Inter Press Service » Press Freedom http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 31 Aug 2016 15:34:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Addressing the Dangers of Freelance Journalismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/addressing-the-dangers-of-freelance-journalism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=addressing-the-dangers-of-freelance-journalism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/addressing-the-dangers-of-freelance-journalism/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 21:38:20 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146694 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/addressing-the-dangers-of-freelance-journalism/feed/ 0 UN Spotlight for Dark Shadow over Civil Society Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/un-spotlight-for-dark-shadow-over-civil-society-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-spotlight-for-dark-shadow-over-civil-society-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/un-spotlight-for-dark-shadow-over-civil-society-rights/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 05:28:00 +0000 Tor Hodenfield http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146372 Tor Hodenfield works on the Policy and Research Team at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance - @Tor_Hodenfield]]> Indigenous rights protestors bundled away from COP 16 climate change negotiations in Cancun by police. Credit: Nastasya Tay/IPS

Indigenous rights protestors bundled away from COP 16 climate change negotiations in Cancun by police. Credit: Nastasya Tay/IPS

By Tor Hodenfield
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 3 2016 (IPS)

With more and more governments narrowing space for dissent and activism, the UN has emerged as a key platform to air concerns about acute rights violations and develop protections for civil society and other vulnerable groups.

The core freedoms that enable civil society to conduct its work are under threat across the world. A report recently released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries. Individual activists and journalists are also increasingly being targeted to prevent them from exercising their legitimate rights and undertaking their vital work. In 2015, Global witness documented the killing of three environmental activists per week – while the Committee to Protect Journalists identified 199 journalists who were behind bars at the end of 2015.

Worryingly, restrictions on the exercise of civil society freedoms are being experienced in democracies as well as authoritarian states. In the US, Black Lives Matter demonstrators are facing serious challenges to their right to protest peacefully both from overzealous law enforcement agents as well as from divisive right wing politicians. In South Korea, security forces have violently repressed popular protests and judicially harassed civil society and union leaders advocating for greater transparency of the government’s ongoing investigation of the 2014 Sewol Ferry disaster. On July 4th, the President of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU), Han Sang-gyun, was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in organizing the protests.

Ethiopia’s totalitarian state apparatus has brutally suppressed grievances about access to land, adequate health services and education in the Oromia region, precipitating mass protests since November 2015. Over 400 protestors, including scores of children have been killed in one of the most egregious crackdowns on the right to protest in Sub-Saharan Africa in the 21st century. In Bahrain, the absolute monarchy continues to imprison human rights defenders, revoke the citizenship of outspoken critics and prevent activists from attending UN human rights conferences.

Due to the narrowing of political space in many countries around the world, there are fewer and fewer avenues available to individuals and groups to express their grievances at home. This makes the United Nations (UN) an important arena to highlight the importance of rights and to articulate international human rights standards.

The UN Human Rights Council, the UN’s preeminent human rights body, which recently concluded its 32nd Session in Geneva, took a number of critical steps to address restrictions on human rights and expand protections for civil society and other vulnerable groups. Notably, over the course of this three-week session, the UN decided to appoint the first-ever independent expert to monitor sexual orientation and gender identity rights, renewed the appointment of a similar expert to report on violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and adopted a landmark resolution on the key principles necessary to protect and promote the work of civil society.

Last month at UN headquarters in New York, civil society, businesses and governments met to discuss the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 universal goals provide an important platform for civil society to frame their government’s development and policies for the next 15 years and mitigates against many government’s reluctance to engage with civil society at the national level. The design of the goals has been lauded for its unprecedented levels of public participation and the recognition that civil society must be a co-partner in the delivery of international development agreements.

However, despite the admirable steps taken by the UN to address civic space restrictions and create a safe and enabling environment for NGOs to engage on important human rights issues, states are replicating repressive tactics to undermine the access and potency of civil society at the UN. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a civil society organisation mandated to document violations against press freedom, was recently granted consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which allows NGOs to formally address UN bodies and processes, only after a decision to block them for the fourth year running was overturned. In another worrying attempt to suppress civil society participation at the UN, weeks earlier dozens of member states blocked over 20 LGBTI advocacy groups from attending the UN Global Aids Summit.

While the UN has emerged as an increasingly vital nexus to ensure that civic society grievances are considered, concerted efforts among the UN, States and civil society need to be made to ensure that decisions and norms the UN develops reach the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. The UN, and its allies in civil society, must work together to help demystify the work of the UN and ensure that countries across the world are domesticating and delivering on these important human rights initiatives.

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Small Win for NGOs as UN Members Try to Exclude Critical Voiceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/small-win-for-ngos-as-un-members-try-to-exclude-critical-voices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-win-for-ngos-as-un-members-try-to-exclude-critical-voices http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/small-win-for-ngos-as-un-members-try-to-exclude-critical-voices/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 12:08:28 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146330 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/small-win-for-ngos-as-un-members-try-to-exclude-critical-voices/feed/ 0 Kashmir on Firehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/kashmir-on-fire-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kashmir-on-fire-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/kashmir-on-fire-2/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 16:10:17 +0000 TAIMUR ZULFIQAR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146147 By Taimur Zulfiqar, second secretary embassy of Pakistan Manila
Jul 19 2016 (Manila Times)

Kashmir is bleeding once again. Many innocent civilians have been brutally killed and many more injured by the Indian security forces. Surprisingly, there is a deafening silence in the local media. No views, no comments whatsoever have appeared. Strangely, the media, which is otherwise very active and springs into action on the slightest violation of human rights, kept mum as if Kashmiris are not human, their blood carries no importance and is cheaper than water. Many nowadays are voicing serious concerns about the rights of drug addicts killed by the police but not a single word for Kashmiris.

Views and opinions apart, there was a complete blackout in the local print media about the recent incidents of human rights violations in the Indian-occupied Kashmir by the Indian military and paramilitary forces against those protesting the killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani, who was extremely popular among the masses. As a result, dozens of innocent Kashmiris were killed, over 2,100 have been injured, 400 of whom critically. People have been denied access to basic emergency services and right to health. There have been incidents of violence, harassment and shelling of teargas in hospitals to prevent access to hospitals and restrict the movement of ambulances. The brutality can be gauged from the fact that Indian Security Forces used pellet guns above waist-height, resulting in many injured, including those who lost their eyesight.

The use of excessive force against innocent civilians, protesting over extrajudicial killings, is deplorable and a blatant violation of the right to life, right to freedom of expression and opinion, right to peaceful protest and assembly, and other fundamental human rights. In fact, Indian forces have since long employed various draconian laws like the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act in killing the Kashmiri people, and for the arbitrary arrest of any individual for an indefinite period.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian-controlled Kashmir. In its July 2, 2015 report, Amnesty International highlighted extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons at the hands of Indian security forces in the Indian-held Kashmir. The report points out, “Tens of thousands of security forces are deployed in Indian-administered Kashmir … the Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows troops to shoot to kill suspected militants or arrest them without a warrant … not a single member of the armed forces has been tried in a civilian court for violating human rights in Kashmir … this lack of accountability has in turn facilitated other serious abuses … India has martyred 100,000 people. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, after his visit to India in March 2012, called on the government of India to continue to take measures to fight impunity in cases of extrajudicial executions, and communal and traditional killings. In his report he stated, “Evidence gathered confirmed the use of so-called ‘fake encounters’ in certain parts of the country … the armed forces have wide powers to employ lethal force.” A high level of impunity enjoyed by police and armed forces exacerbate such a situation, owing to the requirement that any prosecutions require sanction from the central government—something that is rarely granted. “The main difficulty in my view has been these high levels of impunity,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.

