Human trafficking. Genocide. Illegal dumping of toxic waste. These atrocities are conducted by human beings who would do anything to cover up the truth. Reporting on human rights issues can be dangerous for journalists, especially those working in conflict areas or under authoritarian regimes. Journalists who report on these issues are often activists themselves and are subjected to the worst that humanity has to offer–beatings, torture, imprisonment, and death. Fear is a powerful weapon and can silence the truth as self-censorship becomes entrenched in the media psyche.
One recent example of the dangers of reporting on human rights issues is that of Liberian daily newspaper Front Page Africa journalist Mae Azango, who has gone into hiding after publishing an exposé on female genital mutilation in Liberia. Cultural traditionalists threatened her life after she revealed the genital mutilation rituals of a secret women’s society.
Journalists like Mae can benefit from several resources and programs designed to aid reporting on human rights. This year, Internews launched Speak Up, Speak Out: A Toolkit for Reporting on Human Rights Issues. Internews says the toolkit is a guide that “follows Internews’ tried and tested training methodology, which is hands-on, practical, and links content knowledge to journalism skills and technical tools in specific environments.” It combines background information on international human rights mechanisms; guidelines on producing nuanced, objective reporting on rights issues; and practical exercises that walk users step by step through the production of human rights stories. Internews hopes the toolkit will aid journalists in their struggle to report and raise awareness on human rights issues in their communities.
Other resources and programs for reporting on human rights include:
- The International Women’s Media Foundation offers the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship for Promoting Human Rights Journalism. The fellowship aims to promote “international understanding of human rights and social justice while creating an opportunity for women journalists to build their skills.”
- Media and Human Rights is a blog dedicated to the discussion of human rights reporting. The blog is written by Belgian journalist Jean-Paul Marthoz, a professor of international journalism, senior adviser of the Committee to Protect Journalists and of the Panos Institute, and vice-chair of the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Division.
- Amnesty International gives a Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year award. You can watch a video of last year’s competition here.
- The International Federation of Journalists published a handbook for journalists in southeast Europe titled Human Rights Reporting.
- IREX published a manual with the specific focus on reporting on human trafficking titled Reporting on Human Trafficking: Manual for Training Editors and Journalists in Egypt.
- The International Council on Human Rights Policy published a report titled Journalism, Media, and the Challenges of Human Rights Reporting.
- The Canadian-based Journalists for Human Rights has resources for journalists and conducts training programs on reporting on human rights.
- The Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda has resources for Ugandan journalists and a toll free helpline for those in need of assistance.
CIMA Intern Brittany Anicetti contributed to this post.
Somewhere among rocky hills and dusty towns, where the scent of juniper wafts through the springtime air or snow grips the land with a cold, wintry hand, a 13-year-old-boy once sat writing stories for children’s magazines. His town was near the Iranian border in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province. At 16 he was writing a weekly sports column for an Urdu language newspaper in a land where politics was all but taboo. By the time he was 20, he was reporting on politics in English, and today he is a respected journalist in exile, receiving political asylum in the United States last year. That journalist is Malik Siraj Akbar, who is currently a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he is focusing on threats faced by the defenders of democracy, such as political leaders, human rights activists, and journalists.
Balochistan may be blessed with beautiful snowcapped mountains and juniper trees, but it is also one of the most dangerous places in the world, especially for journalists. Reporters Without Borders has named Pakistan the most dangerous place for journalists, singling out the Khuzdar region of Balochistan in particular. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented that 42 Pakistani journalists have been killed since 1992, friends of Malik’s among them. The literacy rate of Balochistan is a paltry 37 percent compared to the national rate of 53 percent, according to journalist and human rights activist Mazhar Leghari. Few newspapers are published in the region, and little industry exists for advertisements that could bring in revenue to sustain them. Most people get their news from radio. Internet penetration is barely 10 percent in Pakistan, and the government has blocked 4,000 websites, according to Malik.
