Archive for the ‘freedom’ Category

Refugee, Immigrant, U.S. Senator To Retire

December 2, 2008

This man is one of our true favorites at Peace and Freedom. A former refugee, immigrant and a true man of strength and character, he has seved his nation and mankind in coutless ways.  Vietnamese immigrants and those locked in Communist jails were among those he stood up for…. He is truly “the embodiment of the American Dream.” 

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S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, who has struggled to boost his approval ratings because of close ties to President George W. Bush, announced Tuesday he will not seek a second term in 2010.

His seat was widely seen as vulnerable in two years, but Martinez, a Republican, rejected suggestions he faced difficult re-election prospects in a state won last month by Democrat Barack Obama.

“I’ve faced much tougher obstacles in my life,” Martinez said. “My decision is not based on re-election prospects, but on what on what I want to do with the next eight years of my life.”

By BRENDAN FARRINGTON and MARK WANGRIN, Associated Press Writers

Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., speaks at the Republican National ... 
Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 4, 2008. Martinez , who has struggled to boost his approval rating since taking office, will not seek a second term in 2010, a state Republican party official said Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008.(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Martinez, 62, was elected in 2004 after serving as the U.S. secretary for Housing and Urban Development during the Bush administration. He served as general chairman of the Republican National Committee for 10 months, resigning in October 2007.

Martinez was born in Cuba. At the age of 15, he fled to America as part of a Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Pedro Pan. Catholic charitable groups provided Martinez, who was alone and spoke virtually no English, a temporary home at two youth facilities. He then lived with two foster families, with whom he remains close. He was reunited with his family in Orlando in 1966.

In appointing Martinez in 2001, Bush said he was “the embodiment of the American Dream.”

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Dalai Lama on Sex: More trouble Than its Worth

November 29, 2008

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, on Friday said sex spelt fleeting satisfaction and trouble later, while chastity offered a better life and “more freedom.”

“Sexual pressure, sexual desire, actually I think is short period satisfaction and often, that leads to more complication,” the Dalai Lama told reporters in a Lagos hotel, speaking in English without a translator.

He said conjugal life caused “too much ups and downs.

–AFP
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, gestures as ... 
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, gestures as he speaks to the media after arriving in Prague November 29, 2008.REUTERS/David W Cerny (CZECH REPUBLIC)

“Naturally as a human being … some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence to make comprehension that those couples always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide, murder cases,” the Dalai Lama said.

He said the “consolation” in celibacy is that although “we miss something, but at the same time, compare whole life, it’s better, more independence, more freedom.”

Considered a Buddhist Master exempt from the religion’s wheel of death and reincarnation, the Dalai Lama waxed eloquent on the Buddhist credo of non-attachment.

“Too much attachment towards your children, towards your partner,” was “one of the obstacle or hindrance of peace of mind,” he said.

Revered by his followers as a god-king, the Dalai Lama arrived in Lagos on Friday on a three-day visit following an invitation from a foundation to attend a conference. He has made no political speeches in the west African country.

He leaves Friday night for the Czech Republic and then on to Brussels to address the European Parliament before heading to Poland, where he is due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The 73-year-old Nobel Peace laureate has been a mainstay on the diplomatic stage ever since he fled his native land for neighbouring India in 1959.

Still based in northern India, the Dalai Lama has increasingly been in the spotlight since protests in Tibet turned violent in March this year, just months before the Chinese capital Beijing hosted the Summer Olympic Games.

Regarded by his many supporters outside China as a visionary in the vein of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his accent on non-violence to achieve change.

However, he is reviled by the Chinese government, which has branded him a “monster” and accused him of trying to split the nation.

Free Media? Russia Investigates Financial Crisis Reporting

November 19, 2008

Prosecutors are launching inquiries across Russia against media reporting on the financial crisis in a bid to stem growing concern about its impact, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“It’s not censorship. We’re just checking how reliable the information is,” a press official from the prosecutor general’s office was quoted as saying.

The official gave the example of unreliable reports about a bankruptcy causing a run on deposits from a bank in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok.

AFP

File picture shows a vendor arranging newspapers at her stand ... 
File picture shows a vendor arranging newspapers at her stand in Moscow. Prosecutors are launching inquiries across Russia against media reporting on the financial crisis in a bid to stem growing concern about its impact, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.(AFP/File)

Regional prosecutors have been ordered to check local media “in connection with measures taken by the Russian government to improve the situation in the financial sector and other sectors of the economy,” Kommersant said.

Investigators in Sverdlovsk, a key industrial region in the Ural mountains, are checking local media for attempts “to destabilise the situation in the region,” a spokeswoman for the local prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying.

