Inter Press ServicePress Freedom – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:33:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 US Withdrawal from UNESCO: Abandonment of Principleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:32:52 +0000 Anuradha Mittal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152575 Anuradha Mittal* is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a leading US policy think tank.

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Anuradha Mittal* is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a leading US policy think tank.

By Anuradha Mittal
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

A woman shopkeeper is standing on a plastic chair to avoid knee high swirling rainwater mixed with sewage. “I work with a women’s cooperative selling products made by Palestinian women in my shop. The sewage water has gone into the electric wires, so I have no electricity. Everything in the shop is destroyed. The metal door [that was] installed to protect the settlers prevents the water from flowing out into the main drain. . . . This means we suffer every time it rains. They [the settlers] want us to move from here. This is why they make our life hard,” she cries.

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France. Credit: UNESCO

The silent rain accompanies wails of those impacted.

This is the Old City of Hebron – the largest city in the West Bank and the only city in the Occupied Palestinian Territory apart from Jerusalem, with illegal settlements inside the city. As the sewage water in the market rises, Palestinian shopkeepers and residents point out the holes in the gate to allow for water to go through. However, cement blocks and sand placed by the settlers have closed the water drainage.

I am reminded of my time in Hebron, with last week’s announcement of US withdrawal from UNESCO, the Paris-based cultural, scientific, and educational organization of the United Nations, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon followed, tweeting, “I welcome @realDonaldTrump’s decision … I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from Unesco in parallel with the United States.”

Under Obama administration, United States took similar action in 2012 after Palestine was accepted as a member state of UNESCO. A law from the 1990s apparently prohibits U.S. funding for any U.N. agency that recognizes Palestine as a state.

The recent U.S. pull out has to do with UNESCO’s designation of Hebron’s Old City as Palestinian World Heritage site in danger in July 2017. Condemning the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced an annual $1 million cut in membership fees to the United Nations, diverting those funds to a Jewish People’s Heritage Museum in the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron.

Israel’s UNESCO ambassador, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, response was to disdainfully take out his mobile phone and share with the UN members, “It’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris. There is a huge problem in my toilet and it is much more important than the decision you just adopted.”

The UNESCO’s decision was a verdict against the occupation. Following the 1994 riots that erupted in Hebron after an American Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinians in a massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque, Palestinians in the Old City have been living a collective punishment – life in a cage.

Today over 100 physical obstacles, including 18 permanently-staffed checkpoints, 14 partial checkpoints, and various permanent blockades, cut the Old City off from the rest of Hebron. The former lively bustle of Shuhada Street, Hebron’s once main commercial strip and home to the wholesale, gold, and vegetable markets, has drowned behind the green shutters of the boarded up shops, abandoned homes, and empty sidewalks.

In 2015, a third of Palestinian homes in the restricted area (1,105 housing units) were abandoned and an estimated 1,600 businesses closed. Several streets, designated for the exclusive use of settlers, restrict Palestinian traffic and, in some streets, even Palestinian pedestrians are banned.

With innumerable security check points, watchtowers, barricades, soldiers with automatic weapons, revolving gates, deserted streets, and welded shut homes and shops, the Old City of Hebron is a city under siege.

Metal wire mesh and white plastic tarps—littered with garbage and used plastic bottles—form a canopy to prevent Israeli settlers, living in the buildings above, from throwing garbage, dirty dish water, and chemicals down onto Palestinians.

This is everyday life in the Old City of Hebron.

When it comes to Palestine, actions of President Obama and Trump based on a law from over two decades ago, are confusing for the residents of the Old City of Hebron. United States withdraws from the organization it helped establish after World War II to widen access to education and ensure the free flow of ideas, when UNESCO carries out its mandate.

*Anuradha Mittal is also the lead author of “Palestine: For Land & Life” (https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/palestine-for-land-life). And to learn more about Hebron, see “Hebron: City Under Siege” https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/hebron-life-under-siege

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Press Freedom Groups Condemn U.S. Withdrawal from UNESCOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/press-freedom-groups-condemn-u-s-withdrawal-unesco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=press-freedom-groups-condemn-u-s-withdrawal-unesco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/press-freedom-groups-condemn-u-s-withdrawal-unesco/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 14:21:01 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152552 Civil society groups have called on the United States to reverse its decision to withdraw from a UN body, citing concerns for press freedom and journalists’ safety. Citing anti-Israel bias and concern over the inclusion of Palestine, the Donald Trump Administration announced that it will end its membership in the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Civil society groups have called on the United States to reverse its decision to withdraw from a UN body, citing concerns for press freedom and journalists’ safety.

Betlehem Isaak, daughter of 2017 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Laureate receiving the award certificate from the hands of Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Citing anti-Israel bias and concern over the inclusion of Palestine, the Donald Trump Administration announced that it will end its membership in the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by December 2018.

“This anti-Israel bias that’s long documented on the part of UNESCO, that needs to come to an end,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

“If UNESCO wants to get back and wants to reform itself and get back to a place where they’re truly promoting culture and education and all of that, perhaps we could take another look at this,” she continued.

Though the North American nation wants to provide input as a nonmember observer, press freedom organizations including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Article 19 called the move a major blow to press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

“Their withdrawal from UNESCO represents an attempt to weaken that organization and that they will no longer provide input or influence on important issues that UNESCO has within its mandate which includes the protection of journalists,” RSF’s Advocacy and Communications Director in North America Margaux Ewen told IPS.

“The fact that the U.S. has now decided to no longer be a part of UNESCO, they essentially no longer want to be a part of this portfolio and that is really discouraging to anyone who is in favor of press freedom and protecting journalists,” she added.

CPJ’s Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch echoed similar sentiments, stating: “UNESCO plays a critical role in promoting the safety of journalists around the world and U.S. withdrawal will weaken UNESCO’s ability to address global press freedom violations, creating a power vacuum that could very well be filled by governments that embrace authoritarian tactics.”

Founded on the ashes of World War II in 1945, UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication along with encouraging peace and strengthening ties between nations and societies.

Among its objectives is to promote free, independent, and pluralistic media in order to enhance freedom of expression and information around the world.

Alongside its concern for press freedom, the organization has also paved the way to ensure the safety of journalists.

UNESCO has recorded the killings of almost 1,000 journalists and media workers since 2007 and it is the lead agency tasked with ensuring the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity, a document which lays out measures to strengthen work on such issues.

“Support for UNESCO is therefore intrinsically linked to ensuring that journalists are safe to do their work, including in some of the most dangerous countries,” the press freedom groups said in a statement.

Though it is unclear if it reflects the ongoing trend of rejecting multilateralism and the UN, Ewen noted that the decision is in line with current violations of press freedom within the U.S.

“The current administration has been very locally against press freedom and has attacked media outlets and journalists individually for coverage that the White House doesn’t like, so this kind of seems like an extension of that type of view of press freedom,” she told IPS.

“Protecting free speech and ensuring journalists’ safety, core US values, requires investing in multilateralism, not running away from it,” he added.

Throughout his presidential campaign and since taking office, President Trump has repeatedly described media organisations including the New York Times and CNN as “fake news.”

During a rally in Arizona, the President called journalists as “truly dishonest people” and criticised their coverage of his reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Most recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions raised the prospect of media subpoenas to reveal leakers, violating journalists’ right to protect their sources.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has criticized President Trump’s anti-media rhetoric, stating: “It’s really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution but very much something that the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the President himself…to call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way—I have to ask the question: is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?”

Already, repercussions of such rhetoric can be seen around the world.

In Cambodia, government spokesperson Phay Siphan threatened to take action against media outlets because they do “not reflect the real situation” while citing President Trump’s expulsion of news organizations from a White House briefing earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has labeled report of atrocities against the Rohingya community “fake news” that helps terrorists.

Executive Director of Article 19 Thomas Hughes noted that President Trump’s attacks on media are “more than empty rhetoric” and signal a shift away from “championing freedom of expression worldwide.”

“Protecting free speech and ensuring journalists’ safety, core US values, requires investing in multilateralism, not running away from it,” he added.

The press freedom groups called on the U.S. to reconsider its decision.

“[The U.S. is] a key player on the international stage and they have the ability to influence positive change, so we would like them to continue to be a part of this discussion and ongoing campaigns to make sure that journalists are protected while doing their job on the field,” Ewen told IPS.

This is the second time that the U.S. has left UNESCO, having withdrawn in 1984 due to concerns over the Soviet Union’s influence and rejoining in 2003.

In 2011, the U.S. withdrew its funding to the organization as a response to Palestine’s membership.

The recent move came in the midst of UNESCO’s elections for a new Director-General which saw French-Jewish former Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay rise to the occasion.

In response to the turmoil, Azoulay said that leaving UNESCO is not the answer.

“In this moment of crisis, I believe we must invest in UNESCO more than ever, look to support and reinforce it, and to reform it—and not leave it,” she said.

If confirmed by the 195-member General Assembly in November, Azoulay will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova.

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A Thorn in the Side of the Regimehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/thorn-side-regime/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thorn-side-regime http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/thorn-side-regime/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:03:09 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152538 Journalist Bülent Kenes has worked as the head of world news, and has launched several newspapers. Now though, he has had to flee from Turkey and lives in Sweden.

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Need for Inclusive Peace Efforts in South Sudan: No More ‘Compassion Fatigue’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:56:29 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152359 “Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year […]

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An Oxfam staffer helps a woman at UN House in Juba carry home some of the emergency supplies she has just received. Credit: Anita Kattakhuzy/Oxfam

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

“Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year of Peace and Prosperity.’

A mere two years after its split from Sudan, a country plagued by decades-long of ethnic-based civil war between Arab and non-Arab tribes, the independent state of South Sudan erupted in conflict when President Kiir, a Dinka, accused his then vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup.

Amid heightening political tensions, violent skirmishes flared up in the nation’s capital of Juba in mid-December 2013 between loyalist soldiers from both parties. South Sudan has been mired in conflict ever since – much to the dismay of its citizens who hadn’t imagined they would carry the torch of war into their new republic.

Three months into a peace agreement signed by both parties in August 2015, the conflict reached a boiling point in December 2015 when President Kiir dissolved South Sudan’s 10 regional states and established 28 new states, resulting in a surge of violence beyond the capital, to several areas of the country.

A transitional government formed by both parties in April 2016, with the peace agreement as a precursor, failed to temper the violence as clashes continued country-wide. Further, President Kiir’s appointment of General Gai, Machar’s political ally, as his new vice president inflamed Machar and his loyalists, resulting in a split within the opposition – thus fueling the conflict.

A government ceasefire, declared after Machar fled the capital, crumbled shortly thereafter.

With lengthy, arduous peace efforts failing and confidence in ending the conflict flailing, South Sudan is facing its gravest humanitarian situation in years.

“This is the last chance of salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…we must resolve now, both individually and collectively, to do more to end this conflict,” said Ambassador Nikki Haley, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, while addressing the UN Security Council last week.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced by the South Sudan conflict. An estimated 830,000 have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, according to Oxfam America.

Harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, forced recruitment of child soldiers, widespread sexual violence and restricting movement of UN peacekeepers by both sides characterize the conflict in South Sudan, according to prominent human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

“In over 30 years working in South Sudan, Oxfam has never responded to such dire needs under such difficult conditions,” said Oxfam America’s president, Abby Maxman, speaking on South Sudan at the UN.

