Tag Archives: Journalism

Finnish Newspaper Greets Trump and Putin With Billboards Defending ‘Free Press’

With protesters in the streets of Helsinki, U.S. and Russian presidents get cold and critical greeting in nation’s capital city

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-15-2018

Finland’s largest newspaper put out clear markers for both President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin ahead of a one-on-one meeting in Helsinki on Monday. (Photo: Helsingin Sanomat/Finland)

Like every other place the U.S. president has traveled in Europe over the last week, large protests also took place in the Finnish capitol of Helsinki on Sunday—a day ahead of a highly anticipated and much-hyped meeting with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.

Both leaders were also greeted with a large billboard advertisement purchased by Helsingin Sanomat, the nation’s largest newspaper, which bashed the Trump and Putin as being enemies of journalism and a free press. Continue reading

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Choke points for the preservation of our liberty

Press freedom is only where we should start as activists, not where we should stop

Written by Dan Gillmor. Published 10-26-15 by Open Democracy.

Telegraph newsroom by antony_mayfield, via flickr

Telegraph newsroom
by antony_mayfield, via flickr

The following is based on the speech given by the author at the Global Editors Network Summit in 2014. Thanks go to the author for allowing us to republish it here.

This happened earlier this year: New York Times investigative reporter James Risen used Twitter to denounce the Obama administration’s attitude toward journalists in general, and national security journalists in particular. Of all recent administrations, he said–accurately, I think—this one has been the “greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”

Risen’s tirade set off a brief debate in the community of people who watch and comment on journalism. Some said a reporter shouldn’t be expressing such thoughts publicly, because it might cause readers to question his–and his newspaper’s–commitment to “objective” reporting. But the newspaper’s editor in charge of journalism standards told Margaret Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, that Risen had done the right thing.

“In general,” this editor said, “our reporters understand that they don’t and shouldn’t editorialize on issues we cover….I would put this in a different category.”

This was an important moment in the history of the New York Times. It was officially admitting that it is not neutral, not objective – isn’t pretending to be neutral or objective–on this topic. The Times, as an organization, was taking an activist stance. And of course it should.

So what I’d like to suggest to you today is that all journalists need to think of themselves as activists in the world we now live in, a digital age that has created enormous new challenges to free speech and other liberties. But press freedom is only where we should start, not where we should stop.

Before I go on, let’s define our terms. Journalism can include so many things, ranging from deep investigative work to fluffy entertainment. For our purposes, let’s think of it as helping people understand the world they live in, so that they can make better decisions about how they live. When we do it right, we have to tell truth to the rich and powerful, and uncover things that the rich and powerful would prefer to keep secret. We have to be thorough, accurate, fair, independent and–this is not done enough–transparent. Everyone in this room knows that journalism is vital to liberty, and its cornerstone is free speech.

For activism, I’ll start with the dictionary definition: “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” I’d add a corollary–sometimes activism means campaigning to stop certain things from happening.

In many parts of this world, journalists are activists by definition—because truth telling in repressive societies is an act designed to bring about change. I’m humbled by the people who risk their freedom, and sometimes their lives, to tell their fellow citizens and the rest of the world what is happening where they live.

In the western democracies with a more robust tradition of free speech and a free press, the idea of journalists as activists is often seen as taking sides in contravention of journalistic norms. But there’s a long and honorable history of what we call “advocacy journalism”–we could easily call it “activist journalism”–exposing injustices with the absolute goal of stirring public anger, and then public action to bring about change. The muckrakers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did brilliant journalism of this kind. Today filmmaker Laura Poitras, director of “Citizen Four” about Edward Snowden, is among many others who are carrying on that tradition.

Also today, we have a new category of journalism in the advocacy realm. It’s being done by people who are advocates first, and media producers second. I’m talking, for example, about Human Rights Watch, which consistently does phenomenal reporting on human rights issues around the world.

I’m talking about the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that consistently does some of the best reporting about threats to our fundamental liberties including free speech. In the interest of transparency, I should mention that my fantastically talented nephew, Daniel Kahn Gillmor, works with the ACLU.

In the past, these organizations and NGOs like them around the world were doing the reporting. Now, in the digital age, every organization of any kind is also a media enterprise, and can go more directly to the public. Collaborations with traditional journalists are still helpful, but no longer as absolutely necessary as they were.

We should welcome the advocates to the journalism ecosystem–and recognize them for their work. By the way, the American Civil Liberties Union probably litigates more open-records cases on issues related to liberty, including free speech, than all traditional news organizations put together.

Now, I’m not saying all advocates are doing journalism–far from it. In many cases we’re getting untrue, unfair propaganda. We need to know the difference, as journalists and as members of the public–that’s another talk entirely.

