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.

Friday, January 3, 2014

IFJ Blames Impunity For Journalists' Killings

Year-end statistics of journalists killed in the line of duty keep coming. On December 31, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said 108 journalists and media staff were killed as a result of violence worldwide in 2013, which was 10% below that of 2012. Fifteen, IFJ said, died in accidental and illness-related incidents.

Regionally, more journalists died in the Asia-Pacific region – 29% –  than in any other – a surprise considering public attention drawn to the number of journalists and media workers killed in the Middle East last year. However, as individual countries go, Syria (15) and Iraq (13) top the list.

The big scorers in Asia were India, Pakistan and the Philippines with 10 each.

IFJ linked the killing of journalists to the UN Day to End Impunity by pointing out that impunity for killers is the reason for the murder of journalists to remain so consistently high.    

“Following the United Nations' resolution establishing 2 November as an International Day to End Impunity, we urge countries across the world to take immediate action to protect the safety and freedom of journalists,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “We give our full support to this new initiative which we believe will contribute to fighting impunity across the globe provided that governments are willing to adopt a zero tolerance approach to violence targeting journalists.

Click here to read the details.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bahrain Arrests Photojournalist For Witness On Impunity

(Pc courtesy

Media freedom monitors have called for the immediate release Ahmed Al-Fardan a Bahraini photojournalist held without charges and beaten since December 26. It is believed Al-Fardan was arrested because of his photographing of human rights violations in Bahrain and for his campaign for the release of a fellow-journalist detained since December 2012. Al-Fardan was earlier arrested in August, assaulted and threatened with death before he was released.

Al-Fardan worked as a photojournalist for Nurphoto, Demotex and Sipa