Ecuador gives kidnappers 12 hours for news on abducted reporters

Relatives and friends of journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and their driver Efrain Segarra, who were abducted by dissident Colombian rebels on the troubled border with Colombia last March 26, take part in a mass at the Basilica of Quito on April 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2018
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Ecuador gives kidnappers 12 hours for news on abducted reporters

QUITO, Ecuador: Ecuador’s president gave renegade Colombian rebels 12 hours Thursday night to show whether three abducted reporters are alive, or face a forceful response.
The government Thursday received photos Thursday from the Colombian TV station RCN suggesting the three had been killed.
The journalists were abducted by rogue forces of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas along the countries’ shared border on March 26.
President Lenin Moreno, in an emotional speech, said if the government does not receive word on the team’s status “we will move forcefully ... not hesitating to punish these human rights violators,” the president said.
He spoke at Quito airport upon his return from a regional summit in Peru. “The clock starts clicking right now,” Moreno said.
Reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were kidnapped by rogue Colombian FARC guerrillas on March 26 at the Ecuador-Colombia border.
On April 3, Colombia’s RCN television aired a 23-second video showing the trio wearing chains with locks around their necks, the first proof of being alive.
One of the hostages asked Moreno to reach an agreement for their release.
Moreno in turn announced his government “will do everything possible and impossible so that they return safe and sound,” according to a spokesman.
Moreno decided to return urgently to Quito after a Colombian television channel announced it had received photographs that show the three journalists may be dead.
The journalists were on assignment in the border area where Ecuadoran security forces have come under a series of deadly attacks blamed on rogue FARC elements involved in drug trafficking.
The larger FARC movement reached a historic peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016.


Egypt targets social media with new law

Updated 17 July 2018
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Egypt targets social media with new law

  • Social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets
  • The media council will supervise the law and take action against violations

CAIRO: Egypt’s parliament has passed a law giving the state powers to block social media accounts and penalize journalists held to be publishing fake news.
Under the law passed on Monday social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets, which makes them subject to prosecution for publishing false news or incitement to break the law.
The Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media, headed by an official appointed by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, will supervise the law and take action against violations.
The bill prohibits the establishment of websites without obtaining a license from the Supreme Council and allows it to suspend or block existing websites, or impose fines on editors.
The law, which takes effect after it is ratified by El-Sisi, also states that journalists can only film in places that are not prohibited, but does not explain further.
Supporters of El-Sisi say the law is intended to safeguard freedom of expression and it was approved after consultations with judicial experts and journalists.
But critics say it will give legal basis to measures the government has been taking to crack down on dissent and extend its control over social media.
Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the vague wording of the law allows authorities to interpret violations and control the media.
“That power of interpretation has been a constant powerful legal and executive tool that was used to justify excessive aggressive and exceptional measures to go after journalists,” he told Reuters.
Hundreds of news sites and blogs have been blocked in recent months and around a dozen people have been arrested this year and charged with publishing false news, many of them journalists or prominent government critics.