Friday, November 29, 2013

UN Committee Adopts Resolution Against Mass Internet Surveillance

The United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee unanimously adopted a resolution on November 26 reaffirming privacy as a human right and that it is an integral aspect in individuals exercising their freedom of expression. Although the resolution has largely symbolic value, the United States and its allies successfully lobbied to delete a clause in an earlier draft stating that mass surveillance is a violation of human rights.    

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Press Freedom Prize to Uzbek Journalist Bekjanov, Tamil Newspaper 'Uthayan'

PM David Cameron with Uthayan's publisher (L) and Editor (Pic.Daily Mirror)

The Press Freedom Prize awarded by Reporters without Borders (RSF), Le Monde and TV5Monde, went to a journalist and a newspaper whose sacrifice for the freedom of information in the face gargantuan challenges can only be described in superlatives. The honour presented in two categories – individual journalist and newspaper – went to Uzbek journalist Muhammad Bekjanov and the Sri Lankan Tamil-language daily ‘Uthayan.’ 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Media, Freedom Of Expression Suffer In Hounduras' Post-election Violence

Protestor hit by teargas cannister (Pic courtesy Rebel Reporting)

Hopes that the November 24 presidential election would usher in an era of democratic governance and respect for human rights – especially freedom of expression and information – suffered a setback after rival candidates claimed victory at the polls that resulted in street violence, where journalists also became victims.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CPJ Awards Four Journalists' Struggle For Press Freedom

The International Press Freedom Award Dinner 2012 (Pic. CPJ)

The 23rd annual International Press Freedom Award sponsored by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will be held this evening to recognise the struggle for media freedom.

The black tie event, to be hosted this year by Scott Pelley, managing editor CBS Evening News, at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, will honour four journalists from Ecuador, Egypt, Turkey and Vietnam, who work in perilous environments for the freedom of the media and access to information.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Does Nuke Deal Point To Domestic Reforms In Iran?

Iran President Hassan Rouhani (Pic. courtesy Deutsche Welle)

The deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries early Sunday, has given fresh life to speculation whether the agreement will allow Teheran to crackdown with greater ease on dissidents, human rights defenders and independent journalists, now that western liberal governments are mollified by freeze on the country’s nuclear programme. The deal comes less than week after Reporters without Borders (RSF) reported lukewarm progress in Iran to ease constraints on censorship and freedom of information. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Journalist-Killers At Large

Reporters without Borders (RSF) called for an “overhaul of the entire media” of Honduras after elections are held on Saturday. RSF’s call comes on the international day to end impunity, which, coincidentally, has relevance to Honduras where 27 journalists have been murdered since the coup in 2009 and perpetrators have gone largely free. RSF has also named Honduran journalist Annibal Barrow with nine other murdered journalists to symbolise impunity throughout the world.

It is also a source of pride to this blog that RSF has interviewed Karla Rivas, news director of Radio Progresso on the state of the media in Honduras. Rivas was the winner of the annual Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2011. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tanzania's Parliament Rejects Media Censorship Bill

Tanzania's Media Confronts Government (Pic. courtesy RSF)

The media and human rights activists expressed relief that the National Assembly of Tanzania had rejected a bill on November 8 that would have increased fines for offences such as “publishing false news” and “incitement to violence.” The bill came before Tanzania’s parliament less than month after a series of publications were closed by the Tanzanian government that resulted in irate journalists refusing to give coverage to two government officers that personified the censorship.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Watching China's Sina Weibo Watchers

As China gets more proficient in censoring the media and controlling opinion overseas (see the November 18 posting on this blog) China-watchers from ProPublica have put together an interactive feature that allows readers to see and understand what images on Sina Weibo (China’s version of twitter)  is most likely to get censored.
“How Sina Weibo censors its users is as revealing as the content that appears on the site, and for the past five months, we’ve been watching the watchers. We’ve created an interactive feature, launching today, that allows readers to see and understand the images that censors considered too sensitive for Chinese eyes,” said the ProPublica article ‘How to Get Censored on China’s Twitter.’

