Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Media Iron Curtain in Russia, The Third Deadliest Country for Journalists

In Russia, media censorship is taking place in the form of secret police intimidation and increasingly, the beatings and murders of those who dare to report on government wrongdoings.

Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, the former Editor on Chief of the Russian newspaper Koruptsiya i Kriminal, died yesterday after two months in a coma incurred from being beaten in front of his home. The authorities have refused to investigate the death, claiming first that Yaroshenko was in a street fight and then changing their story to later say he fell off a ladder.

The newspaper's name translates to Corruption and Crime and indeed Yaroshenko's paper dedicated itself to exposing government corruption and criminality among the Russian police.

"I don't have even the smallest doubt," said former colleague Sergey Sleptsov, about the possibility of government involvement in the death. "Our newspaper was published on eight pages; seven of them were allotted to corruption in the law enforcement structures." The paper intends to hold its own investigation into the death.

"There is an urgent need for an impartial investigation into all the circumstances of Yaroshenko’s death,” says Reporters Without Borders. “The Russian authorities cannot keep covering up crimes of violence against journalists by pretending they were accidents and leaving those responsible at large, completely unpunished.”

Russia is the third deadliest country in the world for journalists and the ninth worst in solving reporters' killings, according to CPJ.

His death comes just five days after a retrial was ordered in the killing of another Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was a vocal Kremlin critic and in her case, the four men accused of killing her were originally acquitted and so far no investigation has been made into who ordered her killing.

Seventeen journalists have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances since 2000 according to CPJ.

Monday, June 29, 2009

From India to Indonesia: Positive News in the World of Journalism

In the never ending fight for freedom of the press, the small successes that occur every day across the globe can be easy to overlook. Today, while keeping in mind the struggles everywhere from Iran and Iraq to China and North Korea, we decided to highlight those instances where good journalism is rewarded and steps are being taken to improve the freedom of the press.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, radio station KBR68H embraces discussion of tough topics relating to
religious tolerance, human rights, and the environment. Celebrating its 10th year of broadcasting, the station has just been awarded the International Development Prize from the The King Baudouin Foundation for "contribution to the strengthening of democracy, tolerance and citizen participation" according to Media Helping Media.

The station's founder and managing director accepted the award from King of Belgium at a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Brussels. "In these countries, where poverty and lack of education hamper development, there is a need for the media to also act as a tool for public education, as well as providing a platform for civic participation in public life," he said.

While broadcasting to 650 radio stations across 10 countries in Asia, KBR68H founded the Indonesian Association for Media Development to train more qualified media professionals. The company is also working to further expand their coverage to more remote areas of Indonesia that are lacking in information and to get the local people there involved in the process.

In New Delhi, India, the launch of a new international media institute has been announced. The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is teeming with local Indian journalists to launch the non-profit educational center. The top editors of India will work with journalists to encourage quality reporting of print, broadcast, and interactive media stories.

The program comes at a time when both the media and overall economy are growing exponentially. “More than ever, we need trained, ethical journalists to meet the rigorous standards that the public expects of an exalted profession and a growing industry,” says Tarun Basu, chief editor of the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

According to IFCJ, the school will encourage coverage of economic and social issues that are often ignored by the mass media.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Remembering Peter Mackler, One Year Later

One year after his sudden disappearance, Peter Mackler is remembered by his friends and colleagues.

"It's hard to realize it's been almost a year, since I'm reminded almost daily how much he's missed. People I don't know, or don't remember, constantly come over to share an anecdote about how Pete drove them nuts, or inspired them, or maybe just listened to them. Today, outside the Holocaust Museum, where I was trying to get something out of the FBI and the cops on the shooting, Karen Zeitvogel from AFP came over and we laughed about how Pete would have had her and everybody else running here and there on the story. And then she said how much her son missed Pete, who was the only one who took time to talk to him about baseball. AND THE KID IS A RED SOX FAN!!! Pete always went the last mile."

-Richard Sisk, New York Daily News

"Peter may have gone but I still get nostalgic flashes of his tireless work ethic, colorful anecdotes and unending compassion. His personal qualities and high standards of journalistic excellence have inspired me and those around him this past year, and will continue to do so for many more to come."

