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Archive for May 2nd, 2013

President Kenyatta opens World Press Freedom Day 2013 – Convention in Kenya:

Posted by African Press International on May 2, 2013

President Uhuru Kenyatta Opens World Press Freedom Day 2013 convention in Kenya

He told the participants that his government will protect the rights of journalists.

End

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KCA CALLS FOR ENHANCED SECURITY FOR JOURNALISTS AND RESPECT OF LABOR RIGHTS

Posted by African Press International on May 2, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga,

Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) joined the media fraternity in Kenya, the Eastern African Region and globally in marking the 2013 World Press Freedom Day being marked on May 3 with a call for enhanced security and good pay for the scribes.

In a statement released in Nairobi to various media houses KCA said it was concerned that the Kenyan media environment has over the last one year recorded increasing cases of threats to the safety and security of journalists and general disregard for their labor rights.
According to the Association, at least 25 journalists have reported various forms of threats to their security and safety in different parts of the country over the last six months.
Some of these threats have been reported in the media and statements recorded with the police but a number of threats have remained less pronounced but serious enough to undermine the freedom of journalists in the performance of their duties.
The threats have been recorded from security agencies, state officials, political leaders and their supporters, drug traffickers and other actors, in the process creating a climate of fear and intimidation among journalists in the course of their work.
A number of journalists were threatened or treated with hostility during the Tana River Clashes at the Kenya Coast. In Mombasa in late March this year, a journalist with the Star Newspaper, Bernard Wesonga died under circumstances which require further investigations.
Another journalist with the Star Newspaper Habil Onyango was beaten up and his camera confiscated by security forces during the March General Elections in Homabay in Western Kenya while a number of his colleagues in both Homabay and Migori towns in the region also reported various forms of threats in the last quarter of this year.
A number of journalists in North Rift have for some time now been under threat and active surveillance of shadowy groups over the media coverage of the 2007-8 Post Election Violence and subsequent reporting of International Criminal Court (ICC) related cases and proceedings.
There have been renewed threats to some of the journalists in that region after the March 4, General Elections following the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president and William Ruto as his deputy. The two are currently facing charges at the ICC and the earlier threats were related to their cases.
KCA urges the Uhuru-Ruto government to guarantee the safety and security of all the journalists who may have reported or will continue to report on the ICC cases and to take urgent measures to investigate any threats, both past and present against the journalists, and deter any overzealous supporters who may take advantage of their being in power to intimidate journalists.
Investigative reporters, KTN’s Mohammed Ali and John Allan Namu have recently received death threats following an exposé on the station which showed a possible foul play in the death of former internal security minister and his deputy George Saitoti and Orwa Ojode respectively.
A reporter with Radio Jambo in Western Province, Oti Oteba, was beaten up by supporters of a local politician. The same youths had also targeted a local reporter with the Star John Nalianya who escaped the beating by hiding in a nearby restaurant. These are not the only cases.
KCA is concerned that Media employers in Kenya have consistently disregarded labour laws in their employment of journalists, in the process undermining their dignity as workers and their capacity to do their work.
Most journalists, both in the newsrooms and the field, are not offered living wages and insurance cover even when covering conflicts. Many are not paid at all despite their valuable contribution, making them vulnerable to corruption and other forms of inducements.
During the last General Elections, a number of media houses either sent their journalists or newly engaged ones on assignment to different parts of the country with minimal or no facilitation, which resulted in frustrations and indignity.
Through its chairman, Mr. Oloo Janak KCA called on the Kenyan media owners and employers to begin to take greater responsibility for the journalists they engage, whether on temporary or permanent basis and stop the ongoing wanton exploitation and abuse of journalists as workers.
He said they should immediately implement the 14 % wage increase awarded by the president during the Labour Day on May 1.
Oloo also called on the National Government and the newly inaugurated County Governments to respect the country’s constitution and International charters with regard to media freedom and access to information to enable journalists discharge their important duty of information dissemination and education to the communities.
END.

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Food insecurity opens door to TB

Posted by African Press International on May 2, 2013

Waning donor support for food assistance is seeing increasing food insecurity. Malnutrition and the susceptibility to tuberculosis (TB) are directly linked

TOLIARA,  – Health experts fear the interruption of food assistance in Madagascar is increasing incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Toliara, the capital city of Madagascar’s southern Atsimo-Andrefana region.

