CJFE, RSF raise press-freedom concerns as G8 Summit nears


As leaders of the world's wealthiest nations prepare to gather for the G8 Summit in Alberta, Canada, this week, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) are raising concerns over security officials' refusal to grant local journalists access to the summit and press-freedom violations in Africa.

CJFE says the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the agency responsible for security at the summit, has rejected several requests from journalists to access the summit's media centre. The media centre is located in Calgary, a one-hour drive from the town of Kananaskis, where the summit is being held.

The RCMP is also refusing to specify its reasons for turning down the requests, inviting journalists instead to use the Access to Information Act ­ a process that can take weeks or months, notes CJFE. "That invitation constitutes a cynical abuse of process, coming at a time when the federal government is working to make Access to information harder to use," the group says.

Meanwhile, RSF is calling on G8 Leaders preparing to meet a delegation of African leaders from the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative to establish concrete measures aimed at improving press freedom in Africa. NEPAD's stated goals are to promote peace, security, democracy, proper governance, respect for human rights and sound economic management. RSF says these goals are unachievable "in the absence of a free, independent and pluralistic press" and are "bound to fail as long as its member states are not exemplary models for freedom of information."

The group singles out five countries ­ Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tunisia, Rwanda and Gabon ­ where press- freedom violations occur frequently and with impunity. In Ethiopia, three journalists have been detained for months after criticising the government while a dozen others are expected to be charged in courts, RSF says. Conditions in Rwanda ­ where journalists are subject to threats and harassment ­ make self-censorship "extremely widespread." All radio and television stations are also government-controlled.

In Tunisia, the few independent journalists who continue to work in the country face increasing pressure from the government, RSF says. Authorities have established an "Internet blockade" and in the latest incident, Zouhair Yahyaoui, founder of online magazine TUNeZINE.com has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for "circulating false information."

In Gabon, the only opposition newspaper has been banned while five journalists in Cameroon have been detained in the last 16 months for exposing government corruption.

For more details, see www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=2654.
To see CJFE's press release on the RCMP's actions, go to http://www.cjfe.org/releases/2002/rcmp.html
Story from: IFEX