--Ponnudurai Parameswaran, Agence France Press

"Soon after Peter died, I was talking with a former student of mine who is now an Arabic-speaking (American) reporter in AFP's Jerusalem bureau, and I asked him if he'd ever met Peter. 'No,' he replied, "but he's legendary in the bureau for somehow, against all expectations, persuading the Pentagon to include us, a French agency, in the embedded journalists program for the Iraq invasion.' It was a reflection of Peter's tenacity and his refusal to recognize limits. Peter always fought for what was right, both journalistically and in his personal life, and this award represents his ideals

--Jay Brannegan, Project Plato

"Peter was always teaching. Most of what I know about journalism I learned from him over the course of more than 20 years working together. Peter is still my toughest editor. Every story I write I ask myself ‘Would it pass the Peter test?’ It gives me some consolation to know that while Peter may not be around to guide them, through the Peter Mackler Award young journalists will be able to learn the craft that he loved so much. "

-Chris Lefkow, Agence France Press

"During Peter's time in Washington, I may have spent more time with him than anyone, dealing with matters of the desk, union contracts (since I was the guild representative) and a variety of other issues. We seemed to have a bond because of a number of things we had in common: We were both from New York, both worked in VISTA, married French women and had a dedication to and love for journalism. One thing that struck me about Peter is that during all the meetings we had, all the tough discussions, he always was willing to take a call from his wife or one of his daughters, whatever the issue. I recall the shift from tough editor to tender family man, and then back again, many times. As hard as Peter worked -- and he seemed to be the hardest and most most dedicated person in the office -- you also knew his heart was at home. And I thought of him as lucky to be doing something at work he really loved while being surrounded by a caring family."

--Robert Lever, Agence France Press

"A year is a long time in the news business. International crises ebb and wane. Elections bring hope of change, or serve merely to strengthen hardline regime. Science breaks through some frontiers and puzzles over new conundrums. But the drum beat of the news room goes on. And the

last 12 months have sped by for AFP Washington since Peter’s death a year ago ripped the heart out of our small community here. Yet every day his voice is heard, every day we ask ourselves: “What would Peter do?” Every day we endeavor to hold ourselves up to the high ideals he set. Always remember the news is about people and their lives. Strive to get every little detail right. Behind every story lies at least two more. Never assume, never dumb down and never, never accept anything at face value. We miss you Peter, but you are still our guiding light."

--Joanna Biddle, Agence France Press

"A Renaissance man, Peter was not just a brilliant organizer of war coverage; he could also jump in as both a great writer and editor during such occasions.

When Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait in February 1991, Peter wrote a lucid and gripping 3,000 word account about how the war was fought, peppering it with references to Sun Tzu, a 5th century Chinese military strategist. I still have a copy of it, a precious gem for a wire service that normally runs much shorter pieces. As an editor, he took very seriously the risk of military propaganda seeping into news coverage. In his Brooklyn accent and rapid-fire delivery, the tireless Peter could bring a tired reporter to his or her senses with a biting, sarcastic comment if he felt he or she was falling for hype or outright lies. I recall -- now fondly! -- receiving a dose or two during both the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq."

--Lachlan Carmichael, Agence France Press

“"Where there is one story there are two." It was Peter who first imparted this basic journalistic axiom to me. It remains, for me, one of the most profound truisms of life and barely a day goes by when I don't recall it. A year ago Peter departed. That's one story. The other however is: Peter continues to arrive in our lives every day, in a variety of ways, same as ever. Where there's one story there are two.”

--Christopher Boian, Agence France Press

"I remember Peter organizing things on a big board, like he always did, and telling favorite anecdotes like the story of Kitty Genovese, a woman murdered on a street in New York and none of the neighbors called the police.

I remember him enjoying AFP reporter Luke Hunt's Australian accent and gung ho and fearless attitude during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During the war, he called me once warning me to be careful because it was getting dangerous. Likewise, he was skeptical of US military claims they had found specimens of WMD. At the Palestine Hotel, surveying the scene and the lack of any US military spokesman or authority to talk to, he called it a scene from the 'Marx Brothers Duck Soup.

I also remember Peter telling me when I wanted to keep going on with my embed for one more night raid in Baghdad, he said 'enough was enough.' And in Cyprus, when he would visit there in 2002, he could school anyone who played him in tennis. And he seemed to take great pride in that. He never lost.”

--Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times

If you would like to know more about Peter Mackler, please click here. To help our efforts to honor Peter's memory, please considering donating to the Peter Mackler. To find out how Peter's work continues, please visit the Global Media Forum.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Number of Exiled Journalists Points to Worst Violations in Press Freedom

Journalists are being forced into exile in record numbers, according to an extensive report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. A total of 39 journalists have fled their home countries since June of 2008, and nearly 400 journalists have been forced into exile since 2001, when CPJ began tracking the data.

The number of journalists seeking exile from each country is a strong indicator of the area's press freedom and in the past nine years, Iraq and Zimbabwe topped the list, each expelling 48 journalists from their respective countries.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka tops the list of offenders this year, forcing almost twice as many journalists out as any other country. Sri Lankan journalists covering military operations against Tamil rebels have endured severe beatings and threats. Fifteen journalists have fled since CPJ began tracking the data, and 11 of those cases occured just in the past year. One journalist, Upali Tennakoon, editor the weekly Rivira, was on his way to work when he and his wife were severely beaten by four men weilding metal bars. Tennakoon and his wife have since sought refuge in California.

Ranked as the deadliest African country for reporters, any of exiled journalists out of Somalia seek refuge in neighboring Kenya, where training programs were set up to support the continuation of their journalism careers. After the fifth Somali journalist was killed just this year, reports out of Africa asked if there would be anyone left to tell Somalia's story. Fighting in the capital has been going on since late 2006, when Ethiopian troops backing the Transitional Federal Government ousted the Union of Islamic Courts.

Although the country tops this year's list right after Sri Lanka, less journalists were forced to flee from Iraq this year, after a significant spike between 2007 and 2008. The decline can be attributed to improving security conditions in the country as well as the U.S. resettlement program put in place last year that aids in Iraqi resettlement.

The majority of those who fled their countries did so in response to violent attack or the threat of assault. CPJ reports that at least five journalists were severely beaten before leaving this year while 24 journalists had received threats against their lives or those of their families.

The full report can be found here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran Election Backlash: Major Media Outlets Blocked from Reporting on Protests

Both incoming and outgoing information is being censored in Iran as protests continue over the validity of the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian government has reportedly disrupted the satellites of international media outlets and opposition websites, while unreliable cell phone and internet service is making communication increasingly difficult.

The BBC has announced that "heavy electronic jamming" coming from Iran has disrupted their satellites and blocked their broadcast in Iran, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. The interruptions began on Friday, election day, but had worsened by Sunday. BBC reporter John Simpson and his cameraman were briefly arrested and had their tapes confiscated right before filming this video of the protests.

Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, based in Dubai, announced that it was ordered to stop reporting for one week, while German reporters were banned from airing broadcasts and a Dutch broadcaster and cameraman were arrested and later ordered to leave Iran, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

In an apparent attempt to stop any plans for protest, social media sites including Facebook, and cell phone service was blocked on Saturday, and although phone service was restored by Sunday, Iranians reported that they were still unable to send text messages.

Reporters Without Borders is urging European countries not to recognize the results of the election due to the media censorship and arrest of journalists that has hindered any investigation into the fraud allegations.

"A democratic election is one in which the media are free to monitor the electoral process and investigate fraud allegations but neither of these two conditions has been met for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supposed reelection,” RSF said.

The organization reports that at least 10 pro-opposition websites have been censored, and at least 14 journalists have been either arrested of gone into hiding.

Unlike recent incidents of censorship in China, Twitter seems to be flying under the censorship radar and many are moving to this platform to get their message out. News site Tehran Bureau reported that their website was inexplicable down and began Tweeting news from the protests. At the time of this post, their website was still unavailable in the U.S. ABC reporter Jim Sciutto was one of the first to move to Twitter to write on Saturday morning "Police confiscated our camera and videotapes. We are shooting protests and police violence on our cell phones."

After YouTube videos showing the riots and brutal police retaliation were allegedly removed, citizen journalists began posting their evidence on Live Leak, where many amateur videos can still be found.

When CNN's Christiane Amanpour asked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (watch it here) about the arrests of opposition officials and if he could guarantee the safety of his opponent, he skirted the question completely and instead comparing the protesters to people coming out of a soccer game who might violate traffic laws and be arrested no matter who they are. When pressed by Amanpour, he continued to skirt the question.