The blocked websites include The Baloch Hal (The Baloch News), Balochistan’s first online English language newspaper, which is founded and edited by Malik. The site is maintained from three different countries and is geared towards a foreign policy audience. Malik also has a blog, All Things Considered.
Malik told CIMA that journalists in Pakistan are in need of training in professionalism, ethics, and basic reporting skills. Media development organizations should promote community radio, especially in local languages. He pointed out that Iran broadcasts two radio stations in the Balochi language, but no American station like Voice of America broadcasts a service in Balochi. He would like to see the U.S. government play a broader role in broadcasting news and liberal values to counter the propaganda coming from Iran.
Further resources on media in Pakistan:
Pakistan’s Media Environment and its Development (AudienceScapes)
Developing Open Media in Pakistan (Internews/USAID)
Follow Malik Siraj Akbar on Twitter.
Weekly highlights from the world of digital media. Sign up here for the full version of CIMA’s weekly Digital Media Mash Up for a comprehensive list of resources on digital media.
Censorship and Deletion Practices in Chinese Social Media
With Twitter and Facebook blocked in China, the stream of information from Chinese domestic social media provides a case study of social media behavior under the influence of active censorship. While much work has looked at efforts to prevent access to information in China (including IP blocking of foreign Web sites or search engine filtering), we present here the first large–scale analysis of political content censorship in social media, i.e., the active deletion of messages published by individuals. (First Monday, March 2012)
Mapping Russian Twitter
Drawing from a corpus of over 50 million Russian-language tweets collected between March 2010 and March 2011, we created a network map of 10,285 users comprising the ‘discussion core,’ and clustered them based on a combination of network features. The resulting segmentation revealed key online constituencies active in Russian Twitter. (Berkman Center for Internet and Society, March 2012)
Our Social Media Amnesia
It began with a hashtag — #fitn. On the eve of January’s Republican presidential primary, it seemed that every member of the political press, election observer, and New Hampshirite had adopted #fitn as a sort of quasi-official tag. It was a reference to “First in the Nation,” a long-used political phrase that dates back to the 1920s. As I watched those tweets fly by, it struck me how ubiquitous its shorthand version had become online. Where did the hashtag come from? Who first injected it into the tweet stream? Twitter’s internal search engine, as it turns out, only goes back so far. I fired up Topsy.com, by general consensus the best tweet search tool going today. But I hit the outer limits of Topsy’s archive far before I uncovered my proto-tweet. I asked Twitter HQ. No go. A smallish company, it lacks the resources, they said, to track a hashtag back to its starting point. (Reuters, 3/21)
Why Twitter Will Get More Annoying
Happy sixth birthday, Twitter! You’re the service which started off as a way for groups of friends to keep in touch with each other via text messages, and you’ve grown into a revolutionary platform for connecting and sharing with millions of people around the world. And you’ve become more annoying, too. (Columbia Journalism Review, 3/21)
SYRIA: Citizen-Journalism Network Takes On The Syrian Regime
If you want a good example of the power of citizen journalism, then look no further than the Deir Press Network (DPN). Started one year ago in the eastern Syrian town of Deir el-Zour, DPN was the brainchild of a doctor and his cousin who lived in the United Kingdom. In a fascinating interview in “Guernica” magazine, the two founders, Kareem and Ahmed (not their real names), discuss how they smuggled out footage and fought off cyberattacks from the pro-regime Syrian Electronic Army. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3/20)
SYRIA: Syrian Activists Targeted by Fake YouTube
Syrian activists are being targeted by a fake version of Google’s YouTube video site which plants malware on the PCs of people who leave comments on videos shown there, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned. (The Guardian, 3/20)
“The basic news literacy argument is that you can’t get the vaccine in someone’s mouth until you get the idea in that someone’s head that the vaccine is good for you.” – Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
News is everywhere. But sometimes “news” is nothing more than propaganda. This is true not only in authoritarian states, but also in states where freedom of speech and press were long ago institutionalized. The digital revolution the world has undergone intensifies the need to be discerning when consuming news. New technology has changed the flow of information across borders and cultures, influencing how we use material to inform and interact with each other. How do we wade through the oceans of information with which we are bombarded on a daily basis? We must learn how to sift through and analyze this information to become media literate.
