Posts Tagged ‘International press freedom’


Get Paid What You’re Worth: Disrupting a Broken Industry

As journalists, we are not supposed to talk about our political affiliations, religious beliefs, share any strong personal opinions. These are the rules. These rules have emerged since the U.S. positioned itself as a global beacon of free press for the rest of the world to envy.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, few people envy American journalists these days. The president of the United States openly, regularly attacks the press. He also makes sexist remarks about women and pursues anti-immigrant policies.

In a world where the government is not ensuring equal pay for men and women as they do in other countries and the newsrooms struggle to stay afloat, why are the U.S. journalists not fighting for their rights?

I was born in the Soviet Union, in an environment that could hardly called conducive to activism, confronting the status quo or even embracing ideals of outspoken feminism. But somewhere along the way in my career as a female financial journalist, I began to notice things.

My newsroom experience and the stories I was telling my friends were not the same as my male colleagues’.  My starting salary was not the same as theirs, and this was true across continents and newsrooms. After years in the industry, I knew I was still not paid the same for doing the same work. It was an institutional pay gap.

Then I realized this experience was not limited to me.

The Wall Street Journal reporters are still waiting for a response to their March 28 letter demanding equality in the workplace. The latest independent analysis found that “a significant gender pay gap in every location, in every quarter, and within the largest job single category: reporter.”

The Wall Street Journal journalists are not alone either. The pay gap between male and female journalists in the U.S. evolved somewhat since the 1970s, but then all progress pretty much froze around the 1990s when women’s salaries stayed at 80-85 percent of male journalists’ salaries. A recent Poynter survey found the news business is also unfair to journalists with children.

The women at the top news organizations who bring us the stories of the rich and famous, the financial scandals and inequality gaps are consistently underpaid themselves. At Dow Jones, women with up to 10 years of years of experience are paid six percent less on average than male journalists with up to five years of experience. Seems fair, right?

This is an industry-wide problem, not limited to one organization or media establishment. Once you start looking, examples are everywhere: the pay gap, who gets promoted to the most senior roles, whose voices are heard and whose are overlooked.

Surely there has been some progress. And many of these challenges are not limited to women: minorities, both men and women, face tremendous obstacles that should not be compared or contrasted. What’s important is to recognize them and not to pretend that we as a global society, as humans on Earth, are “over it”. We are not.

We still have a lot of work beyond the pay gap: we have to learn how to promote and support women in the workplace, how to cover stories like rape that don’t blame survivors, how to allow women to thrive at the highest levels of their organizations, how to quote and incorporate more female voices in stories and cultivate these new sources rather than turn to a handful of trusted “guys” over and over again.

This is not rocket science: all it takes is being aware and taking the time to educate, inspire others, start doing something.

For me it meant launching a media platform that is dedicated to women as news consumers, a platform that puts female readers first and focus on stories they are most interested in. I launched ellaletter.com with the hope of featuring more female voices, welcoming female journalists and offering a platform for more nuanced, smart storytelling. My goal is to recruit the best female (and male) reporters and offer them a competitive market salary they deserve.

What’s important is not to stay complacent or choose the safe, comfortable option in a corporate environment. It’s always more comfortable not to rock the boat, speak up or buckle down and negotiate a higher salary.

As a woman, a journalist and a first-generation immigrant whose family came to the United States in the late 1990s, I see Trump era as a particular kind of triple threat: to women, to the freedom of speech and to a new generation of immigrants and their families eager to enter the United States in pursuit of better opportunities. The initial outrage after 2016 election has subsided and hasn’t translated into consistent political activism or more women running for office.

With the democratic institutions and the news industry fighting their own battles for survival, nobody is going to fight for equal pay on our behalf. We can no longer afford to accept anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or unfair as “normal”.

It may make take a serious conversation with your boss or a job change. Or, in countries like Iceland, it took a legislative decision requiring companies to prove men and women are paid the same.

Silence, complacency or hoping for the best are no longer enough.