The Iranian government has come out accusing the international media of exaggerating reports of the protests, which have still managed to form despite government attempts to keep its people from communicating. In response to that accusation we invite you to browse this collection of photos, this video, or this feed.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran 166th out of 173 countries in it's 2008 Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

Click here our post from last week about the deteriorating state of freedom of the press in Iran.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan in 10th Month of Capture in Somalia

Today marks the 307 day that journalists Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan have been held captive in Somalia, enduring harsh living conditions that keep them chained and without clean water, sufficient food, or medicine.

On August 23, Lindhout, a Canadian journalist, and Brennan, an Australian photographer, were abducted outside the capitol city of Mogadishu. They were traveling with two Somali drivers and a fixer to a refugee camp in order to continue their coverage on Somalia's worsening humanitarian crisis. The three Somalis were released in January.

Ambroise Pierre, the Africa expert with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) fears that the kidnappers did not expect the situation to drag on for this long. "They are really getting impatient," he says. "The kidnappers wanted to negotiate sooner than this."

The kidnappers have demanded varying amounts around $2.5 million dollars in ransom for the two journalists. On Wednesday, a caller into Canadian broadcaster CTV claiming to be Lindhout left a message begging her government to take action and warning of her immediate need for care. "The Canadian government must have some duty to help its citizen in such a crisis and my fellow citizens to assist me by putting pressure on the government," she said. "Without food or medicine, I will die here and I’m in need of immediate aid."

The Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) Robert Mahoney says "We understand that the Canadian and Australian authorities are working to help these journalists but it has been nearly 10 months since they were kidnapped. Both countries must step up efforts to secure their safe and swift release."
CTV reported yesterday on the comparatively small public pressure on the government in this case.

Frontline commented on their Twitter page about the lack of government response and media coverage relating to the capture, and CTV has sourced documents pointing to a lack of public pressure. While the news of deteriorating conditions is worrisome, we hope this latest message will lead to more mainstream media coverage and general pressure on the Australian and Canadian governments do all they can to ensure the safe and timely release of Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan.

Somalia has been declared the most dangerous African country for journalists, and five Somali reporters have been killed already this year.

Click here to read Lindhout's message to CTV in its entirety.

Click here to sign the petition for the release of the two journalists.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Somalia Deadliest African Country For Journalists

Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe became the fifth journalist to be murdered in Somalia this year, confirming Somalia as the deadliest African country for journalists.  Hirabe, the director of Radio Shabelle, was gunned down in the streets of Mogadishu by three unknown gunmen while walking to work with his colleague Ahmed Omar Hashi.  Hashi was shot in the hand and stomach but survived.  He is currently seeking ways to leave Somalia, fearing for his life if he remains.

Hirabe's murder, the fifth of the year and the fourteenth since 2007, drew calls from many non-profit organizations to guaranty the safety of journalists covering Somalia's ongoing conflict.  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) "expressed anger and dismay" at the murder while urging the Somali president to "come to grips with the scale of this catastrophe and do his utmost to ensure the safety of journalists."   The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also issued a statement calling "on all those who are fighting in this conflict to stop targeting journalists and instead do their utmost to protect them."  The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) stated that they were "shocked" by the attack. 

Hirabe is the third journalist from Radio Shabelle to be murdered this year.  His murder comes just over four months after the killing of Radio HornAfrik director Said Tahlil and a year to the day after the murder of NUSOJ vice-president Nasteh Daher Farah.  Hirabe, like Tahlil, was murdered in the Bakara Market, a section controlled by the Islamist al-Shabaab militia.  Hirabe had survived one murder attempt, on the same day Tahlil was murdered.  Hashi escaped on that day as well.

While Somalia's lawlessness riveted the Western media in early 2009 after Somali pirates captured an American vessel and several other Western ships, little attention has been paid to the ongoing conflict between various warring factions and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which has increasingly used journalists as pawns.  The CPJ's Africa program coordinator, Tom Rhodes,  stated that "as the conflict in Somalia intensifies, journalists are increasingly targeted at unprecedented levels by insurgent groups. [T]he international community must hold those who commit violence against journalists to account."  Some believe that Hirabe's murder and the attempt on Hashi's life were retaliation for false stories claiming that Islamist opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys had been killed or injured.  However, there is also  speculation by Hirabe and Hashi's colleagues that the attack was carried out by insurgents trying to control the Somali airwaves.

Whatever the reason, the alarmingly increasing trend in recent years of murdering, capturing, or otherwise harming journalists to make a political statement must come to an end.  A free and fair press which can operate without fear is beneficial to all and guaranties that all sides will be heard.

