Abdou Diouf urged to use Francophone summit to set deadline for decriminalizing press offences

first_img Organisation September 27, 2006 – Updated on January 25, 2016 Abdou Diouf urged to use Francophone summit to set deadline for decriminalizing press offences RSF_en Reporters Without Borders appealed today to Abdou Diouf, the secretary-general of the International Organisation of Francophone Countries (OIF), to get member states to set a timetable for decriminalizing press offences during the two-day OIF summit that begins tomorrow in Bucharest. Despite the Bamako declaration in 2000 and the secretary-general’s repeated appeals, many OIF member countries still have not amended their press legislation. Some countries such as Rwanda, Vietnam and Tunisia clearly want to maintain an unjust and undemocratic tool of repression, but others simply have not realised the usefulness of such a reform.“As well as complying with democratic standards upheld by the UN and OIF, countries that decriminalize press offences are able to deal more effectively with such problems as scandal sheets, corrupt journalists and breaches of press ethics,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Jailing someone does not redress defamation or inaccurate reporting. Only a regulatory mechanism managed by fellow journalists can do this. There are many good reasons for decriminalizing press offences but the political will is sometimes lacking.”The press freedom organisation added: “We therefore appeal to Abdou Diouf to compel member countries to comply with a precise timetable to be determined at the Bucharest summit. Our organisation stands ready to explain to member countries once and for all why we think repressive laws are bad and why decriminalization is effective. This is the only logical option for the Francophone countries if they want to be considered democratic and if they want to help their media become more responsible.”Journalists have recently been imprisoned in several countries where press freedom is not in danger. In Niger, for example, where press offences still have not been decriminalized despite electoral promises, Maman Abou, the managing editor of the privately-owned Le Républicain weekly, and Oumarou Keïta, his editor in chief, have been detained since 4 August. They were sentenced on 1 September to 18 months in prison, damages of 5 million CFA francs (7,600 euros) and a fine of 300,000 CFA francs (460 euros) for libel and “disseminating false news.”The government prosecuted them for criticising Prime Minister Hama Amadou. They received an immediate summons, which was illegal because the code of criminal procedure makes no provision for this in cases of press offences. An appeal based on this procedural violation was nonetheless rejected on 25 September, as was a request for their release on bail. One of their lawyers said an appeal based on the facts of the case will not be heard before the end of the year.Saliss Dago of the privately-owned weekly L’Enquêteur was sentenced by a Niamey court on 16 September to six months in prison and a fine of more than 100,000 CFA francs (150 euros) for “disseminating false news” because of a 14 August article headlined “Black mass at Muslim cemetery” about the alleged ritual killing of infants at animist ceremonies in a cemetery in the capital.In Benin, a country that has respected press freedom for years, Virgile Linkpon, the publisher of the privately-owned daily La Diaspora de Sabbat, and Richard Couao-Zotti, his managing editor, were arrested on 15 September and questioned about an article that claimed without supporting evidence that the president’s eldest son was insane. They were finally released on the evening of 18 September. Judicaël Adikpeto, one of the newspaper’s editors, was also arrested and held for a day. None of them was charged.Cyrille Saïzonou, the publisher of the privately-owned daily Djakpata, was arrested on 18 September and was freed the next evening after being questioned by a prosecutor about poorly-sourced articles on 25 August, 1 September and 8 September headlined: “Competitive police exam: why are police chiefs in a hurry?”, “High-level government spying: Yayi Boni minister is secret agent for northern country” and “Holding of competitive police exams: does minister Alia want to permit cheating?”. Saïzonou was not charged.In Mali, where no journalist had been imprisoned since 2003, Amadou Nanco Marikon, the acting manager of Radio Kayira in the southern city of Koutiala, presenters Mohamed Diakité and Magan Sidy, and coordinator Boubacar Diarra were arrested on 23 August after Kayira’s network of radio stations began broadcasting without authorisation. At the prefect’s behest, the police also shut down the network’s antenna at Niono. Gaoussou Goita and Yaya Coulibaly, Radio Kayira 1 presenters in Bamako, were arrested the next day.Charged with “opposing the state’s authority,” the six Radio Kayira staff members were sentenced on 29 August to a month in prison and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (76 euros). Yaya Sangaré, the president of the Mali Union of Free Radio and Television (URTEL), had contacted the communication and justice ministers prior to the trial in an effort to have them freed on bail, but he was unsuccessful. They were freed on completing their sentences on 25 September.Finally Senegal will hold elections in early 2007 without first carrying out promised changes to its press legislation that have been years in the drafting. Many cases were brought against the press in 2005 and 2006 with heavy penalties being requested by prosecutors. In Chad, the negotiations which the Union of Chadian Journalists (UJT) began with the government still have not reached a conclusion. In Cameroon, the legislative reforms requested by press freedom organisations still have not materialised, although there have been clumsy attempts by the government. center_img News Help by sharing this informationlast_img read more

