Tag Archives: Press Freedom

In US and Worldwide, Study Shows ‘Never a More Dangerous Time to Be a Journalist’

“Labeling reporting you don’t like as ‘fake news’ sends a signal to authoritarian leaders globally that it’s okay to crack down on the press.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-30-2017

Photo: Steve Sbraccia/Twitter

A new report finds that threats to global journalistic freedoms are at an all-time high, with attacks on the press being increasingly reported in democratic countries as well as under authoritarian regimes.

The freedom of expression advocacy group Article 19 and online database V-Dem compiled data from 172 countries between 2006 and 2016, rating each based on their levels of internet censorship, harassment and intimidation of journalists, media bias and corruption, and other indicators. Continue reading

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Poll: ‘Scary’ Number of Republicans Support Court-Ordered Press Censorship

45 percent of Republicans favor giving courts the power to shutter “biased” media outlets—a number commentators argued should be “scary for anyone concerned about the future of American democracy.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-1-2017

“This poll seems to show one way how Donald Trump’s norm breaking is trickling down and shaping the opinions of rank-and-file Republicans,” said Will Jordan of the Global Strategy Group. (Photo: Majunznk/Flickr/cc)

As the Trump administration continues to make headlines for its attacks on the press and its attempts to prevent journalists from adequately covering White House press briefings, a recent YouGov/Economist poll (pdf) found that 45 percent of Republicans support giving courts the power to shut down “biased” media outlets—a result commentators argued should be “scary for anyone concerned about the future of American democracy.”

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly pilloried specific journalists and the news media more broadly; at one point he suggested that the First Amendment gives the press “too much freedom.” He has also continued to label the press “the enemy of the American people.” Continue reading

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Protests in Poland as Right-Wing Ruling Party Dismantles Democracy

‘This is a blatant attack by Poland’s government on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law’

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2017

Protesters across Poland have flooded the streets for the past week, condemning judicial reforms that will give the right-wing ruling party control over judge selections. (Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr/cc)

Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Poland Thursday night, condemning proposed laws that would dramatically weaken the nation’s judicial system, just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the country and praised its commitment to freedom and democracy, speaking to “an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing” party.

The pending judicial reform is just the latest in a series of anti-democratic measures adopted in Poland since the far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015. As the New York Times noted, the party has “increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” It has also limited female reproductive rights. Continue reading

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‘Media Is the Opposition’: Trump Backs Bannon in Ongoing War on Press

Comments come just after press freedom group warns president’s attacks against media are “reminiscent of an authoritarian government”

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-28-2017

The president’s comments signal that his administration will continue its war against the media, which Trump declared on his first full day in office. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

In an interview Friday with a Christian radio show, President Donald Trump backed his chief strategist Steve Bannon in calling the media “the opposition party.”

“I think the media is the opposition party in many ways,” the president said on “The Brody File,” a program on the Christian Radio Network. “I’m not talking about everybody, but a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, total deceit, and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely.” Continue reading

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The West’s Silence Is Deafening as Worst Nightmare Unfolds in Post-Coup Turkey

By Darius Shahtahmasebi. Published 7-28-2016 by The Anti-Media

Tayyip Erdogan, John Kerry and Barack Obama; Wales, 2014. Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Tayyip Erdogan, John Kerry and Barack Obama; Wales, 2014. Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Turkish mission to weed out every possible element of dissent continues, with the government of Turkey reportedly dismissing close to 1,700 military personnel and shutting down 131 media outlets throughout the country.

Of the servicemen recently fired in Turkey, 149 were generals and admirals, meaning approximately 40 percent of all of generals and admirals in Turkey’s military are now without jobs. Continue reading

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Amid ‘Chilling’ Evidence of Torture, Post-Coup Purge Continues in Turkey

Amnesty International alleges widespread torture of detainees suspected of orchestrating coup

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-25-2016

Photo: Humeyra Pamuk/Twitter

Photo via Twitter

Human rights advocates are sounding the alarm about Turkey’s crackdown on supposed dissidents, alleging widespread torture of detainees, while the government continues with its post-coup purges of private and public institutions.

