Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Three journalists held since 2001 die in Eiraeiro Eritrea prison camp

Reporters Without Borders  August 30, 2012

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Eritrean abuses

In 2001, 15 members of the ruling party – including high-level ministers – signed an open letter to Isaias calling for political reform. Shortly after, 11 of the 15 (known as G-15) were arrested and detained without charge along with 10 journalists. Nearly 11 years later, little is known about the prisoners’ condition or whereabouts save for some unconfirmed accounts from those who have managed to flee the country.

After several weeks of investigating reports from sources in Eritrea and from prison guards who fled the country, Reporters Without Borders has been able to confirm that three more journalists – Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab and Wedi Itay – have died in the northeastern prison camp of Eiraeiro. All three had been held since late 2001.

Another journalist arrested in February 2009, whose identity has not been established with certainty, has also reportedly died in detention – in his case, in Abi Abeito military prison near the capital, Asmara.

The only good news is that Tesfalidet “Topo” Mebrahtu, a well-known sports journalist who worked for state-owned radio Dimtsi Hafash and state-owned Eri-TV, was “released on bond” (he is still under surveillance, with relatives acting as guarantors) in early 2012 after being held for 10 months.

“While all eyes are turned on Syria, another, less visible, tragedy is being played out in Eritrea, a country forgotten by the international community although it is the world’s leading media freedom violator and Africa’s biggest prison for journalists ” Reporters Without Borders said.

“In Eritrea, journalists have been thrown in prison just for daring to express their opinions. Some have been held for more than 10 years and are disappearing one by one. Located in the northeast of the country, Eiraeiro is not a prison, it is a death camp.”

Reporters Without Borders first revealed details about conditions at Eiraeiro in January 2008 (http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-new-revel…), after meeting a former camp guard. Further details were provided in 2010, on the basis of statements made by another former guard, Eyob Bahta, shortly after he fled to Ethiopia. What follows is based on new eyewitness accounts from this death camp.

I – Three more of the journalists held since 2001 die in detention

Please read more here

 

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Journalists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Journalist, War Correspondent, Killed in Syrian Violence

VOA  August 21, 2012

Japan’s Foreign Ministry says a Japanese journalist has died in Syria after being caught in gunfire while traveling with the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The ministry said Tuesday that 45-year-old Mika Yamamoto was shot in the northern city of Aleppo. She worked for the Tokyo-based Japan Press, where she previously covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fighting continues across Syria, where opposition activists say the violence killed at least 140 people Monday. The Local Coordination Committees says more deadly violence hit Damascus, Homs and Daraa on Tuesday.

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Casualties, Journalists | , , , , | Leave a comment

Army bars Leonie Industries co-owner from contracts

USA Today  June 20, 2012

WASHINGTON – The Army has suspended the co-owner of the military’s top propaganda firm in Afghanistan from receiving federal contracts after revelations about the owners’ tax debts and the admission by one owner that he launched an online campaign against journalists, according to government documents.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who is on the Armed Services Committee, asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday to expand the Pentagon investigations into Leonie Industries. In a letter, Johnson cited allegations that the company may have misrepresented its finances while bidding for federal contracts and had started an online smear campaign directed against two USA TODAY journalists.

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June 20, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Department of Defense, Journalists, Propaganda | , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea: Government Accused of Human Rights Abuses

Reuters at The New York Times Africa  June 19, 2012

The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, on Monday accused Eritrea of carrying out torture and summary executions. Ms. Pillay told the United Nations Human Rights Council that there were 5,000 to 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea, which holds a strategic stretch of the Red Sea coast and has been ruled by a single party and president since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. “Credible sources indicate that violations of human rights include arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labor, forced conscription and restrictions to freedom of movement, expression, assembly and religion,” Ms. Pillay said. She said the Eritrean government had not responded to requests to discuss her concerns.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics, Safety and Security Issues, United Nations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

French Journalist Missing in Columbian Rebel Attack

BOGOTA—An attack by Colombia’s largest rebel group, known as FARC, killed four members of the armed forces, Colombia’s Defense Ministry said. Five other soldiers and a French journalist are missing after the attack, in the southern state of Caqueta, officials said.

French journalist Romeo Langlois in June. Paris-based news outlet France24 identified Mr. Langlois as its employee.

The attack is likely to spoil what had been rising hopes for possible peace talks between the rebels and the government after the guerrillas earlier this month freed 10 military hostages in a “humanitarian gesture.”

In a statement Saturday night, the Defense Ministry identified the missing French journalist as Romeo Langlois. It didn’t indicate which news organization Mr. Langlois worked for, but Paris-based news outlet France24 said on its website that Mr. Langlois is its employee and that he also works for French newspaper Le Figaro.