India has been justifying these atrocities under various pretexts, such as by portraying these as internal affairs, stating that Kashmir is part of India. In addition, it tries to equate Kashmiris’ struggle with terrorism and blames Pakistan for fomenting militancy.

India is wrong on both counts. First of all, Kashmir is not and had never been part of India. It is a disputed territory with numerous UN Security Council Resolutions outstanding on its agenda. A series of UNSC Resolutions have been issued reiterating the initial ones issued in 1948 and 1949. Calling it an internal matter to India is a violation of UNSC Resolutions. The current situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and the indigenous movement for self-determination, which is going on for a long time in IOK, is a manifestation of what the Kashmiris want. They are resisting against the Indian occupation of their territory and want to exercise their right to self-determination. They want UNSC to implement Resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and fulfill their promise.

In addition, the disputed status of Kashmir is also supported by the Indian leadership in the past. Prime Minister Nehru, of India, in his Statement on All India Radio on Nov. 3, 1947, said: “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”

Later, while addressing the Indian Parliament, on Aug. 7, 1952, he said, “I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir; it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. …

“I started with the presumption that it is for the people of Kashmir to decide their own future. We will not compel them. In that sense, the people of Kashmir are sovereign.”

There are plenty of statements by Indian leadership and the UN to the effect that Kashmir is a disputed territory and its future is to be decided by seeking the wishes of the Kashmiris through a plebiscite under the auspices of the UN.

India’s portrayal of Kashmiri’s struggle as terrorism is another farce, which unfortunately has been taken at face value by the international community. Most probably, such a stand is driven by economic/commercial and other similar interests in total disregard of the moral principles contained in their Constitutions, the UN Charter, etc.

None seem to have asked India as to what necessitates deployment of more than 600,000-strong army in the occupied Kashmir with a population of 10 million, i.e., one soldier for every 16.6 natives. And why such a huge deployment, despite its repressive policies, has been unable to check the freedom struggle. As per some estimates, more than 80,000 have died and thousands are missing since 1989. Moreover, it is a fact that every year, when India celebrates Independence Day on Aug. 15, Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and the world over observe it as Black Day, to convey the message to the international community that India continues to usurp their inalienable right to self- determination. This very day is being marked by complete shutdown, as deserted streets, closed businesses and security patrolling the streets could be seen in the Indian-held Kashmir. To express solidarity with Pakistan, Kashmiris hoist the Pakistani flag on Aug. 14, the Pakistan Independence Day. Indian-occupation authorities often impose stringent restrictions in Srinagar and other towns, and deploy heavy contingents of police and troops to prevent people from holding anti-India demonstrations on these days. All this is a clear manifestation that the struggle is predominantly indigenous, and equating it with terrorism is nothing but a gross injustice on the part of India. India should realize that such tactics would never be able to change the basis of the just struggle that has been waged by the Kashmiri people since 1947. Had India fulfilled its duties toward the Kashmiri people, all these killings would have been avoided.

Pakistan unequivocally extends political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination. Pakistan’s principled position on the issue of Kashmir is that it should be resolved according to UN Resolutions. Kashmir is a universally recognized dispute with numerous UNSC Resolutions outstanding for almost seven decades. Wars have not succeeded in resolving the issue of Kashmir. Dialogue is the best option to amicably resolve all issues between India and Pakistan, including the dispute of Kashmir. Pakistan remains ready for dialogue. It is for the international community to urge India to resolve issues through dialogue.

Kashmiris are resisting against the Indian occupation of their territory and want to exercise their right to self-determination. Nothing can deter the Kashmiris’ resolve to continue their struggle. For a people alienated and wronged for decades, any provocation will set them aflame. India should realize that the Kashmir dispute will not vanish unless their aspirations are met. Oppressive brutalities and inhuman measures cannot stop them from claiming their right to self-determination, in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions.

The international community should rise from its slumber and tell India that the treatment being meted out to the Kashmiris is simply unacceptable. India should honor its human rights obligations, as well as its commitments under the UNSC Resolutions to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful manner.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Civil Society Organizations Worried About Declining Involvementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 02:48:29 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146044 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement/feed/ 0 Journalists Face Unprecedented Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalists-face-unprecedented-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:41:33 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145845 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/feed/ 0 From Somalia to Afghanistan: The Dangers Local Journalists Facehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-somalia-to-afghanistan-the-dangers-local-journalists-face/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-somalia-to-afghanistan-the-dangers-local-journalists-face http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-somalia-to-afghanistan-the-dangers-local-journalists-face/#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2016 00:22:33 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145595 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-somalia-to-afghanistan-the-dangers-local-journalists-face/feed/ 0 Of GPA 5 and Journalistic Ethicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/of-gpa-5-and-journalistic-ethics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=of-gpa-5-and-journalistic-ethics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/of-gpa-5-and-journalistic-ethics/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 14:37:27 +0000 Akhtar Sultana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145486 By Akhtar Sultana
Jun 7 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

We can all agree that in recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Bangladeshi students who achieved GPA 5 in both the secondary and higher secondary school level. It is no doubt heartening to see that our young people are doing so well in their studies, but it also raises a pertinent question as to the standard of education that is being imparted in our schools and colleges. The question that has been frequently asked is “Do so many deserve GPA 5 or is it being handed out to them?” This issue undoubtedly requires serious reflection.

journalism_and_gpa__A few days ago, a well-known television channel carried a report on GPA-5 achievers and their level of knowledge on various topics. The reporter picked a handful of GPA 5 achievers and asked them general knowledge questions, both on national and international topics, which most of the students were unable to answer. My question today, however, is not about these students and their level of knowledge or lack thereof – rather it is about how this was portrayed in the media. The reporter asked students questions in quick succession, “rapid fire” style. While the reporter hammered on, these young people avoided making eye contact with the camera, clearly embarrassed about their inability to answer the questions. The topics were without doubt very relevant and appropriate, but these children were humiliated on national television for all of Bangladesh to see on the 7 o’clock news.

Here arises the important question regarding the ethics of journalism. Does the TV channel, or any media for that matter, have the right to humiliate anyone, especially children, in a public domain? Was the reporter aware of the damage he was causing to these children, both emotionally and psychologically and the embarrassment, taunting and humiliation they would have to face among their peers? These youngsters perhaps agreed to be interviewed, hoping to tell their friends and family that they were featured on television, absolutely unaware of what was to follow.

My question is to the television channel that aired this report. How could a responsible television channel air this report? Shouldn’t it have been edited? As I watched the six and a half minute long video, I kept wondering what the reporter was trying to establish. Was it the GPA 5 achievers’ lack of knowledge, their inability to answer general knowledge questions or the standard of education that is being imparted in our schools? The reporter perhaps had good intentions, but the way it was carried out was far from right.

Students alone cannot be held responsible for their lack of knowledge. We have to dig deeper into the issue. It is the education system that is responsible, and as long as we do not pay heed to changing our system, this will not end. Our education system emphasises memorisation, rather than active learning and creativity. Attending coaching classes and running around from tutor to tutor has become the norm. Our society cares more for the scores you have obtained in an exam rather than the knowledge you have gained in the long run. As a result, parents, teachers, private tutors and schools all focus on students achieving higher GPAs. The schools are rated with the students’ GPA – the higher the GPA, the better the school or the coaching centre is thought to be. When a school’s students score GPA 5, they proudly display this information – and why shouldn’t they? This is the parameter by which the success of the school is decided. As a result, parents too, are forced to give in to this pressure to get their youngsters into a college where GPA matters most. This is a toxic cycle from which we all need to break free. For the sake of better education, a better system, and most of all, for the sake of the youth of Bangladesh.