Malnutrition and TB are intimately linked: Malnutrition weakens the immune system, increasing susceptibility to the disease, while TB reduces appetite, worsens the absorption of micronutrients and alters patients’ metabolism.

Donors suspended all but emergency assistance to Madagascar in 2009, after President Marc Ravalomanana was deposed in a coup d’etat. The paucity of donor funding has seen food assistance dwindle “to a very serious level”, said Xavier Poncin, head of the TB programme at the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Madagascar.

The impact of Cyclone Haruna, which struck the country in February, has compounded the problem. Since the cyclone, the donors’ food supply chain has been intermittent, Poncin told IRIN.

TB cases are already appearing to increase. Voangy Rasoarinindrime, head of the TB treatment centre in Toliara, told IRIN that in the first three months of 2012, 56 new cases were registered for treatment, compared to 68 cases for the same period this year.

“Many people can come into contact with TB, but [do] not become sick if they are healthy enough to fight off the illness. But now that food is scarce after the cyclone, many people have low immunity and so the illness takes root,” she said.

Less food aid, less treatment

Madagascar’s National Programme Control of TB (PNLT) said 2012 saw 26,182 confirmed cases of TB, although the total number of infections is thought to be about 50,000.

About five percent of cases are fatal. Nine percent of those treated for TB do not complete the six-month treatment regime, risking the onset of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). WFP estimates that about 0.49 percent of all TB cases in Madagascar are MDR-TB.

Food supply at the TB treatment centre in Toliara was depleted in February, in the aftermath of Cyclone Haruna, said Rasoarinindrime. “People are unable to work during treatment, and they still need to feed themselves. We have some patients who left. They said since there was no more food aid here, they would have to go back to work to feed their families,” she said.

“I’m afraid fewer people will actually be completely cured and that this will cause an augmentation in the amount of cases”

Food aid “also encouraged people to come here and receive treatment in the first place. Now they are very upset that there is no more food. Some still come from the remote regions with their baskets ready to receive their rations,” Rasoarinindrime continued. “I’m afraid fewer people will actually be completely cured and that this will cause an augmentation in the amount of cases.”

Some of Madagascar’s TB patients receive food aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Others receive food from WFP’s Food by Prescription (FBP) programme, which targets 23,000 beneficiaries – both TB patients and their families – during the six months of treatment. But the FBP programme has been temporally suspended in 22 of 51 health facilities due to WFP Madagascar’s funding shortage.

“If the lack of funding persists, the situation might even worsen as food availability in the pipeline allows for programming in the few remaining partner health centre until September 2013,” said WFP’s Poncin.

Senaz Ratsimbazafy, a 26-year-old waitress in Toliara told IRIN she began feeling sick in November 2012. “I couldn’t breathe and I coughed all the time,” she recalls.

After she was diagnosed with TB, she left her job and was put on the six-month course of antibiotics. In the first months of treatment, she received food assistance for her and her 80-year-old grandmother. “Now, my father’s family have to help us, as there is no more food aid, and I can’t go back to work for another two months,” she said.

Waiting for improvement

According to a 28 March 2013 country briefing by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), Cyclone Haruna affected about 42,000 households. Meanwhile, a locust infestation is thought to have affected half the country, and rains have been erratic. “An estimated 13 million persons [of the country’s 20 million people] are potentially at risk” from food insecurity in 2013-14, the briefing said.

“Despite an increasing number of people living below the poverty line, most international donors are still limiting their support due to the political situation”

“Despite an increasing number of people living below the poverty line, most international donors are still limiting their support due to the political situation. And this has direct consequences on WFP programmes,” Poncin said.

More than three-quarters of the population now live on less than US$1 a day, according to government figures – up from 68 percent before the political crisis. Elections are scheduled for July; if they are judged “free and fair”, more donor support could be unlocked.

There are other barriers to TB treatment, as well. Eighty percent of the population is rural, and 65 percent live 10km or more from a health centre.