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April 29, 2012 Posted by | Columbia, Journalists | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thirteen French officers ‘captured by Syrian Army’

Thirteen French officers have been captured by Syrian forces according to the Lebanon-based Daily Star newspaper, the first mainstream media outlet to report on rumours of Western troops on the ground.

The Telegraph  March 6, 2012

The French foreign ministry dismissed the report, however, telling the Daily Telegraph that not a single French soldier is on Syrian soil.

But the defence ministry was less categorical, saying it neither confirmed nor denied the claim.

A photographer who recently escaped from the besieged Syrian city of Homs also dismissed suggestions French soldiers had intervened to secure his evacuation and that of three other Western reporters.

The report came on Monday as the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent reached two neighbourhoods of Homs where they were distributing food and blankets to civilians, including families who had fled the battered district of Baba Amr.

The teams still do not appear to have been allowed into Baba Amr itself.

March 6, 2012 Posted by | Journalists, Syria | , , , | Leave a comment

Two Western journalists killed in besieged Syrian city

LA TIMES  February 22, 2012

REPORTING FROM PARIS — An award-winning American-born journalist and a French photographer died in the besieged Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, after the building in which they were taking shelter came under attack.

Veteran foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed by a rocket as they tried to escape from the house that was being shelled.

After the French government confirmed the deaths, tributes poured in for Colvin, 55, a reporter for the Sunday Times of London who had covered conflicts in Kosovo, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the Middle East.

She was known for her courageous reporting from the world’s hot spots and the black eye patch that she wore after losing an eye from a shrapnel wound while working in Sri Lanka in 2001.

Colvin was the only journalist from a British newspaper in the Homs district of Baba Amr and had filed reports on the “absolutely sickening” bloodshed she witnessed there in the days leading up to her death. Her report in the Sunday Times last weekend said the citizens of Homs were “waiting for a massacre.”

In an interview with CNN and the BBC on Tuesday, she said: “I watched a little baby die today. Absolutely horrific … his little tummy just kept heaving until he died. That is happening over and over and over. … There is just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into the civilian areas of this city, and it is just unrelenting.”

Earlier this month, Ochlik, 28, won first prize in the World Press Photo contest’s general news category for images taken during the Libyan conflict

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February 22, 2012 Posted by | Journalists, Safety and Security Issues, Syria | , , , , | Leave a comment

Anthony Shadid, Reporter in the Middle East, Dies at 43

New York Times  February 16. 2012

Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent who died on Thursday at 43, had long been passionately interested in the Middle East, first because of his Lebanese-American heritage and later because of what he saw there firsthand.

Mr. Shadid spent most of his professional life covering the region, as a reporter first with The Associated Press; then The Boston Globe; then with The Washington Post, for which he won Pulitzer Prizes in 2004 and 2010; and afterward with The New York Times. At his death, from what appeared to be an asthma attack, he was on assignment for The Times in Syria.

Mr. Shadid’s hiring by The Times at the end of 2009 was widely considered a coup for the newspaper, for he had been esteemed throughout his career as an intrepid reporter, a keen observer, an insightful analyst and a lyrical stylist. Much of his work centered on ordinary people who had been forced to pay an extraordinary price for living in the region — or belonging to the religion, ethnic group or social class — that they did.

He was known most recently to Times readers for his clear-eyed coverage of the Arab Spring. For his reporting on that sea change sweeping the region — which included dispatches from Lebanon and Egypt — The Times nominated him, along with a team of his colleagues, for the 2012 Pulitzer in international reporting. (The awards are announced in April.)

In its citation accompanying the nomination, The Times wrote:

“Steeped in Arab political history but also in its culture, Shadid recognized early on that along with the despots, old habits of fear, passivity and despair were being toppled. He brought a poet’s voice, a deep empathy for the ordinary person and an unmatched authority to his passionate dispatches.”

Please read more about Anthony Shadid here

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Journalists | , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea: Free Political Prisoners 10 Years On – President Isaias in New York to Demand UN Respect His Rights, Denies Them to His People

“Instead of lobbying the UN, President Isaias should allow people to speak freely, to worship as they please, and to leave Eritrea if they want,” said Bekele. “Eritreans will continue to face prolonged, indefinite national service, repression, and torture unless President Isaias changes his abusive policies”

All Africa Human Rights Watch Washington DC   September 22, 2011

Ten years after President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ordered the detention of 21 senior government members and journalists who criticized him, his government should release the detainees or reveal their fate, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Eritrea should also open its jails to international monitors, Human Rights Watch said.