So we have a baseline of journalistic activism–all around us and often incredibly valuable–on a variety of topics. It makes many traditional journalists uncomfortable. Why? Because we’re told, again and again, that one of journalism’s core values is objectivity and/or neutrality.

But now I’m coming back to my main point. Even journalists who worship at the altar of objectivity should recognize that on some issues, they cannot possibly be objective. Or at least, they should not be. On some issues we have to take stands, even though those stands may put us at policy odds with the people and institutions we cover.

What are these issues? The New York Times has picked one: freedom of the press. I hope no one here would dispute the need to take a stand for press freedom.

Yet this is just one of several policy issues where journalists who do not take activists stands aren’t doing their jobs. These issues come under larger topics at the core of our liberty, among them: freedom of expression, freedom to associate, freedom to collaborate, freedom to innovate.

On those, at least, we should be biased, and open about it.

We need to take these stands because powerful people and institutions, notably governments and corporations, are attacking these core values in the Digital Age. They’re typically doing this in the name of protecting us or giving us more convenience, and there’s some truth in that. But in the process, these powerful entities are creating a host of choke points. They’re locking down more and more of our computing and communications, and creating a system of control over what we say and do.

This is a betrayal of the Internet’s decentralized promise, where speech and innovation and collaboration would often start at the edges of this network of networks, where no one needed permission to do those things. Choke points mean we have to ask permission.

first-amendmentChoke points

What are these choke points? Here are just a few of many.

Start with direct censorship of the Internet, a growing trend in far too many parts of the world. I trust no one here would object to journalistic activism on this front. The New York Times last year did just that by publicly telling China it wouldn’t be intimidated by the regime’s heavy-handed media control.

The Digital Age has become a golden age for something else: surveillance. And wholesale spying on everything that moves has become a method for government—often working with big companies— to keep track of what journalists and activists are doing. This goes way beyond the mission of stopping terrorism and solving major crimes, and it goes to everyone’s liberty, not just journalists’ privilege.

Surveillance has a measurable chilling effect on freedom of expression, and no society that exists under pervasive surveillance can claim to enjoy basic liberty. We know from history that it deadens innovation and culture. Journalists need to actively oppose the surveillance state, if we truly believe in free expression.

Another choke point is the telecommunications industry. In America and many other countries–and often in concert with governments–big telecoms say they should have the right to decide what bits of information get to people’s devices in what order and at what speed, or whether they get there at all. This is what the network neutrality debate is all about in the US: whether we, at the edges of the networks, or the cartel of telecom companies that provide the access to the Internet, get to make those decisions.

Another choke point is what’s called ‘intellectual property’–a useful concept but widely abused. Hollywood and its allies are relentless in their wish to lock down or control innovative technologies that threaten incumbent companies’ business models. They’re abusing the patent and copyright systems, among other tactics. And they never, ever quit. Their latest sneak attack is embedded in a secretly negotiated treaty called the Trans Pacific Partnership. (We know about some of this because Wikileaks has published drafts of several chapters of this immense treaty.)

Speaking of Wikileaks, let’s mention another choke point: the major payment systems  like Mastercard, Visa and PayPal. They almost shut down Wikileaks with a funding blackout. Only a few news organizations noticed, much less complained. Yet if you can’t get paid for your work, how do you plan to put food on your table? The centralized payment industry holds enormous power, by proxy, over journalists’ ability to make a living.

Now we’ve helped create some of the choke points—by choosing convenience over liberty in relying on centralized technology and communications platforms like Facebook and Google and Apple and Twitter. I have to note that these companies do provide useful services. And they are often trying to be advocates for free speech, though not consistently.

But do journalists understand that the Internet is getting new editors, namely the people who work for some of those companies? Do journalists understand that by feeding Facebook they are feeding a company that will be their biggest financial competitor? If this was only a business issue I wouldn’t raise it. But it’s much more than that. This is about whether the terms of service at a tiny number of giant companies, as opposed to the First Amendment and other laws like it, will effectively determine our free speech rights.

The corporate online powers are also spying on us. It’s their business model. Journalists are waking up to this, more so in Europe than in the US, but we all need to be thinking harder about how companies can use and abuse big data. We need to help people understand what’s happening, and then campaign for privacy from corporations, not just governments.

Education—of journalists, first, and then audiences—is just the start of what we need to do. More editorials like the Times broadside will help, but news organizations need to reflect a commitment to free speech in their coverage, and beyond.

When it comes to taking action, the revelations of pervasive US government spying have spurred some journalists to pay more attention to security and, in a few cases, deploy countermeasures. (Appallingly, some journalists are kowtowing to government’s growing attacks on basic liberties.)

We need to do much more.