Whatever the cause, it needs to be addressed but not in a manner which humiliates young people in front of the nation. The youth have the right to their privacy which must be respected. It is time for our reporters to pay more heed to the ethics of journalism, and high time for our media to be more conscious of the content and the people they are portraying.

The writer is Professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Deteriorating Protection of Journalists’ Sources a Global Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deteriorating-protection-of-journalists-sources-a-global-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deteriorating-protection-of-journalists-sources-a-global-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deteriorating-protection-of-journalists-sources-a-global-problem/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 21:31:32 +0000 Linus Atarah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144995 A journalist conducts an interview in Kenya. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

A journalist conducts an interview in Kenya. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Linus Atarah
HELSINKI, May 5 2016 (IPS)

The freedom of the press is a universally cherished democratic right, but what may have been overlooked as the World Day Freedom of Information was celebrated on Wednesday is that the ability of journalists to protect their source is increasingly coming under attack by authorities.

To Julie Posetti, there should be global standard adopted by all countries to protect the source of journalists, a fundamental principle to the capacity to do journalism that supports democracy.

“Journalists can draw on the universal right to freedom of expression and also right to privacy,” says Julie Posetti, editor at the Australia-based Fairfax Media, “what is lacking however, is that there is no international law that specifically enshrines the right to protect journalistic sources as part of this other international human rights framework,” Posetti told IPS.

Speaking at a UNESCO conference to mark the World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki, on Wednesday, Posetti said in some jurisdictions, for instance in Europe, there are regional laws and court judgments that uphold traditional rights to protect sources, but these protections are rather done in an “analogue way” – by which she means the laws need to be updated to take into account the digital reality of today’s world.

“The traditional rights of journalistic source might protect your right in court not to identify your source, or your notebook from proceedings, or to hand them over to the police, but not the digital information on one’s laptop or hard drive, all of which can reveal not just one source but many, many sources” -- Julie Posetti.

This year’s celebration marks the 250th anniversary of world’s first freedom of information act, due to campaign of Anders Chydenius, a member of parliament and priest, passed in modern day Sweden and Finland. Finland was part of Sweden until 1809, when it was handed over to Czarist Russia as a gift of war.

“The traditional rights of journalistic source might protect your right in court not to identify your source, or your notebook from proceedings, or to hand them over to the police, but not the digital information on one’s laptop or hard drive, all of which can reveal not just one source but many, many sources”, she said.

“It would be wonderful to have an international standard that declared that the protection of journalists sources was fundamental to the right of freedom expression”, she says, “instead what exists are piecemeal references to those right around the world, some very good laws, most are not up to date”.

The protection of a journalist’s source is an ethical principle in journalism recognised globally. People who often approach journalists with sensitive information usually do that at considerable risk, including the risk of losing their lives. Such people would wish to have their identity protected but if journalists cannot guarantee that, then it will have a chilling effect on the public right to information in general.

Some countries have legislation that provides protection to journalistic sources but such legislation is now being undermined by the use of data retention and national security and anti-terrorism policies globally.

According to findings for a book authored by Posetti and published by UNESCO last year, out of 121 countries surveyed for evidence of source protection legislation, 69 percent or 84 countries had inadequate legislation to protect journalistic sources – these laws were undermined by mass and targeted surveillance, anti-terrorism and national security policies and data retention policies.

Patrick Penninckx, Head of Information Society Department in the Council of Europe also expressed similar concerns over the violation of media freedoms in the 47-member Council of Europe, whose main objectives is upholding democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Members of the Council of Europe include Russia and Azerbaijan but excludes Belorus. Some members are also members of the European Union.

“We are on the wrong path when it comes to freedom of the media”, Penninckx, told IPS. According to him, national legislations in 27 of the 47 members in the Council of Europe are going towards the wrong direction. These individual member countries seem to be saying, ‘why should we have any kind of European body dictate to us or oversee what we are doing if we can decide on that on by ourselves’, Pennickx, said

Therefore these countries are resorting to “legislative nationalism”, rather than accepting international best practice recommended by international institutions, even including the Council of Europe.

And this does not just apply to the “usual suspects”, he said, namely, Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan, that are more often talked about in terms of suppressing press freedoms. Rather, it is a general tendency among member countries to use terrorism legislation, state of emergency and mass surveillance to diminish rights of individuals and through that put pressure on journalists and other media actors.

Europe is in the midst of multiple crisis – financial, refugee, migration – even some of these countries are in a conflict situation such as Ukraine, but in spite of that Pennickx insists that countries must still uphold human rights and press freedom in times of crisis.

In situations of targeted and mass surveillance there should be a higher threshold, for instance, the need to have a warrant in order to demand a journalist’s metadata. There must also be transparency and accountability in judicial measures, says Posetti.  In certain jurisdiction where judicial hearings take place in a closed court without the awareness of journalists, it is difficult for them to protect their sources.

While in favour of adopting an international standard to protect the sources of journalists, Guy Berger, Director of the Division of Freedom Expression and Media Development in UNESCO points out the difficulties faced by his organisation to bring that about.

UNESCO, being an intergovernmental organisation, he says, can only operate through diplomatic pressure. According to him, it would be considerably difficult to reach a consensus among 195 members of UNESCO to adopt a common legislation to provide journalistic sources. “In this era of concern over terrorism, governments have no appetite for a binding legislation.

“We try to influence with the power of reason and the NGOs and the media have the power of embarrassment; so you bring those together”, Berger told IPS.

“Freedom of information is not a Christmas tree, a gift to be used from time to time. It is an everyday gym exercise,” says Mabel Rehnfeldt, investigative journalist and Editor of ABC-Digital in Paraguay. To her, legislation per se, may not be enough to achieve the goal, rather it should followed advocacy and awareness raising for everyone, including journalists to fully grasp the significance of protecting journalistic sources.

“We need to be activists for the protection of our sources, because that principle is fundamental to our capacity to do journalism that supports democracy, without it we certainly are going to be unable to continue doing the kind of investigative journalism that has the capacity to effect change”, says Posetti.

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Models of Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/models-of-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=models-of-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/models-of-press-freedom/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 16:11:21 +0000 Shakhawat Liton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144969 By Shakhawat Liton
May 4 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

1760s ushered in a new dawn of freedom of the press.

Anders Chydenius, an enlightened thinker and politician of the Kingdom of Sweden, had struggled against secret and unaccountable government power, as he urged for the freedom of press and information and right of access to public records law.

Last Words - The Return of Anders Chydenius / Lauri Tuomi-Nikula

Last Words – The Return of Anders Chydenius / Lauri Tuomi-Nikula

As a member of the Swedish Parliament from 1765, his idea about freedom of press was unambiguous: “A divided freedom is no freedom and a divided constraint is an absolute constraint.” In his memoirs, he even claimed that “for nothing else did I work in the Diet [parliament] as diligently as the freedom of writing and printing”.

After his struggle for a decade, he succeeded in winning this battle, as the King of Sweden agreed to have a law guaranteeing freedom of the press. The Swedish Parliament enacted the Freedom of Press Act on December 2, 1766, which is also known as the world’s first freedom of information law. The law abolished censorship of books and newspapers, and required authorities to provide public access to all official records.

Professor Juha Mannien of the University of Helenski in Finland says that the key achievements of the 1766 legislation were the abolishment of political censorship and the gaining of public access to government documents.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day coincides with the 250th anniversary of the first freedom of press and information law covering both modern-day Sweden and Finland (at the time of the enactment of the law, Finland was still part of the Kingdom of Sweden).

Much before the Swedish legislation, the UK Parliament abolished political censorship in 1695. But it had not been replaced by a new law formulated with positive concepts, wherefore control could seek new forms. Therefore, the law enacted by the Swedish Parliament became the first to abolish political censorship and safeguard freedom of the press.