Asked about the country’s grim situation, Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response, told IPS that, “with the conflict hitting many parts of the country simultaneously, with more access to advanced firepower, with a collapsing economy, with food insecurity and famine on the rise and, most especially, with no resounding commitment from the international community, South Sudan is more vulnerable than it has ever been.”

The suffering of communities in South Sudan has reached unprecedented levels.

“The situation is South Sudan is dire but not hopeless…when a situation is seen as hopeless and when the rhetoric surrounding it makes it seem ‘too complex’ and diminishes on-the-ground efforts, compassion fatigue arises,” said Gottschalk.

Though it is the responsibility of the significant parties in South Sudan to root out the source of the problem, it is the duty of the international community to navigate a peaceful outcome for the sake of 12 million South Sudanese who have not given up.

“We have not given up on them and we have not forgotten them…they have a friend and advocate in the US,” said Haley.

The UN, African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) recently agreed to pool their efforts to support the revitalization of the political process in South Sudan.

The primary goal in mind, for this joint communiqué, is to adequately represent all significant parties and encourage them to focus on the full implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement, under a permanent ceasefire.

“This is the last chance at salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…the different parties to the conflict must use the next several weeks to commit themselves to this process and to conclude it,” said Haley.

Before undertaking these well-intended collective measures, it is important to understand the nature of the conflict in South Sudan.

“To get the country back on its feet, we must first recognize this conflict for what it is and what it isn’t…it’s not a tribal conflict, because ethnic identity doesn’t determine allegiance on the ground, it’s not a military conflict, because civilians, not soldiers, are bearing the brunt of the violence…in many ways it’s not even a political conflict, because that would imply that it’s about competing visions for governing this nation…what it is, is a hostage situation,” said Maxman.

In July this year, the AU Commission, South Sudanese officials, and UN representatives met in Juba to discuss the establishment of an independent Hybrid Court for South Sudan, envisioned under the 2015 Peace Agreement, and agreed on plans to finalize the court’s statute by August, according to Human Rights Watch.

Notably, South Sudan is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As such, its leaders can only be held accountable by the ICC through a request from the Sudanese government or a referral by the UN Security Council.

Though a lack of accountability is a conflict-accelerant, a more immediate focus is required in the inclusive peace efforts geared towards helping the people in South Sudan.

“It’s high time we throw our lot in with the hostages, not the hostage-takers,” said Maxman.

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Finally, Argentina Has a Law on Access to Public Informationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/finally-argentina-law-access-public-information/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=finally-argentina-law-access-public-information http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/finally-argentina-law-access-public-information/#respond Thu, 28 Sep 2017 23:53:41 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152281 After 15 long years of public campaigns and debates in which different political, social and business sectors held marches and counter-protests, Argentina finally has a new law that guarantees access to public information. This step forward must now be reflected in reality, in this South American country where one of the main social demands is […]

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The director of the new Agency for Access to Public Information in Argentina, Eduardo Bertoni – a former IACHR special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression - presented his plans at the Aug. 17 public hearing where his appointment was discussed. Credit: Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers

The director of the new Agency for Access to Public Information in Argentina, Eduardo Bertoni – a former IACHR special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression - presented his plans at the Aug. 17 public hearing where his appointment was discussed. Credit: Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 28 2017 (IPS)

After 15 long years of public campaigns and debates in which different political, social and business sectors held marches and counter-protests, Argentina finally has a new law that guarantees access to public information.

This step forward must now be reflected in reality, in this South American country where one of the main social demands is greater transparency on the part of the authorities.

The Law on the Right of Access to Public Information, which considers “all government-held information” to be public, was approved by Congress in September last year and enters into force Friday Sept. 29.

Eduardo Bertoni stressed the importance of the new law. He is the academic appointed by the government of President Mauricio Macri to lead the new Agency for Access to Public Information, which will operate within the executive branch, although “with operational autonomy,” according to the law.

“There are already 113 countries that have right of access to information laws and 90 countries have incorporated it into their constitutions,” Bertoni said during the public hearing where his appointment was discussed.

Bertoni, a lawyer with a great deal of experience regarding the right to information, served as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIADH) between 2002 and 2005.

“We must now encourage society to demand more information from the authorities. And it is essential to push for better organisation of the public archives, because if we do not find the information people seek, we will fail,” he added.

The text is broad in terms of the list of institutions legally bound to respond to requests for access to information: besides the various branches of the state, it includes companies, political parties, trade unions, universities and any private entity to which public funds have been allocated, including public service concessionaires.

The Agency was created to ensure compliance with the law. Its functions include advising people who seek public information and assisting them with their request.

“This was clearly a pending issue for Argentina. It is incomprehensible that the governments of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) did not push for approval of this law, which should be an incentive for provinces and municipalities to do the same, since very few have regulations on access to public information,” Guillermo Mastrini, an expert on this question, told IPS.

For Mastrini, a former director of Communication Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, “this does not change the worrying scenario with respect to the right to information, since the government is regulating by decree issues related to audiovisual communication services in a way that does not favor plurality and transparency.”

The bill was sent to Congress by the government a few months after Macri took office in December 2015, and passed with large majorities in both legislative chambers.

Until now, at the national level, there was only decree 1172, signed in 2003 by Kirchner with the aim of “improving the quality of democracy”, which was not only below the status of a law, but only covered the executive branch with regard to the obligation to provide information.

José Crettaz, a journalist and the coordinator of the Center for Studies on the Convergence of Communications, told IPS that “Néstor Kirchner’s decree, which applied to the executive branch, worked very well at first, but then public officials began to leave most requests for information unanswered.”

“Now we are seeing a huge step forward, since the law encompasses all branches of the state, and I see a government with a different attitude. The decisive thing will be how the law is implemented. The only valid criterion should be: if there is public money involved, it is public information,” he said.

The law was passed after dozens of bills on access to information were introduced in Congress in recent years. The first was presented under the government of Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), with the support of a network of civil society organisations, but with little backing from journalists.

The initiative obtained preliminary approval from the lower house of Congress in 2003, passed to the Senate and then the main Argentine media outlets joined the public campaign demanding that it be approved. However, they later distanced themselves from the bill.

They did so, Bertoni recalled in a paper written in 2011 for the World Bank, when a senator warned that the media should also respond to requests for information submitted by any member of the public, as they receive state advertising, which is considered a subsidy.

In 2004, the Senate approved the bill, but with modifications that included private entities among the subjects obligated to provide information, and sent it back to the lower house, where it was shelved. Another bill was passed by the Senate in 2010, but it also failed to prosper.

Now one thing that stood out is that just two days before the law went into effect, the government modified it through a questioned channel: based on “a decree of necessity and urgency”, putting the new Agency in the orbit of the chief of the cabinet of ministers.

“The government thus gave a lower status to the Agency, which according to law was to depend directly on the Presidency of the Nation; the decision, moreover, cannot be taken by decree when Congress is in session,” said Damián Loreti, professor of Right to Information at the University of Buenos Aires.

“That the law is in force is good. But I am concerned about a number of things, such as not including among its objectives a guarantee for the exercise of other rights, such as housing or sexual and reproductive rights. The model law of the Organisation of American States was not followed,” he told IPS.

For Sebastián Lacunza, the last director of the Buenos Aires Herald, a well-respected English-language newspaper that closed this year, “in a country that does not have a culture of transparency, there is a risk that the law will fail.”

“This government promised a regeneration of the country’s institutions, but in some aspects it ended up aggravating the shortcomings of the previous administration, which was not prone to being open with information,” he told IPS.

In his view, “in a context of global crisis in the media industry and a shrinking of plurality of information, the most important thing is that there is an active state that combats the concentration of the media in a few hands.”

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Crisis in Cameroon Spurs Govt Crackdown on Presshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-cameroon-spurs-govt-crackdown-press/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-cameroon-spurs-govt-crackdown-press http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-cameroon-spurs-govt-crackdown-press/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 12:22:02 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152241 “For too long we have been afraid to speak out against injustices and all sorts of atrocities happening in Cameroon, thinking it [the silence] will protect us. If I were to repeat what I have done on Canal 2 English [television], I will do it again. I now stand ready for any eventuality,” says Cameroonian […]

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Police block rioters in front of the Divisional Officers building in Kumba, Southwest Region, Cameroon, amid an ongoing political crisis in the country’s Anglophone region. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Sep 26 2017 (IPS)

“For too long we have been afraid to speak out against injustices and all sorts of atrocities happening in Cameroon, thinking it [the silence] will protect us. If I were to repeat what I have done on Canal 2 English [television], I will do it again. I now stand ready for any eventuality,” says Cameroonian journalist Elie Smith.

The outspoken journalist told IPS he was forced to resign from Cameroon’s leading private media house following intense pressure from government. The CEO of the station had suspended a talk show, Tough Talk, Smith co-hosted with Divine Ntaryike and Henry Kejang. He said Prime Minister Philemon Yang and Justice Minister Laurent Esso wanted him fired.Journalist Tim Finian Njua was brutally attacked and taken away by unknown men in Bamenda. He only realised they were security officers when he was brought to Yaounde.

The trio were accused of being too critical of government, especially during reporting and analysis of an ongoing 11-month-long protest in English-speaking Cameroon. Protesters had adopted civil disobedience as their trump card, keeping schools and courts in the region closed since Nov. 21, 2016.

Smith, who had refused to travel from the financial capital, the port city of Douala, to Yaounde, the country’s political capital, to apologise to the prime minister for being too critical of government, was later told to stick to a program called World Views and refrain from any discussion of domestic politics.

“On Sep. 4 when schools were expected to resume in Cameroon, protests marred the resumption in English-speaking Cameroon. Yet, the CEO asked me to lie on air that resumption was effective in order to please government. I refused. That is when we both realised we can no longer work together,” he told IPS.

Despite losing his job, Smith is among the few journalists who have avoided prison in a government clampdown on reporters since the crisis erupted in English-speaking Cameroon. Others have been jailed and tortured, while some are currently in exile. For the most part, security forces target English-speaking journalists whom government accuses of supporting or sympathising with “terrorists”.

Journalists or terrorists?

Cameroon was first colonised by the Germans in 1884. After the defeat of Germany in World War I, France and Britain shared the territory under a mandate from the League of Nations, with Britain keeping one-fifth of it.  A federation of two states with equal status was declared in 1961, but was abolished in 1972 following a referendum – its conduct remains contested to this day.

Citizens of the former trust territory of British Southern Cameroons who have over the years, complained of marginalisation and lack of control over their assets, rose up in October 2016 in two ranks- some demanding a return to federation while others demand total independence. Both camps however agree on the same complaints; insignificant placements of English-speaking Cameroonians in administration, and inequality which they say led to impoverishment of their region and its population and subjugation of their educational and cultural heritage. At least 13 people have been shot dead since the crisis erupted.

A controversial law on the suppression of acts of terrorism in Cameroon enacted in December 2014 is being used to try citizens arrested in relation to the protests. Journalists arrested for reporting on the crisis are equally tried at the military tribunal under the same law which forbids public meetings, street protests or any action that the government deems to be disturbing the peace.

