Global Report 17.06.05

UNITED STATES

A county official in Colorado says friends of the late journalist
Hunter S Thompson won’t need a special permit to fire Thompson’s ashes
from a 150ft fistshaped canon, as the event will be private.

Thompson, who killed himself earlier this year at his home in Aspen,
requested that his cremated remains be fired from a steel monument that
resembles Thompson’s “gonzo fist” symbol. The service is scheduled for
20 August. It will include speeches, live entertainment and “more than
a hint of irreverence”. kwtx.com

FRANCE

A French journalist held hostage in Iraq for five months returned
home this week, and described months of captivity in a cellar, tied up
and blindfolded.

Florence Aubenas, a 43-year-old reporter for the French newspaper
Liberation, spent the first minutes of her homecoming embracing her
family, then spoke with reporters in obvious good humour. Aubenas’s
Iraqi assistant was also freed. The French journalist said she had been
unbound recently and allowed to watch French television. She was moved
to see a news ticker counting off her 140th day of captivity. “You’re
so happy to see that, when you’re all crouched over on the ground,” she
said. “That’s why it was so important to me to thank absolutely
everybody here.”

IRAN

Hollywood actor Sean Penn (pictured observing prayers) had his video
camera seized as dozens of journalists from around the world gathered
in advance of the presidential election in Iran last week.

Penn is covering the events for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Several
hundred women at a sit-in outside the entrance to Tehran University
demanded the return of rights revoked after the 1979 Islamic
revolution. As chants and taunts arose, police and plainclothes
officers surrounded the demonstrators, pushing away those trying to
join the group. Officials also cut off cell phone service in the area,
and challenged reporters nearby. In the process, they briefly seized
Penn’s camera, according to The Washington Post. He had arrived in Iran
as a reporter for his friend Phil Bronstein, editor of the Chronicle.
Penn was spotted on Friday with a notebook in hand, covering a prayer
service.

He has also written about his visits to Iraq for the Chronicle.

NEPAL

Maoist rebels have abducted journalist Bikram Giri.

The Kantipur newspaper says Giri was on a reporting assignment last
week when he was taken from a remote village near the Indian border.
There has been no reaction from the rebels as yet. But correspondents
say the rebels have abducted several journalists in the past, on
suspicion that they were spying for government forces. Kantipur editor
Narayan Wagle says Giri has been out of touch since he left for his
trip. Bishnu Nisthuri, president of the Federation of Nepalese
journalists, said the rebels publicly pledge to respect media freedom
but rarely live up to their commitment. BBConline

BANGLADESH

Voicing grave concerns over an increase in attacks on journalists in
Bangladesh, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organisation condemned the assassination of Golam Mahfuz,
editor of a daily newspaper. “The killing of Mr Mahfuz is a heinous
attack on democracy and the rule of law,” said director-general
Koichiro Matsuura. Mahfuz, editor of the Comilla Muktakantha, was
stabbed to death in his home near the capital, Dhaka. He was the fifth
journalist killed in Bangladesh in the past year. scoop.co.nz

KOSOVO

Unidentified assailants shot journalist Bardhyl Ajeti from a passing
car in Kosovo. Ajeti, 28, a reporter for the Albanian-language daily
Bota Sot, is now in a coma. Ajeti was driving from the capital Pristina
to the eastern town of Gnjilane when he was shot at from another car,
according to the Kosova Journalists Association. Bota Sot (World
Today)n is allied with the governing Democratic League of Kosovo Party.

Ajeti often criticised opposition party figures in his editorials.
The paper’s journalists have been threatened and attacked in the past.
Reporter Bekim Kastrati was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in
2001. cpj.org

AFGHANISTAN

The alleged leader of a gang that killed four journalists covering
the collapse of the Taliban in 2001 will probably face the death
penalty if convicted, a judge said after the man was captured in a
shoot-out with police. Zar Jan was accused of heading the group of
armed men who stopped the four journalists – three of them foreigners –
as they travelled in a convoy from the eastern city of Jalalabad six
days after the Taliban militia abandoned Kabul in the wake of heavy US
bombing. Those killed in the 2001 attack were Australian TV cameraman
Harry Burton and Afghan photographer Azizullah Haiari of Reuters; Maria
Grazia Cutuli (pictured) of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera;
and Julio Fuentes of the Spanish daily El Mundo. boston.com

GAMBIA

Reporters Sans Frontieres has voiced “revulsion” at a
government-orchestrated campaign to smear murdered journalist Deyda
Hydara following the release of a report by the National Intelligence
Agency (NIA) on its ongoing investigation into his death. The report is
“full of gratuitous detail about the journalist’s private life and
absurd theories about the motives for the murder”, it said. “Do we have
to remind the NIA that Deyda Hydara was the victim and not the suspect
in last December’s fatal ambush?” the organisation asked. “His family
and friends have already suffered enough and should not have to put up
with the government’s attempts to divert attention. This smear campaign
will not succeed in covering up the investigators’ negligence. The
NIA has just demonstrated its ineptitude by publishing this collection
of malicious gossip in the hope of tarnishing the memory of a respected
journalist slain six months ago by gunmen who are still at large,” said
RSF. AllAfrica.com

CHINA

A group of activists petitioned the central government’s liaison
office yesterday calling for the early release of Hong Kong-based
journalist Ching Cheong. The Alliance for the Rescue of Ching Cheong
said mainland authorities had acted unreasonably by detaining the China
correspondent of Singapore’s The Straits Times. About 500 people have
signed an internet petition calling for Ching’s release during the past
week, and the alliance plans to step up the campaign at the district
level. South China Morning Post

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