Isaias is visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly in an attempt to rehabilitate his country’s image even as his government labors under UN sanctions for its role in supporting the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab.

In the past 10 years, Isaias has closed all independent media outlets and turned Eritrea into a country where arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and death are rife and where it is almost impossible to leave. The paper, “Eritrea: 10 Long Years, A Briefing on Eritrea’s Missing Political Prisoners,” outlines what is known about the political prisoners, none of whom has been seen by outsiders since being detained in September 2001.

“Eritrea is effectively a giant prison, and international pressure should continue on Eritrea until President Isaias frees political prisoners and restores the rule of law,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To start with, President Isaias should end the inhumanity of prolonged secret, silent detention and allow family members and international monitors to see the prisoners.”

In mid-September 2001, Isaias ordered the arrest of 11 high government officials who had written open letters criticizing his rule. He also arrested 10 journalists who had published the letters and other information critical of him and his policies, and closed all independent newspapers.

The 20 men and one woman have never been seen again by anyone outside the penal system, including their families, lawyers, or prison monitoring groups. They have never been afforded a hearing; rather, all 21 were incarcerated in secret detention facilities in solitary confinement. According to former guards whose reports Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm, 10 of the 21 have died in prison and the remaining 11 are physically or mentally incapacitated and emaciated.

The 21 are the most prominent victims of Isaias’s denial of basic rights, but hundreds of thousands of others in the country of 5 million have been victimized during the past decade. The briefing paper recounts that thousands of Eritreans are incarcerated because they are suspected of not fully supporting the regime or have attempted to flee Eritrea’s compulsory and indefinite national service. They are given no access to a court and no means to appeal to any impartial body. Thousands more Eritreans are incarcerated because they are members of religious groups that the Eritrean government refuses to recognize as legitimate: Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelical Christian churches, and reformist wings of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Please read the entire press release here

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tripoli evacuee ship arrives in Malta

There were also three Italian private security contractors who had been held captive in a Tripoli jail for a month before being freed by rebels. Their background and the circumstances of their imprisonment remained unclear

AgenceFrance Presse  August 29, 2011

VALLETTA – A boat carrying dozens of evacuees from Tripoli arrived in Malta on Monday with passengers including a girlfriend of one of Muamar Gaddafi’s sons and four Italian journalists kidnapped last week.

The Malta-chartered boat had been unable to land in Tripoli last Sunday because of gunfights raging in the city but succeeded on its second attempt later in the week and loaded up around 50 foreign nationals escaping the city.

The trip from Tripoli to Malta took around 36 hours and exhausted passengers said it had been “a disaster” due to the strong winds and rough seas.

“We’re very happy to be here,” said one man, who gave a thumbs-up sign.

Among those on board was Dutch model Talitha van Zon — a former girlfriend of one of Gaddafi’s sons, Muttasim, according to a British newspaper report.

Van Zon told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview that the rebels who captured her had threatened to burn her alive and she escaped by jumping from a hotel balcony, breaking an arm. She declined to speak to journalists in Malta.

Four Italian journalists — two from Corriere della Sera, one from La Stampa and one from Catholic newspaper Avvenire — were also on board. The four were kidnapped for 24 hours last week and their driver was shot, apparently by Gaddafi loyalists.

There were also three Italian private security contractors who had been held captive in a Tripoli jail for a month before being freed by rebels. Their background and the circumstances of their imprisonment remained unclear

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August 29, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Journalists, Libya, Private Security Contractor | , , | Leave a comment

BBC reporter killed in Afghanistan suicide attack

Associated Press

LONDON—The BBC says one of its reporters has died in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan that killed at least 17 people.

The broadcaster says that Ahmad Omid Khpolwak was killed in Thursday’s suicide attack in the southern Uruzgan province.

Afghan authorities said the attack left at least 17 people dead.

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BBC says the stringer was 25 years old and joined the network in 2008.

Three suicide bombers blew up vehicles packed with explosives in three almost simultaneous attacks in Uruzgan. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the assaults.

July 28, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Journalists | , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. officials believe ISI ordered journalist killed

FP Foreign Policy Daily Brief  July 5, 2011

U.S. intelligence officials reportedly believe that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) ordered the killing in May of journalist Saleem Shahzad, after Shahzad investigated connections between the ISI and militants (NYT).

Intelligence was gathered about the threat to Shahzad’s life before and after his disappearance, and an official said that, “Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society.”