Tim Finian Njua, one of eight journalists arrested in relation to the ongoing crisis, says he is finding it difficult readjusting after spending over six months in jail. The editor of Life Time newspaper, Njua was freed from the Kondengui Prison in Yaounde alongside Atia Tilarious and two other journalists, and close to 50 protesters, following a presidential clemency in August.

Njua told IPS he was brutally attacked and taken away by unknown men in Bamenda. He only realised they were security officers when he was brought to Yaounde. “They said our newspaper reported an incident that may provoke or aggravate rebellion. I was charged with acts of terrorism, insurrection, secession and propagation of false information.”

Atia Tilarious, who had earlier been arrested and released for hosting a TV debate on the uprising, had gone to Kondengui after his first arrest, this time in the company of Amos Fofung, a reporter for The Guardian Post newspaper.

Fofung told IPS “I was let out of prison six months later. I was told the state attorney sent apologies for keeping me in jail without charge or evidence. I walked out and later travelled back to Buea. It made me bolder. I am still objective in my reporting.”

Meanwhile Fonjah Hanson Muki, proprietor of Cameroon Report, was arrested alongside five of his staff in the town of Bamenda, which is regarded as the epicentre of the uprising. They were accused by a military tribunal of propagatng false information. They were also accused of receiving money from secessionists abroad to push a separatist agenda through their reporting. The last of them, arrested on July 25, was released on Sept. 18. The media owner was ordered never to report on the ongoing crisis.

Skewed regulator

Before the clampdown on journalists reporting the crisis, the national communication council had issued a warning to journalists in the country, tacitly outlawing all media debates on the return to federation. Though the council’s decision preceded a speech by President Paul Biya making the topic taboo, French-language media organs continued the debate, while English-language tabloids piped down.

“You know we are not the same. There are things Le Messager or Le Jour can report and go free but The Guardian Post or The Sun will be sanctioned for doing same. The public does not understand, that is why you find citizens criticising us on social media, saying we are chicken-hearted,” a newspaper publisher who asked for anonymity told IPS.

The council has been criticised for siding with state officials and influential citizens. It meted out sanctions on Sep. 22, suspending some 20 media organs, publishers and journalists for periods ranging from one to six months. Most of the decisions were verdicts on complaints filed by government officials like the Minister of Forestry and influential citizens like Cameroonian football star and billionaire, Samuel Eto’o Fils.

Ten-year jail sentence for reporting on terrorism

Ahmed Aba, Cameroon correspondent for the Hausa service of the French international radio, RFI, is currently serving a ten-year jail term. He was found guilty of “laundering of proceeds of terrorism” and “non-denunciation of terrorism” by the military tribunal in Yaounde.

The verdict, handed down this year after two years of pre-trial detention, was appealed by his lawyer, Clement Nakong. Aba told IPS at the prison yard in Yaounde that he is innocent and hopes to be set free after the appeal. He said he was accused of working for the Nigeria-based Boko Haram terror group.

But the outcome of an appeal is uncertain as a government spokesman bluntly declared at a press conference that RFI supports terrorists. The appeal hearing was expected to begin among others in mid-August this year, but Aba’s name was taken off the list.

International and local institutions and activists have been advocating for his release. He was recently named one of the winners of the 2017 International Press Freedom Award by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Another journalist, Gubai Gatama, was placed under investigation and interrogated at the police headquarters for reporting on Boko Haram.

“Cameroon is clearly using anti-state legislation to silence criticism in the press,” said CPJ Africa Program Director Angela Quintal in a statement. “When you equate journalism with terrorism, you create an environment where fewer journalists are willing to report on hard news for fear of reprisal. Cameroon must amend its laws and stop subjecting journalists–who are civilians–to military trial.”

On Sep. 20, CPJ issued a report, written by Quintal, warning that in addition to detaining journalists, authorities have banned news outlets deemed sympathetic to the Anglophone protesters, shut down internet in regions experiencing unrest, and prevented outside observers, including CPJ, from accessing the country by delaying the visa process.

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Indian Journalist’s Murder: The Ultimate Form of Press Censorship?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indian-journalists-murder-ultimate-form-press-censorship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-journalists-murder-ultimate-form-press-censorship http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indian-journalists-murder-ultimate-form-press-censorship/#comments Thu, 07 Sep 2017 22:56:50 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151969 Dauntlessly crusading against curbs on freedom of speech, fifty-five-year-old Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was gunned down at her very doorstep in Bengaluru city on the evening of Sep. 5, taking three bullets of the seven fired in her lungs and heart. She was shot from just three feet away. Known for her vocal stand against […]

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Gauri Lankesh. Credit: Wikipedia

By Manipadma Jena
BHUBANESWAR, India, Sep 7 2017 (IPS)

Dauntlessly crusading against curbs on freedom of speech, fifty-five-year-old Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was gunned down at her very doorstep in Bengaluru city on the evening of Sep. 5, taking three bullets of the seven fired in her lungs and heart. She was shot from just three feet away.

Known for her vocal stand against India’s growing right-wing ideology, communal politics and majoritian policies, Lankesh ran bold and forthright anti-establishment reports on the eponymous Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a regional language tabloid published, owned and edited by her since 2005."Gauri Lankesh’s death is another stark reminder of how violence is the new normal (in India)." --A senior journalist

She ran the paper only on subscriptions from loyal readers from across remote villages of Karnataka State. The paper carried no advertisements, following in the tradition of her socialist poet, playwright and journalist father who started the original tabloid.

Gauri Lankesh described herself on her Twitter handle as a journalist-activist. Fluent in both English and the regional Kannada language, she fearlessly broadcast her far-left of centre and pro-Dalit ideologies against religious fundamentalism and the caste system, reaching a huge mass grassroots population.

Speaking at her funeral, Karnataka’s chief minister M Siddaramaiah said, “Gauri brokered deals with Naxalites (Left-wing extremists) in Karnataka. She helped them enter the mainstream and played a vital role of a negotiator between the State and the extremists.” An activity which extremists cadres may have wanted to halt, Lankesh’s brother Indrajit Lankesh said today.

Known as a sympathizer of left-wing extremists, Lankesh was among the few who could empathise with the poverty, oppression and injustices that had pushed these people to pick up arms against the government.

In November, Lankesh was convicted in two libel suits filed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarians for her 2008 article alleging that they had criminal dealings. She was, however, granted bail and was planning to appeal to a higher court.

Majority of journalists killed wrote on politics and corruption

Lankesh’s voice being silenced once again highlights that journalists covering politics and corruption in India are most at risk of being silenced by killing.

Over half of the 27 journalists murdered in the country since 1992 were covering politics and corruption – the two beats most likely to provoke violent repercussions, finds the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ). The threat from these seems to be rising.

India continues to languish in the bottom third of the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 136th of 180 countries. Among India’s neighbours, most fare better, including conflict-torn Afghanistan at 120, Pakistan at 139, Sri Lanka at 141, , Bangladesh at 146, Nepal at 100, Bhutan at 84 and China at 176. Norway leads while North Korea is at the bottom.

The Index ranks countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.

Source: RSF

‘It is not what you said, but why you said it’

A friend of the slain journalist who was also from the media fraternity is quoted as saying that Lankesh was very “in your face” in her brand of progressive activism against radical Hinduism.

“In my frequent interactions with her, I would tell her that her whole rhetoric should be more subtle,” her friend says. “She was very naive and she was politically incorrect. She was very bold, but indulged in sloganeering of a certain kind which I said would not achieve anything. She needed to strategize.”

“Our right to dissent is being threatened,” the intrepid journalist said instead.

Bold red placards at her funeral read, “It is not what you said, but why you said it.”

“Given the ways in which speech is being stifled, dire days lie ahead,” Lankesh told an online portal a few months before her death, in an intuitive foretelling of her violent end.

She installed two closed circuit surveillance systems a fortnight before the fatal attack.

No link has yet been established between her death and her ideology or writing by police investigations, but because she so fiercely fought for freedom of speech and freedom of thought, large sections of Indian media protesting her killing are expressing concern over what they described as a growing intolerance of dissenting political voices.

A senior journalist sums up the current sentiment saying, “Gauri Lankesh’s death is another stark reminder of how violence is the new normal (in India). Alternate opinion is no longer debated, it is silenced.”

The Reporters without Borders (RSF) 2017 index report too blames the rise of Hindu nationalism for India’s drop in ranking.

“The three-year-old (federal) administration has been trying to banish all “anti-nationalist” discourse from the Indian press. Journalists who refuse to censor themselves are the targets of defamation suits or are prosecuted under section 124A of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment, the organization reiterated today.”

Getting away with murder

Hundreds of journalists are murdered, but in nine out of 10 cases their killers go free.

India’s unsolved journalist murders rose by 24 percent within just one year, finds CPJ’s latest Global Impunity Index 2016 which documents the top countries where the killers of journalists go unpunished and where cases of journalists killed remain unsolved. In comparison, Syria is up 85 percent and Brazil 36

CPJ finds it is most often criminal and political groups, government officials in India who get away with journalist murders. Rural and small-town journalists reporting on local corruption, crime, and politics are targeted most. Worse, in addition to failing to solve any journalist murder, India has never responded to UNESCO’s requests for the judicial status of journalist killings in the country.

Impunity is widely recognized as one of the greatest threats to press freedom. The Impunity Index finds globally, 95 percent of victims were local reporters. More of them covered politics and corruption than any other beat. Also in 40 percent of cases, the victims reported receiving threats before they were killed. Threats however are rarely investigated by authorities and in only a handful of cases is adequate protection provided. Of serious concern is CPJ’s finding that only 3 percent of total murder cases over the 2006 – 2016 decade have been brought to justice, including the prosecution of the masterminds.

No data on the murder of journalists is maintained separately, according to India’s home ministry, which administers law and crime. Since 2014 the national crime records bureau (NCRB) has however started collecting data only on grievously injurious attacks on media persons.

The federal or any of the State governments is yet to act on RSF’s 2015 call to the Indian government to launch a national safety plan for journalists, or at least establish alert and rescue mechanisms that would also send a strong message of support for media freedom.

India’s information and broadcasting ministry rejected RSF’s index ranking earlier this year, saying it found the sampling random in nature and it does not portray a proper and comprehensive picture of freedom of the press in India.

Earlier in February U.N. Secretary General António Guterres agreed to take steps to address the safety of journalists, at a meeting where RSF and CPJ called for the appointment of a special representative to the UNSG to end impunity, ensure safety.

Attacks on Asia Pacific’s free press escalates: Cambodia’s clampdown via huge back tax

With 34 countries and more than half the world’s population, the Asia-Pacific region holds all the records including the biggest number of “Predators of Press Freedom,” according to RSF.

Earlier this week, the English-language Cambodia Daily newspaper published its last issue on Sep. 4 after fighting for the right to report the news freely and independently for 24 years. It was forced to close by an unprecedented form of government pressure – a sudden demand to pay 6.3 million dollars in alleged back taxes, according to RSF.

The newspaper’s editor, Jodie DeJonge regards it as arbitrary and politically motivated, pointing out that no tax audit had been carried out, according to RSF, which also says that the Cambodia Daily has been one of the relatively few independent media outlets to cover corruption, deforestation and other stories that are embarrassing for the government. This clampdown on independent media outlets has come as Cambodia prepares to hold elections next year.

