At Least 51 of My Colleagues Have Been Murdered Since 2003 – —By Xiomara Orellana | Sat Nov. 7, 2015 6:00 AM EST

This is what it’s like to be an investigative reporter in Honduras.

A masked member of the Barrio 18 gang inside the San Pedro Sula prison in 2013 Esteban Felix/AP


Chamelecón is a neighborhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where the streets are lonely and the houses are marked. On one side of the street, two initials stand out on the walls: MS, the familiar scrawl of one of the most feared gangs, or maras, in Honduras: Mara Salvatrucha. Just across the street, another block of homes have the number 18 written on them—the tag for Barrio 18, the rival gang that also has taken up refuge in Chamelecón.

In recent years, the 50,000 people who live in the neighborhood have been terrorized by the maras. It’s a lawless place where entering means risk—especially for a journalist. But that’s my job, so I went to Chamelecón to try to bring this world to my readers at the Diario la Prensa, the newspaper I’ve worked at for the past 10 years in San Pedro Sula, a city that some experts consider to be the most dangerousin the world.

I always go out reporting with a photographer and a driver, and this story was no different. On our way there, we passed through a bunch of the barrios and colonias controlled by the gangsters. People told us not to go beyond the school, because no one would be able to protect us there. But that didn’t stop us. Our mission was to take photos, get a better look at these abandoned streets, and explain how the gang bangers dominate turf and change the lives of thousands of families there.

“Being a journalist in Honduras is for the brave,” my friends like to say—and even more so when you’re reporting on violence, corruption, or drug trafficking.

It was two in the afternoon, and when we arrived a few teens on bikes, and some more hanging out on the street corners, sounded the alarm. Immediately one grabbed his cell. He was a bandera—that’s what they call the kids who tell the gang leaders that there are strangers present. My photographer was taking some shots from inside the vehicle when, just a few minutes later, one of the banderas approached. “What are you looking for?” he asked. We tried to explain our work, but he didn’t give us time to say anything. “You’d better leave, or there will be problems.”

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Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in jail by Egyptian court – August 29, 2015 6:25AM ET Updated 9:39AM ET

Jailing of Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste a ‘death knell for freedom of expression,’ says Amnesty

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A court in Egypt has sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to three years in jail after finding them guilty of “aiding a terrorist organization.”

Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were all handed three-year jail sentences when the court in Cairo delivered the verdict on Saturday, sparking worldwide condemnation of the decision.

Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months for possession of a spent bullet casing. An appeal against the verdicts is planned.

Judge Hassan Farid, in his ruling, said he sentenced the men to prison because they had not registered with the country’s journalist syndicate.

He also said the men brought in equipment without security officials’ approval, had broadcast “false news” on Al Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission. Following the sentence hearing, both Mohamed and Fahmy were escorted to Tora prison in southern Cairo, according to Egyptian media.

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IS claims responsibility for US Prophet cartoon attack – BBC News May 5 2015

FBI agent examines car used by gunmen outside the centre in Garland. 4 May 2015
Islamic State (IS) has said that it was responsible for the attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in the US state of Texas.

It said that “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out the attack at a conference centre near Dallas.

The IS’s al-Bayan Radio news bulletin said that the exhibition “was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad”.

Both suspects were shot dead after opening fire at the centre on Sunday.

Correspondents say that it is believed to be the first time that IS has claimed to have carried out an attack in the US.

“We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of the Islamic State do terrible things,” the statement released by the group said.

Court documents have shown that one of two gunmen shot dead had been a terror suspect.

Elton Simpson had been under surveillance since 2006 and was convicted in 2010 for lying about plans to go to Somalia, the files reveal.

He had shared a flat in Arizona with the person named by officials as the other gunman, Nadir Soofi.

On Monday, FBI agents searched Simpson and Soofi’s home in Phoenix and a white van parked outside.

According to Arizona court documents published in the US media, Simpson was charged in 2010 with lying to FBI agents about planning to go to Somalia to engage in violent jihad, or holy war.

A judge found him guilty of making a false statement and he was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $600 (£400) fine.

The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence that the false statement involved international terrorism.

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At correspondents’ dinner, Obama jabs at media, candidates and himself – By Paul Farhi April 25 at 11:55 PM

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President Obama took a few humorous shots at the 2016 presidential field and at the news media — and a few at his own image — in his annual comic turn at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

“I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left” of his second term, the president quipped in a line that drew laughter and a few startled reactions. “My advisers asked, ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list. And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’ ”

The annual celebrity-politico meet-up at the Washington Hilton drew the powerful, the famous and the just plain well-connected to a corner of town Saturday night for an evening of gags and glamour. The black-tie Hollywood-on-the-Potomac party featured fewer big-name stars this year, but more than enough to create the one-of-a-kind mash-up of actors, senators, Supreme Court justices, business types — and, of course, the president and first lady.