The legislation was aimed at thwarting government’s attempts to conceal, fake, distort, or falsify information that its citizens receive by suppressing or crowding out political news that the public might receive through news outlets.

The Swedish example started changing the world. The 20th century witnessed a wave of enactments of freedom of information laws, as more than 90 countries have adopted such provisions since 1766.

The United States brought the historic First Amendment to its Constitution in 1789, making provisions that the Congress will never make laws curtailing freedom of press, speech and expression. The Freedom of Information Act was introduced in 1966 in the US, and today almost all European countries have such a law. In the EU, major steps towards open governments were taken in the 1990s. A big step forward was the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in 2000. The Charter includes both freedom of expression and the right of access to documents. In 2001, the first regulation on access to documents was adopted. Bangladesh also enacted the Right to Information law in 2008.

Undoubtedly, freedom of information is extremely important for the proper functioning of any economy. Access to government information is now seen as a human right. The principle of freedom of information means that the general public and mass media have access to official records.

However, a major challenge to open access to information is “overreach in governmental society. States should be able to keep some information confidential in line with legitimate purposes and processes set out in international human rights law,” as per a concept note of UNESCO observing World Press Freedom Day. It also states that information from administrative and executive authorities – concerning, for example, laws and public expenditure – should generally be accessible to everyone. “Hence, freedom of information both helps provide oversight over governmental bodies, as well as the possibility to hold them accountable, and this right strengthens the relevance of press freedom and independent journalism.”

Finland, the birth place of Anders Chydenius, the father of freedom of information, is now a free and open society. Its government is legally obliged to disclose information on par with the openness strategy existing in the country. In fact, like previous years, Finland has ranked first in the latest World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

The country’s openness in press freedom was responsible in establishing an excellent image of Finland, as it scored the second highest in the list of least corrupt countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Index. Finland’s government has made transparency and availability of information – essentially, the factors that lead to good journalism – an institutional prerogative.

Finns are also major consumers of journalism – according to the European Center for Journalism, 483 out of 1,000 citizens of the country regularly buy newspapers. And 76 percent of the population over 10-years-old read the paper. The government is, in other words, both taking care to safeguard the role of journalism and expand it with new technologies.

A Grand Celebration
The Swedish and Finnish governments, among others, are making plans to celebrate the passage of 250 years of the world’s first freedom of information law. The main event will be the World Press Freedom Day Conference in Finland. Finland is also hosting the World Press Freedom Day for journalists and media professionals, co-organised with UNESCO, in Helsinki from May 3-4, 2016. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland says that over 800 participants from about a hundred countries are expected to attend this event. “The main event at Finlandia Hall will be opened by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä,” says the foreign ministry in a post on its website. A ‘press freedom prize’ will be awarded at the main event, while the Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini will host the reception for invited guests. As expected, Anders Chydenius will be remembered for his role in achieving the first Freedom of Press Act in the world.

The ministry says Finnish commitment to freedom of expression and press freedom are long standing, adding, “The materialisation of democracy development and human rights depend on access to information and the materialisation of freedom of expression.” In Finland, the whole year of 2016 has been dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the world’s first Freedom of Information Act, the theme of the year being “Right to Know, Right to Say”. It’s only fitting that the father of freedom of information is remembered for his tireless endeavours in ensuring that the press attains this right, thereby making it accessible to the ordinary people.

The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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World Celebrates 250 Years Since First Freedom of Information Acthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/world-celebrates-250-years-since-first-freedom-of-information-act/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-celebrates-250-years-since-first-freedom-of-information-act http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/world-celebrates-250-years-since-first-freedom-of-information-act/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 15:54:40 +0000 Milla Sundstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144949 By Milla Sundström
HELSINKI, May 4 2016 (IPS)

Press freedom is not just a beautiful idea but a very concrete thing, included in the UN’s Sustainable Development agenda which is meant to lead the humankind to sustainable development, UNESCO’s director general, Irina Bokova, said at the opening of the World Press Freedom Day here Tuesday.

The meeting marked the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day and attracted a record audience of more than 1200 journalists from around the world.

The origins of World Press Freedom Day are in Namibia where a group of African journalists gathered at an UNESCO seminar in 1991. The call to create an international day of press freedom was endorsed by the United Nations in 1993.

Bokova and the prime minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä, both recalled another important anniversary. This year’s press freedom day is organised 250 years after Finland – then a part of Sweden – became the first country in the world to get a freedom of information act. Since then, more than hundred states have followed suit.

According to Bokova the world has changed a lot and two dramatic changes came just last year when both the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris climate agreement were accepted.

There is, however, turbulence and change across the world and this ”requires a strong environment of press freedom and a well-functioning system to ensure the people’s right to know,” Bokova said.

Violence haunts journalists, too. 825 professionals have been killed during the past decade and less than six per cent of the cases have been resolved. UNESCO is working to improve the safety of journalists and to end the impunity of crimes against them, she continued.

The two-day UNESCO conference includes various plenaries, panel discussions and other events. One of the panels on Tuesday ended up discussing whether neutrality is possible or even desirable in news coverage on migration. The theme of the panel was the Impact of the Refugee Crisis on Public Service Media Values.

The title of the panel referred to the recent events in Europe where the influx of about 1,3 million asylum seekers mainly from Middle East and Africa has caused a phenomenon called ”refugee crises”.

The term has also been used in the UNESCO meeting’s host country Finland which received in 2015 about 32 000 people compared to previous years with only a couple of thousand refugees arrivals.

Ali Jahangiri, a Finnish radio presenter, originally from Iran, was recently part of a team that made a television documentary called Unknown Refugee. They followed Syrian refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos through Europe.

Jahangiri is strongly against ”forced balance” where the coverage is based on the idea of ”creating debate” by picking up ”extreme ends” of opinions on controversial themes like refugees.

Charlotte Harder from Danish Broadcasting Corporation recalled that the same method of ”balancing” used to be used in climate change reporting but has since been dropped. She reclaimed ”being fair instead of being neutral” while covering these themes.

Carolina Matos, Brazilian lecturer of sociology from London City University, argued that instead of trying to balance two aspects the news coverage should include many sides, especially the positive sides which tend to be left uncovered.

Professor emerita of journalism from Helsinki University, Ullamaija Kivikuru, sat in the audience of the panel and drew a conclusion that it does not seem to be very clear to anybody how these important questions should be covered.

She has a simple message: More research is needed. ”No abstract theories but describing what has been reported and media critical analyses on that.”

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On World Press Freedom Day, A View From Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/on-world-press-freedom-day-a-view-from-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=on-world-press-freedom-day-a-view-from-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/on-world-press-freedom-day-a-view-from-asia/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 17:28:52 +0000 Josette Sheeran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144950 A commuter on the Circular Train in Yangon, Myanmar, reads a copy of the newspaper Democracy Today. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

A commuter on the Circular Train in Yangon, Myanmar, reads a copy of the newspaper Democracy Today. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

By Josette Sheeran
NEW YORK, May 3 2016 (IPS)

Travel in many parts of Asia, as I do, and you are likely to find everyone looking at their smartphones – even in remote areas – hungry for information wherever they can find it.

Certainly it is true that access to information has increased dramatically in the last few decades across Asia, as many nations have risen out of abject poverty and a greater openness has taken a foothold in previously isolated and controlled areas. Social media, in places as disparate and different as China, Iraq and Indonesia, Afghanistan and Myanmar, to name but a few has revolutionized access to information.

