Ahead of elections, Tanzania’s regulator is used as a cudgel against the media

On August 27, the second day of mainland Tanzania’s official campaign period leading up to October 28 elections, authorities ordered privately owned broadcasters Clouds TV and Clouds FM to replace their regular programming with an hours-long apology until midnight and then halt programming altogether for a week.

The over-the-top display of repentance was dictated by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), on the grounds that both broadcasters had broken the law by airing parliamentary candidate nomination results without verifying the information with Tanzania’s electoral commission.

This kind of punishment is becoming more common in Tanzania. In 2020, the TCRA has ordered at least one online television station, a news site, and at least four other broadcasters to temporarily suspend programming, and fined at least 10 other media outlets, according to CPJ’s review of TCRA’s public statements. The regulator cited violent and sexual content as the reason it penalized some outlets; others were punished for allegedly misleading or biased reporting on topics like politics and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regulator’s aggressive stance – the latest development in a years-long decline in press freedom in Tanzania documented by CPJ – is undermining the ability of the press to cover the upcoming elections independently, according to a dozen journalists in Tanzania who spoke to CPJ in September and October.

“There is an atmosphere of fear—a deeply ingrained fear for journalists. Self-censorship has set in. People prefer not to do things rather than do them and risk censure from TCRA or the ministry [of information],” said Jenerali Ulimwengu, a columnist with weekly TheEastAfrican newspaper and a former Tanzanian parliamentarian.

Ulimwengu, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app in September and October, said he thinks the media is shying away from criticizing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Tanzania’s ruling party.

Incumbent President John Magufuli is running for reelection against 14 other candidates, according to reports. As the vote draws near, Tanzanian authorities have broadened their crackdown on civil society and the opposition, leading to concerns among political observers and rights organizations that the conditions in the country won’t “engender free and fair elections” as Ringisai Chikohomero, a researcher with African non-profit Institute for Security Studies, put it.

Journalists who spoke to CPJ in December 2015 were hopeful that the newly-elected Magufuli might reform anti-press cybercrimes and statistics laws and stymie a problematic proposed media law. Instead, over the past five years CPJ has documented a bludgeoning of press freedom through retaliatory prosecutions, arbitrary media shutdowns, and restrictive legislation.

In July, Tanzania updated its 2018 online content regulations, entrenching requirements for internet news providers, including bloggers, to pay exorbitant registration fees to TCRA and strengthening prohibitions on broad categories of content, including political demonstrations and natural disasters, according to the rules, which CPJ reviewed. The updated regulations also further empower TCRA, a self-described “quasi independent Government body” established in 2003 to oversee electronic media and manage frequencies, to act as an enforcer.

“TCRA has moved beyond a regulator and taken on a seemingly censorious role,” Maria Sarungi-Tsehai, director of the independent Kwanza Online TV, told CPJ via messaging app in September.

Khalifa Said, an independent journalist who spoke to CPJ in September, recalled interviewing a videographer to work with him on a project who was so fearful that he requested a clause in his contract absolving him of liability should the regulator come calling.

Officials at TCRA did not respond to CPJ’s emails requesting comment in September and October. CPJ also contacted Tanzania’s information minister, who has the power to appoint TCRA’s director general as well as board members. In a phone call, the minister, Harrison Mwakyembe, declined to comment, saying he was preoccupied with elections. He referred CPJ to the government spokesperson, Hassan Abbasi, but he did not respond to CPJ’s texts or calls.

In April TCRA suspended Mwananchi, a Kiswahili-language newspaper, from publishing online for six months for posting an old video of Magufuli in a busy fish market. At the time, people familiar with the matter told CPJ the video had been construed to show the president was acting imprudently amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, the regulator hit Kwanza Online TV with an 11-month ban for sharing an American embassy COVID-19 travel warning, as CPJ documented. Mwananchi came back online on October 16, according to reports on its website and on TheCitizen, which is owned by the same company.

Chambi Chachage, a Tanzanian political commentator and a post-doctoral research associate at Princeton University, said that while some regulation is necessary, he was concerned by what he called the inconsistent and arbitrary application of the rules.

“Who decides you’re going to be banned for a week? For a year?” said Chachage, who is based in the United States, in a video call with CPJ.

Between January and April, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) documented the prosecution of at least seven journalists and bloggers, for allegedly failing to register websites and YouTube pages with the TCRA, according to the Coalition’s public statements. The Coalition, which is an umbrella body for local rights groups, said it had documented a total of at least 13 people prosecuted during this period; two were convicted and paid the minimum fine of five million Tanzanian shillings (US$2,150) rather than go to prison for 12 months.

In August and September, CPJ spoke to three people who had been prosecuted under this law who said the cost of registration is too prohibitive and that they live in fear of the possible penalties. “It is cheaper for me to go to prison for a year than to pay this fine,” said blogger Jabir Johnson, the only one of the three who agreed to be named and whose court case is ongoing.

The regulator has also taken aim at local media for using foreign content. In August, the TCRA issued warnings to four Tanzanian radio stations for rebroadcasting a BBC interview of opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, according to a TCRA statement.

These warnings followed changes to broadcasting rules in June which require local stations to be licensed with TCRA in order to run any content other than their own, according to reports. The rules also include a vague stipulation that broadcasters must involve a government official in any dealings with foreigners, without providing specifics.

Officials have explained the rules as a way to keep track of partnerships with foreign companies and to ensure that foreign content adheres to local standards, according to media reports and a statement from TCRA.

“We remain very concerned about the new regulation, as it seems to be a tool intended to control what media in Tanzania will be able to publish in the future, ultimately putting the public at a disadvantage,” the head of DW’s Africa service, Claus Stäcker, told CPJ via email though he said that all of the German broadcaster’s Tanzanian partners had received the new permit without delays.


In an August 31 statement, the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees the broadcaster Voice of America (VOA), said that some of its Tanzania affiliates had  “promptly ceased carrying internationally produced programs” when the regulations became public. In an October 15 email, USAGM told CPJ that 23 of the agency’s 24 partner stations are now carrying VOA content; one is still awaiting a TCRA permit to do so.