“But this is not a tax issue, it is a free press issue,” DeJonge told RSF.

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UN Rights Chief: Trump’s Attack on Press is “Dangerous”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/un-rights-chief-trumps-attack-press-dangerous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-rights-chief-trumps-attack-press-dangerous http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/un-rights-chief-trumps-attack-press-dangerous/#comments Thu, 31 Aug 2017 21:57:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151872 Freedom of the press is under attack in the United States and could incite further violence against reporters, said a UN official. During a press conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein criticised U.S. President Trump for attacking news organisations and expressed concern over the consequences of such rhetoric. “It’s really quite […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Freedom of the press is under attack in the United States and could incite further violence against reporters, said a UN official.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

During a press conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein criticised U.S. President Trump for attacking news organisations and expressed concern over the consequences of such rhetoric.

“It’s really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution but very much something that the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the President himself,” Zeid said.

“It’s sort of a stunning turnaround. And ultimately the sequence is a dangerous one,” he continued.

Throughout his presidential campaign and since taking office, President Trump has repeatedly described media organisations including the New York Times and CNN as “fake news.”

Most recently during a rally in Arizona, the President called journalists as “truly dishonest people” and criticised their coverage of his reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville when he said violence was caused by “many sides.”

“To call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way—I have to ask the question: is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?” Zeid asked.

“I think at an enormous rally, referring to journalists as very bad people, you don’t have to stretch the imagination to see then what could happen to journalists.”

The High Commissioner cited the case of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs who was recently assaulted by Montana Republican Greg Gianforte.

He also pointed to the poisonous repercussions of such “demonisation” of the press around the world.

In Cambodia, spokesperson Phay Siphan has threatened to take action against media outlets that are perceived to be endangering “peace and security” while citing President Trump’s expulsion of news organisations from a White House briefing earlier this year

“Donald Trump’s ban of international media giants … sends a clear message that President Trump sees that news published by those media institutions does not reflect the real situation,” he said.

“Freedom of expression must be located within the domain of the law and take into consideration national interests and peace,” Siphan added.

Such cases will only expand, the High Commissioner said.

“I almost feel that the President [Trump] is driving the bus of humanity and we are careening down a mountain path,” Zeid said.

“From a human rights perspective, it seems to be reckless driving,” he concluded.

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Muzzling the Media: Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/muzzling-media-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=muzzling-media-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/muzzling-media-cambodia/#respond Tue, 29 Aug 2017 14:11:11 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151835 Next year sees elections being held in Cambodia and opposition grows. The Cambodian government is attempting to silence aid organisations and the media. Newspapers and radio stations are threatened with massive tax debts and an aid organisation was given a week to wind up activities and leave the country.

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Next year sees elections being held in Cambodia and opposition grows. The Cambodian government is attempting to silence aid organisations and the media. Newspapers and radio stations are threatened with massive tax debts and an aid organisation was given a week to wind up activities and leave the country.

By Erik Larsson
PHNOM PENH, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

You have to pay six million dollars in tax! That was the message given to the Cambodian Daily the same week that Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly attacked the newspaper.

In a speech in a park in the capital city Phnom Penh, the Prime Minister denounced the founder of the Cambodian Daily who is an American journalist. Hun Sen accused him of being a thief and that he should pack his bags and leave if the newspaper was unable to pay the tax before the 4th of September, which at the time was less than two weeks away.

Last week the Department of Finance announced that two other independent media outlets, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, similarly would be required to pay added taxes.

The English language Cambodian Daily is one of few media in Cambodia that raises sensitive political issues and deals with the extensive corruption in the country.

In the past the English language newspapers have been left alone by the government, but the sudden demand for tax payments directed at the Cambodian Daily indicate that the situation has changed.

 

The Cambodia Daily

 

The government has also acted against several organisations that work with human rights issues in the country.

On Wednesday last week the Foreign Minister of Cambodia unexpectedly decreed that all foreign nationals working for the US organisation the National Democratic Institute were to leave the country within one week.

The US aid organisation aims to strengthen democratic institutions all over the world, acting in about 70 different countries. The Cambodian authorities accuse the National Democratic Institute of acting illegally in the country as they were not registered.

”What we are most concerned about is the risk that the government is planning to follow China’s lead and introduce an NGO law” according to Erik Andersson of the Swedish union IF Metall.

In his role as International Secretary at IF Metall, Erik Andersson expresses his concern to Arbete Global, for the possible impact on the project for increased union engagement that is undertaken by IF Metall together with IndustriAll Global Union. Worries are that Swedish organisations too will be targeted.

” [A NGO-law] would mean that foreign financing of organisations would be forbidden, which could have negative repercussions on our work to support the independent unions in Cambodia.”

Cambodia ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and is on 156th place of 176 in the corruption index that Transparency international compile every year.
The timing of
these tough measures directed at media and aid organisations, is explained by many experts as a response to the increasing political unrest in the country.

In June, local elections were held in Cambodia. The results were a clear indication that opposition to the government had increased and with upcoming national elections in July of next year, it has unsettled the incumbent regime.

During the spring, Arbetet Global reported on the introduction of legislation in Cambodia that has diminished the freedom of action for independent unions. On paper, the country is a democracy but it has only had one single person as leader over the past 30 years, the Prime Minister Hun Sen.

As the leader of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), he took power when the party was put into government following the Vietnam invasion of 1979. That invasion removed the Khmer Rouge and their leader Pol Pot from power, which had been a period of terror with millions of Cambodians killed.

The CPP became a safeguard from a return of the Khmer Rouge. Over the years, their political power has grown into an intricate and corrupt system in which party officials and private business are in close connection.

Cambodia ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and is on 156th place of 176 in the corruption index that Transparency international compile every year.

Disapproval of the corrupt system is also part of the explanation for the increasing disapproval of the government as the elections draw nearer.

Translation: Ravi Dar

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Internet Shutdowns in Africa Stifling Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:56:10 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151755 Jonathan Rozen is a Researcher with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa Program*

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Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

By Jonathan Rozen
NEW YORK, Aug 21 2017 (IPS)

The internet for journalism is now like the air you breathe,” said Befeqadu Hailu, an Ethiopian journalist and a member of the Zone 9 blogger collective who was arrested in April 2014 and charged with terrorism. “Without the internet, modern journalism means nothing.” Yet, the internet is something that journalists in multiple African countries are often forced to do without.

Between 30 May and 8 June, the Ethiopian government shut down the country’s internet service for the third time in the last year. These shutdowns have occurred in the context of an ongoing crackdown on the press by authorities, who are currently keeping nine of the 17 journalists recorded on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2016 prison census behind bars.

Since the state-run Ethio Telecom holds monopolistic control over both internet and telephone service, the government has the ability to effectively sever its population’s communications on a whim.

“We’ve been through extraordinarily difficult times [during] the ten days of [the] shutdown,” Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard, told CPJ over WhatsApp.

There was a complete digital blackout during the first few days after which broadband became available, said Hulu. But since broadband is largely only available for businesses and organisations, many journalists continued to face major challenges. The frequent clampdown on internet access prevents them from securely communicating with sources or publishing on time.

After the third day of the shutdown, Lemma ran between hotels to find internet access. “This is insecure as you are using the business centres there, which is not a secure connection,” Lemma said.

 

Congo-Brazzaville

On 25 June 2017, Congo-Brazzaville’s internet connection was restored after a 15-day shutdown that was reportedly caused by a mysterious fishing boat that damaged the country’s submarine cables.

While journalists and analysts inside and outside of Congo-Brazzaville speculated over the truthfulness of a boat’s involvement, private mobile companies were able to provide some satellite connection. Nevertheless, journalists remained hampered.

“As long as the internet is not stable, many field, remote reporters or correspondents are facing big problems to send their stories, their work,” a Congo-Brazzaville-based journalist told CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015
While online media distributors are effectively blocked from their platforms during internet shutdowns, print and broadcast journalists’ investigative capacities also suffer greatly.

 

Cameroon

For 93 days between January through April 2017, the Cameroonian government with cooperation from private mobile operators cut off internet access in the two western, Anglophone regions of the country.

The government also imposed a suffocating culture of fear through a campaign of arrests and detentions, according to a forthcoming CPJ report on Cameroon’s use of anti-state legislation against journalists. Attacks on the press increased dramatically. At least eight journalists were arrested in connection with their journalism (six of them remain in detention in Yaoundé).

Without the internet, reporting on people’s daily realities became extremely difficult. The media environment in Cameroon was choked. Fear of reprisal, coupled with the internet shutdown, restricted communication between online and offline regions. Coverage of ongoing abuses was stifled.

“Content [was] sent to the [media] station through road,” a Cameroonian broadcast journalist based in the English-speaking regions who requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CPJ. “We could therefore not relay timely news items from other areas because we had to wait for them two [to] three days after.”

With such limited information, speculation reigned supreme, the journalist said.

 

Secure communications

As governments improve their surveillance tactics, journalists are forced to use a small number of internet-based communication platforms in pursuit of private conversation.

“You pick up your phone to make that call, and you know your phone is tapped, you know there is someone on the other end listening,” Lemma told CPJ. “People don’t [even] feel safe meeting in person.”

“It’s no more a secret that many journalists are actually [wiretapped],” a Congolese journalist told CPJ over WhatsApp on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Also, internet is very important for the journalists’ work, since some social media [helps] to bypass [wiretapping] or line monitoring when they need to check or get or publish some facts.”

This perspective is supported by a 2011 report, which highlights how “the November 2009 law on electronic communications and the 2010 decree on identification of [telecommunications] subscribers show that the [Congolese] state has seemingly unlimited power to invade the privacy of its citizens in the interest of security … It seems that the state can access personal data under any pretext without the consent of the individual concerned, who can do nothing to stop it from happening.”

When journalists are too afraid to speak on regular telecommunication lines for fear that their government will intercept the communication and arrive at their door, encrypted internet-based tools like WhatsApp or Signal offer a practical method of communication and information dissemination.

In his 2015 piece titled Surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies“, CPJ’s staff technologist Tom Lowenthal explains how important encryption technology is for journalists to connect with sources and write important stories. Without secure communication tools, journalists’ ability to communicate privately with sources becomes limited and self-censorship flourishes.

“Internet shutdowns are particularly censorious in areas where fear of reprisal for critical journalism reigns, and unfortunately, this fear exists in many of the African countries that have experienced internet shutdowns,” said CPJ’s emergencies director María Salazar-Ferro. “Journalists should never feel that their work is putting them or those they communicate with in danger.”

 

Resisting shutdowns

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

Many of these shutdowns occur during elections and other moments of political tension, when access to information is critical for the public to make informed decisions.

In response, internet freedom advocates have mobilised to compel governments and telecommunications companies to resist shutting off internet access.

In March 2017, the Freedom Online Coalition, which is composed of 30 national governments working to advance internet freedom, expressed deep concern over the “growing trend of intentional state-sponsored disruptions”. They also offered a list of five good practices for governments to avoid shutdowns and seize the economic and social growth brought by the internet.

In Ethiopia, for example, a 30-day shutdown cost the government upwards of US$8.5 million, while a separate 15-day shutdown in the Republic of the Congo cost over US$72 million, according to a 2016 Brookings Institute report.

