Friday, July 11, 2014

Ten Years Hard Labour For Exposing Burma's Chemical Weapons Factory

Journalists offer prayers for sentenced colleagues (CNN).

International press freedom and human rights organisations reacted sharply to the 10-year prison sentences imposed on the CEO and four journalists of Burma’s Unity Weekly newspaper after they were convicted, Thursday, under the country’s Official Secrets Act for a story on a chemical weapons factory linked to top generals of the military-backed government. It was published in January.

The 10-year terms for CEO Tint San and reporters Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw (Aung Thura) and Sithu Soe came with hard labour, prompting Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) to remark that after “considerable progress since 2012, the harsh sentences confirmed that Burma has done a U-turn on freedom of information.”

“This decision by the Magway court is a grave setback for press freedom,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific Desk. “Progress had been made but this case marks a return to a dark time when journalists and bloggers who did their job were jailed on national security charges or for allegedly trying to overthrow the government.”

Meanwhile, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged the international community to make known its disapproval of the Burmese government’s censorship by bringing to bear “diplomatic pressure” and reconsidering “economic support.”

“This conviction should shatter any illusions that President Thein Sein’s government grasps the role of a free press in a democracy. The international community should act quickly to not only get this decision reversed, but to impress upon the government that its anti-media stance will jeopardize future economic assistance,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Programme coordinator.

Commenting on the sentence, Rupert Abbott, deputy director, Asia Pacific, of Amnesty International said, “Amnesty International considers all five men to be prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”

The Unity Weekly story implicating the military and the secrecy surrounding its operations, as well as the harsh sentence handed down by the court, led human rights organisations to upbraid at the international community for embracing Naypyidaw’s assurances that the country was on the path of democratic reform. The international community began softening its stance on Burma following general elections of November 2011 and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi weeks later. Many journalists held in custody were released in 2012.

“Today’s sentences expose the government’s promises to improve the human rights situation in the country as hollow ones. They reflect a wider crackdown on free media since the beginning of the year, despite government assurances that such practices would end,” said Abbott in the Amnesty statement.

Similarly, CPJ said, “CPJ has cautioned against premature praise for Burma’s pledge for media-related reforms after the country emerged from decades of international isolation in 2011.”

Thursday’s incursion into media freedom comes days after Burma detained for interrogation three editorsKo Ye Min Aung, Ko Win Tin and Ko Naing Sai Aung – working for the daily Bi Mon Te Nay over a story that appeared on the publication’s front page that Suu Kyi had become part of an interim government. The government said the editors would be prosecuted.

RSF said that six more editors were interrogated between June 20 and 23 about their newspapers’ income, circulation and other details.

“Amid continuing political, ethnic and religious tension, the actions of the Burmese authorities have betrayed a certain desperation. By adopting an authoritarian and repressive attitude with the media, the government is neither protecting national security nor solving problems related to news coverage,” said Ismail.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Journalist Shot Dead Covering Egypt Clashes

A reporter was killed covering anti-government protests in Cairo. Mayada Ashraf reporting for Al-Dostour newspaper and Masr Al-Arabiya website was shot in the head by an unknown gunman during clashes that followed Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s announcement that he was contesting the country’s presidential election. 

The Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) said the last thing Asharaf had reported was that the army was using live rounds to control the protestors. Four other civilians were also killed.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bloomberg Abandons "Politically Risky Reporting on China"

Protestors in Paris (Pic. courtesy RSF)

Even as French citizens and international press freedom monitor Reporters without Borders (RSF/RWB) mounted protests against visiting Chinese president, Xi Jinping in Paris, US financial news giant Bloomberg decided the “company was abandoning politically risky reporting on China.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Governments Misuse Advertising To Censor Media

The Centre for International Media Assistance (CIMA) in partnership with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has published a study on the misuse of government advertising to censor freedom of expression and information. Titled, Buying Compliance: Governmental Advertising and Soft Censorship in Mexico, the research “demonstrates how Mexico’s federal and state governments deploy financial power to pressure media outlets and penalise critical reporting.”