The term “media literacy” refers to a person’s ability to understand, analyze, and use the media, as well as their ability to differentiate between quality, unbiased news and opinion. In the media development community, media literacy is still a low-profile topic, but its importance is growing, especially in the age of citizen journalism, community radio, and digital media.
Here are some resources on media literacy:
- CIMA has produced three reports about media literacy. Dr. Susan Moeller, director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland, has written two reports for CIMA: Media Literacy: Understanding the News and Media Literacy: Citizen Journalism. Paul Mihailidis, professor of journalism, media and public relations at Hofstra University, wrote Media Literacy: Empowering Youth Worldwide.
- The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change is an initiative that provides curricular materials, training, and support for journalism schools and educational programs across the globe. The academy’s Global Media Literacy curriculum includes lessons on framing theory, agenda setting, social media, civic participation, covering conflict, and freedom of the press.
- Internews conducts media literacy programs, including a four-year program in Armenia in partnership with Yerevan Press Club.
- The Center for Media Literacy (CML) is an educational organization that provides leadership, public education, professional development, and educational resources across the world. CML’s mission is “to help children and adults prepare for living and learning in a global media culture by translating media literacy research and theory into practical information, training and educational tools for teachers and youth leaders, parents and caregivers of children.”
- The European Charter for Media Literacy supports the establishment of media literacy across Europe. Signatories of the charter form a network across the continent and are contained in a searchable database on the charter’s website.
- The Russian Association for Film and Media Education maintains a list of resources in English about media literacy in Russia.
- The Canada-based Association for Media Literacy provides a range of resources on literacy and supports an international network of media literacy organizations.
- Medialiteracy.com contains links to other media literacy organizations and resources.
On Saturday, March 17, Timor-Leste held its second presidential election since gaining independence in 2002. Current president and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta conceded defeat, and a run-off between the opposition Fretilin party’s Francisco Lu Olo Guterres and former chief of the armed forces Taur Matan Ruak will be held on April 16. The peaceful election has prompted talks that Australia may soon be able to withdraw its peacekeeping force. Parliamentary elections will be held in June.
The media environment in Timor-Leste is not without problems but has been improving, according to various reports that have been produced in recent years. Several initiatives have taken place since violence plagued the country leading up to the 2006 elections. By looking at these reports, one can see the progress being made over the course of the last several years and what areas are still in need of improvement.
In 2005, Article 19 and Internews published a study titled “Freedom of Expression and the Media in Timor-Leste” as part of a series of baseline studies on Southeast Asian countries. The study offered recommendations on how to improve the media climate and protect freedom of expression.
USAID conducted an assessment of the media environment in 2006. The team found that although previous USAID media programs had made some impact, significant challenges remained. According to the assessment, some challenges were access to information, professionalism among journalists, sustainability of media outlets, threats to press freedom, and lack of capacity to cover elections.
UNDP conducted a media project in 2007 with the aim of strengthening media-related legal and regulatory processes, increasing technical and managerial capacity for community radio, and improving professional capacity of print and community radio journalists and producers.
Fondation Hirondelle published Timor-Leste National Media Survey Final Report in 2007 with funding from USAID. The United Nations published Timor-Leste Communication and Media Survey in 2011 as an update to Fondation Hirondelle’s survey. Each survey shows the importance of radio in the country. Television has doubled from 2006-2011, and mobile phones are also becoming an increasingly important source of news.
The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) conducted a program Building Better Media in Timor-Leste from 2008-2011 that aimed to build a strong, professional and sustainable media sector in the country. The project included a series of monthly reports that documented the training of journalists throughout the project.
