Daily archives: November 23, 2005

Qatar shock at al-Jazeera bombing report

By William Wallis and Roula Khalaf in The Financial Times

Qataris, including senior officials, reacted with shock on Wednesday to newspaper reports in Britain suggesting that George W Bush, the US president, had discussed bombing the Doha headquarters of the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera.

The report, in Tuesday’s edition of the British Daily Mirror, was based on what the newspaper reported were leaked minutes of a conversation between Mr Bush and Tony Blair, Britain’s prime minister, on April 16 2004.

On Tuesday the British government threatened newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they revealed contents of the document, a move that reinforced suspicions in Qatar that the report might be genuine.

The full article is available here

Further links and comment can be found here

Update: Al Jazeera staffers have set up their own blog http://dontbomb.blogspot.com/following disclosure of discussions between Bush and Blair on bombing their headquaters. It can read here

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Uzbekistan: Journalist Honored For Coverage Of Andijon Unrest

From Radio Free Europe

An Uzbek journalist has been honored with an International Press Freedom Award for her coverage of the violence in the town of Andijon last May. Galima Bukharbaeva, a former correspondent for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, was honored at a ceremony in New York City on 22 November.

Galima Bukharbaeva worked as the Uzbekistan correspondent for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and she risked her life covering the events in Andijon.

Bukharbaeva spoke with RFE/RL from Andijon as the events were unfolding on 13 May.

“I was able to hide myself in a small canal, and from there I saw wounded people being carried away from of the crowd,” she said. “I saw five men completely covered in blood being carried away in front of me. The people carrying them were also covered in blood. They said those people [being carried] were dead. They were just bodies. They didn’t move. But I think some of them were wounded. There were five or maybe more people [were wounded]. People were saying, ‘Look, journalists, there are two or three dead bodies here.’ But we couldn’t look because the shooting continued.”

A Bullet In Her Press Card

Witnesses and human rights activists say around 700 people may have been killed after Uzbek troops fired into a crowd in Andijon to quell a revolt. Uzbek authorities say 187 people were killed, mostly foreign-paid terrorists.

Several hours later on 13 May, Bukharbaeva realized that she, too, had barely escaped death: She found that a bullet had pierced her backpack and press card.

On 22 November in New York, Bukharbaeva was awarded an International Press Freedom Award for her coverage from Andijon.

Never So Close

She recently spoke with RFE/RL from New York, where she now lives in exile.

“It was the first time in my life when I really faced the threat of death,” Bukharbaeva said. “The death was never so close to me as it was that day in Andijon.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which sponsors the award, acknowledged that Bukharbaeva risked her life covering the Andijon.

“In those difficult conditions, Galima has done an extraordinary news reporting,” CPJ executive Alex Lupis told RFE/RL. “She focused on very difficult and politically sensitive issues like police torture, repression of Islamic activists and the government abuse against the media and human rights activists.”

An Award For All Uzbek Journalists

Bukharbaeva faces criminal prosecution in Uzbekistan for her reporting on Andijon and alleged police torture and repression of Islamic activists. The 31-year-old recently got married and received fellowship in Columbia University.

She says the award is recognition for the work of all courageous journalists in Uzbekistan.

“This award may also be a symbol of a really hard and terrible situation in Uzbekistan,” Bukharbaeva said. “It is like a recognition of a work of local journalists who work in Uzbekistan and recognition of those really serious and hard circumstances in which we have to operate in Uzbekistan.”

The CPJ’s Lupis says Bukharbaeva’s journalism stands as an example of independent journalism in Uzbekistan and Central Asia as a whole.

Others honored by the CPJ this year included a Brazilian publisher and editor, a Zimbabwean media lawyer and an imprisoned Chinese journalist.

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UN Committee Pressures Uzbekistan Over Andijon

From Radio Free Europe

A committee of the United Nations General Assembly has urged Uzbek authorities to stop harassing witnesses to the government’s violent suppression of a demonstration in the town of Andijon.

The General Assembly’s Social and Humanitarian Committee adopted the resolution, put forward by the European Union, on 22 November by a vote of 73 to 38, with 58 abstentions.

Countries that voted against the resolution included Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

The resolution expressed deep regret over the Uzbek government’s rejection of repeated calls by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour for an independent inquiry into the Andijon bloodshed.

The measure expressed concern over reported arbitrary arrests and detentions by Uzbek authorities, including of eyewitnesses to the Andijon events.

Witnesses say about 500 people may have been killed on 13 May when Uzbek troops fired into a crowd in Andijon to quell a revolt. Uzbek authorities say 187 people were killed, mostly foreign-paid terrorists.

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UK writes to US on behalf of EU CIA investigation

As described in the post below, the British government is refusing to look into its own involvement regarding CIA rendition flights and secret detention centres, or to release information about US operations on UK territory. However, they are now in the rather ironic position of having to write to the US on behalf of the EU to request further information on possible detention centres in Europe.

Radio 4 Today discusses the situation. Real player required. Radio interview

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Ministers silent on CIA flights to transport terror suspects

By Richard Norton-Taylor and David Hencke in The Guardian

MPs stepped up pressure on ministers yesterday to disclose details of CIA aircraft using British airfields amid reports that they have transported individuals to foreign countries where they are likely to be tortured.

Ministers are refusing to reveal any information about the “extraordinary rendition” flights despite evidence, including details of the flights, revealed in September by the Guardian. Extraordinary rendition is the practice of transferring individuals to a foreign country where they are more likely to be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment.

Ministers have shed no further light on the issue, despite a series of questions tabled by MPs, notably the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell. There is evidence that a CIA Gulfstream and Boeing 737 aircraft have landed at military airfields, including RAF Northolt, west London.

Adam Ingram, the defence minister, has told Sir Menzies: “Where passengers do not leave the airfield, the MoD … does not record details of passengers.” But he adds that the MoD maintains a record of all civil registered aircraft – such as the CIA planes – landing at military airfields.

“The British government appears to be adopting a hear no evil, see no evil policy towards this issue,” Sir Menzies said yesterday.

He added: “In the light of the allegations that British airports are being used as staging posts for rendition, the government should instigate an immediate investigation.”

Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester, who is setting up a cross-party backbench committee with Sir Menzies and the former Labour Foreign Office minister Chris Mullin to investigate the allegations, told the Guardian: “It is morally repugnant that any country could be involved in this foul practice.”

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy Foreign Office legal adviser who resigned in protest against the invasion of Iraq, said: “If the reports are true and the UK was actively assisting, then it would be responsible under the law.”

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