Tag Archives: Media Issues

Number of Journalists Murdered in Retaliation for Their Work More Than Doubled in 2020: Report

“The fact that murder is on the rise and the number of journalists imprisoned around the world hit a record is a clear demonstration that press freedom is under unprecedented assault.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-22-2020

Graphic: Committee to Protect Journalists

In what one leading advocate called “a failure by the international community,” the number of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work more than doubled in 2020, according to a report published Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

CPJ’s annual report contains a database of 30 journalists who were killed in 15 countries during the course of the year. Of these, six died while working “dangerous assignments,” three were caught in the crossfire during the ongoing Syrian civil war, and 21 were murdered. Continue reading

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‘This Is Atrocious’: Congress Crams Language to Criminalize Online Streaming, Meme-Sharing Into 5,500-Page Omnibus Bill

“These types of decisions should never be made in closed-door negotiations between politicians and industry or rushed through as part of some must-pass spending package.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-21-2020

Photo: Frank Oppong/Twitter

Lawmakers in Congress are under fire from digital rights campaigners for embedding three controversial changes to online copyright and trademark laws into the must-pass $2.3 trillion legislative package—which includes a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill and a $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill—that could receive floor votes in the House and Senate as early as Monday evening.

The punitive provisions crammed into the enormous bill (pdf), warned Evan Greer of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, “threaten ordinary Internet users with up to $30,000 in fines for engaging in everyday activity such as downloading an image and re-uploading it… [or] sharing memes.” Continue reading

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US Votes Against UN Resolution Condemning Nazis, Labels It “Russian Disinformation”

This is far from the first time the US has voted against similar resolutions; it has done so every year since 2014, dismissing them as Russian attempts to delegitimize the Ukrainian government.

By Alan Macleod. Published 12-18-2020 by MintPress News

Supporters of the ultra far-right Azov Battalion march in Kyiv on August 24, 2019. Photo: Goo3/Wikimedia Commons/CC

The United States and Ukraine were the only two nations to vote against a United Nations resolution Wednesday on, “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” The resolution passed 130-2.

The resolution featured 70 fairly bland statements condemning the crimes of Adolf Hitler, while also expressing concern at the rise of contemporary Neo-Nazi groups. Continue reading

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France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Sparked by a new bill that would make publishing photos of police illegal and a viral video soon after that shows French police brutally beating a black man, it appears that France may be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment.

By Alan Macleod. Published 11-30-2020 by MintPress News

Screenshot: EuroNews

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBCCBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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Trump lost the election, but he won the online disinformation war

Social media platforms have allowed US conservatives to delegitimise the election and sow mistrust of democracy.

By Peter Geoghegan. Published 11-9-2020 by openDemocracy

Screenshot: WNCT

In late August, roughly five weeks before Americans went to the polls, a story appeared in The New York Times reporting new data about the reach of fringe US conservative outlets on Facebook. The numbers were staggering.

Posts by far-right news site Breitbart had been shared three times as often as posts from the official pages of every Democratic member of the US senate combined in the previous 30 days. Conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro had chalked up 56 million interactions, more than the main pages of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR put together. Continue reading

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One Thing Very Certain After Election Day: ‘Coronavirus Spreading Like Wildfire’

The U.S. is “entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic… leading to increasing mortality,” warned Dr. Deborah Birx earlier this week.

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-4-2020

Political uncertainty remains as vote-counting continues after an Election Day which saw millions of voters head to the polls across the U.S., but one thing that’s for sure is that “coronavirus is spreading like wildfire” throughout the country.

According to Johns Hopkins data, the U.S. recorded 91,350 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday. This marked the second-highest single-day figure to date, CNBC reported, while CNN noted that the five days with the highest number of coronavirus cases have all occurred since October 29. Continue reading

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Watchdog Fights Back as Facebook Attempts to Shut Down Research Exposing ‘Political Disinformation’ in Ad Practices

“Rather than combat the rampant disinformation and hate on its platform, Facebook has decided to go after the people who are helping voters understand who is trying to influence their votes.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-26-2020

In response to Facebook’s attempt to cancel a NYU research project that has been collecting data about the company’s ad-targeting practices, Common Cause has launched a petition imploring the social media giant to “shut down disinformation on their platform—instead of trying to shut down the advocates and academics who are trying to expose it.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

In response to Facebook’s attempt to shut down a New York University research project that has been collecting data about the social media corporation’s ad-targeting practices, progressive advocacy group Common Cause has launched a petition drive imploring the technology behemoth to “let the program continue and instead shut down the rampant disinformation on the platform.”

After researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to collect data about the ads Facebook shows them by using a specially designed browser extension, the social media giant informed the university in a mid-October letter that the project violates the site’s rules against bulk data collection, according to reporting from The Hill late last week. Continue reading

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FCC Head and Internet’s Most Hated Man Ajit Pai Just Vowed to Kill First Amendment Rights Online

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has vowed to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Act on President Trump’s orders in a move that threatens to curb what’s left of Americans’ first amendment rights online.

By Raul Diego.  Published 10-16-2020 by MintPress News

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

Citing “censorship outcry” from the three branches of government, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced yesterday via tweet the agency’s intention to move forward with regulation of social media by looking to modify Section 230 of the Communications Act, which protects the likes of Facebook and Twitter from the parts of the U.S. code that opens publishers to legal challenges over the content posted to their platforms, which inevitably puts content creators, themselves, in the cross hairs of the legal system without the benefit of their first amendment rights.  Continue reading

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‘These Are the Actions of a Fascist’: Press, Rights Advocates Warn of Dangerous Pattern as Trump Again Lauds Violence Against Journalists

“An American president does not praise violence against a reporter for doing his job. That is what an ugly, insecure two-bit dictator does.”

By Lisa Newcomb, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-23-2020

Ali Velshi was hit by a rubber bullet while covering the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. Screenshot: MSNBC

Free speech advocates warned against President Donald Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric demonizing journalists following a speech at a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday in which the commander-in-chief celebrated violence against members of the press.

“Trump has been inciting hatred of reporters for years,” Mark Follman, national affairs editor for Mother Jones, tweeted. “As a result, American journalists have faced many violent threats… Trump veils it with mockery—but this behavior is no joke. It’s fascist, and it’s dangerous.” Continue reading

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Watchdog Calls on Authorities to Drop ‘Absurd’ Charges Against Journalists Covering Black Lives Matter Protests

More than 600 attacks against members of the press covering the ongoing protests have been reported to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

By Lisa Newcomb, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-18-2020

BLM protest in California – June 2020. Photo: Jackie Speier/Twitter

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called for authorities to drop charges against members of the news media who were arrested while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the United States.

“It is absurd that law enforcement officials around the country continue to pursue charges against journalists who were doing their jobs at the time they were arrested,” Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ program director, said in a statement. “It’s high time for authorities to drop this pursuit, which is frivolous and wasteful.” Continue reading

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