On 10 April 2017, a creative advocacy proposal was put to the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the body that allocates Africa’s IP addresses, which are identifiers for computers and other devices that connect to the internet. The proposal called for the denial of new IP addresses for one year to countries that order their internet to be shut down.

Though media reports indicate that the proposal was denied as a result of intense opposition from African governments, AFRINIC subsequently issued a statement calling for African governments to “renounce the use of internet shutdowns as a policy tool”.

Internet advocates are also targeting telecommunications companies and internet service providers in an effort to get them to resist government calls for shutdowns.

On 15 February 2017, nearly a month into Cameroon’s internet shutdown, CPJ was among 27 signatories on a letter to three Cameroon telecommunication companies’ CEOs, requesting “support in restoring internet access”.

A month later, United Nations Special Rapporteur on free expression David Kay’s report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighted the responsibility of private “provider” companies to “ensure that they do not cause, contribute or become complicit in human rights abuses” involved in shutdowns.

“Being able to survive as a journalist in this age without access to the internet – the idea itself is very daunting,” Lemma told CPJ. “But beyond the idea, it’s everything from losing your security [to] not being able to communicate the way you want.”

Respect for press freedom means letting it breathe by enabling journalists to conduct their work. Without internet access journalists cannot publish online, nor can they conduct thorough investigations or talk securely with their sources. To have a free press, African governments need to #KeepItOn.

This article originally appeared on Africa Portal

 

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Will Governments Support Access to Information Driving Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 17:24:20 +0000 Gerald Leitner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151459 Gerald Leitner, is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

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Gerald Leitner, is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

By Gerald Leitner
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

In an Information Society, access, and the ability to apply and re-use information is at the heart of individual fulfilment and social participation. Long before the idea of an Information Society came into use, libraries connected people to this, connecting them with literature and learning, and allowing them to improve their lives, and those of their families and communities.

Access to information and the ability to apply and re-use it is at the heart of individual fulfilment and social participation

Gerald Leitner. Credit: IFLA

The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report 2017, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington, makes the case for investment by governments, and other stakeholders, in delivering access as a driver of progress.

The spread of the Internet, and the content it holds, creates unique possibilities to offer access to information. Yet there are barriers standing in the way to realising this potential. These present us with two scenarios.

In the first, rates of physical connectivity to the Internet remain low in remote or poorer areas, allowing a digital divide to become a development divide. A lack of relevant content, and the ability to read and use it, prevents others from seeing the value in connectivity.

Information poverty robs people of opportunities to keep their families healthy, update farming practices to respond to climate change, or find jobs. And rather than full information and evidence, decisions on civic, economic and social life are taken based on misinformation and superstition.

In the second, people learn to get the best out of the Internet, knowing how to keep themselves and their families safe online. They can find the information they need, at the right time and in the right format, and apply it to changing real world problems.

They also develop the skills necessary to create their own content, further enriching available information resources. New markets are created, new communities formed, and innovation, creativity and civic participation thrives.

DA2I 2017 argues that four factors make the difference: physical connectivity, social context, individual and community skills, and the legal and policy framework. Based on indicators from established, recognised sources, the report offers a first look at how regions and countries are doing in each of these four areas, and how performance on these is linked to other characteristics, such as poverty or gender inequality.

It finds that while there is progress in some areas, such as numbers with Internet connections, big gaps in terms of skills and uses remain, and the gender digital divide is even widening.

It also provides evidence of the contribution access makes to achieving four of the focus Sustainable Development Goals at this year’s UN High Level Political Forum, which took place on 10-19 July – agriculture, health, gender equality and innovation.

Most of all, it underlines how essential libraries are to development. When they benefit from the resources and legal frameworks they need, they can bring their unique potential to bear – as trusted, community institutions, connected both to the global Information society and alert to local needs and interests, with staff dedicated to providing meaningful access to information.

IFLA itself has made the most of its unique position as the global voice of libraries, working with representatives of 73 countries to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, and the role that libraries can play in their realisation.

We have been overwhelmed by the response so far, but this is just the start of an ongoing process – the next stop is a global meeting in early 2018. We look forward to returning with a new DA2I report next year, with updated statistics, and even more examples of how libraries are making a difference, from the local to the global level, to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

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A Global Call for Journalists’ Safetyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/global-call-journalists-safety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-call-journalists-safety http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/global-call-journalists-safety/#respond Sun, 09 Jul 2017 07:20:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151224 The UN system and its member states must develop policies to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them, said key stakeholders during a meeting. A multi stakeholder consultation held in Geneva brought together representatives from governments, civil society, media, and academia to discuss developments in the area of safety of journalists and the […]

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The UN system and its member states must develop policies for the safety of journalists and end impunity for crimes against them

Lusaka-based journalists march on the Great East Road campaigning for the attacks against journalists to stop. Credit: Kelvin Kachingwe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2017 (IPS)

The UN system and its member states must develop policies to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them, said key stakeholders during a meeting.

A multi stakeholder consultation held in Geneva brought together representatives from governments, civil society, media, and academia to discuss developments in the area of safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

“Too many journalists are imprisoned for the wrong reasons. Too many journalists are forced to flee their countries. Women journalists face particular forms of harassment. Murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” said UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova to participants.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), some 1,246 journalists have been killed since 1992. The deadliest countries were those in conflict situations including Iraq, Syria, Philippines, and Somalia.

There were also almost 260 journalists in jail at the end of 2016, the most CPJ has ever documented. Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists with over 145 imprisoned journalists, more than China, Egypt, and Iran combined.

As censorship tactics become more complex, new challenges have arisen for journalists, underscoring the need to protect journalists and end impunity.

“Online attacks now occur at a frequency and scale that we’ve never experienced before. We need new ways to protect journalists, to deal with what technology has enabled because computational propaganda means to stifle any challenge or dissent against power,” said CEO of Philippines newspaper Rappler Maria Ressa during the consultation.

In an effort to address these complex issues, stakeholders formulated numerous recommendations to reinforce and improve the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012.

Among the main challenges highlighted by stakeholders was how to translate the UN Plan of Action into national policies and practices.

“We need to reboot our thinking of the UN Plan to bridge the gap between the progress made at the international level and the situation on the ground,” said Executive Director of International Media Support at the meeting organised by UNESCO and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Frank La Rue stressed the importance of governments to set up national mechanisms for the safety of journalists and the report on such policies to help end impunity for attacks against journalists.

Participants also emphasized the importance of UN leadership and the strengthening of the UN system to better address journalists’ safety, including enhancing inter-agency coordination and the mainstreaming of safety issues in agencies’ programming.

They also urged making better use of existing avenues and mechanisms in the UN system in order to improve monitoring and reporting on attacks against journalists, especially in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Within the internationally agreed agenda is goal 16 which calls for the creation of peaceful and inclusive societies with effective and accountable institutions and highlights the need to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.

Journalist safety and ending impunity are therefore essential to achieve this goal.

The recommendations will be finalised into a non-binding outcome document to help inform stakeholder actions in the future.

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The Doha Centre interviews Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General of IPShttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-doha-centre-interviews-farhana-haque-rahman-director-general-of-ips/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-doha-centre-interviews-farhana-haque-rahman-director-general-of-ips http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-doha-centre-interviews-farhana-haque-rahman-director-general-of-ips/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 16:45:06 +0000 The Doha Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150461 The Doha Centre spoke to Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General of IPS about media development and defending press freedom, at the World Press Freedom Day Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia.    

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Farhana Haque Rahman, IPS Director General

Farhana Haque Rahman, IPS Director General

By The Doha Centre
JAKARTA, May 17 2017 (IPS)

The Doha Centre spoke to Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General of IPS about media development and defending press freedom, at the World Press Freedom Day Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia.

 

 

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Mob Killing Sparks Fresh Outrage Over Pakistan’s Blasphemy Lawshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/#respond Fri, 05 May 2017 00:01:39 +0000 Zofeen Ebrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150309 Aimal Khan, 27, an airman in Pakistan’s Air Force, warns the country will end up in the throes of mayhem if the state does not do something about the abuse of the blasphemy laws. “People will use it to settle personal scores,” he said. He should know. His younger brother, Mashal Khan, 25, was brutally […]

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A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

By Zofeen Ebrahim
KARACHI, May 5 2017 (IPS)

Aimal Khan, 27, an airman in Pakistan’s Air Force, warns the country will end up in the throes of mayhem if the state does not do something about the abuse of the blasphemy laws. “People will use it to settle personal scores,” he said.

He should know. His younger brother, Mashal Khan, 25, was brutally killed by a mob roused to a frenzy by allegations he had committed blasphemy. “They became the judge, the jury and the executioner,” Aimal said. "It's pretty obvious that religious passions are easily ignited because day in and day out all we hear about is religious sermonizing in one form or the other." --Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy

Studying at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), Khan was known for speaking out against corruption and injustices prevalent in society. On April 13, he was shot, stripped and not satisfied with that, the mob then beat up his corpse as shown in the graphic video footage.

The police investigation following his killing, however, found no evidence he had committed blasphemy. The government has since arrested 47 of the 49 accused.

Political activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir told IPS that the country’s blasphemy laws are not just used by the land mafia to evict people, but often for raising funds and recruiting members by rogue organisations. “The social media has become a more potent tool where one fake account with just one blasphemous tweet can kill someone,” he said alluding to the fake account created in the name of Mashal Khan to falsely establish he’d committed blasphemy.

According to opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah, since 1990, 65 people have been killed on allegations of committing blasphemy and no one was executed for the crimes.

A month later, Aimal says the family continues to receive phone calls expressing condolences from all across Pakistan. Ordinary people to celebrities and even politicians have visited their home to offer comfort.

“After my brother’s murder, we thought humanity had fled from this country, but I tell you, it’s quite the opposite. We have been given unconditional support,” Aimal said, his voice filled with emotion, over the phone from his village Zaida in Swabi district, KPK.

He hopes his family’s loss can open the door to a meaningful debate on reviewing the infamous laws.

Muhammad Iqbal Khan (left), the father of Mashal Khan, who was murdered by a religious mob in Pakistan. The men offer prayers. Credit: Abdul Hameed Goraya/IPS

Muhammad Iqbal Khan (left), the father of Mashal Khan, who was murdered by a religious mob in Pakistan. The men offer prayers. Credit: Abdul Hameed Goraya/IPS

Aimal’s sentiments are echoed by Reema Omer of the International Commission of Jurists. “If Mashal’s most tragic killing could revive the debate and lead to blasphemy reform, that would be a fitting tribute to his bravery and courage,” she told IPS.

“The law should have been reviewed and reformed a long time ago. These incidents are latest but not the first,” pointed out Nasir. While exploitation of these laws can be corrected through procedural reforms, he said what was innately wrong was that they are in violation of Hanafi jurisprudence [followed in Pakistan] which gives no death penalty to non-Muslims for blasphemy but Pakistani law does.

Asia Bibi, a Christian, has been on death row for the last seven years. International Christian Concern  has termed her case one of the most “controversial” and best examples of the abuse of blasphemy laws.

While a complete scrapping of the law is unlikely, many see this as an opportunity to revive a debate. In 1986, to ‘Islamise’ the country, Pakistan’s then leader General Mohammad Zia ul Haq enacted these laws.

But anyone who has tried to even tried to open debate has either been censured or silenced.