“If we establish that the law has been violated, there could be disciplinary measures against the guilty, including criminal punishment,” she said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081119/bs_afp/finance
economyrussiamediacrime_081119081653

Obama Election Sparks Discussion of Race, Leaders Other Lands

November 12, 2008
A Tehran news weekly was shut down by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week after featuring President-elect Barack Obama on its front cover and asking the question, “Why doesn’t Iran have an Obama?”
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Fox News
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The news magazine Shahrvand-e Emrouz [Today’s Citizen] went too far for the hardline president, who quickly had Iran’s Press Supervisory Board ban the publication, the Times of London reported.

The closure of the propular reformist weekly suggests that Ahmadinejad is determined to silence his critics as he prepares for elections next June that could hand him a second-four year term.

The Iranian media has blamed numerous problems in recent weeks on Ahmadinejad. His expansionary budget is blamed for rampant inflation, oil prices have plummeted, aides have admitted that he suffers from strain and exhaustion, and an embarrassing forgery scandal claimed the scalp of his interior minister last week, the Times reported.

This week, however, Ahmadinejad collected support from some newspapers for his message of congratulations to Obama, which several newspaper commentaries on Tuesday presented an important opportunity.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an official ...

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi
Read the rest:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,449945,00.html
 
 Could Britain Have a Black PM?

From the BBC

Now the US has elected its first black president, how long until the UK has a black or Asian prime minister?

 

When Barack Obama claimed that his story could only have happened in America, he might have been looking across the Atlantic for evidence.

The odds of a black or Asian person taking the keys to 10 Downing Street any time soon are slim.

Tony Blair acknowledged as much in 2001, when he suggested the US was ahead of the UK in having people from ethnic minorities occupying some of the top political posts.

Mr Blair was mindful of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice at the heart of the White House, but probably hadn’t even heard of Obama.

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7714056.stm

 

 

 

Rights groups push China on press freedom for local media

October 18, 2008

Rights groups and media experts on Saturday gave a cautious welcome to China’s decision to allow foreign reporters greater freedom and urged Beijing to extend the same rights to domestic journalists.

By Marianne Barriaux, AFP, Beijing

China announced late on Friday that greater freedoms introduced for the Olympic Games for foreign reporters would be extended, giving them the right to interview consenting Chinese without first seeking government permission.

The rules were first introduced on January 1 last year as part of China’s Olympic media freedom commitments, but had been due to run out on Friday.

Domestic journalists, however, were not affected by the rules and were still laden with strict reporting restrictions — a fact deplored by rights groups and media experts.

Human Rights in China, a New-York based activist group, urged the Chinese government to also extend these freedoms to domestic reporters.

“The Chinese government should answer the calls of its own people,” said group executive director Sharon Hom.

“It should respect its own constitution which guarantees press freedom, a right that many Chinese journalists and writers have paid — and are paying — a great price to exercise.”

David Bandurski, a researcher for the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, said the issue of press freedom in China was determined by domestic media policy rather than rules governing foreign reporters’ work.

“This is not going to have any appreciable impact on domestic journalists,” he said.

“This is really about China’s international image. China has decided that the international benefits they are going to get in terms of their image of openness are sufficient to outweigh any negative coverage they might get.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081018/wl_afp/china
mediarightsoly2008_081018094742

China extends Olympic media freedoms for foreign press

October 17, 2008

China has extended the openness rule for international media put in place for the Olympics…but domestic news people will still be under tight restrictions…

Chinese journalists from Xinhua News Agency work at their office ... 
Above: Chinese journalists from Xinhua News Agency work at their office in the Main Press Centre (MPC) in Beijing in August 2008. China on Friday announced it had extended rules introduced for the Olympics allowing foreign reporters greater freedoms, but there was no easing of restrictions for domestic press.(AFP/File/Jewel Samad)

BEIJING (AFP) – China on Friday announced it had extended rules introduced for the Olympics allowing foreign reporters greater freedoms, but there was no easing of restrictions for domestic press.

The move means that foreign journalists will continue to be able to carry out interviews and travel around China with greater ease, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters at a late night press conference.

“This is not only a big step forward for China in opening up to the outside world, for the foreign journalists it’s also a big step,” Liu said.

The previous rules, introduced on January 1 last year as part of China’s Olympic commitments to give foreign reporters more freedoms, were set to expire on Friday, two months after the end of the Beijing Games.

As was the case during the Olympic period, foreign reporters will have the freedom to conduct interviews with consenting Chinese, rather than having first to seek government permission, Liu said.

Journalists will also be allowed to report outside the city in which they are officially based, rather than having to get authorisation.