Daria Solovieva is a Russian-American journalist based in Dubai. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has written for leading publications around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Fast Company, USA Today, International Business Times, and Bloomberg News. She was featured as Achieving Business Woman of 2017 in Entrepreneur Middle East magazine in May. You can follow Solovieva on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn to stay updated on her work.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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How a Network of Females in the Journalism Community Helps Me Do My Job Better

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my time in the journalism community and if I have what it takes to hang on. It’s a tough time to be a journalist for all the obvious reasons — ad sales declining, cutbacks in newsrooms, and of course our president’s never-ending hatred of everything we do. But I realize it’s also an important time to be a journalist. Now, more than ever, finding the truth matters. I mean, it really matters. The work we produce, what we uncover, will impact the way this country moves forward. The problem, though, at least for me, is finding a way to wade through all the mud, all the gook that is the bad pay and unsustainable lifestyle, while still doing important work.

I’ve come to a conclusion: I can do this if I have people to lean on. Sure, I have family and friends that are always going to be there for me. But that’s not the kind of support I am talking about. I am talking about having support from other people in this industry who will go to bat for you. I’ve found that group of people — all of them young women like myself — and with their advice and guidance, I can produce my very best journalism. And it’s a mutual support, of course. We all promote each other’s work on social media. We talk about things like navigating delicate sourcing relationships and dealing with unbearable bosses. Most importantly, though, we can talk about things that no one else likes to talk about in the newsroom. We talk about things like unfair freelance contracts and how to negotiate them, misogyny in the workplace, and making sure our voices are heard in editor meetings.

I think one of the most important things for women in this industry to be talking about, especially women in my generation, is the fact that many of us are continuously overlooked for staff positions. I can’t tell you how many times outlets have passed by my application and hired a man either my age or slightly older who has less experience and less education. What this has taught me: Middle East conflict reporting is a man’s game. I think any woman out there working in this field will tell you that they have to work harder and longer than their male colleagues in order to prove themselves to their bosses. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Women have done this since the age of time in America. But it seems like we are in a time in history, especially in the journalism industry, where women, no matter how well we do are work, can’t get ahead. We continuously find ourselves running up against a brick wall and falling back sometimes to jobs we held when we were just out of school. (I’ve thought about applying to unpaid internships and I am 28).

To all my ladies in the industry out there, know this: There will always, always be men that are threatened by what you are doing. Sometimes that manifests itself in really destructive ways like them trolling you on social media. Other times they will call you out on live TV or treat you inappropriately on the ground in far flung places like Iraq or Afghanistan. It is always better to stand up for yourself and fight back, no matter what other people say. In the end, your reputation and your work is in your own hands. You have to claim your own future. Speaking up and back at those who treat you poorly or speak to you in either sexist or degrading ways is important. Even if those people are your superiors.

The other thing my comrades and I talk about is freelance contracts and negotiating with intimidating individuals. What we’ve come to vocalize on our many many conversations is that both women and men to stand up to their superiors and ask for what they deserve. This includes asking for proper protection and payment. I know not only freelancers but also staffers that have to continuously beg their publications for funds for simple things like drivers and fixers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember one time when I was working in Turkey, I had an editor tell me that I “didn’t deserve the perks that people at the New York Times get” because I hadn’t yet proved myself. I had asked this editor for funds to pay for things like fixers and translators while I was covering the battle against ISIS in Syria from Turkey. The email I received my editor was long and filled with reasons why I didn’t deserve protection. I’ve kept this email and periodically look back at it for inspiration.

I’ve gotten better at negotiating freelance contracts. But honestly, it gets exhausting. I’m tired. I’m tired of continuously having to ask editors to pay me the standard day rate. I’m tired of having to tell my editors that I won’t go into the line of fire unless they give me proper protection. Why do we always have to ask for things that should be considered standard? I’ve started saying “no” to publications that offer laughable payment terms. I’ve started telling editors that their demands are unrealistic. I’ve come to understand that keeping peace of mind by saying “no”, even if that means I don’t make as much money that month, is worth it.

Lastly, I talked with my female support “sisters” as I like to call them, about the need for more people in the journalism industry to talk about mental health, especially those that reporting in conflict zones. I’ve dealt with a lot of health issues in my times reporting in the Middle East, some of which I have written about on Narratively. I’ve also been diagnosed with PTSD and had to deal with that. I think these are issues that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about. There needs to be more discussion about the issues, especially mental health struggles, that both men and women face working in this field. I overcame these issues by simply relying on my family and friends, and a really good psychologist!  

