Not much love for freedom of expression in Turkey

Politics has always been a bare-knuckles and elbows blood sport, but the blood now seems to be from freedom of expression in Turkey.

Reuters: Turkey’s Erdogan threatens Twitter ban as vote looms

Al Jazeera: Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to ban Twitter

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threat to shut down Twitter and other social media platforms came after audio recordings were posted on social media exposing corruption in his inner circle.

Even as Erdogan railed against social media, he added that he did not care about the international response.

Recently Turkey has tightened control of the Internet under the guise of “protecting privacy.”

Freedom House ranks Turkey’s Internet as “Partly Free” in a report that states:

  • Turkish authorities added several thousand websites to its blocking list, increasing the total to almost 30,000.
  • Ruling in favor of a Turkish user, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights for blocking access to the hosting platform Google Sites

 

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Filed under Censorship, Corruption, Freedom of Information, Harassment

Lack of Free Media and Free Elections: Subtext to Missing Malaysia Jet

Loads of people are speculating as to what happened to MH370.  The speculation has so dominated the news that satirist Andy Borowitz noted CNN APOLOGIZES FOR BRIEFLY AIRING NON-FLIGHT 370 STORY.

All joking aside, while the media report every bit of information put out by the Malaysian government (and others), the shortcomings of that information are clear.

The leadership of the primary countries initially involved in the search — Malaysia, Vietnam and China — were hesitant to reveal information at first, partly because — as we all know — initial information often wrong needs to be corrected or fine-tuned.

In the end, for these governments to admit they made errors could undermine their authority. You see, none of these three governments rule by the consent of the people. Media are strictly regulated. Independent sources of information to challenge and question the authorities are virtually non-existent. And opposition leaders are tossed in jail.

The New York Times touched on this issue — at least as far as Malaysia goes — March 12: Amid Search for Plane, Malaysian Leaders Face Rare Scrutiny.

The article points to all the factors that made — make — the Malaysian government nervous about their current situation in the international spotlight:

  1. Authoritarian laws that keep the opposition in check
  2. Policies that favor the ethnic Malays
  3. A patronage system that excludes Indians and Chinese from policy positions. (Combined these groups constitute a majority)

What was missed in the article is the highly censored media.

The Malaysian government has never had to face hard questions from local reporters. And if they get questioned too fiercely by opposition parties, the leadership of those parties find themselves in jail such as Anwar Ibraham and Karpal Singh.

Malaysia is listed as having media that are Not Free by Freedom House. As are China and Vietnam.

Perhaps there is nothing that any country could do in the search for MH370. What is clear, however, is that the the initial three main players in the search were unable to deal with the situation, partially out of fear of being corrected later. Maybe they figured that questioning the veracity of one agency could lead to questions about other agencies and eventually the government itself.

It is odd how countries with no fair elections or free media fear any questions about the effectiveness of government agencies. (Look at the NYT article to see how the Malaysian government reacted.)

So that is the subtext to the search for MH370: The lack of free media and unfettered political opposition makes the governments look ineffective. In other words, it makes them less stable. And so, information is fragmented or withheld out of fear.

On another note:

As noted above, the Borowitz Report mentioned at the top pointed out how the US media have been all over the story. That piece was satire. But nothing, Borowitz could think of could have matched what CNN’s Don Lemon did. This was perhaps an all-time low for CNN when Lemon wondered if the disappearance was related to supernatural forces

UPDATE (3/19 18:32)

Okay, Fox News beat CNN for silliness.

Fox News host Bill Hemmer went on about how long it is taking to find the plane. He cited 100 years for the Titanic and 2,000 years for Noah’s Ark.

Yep. Hemmer cited a long-debunked claim that Noah’s Ark was found in Turkey. (Even Fox News knows the Ark story was a fake.)

The competition between CNN and Fox continues.

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Filed under Asia, Censorship, China, Connections, Freedom of access, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

PA and Hamas Violating Palestinian Press Freedom

Once again Al Jazeera has a great piece on an issue that is not getting a lot of coverage in the U.S. media.