However, reporters will continue to have to seek permission from local authorities to gain access to the sensitive Himalayan region of Tibet, where the military quelled protests against Chinese rule in March.

Liu also confirmed that, as was previously the case, the rules did not apply to domestic media and Chinese nationals would remain barred from working for foreign media organisations as journalists.

“We have to say that the conditions are not mature for Chinese citizens to become journalists alongside foreign journalists,” Liu said.

China’s ruling Communist Party seeks to maintain strict controls on the flow of information within the country, and the domestic press are kept on a tight leash.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081017/wl_afp/china
mediarightsoly2008_081017180029

How free are reporters, the media in China?

October 17, 2008

Rules that gave foreign reporters greater freedom during the Beijing Olympics are due to expire. The BBC asked a range of reporters in China what difference the rules have made to their working lives.

By James Miles
The Economist and the BBC
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“It was mainly a psychological difference, we had been widely flouting the rules before, leaving Beijing to report in the provinces without seeking advance approval as was officially required.

“So when the new regulations were introduced, we were still travelling just as much but without the fear of the knock on the door by the police, without the need to change from hotel to hotel to remain under the radar screen.

“But we were still frequently encountering local officials who either didn’t know or said they didn’t know about the new Olympic regulations or were determined to ignore them.

nervous policeman in Tiananmen Square
Chinese policemen used to be nervous of foreign journalists

“There was one remarkable incident, shortly after the new regulations were introduced early last year, when I went to Henan province.

“As I expected, I was stopped by local officials. But I called the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, and remarkably, the local officials apologised to me and disappeared, leaving me with startled villagers who said this was the first time they’d ever managed to openly speak with foreign journalists.

“But since then, I’ve encountered the same kind of difficulties as before the regulations. A few days ago, I was out in the western region of Xinjiang, and was detained for several hours by local police.

“There are key parts in the country that remain very difficult to get into, and the most obvious one is Tibet. Tibet wasn’t mentioned specifically in the Olympic regulations, in theory they apply to the whole of China, but orally Chinese officials said Tibet remained excluded and we still had to seek permission.”

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7676013.stm

Chinese paramilitary policeman

Vietnam Convicts, Imprisons “Whisle Blowing” Reporter Who Found Government Corruption

October 15, 2008

by Frank Zeller

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam jailed a reporter for two years Wednesday for his coverage of state corruption in a court case that has sent a chill through the communist country‘s media industry.

Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at ... 
Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at Hanoi’s people court. Chien was sentenced to two years in prison for his coverage of a major state corruption scandal and also jailed his police source for one year.(AFP)

The Hanoi court also imprisoned for one year a senior police officer who had provided information on the graft scandal to the media, but it allowed a police general and a second journalist to walk free.

The jailed reporter, Nguyen Viet Chien, almost three years ago helped pry open the graft case, which centred on a transport ministry unit whose officials had squandered foreign aid on gambling and high living.

The revelations led to a series of arrests and moved anti-corruption to the centre of government policy, while Vietnam earned international plaudits for allowing its state-controlled media unprecedented freedoms.

Then, in May of this year, police arrested two of the journalists who led the coverage on the explosive case — Chien of the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper, and Nguyen Van Hai of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) daily.

The deputy editors of the two popular papers were replaced and the Communist Party‘s ideology committee has since revoked the press credentials of several more journalists who had jumped to their colleagues’ defence.

On Wednesday, the Hanoi People’s Court found both journalists guilty of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

Chien, a 56-year-old award winning journalist who maintained his innocence throughout the two-day trial, was sentenced to two years in prison, a term that was backdated to the day of his arrest.

Hai, 33, who admitted to some unintended errors in his reporting and at one stage during the hearings broke down in tears, received a more lenient two-year non-custodial term and was allowed to walk free.

The court also convicted the two senior police officers who had given information to the press during the 2005-2006 investigation into the emerging graft scandal in the so-called Project Management Unit (PMU) 18.

Retired police General Pham Xuan Quac, 62, who headed the investigation, received only an official warning, but Lieutenant Colonel Dinh Van Huynh, 50, was sentenced to one year’s jail, also including time served.

Prosecutors argued that the journalists’ reports contained errors and bias and had tarnished the image of officials, party cadres, Vietnam and its leadership, ahead of a five-yearly party congress in early 2006.

The judge, in sentencing, reiterated the prosecution case that “hostile forces, reactionaries and political opportunists” had taken advantage of the scandal to attack Vietnam’s state and party leadership while “stirring up activities to disturb security and order” ahead of the party meeting.

Chien said that until his arrest he had never received a reprimand, defamation suit or complaint from a reader.

