Global Free Speech Update
Argentina: President Christina Frenandez is pushing a media reform bill that would give state broadcasters and non-profits organizations a better opportunity to compete with private companies for broadcast space. The bill would also limit the total number of licenses a company can hold, and would preserve space for programming produced in Argentina. Fernandez claims an interest in promoting broadcast diversity, but critics suspect it is her attempt to squeeze out private broadcasters who have grown increasingly critical of the government.
Iraq: Amnesty International has given its Freedom of Expression award to Palace at the End, a play about the Iraq war written by Canadian playwrite Judith Thompson. A series of monologues offer three different perspectives of the War, including one based on the experiences of American soldier Lynndie England, and another by UN weapons inspector David Kelly. The NYT Review is here.
Somalia: As if things could get any worse for those living in Somalia, the government just initiated a state of martial law that could make it even more dangerous for journalists. Under martial law imposed in 2007, journalists were prohibited from "spreading propaganda," interviewing government opponents, reporting on matters of national security, and holding 'unlawful' demonstrations. Dozens of journalists were tortured and media houses closed down. The National Union of Somali Journalists issued a press release last week, asking the government to respect a right to the free flow of information during the three month period of martial law.
Sudan: Beyond the outrage of sentencing women who wear pants (gasp!) to 40 lashes, several journalists who covered last month's court case of Lubna al-Hussein and her co-defendants were arrested, and columnist Amal Habbani was fined for writing about the case in "Lubna: A Case of Subduing Woman's Body." An added note on Lubna: she could have invoked immunity as a UN worker and avoided prosecution, but decided insisted instead on continuing the case to call attention to the government's deplorable human rights practices.
Peru: Lawmakers are considering a measure that would require a "correction" of any "inaccurate or insulting statement" published in print, broadcast or electronic form. I'm not sure how one would correct a statement that is insulting but happens also to be true, but it would have to be done within 3 days, as opposed to 10, which appears to be the case under the present system.