Internews has conducted a radio station sustainability project that connected 14 Timorese community radio stations with the nation’s diaspora to create a new online international market and facilitated the establishment of the Timor-Leste Media Development Center.
Russian Protest On- and Offline: The Role of Social Media in the Moscow Opposition Demonstrations in December 2011
Social media played an important role in the Moscow opposition demonstrations in December 2011, functioning both as an alternative arena for public debate and as a tool for mobilising the protests. (Finnish Institute for International Affairs, March 2012)
ICT in Conflict & Disaster Response and Peacebuilding Crowdmap
ICT is being used in many ways to help with disaster & conflict early-warning, management & resolution and for peacebuilding; this map offers a resource of who is doing what worldwide. It captures in a cross-disciplinary approach the large variety of activities carried out in projects, programmes and initiatives at various levels of society and decision-making; their content ranges from policy frameworks to actual technological solutions. The map illustrates the role of civil society organisations, states, multilateral organisations, academia and companies in the field, the difference ICT can make and the impact it can have. ICT in Conflict & Disaster Response and Peacebuilding encourages and supports networking and collaboration for the sharing of information, ideas & appropriate practice to help those affected by conflict and crisis effectively.
MOLDOVA: Mapping Digital Media
The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project examines how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs. (Open Society Institutes, February 2012)
Mapping Digital Media: Digital Television, the Public Interest, and European Regulation
The Open Society Media Program has commissioned background papers on a range of topics that are important for understanding the effects of new technology on media and journalism. The papers accompany a series of reports, “Mapping Digital Media,” on the impact of digitization on democracy in 60 countries around the world. (Open Society Foundations, March 2012)
March is Women’s History Month. While women have contributed to journalism throughout history, the number of women involved in the field is still rather low. According to the International Women’s Media Foundation’s (IWMF) Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, women represent only a third of the full-time journalism workforce, and men occupy 73 percent of the top management positions. IWMF, a global network that aims to strengthen the role of women in the news media, and CIMA held a discussion about the report last autumn. You can view the discussion here:
Glass ceilings are not the only issues facing female journalists. Simply reporting the news brings additional obstacles. Being a journalist in dangerous areas is tough enough, but women reporters also face an increased risk of sexual violence. The world saw this in shocking reports during the political unrest in Cairo when CBS correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted. Logan’s assault brought attention to an issue that previously was almost never discussed, as professional stigmas had often silenced those who suffered attacks. When Logan spoke about the attack, female journalists across the globe began to speak about their experiences with sexual violence.
Since then, several resources have been published on sexual violence and safety for women journalists. The Silencing Crime: Sexual Violence and Journalists is a special report by Lauren Wolfe of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The report details accounts of sexual violence experienced by women covering news stories. CPJ followed up the report with CPJ Security Guide: Addendum on Sexual Aggression, which discusses ways to minimize the risk of sexual aggression against journalists.
On International Women’s Day March 8, 2012, a new book was launched by the International News Safety Institute titled No Woman’s Land. The book, a compilation of 40 essays written by female reporters who have endured sexual harassment or attacks while covering dangerous situations, focuses on protecting women journalists across the globe and contains safety advice for those working in the field. Contributors include the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and Caroline Wyatt, CNN’s Hala Gorani, Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin, al-Jazeera’s Zeina Awad and former Egyptian state TV anchor Shahira Amin.
Welcome to the International Development Ring. In this corner, weighing in at $222 million per year is Media Development! And in this corner, weighing in at an indeterminate amount is Media FOR Development, a.k.a. M4D!
For those in the media development field, finding funding can seem like a fight. Research by CIMA shows that approximately $222 million was spent by US government agencies, federally funded non-profits, and private foundations on media development projects in 2010, but this does not include all projects that have media components to them. The truth is, we can estimate how much funding is spent on “media development,” but most international development projects incorporate media and communication into their programs, and it is difficult to put a price tag on all projects that have media components.