The report is the third by CIMA in a series of studies on soft censorship or “indirect government censorship, includes a variety of actions intended to influence media – short of closures, imprisonments, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on journalists or media facilities.” The earlier reports were Soft Censorship: Strangling Serbia's Media and Capturing Them Softly: Soft Censorship and State Capture in the Hungarian Media.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

White House To Authorise Phone Companies Hold Call Data

US media reported White House moves to legally transfer responsibility for the storage of call data to telephone companies from the practice today, where it is collected and held by National Security Agency.

Under the proposed system, NSA can access data from the companies if required. Phone companies are authorised to hold records up to 18 months unlike now where NSA holds records it collects up to five years.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What Makes Beijing Paranoid?

Paul Mooney (Pic Business Insider)

Veteran reporter Paul Mooney was denied a visa to enter China to work as a journalist by Beijing in November. He was getting ready to cover China as correspondent for Reuters. He was earlier correspondent for The South China Morning Post.

“China has been my career,” Mooney told the New York Times. “I never thought it was going to end this way. I’m sad and disappointed.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another Assault On Hong Kong's Media

Banner at a rally for press freedom in Hong Kong (Pic courtesy BBC)

Two senior executives of a media organisation about to launch a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong were attacked in broad daylight on March 19 provoking disturbing questions about press freedom in this semi-autonomous region of China, while memories of the attack on Ming Pao editor Kevin Lao remained fresh in people’s mind.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Never Felt Discriminated For Speaking Russian In Western Ukraine Says Poet

Choices in the Crimean referendum

“In the past five years, I visited the Ukrainian-speaking Western Ukraine six times. I have never seen any nationalists there. I have never felt discriminated against because I spoke the Russian language. Those are myths. In all the cities of Western Ukraine I have visited, I spoke with everyone in Russian—in stores, in trains, in cafes. I have found new friends. Far from feeling aggression, everyone instead treated me with respect.’

Friday, March 14, 2014

Liberals And Conservatives Clash Over Iran's Internet Control

(Pic courtesy AP)

The conservative hardliners and the more liberal moderates in Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s government are divided over how closed they can keep the internet. The differences are part of a larger issue of balancing the distribution of political power between the liberal and conservative wings of the regime.

Rowhani and his supporters favour selective dismantling of restrictions to the internet and to information in general. The conservatives however believe it will clash with Islamic values.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conflict Takes Heavy Toll On Journalists

In what has been a grave four days for the profession, journalists in at least three hotspots – Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine’s Crimea – have come in harm’s way.

On Tuesday, Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot dead in Kabul. Canadian freelance photographer Ali Mustafa was killed by a barrel bomb in Aleppo on Sunday, while on Saturday, Abdul Qadar, a cameraman working for Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station was shot dead while covering clashes between Syrian forces and rebels in Deir Al-Zour.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Ukrainian journalist Olena Maksymenko of Ukrainsky Tizhden and freelance photographer Oles Kromplyas went missing on the Crimean border.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Brave Women Detained For Challenging Governments

Nasrin Sotoudeh with her son after release from prison (Pic. PEN)

PEN America has recorded International Women’s Day (March 8) by posting stories of brave women who suffer for their activism in support of freedom of expression and human rights. While there are glimpses of hope because some have been released from prison and they are back fighting for causes dear to them, others are not so fortunate: they languish in detention or survive constant intimidation and harassment.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Will Russia Use Cyberattacks In Crimea Conflict?

OSCE Media Freedom Rep. Dunja Mijatovic

Even as media freedom in Crimea became increasingly threatened with television stations taken off the air and journalists assaulted, experts are watching possible cyberattacks accompanying Russia’s takeover of peninsula and predict that it could become a reality as confrontation on the ground grows.

“Russia has limited themselves to the things they usually do in the onset of a conflict to try to shape opinion, stifle critics, and advance their own viewpoint,” James Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C told MIT Technology Review. “They are doing the informational side, which is the opening move in the playbook.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Protecting Journalists And HRDs From Digital Surveillance

As new evidence emerged from documents collected by whistleblower Edward Snowden on how American and British spy agencies NSA and GCHQ had secretly monitored WikiLeaks and its founder Juian Assange after his site published classified information on the Afghan war, the New York-based Freedom House on Wednesday released a report on how journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) could better protect themselves from secret surveillance.