In 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab, was assassinated for supporting Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy. His murder was followed by that of Shahbaz Bhatti, a minister who had talked of misuse of the laws.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal) chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman, enjoying a huge following in the KPK, while condemning Khan’s lynching, said he was well aware that liberal forces would use this incident and call for amendment in the laws, but warned that no one would be allowed to touch it.

“For a few days when there was such an outcry it was felt the time for a critical review of the blasphemy laws had arrived,” said I.A. Rehman, noted rights activist, speaking to IPS. “The clerics were on the defensive.”

This euphoria was short-lived.

Rehman said the lawmakers belonging to religious parties disowned the resolution in the assembly which they had earlier backed.

In fact, soon after Mashal’s lynching, the legislative assembly of Pakistan-administered Pakistan passed two resolutions regarding the finality of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and respect of his family and companions.

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

The resolution also stated that if Ahmadis (declared non-Muslims by the constitution of Pakistan) claim themselves to be Muslims, they should be charged with blasphemy.

He has little hope in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who himself narrowly survived ouster and was saved by a supreme court verdict last month, after the opposition had taken him to court on charges of corruption.

“It [ruling Pakistan Muslim League — PML-N] will not take on the clerics at this stage,” Rehman said, lamenting: “The chance of doing something about blasphemy will again be missed.” But then he never had much hope attached to Sharif in the first place. “The PML-N is an accomplice to orthodoxy therefore there is no hope of a change for the better.”

However, there are others who say the laws have nothing to do with the recent episodes of lynching. The laws were not even invoked once.

Following the killing of Khan, in another part of Pakistan, a man was shot dead by his three sisters. He was accused of blasphemy in 2004 and the sisters in their confessional statement said they were incited by the imam of their neighbourhood mosque.

The same day a mob attacked a man after Friday prayers in northern Pakistan town of Chitral, and was saved in time by the mosque imam and the police officers who intervened and rescued him. The man was mentally ill and was on his way to Islamabad for treatment.

“It’s not the law, it’s the people, a people that have gone berserk,” said eminent educationist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches physics at universities in Islamabad and Lahore.

That is why he insists on teaching Occam’s Razor in his classes. “It’s a metaphor for parsimony of assumptions. Start with the obvious, if that doesn’t work then assume that something more complicated is involved,” he explained, adding: “In this [lynching] particular case, it’s pretty obvious that religious passions are easily ignited because day in and day out all we hear about is religious sermonizing in one form or the other.”

But Omer thinks otherwise. “Killings in the name of blasphemy and mob violence after blasphemy allegations cannot be separated from the law and its mandatory death punishment; the impunity – even patronage – enjoyed by perpetrators in the past; and the state’s use of blasphemy to clamp down on dissenting/critical voices,” she said.

Recalling the climate just before Khan’s killing, she said there was renewed movement by various state institutions condemning ‘blasphemers; calling blasphemy ‘an act of terrorism; and urging people to report blasphemy so strict action could be taken against them.

Nasir, too, believed that when the parliament associates the death penalty with a crime it “does trickle down into society, socially and politically”. He gave the example of the arrest of three people for desecrating a Hindu temple and tried under section 295A (of blasphemy laws) which does not carry death penalty but shows clearly that blasphemy against other religions does not create a “huge social or political uproar”.

In addition, Omer said, the existence of the blasphemy laws in their current form gives a certain “cloak of legality” to such calls. “Which is why we shouldn’t lose sight of the connection between the existence of the blasphemy laws and the kind of violence we saw in Mardan, in Chitral, and before that in Kot Radha Kishan and other cases,” she said.

A large number of people accused of blasphemy, or even convicted of blasphemy by trial courts for defiling the Holy Quran, suffer from mental illnesses, said Omer. “This too is a common thread in how blasphemy laws play out in practice,” she said.”This is a damning indictment of the prosecution and police, who allow these cases to continue despite the fact that the accused do not have the requisite capacity to commit a crime.”

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Refugee Journalists, the Challenge of Reporting from Exilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/#respond Thu, 04 May 2017 17:16:57 +0000 Elena Pasquini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150304 The author is Editor in Chief Degrees of Latitude

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Photo credits: Sara Furlanetto

By Elena L. Pasquini
ROME, May 4 2017 (IPS)

Abdulwahab Tahhan is a journalist and a refugee. From his exile in London, he documents the war that is devastating his homeland of Syria, monitoring airstrikes and assessing civilian casualties for the non-profit Airwars.

As for many journalists and netizens forced to leave their countries due to war, oppression, and persecution, continuing journalistic work has been a challenge for Tahhan. But now that’s his job: ‘Helping people understand the war better’, he told Degrees of Latitude.

Youngest of seven children, he grew up in Aleppo, studied English and literature, but not journalism, even if he would have liked. It was the concern of becoming used as a ‘propaganda tool’ that kept Tahhan away from professional reporting until the spring of 2011.

When the Syrian uprising erupted, he began translating content and videos about the demonstrations from Arabic to English for a secret Facebook group that spread updates beyond the Syrian borders, documenting arrests and detentions, and advising protesters how to keep themselves safe. ‘It wasn’t a professional platform; too dangerous to be identified as the journalist or the voice who was reporting about what was going on. Once you were identified, that’s it. You will be targeted; your family will be targeted …’, he said.

It was in Turkey, where Tahhan fled from Syria and obtained a visa to the United Kingdom, that his professional career in journalism begun, working as a fixer, interpreter, translator, writer and in the production of the award-winning documentary ‘The Suffering Grassers’. But getting a job in England was tough: ‘I had all the skills, I had the knowledge, the only thing that I lacked were the contacts’, he said. It was the Refugee Journalism Project, a collaboration between the London College of Communication and the Migrants Resource Centre, that provided Abdulwahab with what he needed to make his voice heard again.

It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know

‘In many countries, getting ahead in journalism still relies on having the right social capital, that is, being able to access jobs and opportunities by virtue of having an influential professional and personal network. The old adage still applies – it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. So, if you are new to a country, don’t speak the same language, aren’t the same colour or religion, don’t have knowledge of the system, you simply don’t have the same social capital as the journalists who came through the European system. The project’s activities (mentoring, workshops and industry placements) attempt to address this’, Vivienne Francis, Project media consultant, explained.

The Project – which so far has worked with 36 journalists from a number of countries, including Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Yemen – was originally a London-focused initiative, but it has received applications from all across the UK, and ‘in greater numbers than we anticipated’, according to Francis. ‘We did not want to turn anyone away, as a number of these individuals – due to the UK government’s refugee dispersal scheme – were living in communities where they felt quite isolated. We had to find practical ways to support not just more participants, but also those who lived many miles away. One solution was to offer online mentoring and connecting them with networks of journalists closer to where they lived’, she said.

The value of a different perspective

Refugee journalists need support, but they bring to the newsrooms the invaluable knowledge of the countries they come from. ‘That’s one of the ways we could improve journalism’, Tahhan said. ‘If you want to write a story about Syria, you want a Syrian researcher, someone who understands Arabic, who understands the culture, who knows places and locations, that can tell you something about the country that maybe people here don’t know or are not aware of, that can double-check the authentication of specific reports’, he said.

It is not about teaching the local journalists how to do their job better; it is about providing them with sources, insights and different perspectives. He was intrigued, and alarmed, noticing how much attention European journalists put on bombings and terrorists killed, compared to ‘the victims of those bombings’, Tahhan said. ‘I would always focus on the humanitarian aspect; I would always focus on the civilian casualties from the war … I haven’t seen this very much on the news, to be honest. I haven’t seen a lot of reports from a civilian perspective’, he added.

But to unlock the potential of refugee journalists, many barriers have to be overcome and a holistic approach is needed: ‘The asylum process itself also takes a huge toll on individuals. Before they can think about re-establishing their professional careers, many have to deal with the emotional anguish of leaving home and loved ones, battling to get refugee status, permanent housing, and access to benefits’, Francis said. Giving refugees the basic tools for survival is not enough to enhance integration. The question is how to ‘maximize the value of the professions, work experience and qualifications they might already have. Their prior lives and experiences need to be seen as adding value to society’.

What is crucial, according to Tahhan, is to provide journalists with contacts and a ‘safe’ platform: ‘A safe environment is where you can start discussion ideas without being accused of being biased, discussing the ideas for the ideas themselves without attacking you personally …. [discussing] the ideas, [without] discussing the person, throwing accusation, stereotyping people, generalizing. Being safe [means] that you have been able to express whatever you want to express without being prosecuted’, he explained.

Refugees journalists must feel safe. ‘I know this is highly unlikely to happen in the Europe because of the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, but bear in mind we come from countries where we are oppressed and we can’t really report a lot of things against the governments, against the regimes’.


This story was originally published by Degrees of Latitude

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Reflections on World Press Freedom Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 06:54:15 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150261 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 3 2017 (IPS)

This year’s theme for the 2017 World Press Freedom DayCritical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies” is one of the most important days honouring press freedom.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Inevitably, the impact of media has the power to transform societies through enlightenment and active citizenry.

Observers occasionally refer to the media as the fourth estate owing to its influential role to further enhancing the plurality of opinions and ideas.

A free press is indispensable for facilitating good governance and transparency. It strengthens the accountability of governments as citizens can critically assess the activities of incumbents through information provided by the media.

Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends freedom of expression and the right to information. It enables press freedom to become a reality:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Some cite as a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that “the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.”

However, significant challenges lay ahead limiting the freedom of the press.

Firstly, journalists have had at times to pay a high toll for the expression of truth as they see it.

Thus according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 1,200 journalists have been killed since 1992.

Among these victims, 65% were murdered, 22% perished owing to crossfire and combat, whereas 12% lost their lives owing to dangerous assignments.

Many of those murders remain unresolved and the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice as “complete impunity” prevails in 86% of the cases.

The 2016 World Press Freedom report issued by Reporters Without Borders suggests that violent extremism has put significant constraints on the ability of the press to operate freely and carry out their duties.

The conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria, the report underlines, have enabled insurgents to “create black holes for reporting.”

Journalists have the right to work free from the threat of violence and of fear in their capacity as transmitters of information to the public.

Their lives should not be put at stake for merely putting Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration into practice.

Secondly, the accountability of media needs to be strengthened so that it represents the public’s interests.

After the so-called “War on Terror”, hate speech and online bigotry have rapidly been on the rise targeting specifically religious minorities.

This has been followed by a misconceived conflation between terrorism, Islam and the Arab identity, which has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination.

At the same time losses of lives as a result of violence or military action may be reported selectively thus implying unacceptable differences in the value of human lives according to where the losses occur.

During the Geneva Centre’s panel debate on 15 March on the theme of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” that was held at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), it was suggested by the panellists to better harness the power of media by promoting positive stories about religion and culture.

It was also proposed that we, as global citizens, should never fear the stranger as differences enrichen our societies.

I believe that media can play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist between people.

Journalists need to refrain from the use of contemporary phobic language triggering social exclusion and religious intolerance.

Incitements to hatred, violence and bigotry should be condemned as it exacerbates religious divisions within communities.

The spread of fake news and fabricated stories in social media contradict the goals of freedom of opinion or of expression.

A return to the founding principles of press freedom and journalism – accountability, transparency and independence of news media – is the first step to stop the flow of misinformation that is on the rise.