Monday, June 8, 2009

American Journalists Ling and Lee Get Twelve Years Hard Labor in North Korea

American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been sentenced to twelve years in a North Korean labor camp, the Korean government has just announced. Ling and Lee were arrested in March while shooting footage of refugees on the border of China and North Korea. They were filming in China but allegedly crossed into North Korean territory when they were detained. The refugees Ling and Lee were covering had fled North Korea for China in search of food. According to KCNA, the country's official news agency, the two women have been convicted of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry” although they have not specified what these "hostilities"entailed.

A statement just released by Reporters Without Borders says "The sentences were clearly designed to scare journalists trying to do investigative reporting in the border area between China and North Korea, which is ranked as Asia’s worst country in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index."

Many suggest that the two women--Lee, the mother of a four year old daughter, and Ling, who is said to have an ulcer and require medical attention--are merely being used as political pawns as relations between the U.S. and North Korea deteriorate. This sentence comes just one month after the U.S. pushed for UN sanctions against North Korea for testing nuclear weapons.

In two previous incidents in 1994 and 1996 when Americans have been held hostage in North Korea, it took a trip to Pyongyang by then congressman Bill Richardson to leverage the release of the prisoners.

The International Women's Media Foundation and Reporters Without Borders have launched a petition for the release of the two women. Click here to sign the petition.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Journalists Attempting to Cover Tiananmen Anniversary are Blocked

Twenty years after the Chinese government rolled tanks into Tiananmen Square to stop government protests, little has changed in terms of censorship and government control. Here is a video of a CNN reporter attempting to report from the square. It seems in China, censorship can be as high tech as blocking popular websites or as low tech as umbrellas.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Twitterers in China : What the Censorship on the 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen is Really Achieving

The web exploded yesterday with the news that in preparation for the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Chinese government blocked social networking sites including Twitter, Flickr, and Hotmail. Ironically it was the frustrated, angry, and sometimes joyously defiant “tweets” from many expats living in China that helped spread the news of the censorship.

“We call it being ‘harmonized’ here,” said one Twitter user , an America living in South China, where his teaching contract forbids him from political discourse and therefore wishes to remain anonymous. Many of the most tech-savvy are able to get around the ban using various proxy servers, connecting to a server in another country, and even using Twinkle, the i-Phone application for Twitter. Earliest reports suggested that the platform TweetDeck was being used as a workaround, but all who we spoke to said that service was intermittent or that it wasn’t working at all.

The South China professor says he sees an added curiosity in his students as a result of the censorship. "I have often said that the next internal revolution will come as a result of the myriad communication tools available like 3-G. That and a growing dissatisfaction with censorship will force change," he says. "At the very least the outages have caused students to ask far more questions than ever before."

Those discussing the issue on Twitter followed their posts with the hashtag #GFW for "great firewall" as a way to organize the conversation and so others could join in. But some worry that the tag is being used against rogue Tweeters as China discovers the tag and removes offending posts.

One active Twitter user, Robert Bono, a business analyst studying for his Masters at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, says that after years of staying silent, he has had enough of the blanket censorship.

“There is a generally accepted, but entirely publicly unspoken awareness that the media here presents a false picture of both internal and external affairs,” he says. “In terms of the average Chinese citizen, most here are aware of the events that took place twenty years ago in Tiananmen Square, but are too scared to discuss it publicly. It is Orwellian double-think on a massive scale.”

The government has taken numerous other measures to keep protests to a minimum, including scheduling exams for June 4th so students will be occupied in the classroom, and outright banning them from giving any interviews to the foreign press.

Bono says that this latest act of censorship has helped him decide to leave China for good, so he is "not particularly worried about any reprisals from the government" for speaking out on the issue.

When asked if he thinks the latest internet blockades will be able to successfully stop the flow of information or any commemorations relating to Tiananmen, one American living in China, who prefers to be known only by his Twitter name, WeirdChina, says that in the long term, it won't make a difference, but the problem in China is that many people don't even know they are being kept from information in the first place.

Junde Yu, a web entrepreneur from Singapore living in Guangzhou, created this now viral TwitPic of a crab catching the Twitter bird. The river crab is a symbol for censorship in China, and Yu says that although the governments main aim is to stop grassroots or student movements hoping to commemorate the massacre 20 years ago, there are few movements for them to worry about. No doubt the Chinese government took note of instances like the the revolt in Moldova latter dubbed the "Twitter Revolution" when preparing their censors for this anniversary.