USAGM told CPJ it does not believe the new broadcasting regulations would have any impact on the VOA’s coverage of the elections. However, local journalists who spoke to CPJ are less optimistic in their outlook.

“We are trying to be professional and balanced, but not even this will protect you. Right now, as a journalist, you will struggle,” said a reporter with Watetezi TV, an outlet owned by the THRDC. The reporter requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

This article was originally published on Ahead of elections, Tanzania’s regulator is used as a cudgel against the media

Restrictions imposed as president declares emergency

New York, March 3, 2008—Armenian authorities should immediately lift restrictions on independent news reporting and the censorship of independent news Web sites, steps imposed when President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency on Saturday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Kocharian declared a 20-day state of emergency after clashes between government troops and opposition supporters in the capital, Yereven, resulted in eight deaths and more than 100 injuries, according to international press reports. Protesters claimed that vote-rigging marred the February 19 presidential election that ended in victory for Kocharian’s hand-picked successor, Serzh Sarkisian. Hundreds of troops were deployed in Yerevan to clamp down on the demonstrations. The state of emergency also banned public gatherings, set travel restrictions, and gave police expanded search powers, according to international news accounts.

As part of the declaration, Kocharian ordered media outlets to cite only official sources when reporting on national politics. Several independent and opposition news Web sites that operate under Armenian domain names were also blocked today. They included Web sites run by the pro-opposition news agency A1+ and the independent newspapers Aravot (Morning) and Aikakan Zhamanak (Armenian Time), according to the news agency Armenia Today. Armenia Today reported that local Internet users received a message that said: “Warning! As ordered by a state decree, some informational Web sites will not be accessible.” The Armenian Service of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was blocked within the country.

“We’re alarmed by this blatant attempt to censor news of the disputed election,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on Armenian authorities to withdraw the ban on independent newsgathering and dissemination, and restore access to independent and opposition media.”

Sarkisian took about 53 percent of the vote on February 19, according to official results, and is due to take office in April. Rival candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian, who was Armenia’s first post-Soviet president, contested the results and claimed the election was rigged, according to RFE/RL.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which monitored the election, said the vote was mostly in conformance with international standards. But OSCE monitors noted flaws in vote-counting and said officials blurred partisan and governmental interests.

Up to 20,000 Ter-Petrosian supporters began rallying in Yerevan on February 21; their skepticism about the results was fanned when two Central Elections Commission members and a deputy prosecutor general publicly questioned the fairness of the vote, RFE/RL reported.

Authorities deployed police when Ter-Petrosian’s supporters built a tent camp on the capital’s Freedom Square and groups of protesters staged rallies in front of different government buildings, the news agency Regnum reported. The stand-off reached its peak on Saturday morning when police, claiming that they had received reports of alleged arms distribution and coup plotting, started dismantling the tents, according to local press reports.

Angered protesters, in turn, attacked police with metal rods and Molotov cocktails, burned cars, and looted local shops, Reutersreported. The protests calmed when Ter-Petrosian called on Sunday for a halt to the violence, Regnum said.

This Article was originally published on Restrictions imposed as president declares emergency

Attacks on the Press 1999: Israel and the Occupied Territories

Since Israel began turning over parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) six years ago, its repression of the local press has noticeably declined. The censorship, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of Palestinian journalists that marked full-fledged Israeli occupation are now practiced by Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and his coterie.

Nevertheless, Israel still used its control over significant portions of the occupied territories to trample on press freedoms. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and police continued to pose a threat to Palestinian reporters through violent attacks and arrests. In May, for example, Israeli policemen assaulted a group of mostly Palestinian reporters and cameramen who were attempting to cover a demonstration against Israeli settlement activity in the Ras Al-Amud neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The journalists and a number of demonstrators, including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, were beaten as police moved in to break up the protest.

Israeli authorities also continued to restrict the movement of Palestinian reporters. Like most West Bank Palestinian residents, journalists found it difficult or impossible to enter East Jerusalem and Israel. Israeli press cards and official government permission, which Palestinian journalists need in order to travel to these locations, are distributed arbitrarily and sparingly. To get to Jerusalem, many West Bank journalists are forced to enter the city illegally by circumventing army checkpoints. And even with the proper permission, journalists may be denied entry into Israel during total closures of the territories–a common occurrence during Israeli holidays and after suicide bombings or other violent incidents. For Palestinian journalists in Gaza, access to Jerusalem and the West Bank is almost impossible, except for a handful of reporters who have the necessary documents.

In October, veteran Gaza-based reporter Taher Shriteh was prohibited from traveling via the newly opened “safe passage” route between Gaza and the West Bank, which opened on October 25, supposedly to facilitate the free movement of Palestinians between the two territories. Since 1995, Israeli authorities have denied Shriteh permission to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank, apparently in reprisal for his years of reporting about the Intifada and the activities of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Gaza. Shriteh was also forbidden to use the Israeli security-escorted shuttle-bus service that was set up to transport Palestinians whom Israel deems security threats.

In Israel proper, the Hebrew and Arabic press enjoyed considerable freedoms, but military censorship remained in effect for both local and foreign media. Under the so-called censorship agreement now in effect, newspapers that are party to the agreement must “voluntarily” submit national-security-related news to the censors. The latter can bar publication of such news, although journalists have the option of a judicial appeal. Most local media are able to circumvent the restrictions by attributing sensitive news to foreign news outlets. Foreign journalists, meanwhile, say censorship regulations are enforced erratically, so the entire system seems arbitrary.

Government meddling, however, often went beyond censorship. In April, the Israeli daily Haaretz published a disturbing report alleging that the IDF’s psychological-warfare unit was actively trying to plant news items in the Israeli press about threats posed by Iran and the militant Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. The Haaretz article, written by reporter Aluf Benn, said that the IDF regularly attempts to place stories with the Israeli press that its agents have previously planted in Arabic newspapers and that agents have pressured reporters to publish certain materials. Officers of the psychological-warfare unit “are in constant contact with Israeli journalists and give them translated material from Arabic newspapers,” Benn wrote.