I don’t claim to have everything figured out in this at times crazed journalism industry. I still struggle day to day in thinking about whether all the bad gooky stuff I mentioned above is worth it. On bad days I’ll reach out on our group’s WhatsApp thread and vent. And other days I think back to the beginning of my career as a campus editor at The Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was a full-time job. And it is where I learned how to be a reporter. It was fun. We put out a paper every day. We stayed some nights until 11 p.m., drinking skunked beer and copy editing with red colored pencils.  We did serious reporting, too. We broke stories the state papers didn’t even have on their radar. I need to remember that fun. I need to remember that despite all the BS that we have to deal with, our stories can end presidencies. That is a power, and privilege, that should be protected and nurtured.

Erin Banco is a Middle East reporter whose first book is Pipe Dreams: The Squandering of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, which will be published by Columbia Global Reports in November 2017. Banco has been covering armed conflict and human rights violations in the Middle East for six years. She covered the revolts in the region and the war in Syria. After graduating from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, she was a fellow at The New York Times and then the Middle East correspondent for International Business Times, breaking stories on the rise of the Islamic State group and on the Free Syrian Army arms program. Banco also traveled to Gaza to cover the war with Israel in the summer of 2014. More recently, Banco began covering the Islamic State group’s economy by tracking illicit oil sales in Turkey and Iraq. You can follow Banco for more of her work on her website and on Twitter at @ErinBanco.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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French Female Pioneer is My Role Model in Journalism

My role model is a woman that died 67 years ago.

First French war correspondent and investigative journalist Andree Viollis started her career during the first World War, she traveled to Afghanistan in the 20’s and extensively to Indochina to expose the dark side of the French colonization. She covered the war in Ireland, the Spanish civil war and World War II.  What an incredibly adventurous life. She was well-known and respected. Always the first to interview the powerful leaders of Europe. As famous then was Albert Londres, who is a myth for all young French journalists.

Two years before dying at 80 years old, Viollis was still travelling to South Africa to write stories about segregation there. She even planned to cover at 80, the war in Korea that had just began. She was a mother and a practicing journalist throughout her lifetime, even when quite old! This is everything we are told that is not quite possible when you are a woman. Sadly, very few people remember her and her name is almost completely forgotten.

And in good old paternalistic France, that’s very unfortunate. Young French female journalists need to know her. Working in dangerous zones or being a war journalist for a woman is, in fact,  an old story, “not something we should always prove we are entitled or competent enough for…”

I wish I heard about her earlier in my career, especially ten years ago. I was working for a French production house where the boss was openly discriminating women. “No females on the frontline,” he used to say. Younger and less experienced male staff would be sent to the best assignments from Ivory Coast to the West bank. I stayed and struggled for three years because it was still an exciting organization to work in and the team was wonderful. Also, because I was a young and stupid, I suppose.

Eventually, in 2007 I won a prestigious award known as the Albert Londres prize for a documentary about the murder of a French NGO employees in Sri Lanka. I then left the production company.

As a freelancer, I never again was openly exposed to this kind of discrimination. The downside to that is the insecurity that comes with being independent.

The lesson I’ve learned in my career so far is to find a new employer when you are told, “this is not a story for women.”

Anne Poiret is a filmmaker and investigative broadcast journalist based in Paris. In 2007 she won the prestigious Albert Londres Prize in France for her film shot in Sri Lanka “Muttur: a Crime Against Humanitarians”. Her work with Welcome to Refugeestan (2016) on refugee camps all over the world was selected in European documentary festivals. Her latest film, The Envoy: Inside Syria Peace Negotiations focuses on the work of Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria. Stay updated on Anne and her work on Twitter @Annepoiret.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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Breaking the Silence, Empowering Female Journalists Worldwide

“There are two groups of people that are more vulnerable during riots and marches: female police officers and female journalists.”