When the Emir Abd el Qader el Jazairy – the founder of contemporary Algeria – visited a printing press in Paris in 1852, he made the following observation on the power of the press:

What comes out of it resembles a drop of water coming from the sky: if it falls into the half-opened shell, it produces the pearl; if it falls into the mouth of the viper, it produces venom.”

Media has a “moral and social responsibility” in “combating discrimination and in promoting intercultural understanding (…)” as stipulated in Principle 9 of the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality.

By reversing the trend of offering simplistic and misconceived generalizations not grounded in reality, media could become a catalyst for social inclusion by implanting a culture of peace, harmony and tolerance.

This would be in line with the objectives laid out in the 2002 “Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” and in UN HRC Resolution 16/18 entitled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”

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Journalist Killings in Sri Lanka Predicated on a Deadly Ironyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 15:02:27 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150251 This article is part of special IPS coverage of World Press Freedom Day.

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This article is part of special IPS coverage of World Press Freedom Day.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2017 (IPS)

The widespread belief in the politically-motivated killings of journalists in Sri Lanka is predicated on a deadly irony: the hidden hand has always been visible, but the fingerprints have gone missing.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

The two most widely publicized killings relate to IPS UN Bureau Chief in Colombo, Richard de Zoysa, 30, in February 1990, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge, 51, in January 2009.

But both murders remain unsolved—due primarily to political coverups — despite several leads pointing to the killers.

As fate would have it, the politician who apparently ordered the killing of de Zoysa, and the police officer who executed that order both died in a suicide bomb blast in 1993, three years after de Zoysa’s murder.

But the rest of the conspirators are still on the loose and fugitives from justice.

And as the United Nations commemorated World Press Freedom Day, there were reports last week that one of the suspects in the Wickrematunge killing– far from being investigated or prosecuted — had been elevated to the rank of a diplomat and posted to a Sri Lanka embassy in an Asian capital years ago.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), which has an arresting headline on its website titled “Sri Lanka: Where Journalists are Killed with Impunity,” lists the killings of 25 Sri Lankan journalists since 1992, with 19 where “motives were confirmed” and six with “motives unconfirmed.”

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on ‘the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression’, called on governments “to investigate and hold accountable all those responsible for attacks on journalists.”

In a statement released May 2, he said: “This past year has seen repeated attacks on journalists, leaving many dead or injured. Often terrorist groups carry out such attacks to silence opposition, secularists or atheists.”

Too often, he pointed out, threats are not met with effective protection by law enforcement or, in their aftermath, genuine investigation and prosecution.

“States need to make accountability a priority,” he declared.

In an interview with IPS, Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, confirmed that both high profile killings in Sri Lanka were meant to silence press criticism of political higher-ups.

Speaking strictly as a former journalist and widow of Lasantha Wickrematunge, she said “the authorities at the time wanted to silence Lasantha and cripple two newspapers — The Sunday Leader of which he was Editor-in-Chief and I was Consultant Editor– and The Morning Leader of which I was Editor in Chief.”

In Richard de Zoysa’s case, Samarasinghe said, he was the first Sri Lankan journalist to pay the ultimate price for his journalism.

Like Lasantha, Richard was beloved during his life, and like Lasantha, he has, since his death, become an icon in the media industry in Sri Lanka. Richard was a man of extraordinary talent and range who wrote haunting poetry and powerful plays, she noted.

There is no doubt in my mind that his killing was politically motivated as well, said Samarasinghe, a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, an Edward R. Murrow Fellow in Washington DC, and an International Journalist-in-Residence at the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Since Lasantha’s killing, has there been any credible investigation to track down his killer or killers? Why has there been no trial or conviction for 8 long years?

SAMARASINGHE: Before January 2015, there had been virtually no serious investigation into this crime. There seems to have been a deliberate cover-up and stonewalling of the case. Such emblematic cases are not properly investigated for several reasons; among them, to hide the truth, to perpetuate a fear psychosis in the people and to create chaos. These assassinations affect not only the families of the victims but society as a whole. A break down in the rule of law and a lack of freedom of information leads to social divisiveness and generates mistrust between groups and in the institutions of the State. They send messages of fear, despondency and submission – and slavish/divisive societies are easier to manipulate.

However, since the change in administration in 2015, a special Criminal Investigations Team was established and there have been concrete steps taken not only in Lasantha’s case but in the cases of other journalists who were beaten, threatened or who disappeared during the previous administration. Lasantha’s body was exhumed late last year as part of this new investigation. These are extremely gut-wrenching circumstances and for me very difficult to endure as his wife. However, for the sake of the greater good and for the purposes of a thorough independent investigation, we have to go through this.

The proper conclusion of these investigations are important in order to re-establish Good Governance and the Rule of Law in our country, and halt the cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms. This is why the present administration has said it is deeply committed to these democratic principles.

IPS: How safe is the political environment for journalists now — as compared with 1990 or 2009?

SAMARASINGHE: As a nation that had suffered a dark period under the yoke of terrorism and an accompanying culture of impunity, this administration has demonstrated in several concrete ways that it is actively conscious of the value of a nation built on the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law. The cornerstone of any democracy is freedom of information. Without this there can be no meaningful advancement of peace, development or human rights. Among others, the proper handling of Lasantha’s case will become the symbol of a restored and renewed democracy where once again, the people of our country will have faith in our judiciary, and in our system of Justice. This is a slow and steady process.

Clearly the current administration has taken several steps in the right direction. For instance after years of civil society activism the Right to Information Act was signed into law in August 2016 and came into force on February 4, 2017. The government unanimously enacted the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses Act. A Permanent Office for Missing Persons (OMP) has been established. These are all structures and mechanisms that serve to rebuild trust in the state. I would say that today we have an administration that understands the value of an independent fourth estate and the serious perils of lapdog journalism.

QUESTION: With the increasing attacks on journalists worldwide, is there a role for the UN to stem this onslaught?

SAMARASINGHE: There is definitely a leadership role for the United Nations. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 19 which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” to the unanimously adopted Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 16, to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” we see that member states fully realize the UN’s critical role in this regard.

Target 10 of Goal 16 recognizes that public access to information and fundamental freedoms are indispensable conditions to sustainable development. It reads, “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

IPS: Are most UN member states paying only lip service to the cause of press freedom?

SAMARASINGHE
: In the final analysis, it is the responsibility of individual member states to implement nationally the international agreements and UN resolutions in accordance with their own domestic laws and cultures and to establish Rule of Law and end impunity. The two indicators set by the United Nations Statistical Commission for tracking progress in the achievement of target 10 are pertinent as they relate (a) to the number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates, and (b) to the number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information. Therefore SDG 16 is significant in mainstreaming safety of journalists in the international development agenda and for tracking progress in individual countries.

IPS: Do you think the UN should at least name and shame these countries where journalists are constantly in danger of losing their lives in the line of duty?

SAMARASINGHE: There is in fact a UN plan of action for the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, with UNESCO taking the lead in developing and implementing the plan. This plan includes a number of actions including standard-setting, policy-making, monitoring, reporting, building capacity and awareness-raising.

And yet, according to the UN itself every five days a journalist is killed in pursuit of a story. So yes, clearly the international community must be more proactive in addressing this issue. The numbers from civil society are staggering as well, with the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that some 370 journalists were murdered between 2004 and 2013 in direct retaliation for their work, with 48 journalists killed in 2016 and 8 already killed in 2017.

However there are several soft approaches that the UN already explores, and awareness-raising through commemorative events or International Days (including World Press Freedom Day) is one. These soft approaches, if constant, can be very effective in shining a light on national situations, transporting incidents to the international stage and affording activists and family members an international platform to make their case.

IPS: Is there any role for journalists themselves to take up the fight at home or, more importantly, internationally?

One way to do this is to highlight or give prominence to the journalists who have been victimized in their own countries. For example, as an exiled journalist at the time, I was invited to speak at international events organized by UN agencies. During this period, I was also given the opportunity to speak at various other international venues, including on Capitol Hill, at the National Press Club, Universities and was also invited to serve as key note speaker at special events, including to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr Day. This kind of exposure helps keep the issues alive on the international stage.

Furthermore, UNESCO has the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize awarded on 3 May that honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of press freedom. Lasantha was awarded this prize in 2009. He became only the second journalist to be honoured posthumously since this prize was created, and a testimony to the risk many journalists run in the pursuit of their calling. Again, this award, and the buzz it created, became a megaphone opportunity to highlight not only Lasantha’s case, but also the plight of all journalists persecuted everywhere for their work.

And in 2009 Mr Ban Ki Moon the then UN Secretary General highlighted Lasantha’s assassination during his remarks on Press Freedom Day. The world’s top diplomat giving prominence to Lasantha’s case was an important step in the right direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SNVeGGe0TU. Other UN agencies and diplomats expressed concern as well quite publicly, and these statements sent a message that the international community was watching. But yes, given the horrific numbers, it is important that the international community remains ever vigilant.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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A Free and Diverse Media is Essential to Protecting Democracy in the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/a-free-and-diverse-media-is-essential-to-protecting-democracy-in-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-free-and-diverse-media-is-essential-to-protecting-democracy-in-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/a-free-and-diverse-media-is-essential-to-protecting-democracy-in-the-21st-century/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 13:31:24 +0000 Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150249 Dr Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah is the Secretary-General of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

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Kashmiri journalists at a rare protest against a government clampdown on freedom of expression. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

Kashmiri journalists at a rare protest against a government clampdown on freedom of expression. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

By Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah
LONDON, May 2 2017 (IPS)

Images of protestors flooding the streets – whether in Caracas, Bucharest, Istanbul or Washington DC – send a powerful message to those in power, especially when they are plastered across newspaper front pages.

In far too many countries, the response has been to shut down the space for citizens to organise and undermine the ability for dissent to be reported. Even in the most mature of democracies, the ability of citizens to organise and mobilise, and the freedom of journalists to report when they do, are being undermined. In an era of rising populism and spreading curbs on fundamental freedoms, we need to do more to protect civic rights and press freedom.

When people hit the streets to express dissent, headlines are not always guaranteed.

In some countries, journalists risk imprisonment, disappearance or death for reporting on voices of dissent. In other places, the few powerful interests that control mainstream media channels are in cahoots and play down the scale or importance of protest. And the world over, independent and smaller media outlets – that are critical to diverse media – are struggling to stay afloat.

The first, and most worrying reason why protests don’t make the nightly news is because in many countries around the world journalists who cover protests are putting themselves at risk. In countries where civic participation is restricted or closed, journalists, like activists, risk losing their jobs, their freedom and even their lives reporting on protests.

In countries where civic participation is restricted or closed, journalists, like activists, risk losing their jobs, their freedom and even their lives reporting on protests.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor attacks on journalists are one of the three most commonly reported violations of civic space, alongside the detention of human rights defenders and the use of excessive force during protests. The Monitor, which measures the openness of civic space in 195 countries, found that journalists are most often attacked as a result of their political reporting on protests, conflict reporting, and for exposing government corruption.

Civil society and media exist in an ecosystem where attacks on one are likely to have an impact on the other. Where human rights defenders and civil society organisations find their freedoms under threat, so to do journalists. Policing media coverage is just one of the ways that governments close or repress civic space.