Some have found a way to circumvent the seemingly all encompassing censorship. In remembrance of the of the unknown man made famous by the photo of him standing in the way of four military tanks, many say they will wear white shirts and blue pants in Beijing and other parts of China tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Journalism and Iran

In the last few years, Iran has become the poster-child for all that is antithetical to a free and fair press. Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran 166th out of 173 countries in it's 2008 Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Only China, Vietnam, Cuba, Burma, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea have more repressive policies towards the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has placed Iran on it's "Ten Worst Countries to be a Blogger" list and, as of 2008, counted five journalists imprisoned by Iran.

The recent coverage on the plight of Roxana Saberi, released from an Iranian prison on May 11, 2009 after spending 100 days behind bars, brought renewed attention to Iran's often repressive policies towards journalists. Azar Nafisi captivated readers, and propelled herself to the top of the New York Times Best Seller's List, with her memoir "Reading Lolita in Tehran". In her book, Afisi paints a poignant portait of women attempting to express themselves in a society which continuously represses their individuality.

Mohammad Hossein Fallahiyazadeh, Adnan Hassanpour, Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, Massoud Kurdpour, and Mojtaba Lotfi currently remain imprisoned because of their reporting on issues that were deemed contrary to Iran's interests. Hassanpour was arrested for publishing a Kurdish-Persian weekly newspaper. Kaboudvand, Lotfi, and Fallahiyazadeh publicly denounced the Iranian government's harsh treatment of others. Kurdpour and Lotfi worked with other news outlets, including the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) and were thus charged with spreading propoganda against the regime and the spread of anti-state information respectively.

However, there are others who believe that reality is not as simple as the black-and-white picture painted by the majority of news outlets. Some argue that Iran's repressive policies are a manifestation of it's leaders' tight-rope walk between their extremist and more liberal sides.

Azadeh Moaveni recently wrote a column for Time.com in which she explains the requirements she has had to go through to be able to report in Iran. Moaveni acknowledges that "Iran's record of dealing with journalists is certainly stained." She also notes, with seeming regret, that she has had to give up many things in order to continue having access and her all-important press credentials. For example, after traveling to Iran to pursue a story she had promised an editor, she was told only after her arrival that she would not be allowed to write it. She has also been forced to give up travel to other regions she wishes to visit, such as Israel, in order to continue working in Iran. However, Moaveni also seems to indicate that the restrictions, while regrettable, are acceptable to someone who wants to paint a more complete picture of Iran and it's society today. She concludes by stating that " Of course a journalist who flouts the rules in Washington will risk access rather than imprisonment, but that's just one more benefit of living in a society with the luxury of nuance."

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Petition In Support of Release for US Journalists

Supporters of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two U.S. reporters currently being detained by North Korea, have launched a new petition ahead of their trial, set to begin June 4. Please click here if you would like to sign the petition.

Technorati Profile

Enlightening Profile on a Dentist Turned Writer and Government Critic

Yesterday's Guardian UK featured a profile on Alaa al Aswany, a bestselling Arab novelist who is known in his home country of Egypt for speaking out against the repressive regime under President Mubarak. Aswany, who never fully left his day job of practicing dentistry, is currently promoting his new book, Friendly Fire, along with a recently revived title, The Isam Abd el-Ati Papers, which was banned from Egypt a decade ago. Due to the unfavorable commentary on the country that appears in the book, the state run General Egyptian Book Organisation told Aswany that Isam Abd el-Ati Papers would never be published unless he removed the offending chapters. His next two books were bestsellers for five years in the Arab world and are read in 27 different languages.

When he is not filling cavities or penning bestsellers, Aswany also writes newspaper columns voicing his views on Egypt's regime. He says he's convinced that Democracy is coming to Egypt and that the country will soon serve as a model for other Arab countries. "Now there are more and more protests in the street. Everyone is on strike. There is real pressure, you can feel it. You cannot deny it, even if you're from the government."

When asked if his fame has kept him from governmental backlash, he says, "I cannot compare what has happened to me with what has happened to some of my friends and comrades who have been tortured and beaten. What has happened to me - banning me from attending the premiere of The Yacoubian Building - is negligible in comparison. But, in any case, writing and fear are absolutely contradictory. Writing is an expression against fear."

You can read the whole article at the Guardian UK’s site here.