“‘The Chinese language offers novel evasions, such as substituting characters for those banned with others that have unrelated meanings but sound alike or look similar,’ ProPublica quotes Gary King, a political scientist, as saying in his 2013 study on Chinese censorship. “For example, a nonsensical phrase such as ‘eye field’ looks similar in Chinese to the characters meaning ‘liberty,’” said ProPublica.

Here is the link.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Beijing Handtwists US Media To Suppress China News

Paramilitary officers at Tiannamen Square (Pic. courtesy WP)

China’s moves to control opinion overseas appears to have taken a step forward with the pliant chief editor at one of United States’ most prestigious news agencies killing a story that probed a Chinese billionaire followed by the suspension of the journalist who wrote it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day of Imprisoned Writers - ‘Change only the name and this story is also about you.’

November 15 is the international day of the imprisoned writer. PEN international and PEN networks in many countries have organised events to focus on one of most pernicious forms of censorship – imprisoning writers and journalists. According to PEN, more than 900 writers are in jail for their work, all over the world.

In an interview with Germany’s Radio Deutsche Welle, published on November 15, Sascha Feuchert, vice president of PEN Centre Germany and a representative of the writer-in-prison committee was asked what Germany could do for writers imprisoned in other countries.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

BBC Crew Forcibly Prevented From Speaking To Sri Lanka President

BBC's James Robbins prevented from speaking to Rajapakse (Pic.BBC)

Freedom of the foreign media to cover events in Sri Lanka reached a new low on Wednesday. A BBC camera crew was physically restrained by security personnel to prevent them getting close to the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapakse, to ask him questions. The incident occurred at an event associated with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which Sri Lanka is hosting between November 15 and 17. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Turkey, Journalists Are Not Terrorists

                                                                        Courtesy IFJ

Turkey’s dubious reputation as the world biggest jailor of journalists was reinforced on November 5 when four more journalists were imprisoned – three for life – for “trying to overthrow constitutional order by means of violence” and being members of a political body that Ankara considers a terrorist organisation. The incarceration comes just three months after an Istanbul court slapped politically-motivated prison sentences on 12 other journalists – one of them for life – allegedly for their part in the Ergenekon conspiracy. There are numerous other acts of media repression the Turkish government is accused of, including assaults on journalists during anti-regime protests and targeting media organisations of the Kurdish minority.

Monday, November 11, 2013

CCP's Online Offensive Has Chinese Netizens In Retreat

Protests in China

An essay in Global Voices points to an alarming drop of critical posts, including political commentary, in China’s social media during the past three months. The first part of the essay paraphrases Zhu Huaxin, director of the Peoples’ Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit announcing at a recent China Internet Media Forum that this was a direct result of a new offensive to win the ideological battle launched by Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He said the CCP had succeeded in persuading online opinion leaders and celebrities to keep to the seven-point self-censorship guideline that makes them exercise more restraint.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mexico Targets Journalists Covering Protests

Police attack protestors in Mexico (Pic. courtesy  Article 19)

Writing on October 23, as Mexico came under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the New York-based human rights watchdog Freedom House referred to, “[t]he continued violence against journalists in Mexico and ongoing threats to freedom of expression posed by organized crime, widespread insecurity, and endemic corruption and impunity. In framing their questions and recommendations, UNHRC member states should prioritize concerns about freedom of expression, as violence against journalists and human rights defenders, undermines all Mexicans’ fundamental rights.”

This trend is not new. A recent example of media repression is when a group of masked men attacked two radio stations, La Estrella Maya que Habla and La FM Maya, in Quintana Roo, southwest Mexico on October 28 that injured journalists and a caretaker. This was not the first time La Estrella Maya que Habla was attacked.

On October 2, 15 journalists were attacked by police in Mexico City while they were covering protests marking the 45th anniversary of a student massacre in 1968. Many journalists were injured and others had their equipment damaged by marauding law enforcement officers.