Yet the latest press freedom report from Reporters Without Borders is a sobering read, and a reminder of the long way many countries, including those in Asia, still have to go regarding fundamental press protections and freedoms.

Crackdowns notwithstanding, the explosion of social media in China has meant that access to information in China has grown dramatically, with literally billions of exchanges daily over ubiquitous smartphones.

Information is only as good as our access to real underlying facts, and at the root of vital information is still, often, a courageous and lone reporter trying to get to the bottom of corruption or wrong-doing.

The 2016 World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries according to metrics involving pluralism, media independence, the quality of legal frameworks for journalists, and the dangers faced by reporters. It’s a “snapshot of media freedom,” as its authors put it, and according to the survey, the pace-setters in Asia are New Zealand (#5) and then the tiny Pacific Island nations Samoa and Tonga (#29 and #37).

To some degree, the overall low ratings for Asian nations are unsurprising. Europe has dominated the list since it was first published in 2002; this year Finland, the Netherlands and Norway are 1, 2 and 3, and 14 of the top 20 countries are European. What Reporters Without Borders terms the “infernal trio” at the very bottom includes two Asian nations – Turkmenistan (#178) and North Korea (#179) – that have long been enforcers of a blanket censorship. (Eritrea in East Africa rounds out this infamous “trio”).

More surprising is a documented backsliding in countries where economic growth and broader freedoms have been the norm for decades. Japan fell eleven notches in the survey, to #72. “In the year since the law on the protection of specially designated secrets took effect in Japan,” said the report, “many media outlets, including state-owned ones, succumbed to self-censorship…and surrendered their independence.” South Korea dropped ten places, to #70, as “relations between the media and government became much more frayed”. Many survey responders worried about a “cloud over Hong Kong”, and China overall again came in near the bottom at #176, a notch below Vietnam.

The Asian nation that saw greatest improvement? That was Sri Lanka – jumping 24 places, to #141, thanks to a lessening climate of fear that had gripped many journalists covering the government.

Perhaps the most interesting case study in Asia is Afghanistan, which has seen both a positive sea change in press freedom, and a cautionary tale about how such change can be dangerous for reporters and editors.

No doubt the change in Afghanistan has been remarkable. In 2001, the last throes of Taliban rule, Afghans had access to fewer than 30,000 fixed telephone lines, and only one radio station; today they are served by six telecom companies, and more than 70 TV stations and 175 radio stations. Saad Mohseni, CEO of Moby Group, which runs several media properties in the country, notes that when it came time for the people of Afghanistan to vote in their third national democratic elections, in 2014, these new media platforms offered citizens the chance to engage directly with candidates in town hall-style meetings.

“Little did we anticipate the profound impact the media would have in re-shaping Afghan society,” says Mohseni, who founded the country’s first post-Taliban independent radio station – Arman FM – in Kabul in 2003. “Beyond enhancing access to information, the media has contributed significantly to making Afghan society more tolerant, open and united.” The new freedoms have helped relax social attitudes, by showcasing female presenters on television and radio. Today Afghans also frequently turn to TV or radio journalists to voice complaints about government services, and the media regularly investigates cases of corruption, holding officials accountable for their actions.

But opposition to these freedoms is a constant, and recently it has proved dangerous. On January 20th, a Taliban suicide bomber struck a bus carrying employees from the television station TOLO in Kabul, killing seven and injuring another 15. Says Mohseni: “With this attack, we were reminded of the risks of running a private media group in a country with ongoing conflict, where journalists are frequently targeted. I am not surprised when people ask me whether these risks – and the sacrifices – are worth it.”

These dangers explain why Afghanistan still sits at #120 on the Reporters Without Borders list – up only two notches (though well ahead of where it stood in 2009, second from the bottom, at #179). Even with an effort at the best surveys and metrics, such rankings can prove complicated. For an Afghan journalist, the climate is surely tough; for an Afghan consumer of information, things have markedly improved. Something similar may be said about China – which languishes near the bottom of the 2016 list. Crackdowns notwithstanding, the explosion of social media in China has meant that access to information in China has grown dramatically, with literally billions of exchanges daily over ubiquitous smartphones.

What is needed to improve Asia’s rankings, in the years to come? Obviously greater security, in Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflict zones. In other parts of the continent, political leadership will make the difference. A real analysis of the documented connection between the free flow of information and prosperity may help underscore the case. And ultimately there is the question of where valuable government resources are spent: improving the lives of citizens or expending so much energy monitoring comments on WeChat, or Facebook, or Twitter?

Afghanistan’s Saad Mohseni likes to take the long view when it comes to press freedom in his country: Look at where Afghanistan was a decade ago, Mohseni would say. In a similar vein, look at Myanmar; look at Iraq. In these countries, ordinary citizens may be furious about their daily lives (witness this weekend’s storming of the Iraqi parliament), about the slow pace of change, about any number of issues that their parents and grandparents may have been angry about as well. The difference today – and it is a profound one – is that citizens in these nations can read about these issues, watch televised news about them, or debate one another on social media. Some may write a letter to the editor, or call in to a radio or television show, or share their views via WhatsApp,  Facebook and Twitter. In so many of these places, their forebears never had that opportunity.

Josette Sheeran is the President and CEO of Asia Society since 2013. She leads the organization’s work throughout the U.S. and Asia, and across its disciplines of arts and culture, policy and business, and education. Sheeran is a former Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum and a former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. She is a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations and has received several honors and awards.

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Could the UN be Doing More to Protect Journalists?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/could-the-un-be-doing-more-to-protect-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=could-the-un-be-doing-more-to-protect-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/could-the-un-be-doing-more-to-protect-journalists/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 16:17:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144946 A UN Security Council Debate on Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict in 2013. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

A UN Security Council Debate on Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict in 2013. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 3 2016 (IPS)

As the world commemorates World Press Freedom Day, a coalition of some 35 press freedom groups is calling on the 193-member General Assembly to appoint a Special Representative of the Secretary General to monitor and oversee the safety of journalists worldwide.

Asked about the proposal, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters: “Obviously (this is) something we are aware of.”

“But we will see where the discussions go in the General Assembly,” he added.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Asian diplomat told IPS he will be “pleasantly surprised” if the proposal is approved by the General Assembly.

He pointed out that even the appointment of Special Rapporteurs by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council is considered “politically intrusive” by some member states who refuse formal visits by these envoys to probe human rights violations.

The Special Rapporteur on Iran has not been given permission to visit the country since the post was created five years ago.

And the Special Rapporteur on Torture has been refused a visit to the US while the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women was barred from visiting prisons in the US state of Michigan

Since 2012, the United Nations has adopted several resolutions condemning the killing and imprisonment of journalists. But concrete actions have been lagging far behind public pronouncements.

A Special Representative, if approved by the General Assembly, “would bring added attention to the risks faced by journalists and, by working closely with the secretary-general, would have the political weight and legitimacy to take concrete action to protect journalists and to hold U.N. agencies accountable for integrating the action plan into their work,” says the coalition in a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to member states.

The 35-member coalition includes the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, Index on Censorship, International Federation of Journalists, Media Watch and World Federation of Newspapers and News Publishers.

According to the New York-based CPJ, 1,189 journalists have been killed since 1992, the five deadliest countries being Iraq (174 killed), Syria (94), the Philippines (77), Algeria (60) and Somalia (59).

Still, says CPJ, the killers of journalists go free nine times out of 10 – “a statistic that has scarcely budged since 2012.”

The killings have been attributed not only to rebel forces and terrorist groups but also to governments in power.

The irony of it is that killings continue to take place in countries that are parties to some of the resolutions adopted at the United Nations.

The resolution, on the protection of journalists, was first adopted in November 2013 and reaffirmed last year, for the third consecutive year.

Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, told IPS the UN has made many of the right statements about protecting journalists, but there has been little overt action.

“We’ve seen little motion after the introduction of the U.N. Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity within the U.N. or in its member states,” he said.

The Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was identified as the agency within the UN to promote freedom of expression and of the press, but there have been few results of its attempts to address the problem.

“And the motion the plan generated didn’t really seem to grab the attention of a wider range of U.N. agencies,” he added.

While there has been some movement within some countries to try to address the problem of the killings and attacks on the media, and the impunity with which those attacks take place, it is hard to see sustained international movement toward addressing the problem, he declared.

Dujarric told reporters the Secretary‑General’s position on press freedom is clear, and those who harass, kill and torture journalists need to face justice.

Dujarric said there are already a number of mechanisms in place in different parts of the system, whether it’s the human rights mechanisms or UNESCO that are there to help protect journalists.

Ian Williams, UN correspondent for Tribune and author of “Untold: a fUN guide to the UN”,  told IPS that the UN’s position on press freedom can seem contradictory.

So while UNESCO has given its 2016 Press Freedom Award to Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist who was detained in in September 2015, and sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment on spurious charges, UNESCO has not rescinded, and indeed actively celebrates, its UNESCO Goodwill ambassadorship to  Mehriban Aliyeva, the wife of Azeri President Ilam Aliyev, even though it awarded its prize to yet another persecuted Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in 2012.

On a more general level, it is probably true, that where the media are persecuted, so are the people.

“It should remind journalists who stay silent over breaches of other people’s rights that they are putting themselves in the frame”.

In particular, nine years after Wikileaks released the 2007 video footage of a US helicopter gunship team shooting down a Reuters crew and then the civilians who tried to succour them, the silence of Western media over the event is deafening, with complete impunity for the perpetrators and their commanders, said Williams.

Ban admits journalists face growing efforts to silence their voices — through harassment, censorship and attacks.

“Journalists are not criminals.  But they are often mistreated or even killed because they have the courage to expose criminal acts,” he said.

Last year alone, 105 journalists lost their lives.  The murders of Western journalists by Da’esh and other violent extremists claimed global attention.  But 95 per cent of the journalists killed in armed conflict are locally based, said Ban.

Last month, Mexican journalist Moisés Dagdug Lutzow was killed in his home in the city of Villahermosa.  Elvis Ordaniza, a crime reporter in the Philippines, was shot.  So was Karun Misra, a district bureau chief at the Jan Sandesh Times in India.

“Each time a journalist is killed, each time the press is silenced, the rule of law and democracy get weaker,” he said, appealing to member states “to participate in the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.”

“During the past nine years as Secretary-General, I have been working hard to defend the press, both publicly and behind the scenes through discreet diplomatic efforts to free journalists who have been unjustly detained.”

“We must all do our part to preserve the freedom of the press, civil society and human rights defenders to do their work,” the secretary-general declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalideen@aol.com

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Analysis: The Role of the Free Press in Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/analysis-the-role-of-the-free-press-in-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-the-role-of-the-free-press-in-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/analysis-the-role-of-the-free-press-in-sustainable-development/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 15:54:05 +0000 Maddie Felts http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144944 Newspapers on sale in Istanbul. But the freedom of Turkish journalists is seriously threatened. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/IPS.

Newspapers on sale in Istanbul. But the freedom of Turkish journalists is seriously threatened. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/IPS.

By Maddie Felts
May 3 2016 (IPS)

This year’s World Press Freedom Day marks the 250th anniversary of the first-ever freedom of information law, enacted in what are now Sweden and Finland. 3 May, 2016 is more than just an important anniversary, however; this is the first celebration of World Press Freedom Day since the adoption of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Securing a free press is essential for progress towards achieving these ambitious goals for people and planet by the year 2030.

To reach development targets, a free press must identify areas in which nations and the world are lacking, from access to education and healthcare to sustainable industrialization and consumption. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals seek to address the real and most pressing issues facing the people of this planet, and development efforts will only be effective if they have reliable benchmarks upon which to improve.

A key difference between the Sustainable Development Goals and their predecessor the Millennium Development Goals is a new emphasis on environmental protections that have a clear impact on human development. Environmental crimes and simple mismanagement of natural resources remain pressing issues worldwide.

Developing countries are faced with a trade-off between lower-cost industrialization using fossil fuels or sustainable economic production, and often, they choose the former. Developed nations, who achieved industrialization by consuming fossil fuels and producing pollution, criticize industrializing nations while still contributing to growing global carbon emissions themselves.

Through the efforts of a free press, all nations in any stage of development are held accountable for promoting global sustainability. Known for wielding a tight grip on its news media, China has recently expanded censorship over information regarding pollution. In a nation with sixteen of the world’s twenty most polluted cities, the Chinese government releases incomplete or misleading information on its air quality. The World Health Organization uses two air quality guidelines, one for the developed world and a less rigid standard for developing nations. China’s pollution standards are lower than both. Meanwhile, industrial pollution has resulted in cancer becoming China’s leading cause of death, and the globally shared ozone layer is continually depleted by man-made emissions.

The media must expose the human suffering resulting from environmental abuses across the world so that individuals with the power and the means to demand change can do so. This imperative extends far beyond one nation’s environmental practices; society is at its best when journalists are unafraid and free to discover and expose the truth.

April brought the release of the Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of information linking global political and business leaders to offshore tax havens. This development is a victory for free press worldwide and supports the tenth Sustainable Development Goal to reduce inequality within and among countries. Citizens have become aware of a great dichotomy between the richest and the average individuals within nations and worldwide. The fight to close the gap between the immensely rich and the general populace has new relevance due to fearless journalism.

In the political sphere, press freedom is necessary to expose misuse of power. Contexts in which a free news media is needed most, however, are usually times when repressive rule works its hardest to silence journalists.

2015 was a challenging year for news media, with press freedom at its weakest in 12 years. While typically high-risk regions for journalists like the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Latin America continued to limit the press, the democracy advocacy group Freedom House found that media freedom decreased in Europe in the past year, largely due to surveillance and security measures in response to terrorism.

While fear and legitimate safety concerns often understandably overshadow calls for press freedom, those of us who can demand the truth must do so for others who cannot. In the Middle East and North Africa in particular journalists can risk death for speaking out against the ideology of oppressive regimes and violent extremism.

We must pursue the sixteenth Sustainable Development Goal and “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms” for all, appreciating the and utilizing the freedom we do have to fight for universal press freedom.

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Odd Situation in the “Paradise” of Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 16:54:45 +0000 Milla Sundstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144930 By Milla Sundström
HELSINKI, Finland, May 2 2016 (IPS)

A strange situation has emerged in Finland where some people feel that the press freedom is currently jeopardised. The small Nordic country is a press freedom celebrity leading the index kept by Reporters Without Borders since 2009 and hosting the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The case is related to the so-called Panama Papers that were recently leaked by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The papers originate from the Panama based law company Mossack Fonseca and include information about over 210,000 companies that operate in fiscal paradises.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) was involved in publishing the leak and fiscal authorities of Finland now insist that the company has to hand the material over to them. The dead line expired on Friday but YLE has refused.

The company is appealing the tax authorities’ decision and stating that it’s basic freedom is to protect the news sources. Besides YLE emphasised that it does not possess the material but a few journalists just have access to it.

What has most surprised both journalists and the public here is the fact that this happens in Finland while no other country whose media is involved in the Panama case has experienced same kind of threat from the authorities.

“We understand very well about why the tax office and politicians are interested in the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca”, the responsible editors of YLE investigative group, Ville Vilén and Marit af Björkesten, said in their statement referring to the possible tax evasions and their social consequences.