Using galaxies as yardsticks

first_imgDaniel Eisenstein is investigating the universe, using galaxies as his ruler, seeking to understand the cosmos’s large-scale structure and confirm theories about the dark energy that drives its expansion.Eisenstein is a professor of astronomy in the Harvard Astronomy Department and at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He also heads a major study of the heavens, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which is building the most detailed map of the universe ever made.Eisenstein has devised a new method to determine galaxies’ positions in order to understand more about the universe and to test theories about how it operates. So far, he said, the galactic positions have confirmed findings from the 1990s that we live in a universe that is not only expanding but accelerating, fueled by the invisible force of dark energy.“One of the ways of studying dark energy is by making extremely precise measurements of cosmological distance,” Eisenstein said.His work has its roots in the universe’s earliest beginnings, just after the big bang flung matter outward in an enormous explosion. During the first 400,000 years, sound waves propagated through what was basically a dense, hot cloud of hydrogen atoms and scattered photons of light. These sound waves disturbed matter’s even distribution that resulted from the big bang. This perturbation allowed gravity to exert influence by making small clumps of matter into bigger clumps, and large clumps into nebulae — gas clouds that are stellar nurseries — which created stars themselves, solar systems, and the galaxies.A key characteristic of that clumping, Eisenstein said, is that galaxies tend to be clustered at specific distances, with pairs of galaxies most likely to be separated by 500 million light years.Eisenstein has used the method derived from that knowledge, called baryon acoustic oscillation, to interpret digital sky images, in which it would be otherwise difficult to tell nearby small galaxies from large distant ones.“We’re using this characteristic scale of clustering imprinted on the early universe … to infer the distances to sets of galaxies,” Eisenstein said.The work, Eisenstein said, builds on the research of several notable astrophysicists, including several at Harvard, such as CfA senior scientist Margaret Geller, the late John Huchra, Doyle Professor of Cosmology, who died in 2010, and Robert Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science.Much of Eisenstein’s work is done through the Sloan Survey, an enormous collaboration of 600 researchers from 51 institutions that was begun in 1990. Eisenstein, director of the project’s third phase, which runs until 2014, said the survey’s aim is to make the largest, most detailed three-dimensional map of the universe. To do that, researchers are using a dedicated telescope at New Mexico’s Apache Point Observatory to take the most detailed digital pictures ever, on the order of a half-trillion pixels each.Eisenstein received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1992 and a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard in 1996 under the guidance of Abraham Loeb, Astronomy Department chair and director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at Harvard.Loeb was effusive in his praise for Eisenstein, saying that he has a rare combination of proficiency in both theoretical and experimental astrophysics.“Daniel Eisenstein was my first graduate student, and so when he graduated, people were not sure whether to take seriously the superlatives I used to describe his promise,” Loeb said. “A few years later, it became clear to everyone that Daniel has remarkable mathematical skills and physical insights. Although trained as a theorist, he pioneered the use of a new yardstick in observational cosmology. … Daniel is the best current example of a young Enrico Fermi, who promoted state-of-the-art experiments while exhibiting better theoretical understanding than most theorists of his generation.”Eisenstein joined the faculty at the University of Arizona and became assistant, associate, and full professor of astronomy there before returning to Harvard in 2010.Eisenstein became interested in astronomy while an undergraduate at Princeton. His first introduction to the subject came in a course during his sophomore year. He wrote his senior thesis on cosmology, the large-scale structure of the universe. He received his undergraduate degree in physics and, when he came to Harvard, was still undecided between condensed-matter physics and astrophysics.Once you get your head around the remoteness and abstractions at play in astrophysics, the principles applied come from classical physics, Eisenstein said, lending themselves to intuitive insight. In addition, Eisenstein said, he enjoys the blend of disciplines and tools astrophysicists use today — physics, statistics, and computing — not to mention the occasional look through a telescope.“There are very remote, abstract things, but the principles behind them are largely classical physics,” Eisenstein said. “It’s a fantastic blend.”last_img read more

Mild H5N1 cases weren’t missed in Cambodian outbreak

first_imgMar 27, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Researchers who looked for mild or asymptomatic human cases of H5N1 avian influenza following an outbreak in Cambodia last year didn’t find any, challenging the view that human cases have gone undetected, according to findings presented last week.The research described Mar 20 at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta implies that surveillance for human cases might be more effective than some experts assumed, according to a story by the Canadian Press (CP). However, the findings also imply that the case-fatality rate for avian flu is higher than some experts thought.Dr. Philippe Buchy and his colleagues at the Institut Pasteur in Phnom Penh last spring tested blood samples from 351 residents of a Cambodian village where poultry and one person had died of avian flu, the CP reported. No signs of antibodies to H5N1 were found in the samples, indicating the residents had not suffered even mild cases of avian flu.Some of the people tested had “significant” exposure to poultry or infected people, the story said. For example, a doctor who inserted a tube down an H5N1 patient’s windpipe without wearing any protective gear did not show any antibodies indicating infection. The same was true for other healthcare workers, including two veterinarians who had autopsied H5N1-infected birds. The healthcare workers did not know at the time they were dealing with avian flu cases.”We didn’t find any cases of H5N1, so nobody seems to have been asymptomatic or with mild symptoms during this outbreak in Cambodia,” Buchy told the CP.On the bright side, Buchy was quoted as saying the data indicate the virus still finds it difficult to jump from poultry to humans.Dr. Nancy Cox, head of the influenza branch at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, concurred with Buchy, but added: “On the other side of the coin, it means that the case-fatality rate is still very high. And that is a negative thing.”Experts have suggested that the current case fatality rate for avian flu, about 56%, could be inaccurate because milder or asymptomatic cases have not been identified.”The work in Cambodia is extremely important because it shows that we really aren’t missing that much,” Cox told the CP. However, she added that it is important to conduct research on a larger scale to determine whether mild or asymptomatic cases are occurring, and said such studies are planned.last_img read more