What IS media development? CIMA defines it as “efforts by organizations, people, and sometimes governments to develop the capacity and quality of the media sector within a specific country or region.” These efforts include: journalist training and education; improving the legal environment for media; efforts to improve the sustainability of existing outlets; media literacy training; digital media training and integration; infrastructure development; and monitoring and evaluation efforts.
Often these efforts are part of a larger project. For example, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) included media development in two recent projects, recognizing the public interest role that media play in democratic societies, but the projects are not media specific. One of these is “Supporting Civil Society Advocacy Efforts,” a $4.5 million endeavor. The other is “BMENA Forum for the Future Civil Society Reform Initiatives,” a $1 million project. As one can see from the titles, both these projects are efforts to strengthen civil society in the Middle East North and Africa region, and media development is just one part of that.
“Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development” is an example of a media for development project. The sponsors of this project are USAID, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenge Canada, and Department for International Development (DFID). Approximately $16.25 million is available for this project, whose purpose is to address obstacles to healthy pregnancies and births in developing countries. Ideas could include new ways of using information and communications technology to improve health and healthcare delivery in hard-to-reach areas, innovative use of social networks, and mass communication methods.
A second example of using media for development is found in a USAID Bangladesh request for applications for marketing innovation for health. The total amount available is approximately $15 million. Goals of the project include increasing distribution of new products using social marketing and improved health communications activities to reach target groups.
Another example is a $15 million USAID project in West and Central Africa that targets gaps in HIV/AIDS programming. Using ICT to spread information about HIV/AIDS issues is a part of the project.
A debate among media experts continues about the effectiveness of communication for development programs, with some arguing that you first need good journalism skills to develop a country and make independent media sustainable. Regardless, donors continue to see media for development projects as a way to address the issues we face in the world today.
The man with the giant spot on his head was always on the television. As a child I watched Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, or Tom Brokaw talk about him in hopeful though cautious tones. President Ronald Reagan often appeared in the pictures shaking hands with that man called Gorbachev. There was no public Internet in those days; a face was a face and a book was a book and we played Oregon Trail on green-screened IBM machines. The world in which glasnost and perestroika brought the end of the Soviet Union was quite different than the world in which Vladimir Putin has become president of Russia once again.
The Russian people are different, too. The long suffering tragic figures of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy novels are being replaced by young, networked people full of hope. They’ve been empowered by technology in a way those who invented the Internet never could have imagined. While Russia’s traditional media has become less free since the promising days of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Internet, or RuNet, has remained fairly free from government interference, according to the Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s paper Exploring Russian Cyberspace: Digitally-Mediated Collective Action and the Networked Public Sphere. The research shows that social media have created a vibrant space for discussion about political and social issues even as print and broadcast media are prevented from reporting the truth. On the other hand, recent cyber-attacks and arrests of bloggers have obstructed online activity and debate.
“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate in Mikael Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. One can imagine certain Russian politicians employing a giant cat and a short man with a bowler hat and a fang sticking from his mouth to run around polling stations, stuffing ballot boxes and causing electoral mayhem. Indeed, electoral mayhem seems to have taken place. Twitter and other social media have been flooded with accusations of fraud, and videos have appeared online showing ballot stuffing, people getting paid to vote, and “carousel voting,” in which groups of people vote at several different polling stations using the same ballot.
Social media is making it much more difficult for dictators across the globe to hide the truth from the people. RuNet has become a watchdog over state and corporate interests. The Berkman paper highlights the Gazprom tower, the Khimki forest campaign, and the anti-Seliger protests as examples of online collective action. However, social media is a tool used by a limited segment of the population. According to the Open Society Foundations’ report Mapping Digital Media: Russia, the total monthly number of unique Internet users in Russia in November 2010 was 46.5 million, a mere 40 percent of the population aged 18+, and most Internet users reside in the larger cities.
Still, the impact that social media has had on Russia as a whole is undeniable. The country saw unprecedented protests against Putin both before and after the elections, protests that were largely organized through online media. No doubt issue campaigns will continue to be organized in the country, though it remains to be seen if President Putin will allow such freedom on RuNet to continue.
