ZETA.- The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has joined efforts to restore press freedom to Ecuador by submitting two legal briefs to Ecuador’s legislative body exposing former President Rafael Correa’s overt, authoritarian manipulation of the press from 2013-2017. The briefs compile evidence showing that the country’s Organic Law of Communications (Ley Orgánica de Comunicación, or LOC, in Spanish) was used by the Correa administration to control the press, consolidate the regime’s power, and systematically persecute Correa’s critics and opposition leaders. HRF hopes these reports can provide evidence and foster swift reforms under Ecuador’s new leadership.
The first brief was sent to the National Assembly of Ecuador’s Collective Rights Commission in late July and recommends reforms to the LOC to bring the country into compliance with international human rights standards. The second was sent to Edison Lanza, special rapporteur on freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to coincide with the rapporteur’s official visit to Ecuador on August 20-24. HRF hopes that Lanza will use his mandate to make the case for crucial reforms in Ecuador and lend further support to President Lenín Moreno’s reform efforts.
“With these legal briefs, HRF hopes to contribute to the dialogue process that will allow for the restoration of the guarantees needed for the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression,” said Mauricio Alarcón, HRF’s Senior Legal Associate. “We are confident that, very soon, Ecuador will be able to overcome the climate of censorship and persecution that has prevailed over the last decade.”
In the legal brief sent to the special rapporteur, HRF presents evidence that the government of former President Correa manipulated state radio and television stations to insult and persecute critics of the government. In one example, Correa used his show “Enlace Ciudadano” (“Citizen’s Link”) and other press appearances to publicly order administrative sanctions and criminal investigations, flaunting his absolute power over governmental institutions in order to intimidate his opponents. The brief also presents statistics showing how the LOC caused an increase in censorship and self-censorship, and analyzes the systematic persecution of the press and the democratic opposition, attacks against civil society organizations, and the criminalization of the right to protest.
The legal brief sent to the National Assembly focuses on suggested reforms to the LOC, and aims to remind legislators that the international standards on free speech and expression are part of Ecuadorean law because the country has signed and ratified key international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights. HRF’s brief stresses that Ecuador must repeal the “public service” designation over media imposed under Correa — an interpretation that Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has recently supported. HRF also called on the National Assembly to eliminate abusive LOC provisions, including its draconian fines and penalties, to remove the term “media lynching” as a punishable offense, and to abolish the LOC’s enforcement body, the Superintendence of Information and Communication. Finally, HRF called on the legislature to repeal the obligation for individuals to hold a university degree in order to practice journalism.
Read HRF’s legal brief submitted to the IACHR’s special rapporteur here.
Read HRF’s legal brief submitted to the National Assembly of Ecuador here.
For more information on Correa’s human rights abuses, watch Janet Hinostroza’s 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) talk, “Rise of an Elected Autocrat,” here; and Xavier “Bonil” Bonilla’s 2017 OFF talk, “Subversive Cartoon,” here.

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Taipei ranked world's 58th most livable city


LONDON., (CNA).- Taipei has moved up two places in the rankings of the world's most livable cities to 58th place, according to the 2018 Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Global Livability Ranking.

Taipei edged past the South Korean capital Seoul, which dropped one spot to 59th from last year, according to the report released Monday.

For the first time, the Austrian capital Vienna topped the list of 140 cities surveyed by the EIU, dislodging Australia's Melbourne, which had held first place for a record seven consecutive years.

Although both Melbourne and Vienna have registered improvements in livability over the last six months, increases in Vienna's ratings, particularly in the stability category, have been enough for the city to overtake Melbourne, the report said.

Vienna's top ranking also reflected improvements in stability and safety in Europe, which has had to step up security due to a higher perceived threat of terrorism, according to the report.

Vienna, with a score of 99.1, and Melbourne (98.4) were followed by Osaka in Japan (97.7); the Canadian city of Calgary (97.5); Sydney, Australia (97.4); and Vancouver, Canada (97.3).

Rounding out the top 10 were the Canadian city of Toronto and Japan's capital Tokyo, both with a score of 97.2, Copenhagen in Denmark (96.8), and Adelaide in Australia (96.6).

In Asia, after Osaka and Tokyo, the third most livable city was Hong Kong, which rose 10 spots in the rankings to 35th overall, followed by Singapore at 37th in the world rankings.

China's best ranked cites were Suzhou (74th worldwide), Beijing (75th), Tianjin (77th), and Shanghai (81st).

The survey assesses living conditions in 140 cities worldwide, scoring them on the basis of some 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories, namely stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

It gives an overall score of 0-100, where 1 is "intolerable" and 100 is "ideal."

At the bottom of the list this year was Syria's war-torn capital Damascus, with an overall score of 30.7.

(By Tai Ya-chen and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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Tags: Taiwán

U.S. drug enforcement agency plans to open office in Taipei


TAIPEI, (CNA).- A United States narcotics official said Tuesday that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plans to establish an office in Taipei to promote interaction with Taiwan's law enforcement agencies.

Phillip Chad Esch, narcotics attaché for the DEA Hong Kong SAR Office, made the announcement at the first-ever crime-fighting and forensic science workshop that opened in Taipei that day.

It is hoped that the future Taipei office will also help enhance cooperation between law enforcement agencies, and that the two sides will be able to further exchange information on cross-border crime, Esch said.

However, the date for the establishment of the office has yet to be determined, he added.

According to the DEA website, the agency currently has 86 foreign offices in 62 countries, of which 14 are in the Far East region including Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines and Singapore.