On Sunday, rights group Amnesty International announced that it “has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them. In the worst cases some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.” Continue reading

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‘Quite Disturbing’: Leaked Docs Reveal How Easily FBI Can Spy on Journalists

‘The other major question here is: why are these rules secret in the first place?’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-1-2016

Leaked document shows the FBI does not have to jump through a lot of hoops to get access to journalists' call data. (Photo: Roger H. Goun/flickr/cc)

Leaked document shows the FBI does not have to jump through a lot of hoops to get access to journalists’ call data. (Photo: Roger H. Goun/flickr/cc)

Newly leaked documents published by The Intercept expose just how easy it is for the FBI to spy on journalists using so-called National Security Letters (NSLs).

The classified rules, which had previously been released only in heavily redacted form, “show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists’ information,” The Intercept‘s Cora Currier wrote on Thursday. Continue reading

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2015 a Deadly Year as Journalism ‘Put Daily to the Sword’

At least 109 journalists and media workers were slain by ‘targeted killings, bomb attacks, and cross-fire incidents,’ new report finds

Written by Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-1-2016.
Journalists and media workers continue to confront relentless pressure as they do their jobs, according to a survey of the verified incidents reported to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project. Image via X-Index.

Journalists and media workers continue to confront relentless pressure as they do their jobs, according to a survey of the verified incidents reported to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project. Image via X-Index.

From targeted bombings to fatal crossfire, the year 2015 was violent and deadly for journalists around the world, particularly those based in the Americas and Middle East, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said Friday.

According to a survey by the organization, at least 109 journalists and media workers were slain by “targeted killings, bomb attacks, and cross-fire incidents.”

While the Charlie Hebdo media workers killed in 2015 perhaps had the highest profile, the plurality of those struck down were lesser-known nationals of the Americas (27) followed by the Middle East (25), Asia-Pacific (21), and Africa (19).

Joel Aquiles Torres, owner of the Honduran TV station Canal 67, was one of those killed. He was “shot dead while driving his car in Taulabe in the department of Comayagua on 3 of July,” according to UNESCO.

Ali al-Ansari, an Iraqi journalist for Al-Ghadeer, was killed “while covering fighting between the Iraqi security forces and militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the Muqdadiyah area north of Baghdad,” IFJ reports.

“Sadly, there were scores of unreported killings, and unless the journalist is a well-known by-lined correspondent the world barely notices,” said IFJ president Jim Boumelha in a statement accompanying the report.

“Journalism is put daily to the sword in many regions of the world,” Boumelha continued, “where extremists, drug lords and reckless warring factions continue murdering journalists with impunity.”

The IFJ’s findings follow a separate round-up released earlier this week by Reporters Without Borders, known by their French acronym RSF.

According to RSF, which uses different criteria to establish their conclusions, at least 110 journalists around the world were killed in 2015 “in connection with their work or for unclear reasons.” The organization said it can definitively conclude that 67 of those people were “targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.”

Most journalists directly targeted, or killed for unclear reasons, hailed from Iraq, Syria, France, Yemen, and South Sudan respectively, RSF revealed.

The organization noted that the majority of journalists knowingly killed in 2015—64 percent—were struck down outside of what is recognized as an official war zone. What’s more, last year’s grim tally brought the number of journalists killed since 2005 to 787.

While IFJ and RSF both reached slightly varying conclusions, both organizations agree that journalists across the globe are inadequately protected.

According to Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, the organization’s reports over the last quarter century “have clearly shown that journalists and media staff have become easy targets because there is very little respect for national and international laws that are supposed to protect them.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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15 News Stories from 2015 You Should Have Heard About But Probably Didn’t

Written by Carey Wedler. Published 12-30-2015 by Anti Media.

Activists rally for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on Friday, January 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman)

Activists rally for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on Friday, January 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman)

In 2015, the iron fist of power clamped down on humanity, from warfare to terrorism (I repeat myself) to surveillance, police brutality, and corporate hegemony. The environment was repeatedly decimated, the health of citizens was constantly put at risk, and the justice system and media alike were perverted to serve the interests of the powers that be.

However, while 2015 was discouraging for more reasons than most of us can count, many of the year’s most underreported stories evidence not only a widespread pattern that explicitly reveals the nature of power, but pushback from human beings worldwide on a path toward a better world. 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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