Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’


Belarus Fines Freelancer For Working With Foreign Media

There is so much happening in the world and news organizations have limited resources. The smarter news groups reach out to freelancers to fill the gaps in reporting around the world.

Belarus — one of the last hard-core holder overs of Stalinist rule after the collapse of the Soviet Union — enacted a law that forbids Belarus journalists from working for foreign media.

Now the government has fined freelance journalist, Larysa Shchyrakova about US$245 for breaking that stupid law.

The European Federation of Journalists is calling on the Belarus government to withdraw the fine and repeal the law.

Belarus ranks right at the bottom of press freedom according to Freedom House, with a score of 93 out of 100 for media repression and control. It also has a political freedom rating of 6.5, with 7 representing an absolute lack of any freedoms.

From the Freedom House 2015 Press Freedom report on Belarus

Despite constitutional provisions for freedom of the press, criticism of the president and the government is considered a criminal offense, and libel convictions can result in prison sentences or high fines. There are no effective legal guarantees of public access to government records. Judges, prosecutors, police officers, tax officials, and bureaucrats from the Information Ministry regularly use politicized court rulings and obscure regulations to harass independent newspapers and websites.

That puts Belarus in the same neighborhood as Chad, China and Cuba.

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2016 Not Looking Good For Journalists In China

French journalist Ursula Gauthier faced the wrath of Beijing censors when she wrote about China’s policy toward the Muslim Uighur minority in China.

First, Beijing accused her of being sympathetic to the Uyghurs and promoting the violent actions taken by a few radicals. Then, to make sure she could not follow up on her stories, the foreign ministry refused to renew her visa to work in China. That meant she had to leave by December 31, 2015.

Denying visa renewals or sitting on the applications for a long time has become a standard move by the central government.

In 2014 the reporters from The New York Times and Bloomberg did not know until the last minute if they would be allowed to stay. Seems their articles about how family members of the ruling elite use their connections to get incredibly wealthy ticked off a few folks in Beijing.

The ruling Communist Party has always been hostile to Western media. Even though more reporters are being licensed to work in China, the harassment they face from national to local government officials is daunting.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China regularly assembles stories and complaints about how the government is hindering journalists. The reports used to be posted on the FCCC website. Now, however, one has to specifically request the reports or sign in as a member.

The reason is pretty clear, the club is afraid if they are too public, the government will shut them down:

To ensure the continued operation of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China we are not currently making such material openly accessible on the website.

And it is not like anyone could blame them. At least the reports are available in one form or another.

And lest anyone think this is aimed at just the media, remember that the Canadian contestant for the Miss World competition was blocked from entering China because she spoke out about human rights violations in China.

What made it worse for Beijing, of course, was that the woman is Chinese-Canadian. It is one thing for a round-eyed foreign devil to be critical of China’s policies, but a whole other thing when the critic looks like any other Chinese person.

Beijing passed a new anti-terrorism law, in part to allow them to get Western nations on their side against the Uyghurs, but also to have a legal basis for their actions inside the country.

Under the new law, “terrorism” is now defined as any idea or activity that generates “social panic, undermines public security, infringes on personal and property rights, and menaces government organs and international organizations, with the aim to realize certain political and ideological purposes.”

And for Beijing, anything that challenges the supreme authority of the ruling Communist Party has the potential to generate social panic. And, it goes without saying, has “certain political and ideological purposes.”

Things are not likely to get better in China for reporters — foreign or domestic. The rhetoric against free press is clearly not letting up and the hostility aimed at foreign media representatives from doing their job of fairly and accurately reporting events in China is expected to continue unabated

This item was originally posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.
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Human Trafficking: It’s Not Just An Overseas Thing

Local reporters looking for a story that links the rest of the world with Main Street should pay attention to the growing atrocity of human trafficking.

“You say human trafficking, and people think…international cabal, organized crime, kids coming from Southeast Asia in cages. That’s not what it is,” says Montgomery County (MD) Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays, who has prosecuted numerous sex trafficking cases in recent years. “Most of it is homegrown guys who are exploiting vulnerable women and children in their own communities, or traveling them around, up and down the East Coast.” — Human Trafficking in Montgomery County, Bethesda Magazine

According to the Polaris Project, a group that helps victims of trafficking, sex trafficking accounts for 71 percent of the calls to their hotline. Labor trafficking takes up another 16 percent. of the 5,000 cases opened during 2014. The cases are active investigations that came from more than 24,000 calls to the Polaris hotline, seeking help.