Israeli-occupation forces in southern Lebanon continued to spell trouble for local journalists. Sound technician Kassem Dergham was seriously wounded by IDF gunfire while attempting to cover the aftermath of the IDF’s occupation of Arnoun in April. In September, Israeli or pro-Israeli forces of the South Lebanon Army detained journalism-school graduate and free-lance reporter Cosette Elias Ibrahim while she was visiting her family in the town of Rumaish. She was accused of collaborating with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Ibrahim had reportedly planned to carry out investigative reporting about the situation in south Lebanon. The precise motive for her arrest is unknown, given that she has been denied due process of law and remains outside a legal framework while being held in the notorious Khiam detention facility in Israel’s “security zone.”

March 29
Palestine News Agency HARASSED

A ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the closure of the Jerusalem office of the Palestine News Agency (WAFA), the official press agency of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). WAFA was ordered to close, along with two other Jerusalem-based Palestinian offices–the Palestinian Prisoners Club and the office of the PNA’s deputy minister for Christian affairs.

Israeli authorities claimed that WAFA’s Jerusalem office represented an illegal challenge to Israel’s sovereignty over the city. After the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “all of these are official…[ PNA] offices in Jerusalem, and their activity is unacceptable to us. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and only of Israel.”

In a March 31 letter to Netanyahu, CPJ protested the move and urged that the ban on WAFA be reversed immediately. On April 8, after lawyers for the PNA filed an appeal at Israel’s Supreme Court, Israeli authorities dropped their demand that WAFA’s office be closed. The agency’s office remains open.

April 16
Kassem Dergham, Abu Dhabi TV ATTACKED

Dergham, a sound technician with the gulf-based station Abu Dhabi TV, was wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet fired by Israeli soldiers near the town of Arnoun in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. Dergham had gone with a group of journalists to cover the occupation of Arnoun by Israeli forces the previous night. He was fired on as he approached an elderly woman and her husband fleeing the town.

According to Dergham, Israeli soldiers warned him and a group of 10 other reporters to leave the area around the entrance to the town, where soldiers had erected a barbed-wire fence. The soldiers then threw smoke bombs in their direction, immediately following them with a barrage of six shots at close range. Dergham was wounded in the back; the bullet was lodged between his spinal cord and his lung. He was taken to the hospital, where surgeons removed the bullet.

Dergham told CPJ that he received an anonymous phone call at the hospital the next day, warning, “This time it is your lung; next time it will be your head.”

September 5
Mazen Dana, Reuters ATTACKED, HARASSED
Imad al-Said, Associated Press ATTACKED, HARASSED
Hussam Abu Allam, Agence France-Presse ATTACKED, HARASSED
Nasser Shyioukhi, Associated Press ATTACKED, HARASSED
Loai Abu Haikal, ARD TV ATTACKED, HARASSED
Samih Shaheen, WTN ATTACKED, HARASSED

Israeli soldiers detained six Palestinian photojournalists near the West Bank town of Hebron. They were Dana of Reuters, al-Said of the Associated Press (AP), Abu Allam of Agence France-Presse, Shyioukhi of the AP, Haikal of Germany’s ARD TV, and Shahin of WTN.

The journalists had been attempting to photograph Israeli bulldozers at work on land confiscated from Palestinians outside the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba. They initially came under attack from a Jewish settler who threw stones at them and brandished his firearm in a threatening manner. Israeli soldiers then detained the six journalists, confiscating their identification cards. The soldiers accused them of trespassing in a closed military area. According to Dana, however, “the purpose behind the arrest was to restrict our movement and to prevent us from showing the world what the bulldozers are doing on the ground.”

The six journalists were held for about four hours at a police station in Kiryat Arba and then released.

October 11
Kawthar Salam, Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda HARASSED

The Israeli Civil Coordinating Committee in Hebron refused to renew the travel permit of Salam, a veteran reporter for the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda. Palestinian journalists need travel permits to enter Israel and areas under Israeli control in the occupied territories.

Salam had held a travel permit for nearly eight years, thus becoming one of the few Palestinian journalists to have regular access to Israel and Israeli-controlled areas.

The apparent justification for refusing Salam’s request for a permit was her recent reporting on the alleged failure of Israeli authorities to implement decisions by the Israeli High Court allowing Palestinian families to be reunited in Hebron.

The refusal may also have been prompted by articles that Salam published about allegedly improper activities of Israeli liaison officers responsible for approving residency permits in Hebron. Israeli authorities claimed, without further explanation, that her writings constituted “incitement.”

In an October 15 letter to Maj. Gen. Yaacov Orr, Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the West Bank and Gaza, CPJ urged that the matter be resolved quickly so that Salam might “continue her journalistic work without undue official restrictions in areas under Israeli control.”

On December 2, Col. Amnon Cohen, the head of the Hebron District Civil Liaison Office, renewed Salam’s permit.

October 20
Taher Shriteh, The New York Times, BBC, Yomiuri Shimbun HARASSED

Shriteh, a veteran Gaza-based reporter for The New York Times, the BBC, and the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, learned that Israeli authorities had rejected his application for a permit to travel via the safe-passage route between Gaza and the West Bank, which opened on October 25. Israeli authorities provided no explanation for their decision.

Shriteh was also forbidden to use the Israeli-security-escorted shuttle-bus service that operates between Gaza and the West Bank to transport people barred from entering Israel on security grounds.

Since 1995, Israeli authorities have denied Shriteh permission to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank, effectively barring him from gathering news outside Gaza and from meeting with current and prospective employers.

These measures appear to have been taken in reprisal for Shriteh’s years of reporting about the activities of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Gaza.

On October 21, CPJ wrote to Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, urging that the restrictions on Shriteh’s freedom of movement be lifted immediately.