“We had a woman here recently who refused treatment completely,” Rasoarinindrime said. “She lived in a remote region and insisted she had to go back and take care of her family. I told her, ‘You will die and you will contaminate your family.’ Moreover, it might create and contribute [to] spreading multidrug-resistant TB, which is much more difficult to treat – but she left anyway.”

Laundry worker Celerine Ravaonirina, 46, lives 14km from the clinic where she is receiving treatment for TB. Because she has to care for her four children, she travels to the clinic and back each day. “In the beginning, we paid for a pousse-pousse [rickshaw], but now I’m able to walk,” she said. “However, I’m still not able to work.”

ar/go/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Labour Day celebrations held in Nairobi attended by President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto

Posted by African Press International on May 2, 2013

Labour Day Celebrations in Kenya grazed by Hon Kenyatta and Hon Ruto. The two leaders, President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto were in a jovial mood. This was their first 1.May Labour day celebrations as President and deputy president respectively.

They watched parades performed by workers from various unions passing the dias. The president, in his speech to the workers raised minimum wages by 14 percent.

End

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Flawed asylum system

Posted by African Press International on May 2, 2013

By Kristy Siegfried

Photo: DFID
Asylum seekers must report to a refugee reception office every few months to renew their permits while they await a final refugee status decision

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Refugee status determination in South Africa is marred by corruption and bias
  • Home Affairs officers are over-worked and poorly trained
  • “Cut and paste” decisions are often based on outdated country of origin information
  • Government has yet to accept UNHCR’s offers of technical assistance and training

JOHANNESBURG,  – South Africa attracts the largest number of asylum seekers in the world, but grants refugee status to very few of them, ranking only thirty-sixth in the world for the size of its refugee population, which the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) puts at about 58,000.

The Department of Home Affairs, the government ministry tasked with managing the asylum system, approved just 15.5 percent of the applications it processed in 2011, less than half the global average recognition rate of 38 percent, according to UNHCR.

Researchers and activists have repeatedly pointed to serious flaws in the country’s refugee status determination process, including the lack of individualized assessments, misapplications of both local and international refugee law, and high levels of corruption among Home Affairs officials. The government’s routine response has been that its asylum system is simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications it receives.

In fact, although South Africa still receives the largest number of asylum applications in the world, the number of claims registered has dropped by more than half, from 222,000 in 2009 to 107,000 in 2011, possibly the result of the increased number of asylum seekers being turned away at the country’s borders and from its refugee reception offices in recent years.

Despite the reduced demand, a 2012 study by Roni Amit of the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, found that the problems with refugee status determination processes, identified in an ACMS study two years earlier, had not diminished.

Amit reviewed 240 refugee decisions issued in 2011 and found, among other things, that refugee status determination officers (RSDOs) had routinely failed to thoroughly investigate country of origin conditions and misapplied fundamental aspects of refugee law. South Africa’s 1998 Refugees Act established six grounds for persecution that qualify victims for refugee protection, but Amit found that RSDOs limited their definition of persecution to political grounds and only considered a history of persecution as evidence of future risk. A woman who fled Kenya to avoid forced circumcision, a Ugandan man who fled persecution for being a homosexual, and a man who was targeted by the police in his country for exposing mineral trafficking were all rejected.

Amit concluded that “South Africa’s asylum system exists only to refuse access to the country and makes no attempt to realize the goal of refugee protection… [but] functions solely as an instrument of immigration control”.

Bias, corruption

Although part of the problem appears to be insufficient training of RSDOs and an unmanageable workload that requires them to make at least 10 refugee decisions a day, Amit also described “a general anti-asylum seeker bias that excludes the majority of claims”.

“It’s this general idea you hear coming out of Home Affairs all the time that the majority of people are economic migrants and they’re abusing the asylum system,” Amit told IRIN. She added that refugee rights are not a popular cause in South Africa, where asylum seekers and refugees are just as much a target for xenophobic attitudes and violence as other foreign nationals, particularly if they live in impoverished areas where they are viewed as competing with locals for scarce jobs and resources.

The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to repeated attempts by IRIN to ask about its refugee status determination processes, but Amit’s findings are borne out by the experiences of several asylum seekers IRIN interviewed.