Last month I was in Washington D.C. getting various forms of training. During a seminar those words were directed to me from the in-house expert. The goal was to train us, the journalists, to be safe during civil unrest, marches and riots, but what left me shocked was that the expert gave me the “it is what it is” attitude. It happens. Women are more susceptible to attacks than others in these circumstances. But what are we doing to shift that attitude and ensure the safety of not just female journalists, but all journalists?

If you are a journalist going abroad on an assignment, it is so important to be prepared and proactive in any situation that may present itself. As a woman, the rules of engagement change and the reality is you can be left completely vulnerable.

There are dangers we face that most likely our male counterparts may not experience. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists held a panel discussion with journalists on their experiences reporting on the front lines, dealing with sexualized violence, and countering gender-related threats and restrictions.

Returning from my time in the Middle East in 2014 and earlier this year interviewing refugees, there were some unfortunate obstacles I faced that left me to reassess my safety in my work.

But I’m not alone.

Just last week, I read about award-winning Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima and her struggle to gain justice after 17 years where she was abducted, tortured and raped following her report on violence at a maximum-security prison involving state officials and paramilitary groups. The painful and prolonged court system in Colombia hasn’t stopped Bedoya to fight tirelessly against and she even started a campaign in 2009, “now is not the time to remain silent”. She stands up for women and has gained strength in her fight against injustice in her case and for women in similar circumstances.

There is also Shakeela Ibrahimkhel of Afghanistan, who had to end her 10 year career at one of the country’s leading news channels to seek asylum in Germany. The continued violence, threats and harassment from the Taliban has led some 100 Afghan women to seek refuge outside of the country.

The threats don’t stop there. Just days ago the Nepal Press Freedom reported an incident of a death threat towards Sushma Paudel after  a status on Facebook. The threat against Poudel from a Canadian resident was over a story the journalist had filed.

These acts of violence, the lack of safety and the overall status of female journalists globally is alarming. Doing a simple Google search for “threats against female journalists” right now and in .51 seconds, there are about 2,820,000 results!

Although my experiences abroad do not compare to the harrowing female correspondents, freelancers and even fixers abroad, I do believe what is happening to women in our line of work should raise a red flag.

In order to understand, empower and give a voice the women around the world doing amazing work, the Society of Professional Journalists’ International Community will feature female journalists starting this month as part of a #PressFreedomMatters movement giving these women a platform to express their narrative.

Come back every Wednesday and read the stories these women have to share, the obstacles they’ve faced and how they are overcoming them.

 

If you know someone that should be featured in the weekly series, please fill out this form

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Rebecca Baker Reflects on World Journalism Conference in Seoul

     After traveling more than 6,000 miles to attend the World Journalists Conference in South Korea, I was prepared for culture shock. I was prepared to hear about the wide-ranging experiences journalists face in far-flung countries. I was prepared to hear stories far different from my own.
     What I wasn’t prepared for was learning how journalists around the world are all dealing with the same things: Layoffs and cutbacks. Concern about career opportunities. Annoying bosses and bureaucratic corporate culture. Frustration over government obfuscation.
     One of the most striking conversations was with female journalists from India, Australia and Iran, three of the most different places one can imagine. And yet we all shared a similar experience—sexist, misogynistic comments from trolls on our stories. In one case, a reporter was attacked for simply encouraging racial and gender diversity among financial advisors. Some were more severe than others, but what amazed me was how each moved past the disparaging remarks—and threats, in some cases—to continue doing important reporting on social issues. As the saying goes, nevertheless, they persisted.
     Despite our different backgrounds, we shared a passion for news stories, for uncovering wrongdoing, for affecting positive change. We had other traits in common—similar senses of humor, a healthy skepticism of authority and a general disdain of pomp and circumstance. It’s what bonded us, to some degree, and created friendships that I hope continue for years to come.
     I left the conference with a new appreciation of the work that journalists are doing in counties such as Serbia, Argentina and Italy. The journalists I met may not be aware of SPJ’s Code of Ethics, but they are meeting those standards every day. They are seeking truth and reporting it, acting independently; being accountable and transparent and minimizing harm. They reminded me of the importance of the work we do and the work that SPJ fights for and champions year after year.
     The journalists I met deserve a toast for their hard work and dedication. I raise a glass to them all.
—–

Rebecca Baker is managing editor of the New York Law Journal, the largest-circulation legal daily newspaper in the country. She has been a reporter for The (Bergen) Record in New Jersey, The Journal News in Westchester County, New York, and the New Haven Register in Connecticut.