The report, ‘What Next: The Quest to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in a Digital World’ also addressed how donors and international support groups defending human rights could collaborate to effectively prevent government surveillance of journalists and HRDs.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Censorship in Crimea As Russian Troops Takeover

Russian soldiers in Crimea

International monitors have protested eroding media freedom in the autonomous region of Crimea in southern Ukraine, as the Russian military began overrunning the region from February 28. Crimean authorities censored media networks seen as hostile, prevented journalists from outside the region entering Crimea, while attacks on journalists have also been reported.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Concern For Lives Of Journalists In Hong Kong

Journalists of Ming Pao at Sunday's rally (Pic. Reuters)

As thousands of protestors in Hong Kong on Sunday condemned the knife attack on Kevin Lao, believed to be because of his hard-hitting writing on corruption and human rights abuses, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) launched the Chinese version of its ‘Journalists Security Guide.’

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ninety Percent Americans Approve Of Internet's Impact

As the Web celebrates its 25th anniversary in March, the Pew Research Centre has published the first of four reports on the Web at 25 in the US. While Pew has tracked the explosive growth in the adoption of the internet from 1995, this new report looks at the level of internet penetration today and Americans’ responses to its impact on their lives.

The report found that 87% Americans use the internet with “near-saturation usage among those living in households earning $75,000 or more (99%), young adults ages 18-29 (97%), and those with college degrees (97%). Fully 68% of adults connect to the internet with mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

YouTube: Marauder's Map For War Criminals?

In a perceptive piece Christoph Koetti, emergency response manager for Amnesty International, USA, draws attention to the benefits and potential pitfalls of using videos uploads on YouTube documenting human rights violations, as evidence to prosecute crimes.

“Opening my laptop today in 2014, I have thousands of sensors at my fingertips, documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria—an elaborate way of describing how I spend the majority of my time on YouTube in order to track the ever-escalating human rights situation. If Vietnam was called the first ‘Television War,’ Syria can indisputably be called the first ‘YouTube War,’” he writes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Government's Grip On Hong Kong Media Tightens With Attack On Editor

Kevin Lau (Pic. courtesy AP/WJS)

Kevin Lau, 49, former editor of Hong Kong’s Chinese-language daily Ming Pao was critically wounded, Wednesday, when he was struck by an assailant with cleaver, said Associated Press. This follows his abrupt dismissal on January 7 as the editor of the newspaper, apparently due to reporting corruption and human rights abuses in China. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

China's Export To Iran: 'Clean Internet'

(Pic courtesy US News & World Report)

In a perceptive blog post Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of the New York-based Freedom House wrote March 2013 how “Authoritarian regimes around the world are exporting their worst practices and working together to repress their own citizens and undermine human rights standards internationally.”

He went on to say that although interactions between regimes are largely opaque, methods of repression are replicated in dictatorial regimes and “direct assistance is provided across borders to crack down on dissent, and joint efforts are made to chip away at international protections for fundamental freedoms.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

“I am the victim of a political conspiracy" - Le Quoc Quan

Le Quoc Quan speaks to court during his appeal (Pic. courtesy CPJ)

Hanoi’s Peoples’ Court of Appeals rejected Monday the appeal of blogger and dissident Le Quoc Quan, 41, against a 30-month jail sentence imposed in October. The sentence for tax evasion also includes a hefty fine of 1.2 billion dong (US$57,000).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One Journalist Killed And Many Injured In Kiev Clashes

Vyacheslav Veremyi (Pic. IFJ)

At least one journalist has been reported killed during clashes between protestors and the police in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. The BBC reported that Vyacheslav Veremyi, a journalist working for the Russian newspaper Vesti was pulled out of a taxi by masked men and shot dead.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) confirming the death of Vermeyi “by unknown assailants” said that there were reports of 30 journalists being seriously injured and many more hurt.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Venezuelan Government Attacks Protestors, Strangles Media

Student Protests in Venezuela (Pic.

Last year, when popular discontent in Turkey spilt out on to the streets, the Ankara government opened fire on protestors at Gezi Park. Following that it clamped down on the media to prevent news about the protests leaking out.