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Journalists, Pakistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Eritrea: Regime And Its Relationship With Outside World

“Today Eritrea is becoming more like a private company that belongs to President Isaias Afewerki rather than a country with 5 million inhabitants. Even worse, President Isaias doesn’t seem is interested in promoting peace, stability and democracy in the country mainly to protect his grip on power for many years to come. Therefore, there is little hope for better Eritrean foreign relationships with the world and its neighbours without a radical change in direction by the regime.”

Institute for Security Studies at allAfrica.com

Addis Ababa — Tensions between the Eritrean government and Britain escalated in recent months as a result of the continued detention of four British citizens since December 2010 until their release on 12 June 2011.

 According to reports, the accused Britons were arrested after a gun battle with Eritrean coastal forces on the pirate-infested waters of the Red-Sea. Two of the four detainees, who tried to escape, were captured off the Eritrean coast and left without food and water for a day on a small island, before being taken back to the mainland to be imprisoned. It was also reported that all the prisoners were former Royal marines and worked for Protection Vessels International (PVI), a company that provides security services to vessels on the sea from piracy.

In a statement the Eritrean Ministry of Information claimed that the detainees admitted to having committed a crime. The Eritrean government also said the detainees regretted trying to escape from the port of Massawa, where there was an apparent dispute with local businessmen about payment for fuel and supplies. In addition, the statement declared that the detainees bore accountability for acts of invasion, organizing terrorism and espionage”.

In response to the Eritrean regime’s defiance to release its nationals, the British government, on 6 June 2011, restricted the Eritrean embassy in London from providing any other services to the large Eritrean community in the country, other than consular services and the issuing of visas. Prior to this restriction, the British government had given two directives to the embassy in retaliation for the imprisonment of British citizens. First, Eritrean diplomats and visiting officials were to be restricted to the London area only; and second, the UK government banned the collection of taxes from the Eritrean community in the UK by the Eritrean regime. As one of one of the detainees is an Australian citizen, the Australian government imposed similar restrictions on Eritrean diplomats based in Australia.

 These detainees were not the only foreigners in the prisons of Asmara. There are several others from many parts of the world. The Swedish-Eritrean journalist and writer, Dawit Isaak, has been held in an Eritrean prison since 2001 without trial and is considered a traitor by the Eritrean government, even though the Swedish government and other notable organizations have tried very hard to get him released.

Please read the entire analysis here

June 30, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

2 French journalists in Afghanistan freed

Elaine Ganley Associated Press at Seattle PI  June 29, 2011

PARIS (AP) — French television has reported that two journalists held hostage in Afghanistan since December 2009 were freed Wednesday.

France-3 television said in a flash across their screen that their reporters Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere have been released, without providing further details. Their translator, Reza Din, was also released.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the two men were in good health and would be returning shortly to their homeland after one of France’s longest hostage ordeals.

President Nicolas Sarkozy thanked “everyone who participated in freeing the hostages” and praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai for his management of the hostage situation.

The television journalists were kidnapped together with three Afghan associates while working on a story about reconstruction on a road east of Kabul. The Taliban said the insurgency movement was holding them and made a set of demands — never published — in exchange for the men’s freedom.

Please read the entire story at Seattle PI

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Journalists | , , , , , | Leave a comment

CPJ: Impunity Plagues Cases of Journalists in Kurdistan and Iraq

01/06/2011 04:43:00  By WLADIMIR VAN WILGENBURG    at Rudow

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan — In a report released on June 1, Iraq is ranked first on the 2011 impunity index of the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ). CPJ criticizes the Kurdish government for its unsatisfactory handling of the murder case of Kurdish writer Sardasht Osman in 2010.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has come in for fierce criticism by human rights and press organizations such as Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CPJ and Human Rights Watch in the last few months for the way it dealt with demonstrations and the media.

On May 30, the KRG responded to the allegations and didn’t deny violations by Kurdish security forces and ill-treatment of protestors.

“We can assure you, however, that these incidents have occurred despite KRG’s clear directives for strict adherence to the law and the rights of the protesters,” the KRG said in the statement.

CPJ’s impunity index includes Kurdistan and Iraq. The Index examines journalist murders that have occurred between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2010 and are still unsolved. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index, a threshold reached by 12 countries this year.

According to CPJ 93 journalists have been murdered in Iraq with their cases still unsolved. After a brief decline in targeted killings, journalist murders spiked in 2010. Among the four murder victims in 2010 was Sardasht Osman, a contributor to several news outlets in the Kurdistan region who had received numerous threats for reports that accused Kurdish officials of corruption, CPJ said.

Please read the entire article here

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Casualties, Iraq, Journalists | , , | Leave a comment