While social media and citizen journalists and bloggers have made it more difficult for mainstream media outlets to ignore mass demonstrations, some media outlets actively seek to undermine the renewed interest they generate. Media Matters for America, a monitoring agency, has recorded repeated instances of corporate media in the United States making false claims, such as that protests are staged or protestors are paid. Instead of interviewing citizens participating in the marches, cable news programs turn to their usual group of pundits for comment. For example, after the recent Science March, some cable television shows hosted panels featuring climate change deniers and no actual scientists.

In some cases journalists have forgotten that the voices of ordinary citizens, are just as important, if not more important, than the voices of powerful politicians and wealthy elites. And even where journalists do seek to quote representatives from civil society they too often turn to the same narrow set of voices for comment, since smaller non-governmental organisations often lack the media resources of larger international organisations.

Another important reason why journalists do not cover protests is because they do not have the resources to do so. The economic pressures on commercial media are also harming press freedom. Independent, diverse media often lack the financial resources of media owned by wealthy corporations or governments with their own political agendas. Many media outlets now rely on donations or membership models to survive.

All of these restrictions have led many activists to turn to reporting on protests themselves. Some of the most powerful journalism now comes from citizen bloggers, often providing invaluable news from closed political spaces and behind the battle lines.

As the boundaries between citizen and professional journalists blur it is becoming increasingly important to protect the space for all of those people who seek to inform, expose and educate.

Whether it is protestors, journalists, civil society organisations, human rights defenders, or climate scientists we need to protect the ability for people to be able to express dissent. And we need to stand together.

Without journalists, scientists marching in the street, would not be able to be able to share their messages with the world. Without photojournalists, vast underestimates of crowd sizes from officials may continue to be used to undermine popular movements.

Asking questions, speaking truth to power, shining a light on corruption. These simple actions carry increased risks in 2017, as powerful elites seek to cement their positions of power. In this febrile political environment, civic space and press freedom feel more important than ever.

 

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Repression 2.0: An Updated Global Censorshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 04:46:59 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150232 This article is part of special IPS coverage of World Press Freedom Day.

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In Minnesota, supporters gather at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in November 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2017 (IPS)

Censorship tactics have become more complex, posing new challenges for journalists and non-journalists alike, a new report finds.

In its annual “Attacks on the Press” report, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented a range of censorship cases from around the world and revealed a new world of media repression.

“[Censorship] is definitely becoming more sophisticated and complex and is occurring at a variety of levels,” CPJ’s Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch told IPS.

CPJ’s Executive Director described these new strategies as “repression 2.0” in the report, stating; “Repression 2.0 is an update on the worst old-style tactics, from state censorship to the imprisonment of critics, with new information technologies including smartphones and social media producing a softening around the edges.”

At the end of 2016, there were almost 260 journalists in jail, the most CPJ has ever documented.

Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists with over 145 imprisoned journalists, more than China, Egypt, and Iran combined.

The country’s media crackdown deepened following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and the subsequent imposition of a state of emergency which the Turkish government allegedly used to shut down over 50 newspapers, 30 TV channels, and three news agencies.

The government also reportedly used anti-terror laws to imprison journalists, including the chief editor of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet Can Dündar who was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of disclosing state secrets, espionage, and aiding a terrorist group. Most recently, life sentences are being sought for 30 people with ties to Zaman newspaper, which is associated with Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen whom the government accuses of organising the coup attempt. The newspaper has since been under government control.

In Kenya, authorities are increasingly using a new mechanism to control the media: money.

“As revenues drain away from traditional media due to the inroads of digital technologies, the use of financial-induced self-censorship, or ‘fiscing’, can also ensure that journalists are more ‘reasonable’ in their reporting,” said journalist Alan Rusbridger in the report.

“Murder is messy. Money is tidy,” he continues.

However, the control of information is not unique to developing countries, said Rasch.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump has raised anti-media hostility to levels “previously unseen on a national scale,” said journalist Alan Huffman in the report.

President Trump has consistently described some media organizations as “fake news,” most recently reiterating the claim that media fabricate stories during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “They have no sources, they just make them up when there are none,” he told attendees.

Trump’s rhetoric often emboldened his supporters who would boo journalists. Huffman described one case in the report where a Trump supporter wore a T-shirt that suggested the use of lynching, stating: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.”

The president has also restricted and even denied access for reporters perceived as unfriendly, including those from Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, and has threatened to change libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists and news agencies.

In one chapter, Christian Amanpour noted the similarities in such “poisonous” trends in the U.S. and around the world.

“The same dynamic has infected powerful segments of the American media, as it has in Egypt, Turkey, and Russia, where journalists have been pushed into political partisan corners, delegitimized, and accused of being enemies of the state. Journalism itself has become weaponized. We cannot allow that to happen,” she stated.

In Ecuador, the government has allegedly used social media as a way to suppress journalists.

After tweeting that Ecuador’s former Vice-President Lenin Moreno had not paid income taxes, journalist Bernardo Abad’s twitter account had been blocked for violating its terms of service. By the end of the week, nine accounts had been temporarily suspended after also tweeting about Moreno’s taxes.

Radsch told IPS that with the internet and social media, there are now “more outlets for repression and threats.”

China has taken this to the next level, making plans to link journalists’ online posts to their finances.

Under the country’s proposed social credit plan, journalists who write or speak critically of the government could face personal financial consequences including decreased credit score or a denied loan. Such censorship goes beyond the business as usual tactics of shutting down reporters’ social media accounts to affecting journalists’ daily activities.

Rasch highlighted the need to advocate for an open internet and the rights of journalists.

“[We must] remember the importance of the press that continues to help us make sense of all the information that we are bombarded with all the time,” she told IPS.

She also recommended journalists adopt secure communication practices in order to maintain their privacy and their sources’ privacy.

Most importantly, journalists must stand strong and commit to fact-based reporting.

“This is the best and most important way to fight back against the new censorship,” said Simon.

“Journalists cannot allow themselves to feel demoralized. They need to pursue their calling and to seek the truth with integrity, honestly believe that the setbacks, while real, are temporary,” he concluded.

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Trolling of Women Journalists Threatens Free Presshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/trolling-of-women-journalists-threatens-free-press/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trolling-of-women-journalists-threatens-free-press http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/trolling-of-women-journalists-threatens-free-press/#respond Mon, 01 May 2017 23:16:23 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150244 “It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it,” says Mary Beard, a Cambridge University classics professor about online trolling. “If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It is the many ways that men have silenced outspoken women since the days of the ancients.” Women […]

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Shammi Haque, a Dhaka blogger known as a courageous advocate for free expression and secularism, received death and rape threats. Credit: Center for Inquiry

Shammi Haque, a Dhaka blogger known as a courageous advocate for free expression and secularism, received death and rape threats. Credit: Center for Inquiry

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, May 1 2017 (IPS)

“It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it,” says Mary Beard, a Cambridge University classics professor about online trolling. “If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It is the many ways that men have silenced outspoken women since the days of the ancients.”

Women professionals in many countries across Asia and the Pacific have increased their number in the newsrooms, according to a study, but they still represent only three out of ten news staff. Even with this low representation, they have now breezed into the male bastion of hard stories, among them politics, corruption, conflict, governance, environment with confidence and impact.“Shaming and harming women is an age-old practice, except that real time information sharing through technology makes the outreach far greater and the damage huge.” --Dilrukshi Handunnetti

They speak their mind, put forth their opinion and debate knowledgeably and vigorously with readers on matters of import on social media platforms.

Societal images of women have remained largely conservative.

Shammi Haque, a Dhaka blogger, received death and rape threats and an email from an Islamic extremist group that claimed the killing of  six Bangladeshi bloggers which said,  “Since the Islamic  Sharia (law) views working of women outside their homes without purdah (head cover) as (a) punishable offense, their employers are guilty to the same degree. We are urging the media to release their women from their jobs.”

In India, as part of an anti-trolling campaign by national daily Hindustan Times, Harry Stevens and Piyush Aggarwal set out in April to demonstrate how hard it is to be an outspoken woman on Twitter. They gathered a week’s worth of tweets sent to four prominent Indian women journalists. Out of these Barkha Dutt, a television veteran, received 3,020 abusive tweets, and Rana Ayyub, a Muslim, received 2,580 hateful tweets, often coloured by Islamophobia.

Internet trolls have had a free run in the region for at least six years now. Women journalists who tackled trolling and abusive comments on social media by ignoring or blocking the persistent trolls, now find that stalking and direct threats of attack have increased, forcing them to seek legal recourse or police protection.

“Journalists’ safety is a precondition for free speech and free media,” says the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

“Online media today allows for the fast flow of information and the public’s active par­ticipation in sharing ideas, news and insight. An open, free and safe Internet is essential for public debate and free flow of information and therefore should be duly protected.”

Female journalists, bloggers and other media actors are disproportionally experi­encing gender related threats, harassment and intimidation on the Internet, which has a direct impact on their safety and future online activities.

Twitter threats like “I’m going to cut off your head and rape it” have been directed even at the sexagenarian Mary Beard.

About the vitriolic abuse she faces, Dutt asks, “Why isn’t anyone discussing the marriages, divorces, and affairs of my male colleagues? Why the fixation with my private life? Because the public scrutiny of women – and especially those of us who are proudly ambitious and fiercely independent – is very different from the standards used to measure men. And the subtext is always sexual.”

“Cyber bullies are the same as goons who threaten in real life,” psychiatrist Samir Parikh says.

The personalized online abuse women journalists get for doing only what is expected by their professional job “can make them feel traumatized, helpless, angry and very frustrated,” says Parikh. “In some, it can even cause self-esteem issues, affect social life and lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. For women, the abuse and threats of violence are often openly sexist and sexual, which makes them tougher to deal with.”

“(Online) it is possible to cloak one’s identity and attack individuals in the most unethical and harmful manner,” says Dilrukshi Handunnetti, an editor in Colombo. “Shaming and harming women is an age-old practice, except that real time information sharing through technology makes the outreach far greater and the damage huge.”

It does little to ease the trauma for journalists to know that trolling correlates with psychopathy, sadism, and Machiavellianism, according to a 2014 empirical personality study. Other studies found boredom, attention seeking, revenge, pleasure, and a desire to cause damage to the community among motivations for trolling.

But some interviewed trolls viewed their online comments not as harassment, but as a needed counterweight to opinions and news items they believe are flawed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

As threats get too dangerous to ignore, women journalists are being forced to seek recourse from the law, despite their misgivings about how the law is framed and doubts about whether law-enforcing agencies can ensure speedy and sensitive investigation.

An Online Harassment Social Media Policy drafted March 2016 by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) lays out a road map for media houses to protect journalistic voices, create safe online spaces for open and respectful debate, and deal with abuse and harassment faced in particular by female staff.

Among the mechanisms to ensure digital safety and freedom from harassment, the road map calls for a special cyber cell in media organizations that equip women journalists particularly, with legal awareness and resources. When the harassment is extreme, measures must also include physical security, legal hand-holding, and support to pursue police complaints and psychological support and trauma counseling.

Meanwhile, a Byte Back handbook for women journalists being cyber-bullied gives out handy advice – ignore, filter, block, report and if it gets worse, name-and-shame, shout it out, and don’t forget to save and document abuse.

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