The International Labor Organization estimates 14.2 million people are in forced labor circumstances.

The Bethesda Magazine article says more reports come in each day as more people become aware that human trafficking is not something far away, but rather something much closer.

 “The numbers seem low, and I think what in reality is happening is we’re seeing human trafficking kind of emerge like domestic violence did 30 years ago,” says Amanda Rodriguez, who until recently oversaw human trafficking policy at the [Maryland’s] Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “The more people are becoming aware, the more these numbers are going to go up, because it is absolutely happening next door and in the community.”

The issue involves Americans and foreign nationals caught up in one of the most dangerous and demeaning  crimes in the world. And it does not just involve — as the primary case in the Bethesda Magazine article — household employees of diplomats.

“Common types of labor trafficking in the United States include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farm workers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions,” says the Polaris Project. “Labor trafficking has also been reported in door-to-door sales crews, carnivals, and health and beauty services.”

Just about every news outlet in the United States has an audience that includes the people mentioned above. Therefore, there is no reason to not look into local labor and working conditions.

This is perhaps one of the darkest and most gruesome links between Main Street and the rest of the world. And, unfortunately, it is not limited to international trafficking.

Increasingly sex trafficking…sex trafficking is taking place in well-appointed hotels that do not fit into the red-light district stereotype of eras past. In August, Armand Theinkue Donfack, a Germantown (MD) soccer coach, was charged with prostitution and human trafficking after an undercover sting at a hotel off I-270.

 

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The UN General Assembly Is Meeting: Put Press Freedom on the Agenda?

Joel Simon from the Committee to Protect Journalists has a featured piece in Columbia Journalism Review on how the United Nations should — but really can’t — do something about press freedom.

What can the UN do for press freedom?

Bottom line: Not much, but it can make some nice statements.

Responding to an upsurge in media killings, particularly of journalists working in conflict zones, the UN has prioritized the issue of journalists’ safety in recent years. In 2012, UNESCO, the UN agency charged with defending press freedom, launched a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The following year, the General Assembly passed a resolution to create an International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists, marked each year on November 2.

In July 2013, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, become the first ever journalist to address the Security Council. She noted, “Most journalists who die today are not caught in some wartime crossfire, they are murdered just because of what they do. And those murders are rarely ever solved; the killers rarely ever punished.” Last May, the Security Council passed a historic resolution reaffirming the international legal protections for journalists covering armed conflict. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon regularly condemns the killing of journalists, and calls on member states to take action.

All of these measures are important, and have tremendous symbolic value. But it is difficult to point to concrete advances in response to UN action. In fact, the level of violence against journalists has increased in recent years, and imprisonment of journalists around the world has reached record levels. Recent high-profile cases—including the conviction of three Al Jazeera reporters in Egypt; the ongoing imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in Iran; and the seven-and-a-half-year sentence handed down to renowned investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan—demonstrate that when it comes to imprisoning journalists, repressive governments are increasingly unresponsive to international pressure.

Simon argues journalists, diplomats and other human rights defenders need to use the occasion of the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, when leaders from around the world come to New York to argue for more action to protect journalists in their home countries.

Over the years, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which I head, has used the General Assembly to secure commitments from a number of heads of state, including former President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who agreed to appoint a special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who committed during a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations to receive a CPJ delegation in Ankara.

Simon says this one-on-one approach should not let the United Nations, itself, off the hook, but it appears to the only way — for now — to get things done.

He argues journalists should demand accountability from the leaders who speak a the UNGA for their violations of press freedom. By just reporting the speeches and not looking at the records of the speakers, journalists become accomplices in efforts to whitewash media repression.

 

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Worst year for press freedom in LatAm; US media ignores issues

Despite repeated warnings that the press freedom situation in Latin America is getting worse, little reporting on it seems to be the norm with U.S. media.

The latest report from the InterAmerican Press Association attention from AFP and El Universal in Caracas. That’s it.

Read fuller account here: Bad year for LatAm journalists, not that the US media cares

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U.S. to fund anti-censorship programs

The U.S. government announced it will set aside US$30 million to fight Internet censorship.

Michael Posner, assistant Secretary of State for human rights, is quoted in the Guardian that the projects will include “slingshot” technology that will identify censored material and throw it back on to the web for users to find.