October 20
Kawthar Salam, Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda HARASSED

Israeli soldiers detained Salam, a veteran reporter for the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat, while she was photographing a group of Palestinian workers at Israel’s Hebron District Civil Liaison Office.

The journalist was preparing a story about difficulties encountered by workers seeking permits to travel to Israel. Claiming that Salam had illegally photographed a military area, the Israeli soldiers confiscated her film. She was held for three hours and then released.

This Article was originally published on Attacks on the Press 1999: Israel and the Occupied Territories

China threatens foreign journalists for ‘illegal’ reporting

New York, March 3, 2011–Police threats to revoke foreign journalists’ visas and require advance permission for newsgathering are disturbing new efforts to restrict reporting on protests in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Police told some foreign journalists they could lose their accreditation and residence permits if they conduct “illegal” reporting in parts of central Beijing and Shanghai without permission, according to Reuters and other international news reports. Some journalists reported being told that advance consent would be required for any filming in China going forward. The warnings were given to journalists from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, the BBC, and other news outlets, in meetings held Wednesday and today, according to international news reports.

Wangfujing, a downtown shopping street in Beijing, and a section of Shanghai near the People’s Square, were apparently ruled off-limits because of unsigned online calls for Sunday afternoon protests in Chinese cities modeled on recent popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the reports. Turnout in response to the calls, which were first issued February 19, has been weak. Yet police and plainclothed security officials flooded Wangfujing last Sunday, detaining at least a dozen foreign journalists and injuring two.

The order contravenes regulations issued in advance of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 that allow foreign reporters to interview any consenting subject. Journalists had previously needed official permission to travel for reporting, a restriction that still applies in areas the government considers sensitive, like the Tibetan Autonomous Region, according to CPJ research. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denied any change in regulations, according to a The Wall Street Journal report.

“The Chinese government is doing itself serious damage with these blatant attempts to bully the foreign media into silence,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “These vague warnings, contradictory regulations, and intimidation of the international press corps show that China’s commitments on press freedom to secure the Olympics were just a veneer.”

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said some members had been warned to seek permission to report from Wangfujing before Sunday’s clashes. But it was not clear how to contact the appropriate Public Security Bureau, and even journalists who believed they had obtained the go-ahead were physically pushed off the streets. The BBC’s Damian Grammaticas wrote: “We stopped when they asked us, showed them our documents, and waited for permission to proceed.”

Beijing-based media blog Danwei reported Wednesday that regulations governing the Wangfujing area as of January 1 have appeared on the district government website with a newly-inserted clause forbidding “unauthorized interviews or photography that gathers people together.” “The new rules seem to have been posted online fairly recently, and do not show up in a Baidu web search as of this afternoon,” Danwei wrote. Baidu is a Chinese search engine. CPJ could not confirm the clause because links to the Dongcheng district website were inactive from New York on Thursday.

The government has used its visa and accreditation process to control foreign journalists in the past. Visa procedures tightened for journalists in 2008 before the Olympics, even for long-time residents not governed by the specific registration requirements for reporting the Games. A Tibetan Radio Free Asia reporter was denied entry despite formal accreditation.

Foreign journalists have also been harassed and detained in central Beijing for reporting on protests and sensitive political anniversaries, even since the improved regulations were introduced in 2007.  But this week’s interference has been particularly severe and been accompanied by severe online censorship. Several bloggers and activists are have been arrested on suspicion of state subversion or report police surveillance, and malicious messages on Twitter target journalists and activists who discuss the proposed demonstrations, according to CPJ research.

This Article was originally published on China threatens foreign journalists for ‘illegal’ reporting

Covering the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh

Hostilities erupted once again on September 27, 2020, between the forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh. As of October 9, over 300 people had been killed, according to news reports.

Major population centers such as Stepanakert, the region’s capital, and Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, have been targeted, including critical infrastructure like bridges and power stations, as reported by Eurasianet. Drone strikes, shelling, and heavy artillery fire are commonplace in what continues to be a fast-moving and dynamic situation, according to the Associated Press.

As of October 9, at least two journalists have been injured by shelling in the town of Shushi, with a further four injured in a shelling attack in the town of Khojavend, known locally as Martuni, as documented by CPJ.

International powers continue to call for a ceasefire.

Journalists planning to cover the conflict on the ground from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding region should consider the following safety advice:

Pre-Assignment

  • As of October 8, the Nagorno-Karabakh region was accessible only via the land border crossings with Armenia, according to CPJ sources on the ground. Be aware that crossings may be closed with little or no notice.
  • Ensure that you apply for the relevant accreditation to report from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities regard journalists who work in Nagorno-Karabakh without their permission to be working illegally, and consider those who travel through Armenia to get there as illegally entering their state borders, according to a press release from the Azeri Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Twitter. This frequently results in journalists being banned from entering Azerbaijan, and has resulted in prison sentences in the past. Note that press credentials can be revoked at any moment, as documented by CPJ in the case of Russian independent daily Novaya Gazeta correspondent Ilya Azar, who had his accreditation revoked by Armenia on October 8.
  • Appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) should be taken with you and worn when operating on the ground. Sources have informed CPJ that obtaining PPE on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh and also in Armenia is currently extremely challenging. It is advisable to take the following items as a minimum:

–A hard body vest (i.e. with ballistic grade hard armor/plates)

–A ballistic grade safety helmet

–Ballistic grade safety goggles

–Ear defenders

–Avoid taking/wearing PPE that makes you look too much like the military or security forces, taking into account the color and style of all items worn

–If possible, you should plan on bringing additional PPE for any local drivers and/or fixers that you work with, as they are unlikely to be able to procure their own

–If transiting/connecting through airports in the wider region, it is advisable to research if PPE may cause issues with customs/authorities

