Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’


2015: Another dangerous year for journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports:

Syria, France most deadly countries for the press

Of 69 journalists killed for their work in 2015, 40 percent died at the hands of Islamic militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. More than two-thirds of the total killed were singled out for murder.

Worldwide, 69 journalists were killed in the line of duty—including those murdered in reprisal for their work as well as those killed in combat or crossfire or on other dangerous assignments. The total, which includes journalists killed between January 1 and December 23, 2015, is higher than the 61 journalists killed in 2014. CPJ is investigating the deaths of at least 26 more journalists during the year to determine whether they were work-related.

Unlike in the past three years, the deaths were widely distributed across countries. At least five journalists were killed in each Iraq, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Sudan, and Yemen.

List of journalists killed in 2015.

Here is the CPJ list of deadliest places to be a journalist:

Deadliest Countries in 2015

  1. Syria: 13
  2. France: 9
  3. Brazil: 6
  4. Yemen: 5
  5. South Sudan: 5
  6. Iraq: 5
  7. Bangladesh: 5
  1. Mexico: 4
  2. Somalia: 3
  3. USA: 2
  4. Turkey: 2
  5. Kenya: 1
  6. Ukraine: 1
  7. Pakistan: 1
  1. Colombia: 1
  2. Libya: 1
  3. Poland: 1
  4. Ghana: 1
  5. India: 1
  6. Guatemala: 1

CPJ Report: Libya: foreign reporters ‘outlaws’; Mideast attacks continue

The latest on the situation on attacks against journalists in Libya and the Middle East from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

New York, February 23, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the ongoing attack on journalists and bloggers in the Middle East. Today the Libyan deputy foreign minister warned foreign journalists crossing the eastern border that they will be treated as “outlaws,” according to news reports. In Iraq, gunmen raided the office of a local press freedom group; in Egypt, pro-government supporters attacked a group of local journalists; and in Syria, a young blogger was arrested on Sunday, according to news reports.

Some foreign journalists in Libya have been able to enter the country through the eastern border, according to news reports, but today, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Khaim warned those who entered Libya illegally that they will be arrested if they do not give themselves in to authorities, according to Agence France-Presse. “There are journalists who entered illegally and we consider them as if they are collaborating with Al-Qaeda and as outlaws and we are not responsible for their security,” Khaim said. Qaddafi’s government lost control over the eastern border on Tuesday, according to news reports.

For rest of report, click here.

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.

Getting stories in Iraq getting tougher

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Good piece this morning on NPR Morning Edition on the new regulations the Iraqi government is forcing on journalists.

In Iraq, Getting The Story Gets Tougher For Reporters

The government office that oversees the press in Iraq is the Communication and Media Commission. It was set up by the U.S., just after the 2003 invasion.

The commission recently announced that all news organizations, both Iraqi and foreign, are now required to register, pay hefty licensing fees, and sign a pledge that they won’t ignite sectarian tensions or encourage terrorism.

To be honest, this should not be surprising.

The tradition of free media independent of government control is not something seen in that part of the world.

Earlier this year, the government proposed a series of rules that severely restrict journalists.

Among the proposal submitted in February, media organizations must submit lists of their employees to the government.

Forget the privacy concerns. Think about safety of the journalists. Of the 140 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, at least 89 were targeted for murder, according the Committee to Protect Journalists. The CPJ showed that these journalists were targeted because of sectarian or work affiliations.

And in July the government proposed a special press court to deal with complaints against journalists.

The government — as noted in the NPR piece — also keeps reporters away from attacks sites.

It is not surprising that the Iraqi government is doing these things — traditions are hard to break — but what is upsetting is that the U.S. government is not speaking out more aggressively against these restrictions of the very freedoms that were supposed to have been brought to the Iraqi people with the fall of the dictatorship.

Why did media ignore request for FOI law in Afghanistan?

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

With all the to-do about the International Donors Conference in Kabul this week, one item got little (dare I say, no) mention in the media reports and government statements: the need for a freedom of information law.

One of the key points of the conference was the need to reduce corruption in the Afghan government. (Let’s face it, no one expects to eliminate corruption. The best anyone could do is limit it.) In response to that call, several Afghan civil society groups and media organizations launched a campaign highlighting the need to have access to government documents. And the best way to do that is to enact a freedom of information law.

AFGHAN CIVIL SOCIETY LAUNCHES ACCESS TO INFORMATION CAMPAIGN

Too bad no one in the West reported on it.

The issue of corruption in Afghanistan is indeed serious.

According to Transparency International, Afghanistan is just one point away from being the most corrupt country in the world. Only Somalia is more corrupt — and that is a country that barely has a functioning civil society. That makes Afghanistan more corrupt than well-know spots of corruption such as Sudan, Iraq and Haiti.

So, how does one combat corruption?

The idealists and political science modelers will say: “Enact anti-corruption legislation and then enforce it.” But the very people who depend on corruption for their standard living are also the ones in charge of enforcing the law. How serious do you think they will be in enforcing the law?

What is needed is a way to shine sunlight (the best disinfectant) on government projects. And that is where an FOI law comes into play.

The Afghan civic and media groups explain the need for an FOI law succinctly:

Citizens will be able to know essential information about the provision of public services, such as land distribution and its criteria, timeframe for issuing passports or identity cards, school construction costs and electricity distribution.

Where ever FOI laws are enacted and enforced, one thing is true, more citizens and citizen groups than journalists ask for the data. It makes no difference if it is the USA or the Dominican Republic, the story is the same. Requests under the FOI laws come overwhelmingly from individuals or civic organizations rather than journalists.

And yet it is journalists who argue the loudest for freedom of information laws.