“When PMU 18 was discovered, the whole political system of this country was focused on the issue,” he added.

The scandal led to the 2006 resignation of then transport minister Dao Dinh Binh and the arrest of his deputy, Nguyen Viet Tien, while eight PMU 18 officials were later jailed for illegal gambling and corruption.

The deputy minister has since been freed and cleared of all charges.

Foreign diplomats and correspondents were allowed to follow the two-day court proceedings via closed-circuit television, while many more Vietnamese journalists waited on the street outside the court house.

Media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has labelled the trial the state’s “revenge” against two “daring journalists who revealed embarrassing cases and brought greater freedom to the Vietnamese press.”

“It is an insult to justice,” RSF said. “The trial is at the epicentre of an earthquake that has destroyed the still fragile basis of a more independent press wanting to play its role of challenging established authority.”

Vietnam journalists on trial for exposing state corruption

October 14, 2008

by Frank Zeller

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam on Tuesday put on trial two reporters who helped expose state corruption, in a case seen as a test on the limits of media freedom in the communist country.

A man sits reading a newspaper in downtown Hanoi on October ... 
A man sits reading a newspaper in downtown Hanoi on October 3. Vietnam on Tuesday put on trial two reporters who helped expose state corruption in a case seen as a test of media freedoms in the communist country.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)

The two newspaper journalists each face up to seven years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” in the Hanoi People’s Court hearing.

They helped expose a major graft scandal in a transport ministry unit, known as PMU 18, where officials pilfered development funds meant for roads and bridges and bet much of it on European football.

The aggressive reporting in a country where all media, and the courts, remain under the control of the one-party state was praised by foreign observers and spurred state promises of a major anti-corruption drive.

The scandal led to the resignation in 2006 of then transport minister Dao Dinh Binh and the arrest of his deputy, Nguyen Viet Tien, while eight PMU 18 officials were jailed last year for illegal gambling and corruption.

The case, however, took an unexpected turn when Tien was freed from prison last October and cleared of all charges in March.

In May police arrested the two journalists — Nguyen Van Hai, 33, of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) daily, and Nguyen Viet Chien, 56, of the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper — initially accusing them of “abuse of power.”

On trial with them are two senior police officers accused of feeding them information….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081014/wl_asia_afp/vietnam
justicemediacorruption_081014072610

NKorea defectors drop leaflets condemning leader

October 14, 2008

By KWANG-TAE KIM, Associated Press Writer

YEONGJONG ISLAND, South Korea – The North Korean trembled when he spotted the leaflet that had fluttered down from a balloon dispatched from the South. He snatched it, stuffed it into his pocket and ran to the bathroom to read it.

Park Sang-hak says he read that slip of vinyl — which bragged about the good life North Korean defectors were enjoying in South Korea — more than 15 times in disbelief.
An unidentified North Korean defector prepares to launch a huge ... 
An unidentified North Korean defector prepares to launch a huge helium balloon containing some leaflets, seen at bottom of balloon, condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during an anti-North Korea campaign in water near Yeongjong Island, South Korea. Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. The group of North Korean defectors sent airborne leaflets to their former communist homeland on Saturday, a move expected to further anger North Korea amid lingering tensions on the divided Peninsula.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Fifteen years later, Park is on the other side of the border. He defected to South Korea in 1999 and now helps launch propaganda balloons filled with leaflets denouncing the Stalinist regime.

The 40-foot balloons — fueled by hydrogen and shaped like missiles — are the most direct way to reach people living in one of the world’s most isolated nations. Few North Koreans have access to cell phones or the Internet, and millions have no way of getting in contact with relatives living in South Korea.

For decades, the rival Koreas waged a fierce ideological battle using leaflets, loudspeakers and radio broadcasts across the heavily fortified border. At the height of the propoganda war, South Korea’s military loudspeakers blared propaganda 20 hours a day, according to an official from the psychological unit of the South Korean army. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he was not authorized to speak to media.

But then the two Koreas embarked on a path to reconciliation that led to the first landmark summit between their leaders in 2000. They agreed in 2004 to end the propaganda.

Still, activists and defectors continue to send balloons filled with leaflets across the border, despite pleas from Seoul to stop at a time when inter-Korean relations are at their lowest point in years. The activists hope to spark a rebellion to overthrow Kim Jong Il.

Last week, the North threatened to expel South Koreans working at two joint projects north of the border and warned of “new military clashes” if leaflets criticizing Kim — an illegal offense in North Korea — continue.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200
81014/ap_on_re_as/as_koreas_propaganda_l
eaflets;_ylt=Aih.TRB4r3p7APVM6h5W96Ks0NUE