“We’re responding with new tools. This is a cat-and-mouse game. We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the cat,” Posner said. Censored information would be redirected to email, blogs and other online sources, he said. He would not identify the recipients of funding for “reasons of security”.

See rest of story at: New Efforts Announced To Fight Internet Censorship

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Hungarian cartoonists face threat from new media law

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World

Many thanks to editorial cartoonist Matt Bors for his interview with three Hungarian editorial cartoonists and illustrators–Gábor Pápai, Joe Békési, and Péter Zsoldos–about how the media law will affect them.

(For background on the new Hungarian media law see Hungary’s media law: Back to the bad old days)

Hungarian Cartoonists Under Fire from Repressive New Law

Gábor Pápai: The consequences of the law are scary indeed.

Joe Békési: This law is not dangerous to specific individuals, but editorial offices, publishing houses, and television channels that can be ruined or forced to continually self-censor. It will kill investigative journalism.

Péter Zsoldos: Until now, theoretically we had total freedom. And seldom did any official retribution happen.

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Women and journalism: A look at the gap on International Women’s Day

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World

Let’s face it despite the positive image of Brenda Starr, women still make up a minority in the newsrooms of the world.

So on International Women’s Day, I thought I would post a few items from around the world on the current status of women in journalism.

BTW, Reuters is holding a day-long live blog on Women’s Day. To participate, go to International Women’s Day 2011 LIVE

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Nervous China blocks term associated with “tea” and “revolution”

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

After the “Jasmine Revolution” in Egypt, the party leadership in China has been getting nervous.

During the uprising in Egypt, “Mubarak” and “Egypt” were blocked by the censors running the Great Chinese Firewall. The latest term to be blocked could hurt people who want to talk about a particular kind of very popular tea.

Searches for the word “jasmine” were blocked Saturday on China’s largest Twitter-like microblog, and the website where the request first appeared said it was hit by an attack.

According to the Associated Press, activists circulated a call for people to gather in more than a dozen cities Sunday for a “Jasmine Revolution.” (China blocks web calls for “Jasmine Revolution)

According to the report, those receiving the message did not know who started the call but they seemed more than willing to pass it on. The message reportedly called on people to show up in town squares in 13 cities and shout “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness.”

The authorities are taking the chain-letter seriously. They started rounding up  dissidents and their lawyers all day Saturday.

A U.S.-based Chinese-language website — Boxun.com — was the first to post the call. Within hours it was hit with a denial of service attack.

The site operators told the AP it was the most serious denial of service attack they ever received. They added the company believes the attack is related to the Jasmine Revolution proposed on Feb. 20 in China.

I really do wonder what will happen if people want to discuss the qualities of different jasmine teas.

UPDATE:

You can go to the Boxun site to get an update of what happened. (Use Google Translate if you don’t read simplified Chinese characters.)

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A lesson for China from Egypt

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World

Ever since the demonstrations in Egypt started, the Great Firewall of China has been working overtime to block searches and articles about what was going on. And now that the revolutionaries have won, the censors in China are even more nervous.

The AP pushed a story today that looks at the how and why of Beijing’s concerns: Wary China warns of Egypt ‘chaos’ after uprising.

Even a cursory look at the Egyptian situation makes it clear that the uprising is a major concern of the leaders sequestered in Zhongnanhai.

The massive use of texting and social media to organize the demonstrations. The calls for Mubarak to step down. And the protestors’ unwillingness to kowtow to the authorities.

These are all dangerous acts and ideas to the Chinese.

To counter the calls for democracy or more openness, the Chinese leadership falls back on that old chestnut of maintaining social stability as the most important thing.

“Social stability should be of overriding importance. Any political changes will be meaningless if the country falls prey to chaos in the end,” said the editorial in the China Daily, an English-language paper that is geared toward foreign readers.

Granted, from a Chinese perspective the horrors of the Warlord period and the Civil War make the idea of social instability a serious concern.

The problem — as I have argued before Chinese journalism students and to anyone who will listen — is that without free and open media, people distrust what is published/aired in the official media and depend on rumors and word of mouth.

We have all played the game of “Telephone” and we all know how reliable the end result is. Having to depend on rumors instead of independent media reports is clearly more destabilizing to a society than controlling the news. People end up reacting to the rumors instead of facts.

And to be fair to Chinese government, they are not alone. Iran started blocking most news about Egypt as are the Arab countries. In fact, where ever possible, dictators around the world tried to suppress news of the popular uprising.

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