She is a member of SPJ’s national board as Region 1 Director, overseeing all student and professional SPJ chapters in the Northeast. She is on the advisory council of The Deadline Club in New York City, where she also served as president, awards contest chairwoman and events chairwoman.

More than 90 journalists from over 55 countries gathered from April 2-8 for the World Journalists Conference in South Korea. The Society of Professional Journalists represented by Lynn Walsh, Rebecca Baker and Elle Toussi attended the conference. For more information about the conference and any other international journalism conferences please reach out to the SPJ International Community here.
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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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Status of press freedom and top press predators

Last week was a busy one for identifying press freedom issues. Freedom House came out with its Map of Press Freedom and Reporters Without Borders released a list of top predators against free media.

Status of world press freedom

Freedom House released its annual Press Freedom survey this week as part of World Press Freedom Day.

And the news is not good. By the Freedom House figures, about 85 percent of the people in the world live in countries where the media are either “Partly Free” or “Not Free” from government interference.

Click here to see the rest of the story.

The top predators against free media

Reporters Without Borders has a great page that identifies the top predators in the world against free and independent media.

Thirty-eight heads of state and warlords sow terror among journalists

The list is the usual group of anti-freedom government types: Hu Jintao, Raul Castro and Kim Jong-il.

There are also the Arab country leaders who are fighting against the Arab Spring uprisings such as Muammar Gaddafi and King Hamad Ben Aissa Al Khalifa in Bahrain.

Iran is so dedicated to controlling the press that it has two identified predators: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei.

Click here for rest of story.


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New Corruption List Out. Connection between no free press and corruption

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Transparency International released its latest list of corruption in the world.

And the list confirms that the relationship between countries with high levels of corruption and lack of a free press.

RSF Ranking Country Freedom House Transparency Intl. 2009 Transparency Intl. 2010
Worst=178 RSF Bottom 10 Worst=196 Worst=180 Worst=178
169 Rwanda 178 89 66
170 Yemen 173 154 146
171 China 181 79 78
172 Sudan 165 176 172
173 Syria 178 126 127
174 Burma 194 178 176
175 Iran 187 168 146
176 Turkmenistan 194 168 172
177 North Korea 196 No Data No Data
178 Eritrea 192 126 123

The countries with numbers in red indicate “membership” in the bottom 10 of their respective indexes. A number of countries can be “tied” in their position in the list, such as Turkmenistan and Burma in the 2010 Transparency list.

For the United States, the rankings aren’t so hot. Seems the USA dropped out of the top 20 for honesty.

According to Reuters:

Nancy Boswell, president of TI in the United States, said lending practices in the subprime crisis, the disclosure of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and rows over political funding had all rattled public faith about prevailing ethics in America. “We’re not talking about corruption in the sense of breaking the law,” she said.

“We’re talking about a sense that the system is corrupted by these practices. There’s an integrity deficit.”

At least in the States that “integrity deficit” can be openly discussed. In China or Iran or Venezuela discussing such a deficit gets you tossed in jail.

FYI: The three countries that tied for least corrupt are Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore. And the bottom three were Somalia (178) Myanmar (176) and Afghanistan (176).

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Brazilian anchor resigns over censorship pressure from state governor

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Why should anyone care about what happens in Brazilian media?

Journalists, policy makers and citizens around the world should care about what happens to Brazilian press freedom because Brazil is a major player in the world’s economy.

One of the things the rulers in China figured out real fast is that to be a credible player in the world marketplace, people had to trust your economic numbers and reports. So it should have been no surprise to anyone that the first cracks in the censorship and control of media in China came in the reporting of business and economic affairs.

(Unfortunately for the rulers, once journalists and the public got a taste of a bit of freedom, they wanted more. The openings granted by the censors led to numerous reports of official and business corruption that forced Beijing to clamp down again. But what is that old phrase about toothpaste? Once it’s out of the tube…)

Same is true with Brazil.