Caroline* fled South Kivu Province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after her husband was murdered by rebels and she was held captive in a rebel stronghold and repeatedly raped for a month. She was denied refugee status in 2010, after an interview at the refugee reception office in Pretoria that lasted just 30 minutes. When she told the interviewer about the conflict in South Kivu, he did not seem to believe her. “I wasn’t feeling well, I was shaking – that’s when he stopped the interview,” she told IRIN. “There were more things I was supposed to tell him, but he said, ‘As you can see, there are many people waiting.’

“My interpreter said, ‘Whatever your story, they’re not going to give you anything unless you pay money’, but I had nothing; I’d just arrived in the country.”

Gertrude Nkey, 51, also fled the conflict in Kivu, leaving behind her husband and six children after an attack that has left her traumatized. “I didn’t decide to leave Congo, I just ran and people helped me and I found myself here in South Africa,” she told IRIN.

It took four visits to the refugee reception office in Durban before she was finally admitted to the building, only to be sent away to find someone who could help her fill out the eligibility form in English. Finally, one of the interpreters employed by Home Affairs agreed to help her, but the interview was cut short when she started crying and her application was subsequently rejected. “I think because I didn’t have any money for them, they didn’t want to help me,” she said.

“The officers say, ‘Give me money, and I’ll give you refugee status'”

An interpreter who works at the refugee reception office in Pretoria – who asked not to be named – said these stories were typical. “The officers say, ‘Give me money, and I’ll give you refugee status,’” she told IRIN. “They’ll say they’ve lost a file, but if a bribe is found, they find the file.”

Several local refugee rights organizations have documented corruption at refugee reception offices. Eleven volunteers with People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), who monitored the refugee reception office in Cape Town over a two-week period in 2011 all reported witnessing corrupt practices, including the payment of bribes to security guards to cut queues and the sale of fake documents by men working outside the office who appeared to have connections with officials inside.

The interpreter said a small minority of RSDOs “do their job properly”, and that, in the absence of a bribe, the outcome of an application depended mainly on the mood of the interviewer and which country the applicant was from. “If there’s no war in that country, they will reject the application no matter what the individual says.”

Backlog

David Cote of Lawyers for Human Rights, which provides legal services to asylum seekers in Johannesburg and Pretoria, confirmed that claimants are often pre-judged based on their country of origin. “You can tell from the decisions that a lot of it is ‘cut and paste’ and based on outdated country-of-origin information,” he told IRIN.

According to UNHCR’s deputy regional representative, Sergio Calle-Norena, RSDOs have access to REFWORLD, a UNHCR website with all the latest country-of-origin information. “If they don’t make use of that information, it could be lack of interest or lack of time,” he commented. “They have to process 10 interviews a day; you can’t get into detail in that time.”

An initial decision can be appealed but the backlog of cases and the limited capacity of the Refugee Appeal Board, which consists of four members, means that asylum seekers often wait up to five years for an appeal hearing. Tjerk Damstra, former acting chair of the board said that, at the time his term ended in 2012, only about 10 percent of decisions were reversed.

Although some asylum seekers have legal representation at the appeals stage, Cote said that RSDOs rarely allow any kind of representation during the initial status determination interview. Applicants who have recently arrived in the country are required to fill out an eligibility form in English, usually before receiving any information about the asylum process. According to Amit’s report, failure to include relevant details in one’s story on this form is often viewed as grounds for questioning the claimant’s credibility and rejecting their application.

The interpreter who spoke to IRIN said she often helped people fill out their eligibility forms but that there was a shortage of interpreters for some nationalities, particularly Somalis.

Calle-Norena says UNHCR has been engaging with the government about structural, operational and capacity problems in South Africa’s refugee status determination process, which emerged in an analysis the agency did last year. “In general, these problems were acknowledged by the government, but a discussion of corrective actions has yet to take place,” he told IRIN.

UNHCR has also offered technical advice and training for RSDOs, which the government has yet to accept. The agency limits its involvement in individual asylum cases to those facing critical protection risks or imminent deportation to a place where their life or freedom would be at risk. “We can only do [mandate determinations] in those cases,” said Calle-Norena, explaining that, as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the South African government holds the primary responsibility for implementation while UNHCR can only provide a supervisory role.

*Not her real name

ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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