokdo-Love having a meeting and lunch

Korea-Dokdo-Love members also had a lunch followed by a group meeting. They shared their opinion on Korea-Dokdo-Love, and make a plan to create a permanent office in 2017 and also a plan to open museum with each embassy event.
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