November 28th, 2007

The protection of journalists

The case. Somewhere in 2000, a water pipe bursts in an Amsterdam apartment building. The owner unfortunately is out, so the police is called. They open the apartment and conclude they should really also check on the neighbor. They open that apartment too and lo and behold what a coincidence: it is owned by a very bad and very wanted and very untouched criminal and how lucky, there is a loadsof weapons found. A journalist on the scene interviews a policeman who “wink wink, nudge nudge” tells him the water thingy was a hoax, which of course not only he publishes, but is also used by the defense to have the whole entry in the apartment earmarked illegal. The prosecution twists the journalists arm to tell them who the cop was, and of course he doesn’t fold; if revealed nobody would tell this guy anything ever again, and it would actually hurt the role journalism has in exposing wrongdoing.

Here it gets slowly interesting. Know that the right to not reveal sources is NOT layed out in the law in this country, but is confirmed in several court cases, ergo de facto law. The situation is of course much to the (understandable, but still un”law”ful) chagrin of the prosecution and they ask the court to have the journalist detained until he speaks up. I think in the US it would be filed under contempt to the court, here it is called “being taken hostage”. After 17 days of silence he is released and the court deems his story as a fantasy. The criminal was trailed.

The story would have ended here, if the journalist hadn’t taken matters to the highest European court possible (European court for Human Rights). A few days ago the verdict came out: Unlawful. The journalist was right on all accounts and him being thrown in jail was not only unlawful but also against basic human rights, yes Sir. Unfortunately for him, the legal fees he requested to be paid back are denied. Parliament kicks in and the Justice minister responds it is about time this whole source protection stuff should be put into a law, comparable with the law for doctors and lawyers.

So far so good eh? In the political debate, he makes an almost casual side note. It goes something like “of course we have to define [sic: in the law] what a journalist is, who is and who isn’t”. Aaaaah, and here my friends, I think all flags should go red. Not only is it impossible to define “journalist” in this era (am I one?), but should this artificial line be drawn, who would you go to if the chains had to be rattled? Politicians shouldn’t define who is a journalist, it is a case by case issue and a judge is, as has been proven many times, perfectly capable to assess if somebody, maybe even a simple blogger is an “acting” journalist and balance the power of publication against protecting criminals. Not ever has a criminal been saved from prosecution because he started a weblog and claimed to be a journalist. This is a very un-clever plan.

What do you think? And is source-protection embedded in the law in your country? Do journalists have a legal, as in based in the law, special status?

Added: Duh, I wrote earlier a bit about journalists being taken hostage by the government.

November 22nd, 2007

The disappearance of Natalee Holloway

This is a story where our nations are connected in a less happy way.

Two years ago, American teenager Natalee Holloway disappeared in the night, never to be seen again, on the beach of Aruba, which is part of the kingdom I live in. Local police is said to have screwed up badly, leading to her parents pulling every single rope they could, including strap in Fox News and “Dr Phil” for their good cause. The FBI went in too and of course followed their own agenda. From then on, the horrible tragedy only went downhill of course. Fact is, Dutch adolescent Joram van der Sloot, son of a prosecutor on the Caribbean island, together with two brothers, saw the 19 year old girl, alive the last, and cooked up an alibi to put them out of the picture. The were detained for a while. On request of the Aruban government, the Dutch police took over the investigation and today, Joram and the two are arrested again. The prosecutors claim “substantial new evidence”. He’ll be flown to Aruba this week, but not to party.

Added dec 8: The two brothers were released earlier this week, Van der Sloot yesterday.

Added dec 19: Case is closed for the prosecutors. Unless stunningly new evidence is found, there is no case. In the meantime, an American high-tech vessel is scanning up till depth of 2 miles.

November 21st, 2007

The verdict

In Saudi-Arabia a woman, who was sitting in a car with non-relative male (a crime), was ambushed and raped by 7 men. She was convicted to 90 whiplashes and that sentence has been firmed up to 200 and 6 months imprisonment in an appeal case. For publishing the verdict, her lawyer saw his license removed and being prosecuted too. The US government is “surprized” *) but refused to condemn the verdict. But hey, S-A is a friend isn’t it? Nice, very nice. This is what Human Rights Watch has to say about it:

“A courageous young woman faces lashing and prison for speaking out about her efforts to find justice,” said Farida Deif, researcher in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “This verdict not only sends victims of sexual violence the message that they should not press charges, but in effect offers protection and impunity to the perpetrators.”

The 7 men were convicted to 2-9 years.

Earlier on the nest: The Saudi’s.

Note: *) This is a double translation and might not be the exact word used.

Added Dec 17th:  King Abdullah granted pardon to the woman. It is not clear to me if she was imprisoned in the mean time.

November 21st, 2007

The Chestnut tree

I want you opinion please. A growing news item here, apparently growing to international proportions is the chestnut tree in the back garden of the house where Anne Frank lived in World War Two (for the uninitiated, Anne Frank was a Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, writing a diary of her life while hiding in what is called in English “the Secret Annexe”. The family was arrested after a tip-off and she died from typhus in concentration camp Bergen Belsen at age 15, a few weeks before the British liberated it. She would have been send immediately to the gas chamber in Auschwitz had she been below 15. The diary was found in the house which is now a museum, is published around the world, mandatory reading for millions of students and an icon of the prosecution of Jews). The monumental tree she describes in her dairy is ill and the city has given a permit to chop it down, to the shock of many people.