They admit having partly shared purposes with the authorities but refuse to violate old principles that have been followed for decades in the European countries that respect press freedom.

“Despite their wideness the Panama papers are not a reason to endanger the protection of the news source and the possibilities of Finnish journalists to practice influential investigative journalism on a longer run,” they continue.

“Surprisingly we are not here to celebrate press freedom but instead to ponder an amazing situation”, the president on the Finnish Council of Mass Media, Elina Grundström, said Monday on YLE’s morning television.
The Council of Mass Media is an organ of the Finnish media’s self-regulation meant to supervise the ethics of the press from all stakeholders’ angle. Grundström gave her support to YLE’s decision not to give up the Panama papers to the tax authorities.
Susanna Reinboth, the law reporter of the biggest national daily, agreed while Pekka Mervola, editor-in-chief of the regional paper Keskisuomalainen, thinking that the material could be delivered with certain reservations that are meant to protect the sources.
The problem may be at least partly solved on May 9th when the ICIJ has promised to publish part of the Panama material.

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Free Press a Casualty of Pakistan’s Terror Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 14:59:49 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144927 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/feed/ 0 Grilled for a Retweet: Press Freedom in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/grilled-for-a-retweet-press-freedom-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grilled-for-a-retweet-press-freedom-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/grilled-for-a-retweet-press-freedom-in-kenya/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 12:28:51 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144925 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/grilled-for-a-retweet-press-freedom-in-kenya/feed/ 0 Media Freedom in Africa Remains Under Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/media-freedom-in-africa-remains-under-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-freedom-in-africa-remains-under-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/media-freedom-in-africa-remains-under-attack/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 16:24:12 +0000 Zubair Sayed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144916 Journalists in Zambia protest against attacks on the media. Credit: Kelvin Kachingwe/IPS

Journalists in Zambia protest against attacks on the media. Credit: Kelvin Kachingwe/IPS

By Zubair Sayed
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 30 2016 (IPS)

Imagine a world without the media, where we have no verified information about what’s going on around us. Where everything is hearsay and gossip, where there are no trusted sources of information. It would be hard to operate in a world like that: to make decisions about what to do about the things that affect our lives.

Think for a minute too about what it would mean for those in power; they would be able to act as if we, the people, did not exist. It would be impossible to hold them to account, to know that they’re keeping the election promises they made in their wordy manifestos, and it would be impossible for our voices to be heard. Similarly, it would be difficult to know how companies are behaving, how they are treating their workers and the environment, and whether they are colluding to extract ever more from our pockets.

The role of the media in providing credible information, of giving voice to the people and holding those in power to account is fundamental to the realisation of our freedom and human rights. Whilst there are differences of opinion about whether the media are part of civil society, what is undisputed is the key role that they play in social and economic development, democracy, human rights and the pursuit of justice. Organisations and activists that work on social issues and help articulate public opinion need the media to disseminate the voices they represent. Without a plurality of voices, ideas are diminished, debate is stifled and tolerance is weakened.

Yet, or perhaps because of their role in giving voice and speaking truth to power, the media are increasingly under attack from both governments and corporate interests.

In its recently released World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders say that there has been a “deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels” and that there is a “climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests.”

This assault on journalistic freedom takes many forms, including regular harassment of journalists, censorship, confiscation of equipment, closure of media outlets, arrests and in some cases direct and dire attack. Research by the Committee to Protect Journalists is quite chilling: 72 journalists were murdered in 2015 and a further 199 imprisoned.

In Africa, the situation for media varies in different countries across the continent. Alongside Eritrea and Ethiopia as two of the most censored countries in the world – in first and fourth place respectively – there are countries like Namibia, Ghana, Cape Verde and South Africa that score highly when it comes to freedom of information (even though those countries too experience challenges to media freedom). However, in far too many African countries the media come under regular attack and freedom of information remains a distant right.
                              
There is perhaps no clearer indication of both the importance of the media and the assault it faces than when governments crackdown on journalists and media houses in the run up to and during elections. In January this year, Ugandan officials shutdown an independent radio station after it broadcast an interview with a leading opposition candidate. A few months earlier, police shot and injured radio journalist Ivan Vincent as he covered squabbles between supporters of the leading opposition candidate and the police. Between October 2015 and January 2016, the Human Rights Network for Journalists–Uganda documented about “40 election-related incidents in which journalists have been shot at, assaulted, their gadgets damaged, detained and released without charge and blocked from accessing news scenes.”

The situation for media in Burundi following the violence and repression that started ahead of last year’s election has not improved, and some say that the country has seen the near complete destruction of independent media with journalists and civil society being targeted. Facing shutdowns and direct attacks, many journalists have fled the country out of fear for their lives.

Similarly, during the last year in Djibouti and the Republic of Congo, the desire of leaders to hold onto power and to silence voices opposing them, contributed to election-related violence and media repression.

Of course, the media don’t only face attack during elections. In Angola, the government has kept a decades-long close watch on the media, frequently arresting and harassing those it disagrees with. Currently, journalist Domingos da Cruz is one of 17 activists in prison for his participation in a private gathering to discuss non-violent strategies for civil disobedience.

An Ethiopian human rights advocate that spoke with CIVICUS recently reiterated that “Ethiopia has for a long time severely restricted press freedom and the work of civil society. It is one of the top countries when it comes to jailing journalists, many of whom it charges under the 2009 anti-terrorism law.”

This attack on the media is itself part of a broader attack on the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly that CIVICUS has been documenting during the last few years (in 2015 there were serious violations of these freedoms in more than 100 countries). Attacks on the media often go hand in hand with those on activists and organisations that challenge or question the powers that be. In many countries, this crackdown happens with impunity and attacks often go unpunished.

While governments are the main culprits when it comes curtailing media freedom, the private sector also often seeks to control or manipulate media outputs in ways that favour them and their narrow interests: putting profit before people. This takes place in multiple ways, from the concentration of media ownership and the power that allows corporates to yield, to bribing journalists and influencing editorial content in exchange for paid advertising.

Often caught between state repression and corporate influence, media in many African countries face huge challenges. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these challenges a key part of the solution must be to support independent media, including citizen-journalism; for regional governance institutions to hold African countries accountable and for African countries to hold each other accountable; and for education and awareness about rights related to freedom of information and expression.

With regard to the latter, recent research shows that there is widespread support for media freedom and freedom of expression in Africa but that support for these rights is not universal.  In some contexts, journalistic ethics need to be strengthened; media outlets need to invest more in their journalists and support for independent media amongst civil society and the general public needs to be amplified. We need to look towards innovation too, to think of ways to use inexpensive technology to produce people-powered information and data.

Media that is accurate, credible, ethical and impartial is crucial to development, freedom, human rights and justice in Africa – as it is elsewhere. A study on freedom of expression across 34 African countries in 2013 showed the link between this most basic right and a range of factors, stating that “freedom of expression is also consistently linked to better ratings of government performance, especially with respect to government effectiveness in fighting corruption, but also in other sectors such as maintaining roads and managing the economy.”

Given the challenges we face on the continent, the current media crackdown is untenable and dangerous, and does nothing to facilitate the progress so many are working hard to achieve. As citizens of Africa, we need to increase our efforts to protect those that give us voice and help us realise the full scope of our rights.

Zubair Sayed is the Head of Communication and Campaigns at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations.

Follow him on Twitter @zubairsay

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Media Ethicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/media-ethics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-ethics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/media-ethics/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:50:24 +0000 Asfiya Aziz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144919 By Asfiya Aziz
Apr 30 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

When young Bisma died in a traffic jam en route to Civil Hospital in Karachi last December, there was a media frenzy. To onlookers it looked like frenzy, devoid of principles – a burgeoning show of power by the media, the right to information overshadowing all other rights. Lately, media debate on similar issues often cross the same boundaries. The gap between what a decent society expects from their media, and what media is able to provide, appears to be widening under the myriad pressures of business and political interests.