“We have previously noted that that abuses directed at journalists covering demonstrations will continue unless they are punished. The trivialization of violence against journalists undermines media coverage of events of this nature. We point out that, without journalists, the demonstrators’ message would not be heard by the public,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF)

The attack on individual journalists and institutions and demonstrating protestors are different strategies carried out by the Mexican government to stifle dissent, especially to ensure that the unpopularity of the government does not achieve wide publicity. RSF says 88 journalist have been killed in the country in the past 10 years and 17 have disappeared.

In view of this, Article 19 launched an initiative to monitor the media to prevent Mexican authorities targeting journalists and others who document protests against the government. The report, which is in Spanish, looks at 46 cases where protestors were attacked by the police.

“In total, 46 cases were documented by Article 19: 30 men, 11 women and 5 people who have not disclosed their gender for security reasons. Thirty-two cases were direct attacks committed by the police, eight were violations committed by unknown groups, three were committed by organised groups which might have been acting with the support and consent of security agents, and three incidents involved attackers with their faces covered,” says a post on Article 19’s website.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Media Watchdogs Urge CHOGM Leaders To Get Tough With Sri Lanka

Sandaya, wife disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda at protest

As Sri Lanka (ranked 162nd of 179 countries in the Reporters without Borders’ Media Freedom Index) prepares to hold the biennial Commonwealth Summit in capital Colombo, media freedom watchdogs are asking attending leaders to press the host government for answers for the country’s abysmal standards of media freedom including the murder and disappearance of journalists.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Report Examines Freedom Of Speech in Australia

Pic. courtesy Index on Censorship

Australia is usually viewed as a liberal democracy by most measures of human freedom. The report ‘From Assange to Murdoch: Australia’s Free Speech Landscape’ by Australian freelance journalist Helen Clark examines media freedom, an area where the country fares relatively well but as the report says is in 26th position in the Reporters without Borders (RSF) Media Freedom Index. It is not in an as enviable a position as New Zealand, its neighbour which is in eighth place.

“Outright press censorship and the highest profile cases of recent years have involved breaches of discrimination acts or incitements to hatred. Meanwhile press laws and reforms to them have been touted with scant success. Widespread internet censorship was defeated last year after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy rescinded the internet filtering scheme after five years trying to pass it,” states the report.

The report looks at media freedom under the arts, legal architecture including laws governing hate speech and censorship, the internet, media ownership and a section titled ‘the Assange Factor.’

You can read the report here

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Murder Of French Journalists Worsens Media Freedom In Mali

Bodies of the two journalists arrive in France (Pic courtesy AFP)

The abduction and murder of two French journalists in Mali last week demonstrates the endangered existence of media freedom – as well as other liberties – in a country where the Malian government, the UN peacekeeping operation MINUSMA supported by French troops, and Taurag rebels including the group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) maintain security.

Monday, November 4, 2013

After Sri Lanka's Detention of IFJ Activists, Fears of Bigger Crackdown on Journalists

Jacqui Park Jane Worthington (Pic RSF)

Two directors of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) were detained for entering Sri Lanka illegally as the country’s minister of information and the media accused them of “anti-government activity.” Meanwhile, IFJ’s affiliate in Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement (FMM), used the incident to highlight media repression in the country and urge leaders of the Commonwealth who are due to hold its biannual Summit in Colombo in mid-November, to boycott the event because the Government’s suppression of the media violated Commonwealth principles.

Friday, November 1, 2013

US Media Moghuls Helping China Export Repression?

Meeting of WMS's Presidium, October 10 (Pic. The Atlantic)

In ‘Exporting Repression,’ posted in March on the blog of the New York-based think tank Freedom House, Daniel Calingaert speaks of countries governed by authoritarian regimes cooperating with each other to consolidate power over “discontent at home and international criticism.” Calingaert says opposition to the respect of human rights and democracy makes these unlikely allies collaborate.     
“This cooperation, which might be dubbed ‘authoritarian internationalism,’ presents a significant challenge to democracy around the world and has likely contributed to the decline in global freedom registered by Freedom House over the past seven years,” wrote Calingaert, who is Freedom House’s executive vice president.