On 23 June, Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of the "Friday Times", was barred from travelling to London, United Kingdom to receive an Amnesty International human rights award, report Reporters sans frontières (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and ARTICLE 19. Sethi was to receive a special award for Journalists Under Threat. The three groups note that this latest move is part of a pattern in which the authorities have harassed Sethi and other critical journalists. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told Sethi he could not leave the country because he "was on the government's Exit Control List of people barred from leaving Pakistan." His passport was seized and no explanation was given. Sethi was arrested by Pakistani intelligence services on 8 May, provoking an international outcry. He was held until 2 June when the authorities dropped the charges "of suspected links with the Indian intelligence agency." Sethi and several colleagues were threatened by Pakistani officials after he gave an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for a documentary about corruption scandals in the Pakistani government.
At the 66th International PEN Congress, held in Warsaw from 15-20 June, writers at risk worldwide were praised for their courage. The Chair of PEN's Writers in Prison Committee, Moris Farhi, said that writers have not sacrificed courage in the face of adversity, but rather they have used it as "a tool for survival." The PEN Congress passed a resolution condemning the killing of five writers and intellectuals in Iran in late 1998 and noted that 50 Iranian writers demonstrated great courage by writing open letters asking authorities to investigate the killings. The PEN Congress also passed a resolution on the arrest of Albanian poet, Flora Brovina, who was taken by Serb police from her home in Pristina in April and is now being held in Serbia. Resolutions were passed condemning the detention of writers in Turkey and Uzbekistan, in addition to the imprisonment and other forms of repression against the media in Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Vietnam, Syria and China. Other resolutions were passed criticising trial proceedings against environmental writers in Russia; calling for justice in the case of Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, executed in 1995; against death threats in Colombia; and against the closure of a Kurdish language TV station based in the UK.
Freedom of the press is suffering in Colombia but the government has promised to investigate, according to Reporters sans frontières (RSF) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). On 23 June, RSF wrote to Colombian President Andrés Pastrana to encourage him to follow through with his promises to investigate crimes against journalists that have been carried out with impunity. "Since 1995, 18 journalists have been assassinated, nine media outlets have been the victims of bombings or attempted bombings, 20 media professionals have been kidnapped, at least 15 others have been threatened, and two others have had to leave the country and go into exile," reports RSF. According to the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (la Fundacion para la Libertad de Prensa,) in the last 20 years, 120 journalists have been killed in Colombia. At the Rio Summit between the European Union and Latin America being held on 28 and 29 June in Brazil, RSF called for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists.
Cambodia's small English-language press is contributing to free expression in the country, reports the International Press Institute's "IPI Report" (Second Quarter 1999.) Born under the auspices of the United Nations in the early 90s after decades of war, the "Cambodia Daily" and the "Phnom Penh Post" are the only two United States-owned independent newspapers in Southeast Asia. David Lamb writes that readership for both of the English-language papers comprises government officials, diplomats, journalists, investors, policy-makers and English-speaking Cambodians, both in the country and abroad.
The United Kingdom's new Freedom of Information Bill is not open enough, says a report by ARTICLE 19, published on 22 June. The Report, "The Public's Right to Know: Principles on Freedom of Information Legislation", provides "a set of international and comparative standards on access to information held by public bodies." Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said, "The strength of the public's right to know is a good indication of the health of a democracy. International comparison shows that this Bill is overbroad and overcautious. It is even less progressive than draft freedom of information laws recently published by emerging democracies such as Moldova and Bulgaria. It includes broader exemptions than laws which have been operating successfully for almost 20 years in countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia." The UK government purports that the Bill is "a radical measure containing clear and robust access rights for those requesting information and a strong enforcement regime," says ARTICLE 19.
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To mark the International Day of Support for Torture Victims on 26 June, Reporters sans frontières (RSF) issued a report entitled "Burma, Sudan, Syria and Turkey: torture as a form of repression". The report says nine journalists were tortured by the police in Turkey in 1998, and journalist Aydogan Inal was tortured in March 1999. In Syria, 11 imprisoned journalists were "victims of typical forms of ill-treatment," says RSF. In May, Mohammed Abdel Sid, Khartoum correspondent of the Arabic-language daily "Asharq Al-Awsat", was burnt on the feet while confined. In Burma, Win Tin, editor of the daily "Hanthawathi", was kept in a dog kennel in prison for several weeks in 1995. RSF also notes that torture has been practised in Zimbabwe, where journalists Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto of the "Sunday Standard" were tortured in prison for two days in January, suffering burns and psychological abuse. In addition, RSF remarks, "Under General Sani Abacha's dictatorship in Nigeria, at least four journalists were jailed in inhuman and degrading conditions."