  • Electricity supplies have on occasion been disrupted in certain towns due to shelling and drone strikes. You should take a good quality flashlight and spare batteries with you, as well as a portable power bank to charge your equipment. Ensure that you charge your equipment at every opportunity.
  • Medical care is available and of a reasonable standard in the major cities of Nagorno-Karabakh. Depending on your location it can be difficult to reach medical assistance quickly due to the challenging road conditions. Bring a well-stocked emergency first aid kit with you, and it is advisable to have a medically qualified individual with you. Be aware that medevac options may be limited due to ongoing fighting.
  • Some scenes you witness may be traumatic and upsetting. Consider the risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), an issue that can affect even the most experienced and battle hardened war correspondents. For more information on understanding trauma, please refer to CPJ’s psychological safety note.
  • Good resources for information include the International Crisis Group, which has a detailed visual guide to the conflict that includes maps (which can be hard to obtain). In addition, Al-Monitor has a good breakdown of the regional players, as well as the weaponry involved. Having an understanding of the uniforms and vehicles used by either side can be important to your safety, noting that both sides commonly take and use each other’s vehicles.
  • Bring emergency provisions with you in case you are cut off or if there are any issues with food supplies.
  • Journalists covering the region should thoroughly review their digital security, noting that online harassment is very common. Only communicate via devices and platforms you know are secure and that will not compromise the safety of you and your team. Store any sensitive data in the cloud and/or on encrypted devices.
  • Ensure you have adequate travel and life insurance in place that will cover you for working in a conflict zone. For EU-based freelancers, Voyager High Risk Insurance is a popular option. The ACOS Alliance has additional information on insurance for freelance journalists and local media.

On The Ground

Logistics

  • Key bridges have been targeted, as witnessed on the Lachin corridor highway over the Hakari river, which may result in land crossings becoming inaccessible and/or their closure. With only a few roads in and out of the Nagorno-Karabakh region there is a possibility of getting cut off from Armenia. This should be factored into your contingency planning accordingly.
  • The main fighting is currently centered in three main areas: The mountainous north, and the relatively low lying east and south, as reported by the BBC. Be aware that the presence of aerial combat drones (UAVs) makes no area a truly safe zone at present, including major cities such as Stepanakert and Shushi, and the outskirts of which have been shelled. Additionally, there have been reports of strikes inside the recognized borders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, including on the outskirts Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.
  • It is strongly advisable to work with a reliable and trusted fixer and/or driver from the Nagorno-Karabakh region at all times, noting that the local dialect can be difficult (even for Armenians).
  • Be aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult to source an experienced driver who is willing to travel outside the city, as many local people have been called up to fight due to mobilization (including reservists).
  • Road conditions can be extremely challenging, with narrow and steep mountain passes in places. Driving can be very slow and at times dangerous, especially in poor weather. This can make entering and exiting an area quickly impossible and impact your ability to reach medical care. Never rely on apps like Google Maps to work out approximate driving times.
  • Due to the threat from air strikes and drones, it is strongly recommended to stay in accommodation that has access to a basement, underground bunker, or air raid shelter. Be ready to relocate to a safe shelter at short notice, and have the necessary equipment ready to go in a grab bag (such as warm clothes, portable water/food, phone charger, small mirror for contact lenses, etc.).
  • Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have declared martial law. In Azerbaijan a 9 p.m. curfew is in place, with limited internet access reported on a number of days, according to Human Rights Watch. This should be factored into your contingency planning and movements, noting that it may limit your ability to report.
  • If possible, try and avoid public transport hubs in the wider region. A train station in the Azerbaijan city of Terter was hit, as well as a bus station, according to media reports and photos posted by journalists on Twitter.

Safety Considerations

Indiscriminate and heavy artillery, mortar, air and drone strikes are a significant danger when operating in the region. At least six journalists have already been seriously injured, as documented by CPJ.

  • According to CPJ sources on the ground, there are increased checkpoints on the routes in and out of the Nagorno Karabakh region. If you are held up at such checkpoints remain alert to the danger of being targeted by shelling and/or air strikes.
  • Though air raid sirens are generally reliable, there have been several notable attacks with no warning, according to CPJ sources on the ground. If you do hear a siren, seek hard cover immediately–most buildings usually have some sort of basement and you will see locals running toward them.
  • Before traveling to any location, check on the latest security situation with locals and/or other journalists who have been there. If possible, ask for updates at checkpoints along the way and identify safe locations. Be aware of an ‘echo chamber’ effect that individuals spreading unsubstantiated information can create.
  • Getting caught in shelling and crossfire is a real danger, as highlighted by Reuters, while drones are a hidden threat that can strike at any moment, as reported by Asia Times. PPE should therefore be worn and situational awareness observed at all times. Remain aware of your surroundings and constantly assess viable escape routes and hard cover options.
  • Multiple nongovernmental organizations have identified the use of Israeli-made M095 DPICM cluster munitions in residential areas of Stepanakert. These can be identified by the attached bright pink ribbon, as highlighted by the Halo Trust. These weapons are extremely dangerous and should be avoided completely.
  • Media workers should be aware of the dangers of reporting from the immediate aftermath of an explosion, shelling, airstrike, or drone attack, noting the dangers from a follow up strike, secondary explosions from flammable materials, and/or collapsing buildings. For safety reasons, always keep a safe distance from windows and/or glass-fronted buildings.
  • When reporting from a built up urban area that has recently been attacked, consider the necessity of wearing breathing protection, noting the health risks associated with breathing in asbestos, dust, and other harmful particulates if buildings have collapsed.
  • Find out if attacks are occurring in rear areas such as ambushes, special forces operations, or air attacks. Identify patterns such as dawn bombardments or dusk air assaults. Always be alert to the threat of snipers.
  • Be particularly careful when reporting near military targets or anything that could be mistaken for a military target.
  • In the past in conflict zones, live broadcasting and filming from rooftops or strategic positions have been targeted, particularly at night.
  • Plan your overnight stops in advance, and only stay in areas considered to be relatively safe that are well away from any frontline fighting. Always aim to get back to your accommodation well before dark.
  • Use discretion when filming, especially around sensitive sites and state infrastructure. Security forces will be on high alert and may be suspicious of individuals taking photos/filming and may arrest/detain you.
  • Ensure you always have a contingency plan for a hasty extraction, and make sure to communicate it clearly with your emergency contacts. The road in and out of Nagorno-Karabakh is long and may not always be safe, so be aware that opportunities to leave quickly may not always exist.