This has gone to court and the judge ordered the city to give the protesters time to find alternative solutions. The tree is saved for approximately 8 weeks.

What is this? History, or small-news?

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Side line: a neighbor of the museum “Anne Frank house” collects the chestnuts falling from the tree in his garden. I heard he sells them on E-bay and the price has risen from below $100 to nearing $10.000 a piece. I did NOT verify this.

Added Dec 17th: the tree will get a steel support. What might have pushed that decision is that more and more signals were emerging the  museum wanted the have the space to expand. Probably foul rumor, but smore/fire, etc.

November 18th, 2007

The gravel in pocket revisited

Kinda fun to have a new online library. Ran into some oldies with fantastic riffs and played ‘m REALLY loud, yee-haw. Like what? How about Toto-Roseanna, or Carly Simon-Nobody does it better, or Earth, Wind & Fire-Got To Get You Into My Life. Oh man, this is fun.

Disclaimer: No I do not buy RIAA label music anymore.

November 18th, 2007

The upgrade

We are upgrading this to Tiga 2.3, to fix the broken left sidebar; Great Grey moved us to WordPress 2.3.1. earlier on. Plowing through some customization, bear with me please while this looks “wrong”.

Added: Getting there, just need to plug in Media Matters somehow. Great Grey, please note this is tiga-06 I am working in. The two tiga themes are confusing. If you switch, note I upgraded tiga-06 and renamed tiga to tiga-old.

Added: I think I am done. Everybody happy? Please add comments to this post. Great Grey, I redid the logo changes as documented in August 2006. I did NOT incorporate Media Matters in the source (dunno if you did that), but as the default positioning of the widgets in the sidebar has changed anyway, I used the Presentation / Widgets editor to fic the sidebar and you can see I tweaked Media Matters in Text 1.

November 17th, 2007

The retreat by Poland

Poland, one of the most loyal allies of the US in the Iraq war, will retreat their military from Iraq next year. New prime minister Tusk said Washington should understand that promise was one of the reasons his party won the election.

November 16th, 2007

The Paradise

Is this paradise or what?

Thanks Ursi.

 

November 16th, 2007

The dictator

Old news, I forgot to post it, sat in my drafts. Excerpt from CNN

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautiously welcomed Musharraf’s election timeline, calling it a “positive element,” but stressing “the state of emergency has got to be lifted, and lifted as soon as possible.”

“This is a country that’s going through extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” Rice told ABC’s “This Week.”

“But it is an ally, it is a friend. And we believe that, at a time like this, our best role is to counsel and indeed persuade that Pakistan has got to get back on the democratic path that it had established.”

Speaking at his first news conference since the order, Musharraf restated his vow to step down as military chief once a newly installed Supreme Court approves his third term in office.

“The moment they give a decision … I shall take the oath of office as the civilian president of Pakistan,” he said. “I hope that happens as soon as possible.”

Note: emphasis by me, pun intended. Why am I not surprized? It seems in the W.O.T. anything is allowed, even backing a dictator, who needs to be kicked out of power ASAP. Oh oh, but wait. He said the state of emergency was needed to neutralize Muslim extremists. That was the pass-sentence. In the meantime he stifled opposition, replaced the high judges and now “promises” (read: blackmails) to step down as army chief once he is (illegally) approved president for a third term. Hard to get it right huh? I mean who we support? Iraq was an enemy of Iran too, so it MUST have been a friend of the West. Oh to hell with democracy.

November 16th, 2007

The killing revisited

Sorry this subject returns. From a local newspaper; it didn’t seem to show on CNN’s website.

New York, Nov. 16. The Human Rights Commission of the General Assembly of the UN voted yesterday with a large majority in favor of a moratorium on executions.

99 countries voted in favor, including the Netherlands and other EU countries. 52 States voted against and 33 abstained from voting. In particular, the United States, China and a number of developing countries, particularly in the Islamic world, want to retain the death penalty.

During the at times fierce debate, among others Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Botswana, Iran, Barbados and the Bahamas argued against the resolution. Europe has been criticized for imposing Western values on the rest of the world. According to the Singapore UN representer that is “hypocritical and intolerant”.

According to the resolution that was eventually adopted, the death penalty undermines human dignity. In addition to a moratorium on executions it calls for a reduction in the number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed.

The ultimate goal of the resolution is for the death penalty to gradually be abolished altogether. The adoption of the non-binding resolution by the General Assembly plenary of the 192 members in December is seen as a formality.

According to human rights organization Amnesty International the resolution adopted Thursday is a “historic and significant step towards universal abolition of the death penalty”.

I pre-translated this using the just released Dutch version of Google translate. Posting the raw result in comments. How sad, now I cannot play the “you have to learn Dutch” game anymore.