For more information on digital media in Russia, please see our list of resources here.
Weekly highlights from the world of digital media. Sign up here for the full version of CIMA’s weekly Digital Media Mash Up for a comprehensive list of resources on digital media.
Digital Media in Russia
Presidential elections will be held in Russia this weekend. The following are some resources about digital media in Russia:
Exploring Russian Cyberspace: Digitally-Mediated Collective Action and the Networked Public Sphere
This paper summarizes the major findings of a three-year research project to investigate the Internet’s impact on Russian politics, media and society. We employed multiple methods to study online activity: the mapping and study of the structure, communities and content of the blogosphere; an analogous mapping and study of Twitter; content analysis of different media sources using automated and human-based evaluation approaches; and a survey of bloggers; augmented by infrastructure mapping, interviews and background research. (Berkman Center for Internet and Society, 3/2)
Russian Elections: The Struggle for Power between State and Network Society
New media technologies are having an interesting impact in places where we thought political communications had become bogged down. One of them was Russia As Polis Silverstone Scholar Gregory Asmolov explains, both activists and the Russian state are using digital technologies in ways that is changing the terms of democratic debate and the struggle for control over information. Here Gregory explains how both online protests and a vast project to install CCTV monitoring at voting stations symbolize the battle over what democracy means in the digital age. (London School of Economics, 3/1)
LIVEJOURNAL: LiveJournal: Russia’s Unlikely Internet Giant
As Russia prepares to elect a new president this weekend, voters are more fired up than they have been for a decade. It’s partly due to an internet revolution that has challenged the state’s power to control public opinion – and to the blogging platform LiveJournal. (BBC, 2/29)
Mapping Digital Media: Russia
In the two years preceding the financial crisis of 2008, Russia experienced unparalleled growth that helped boost computer ownership, internet subscription rates, and advertising in the media. The crisis and subsequent recession coincided with changes in the Kremlin and also significantly contributed to, the rapid ascent of online media and of new communication tools. All four factors—the boom, the crisis, the new ruling tandem, and the explosion of online communication—have had a significant impact on the media and on news consumption in Russia. (Open Society Foundations, September 2011)
Anti-Putin Activists Pay High Price, but Refuse to Back Down
Maria Gaidar knows firsthand about the consequences of being a political activist in Russia… Gaidar will help manage a crowdsourced website that monitors polling stations across Russia. She said several thousand people have already signed up as monitors and she suspects irregularities will keep them busy on Sunday. (MSNBC, 3/2)
———————————————————————————————————————————————Global Censorship Update
View Global Censorship Update – February 2012 in a larger map
Today, CIMA and the Middle East and North Africa Program of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) hosted a roundtable discussion titled “The Legal Enabling Environment for Independent Media in Iraq.” The event featured Oday Hatim from the Society for Defending Press Freedom in Iraq, a NED grantee, Lisa Kovack from IREX, Asos Hardi from Awene Press and Publishing Company, and Andrea Lemieux from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. It was moderated by Rahman Aljebouri from the NED.
Kovack discussed the IREX and Centre for Law and Democracy report Freedoms in Iraq: An Increasingly Repressive Legal Net that was published in December 2011. She noted the journalists’ rights law is the only press law in Iraq. It defines a journalist as anyone who practices journalism as a full-time job, excluding part-time journalists. Iraq media are pluralistic but not free. A diverse and dynamic media emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but recent legal developments have constrained Iraqi media, and news outlets are increasingly ethno-sectarian. Free speech in Iraq is supposed to extend to all citizens, not just journalists, but a restrictive Internet law criminalizes criticism of the state. Kovack suggested that having strong, clear laws on the books is a good foundation for freedom of media and expression in Iraq.