Transportation

  • Ensure that any vehicle you travel in is clearly marked with PRESS, MEDIA, or TV on the roof and/or hood of the car, and also in the front windscreen and rear window of the vehicle. Avoid traveling in vehicles used or similar to those used by the military. Be aware that some journalists have been shelled when in transit, as highlighted by CPJ, despite having PRESS marked on their vehicles.
  • If your vehicle is in danger of being targeted by a drone or air strike, it is advisable to leave the vehicle immediately and to seek hard cover from a safe distance.
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of traveling in a convoy, taking into account the risk of being targeted by airstrikes/shelling. Be aware that on very narrow mountain roads you may not be able to pass another vehicle safely if it is immobilized.
  • The entire Nagorno-Karabakh region is still heavily mined with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, as well as cluster munitions from previous conflicts. Mapping of minefields is inconsistent and even locals can be unaware of which areas are not safe, as highlighted by Al-Jazeera. Ensure you stick to well-trodden paths and roads at all times, and refer to the HALO Trust for up-to-date information.
  • Any vehicle used outside Stepanakert should have good ground clearance, be in good mechanical order, and be capable of handling challenging road conditions. Ensure that the vehicle is carrying spare fuel and fluids and an emergency tool kit, as well as a decent spare tire and the means to change it.

Communication

  • CPJ sources on the ground have reported that there is currently no cellular data available in the entire region, although regular phone calls and SMS are currently working. Wireless internet is reportedly the only option available as of October 8.
  • International roaming plans are unlikely to include Nagorno-Karabakh, so ensure you purchase a local SIM card on arrival. K-Telecom is one such local provider. Note that Armenian cell companies generally do not have service in the region outside of a few areas close to the border.
  • Charge electrical devices at every opportunity, and if feasible take a portable power bank with you.
  • Ensure you have a check-in procedure with your base, particularly when operating close to any front line fighting.

COVID-19

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are experiencing ongoing COVID-19 transmission, though recent reliable reports on the number of cases in Nagorno-Karabakh were not available. Outside of the major cities health infrastructure is poorly equipped, according to the International Crisis Group, and cases could rise as more people enter the region, especially if they are coming from countries with higher rates of COVID-19.

  • A COVID-19 test is compulsory on arrival if you enter at Yerevan airport. Results are being processed in as little as a couple of hours, according to CPJ sources on the ground who have entered in recent days, but note that it could still take up to 24 hours. This needs to be factored into your itinerary.
  • Relevant medical PPE should be taken with you, such as a N95 or FFP2 / FFP3 face mask and a supply of hand sanitizer (minimum alcohol content of 60%).
  • Ensure you regularly and thoroughly wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and routinely clean all equipment.
  • Those who fall into the COVID-19 vulnerable category and/or who reside with vulnerable individuals should consider the risks associated with such an assignment.

This Article was originally published on Covering the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh

Turkey bans critical reports on military operation in Syria, detains 2 journalists

Istanbul, October 10, 2019 –Turkish authorities must stop censoring news reports on the country’s military incursion into Syria and detaining or harassing journalists who cover it, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul today published a statement banning critical news reports and comments on Turkey’s military assault on northern Syria. The statement says a person or persons who “target the social peace of the Republic of Turkey, domestic peace, unity and security” with “any kind of suggestive news, written or visual publication/broadcast” alongside “operational social media accounts” will be prosecuted according to the Turkish penal code and anti-terrorism law.

 

“Regional and global powers and their citizens all have a stake in what’s happening on the Syrian-Turkish border, and it’s vital that they receive unimpeded news and opinion. Turkish authorities must not get away with a monopoly this time,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Turkey’s ban on ‘suggestive’ news reports and detention of journalists are designed to intimidate the media into silence – a design it has carried out with impunity for far too long.”

 

Police took into custody Hakan Demir, online editor for the leftist daily BirGün, at his house in Istanbul late last night because of a tweet about Turkey’s Syria offensive from the newspaper’s account, BirGün reported. A court today released the journalist on probation and banned him from traveling abroad after Demir had spoken to his lawyer, according to the report.

 

Police also detained Fatih Gökhan Diler, responsible news editor of the news website Diken, at his newsroom in Istanbul today because of a Diken report that quoted a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Diken reported. A court also later released him on probation and banned him from foreign travel, according to the report. A ‘responsible news editor’ is a legally required position for every news outlet in Turkey, of which the bearer is legally responsible for all published content.

 

Neither journalist was formally charged, but their conditional release indicates that investigation is ongoing.

 

The Directorate General of Security said prosecution was underway of at least 78 people, Turkish news website Bianet reported. Bianet also cited other local news outlets as reporting that authorities had already arrested 21 people. CPJ could not immediately determine whether the two journalists were counted among the 78 whom officials said they were prosecuting.

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long threatened the assault on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who until this week were backed by the U.S. Turkey claims the Kurdish militia that leads the alliance is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey. A U.S. decision this week to pull back from the border cleared the way for Turkish warplanes and artillery to pound the area yesterday, followed by ground forces crossing the border, according to news reports.

 

Turkey has been the world’s worst jailer of journalists for three consecutive years. Over that period, authorities have shut down or taken over scores of independent news outlets, according to CPJ research.

This Article was originally published on Turkey bans critical reports on military operation in Syria, detains 2 journalists

Ahead of elections, Tanzania’s regulator is used as a cudgel against the media

On August 27, the second day of mainland Tanzania’s official campaign period leading up to October 28 elections, authorities ordered privately owned broadcasters Clouds TV and Clouds FM to replace their regular programming with an hours-long apology until midnight and then halt programming altogether for a week.

The over-the-top display of repentance was dictated by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), on the grounds that both broadcasters had broken the law by airing parliamentary candidate nomination results without verifying the information with Tanzania’s electoral commission.