Promises to put data on the Internet — as Afghanistan has promised to do — is all well and good. IF people have access to a computer and the Internet. Posting on the Internet is not the same as having an open government and making data available to people

In Afghanistan, population 29 million, only 500,000 people have access to the Internet.

So tell me again, how posting everything on the Internet in a country where less than 2% of the population has access to that data is helpful. It reminds me of how people praise the near 100% literacy rate in Cuba, while at the same time failing to note that WHAT the people can read is severely limited by the government under pain of long jail sentences.

It is indeed a pity that so many people focused on the speeches by the big participants in the Kabul conference and all the talk of development aid while ignoring some simple basic things that Afghans are calling for to help make their own government more accountable.

Would it really have taken that much time to add the FOI message to a story about the conference?

Soldier in helicopter video speaks out/Another part of the story

A couple of days ago, Wired magazine published what seems to me the first account of a soldier on the ground following the Apache helicopter attack in 2007 that killed two Reuters journalists and a number of civilians.

U.S. Soldier on 2007 Apache Attack: What I Saw

In July 2007, [Ethan] McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage – the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.

McCord left the service last year. Wired reached him in Kansas.

He makes it clear that those who said people in the video had no weapons are just wrong.
In the video, you can clearly see that they did have weapons … to the trained eye. You can make out in the video [someone] carrying an AK-47, swinging it down by his legs….

The most moving part of the interview, however, is McCord’s description of what he saw when he arrived at the scene of the shooting, the wounded families and the aftermath, including the reaction of McCord’s sergeant.

When McCord said the injuries to the children caught in the attack affected him and he wanted to see a mental health professional.

I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health.

Later that same night the sergeant told McCord the children would survive.

I didn’t know if he was telling me that just to get me to shut up and to do my job or if he really found something out. I always questioned it in the back of my mind.

I raise this because reaction of the sergeant goes against what the Pentagon mandates.

I get the Armed Forces Network here in Brazil. AFN shows current television programs (including all the news programs). Instead of having commercials about soap and cars, the breaks are filled with PSAs from the services. One of the most common themes in these PSAs is the need — the importance — of getting proper mental treatment.

And the reasoning behind those ads is clear: Last year 334 members of the US military committed suicide. Compare that to the 297 who died in action in Afghanistan and the 150 killed in Iraq and one can see what is greater threat to the troops.

There have been occasional stories about the toll service in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking on our military. Yet, it strikes me that there have not been enough. (GBT seems to be doing a pretty good job with his series the past couple of weeks.)

Transparency saves lives.

Discussions about what to do following the release of the video of the Apache helicopter attack that showed the killing of two Reuters correspondents continues. The video was released by WikiLeaks earlier this month.

Many praised the organization for making the video public. Others complained that WikiLeaks released the video to promote a political agenda. (Something WikiLeaks does not deny. Just the hede the company gave the story — Collateral Murder — bespeaks a political agenda.) And others said the video did not tell the whole story. (There were snipers in the area and fighting taking place just block away.)

Even with all the discussion that has taken place, questions remain.

David Schlesinger Reuters editor in chief, wrote in the Guardian yesterday:

It was impossible for me to watch and not feel outrage and great sorrow – but this is not about trying to tell anyone else what to feel. This is about trying to find out exactly what happened and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

What I want from the Pentagon – and from all militaries – is simple: acknowledgment, transparency, accountability.

What does he mean by these three points?

  • Acknowledgment means both understanding at headquarters and training in the field that journalists have a right to be on the battlefield.
  • Transparency is vital. This is the honesty for all to learn lessons from what has transpired.
  • Finally there is accountability…Let’s fully understand the rules the military were operating under.

Schlesinger is not calling for anyone’s head on a platter. He wants the horrible events put in context.

Let’s dig behind the video. Let’s fully understand the rules the military were operating under. Let’s have a complete picture of what was going through the fliers’ minds.

My guess is that we would all be better off if there was more acceptance, transparency and accountability.

DC area: This might be an interesting internship

Media affairs intern for the Iraqi embassy in Washington, DC.

Click here for details.

Iraqi government tries to bypass media

The leadership in Iraq is not used to the idea of free media and media criticism. So rather than deal more openly with the media it is just going straight to YouTube — and not allow any comments.

Something tells me they still don’t get this democracy/free press thing.

Iraq to counter “lies”, show successes via YouTube

First published at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Iraqi court screws newspaper

It really doesn’t matter is a person is a liberal or conservative. If that person supports democracy, he/she supports (often grudgingly) independent media.

So while the United States and its junior partners work to stabilize Iraq and help establish the infrastructure necessary for a democratic political system, laws that forbid criticism of the president and other national leaders remain on the books.

The Guardian of London was recently fined 52,000 pounds (about US$87,000) for and article the court said defamed the prime minister.

Iraqi court rules Guardian defamed Nouri al-Maliki

The article in question, by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an award-winning staff correspondent for the Guardian, quoted three unnamed members of the Iraqi national intelligence service who claimed that the prime minister was beginning to run Iraqi affairs with an authoritarian hand

And, the Guardian reports, this is part of a larger effort to keep the media down.

Iraqi court ruling against Guardian seen as part of crackdown on media

The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and several of his ministers have launched at least four legal actions against foreign press outlets over the past year. The Guardian, the New York Times and the wire service AP have all been served with writs, while Al-Jazeera has been forced out of Iraq, allegedly because of an anti-government bias. Local outlets are also being targeted, with representatives from the staunchly anti-government Al-Sharqiya channel now banned from all government events and buildings and the Al-Baghdadia channel, made famous by the shoe-throwing antics of its former reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi, also under threat of a boycott.

It would be nice if there was more reporting like this in the U.S. press.

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