Media organisations` business models often appear to determine to what extent basic journalistic skills of accuracy, objectivity and timeliness are stretched or strained.

Step-by-step codes of ethics are often seen as `stifling` and `inadequate` for the mercurial field of 24-hour news reporting. Regardless of business pressures, one must recognise that there is little distinction between the media`s and an individual`s responsibilities.

Both share the same societal responsibilities, and must also share a mutual understanding of ethics. A principle-based approach, therefore, may be a viable alternative framework for journalists to practise in the line of duty. Perhaps we might borrow from other fields to develop an ethics code for journalism.

Bioethics is a subject that devises standards of behaviour when dealing with living beings. One of many theories in this field is Principlism, articulated by T.L. Beauchamp and J.F. Childress in The Principles of Biomedical Ethics. The principles put forward in this book, and currently most practised, include: respect (for individual autonomy); justice; beneficence; and non-maleficence.

For practical purposes, these are rephrased as: be respectful; be fair; be kind (do good); and do no harm. Like medicine, journalism also requires constant (often quick) judgement calls to be made, and therefore needs to develop a set of principles to apply to daily situations.

Analysing the unfortunate case of Bisma from a bioethical standpoint leads us to some interesting observations. The core principles stated here were (in some form) already at work but there still remains a need to formalise such principles, to inculcate them into journalists` decision-making processes.

That day, the principle of `respect` for an individual was absent despite the intention to adhere to it. While the media protested the lack of respect for an average person`s life, they were themselves disrespectful by being invasive; evident in the coverage of her body, and her father`s distress on being pressed to comment seconds after his child had passed away.

Later, commentary shifted to speculations on the family`s economic conditions, some newscasters affecting pity when describing their modest dwelling. They disrespected mourners, zooming in on women struggling to hide their faces from the media glare. The right to information and freedom of the press are poor defences when in conflict with vulnerable parties` rights to respect, privacy and choice.

The principle of `justice` was present, as this story became newsworthy due to a perceived lack of justice and accountability. Whether the media was fair to all parties is, however, a moot point. The coverage drew attention to the state of reporters` skills of maintaining objectivity and taking all parties` positions into account. As surfaced later, some doctors and the administration of Civil Hospital denied there was any obstruction to the hospital that day. Their position was hardly part of the day`s coverage. As journalists demand justice for the people, they still need to remain judicious or `be fair` in their own decision-making. One can also argue that central to the media campaign was the principle of `beneficence`; the media advocating for the individual in particular and the public at large, suffering at the hands of perceived VIP cul-ture. `Non-maleficence` (or `do no harm`) is often a tricky principle to negotiate. The incident had escalated into a full-scale media frenzy forcing the provincial government to do damage control at a time when they were already receiving flak on other issues of governance. The question of media`s intent arises: were they doing this for the benefit of the victim and the public, or to do harm to the government and those VIPs involved? Objective analysis is an essential skill for a journalist if analysis points towards a party`s negligence or incompetence, the journalist bears a responsibility to expose such misdemeanours. However, this still remains a judgement call, which must be guided by the principle of non-maleficence and by examining one`s intent, to determine the limits of reporting.

Perhaps if journalists were to test and adapt bioethical principles in their own practices, and media organisations could reach consensus on the most ef fective and relevant principles in the field, journalism in Pakistan may finally adopt a code of ethics which practitioners could own and uphold.• The writer is a joumalist with a special interest in bioethics.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Violence Against Women Journalists Threatens Media Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:38:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144892 A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

For women journalists, violence and intimidation don’t just happen in conflict zones, they are every day experiences.

“You don’t even have to be in a conflict zone to be violated anymore,” New York Times reporter and author of the Taliban Shuffle Kim Barker said Wednesday at the launch of a new book documenting the daily violence and harassment which women journalists experience.

After writing an opinion-editorial on her experience of sexual harassment in the field, Barker said that an online commenter called her “fat” and “unattractive” and told her that “nobody would want to rape you.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) chose to focus its 2016 edition of the Attacks on the Press book series on the gender-based online harassment, sexual violence and physical assault experienced by women journalists, because of the impact of this violence on press freedom.

“In societies where women have to fight to have control over their own bodies, have to fight to reassert their right in the public space—being a woman journalist is almost a form of activism,” said Egyptian broadcast journalist Rawya Rageh who also spoke at the launch.

Much of the abuse takes place online where attackers can hide behind the anonymity of online comments.

“Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard." -- Jineth Bedoya Lima.

According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Internet users have experienced some form of online harassment. Though men are also subject to harassment, online abuse towards women tends to be more severe, including sexual harassment and threats of violence.

For example, one journalist reported to the The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) that a troll had threatened to “human flesh hunt” her.

Alessandria Masi, a Middle East correspondent for the International Business Times, recalled the comments she received in an essay in CPJ’s book: “I have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army for writing an article that was critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and asked how many people I have to have sexual relations with to get my article published.”

Online abuse is a symptom of deep-seated and pervasive sexism, many note. University of Maryland Law Professor and Author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” Danielle Keats Citron stated that online gender harassment “reinforce(s) gendered stereotypes” where men are perceived as dominant in the workplace while women are sexual objects who have no place in online spaces.

But the threats do not just stay online, they also often manifest in the real world.

Deputy Editor of a Colombian Newspaper Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and raped in 2000 after exposing an underground network of arms trafficking in the country.

In 2012, after reporting on the dangers of female genital mutilation, Liberian journalist Mae Azongo received death threats including that she will be caught and cut if she does not “shut up.” She was forced to go into hiding with her nine-year-old daughter.

A year later, Libyan journalist Khawlija al-Amami was shot at by gunmen who pulled up to her car. Though she survived, she later received a text message warning her to “stop your journalism” or be killed.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) journalists also face similar threats, CPJ added. Most recently, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, was hacked to death in his home.

However, many do not report their cases.

“It was almost like this dirty little secret, you didn’t talk about it…because you had to seem like you were just like one of the guys,” Barker said. She pointed to Lara Logan’s case as the dividing point.

While covering the Egyptian Revolution for CBS, Logan was violently sexually assaulted by a mob of men. During an interview on “60 Minutes,” she described how she was pulled away from her crew, her clothes ripped off, beaten with sticks and raped.

When asked why she spoke out, Logan said that she wanted to break the silence “on what all of us have experienced but never talk about.”

One key reason that many journalists do not speak out is the fear of being pulled out of reporting because of their gender or sexual orientation.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Rageh to participants. “I don’t want to reinforce this idea of who I am or what I am is going to curtail my ability to cover the story, but of course there’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” she continued.

CPJ’s Vice Chair and Executive Editor of the Associated Press Kathleen Carroll noted that the threat of sexual violence has long kept women out of the field of journalism. But there are ways to handle such threats that do not lead to the exclusion of women, she said.

Carroll stated that good tools and training should be provided to journalists, both women and men alike. IWMF established a gender-specific security training, preparing women to be in hostile environments. This includes role-play scenarios, risk assessments and communication plans.

Effective, knowledgeable and compassionate leaders are also needed in news agencies in order to help staff minimize threats, Carroll added.

Panelists urged for reform, noting that women are needed in the field.

“The more women you have out there covering those stories, the more those stories get told,” Barker said.

In an essay, Lima also reflected on the importance of women’s voices, stating: “Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard. Our words can stir a fight or bury the hope of change forever.”

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