Now it is Venezuela’s turn.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Penguin India Withdraws: To Keep Religious Peace Or Placate BJP?

 Free speech in India came under fire when an internationally renowned publisher agreed to withdraw a book from circulation after complaints by far-right Hindu nationalists. But, critics said Penguin India had agreed to an out-of-court settlement in a civil law suit because it did not want to offend the Hindu nationalist Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) that is widely expected to return to power in the May general election.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Moderate" Rouhani's Government Executes Iranian Poet Hashem Shabani

The Iranian government executed by hanging poet and human rights activist Hashem Shabani on January 27 for blasphemy (“speaking against God”). Before his execution 31-year-old Shabani was imprisoned for nearly three years and reportedly tortured.

“The crazy thing is that by the logic of the Iranian government, Shaabani had to be killed. He criticized God and the punishment for blasphemy is clear: death.  Technically, Shaabani criticized the regime by speaking out against repression of ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan province, but since the regime sees itself as the representative of God on Earth, his fate was sealed,” writes David Keyes for the Daily Beast.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CPJ's Publication On Attacks On Journalists And The Media

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has published the 2014 edition of Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the World’s Front Lines. The 240-page study contains both country reports with concise accounts on assaults on media freedom and the freedom of information, and thematic studies on impunity, surveillance, media and markets, censorship, global development, the internet, security and nations at risk.

The thematic studies are the following. Impunity: When Journalists Are Killed, Witnesses May Be Next surveillance: The NSA Puts Journalists under a Cloud of Suspicion media and markets: Without Stronger Transparency, More Financial Crises Loom censorship: Would-Be Repressors Brandish ‘Ethics’ as Justification global development: Putting Press Freedom at the Heart of Anti-Poverty Efforts internet: How the United States’ Spying Strengthens China’s Hand security: Finding the Courage to Cover Sexual Violence ations at risk: CPJ Risk List: Where Press Freedom Suffered

“Every day, journalists around the world face incredible risks – from imprisonment and assassination to simply just ‘disappearing’ – all for the ethical practice of their profession. Caught between wars and uprisings and corrupt police and drug cartels, as well as increasingly oppressive censorship laws, they find themselves in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable,” says CPJ.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Obama's Admininstration Most Aggressive Against Whistleblowers In US History

The steep decline in media freedom in the United States is reflected by Reporters without Borders (RSF) in its Press Freedom Index for 2014 by placing the US in position 46 – 13 behind what it occupied last year.

To bringing alive the statistics, partly by relating his own experience and partly by referring what had befallen his colleagues, was James Risen of the New York Times, Risen has been ordered by the Court of Appeals to give evidence in the trial of a whistleblower, Jeffrey Sterling, a CIA agent charged under the Espionage Act for leaking unauthorised information to Risen. 

Risen was speaking at a press conference convened by RSF at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Tuesday to release the 2014 Press Freedom Index. Also on the panel, chaired by Delphine Halgand, RSF’s director in Washington, were Huong Nguyen, a doctoral student at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, cofounder of the Viet Youth for Democracy movement and a friend of jailed Vietnamese pro-democracy activist/blogger Nguyen Tien Trung, and Tolga Tanis, Washington correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

Monday, February 10, 2014

AFP To Co-sponsor Peter Mackler Award

The international news agency Agence France-Presse has joined the advisory board of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, the Mackler family announced today.

“AFP is very happy to provide support for the award issued in memory of Peter, who played such a vital role over nearly three decades in building the agency's international activities and reputation,” said David Millikin, AFP’s director for North America who will represent AFP on the advisory board.

Turkey Passes Draconian Laws To Stifle Internet

Protesting  internet censorship in Ankara (Pic.