The two-day workshop, the first held under the U.S.-Taiwan Global Cooperation Training Framework (GCTF) since its inception in June 2015, is co-hosted by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB), and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) which represents the U.S. interests in Taiwan during the absence of the diplomatic ties between the two nations.

According to MOFA, representatives from 16 countries on three continents are attending the event in Taipei and will discuss how to deepen international cooperation and combat cross-border crime.

(By Wang Yang-yu and Ko Lin)

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Tags: The United Sates, Taiwán

China Detains VOA Mandarin Correspondent


BEIJING, (HAIYANG ZHANG-VOANEWS).- Voice of America's Mandarin Service correspondent and a multimedia journalist working for VOA were detained Monday evening by Chinese police while attempting to interview a retired Chinese professor who was taken away by authorities during a live television interview with VOA nearly two weeks ago.

Correspondent Yibing Feng and VOA contractor Allen Ai were taken into custody in Jinan, Shandong province after talking to professor Sun Wenguang, 84, through a closed door of his apartment. Sun told Feng details of his detention and thanked VOA for allowing him to express his freedom of speech on the air.

Authorities in the apartment hallway attempted several times to disrupt the interview and ordered Feng and his Chinese assistant to leave the building. The two reporters were then held by police at the building exit. They are still believed to be in police custody.

“It is outrageous that two journalists have been detained for nothing more than doing their jobs,” said VOA Director Amanda Bennett. She called for them to be released immediately.

Sun Wenguang, who was detained earlier this month, was only recently allowed to return home under strict security, close friends told VOA on Monday. Chinese authorities have refused to comment on his detention.

On Monday, the professor shouted answers to VOA’s questions from behind a locked door saying that he was moved to several locations after being detained August 1, including Yanzi Mountain Villa at Jinan Military Region, a military-linked hotel and reception center in Jinan, his hometown. He was taken to four places, often staying for one or two days under a security watch, he said.

“Now I have been locked in at my dwelling,” he said. “My wife and I have been in a forced trip outside our residence for 10 days and we stayed in four hotels. And now we are back to our home finally. But they sent four security guys to sleep in our home.

Here in China, we have a lack of freedom of press,” the professor said. “Authorities have blocked and suppressed press freedom. Chinese authorities have a practice of trade barrier and press barrier. Why can Chinese reporters act as journalists in the U.S. freely while U.S. reporters cannot do normal journalistic work in China?”

When the VOA journalists first arrived at Sun's apartment, they encountered a few security people outside the door.

After they identified themselves as journalists, correspondent Feng told security: “Please don't interrupt our work.”

A security officer asked them to go downstairs where they were later detained. The two VOA journalists were then taken away separately in police cars.

“Where are you taking me?” Feng asked police in a conversation that was overhead on a cell phone call to VOA editors in Washington.

“You will know,” an officer responded.

“I need to talk to your leader,” Yibing told the officer.

The police then apparently asked Yibing to turn over his equipment.

“This is (US) government property, you cannot take it,” Yibing told them, referring to VOA's status as a U.S. government broadcasting entity.

Before the cell phone line went dead, the sound of footsteps could be heard.

“Don’t grab me,” Yibing said. “I will go with you.”

Earlier this month, professor Sun was taken away during a live telephone interview on the VOA Mandarin television show Issues & Opinions as he was criticizing China’s foreign aid and diplomatic strategy in Africa. During the interview, he told VOA that authorities were breaking into his house in an attempt to prevent him from speaking out against the government.

* This is a developing story which will be updated.

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Tags: The United Sates, Voanews Yibing Feng


On August 3rd and 4th, in the city of Buenos Aires, the Argentine League for the Rights of Man held a "Forum for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in the Americas and for all People."

Following massive social protests across Honduras after the fraudulent November 2017 presidential elections, SOA Watch has worked in collaboration with the Honduras Solidarity Network to demand the freedom of 26 community leaders and social activists being held as political prisoners. After 7 months, Edwin Espinal, Raúl Álvarez, Edy Gonzalo, Gustavo Cáceres, and José Godinez are still being held as political prisoners at maximum security prisons in Honduras.

"The Forum in Buenos Aires was an opportunity for SOA Watch to share what does not come out in the mass media: in Honduras there are political prisoners, and
the struggle continues to achieve justice for the murder of Berta Cáceres," said Pablo Ruiz, who participated in the Forum on behalf of SOA Watch.

Colombia: Social justice organizations to meet in Medellín
In 1968, the 2nd General Assembly of the Latin American Episcopal Council took place in Medellín, Colombia. The "Medellin Documents" led to a new stage in the life of the church in Latin America, as many deepened their understanding of, and commitment to, social justice.

From August 28th to September 1st of this year, SOA Watch and partner organizations, including SICSAL, will gather together in Medellin, Colombia for the meeting titled, "The Cry of the Poor, the Cry for Life: Lights and Shadows following 50 Years of Medellin". While SOA Watch is not a religious organization, we recognize the important support of many Christians who fight for truth, justice, and to end the training at the SOA / WHINSEC.


Honduras: Material authors to stand trial for the assassination of Berta Cáceres


From September 10th to 28th, eight people will stand trail for the March 3, 2016 murder of social activist and COPINH co-founder Berta Cáceres.

Among the detainees are Major Mariano Diaz Chavez and Lieutenant Douglas Giovanny Bustillo - both were trained at the School of the Americas and received anti-terrorist training in the US in 2005.

COPINH is calling on the international community to participate as observers in this trial and continues to demand that the intellectual authors of Berta's assassination be identified and arrested.

SOA Watch will be present as international observers during the trail and will have special press coverage.

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