This kind of punishment is becoming more common in Tanzania. In 2020, the TCRA has ordered at least one online television station, a news site, and at least four other broadcasters to temporarily suspend programming, and fined at least 10 other media outlets, according to CPJ’s review of TCRA’s public statements. The regulator cited violent and sexual content as the reason it penalized some outlets; others were punished for allegedly misleading or biased reporting on topics like politics and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regulator’s aggressive stance – the latest development in a years-long decline in press freedom in Tanzania documented by CPJ – is undermining the ability of the press to cover the upcoming elections independently, according to a dozen journalists in Tanzania who spoke to CPJ in September and October.

“There is an atmosphere of fear—a deeply ingrained fear for journalists. Self-censorship has set in. People prefer not to do things rather than do them and risk censure from TCRA or the ministry [of information],” said Jenerali Ulimwengu, a columnist with weekly TheEastAfrican newspaper and a former Tanzanian parliamentarian.

Ulimwengu, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app in September and October, said he thinks the media is shying away from criticizing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Tanzania’s ruling party.

Incumbent President John Magufuli is running for reelection against 14 other candidates, according to reports. As the vote draws near, Tanzanian authorities have broadened their crackdown on civil society and the opposition, leading to concerns among political observers and rights organizations that the conditions in the country won’t “engender free and fair elections” as Ringisai Chikohomero, a researcher with African non-profit Institute for Security Studies, put it.

Journalists who spoke to CPJ in December 2015 were hopeful that the newly-elected Magufuli might reform anti-press cybercrimes and statistics laws and stymie a problematic proposed media law. Instead, over the past five years CPJ has documented a bludgeoning of press freedom through retaliatory prosecutions, arbitrary media shutdowns, and restrictive legislation.

In July, Tanzania updated its 2018 online content regulations, entrenching requirements for internet news providers, including bloggers, to pay exorbitant registration fees to TCRA and strengthening prohibitions on broad categories of content, including political demonstrations and natural disasters, according to the rules, which CPJ reviewed. The updated regulations also further empower TCRA, a self-described “quasi independent Government body” established in 2003 to oversee electronic media and manage frequencies, to act as an enforcer.

“TCRA has moved beyond a regulator and taken on a seemingly censorious role,” Maria Sarungi-Tsehai, director of the independent Kwanza Online TV, told CPJ via messaging app in September.

Khalifa Said, an independent journalist who spoke to CPJ in September, recalled interviewing a videographer to work with him on a project who was so fearful that he requested a clause in his contract absolving him of liability should the regulator come calling.

Officials at TCRA did not respond to CPJ’s emails requesting comment in September and October. CPJ also contacted Tanzania’s information minister, who has the power to appoint TCRA’s director general as well as board members. In a phone call, the minister, Harrison Mwakyembe, declined to comment, saying he was preoccupied with elections. He referred CPJ to the government spokesperson, Hassan Abbasi, but he did not respond to CPJ’s texts or calls.

In April TCRA suspended Mwananchi, a Kiswahili-language newspaper, from publishing online for six months for posting an old video of Magufuli in a busy fish market. At the time, people familiar with the matter told CPJ the video had been construed to show the president was acting imprudently amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, the regulator hit Kwanza Online TV with an 11-month ban for sharing an American embassy COVID-19 travel warning, as CPJ documented. Mwananchi came back online on October 16, according to reports on its website and on TheCitizen, which is owned by the same company.

Chambi Chachage, a Tanzanian political commentator and a post-doctoral research associate at Princeton University, said that while some regulation is necessary, he was concerned by what he called the inconsistent and arbitrary application of the rules.

“Who decides you’re going to be banned for a week? For a year?” said Chachage, who is based in the United States, in a video call with CPJ.

Between January and April, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) documented the prosecution of at least seven journalists and bloggers, for allegedly failing to register websites and YouTube pages with the TCRA, according to the Coalition’s public statements. The Coalition, which is an umbrella body for local rights groups, said it had documented a total of at least 13 people prosecuted during this period; two were convicted and paid the minimum fine of five million Tanzanian shillings (US$2,150) rather than go to prison for 12 months.

In August and September, CPJ spoke to three people who had been prosecuted under this law who said the cost of registration is too prohibitive and that they live in fear of the possible penalties. “It is cheaper for me to go to prison for a year than to pay this fine,” said blogger Jabir Johnson, the only one of the three who agreed to be named and whose court case is ongoing.

The regulator has also taken aim at local media for using foreign content. In August, the TCRA issued warnings to four Tanzanian radio stations for rebroadcasting a BBC interview of opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, according to a TCRA statement.

These warnings followed changes to broadcasting rules in June which require local stations to be licensed with TCRA in order to run any content other than their own, according to reports. The rules also include a vague stipulation that broadcasters must involve a government official in any dealings with foreigners, without providing specifics.

Officials have explained the rules as a way to keep track of partnerships with foreign companies and to ensure that foreign content adheres to local standards, according to media reports and a statement from TCRA.

“We remain very concerned about the new regulation, as it seems to be a tool intended to control what media in Tanzania will be able to publish in the future, ultimately putting the public at a disadvantage,” the head of DW’s Africa service, Claus Stäcker, told CPJ via email though he said that all of the German broadcaster’s Tanzanian partners had received the new permit without delays.


In an August 31 statement, the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees the broadcaster Voice of America (VOA), said that some of its Tanzania affiliates had  “promptly ceased carrying internationally produced programs” when the regulations became public. In an October 15 email, USAGM told CPJ that 23 of the agency’s 24 partner stations are now carrying VOA content; one is still awaiting a TCRA permit to do so.

USAGM told CPJ it does not believe the new broadcasting regulations would have any impact on the VOA’s coverage of the elections. However, local journalists who spoke to CPJ are less optimistic in their outlook.

“We are trying to be professional and balanced, but not even this will protect you. Right now, as a journalist, you will struggle,” said a reporter with Watetezi TV, an outlet owned by the THRDC. The reporter requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

This Article was originally published on Ahead of elections, Tanzania’s regulator is used as a cudgel against the media

Border travel restrictions, immigration court shutdown extended because of COVID-19

EL PASO — The Trump administration extended travel restrictions between the United States and Mexico on Tuesday as both countries continue to grapple with increasing cases of the new coronavirus.