On Wednesday, February 5, Turkey adopted Law 5651 that imposes greater restrictions on an already stifled media. During its passage through parliament, the bill came under fire from the opposition and was later criticised by sections of Turkey’s business community and the European Parliament. Notwithstanding that, the new reality in Turkey will be government agencies authorised to block websites without a judicial order and carry out surveillance through deep packet inspection.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Murder of Cambodian Journalist Latest In Saga Of Impunity

Cambodians read local newspaper (Pic courtesy AFP/RFA)

Suon Chan, 44, who worked for a local Khmer-language newspaper Meakea Kampuchea, was murdered on the evening of February 1, in Peam Chhkork in central Cambodia, allegedly by a group of fishermen. Though yet to be officially confirmed, the likely motive is because he wrote against illegal fishing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cyberspace Joins CPJ's Media Risk List In 2013

Supranational Cyberspace joined the Risk List in 2013, which the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has developed to flag countries where media freedom is in significant decline. Countries that have displayed the most alarming regress in 2013 are: Egypt, Russia, Syria, Vietnam, Turkey, Bangladesh, Liberia, Ecuador, and Zambia.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Burma Stifles Critics By Arresting Journalists, Intimidating Lawmaker

Village of Du Char Yar Tan ablaze (Pic. courtesy DVB)

Authorities in Burma took action this week to stifle criticism against the state from two widely different sources: the Yangon-based newspaper Unity Weekly published a story alleging a chemical weapons factory operated by the military linked to former military junta leader Than Shwe in central Burma, while a Rohingya member of Burma’s parliament accused police of an arson attack on Rohingya homes in a village in Rakhine state.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stifling Media Could Affect Turkey's European Integration, Alliance With US - Freedom House

Turkish Police fire water cannon at protests against internet bill (CPJ)

As Turkey continues the crackdown on free speech by targeting journalists and media organisations, as well as stifling internet freedom through legislative amendments, the New York-based Freedom House published, Monday, a report on curbs on media freedom over the past year, but especially following the corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Niger Releases Journalists But Media Monitors Remain Concerned

On January 31, Niger released two journalists arrested three days earlier for participating in a television talk show. They were to be prosecuted for “defamatory statements” and “media offences.” A civil society activist, arrested for the same reason, too was released.

 Zakari Amadou, host of the talk show on the privately-owned Canal 3TV and Ousmane Dan Badji, editor of L’Union were released, the first unconditionally, while Badji was told to “remain available to judicial authorities” because he had declined to divulge the name of a source, said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF). Nayousa Djimraou secretary general of the Peoples’ Movement for Responsible Citizenship (PMRC), the civil society activist, was the third.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Bloggers On Blogging's 20th Anniversary

“My first blog post was on October 7, 1994. I was playing around with some scripts to do stuff on the web, which was new and I found fascinating. I started out timidly at first, to see what would happen, and quickly saw how powerful this was.”

These are the words of Dave Winer, an entrepreneur and software developer. The Guardian, UK, interviewed Winer, a blogging pioneer, as the communication tool celebrates its 20th anniversary.

With Winer, The Guardian’s Katie Rogers and Ruth Spenser spoke to two others: Meg Hourihan, the co-founder of, later acquired by Google, and Justin Hall, who in 1997 began publishing a personal website – Justin’s Links from the Underground.

Replying the question if she thought blogging was dead, Hourihan said, “Blogging will persist the way other literary forms persist. I can imagine we’ll see articles about a resurgence in blogging in a few years, with people wondering if the post-Twitter generation now has a longer attention span.” She added, “What’s amazing is that we’ve seen the explosion of citizen access to tools formerly reserved for journalists and scribes.”

Hall said that blogging specifically contributed to the knowledge commons and public information in contrast to email, which was largely meant for a private audience. He said, “Not all blogging is explicitly for the knowledge commons, but it’s usually some kind of self-expression or performance of personal identity that is accessible to a broader audience.”

Read the full interview here

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Twenty Al-Jazeera Journalists To Be Tried In Egypt

Media freedom in Egypt took a turn for the worse Wednesday, after the prosecutor’s office charged 20 journalists of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “undermining national unity and social peace by broadcasting false information.”