In this case the issue is press freedom in the West Bank and Gaza. Seems the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are engaged in numerous violations of press freedom and harassment and arrests of Palestinian journalists. The charges against the journalists from each government  is pretty much the same: The reporters where asking questions.

Palestinian journalists decry intimidation

The PA and Hamas have committed at least 500 documented press violations since 2007, including arrests, detention, torture, physical violence and censorship, according to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA).

Journalists are consequently forced to work in a political climate that has increasingly “led to the promotion of self-censorship among journalists, and media outlets”, the MADA press release observed.

Rest of story

What Hamas and the PA apparently have not yet figured out is that for there to be a democratic and independent Palestinian state, there has to be free and independent media.

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Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Middle East, Press Freedom

And we thought the White House was choreographed

Great little piece in the New York Times about how the Chinese government tries to fool the world into thinking it run open press conferences.

For Foreign Journalists It’s All About Asking The Right Questions.

For anyone who has ever worked in China or with the Chinese media, this is nothing new. But seeing how most people don’t fit into either category, this story needs wider distribution — especially among journalists.

 

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“Local” station run spots that include sniper locations – Al Jazeera

Local media is supposed to provide local news. For most people in the world that means information on city councils, mayors, schools and civic groups.

But in Syria, an experiment in local news means identifying where the minefields are and where the snipers are located.

Aleppo TV provides lifeline in wartime

Granted, the “local” news is broadcast from neighboring Turkey, but the news is what is needed at the local level.

The 24-hour, opposition-aligned news channel started a few months after the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, in order to cover protests and broadcast news about the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, back when it was hard to find any independent, non-government-controlled news out of Syria’s largest city.

”It’s an experiment of having a local TV [station] inside Syria, because previously we had only the government’s national TV,” said Aleppo Today’s manager, Khaleel Agha. 

The station lets viewers know where fighting has broken out, where snipers are located, which roads are safe and what the constantly fluctuating currency exchange rates are. It also keeps viewers up to date on which border crossings with Turkey are open, and whether they are open to foot traffic only, or also to cars.

One public service announcement recently warned residents to keep their important documents at home, in a convenient place, so they can grab them and flee at a moment’s notice.

Rest of story.

Kudos to Al Jazeera America  for running this “slice of life” story from Syria. Expect to see a similar story on NPR in a couple of weeks and then in the rest of the US media in a month or so.

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Filed under Middle East, Story Ideas

India elections: Some dark clouds on the horizon for journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists has a great piece on the threats to free press and journalism independence if the current front runner in the Indian elections wins.

Modi’s rise does not bode well for Indian press freedom

Modi, who is serving his fourth term as chief minister of Gujarat, has a history of silencing critical journalists in his home state. In 2006, his administration brought sedition charges against Manoj Shinde, an editor of the Gujarati-language daily Surat Saamna, for criticizing Modi’s handling of a flood, news accounts said. Sedition is punishable by death in India. (It is unclear if the case against Shinde was ever resolved). Two years later, CPJ documented sedition charges brought by Gujarat authorities against an editor and reporter at The Times of India and a photographer at Gujarat Samachar in connection with a series of investigative reports questioning the competency of a high-ranking police officer and his alleged connection to the leader of an organized crime group. The latter charges were eventually quashed in court.

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Somebody’s feeling are going to be hurt: Maps of stereotype

Tea Leaf Nation has a great map of the stereotypes of China by Chinese based on social media auto-complete searches.

A Map of China, By Stereotype

This is similar to the one done about the United States: ‘Why Is Louisiana So Racist?’ Google Autocomplete Map Shows State Stereotypes

Personally I like the query from China: Why are many from the southern metropolis of Shanghai “unfit to lead”?

But honestly, I can’t wait for the Party leadership in Beijing to complain about how auto-complete (in China) has hurt the feelings of all Chinese by using these stereotypes.

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Filed under Asia, China, Connections, Story Ideas