In his relatively brief comic turn, Obama likened Hillary Clinton’s nascent presidential campaign to Americans’ lingering uncertainty about the economy. “I had a friend making millions of dollars a year,” he said. “Now she’s living in a van in Iowa.”

He tweaked himself and Republicans for inviting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress while the United States is negotiating a nuclear treaty with Iran: “I’m so old John Boehner has invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.”

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Shooting at cartoonists, again – BY B.C. Feb 15th 2015, 15:31

THE terrorist shootings in Denmark are the latest skirmish in Europe’s ongoing contest between freedom of expression and radical Islamists, and as with January’s attacks in Paris, they targeted both the press and the Jewish community.

Copenhagen cafe attacked by terrorist

On Saturday afternoon, one person was killed and three police officers wounded when a gunman opened fire on a free-speech debate at a Copenhagen cafe (pictured) hosted by a controversial Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks. Hours later, a Jewish man was killed and another two police were injured near a synagogue. Today, police said they had killed the presumed perpetrator of both attacks after he opened fire on them.

Denmark is where this battle, part physical and part moral, got started a decade ago, after a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad led to riots. This is unsurprising, since the country presents an extreme case of western Europe’s paradoxical religious order. Christianity is historically privileged but practised in a serious way by only a small minority. Islam is numerically small but followed more passionately, at least by a substantial minority of its adherents; Muslims are quite sharply divided over how to interpret their faith. Judaism is even smaller and feels increasingly vulnerable. A substantial share of the population is either completely indifferent, or mildly hostile, to religion in all forms.

Mr Vilks, who escaped yesterday’s assault unhurt, has been involved in the conflict for years. He received multiple death threats after publishing a sketch in 2007 that depicted Muhammad as a donkey. Scandinavia in general has been the object of Islamist ire ever since the start of the so-called Danish cartoons affair in September 2005, when the Copenhagen newspaper Jyllands-Posten carried 12 drawings of Islam’s prophet; they were then republished by a Norwegian newspaper.

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Al Jazeera staff face Cairo court in retrial – 12 Feb 2015 02:43 GMT

Two Al Jazeera English journalists have appeared in a Cairo court for a retrial due to lack of evidence over alleged links to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.


The retrial of Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed was ordered by the Court of Cessation last month, overturning a lower court’s verdict which found them guilty of aiding the outlawed group.

A third Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, who was also to be retried, was deported on February 1 under a presidential decree after languishing in jail for 400 days. He has since returned to his home in Australia.

Fahmy and Mohamed have now spent 411 days in prison.

Lack of evidence

Giving its reasoning on Monday for overturning the lower court’s ruling, the Court of Cassation said the “criminal court’s verdict lacked evidence to support its ruling” and “was hasty in pronouncing its verdict”.

It said the first case failed to prove how the journalists had joined the Brotherhood, and failed to prove that an act of “terrorism” actually occurred.

The lower court also “did not wait for medical and legal reports which it had requested after several defendants spoke of being under physical and moral pressure” to make confessions, the appeals court said.

The three journalists, along with seven of their colleagues outside the country, were accused of spreading “false news” during their coverage of demonstrations protesting the military’s toppling of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed received sentences of between seven and 10 years.

In a bid to secure his own release and deportation, Fahmy renounced his Egyptian citizenship and is awaiting a return to Canada, where he also has citizenship.

The journalists have repeatedly said that they were being punished for just doing their jobs.

What the CIA didn’t want Americans to know – By HADAS GOLD 2/6/15 7:03 PM EST

Agency brass tried to spike a story implicating the CIA in the killing of a top Hezbollah terrorist. Newsweek complied. The Post didn’t.
Iranians carry a placard bearing the picture of Jihad, the son of assassinated senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, posing with his late father. | Getty

For a year, Newsweek held a story on the assassination of top Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh at the CIA’s request, the magazine confirmed Friday — only to be scooped by The Washington Post last week.

The CIA made a forceful case for holding the story in conversations and a meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., and Newsweek honored that request, according to Editor-in-Chief Jim Impoco.

“In the geopolitical context at that moment, the CIA made a very persuasive case,” Impoco said in an interview – but declined to say what arguments the CIA made at the time. The CIA also declined to comment.

Mughniyeh was one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, responsible for orchestrating the deaths of Americans, Jews and Israelis in the Middle East and Argentina. In 2008, he was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria, in what both Newsweek and The Washington Post reported was a joint U.S.-Israeli operation.