Hatim told the group that after 2003, Iraq had unprecedented expansion of media outlets and a decent margin of press freedom, but since 2008 the country has experienced a crackdown on the press. This crackdown included requiring permits to write certain articles. Iraqis thought it was just a transitional phase, but the Journalists Protection Law was passed in August 2011. Hatim claims the law is a combination of five press laws that were invoked under Saddam Hussein to repress media freedom. The law contradicts the Iraqi constitution and several international conventions signed by the Iraqi government. The centralized economy in Iraq supports pro-government newspapers; independent papers are closing down.
Lemieux reiterated Hatim’s points about the press law and spoke about the Internet law that criminalizes “harming the reputation of Iraq,” and the law can hold even Internet service providers liable. She said laws being drafted now with the intention to protect press freedoms will actually restrict them instead.
Hardi spoke about the situation of the press in Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which issued a press law in 2007 that was different from the federal press law. The KRG press law forbids the jailing of journalists and does not require permission to cover news or publish articles. The Kurdish law says nothing about television, radio, or the Internet, so judges look to the federal law when dealing with those media. The Iraqi government has made some efforts to track activists online via Facebook, blocked some sites, and subjected bloggers and activists to offline harassment, but there is no indication the efforts are very sophisticated. Hardi believes Iraq needs international support, and that the international community should put pressure on Iraqi authorities to change the law. He said the government doesn’t care as much about how it is viewed by its citizens as it does how it is seen by its international partners.
Participants agreed that the international community could do more to pressure the Iraqi government to change the press law, support the training of judges and media lawyers, provide assistance to independent media outlets, and share best practices and experiences in drafting media-related legislation.
For further information on the media environment in Iraq, see CIMA’s report Iraq’s News Media After Saddam: Liberation, Repression, and Future Prospects.
Anthony Shadid was my favorite reporter. All I had to do was see his byline and I would read every word of his articles. I used to see him from time to time around Beirut when I lived there and always wondered what new story he was working on and if it would earn him another Pulitzer. The world lost a great reporter when he passed away on February 16 from an asthma attack he suffered as he rode with smugglers in Syria.
Though in the end it was his own body that failed him, he died while getting the story, and there is no denying that Shadid often put his life at risk to report the truth. He was shot in Palestine, kidnapped in Libya, and spied on by Syrian agents at his own home in Lebanon. Writing about Syria is a touchy subject for anyone in Lebanon, which is not far removed from the deaths of journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni, both of whom were assassinated for their outspoken views on Syria in 2005.
As if losing Shadid weren’t enough, last week, journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were killed in an apparent targeted attack on their makeshift media center in Homs. Two other journalists who were wounded in the attack, Edith Bouvier and Paul Conroy, have asked for help to get out of Syria to receive medical treatment. In all, eight journalists have been killed in Syria since mid-November.
The deaths and injuries remind us how dangerous it can be to work as a journalist. Fortunately, there are many great organizations working to help journalists in grave situations across the globe. Here are a few of them:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was founded in 1981 by a group of U.S. foreign correspondents. CPJ publishes an annual report, Attacks on the Press, as well as other information on journalist safety, and organizes protests and works through diplomatic channels to help journalists in dangerous situations.
The International News Safety Institute (INSI) is a coalition on news organizations, journalist support groups, and individuals dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous areas. INSI’s global safety network offers advice and assistance to journalists in these areas.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) promotes international action to defend press freedom through independent journalists unions. IFJ is recognized by the United Nations as the organization empowered to speak on behalf of journalists and has established an International Safety Fund to provide aid to journalists in need.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is an international organization that defends journalists imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job; exposes mistreatment and torture, fights against censorship and laws that undermine press freedom; gives financial aid to journalists or media outlets in difficulty as well to the families of imprisoned journalists; and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones.
Global Journalist Security, founded in 2011, is a Washington, DC-based consulting firm that offers security training and advice to media workers, citizen journalists, human rights activists, and NGO staff. The group also trains security forces in developed nations as well as in emerging democracies that aspire “to meet international press freedom and human rights standards how to safely interact with the press.”