8 March 2005


RSF pays tribute to women journalists under threat

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(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 7 March 2005 RSF press release:

International Women's Day

Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to women journalists under threat worldwide

As the world celebrates International Women's Day on 8 March, a French reporter is being held hostage in Iraq and four others are imprisoned elsewhere. Five women journalists have been killed doing their jobs since 8 March 2004.

Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to these women journalists, cyberdissents and Internet-users who, risking their lives and freedom, have carried on, for us, their work of informing the public. "We call on the international community to campaign for the release of women held in Iraq, Rwanda, the Maldives, Turkey and Iran. Most cases of murders of women journalists have been carried out with complete impunity. Governments must act for justice to be done."

Thirty-eight of the 636 journalists killed doing their jobs since 1992 have been women.

A woman held hostage in Iraq

Florence Aubenas, 43, veteran reporter for the French daily Libération, was abducted on 5 January 2005 with her Iraqi fixer, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi. She had been in Baghdad since 16 December 2004. An award-winning journalist, Florence Aubenas has covered conflicts for the French daily since 1986, in Rwanda, Kosovo, Algeria and Afghanistan.

Three journalists deprived of their liberty

Young Austrian journalist Sandra Bakutz was arrested by Turkish police in Istanbul on 10 February 2005, accused of "membership in a banned organisation". She faces 10-15 years in prison. She had travelled to Turkey to cover the trial of around 100 extreme left militants.

Fathimath Nisreen, 25, has been deprived of her freedom since January 2002 for working with the online newsletter Sandhaanu, which had criticised human rights abuses in the Maldives. She was condemned to 10 years imprisonment for defamation. She has since been exiled to Feeail Island where she is serving a reduced sentence of five years banishment.

Police in Iran on 2 March 2005 arrested weblogger Najmeh Oumidparva (http://www.faryadebeseda.persianblog.com - Dawn of Freedom), wife of weblogger Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi, who is also imprisoned. She is three months pregnant and has been told she could spend ten days in prison. Days before her arrest, she had posted on her weblog a message written by her husband shortly before his arrest in which he claimed the right to free expression and said he was "waiting for police handcuffs".

In Rwanda, Tatiana Mukakibibi, presenter and producer of entertainment programmes for Radio Rwanda, has been imprisoned since October 1996. She worked with the priest André Sibomana, former editor of Rwanda's oldest newspaper Kinyamateka. She is being held in extremely harsh conditions in Ntenyo, Gitarama. She has been accused of murder but Reporters Without Borders has been able to show that there is no concrete evidence against her.

In the last few months, some dozen women journalists have been arrested worldwide. They include cyberjournalist Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, who has spent a month in prison in Iran for contributing to reformist websites. Her colleague, Fereshteh Ghazi, was imprisoned between 28 October and 7 December 2004 for articles she wrote. She came out of prison physically and mentally weakened.

Women journalists killed in Somalia, Belarus, Nicaragua and Iraq

Kate Peyton, 39, correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Somalia, was fatally wounded on 9 February 2005, when unknown gunmen fired a bullet into her back as she was entering a Mogadishu hotel to meet the speaker of the transitional parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.

Iraqi journalist Raeda Mohammed Wageh Wazzan, 40, was found dead on 25 February 2005 in Mosul, northern Iraq, five days after being kidnapped by masked men. A presenter on the regional public television Iraqiya, she died from a bullet wound to the head. An Iraqi group linked to al-Queda claimed responsibility for her murder but it has not been possible to check the validity of their claim.

Journalist Veronika Cherkasova was found murdered at her home in Minsk in October 2004, while she was investigating arms sales from Belarus to Iraq while it was under Saddam Hussein. Despite evidence to the contrary, police insist on treating it as a crime of passion. The investigator has been harassing her 15-year-old son.

In Nicaragua, María José Bravo, 26, was killed in November 2004, while covering clashes close to a polling station.

In Iran, the legal system is still obstructing the process of bringing the murderers of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, 54, to justice. She died in Tehran on 11 July 2003, after officials interrogating her in a Tehran prison dealt vicious blows to her head.

Women journalists harassed because of their investigative reporting

Reporter Anna Politkovskaya, of the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta, has suffered constant threats and obstruction to her investigations, particularly in Chechnya. In September 2004, she was poisoned, probably by Russian secret services, as she tried to reach Beslan to cover the school massacre there.

In the United States, New York Times reporter Judith Miller faces up to 18 months in prison for "contempt of court" after refusing to reveal her sources in connection with her revelations about White House manoeuvring.

Independent Colombian journalist Claudia Julieta Duque has received death threats since September 2004 because of her reporting on the murder of journalist and humorist Jaime Garzón.

Women who fight for husbands who have been imprisoned or disappeared

In Cuba, The Women in White, wives of the 75 political prisoners arrested in March 2003, demonstrate silently every Sunday in the streets of Havana to demand the release of their husbands.

Wives of imprisoned journalists in China and Burma regularly brave official harassment to visit their husbands, bringing them food and medicine that the authorities deny them. They also risk reprisals by speaking to the international press. Zeng Li, the wife of cyberdissident Huang Qi lost her job and her home as a result of police harassment.

In Sierra Leone, Isatou Kamara, whose husband has languished in prison in Freetown since October 2004, never stops updating international organisations about her journalist husband's plight.

In France, Osange Kieffer and Fabienne Nérac, whose husbands are missing in Côte d'Ivoire and Iraq, respectively, continue the fight to find them. "Everyone tends to want me to accept that he has been killed, but I do not agree. I must continue fighting. I need proof, and so do my children," said the wife of Fred Nérac, who went missing near Basra in March 2003.


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