But border officials say the move will add to the negative financial impact the regional economy has experienced as travelers — and money — from Mexico are blocked from crossing the border.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced in March that travel between the United States and Mexico would be limited to essential travelers to help decrease the virus’ spread between the two countries. The restrictions exclude commercial trade with Mexico, which provides about 1 million jobs to Texans, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.

The policy affects “individuals traveling for tourism purposes” like “sightseeing, recreation, gambling or attending cultural events” — but it does not apply to U.S. citizens. The same restrictions are in place on the northern border.

The restrictions were set to expire next week, but Wolf announced they will be extended until July 21.

The lack of visitors from Mexico for another month will likely add to the multimillion-dollar losses border counties have already experienced after seeing revenue from bridge tolls steadily decline during the pandemic.

Last week, the Texas Border Coalition, a group of elected officials and community and business leaders from the Texas-Mexico border, urged Wolf to lift the restrictions as the Texas and Mexican governments have started to allow businesses to reopen.

“As the United States and state governments work toward easing stay-at-home restrictions, foreign travel suspensions limiting entry to the U.S. have not seen a similar easing,” Cameron County Judge and TBC Chairman Eddie Treviño Jr. wrote to Wolf. “We must protect minority-owned small businesses, cross border trade, and the influence of daily travelers between our countries who invest in binational commerce through the goods and services they acquire.”

Officials in Laredo reported a drop in bridge revenue of more than $4.3 million, or more than 35%, for April and May compared with the same months in 2019.

The administration also announced Tuesday it is again postponing hearings in the United States for asylum seekers under the Migrant Protection Protocols program. The policy, also called “remain in Mexico,” requires that most asylum seekers, especially those from Central America and Cuba, wait in Mexico until their hearing dates in the United States.

Homeland Security officials said they will revisit the issue next month to determine whether courts can reopen and operate according to federal guidelines.

The Article was published at Border travel restrictions, immigration court shutdown extended because of COVID-19

Global Travel Alert Issued; No Change on Border

The U.S. State Department is asking U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations in light of Sunday’s military offensive that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

In a global travel alert issued Sunday, the department asks U.S. citizens “in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence” to also limit travel outside their homes or hotels. U.S. embassies worldwide will continue to function but may temporarily close or suspend services in order to evaluate their security measures, the statement says. U.S. government facilities around the globe will remain at a heightened state of alert.

The law enforcement presence on the Texas–Mexico border will likely remain unchanged, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, which overseas U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but the Department of Homeland Security does not intend to issue [a National Terrorism Advisory System] alert at this time,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated.

Some Texas lawmakers have raised concerns that the violence plaguing Mexico could open up the possibility to Mexican cartels working with terrorists to aid the extremists in the smuggling of foreigners into the country. Law enforcement officials say there is not enough evidence to support the various claims, however, and government statistics reflect the majority of non-Mexicans apprehended on the Texas-Mexico border are Central Americans traveling through Mexico to gain access to the U.S.

The government apprehended about 45,280 non-Mexicans in 2010, and about 32,900 on the Texas border, according to unofficial U.S. Border Patrol statistics provided by the office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. There were 736 immigrants from countries the U.S. considers state sponsors of terrorism apprehended last year: 712 Cubans, 14 Iranians, five from Syria and five from Sudan. Those numbers also include persons detained on the country’s northern border.

The article was published at Global Travel Alert Issued; No Change on Border

TRAVEL BAN ICE ordered to release detained Iraqi refugees, including one New Mexican

Hundreds of Iraqi refugees currently detained by the U.S. federal government could be released as early as next month. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has until Feb. 2 to show “clear and convincing evidence” that Iraqi refugees being detained are a public safety or flight risk.

U.S. Federal District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote that while immigration proceedings are pending, “the aliens who were arrested have now languished in detention facilities — many for over six months — deprived of the intimacy of their families, the fellowship of their communities, and the economic opportunity to provide for themselves and their loved ones.”

The mass detentions go back to a travel ban implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration last year. While Iraq was one of the countries included in the ban, the U.S. government agreed to exclude Iraq from the ban in exchange for the Middle Eastern country allowing political and religious refugees back in the country when they are deported. The result was hundreds of refugees, with sometimes decades old criminal charges, being detained in federal facilities awaiting court proceedings.

Abbas Oda Manshad Al-Sokaini is one of them. ICE agents arrested him last June at this Albuquerque home. Al-Sokaini reportedly helped the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War, making him a probable target for torture or death if he returned to Iraq, according to a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. Al-Sokaini is currently being detained in a federal prison in El Paso, Texas.

Kristin Love, a staff attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico, said Al-Sokaini and many other of the detained refugees have consistently shown up to appointments with ICE officials and continually cooperated with them.

“There’s really no evidence that any of the people in this class poses a safety risk or a flight risk,” Love said.

She could not provide specifics of Al-Sokaini’s release, only that ICE officials will have about a month to make their case that Al-Sokaini should remain in jail.

Al-Sokaini faced two drug charges almost 20 years ago. According to his wife he pleaded guilty to both charges and served six months of probation. A couple years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ICE detained Al-Sokaini because of his previous charges, but ultimately released him with the condition he check in with immigration officials.

Love said the ACLU is now “waiting to see what the government’s next move is.”

Apparently the federal government is doing the same.

In a statement to NM Political Report, ICE officials said they are still trying to determine their next move, but hinted that they may challenge the court’s decision.

“ICE is reviewing the decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to determine the path forward. ICE is deeply disturbed by the decision, but will comply with the decision unless and until it is reversed by an appellate court.”

According to Goldsmith’s ruling, ICE must  prove detainees pose either a public safety or flight risk.

The article was published at TRAVEL BAN ICE ordered to release detained Iraqi refugees, including one New Mexican