We should hold events to help others learn about countermeasures they, too, can use. And we should overtly lobby—to persuade the public, and Congress, that liberty does carry some risks but is worth preserving.

On network control, news organizations should be shouting from the rooftops about the telecom industry’s power grab. They should be warning the public about what’s at stake. They should be lobbying for federal rules that protect speech and innovation, and at the state level against the telecom giants’ pernicious campaign to bar communities from deploying their own networks.

In all kinds of ways, we should be working to re-decentralize the Internet—both for our own sakes and the public good. The centralized powers won’t be tamed anytime soon, and they’re not all bad by any means. But let’s do what we can to help innovators at the edges of networks, because that’s where free speech starts and ultimately where it is heard.

I’m not asking journalists to ignore nuances in any of this; life and business and policy truly are complicated. But when it comes to things that directly threaten perhaps our the most fundamental liberties—without which journalism is vastly more difficult if not impossible—there’s no excuse for failing to explain what’s at stake. Nor is there any excuse for failing to take a more activist role in preserving liberty.

Core freedoms – of expression, association, and more – should be everyone’s right. Journalists, and journalism educators, have a duty to be their active defenders.

Because unless you prefer a world of choke points and control by others, this is part of our job.

About the author

Dan Gillmor teaches digital media literacy at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. A writer of books, articles and commentary, Dan speaks widely about tech and media issues, and has been a co-founder, investor and advisor in a number of media-related startups.

This article is published as part of an openDemocracy editorial partnership with the World Forum for Democracy. The insights gathered during the annual Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy inform the work of the Council of Europe and its numerous partners in the field of democracy and democratic governance.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

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Nigeria’s Worst Day – and No One Noticed

With as many as 2,000 killed and 10,000 fleeing, few in the world are aware of Boko Haram’s most deadly attack to date.

Since two terrorists affiliated with Al Queda attacked the press offices of French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve cartoonists/journalists and their security forces, the media has been obsessed with a saturated coverage as the drama played out. While the attacks were horrendous, and justified the world’s unity seen in response, we are left wondering why a blind eye and silent microphone is being given to the horrendous attacks in Nigeria, and why these deaths are no less deserving of attention.

Photo via Twitter

Photo via Twitter

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Keep the Lights On – Journalism Is Not A Crime!

On December 29, 2013, Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed  were jailed in Egypt. They have been sentenced to seven and ten years. Their appeal is scheduled to be heard on Jan. 1, 2015. To commemorate the one year anniversary of their jailing, newsrooms across the world will stop work at 1200 Egypt-time to pause and reflect on the year’s events.

2014 goes on record as the second worst year for journalists jailed worldwide, topped only by 2012, which saw 232 imprisoned. However, the numbers do not include those held by Daesch (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, currently estimated to be approximately 80. Continue reading

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Egypt: press freedom at a crossroads

By Sherif Mansour

The military-backed regime in Egypt has an answer to criticism—blame the messenger. But journalists are fighting back.

Under Threat: Egyptian Press in Peril from Committee to Protect Journalists on Vimeo

The current Egyptian government is trying to roll back time, reversing one of the gains of the revolution of 2011 by cracking down on the press and forcing independent and critical voices into silence, exile, prison—or worse. But local and international voices are desperately resisting. Continue reading

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How did this happen?

With the growing world concern regarding the Islamic State, the question has been raised about how this group achieved enough power and assets without being noticed, enabling them to morph into the threat they have become today.

The same thing was said in past uprisings from terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and others.

As the world scrambles to figure this out, it boggles our mind why the question exists. When you limit journalism, take freedom of the press out of vast areas, and stifle the news to only what the state approves, this is what happens.

We’ve written before about the challenges and dangers that journalists face. We have heard of the confirmation of two American journalists being beheaded by the Islamic State, We have witnessed Egypt imprison Al Jazeera staff. The world over, journalists are threatened by criminals, governments and terrorists.

Yet these people dedicate their lives to getting the news out. Trying to tell the world what is happening when those around you would rather see you dead is a bit challenging.

Occupy World Writes is grateful to all journalists who get their story out. We call on Egypt and all other governments currently imprisoning journalists to release them immediately. We support those who assist these people in their efforts and recognize journalists as true heroes.

Journalism is not a crime.

Journalist James Foley was beheaded by Islamic State on August 20, 2014. Photo via FaceBook.

Journalist James Foley was beheaded by Islamic State on August 20, 2014. Photo via FaceBook.

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Silencing Truth

Ayman Mohyeldin. Photo By Abdo26 (Own work by Ayman) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ayman Mohyeldin. Photo By Abdo26 (Own work by Ayman) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the afternoon of July 16, Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent specializing in covering the Gaza Strip crisis, spent some time on the on the way back to his hotel, where he kicked a ball around with a group of Palestinian boys, age 9 to 11, all from the same family. He then proceeded to his hotel and the boys left the sidestreet and proceeded to the beach across the street from the hotel. Moments later, he witnessed an Israeli gunboat approach the beach and launch an attack. Instinctively, the frightened boys ran, and were gunned down on the beach.  Four of them died.

