Crisis: International

US gov’t muzzles scientists
TESTIMONIES from several witnesses, including former government scientists, heard at the House of Representatives’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Jan. 30 described how their scientific reports about climate change were altered and watered down following pressure from the Bush administration.
A recent study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project revealed widespread political interference in federal climate science.
In the study, hundreds of federal scientists said they experienced at least 435 instances of political interference in their work over the past five years, including pressure to eliminate words like “climate change,” “global warming” or other similar terms from a variety of communications.
The incident has moved various organizations, which include the Pen American Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the American Association of University Professors, to unite in calling for more congressional monitoring of the censorship of government scientists in the United States.—PEN/IFEX

Thai TV station faces bankruptcy, gov’t takeover

THE MILITARY-installed government in Thailand reversed on March 7 its earlier decision to suspend broadcasting of iTV, pending legal settlement of the takeover and liquidation of the station’s assets.
Premier Gen. Surayuth Chulanont instructed the Prime Minister’s Office which awarded iTV its concession, not to take the station off-air while it is going through an ownership transition  and to let the state public relations department run it meanwhile.
The decision came after mounting public pressure orchestrated by a defiant iTV following the March 6 suspension of its broadcast for failing to pay license fees.
The Central Administrative Court in Thailand turned down on Feb. 21 a petition of iTV Plc, the operator of iTV television station, for an urgent hearing on its request that the court temporarily block the Prime Minister’s Office from revoking its broadcast concession if it fails to pay a 100 billion baht fine by March 6, according to a report by the Bangkok Post.
iTV, once renowned for its hard-hitting news stories and investigative journalism, is the only station in Thailand not owned by the government or military.—SEAPA/IFEX

News blackout in Guinea

THE WEST African country of Guinea has been facing information blackout since Feb. 12, after President Lansana Conté declared martial law in response to widespread protests calling for his resignation.
Reporters Without Borders reports that only one music radio station, Nostalgie FM, is still broadcasting in the capital, Conakry. The public broadcaster, Radiodiffusion Télévision Guinéenne, is airing only those press releases issued by the army.
No newspaper has been published in Conakry since martial law was declared. Street vendors are also refusing to distribute newspapers for fear of violating army orders. The Internet has been inaccessible through Guinea’s four Internet Service Providers since Feb. 13. Internet shops are closed and their owners say they could be raided and ransacked by the army if they reopen.—IFEX

Cuban journalist sentenced to 22 months

ROBERTO de Jesús Guerra Pérez, a correspondent of the Miami-based based Payolibre and Nueva Prensa Cubana websites and the US government-funded Radio Martí, received from a Havana Court on Feb. 27 a 22-month prison sentence on charges of “disturbing the peace.” Pérez already spent 19 months in detention before the sentence.
According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Guerra, 28, was one of five dissidents who appeared before a municipal court in Havana on Feb. 27. They received sentences ranging from 22 months to two years in prison for “disturbing the peace” when they staged a demonstration on July 13, 2005 to commemorate the shipwreck, 11 years earlier, of five Cubans who had been trying to reach Florida by sea.
Following his arrest, Guerra was held in a National Revolutionary Police cell for three months and was then transferred to the Technical Investigations Department in Havana. He was hospitalized several times in October and November 2005 when he went on hunger strike, but each time he was returned to the detention center. He has developed a kidney infection since his arrest and has frequent asthma attacks. —RSF/IFEX

Media executive jailed for violating anti-terror law

SRI LANKAN authorities have arrested Dushantha Basnayake, financial director of Standard Newspapers Private Limited (SNPL), on Feb. 26 for violation of the anti-terror legislation. SNPL publishes Mawbima, a Sinhalese language weekly.
According to local reports, Basnayake became the second person affiliated with the publication to be detained under the new laws.
It is the second time that the government has acted against the weekly. Mawbima journalist Munusamy Parameshawary, 23, has been detained without charge by the Terrorist Investigation Division since Nov. 22, 2006.
The anti-terror law gives security forces the power to search, interrogate, and detain without trial.—RSF/IFEX

Blogger gets 4-year sentence

BLOGGER Abdel Kareem Nabil Sulaiman was sentenced by the Moharram Beik Court in Alexandria to four years in prison on charges of disparaging religion and defaming the Egyptian president.
On Feb. 22, Judge Ayman Okaz sentenced Sulaiman, who was present in the court room, to four years in prison—three years for disparaging Islam and one year for defaming the president.
Sulaiman, a 22-year-old former student of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, is better known by his pen name, Karim Amer. Following a complaint filed by the university, Sulaiman appeared before a public prosecutor on Nov. 7 to answer charges related to items he wrote on his blog criticizing Islam, the authorities at Al-Azhar and President Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported. Prosecutors ordered him detained pending investigation and renewed his detention four times before his trial opened at Moharram Beik Court in Alexandria on Jan. 25.

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