The onslaught by the Egyptian government installed after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammad Morsi regime last year, has intensified in recent times against journalists seen as supporting the Brotherhood. As far as foreign correspondents go, journalists from media organisations based in two countries – Qatar and Turkey – also seen as supportive of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government have been the main targets.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rise Of The Surveillance State From Kiev To Washington

Clashes in Kiev last week  (Pic courtesy

If this blog posted yesterday the confident prediction by Turkish author and playwright Meltem Arikan that the world turning digital from analogue would lead to the downfall of patriarchy, political oppression and police violence, think again! Not that Arikan, activist and survivor of police brutality at Gezi Park did not envisage pitfalls on the road to that ideal, but there was certainly a note of optimism in her tone.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Using Social Media For Socal Change: Turkey's Meltem Arikan Speaks Out

Demonstrations at Gezi Park (Pic courtesy Index on Censorship)

Turkish author and playwright Meltem Arikan who has campaigned long and hard against patriarchy, in an essay and interview with Index on Censorship (IoC) highlights the role of the artist in resisting repression to bring about democratic change, and the part played by social media in that transition.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Freedom Of Expression Crushed In Ukraine By Legislation And Police

Woman begs police not to attack protestors (Pic courtesy BBC)

Freedom of expression and assembly became targets of assault both in Ukraine’s legislature and on the streets of Kiev, as the embattled government of President Viktor Yanukovych passed emergency legislation to criminalise libel and police attacked protestors. Over forty journalists covering the clashes were injured.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

World According To Obama: Praise King But Beef Up NSA

                 (Pic Courtesy PEN America)

President Barack Obama’s statement last Friday on the reforms on National Security Agency spying on US citizens and people overseas through mass metadata gathering of phone calls and internet content has had mixed reactions. 

While some believed it was that was a significant step forward in a tightly contested environment between national security and civil liberties, proponents of media freedom and human rights disagree. They say the reforms were far from adequate.

'King Obama and Surveillance Today' looks at media freedom in the context of another event that held the attention of American this week: Martin Luther King Day. Obama is a self-confessed admirer and votary of King. Yet King stood for universal and indivisible human rights. Further, he was the subject of FBI Director Edgar J. Hoover’s undying hatred and as such subject of surveillance of the Bureau.

“Obama specifically referred to the FBI’s war on King in his speech on Friday detailing surveillance reforms. But it makes little sense for the president to open the door on the deeply flawed surveillance program that plagued King while making cosmetic reforms to his own far-flung surveillance program,” writes Deji Olukotun in his blog post to PEN America.

Click here for the article

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Taliban Kills Three Journalists, Vows To Attacks "Propagandists" Again

                                                                        Pic courtesy RSF

Three TV journalists from the Express Media Group were murdered on January 17 in Karachi, capital of Pakistan’s violence-wracked Sindh. The Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

Media watchdogs expressed outrage at Islamabad’s lethargy in pursuing investigations into incidents of violence against journalists and media institutions by Islamist groups, government intelligence agencies and others, and said this had bred a culture of impunity. The January 17 incident is the third armed attack since August on the politically liberal Express Media Group.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bangladesh Government Arrests Three Journalists As Crackdown Continues

Inqilab's Ahmed Atik placed on two day remand (Pic. Daily Star)

Bangladesh arrested three journalists of the Bangla-language daily newspaper ‘Inqilab’ on January 9 for publishing “fabricated and false news” heightening fears that the recent upsurge in media repression is continuing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Twitter Best In Protecting Citzen Privacy, Says EFF Report

Twitter's Dick Costollo (Business Insider)

Days before US President Barack Obama outlined new steps his government hoped to take to minimise surveillance by the government spy agencies on US citizens and people overseas, an internet freedom monitor scored different tech companies on how well they had protected private citizens from government.    
 “When it comes to how Internet companies protect people when the government asks for data, Twitter wins,” says Business Insider of a survey done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Using Language To Outsmart The Censors

A short article highlights how social media is making inroads into China’s highly centralised, authoritarian political structure. The Communist Party’s biggest fear is not critical writing about corruption or political scandals, but the role of social in publicising anti-government protests.

Caught between closing the internet outright, which might reduce political protests – at least temporarily – but will be disastrous for running a modern economy, and a censorship-free internet that will push China further on the road to modernisation, but at the cost of a one-party state, Beijing is caught between a rock and a hard place.

While it employs armies of censors to troll the net to take down comments deemed offensive to the State, Chinese dissidents use the language in innovative ways to hint to something sensitive but not quite say it.