Imad Mughniyeh’s 25-year-old son, Jihad, was killed in Syria’s Golan Heights by an Israeli airstrike in mid-January. Hezbollah has been deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, fighting on behalf of Bashad al-Assad’s regime.

On Friday, Jan. 30, the Post published its account of Imad Mughniyeh’s death and Newsweek soon followed – odd timing for a blockbuster national security story with global implications, including the potential to derail U.S. talks with Iran, Hezbollah’s chief patron.

The unusual timing was the result of competitive pressure – and the Post’s fear of getting scooped on a story it was eager to publish, multiple sources said.

Standing in Solidarity – By Daniel Mark Feb. 4, 2015 | 5:35 p.m. EST

Why I’ve offered to receive 100 lashes of the convicted Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s sentence.

He must be defended.

He must be defended.

In 2013, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced 31-year-old Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. Last year, an appeals court decided the sentence was not harsh enough and increased the punishment to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (equivalent to over a quarter of a million dollars). Badawi’s “crime” is nothing more than expressing religious and political dissent, including such dastardly acts as running a website called Free Saudi Liberals and liking the Facebook page of a group of Arab Christians.

Editorial cartoon on the U.S. and the Middle East


Middle East Cartoons

Because this innocent victim of Saudi “justice” would not survive a thousand lashes in one go, the punishment was set to be administered weekly, 50 lashes per week for 20 weeks. Each Friday after prayers, his jailers would drag Badawi out to be beaten – again and again and again. As people actively involved in shaping U.S. foreign policy to promote religious freedom around the world, my fellow commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and I have been following this story for some time, and we had hoped that the Saudi government would reconsider or at least that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry would intervene. Once it became clear that the commission would not succeed through official channels in preventing this cruelty, a dramatic gesture became necessary. And that was how seven of the nine of us, in our private capacities, came to offer to take 100 lashes each in place of the same number for this persecuted man.

Being a Political Cartoonist in Egypt Has Always Been Hard. It’s Even Harder After the Charlie Hebdo Attacks. – By Jonathan Guyer and Benedict Evans

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Photo: Benedict Evans; Cartoon by Makhlouf

CAIRO — “Look at this: Freedom!” said veteran Egyptian cartoonist Amro Selim in Arabic, pointing at the irreverent drawings of Maurice “Sine” Sinet, once a cartoonist for the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo: caricatures of the pope and Jesus, toilet humor, as well as plenty of nudes. “You could never draw in this in the Arab World,” he said.

Selim manages the cartoons department of the popular Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm. In Egypt, political cartoons not only chronicle the day’s news and moods but often represent the most forceful political commentary in an environment where opposition voices tend to be stifled.

When I asked him about the massacre at the French magazine, Selim told me that he was “against the drawing of the prophet” — which is not allowed in Islam — “and against terrorism.” Then he pulled a book from his shelf: L’Almanach 2013 du Dessin de Presse et de la Caricature, a collection of politically incorrect cartoons. On the cover was a cartoon of Mohammed. Inside, among other tales of censorship, is the story of Selim’s colleague Doaa Eladl, the most prominent female Egyptian cartoonist. When the Islamist Mohammed Morsi was president in 2012, his Muslim Brotherhood supporters sued Eladl for a cartoon she had drawn mocking the Brothers’ religious rhetoric though a caricature of Adam and Eve. (While Adam is considered a prophet in Islam, cartoonists in the Muslim world have drawn him for generations.) Extremist attorneys attempted to intimidate Eladl, using a penal code regulation that prohibits blasphemy. She received death threats, as did Selim, her mentor, as they both continued to criticize the Brotherhood. The case was ultimately dropped.

When Selim moved from a state-run newspaper to an independent one in 2005, he drew the first caricatures of President Hosni Mubarak, breaking a decades-old taboo and potentially a penal code regulation that prohibits “insulting the president.” (The law is still on the books.) At his initiative, Al-Dostur fostered young illustrators, whom he urged to “shatter the god-like image of the ruler who we cannot draw.” The group that he mentored has gone on to pen the harshest revolutionary cartoons against Mubarak’s autocratic state and its successors.

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Exclusive Interview with ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Cartoonist Luz – Published on Jan 31, 2015

In an exclusive interview, VICE News meets Luz, the surviving Charlie Hebdo cartoonist behind the magazine’s controversial Prophet Muhammad covers.

Speaking with us in his sniper-proof Paris apartment, Luz describes the scene he witnessed after gunmen attacked the magazine’s offices, explains the ideas behind the magazine’s latest cover, and addresses the mixed reactions it has sparked. He also discusses how things can quickly spiral out of control when breaking taboos in the internet age, and offers his surreal sense of becoming an unwitting icon of free expression.