June 1st, 2012

Fleeing Violence against Journalists, Veracruz Photographer Seeks Asylum in US

A photojournalist from Veracruz, Mexico, is seeking political asylum in the US following a wave of killings of journalists who have covered drug trafficking in the violence-ridden Mexican state. The El Paso Times reports that Miguel Angel Lopez Solana, a photographer for La Jornada, a daily newspaper in Mexico, has decided to seek political asylum for himself and his wife almost a year after members of his family –who were also fellow journalists–were murdered.

The photographer’s father, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist at the Veracruz paper Notiver, his brother, Misael Lopez Solana, a photographer with Notiver, and his mother were shot and killed in their home on June 20, 2011.

Last month, three news photographers who covered organized crime in Veracruz were found murdered; their dismembered bodies showed signs of torture, according to the Veracruz police.

Miguel Lopez Solana himself was kidnapped and threatened at gunpoint in 2009 over his coverage of the police beat.

Fearing for his life, he recently contacted Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, and received a visa to travel to the US. He will file a request for political asylum later this month in Houston, according to his lawyer, Carlos Spector, who has represented other Mexican journalists fleeing anti-press violence in Mexico.

At a forum on press safety held May 23 in Austin, Texas, Lopez Solana told the audience, “They aren’t just killing us journalists, they are drawing and quartering us…We are living in terror.” The Texas Observer reports that Lopez Solana said his colleagues back in Veracruz feel isolated and afraid. “They are traumatized and living in fear. It’s way beyond any fiction you could ever imagine.”

Committee to Protect Journalists reports that since 2006, 45 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico.

(Thanks to Emphas.is for alerting us to Lopez Solana’s story.)

Related story
Three News Photographers Found Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

January 26th, 2012

US Falls To #47 On Press Freedom Index, Thanks to Occupy Crackdowns

Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 47th on their 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index, down 27 places from the previous year, tied with Argentina and Romania.

“In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation,” Reporters Without Borders wrote in their report. The US “owed its fall” to arrests and harassment related to coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the non-profit reporters’ rights group said.

The drop saw the US ranked just above Latvia, and Trinidad and Tobago, which fell 20 places due to a scandal involving the government spying on journalists.

In a statement released along with the index today, Reporters Without Borders noted that “Many media [around the world] paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements…. Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011.”

In North African and Middle East, the Arab uprisings greatly affected the rankings of several nations. In Tunisia and Libya rose in the index as censorious regimes were deposed. Egypt, however, fell 39 places in the index due in part to “The hounding of foreign journalists for three days at the start of February, the interrogations, arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers by military courts, and the searches without warrants,” the report said.

Syria and Yemen were already lowly ranked, so their crackdowns on demonstrations and journalists only caused them to sink a bit lower. Iran fell in the rankings to 175. China, “which has more journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents in prison than any other country,” the report notes, also ranked near the bottom of the index at 174.

Eritrea was the worst nation in the ranking for a fifth straight year, and its Horn of Africa neighbors Somalia and Sudan also received low rankings as part of an East African region where journalists are regularly subjected to violence, censorship and lengthy prison sentences served in awful conditions.

The Press Freedom Index is calculated using a scoring system based on a questionnaire distributed to partner organizations, a network of 150 correspondents around the world, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

For the full report and more on the creation of the index, see the full Reporters Without Borders release.

Related: New York Times Photographer Blocked by NYPD
Photogs Arrested in Raid on Occupy Protest at Zuccotti Park

September 7th, 2011

Print Sales, Web Site to Benefit Anton Hammerl’s Children

Friends of Anton Hammerl, the South African-born, London-based photographer and photo editor who was killed by pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya in April, have set up a Web site, www.friendsofanton.org,  to raise money for his three children. Tax deductible donations made to the site, which is sponsored by the non-profit Reporters Without Borders, will be used for the future education of Aurora, 11, Neo, 7, and Hiro, six months old.

Several photographers have donated prints which are being sold through the site; they include Joao Silva, Greg Marinovich, David Burnett, Teun Voeten, Frank Fournier, Andrew Testa and Teru Kuwayama, among others.

“Many people wanted to contribute to the future of Anton’s children,” says journalist Colleen Delaney, one of the volunteers behind the creation of the site. “There has been so much good will and the photo and journalism communities wanted to help.”

Photographer David Brabyn, another volunteer, says in a press release, “Everyone has worked tirelessly to get this project on the road – from the talented photographers who are donating their works, right down to web-based companies such as Emphas.is and PhotoShelter, who advised us, donated the account and waived transaction fees.” The site has also been supported by The Steven Vincent Foundation, digitaltechparis.com, Human Rights Watch and Committee to Protect Journalists.

Hammerl was working in Libya alongside photojournalist Manu Brabo and reporters Clare Morgana Gillis and James Foley on April 5 when the four went missing. While the other journalists were held in prison, Hammerl’s whereabouts remained unknown for six weeks. Upon their release in June, Gillis, Foley and Brabo informed Hammerl’s family that they had seen him shot by Libyan forces the day they were detained.

Related story:
Anton Hammerl Presumed Dead, Family Announces