This is a major economic powerhouse. And — unlike China — it is a democracy.

One good way to know what is going on is to read news reports from a free and unfettered media. Any attempts to censor or limit that coverage gives a false image of the country and makes dealing with that country — and its citizens and businesses — dicey.

What happens in Brazil affects the U.S. economy and, in some cases, domestic affairs.

For Joe Sixpack, what is the country of origin of the owner of Budweiser? Yep, Brazil.

And for the government planners in Florida, specifically Orlando, what country currently sends to most visitors to your area? Yep, Brazil. (BTW, I was told the other day that out for every 80 or so visas issued to Brazilians to visit the Untied States, one job is created in the U.S. economy. And the U.S. mission in Brazil issues A LOT of visas each week.)

So, Americans need to pay attention to what is going on in Brazil.

And, obviously, not just Brazil. Events in Europe, India, Japan and China can all have a direct impact on American finances, social programs and policies.

So, now to the media situation in Brazil now that you know why it is important to pay attention to such things.

The country is in the middle of a presidential election. And tempers are running high.

Brazilian journalists have been very proud of their freedom and independence.It has only been 25 years since the fall of the dictatorship and its oppressive censorship. Slowly but surely Brazilian media have been moving to a more open a vibrant journalism.

But there still seem to be some political leaders who haven’t gotten the message that censorship is out and freedom is in.

It wasn’t until last year that legislation limiting who could be a journalist was overturned by the nation’s supreme court.

The legislation required journalists to have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and pass a government exam. Both components were carried over from the dictatorship into the democracy. Case after case came forward that claimed the government intervention as to who could be a journalists was the same as promoting state-control of the media.

Eventually the exam was knocked out and then education requirement.

But that still doesn’t mean there aren’t problems.

In this election year, in dozens of cases Brazilian media have been barred from providing coverage or reports related to the first round elections Oct. 3.

And things haven’t changed much as we approach the final round Oct. 31.

On live TV, Brazilian anchor says his station was censored by state government

The Knight Center for Latin American Journalism has a wonderful Google Map that describes the violations and where they occurred. The center also has a link to a similar map created by Brazilian journalist Maira Magro for the 2008 election.

Even without the heat of a contested election, sometimes the leadership of a state or the nation decides that he/she needs more control over what is printed/aired.

Last year President Lula went on a tear against the media.

He said the media commits “excesses,” publishes “lies,” fabricates news and gets involved in campaigns that disseminate “slander and abuse.”

To counter these “violations” of responsible reporting, Lula suggested the creation of “social council” to audit press content. He referred to the process as “social control” of the media to ensure the media serve the public good.

To promote the council, the government sponsored a National Conference on Communications late last year. At that time Lula said the “social council” was needed to balance the power of the press.

The conference participants included a large number of Lula’s political base. A few media groups that also attended. And many of those that did ended up walking out rather than add their names to what was seen as a power play to limit freedom of the press.

The influential Sao Paulo newspaper Estado wrote and editorial that summed up the media’s view of the council:

“Social control of the media is an euphemism to subordinate the free flow of information to the undercover interference from government.”

News organizations said for the council to do what Lula wanted, the constitution would have to be amended to limit freedom of the press or at least make that freedom contingent on council approval.

One of the media groups that refused to participate was the National Magazine Editors, Aner.

Aner president Roberto Muylaert said his organization did not participate because the council seemed to be a way of establishing a way for the government to interfere in the practice of free press.

“The proposal to create a ‘social council’ to audit press content implies modifications to the Constitution which guarantees free initiative and freedom of expression,” said Muylaert. He added “social control sends shivers anywhere in the world because it is incompatible with freedom of expression and a free press.”

Because there was no media support for the conference’s 600+ recommendations it looked, at first, as if the proposals would fade away.

Unfortunately, Lula issued an executive decree in July of this year to establish a commission that would implement the recommendations for broadcasters. (Because broadcasters are already a regulated industry, the government says it can move on the proposals in this field of the news media.)

The “social council” and the issue of “social control” of the media became part of the current presidential campaign.