“In addition to the notorious firewall, the government can censor specific words to try and control the narrative of any given incident, by pushing their own agenda and restricting citizens’ freedom of expression. However, many online users use images, and memes in particular can portray a serious topic in a light-hearted manner, further increasing the spread of information,” writes Stephen Junor for Index on Censorship.

You can read the article here

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Russia, Other Autocracies Modify Media Censorship To Suit The Times

Using Kremlin’s recent move to crackdown further on Russia independent media by replacing the editorial leadership of RIA Novosti with regime loyalists, two Washington DC-based scholars argue that authoritarian regimes are ‘retooling’ their approach to censorship.

Chris Walker, executive director, for the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Robert Orttung, assistant director of the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School, George Washington University say that authoritarian regimes caught between the need for an open media required for the operation of a modern economy while at the same wanting a firm control in the exercise of state power, are re-forging their weapons to exercise “effective media control” rather than oppressive, blanket censorship.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thai Law Bans Journalists Covering Violence To Wear Body Armour

Bangkok protests cause traffic snarl (Pic. Asian Correspondent)

When the police and the anti-government protestors are equally trigger-happy how do journalists protect themselves? By using body armour.

As clashes turn increasingly violent in Bangkok, Thailand, an international media freedom monitor has demanded that the law banning journalists from wearing body armour be withdrawn as fear mounts that they could become targets caught in the midst of clashes.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ethiopian Authorites Use Prison System To Torture Journalist Woubshet Taye

Bernhane and son Fiteh (Pic. CPJ)

In its post on October 17, this blog highlighted the plight of three Ethiopian journalists – Malaku Desmisse, Woubshet Taye and Eskinder Nega – among many who are behind bars for exposing the country’s brutal government.

On October 13, Taye had been awarded the Press Freedom Award at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2013. But he was not there to receive it. He was serving the second year of a 14-year jail term after he was falsely charged under the country’s counterterrorism laws. His wife, Bernhane Tesfaye and five-year-old son picked up the award instead.

In a recent interview with Tom Rhodes, the East Africa representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Tesfaye described the inhumanity of Ethiopia’s prison system and the vindictiveness of its government.

A common form of punishment that authoritarian regimes, which adapt the prison system to persecute inmates more than by confining them, is by frequent transfers from prison facility to prison facility. Taye’s experiences are a perfect example.

“It is at Ziway, an isolated facility roughly 83 miles southeast of the capital, where heat, dust, and contaminated water have likely led to a severe kidney infection in Woubshet. The award-winning journalist was meant to receive medical treatment while at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, Woubshet's wife, Berhane Tesfaye, told me, but it never took place. Suffering in such pain in his ribs and hip that he cannot sleep, Woubshet has not even received painkillers, according to local journalists who visited him,” writes Rhodes.

As Rhodes goes on to say, “While debates over the reasons for Woubshet's arrest may persist, there is one point on which all sides should agree: Woubshet must be allowed access to medical treatment.”

Click here to read the full story.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Study On Russia's Attempt To Control Former Soviet Republics Through Media

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) of the Washington DC-based think-tank National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has sponsored a study on the increasingly insidious role played by the Russian media to manipulate public opinion within the former Soviet Republics to favour alliances with Russia at the expense of ties with the West.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Charade of Investigating Lasantha's Murder

Lasantha Wickrematunge's Fifth Death Anniversary (Pic. Daily Mirror)

Renowned Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed exactly five years ago. Both co-founder and editor-in-chief of ‘The Sunday Leader,’ he was murdered by government thugs in broad daylight at a busy intersection in suburban Colombo on his way to work. Yet his killers roam free. The Government of Sri Lanka has refused to investigate his murder seriously. On the contrary, it has flouted the law by random arrests, forced confessions and possibly murdering a suspect in police custody. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Social Media-based Political Campaign Challenges India's Internet Censorship

Arvind Kejriwal on the campaign trail (Pic Index on Censorship)

“A big challenge for 2014 will be to utilize new tools and tactics for positive change – while reining in the efforts of those who are thinking just as hard about how to use tech to steal, spy or stifle dissent,” writes Human Rights Watch’s director, communications Emma Daly in a piece in CNN.