We aren’t going to go into Israel’s insistence that they are specifically targeting only military targets. We want to mention that the media center was one of the first targets in Gaza City when the latest incursion began. But what we want to really focus on here is what happened with this correspondent following his recounting of the event he witnessed. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack.

Ayman Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American who speaks Arabic, integral to successfully reporting on the Middle East. He is highly respected and known for his accuracy. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English.

NBC has silenced him. Strangely missing, with the only excuse given as “security concerns,” he has been instructed to leave Gaza immediately. Is NBC protecting him from the Israeli decision to launch a ground offensive? If that were so, why would they turn around and send in Richard Engel, with a less experienced cameraman who speaks no Arabic, to report from within Gaza?

CNN correspondent Diana Magnay was re-assigned to Moscow after she referred to a group of Israelis who cheered the bombing of Gaza on Thursday as “scum” after a group of them threatened to burn her vehicle if she reported something they disapproved of. The comment was delivered via her Twitter post, not on the air. It has since been removed.

Al Jazeera staff and journalists have been sentenced to 7 and 10 years in Egypt for their coverage of both sides of the story. We hear reports, when they can get published, of other journalists that are held hostage and others that are killed. It appears that journalism has become a very dangerous profession.

Not telling a story does not change truth. History has proven that truth always surfaces over time. Those who choose to attempt suppression of the truth wish not to live in an enlightened world, but rather in darkness and atrocity. When there is justification for actions, the human tendency is tell everyone of the accomplishment.

What are you afraid of? Will silencing the messenger change the truth?

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Journalism Is Not A Crime

Photo By Brendon Connelly from Newberg, Oregon (Quesadilla and light reading) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Brendon Connelly from Newberg, Oregon (Quesadilla and light reading) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

All over the world, people begin their day with a cup of coffee or tea and the morning paper. As we have progressed into the digital age, this might be an online news source or the click of a remote for cable or mainstream television news.

The world over, journalists spend far more in passion for the truth than they receive in salary. Their risks are seldom appreciated by the news consumers. Their job is to get all sides of a story – including interviews and perspectives that may be contrary to what governments or other subjects of their reports may wish. As such, they risk arrest from one and kidnapping, physical attacks or death from others.

Since 2007, 540 journalists have been killed world wide. Many of them you have never heard of. Many of them died with no one reporting their ordeal.

Three Aljazeera journalists, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, have been detained and held in Egypt’s prisons for 100 days. Their trial resumes April 10. A fourth Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah al-Shami, has been held in Egypt for more than six months and has been on hunger strike since January 23. His detention was extended for an additional 45 days on March 13. Another Al Jazeera journalist, Mohamed Badr, was arrested on July 15 and released on February 5, when he was acquitted of a series of charges including being involved in the protests in Cairo’s Ramses Square.

Egyptian authorities are accusing the Aljazeera staff of falsely reporting the news and of collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood, and included a raid on their hotel room in which their equipment and recorded interviews were seized. There is absolutely no evidence of any sympathy toward the Muslim Brotherhood by any of the journalists involved. It is the understanding of international communities that journalists can interview both sides of a story during a conflict without being seen as taking a side in the issue.

Al Anstey, the managing director of Al Jazeera English said: “Mohamed, Baher, and Peter have now been behind bars in Egypt for 100 days for simply doing their job, and for carrying out the highest quality journalism. The charges against them are false and baseless, so there is no justification whatsoever in the detention of innocent journalists for such an outrageous amount of time. We continue to call for their immediate release and for the release of our colleague from Al Jazeera Arabic, Abdullah Al Shamy, who has been behind bars for 236 days.”

“We are very grateful for the immense support of our staff, from right around the world. The response to their detention has been outstanding. The campaign is focused on the release of our four staff, but is fundamentally a stand in the defence of journalism itself, and a call for people everywhere to have a right to be heard and the right to know what is really going on in their world.”

Nothing in life comes without a price. Next time you consume the news, or complain about subscription prices, try to remember that people are putting their lives on the line so you can know what happens around the world from the comfort and safety of your home. Remember that the real price of the news is sometimes paid for in blood and most times the sacrifice goes unnoticed.

Occupy World Writes adds our voice to those calling for the release of all journalists held in Egypt and the world over. Journalism is not a crime. As we witness growing secrecy in governments and courts blocking coverage of news, we are reminded that a free press is not only essential to democracy, it is an emblem of honor in civilized society.

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