Main opposition party candidate José Serra raised the “social control” issue before a convention of journalists. He called “social control” of the media promoted by the Lula administration was the same as restricting freedom of the press and a form of “censorship”.

Serra also questioned the creation of TV Brazil, which he described as a government channel designed to be “an instrument to make propaganda in favor of the administration and employ journalists close to the government.”

Even in the heat of the presidential election, the “social council” commission appointed by Lula is moving ahead with its work.

If, as expected, Lula’s hand-picked candidate wins, she will have to decide the fate of the commission recommendations. News organizations are concerned that she will rubber-stamp the report.

Additional Reading

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New international press freedom index out and why it’s important

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Reporters Without Borders came out with their annual Press Freedom Index this week.

Press Freedom Index 2010

Unfortunately, things don’t look all that great for press freedom around the world. And that could also mean more economic and human rights problems.

First let’s look at the RSF report and what it has to say about press freedom in the world.

According to RSF, Europe was a major disappointment.

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly expressed its concern about the deteriorating press freedom situation in the European Union and the 2010 index confirms this trend. Thirteen of the EU’s 27 members are in the top 20 but some of the other 14 are very low in the ranking. Italy is 49th, Romania is 52nd and Greece and Bulgaria are tied at 70th. The European Union is not a homogenous whole as regards media freedom. On the contrary, the gap between good and bad performers continues to widen.

It is worth noting that, for the first time since the start of the index in 2002, Cuba is not one of the 10 worst countries. (It is #13 from the bottom.)

This is due above all to the release of 14 journalists and 22 activists in the course of the past summer. But the situation on the ground has not changed significantly. Political dissidents and independent journalists still have to deal with censorship and repression on a daily basis.

So we are not really looking at anew opening in Cuba, just the political leadership looking for a few global brownie points.

Brazil moved up 12 points in its freedom ranking largely due to real progress in media law and free press practices. It leads the way for freedom among the so-called BRIC countries as well.

Economic growth does not mean press freedom

The BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – may all be at a roughly similar stage of economic development but the 2010 index highlights major differences in the press freedom situation in these countries. Thanks to favourable legislative changes, Brazil (58th) has risen 12 places in the past year, while India has fallen 17 places to 122nd. Russia, which had a particularly deadly preceding year, is still poorly placed at 140th. Despite an astonishingly vibrant and active blogosphere, China still censors and jails dissidents and continues to languish in 171st place. These four countries now shoulder the responsibilities of the emerging powers and must fulfil their obligations as regards fundamental rights.

Brazilian journalists are rightfully proud of the efforts they have made in the past couple of years to remove the last vestiges of the dictatorship years.

Yes, there is still a long way to go, but the progress has been impressive.

The bottom 10 countries on the RSF list should not surprise anyone:

169 Rwanda
170 Yemen
171 China
172 Sudan
173 Syria
174 Burma
175 Iran
176 Turkmenistan
177 North Korea
178 Eritrea

Sometimes it is interesting to compare the rankings of one group with another. In this case, I will take the bottom 10 from the RSF and compare their rankings with the Freedom House Press Freedom Index and the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.

Freedom House takes other issues into consideration when making its evaluation. (In my opinion, it is a more thorough reading of press and media freedom because it does take into consideration political freedoms and human rights violations as well.)

The Transparency International corruption index has been a great source of information about corruption around the world. In general, you see more corruption where the media are more constrained.

RSF Ranking Country Freedom House Transparency Intl.
Worst=178 RSF Bottom 10 Worst=196 Worst=180
169 Rwanda 178 89
170 Yemen 173 154
171 China 181 79
172 Sudan 165 176
173 Syria 178 126
174 Burma 194 178
175 Iran 187 168
176 Turkmenistan 194 168
177 North Korea 196 No Data
178 Eritrea 192 126

The countries with numbers in red indicate “membership” in the bottom 10 of their respective indexes.

So there is a clear consensus of who the bad guys are when it comes to press freedom.

There is also a pretty clear correlation between the lack of press freedom and corruption.

Just in case anyone asks why Americans should be concerned about press freedom in other countries, besides the usual “if one person is not free no one is free” philosophical answer, you can also point out that without a free press corruption and all its evils is allowed to flourish.

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