Monthly Archives: February 2011

Being a journalist is an act of courage – Dilma Rousseff

Folha celebrated 90 years of publishing this week. Attending their birthday party were all the top names of Brazil, including President Dilma Rousseff. (Use CHROME and Google Translate if your Portuguese is rusty.)

As expected, even the political figures who had major disagreements with the press pointed out that a free press is necessary for democracy to survive and grow.

Dilma went further to say that being a journalist is an act of courage.

“Censorship forced the first Brazilian newspaper to be printed in London in 1808,” she said.

Dilma added that circulating the newspaper De Libero Badaro at that time by journalist Vladimir Herzog in Brazil was an act of courage.

“Free, pluralistic and investigative press is essential for democracy in a country like ours.”

For the president and anyone over the age of 40, the lessons of dictatorships are personal. It wasn’t until 1985 when the dictatorship was overthrown for a democracy in Brazil.

The protection of civil and political rights remains a top priority for many in the leadership and especially among the news media.

The president noted that even when the media are critical of her and her policies, she prefers the voices criticism from a free press to silence imposed by the dictatorships.

A free press and investigative pluralism, it is essential to democracy in a country like ours, which besides being a continental country, is a country that embraces cultural differences despite our unit. A government must learn to live with the criticism of the newspapers to have a real commitment to democracy. Because democracy demands above this contradiction, and I repeat again: the civilized coexistence, with the multiplicity of opinions, beliefs and aspirations.

And unlike many other politicians who mouth the words of support for free and independent media, I really think Dilma means it.

Of course we will have to see how she handle the whole Social Control thing started by former president Lula. For now Dilma is not even putting the plan on the stove let alone the back burner. There are still leading members of the ruling PT that would like to keep the plan alive but who so far have been held back by a practical president.

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Filed under Press Freedom, South America

Threats leveled against Nicaraguan journalists

Seems El Nuevo Diario is rubbing some people the wrong way.

Some one leveled a death threat against reporter and editor Luis Galeano first by phone and then by hand-delivered package.

And the whole issue: Galeano was looking into irregularities in the Nicaraguan Central Elections Commission.

Journalist receives death threats

For non-Spanish speakers (or those like me working to get my Spanish back) Google Translate gives a rough translation of the situation but enough to understand it.

Irregularities at the elections commission take on a more heated nature this year. The country is heading for elections in November and there are already claims from the opposition that some hanky-panky is  going on. Enough that just as the year started — 11 months before the election — opposition parties were calling for international observers.

Liberals call for international observation of elections in Nicaragua

President Daniel Ortega — yes, that Ortega of 1980s fame — was clearly upset with such calls.

“We are tired of interventions,” he told local media. “If you want to come (foreign observers) to join us, join us, but we want drivers of our elections.”

He added that “the best observers” are the representatives of the political forces at the polling stations.

Unfortunately, the intentions of Ortega and his party are quite clear: Never give up the power again. (And for free journalism, this is not a good thing.)

Ortega got his rubber-stamp courts to let him run for re-election even though it is against the constitution.

And perhaps more telling are the comments of Ortega’s pal Tomas Borge, the last living founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). He said last year that giving up power, when they were voted out of office in 1990, was a mistake that should never be repeated.

And that is why a story about some strange goings on in the election commission is so important and so dangerous to the ruling elite.

P.S. A special thanks to @bloggingsbyboz for his Tweet on this.

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Filed under Central America, Corruption, Harassment

Female war correspondents: Beyond the Logan episode

Many thanks to Kim Barker of the Chicago Tribune for her piece in ProPublica and the New York Times last week on female war correspondents.

Female Foreign Correspondents’ Code of Silence, Finally Broken

Anyone who has lived or worked in an uber-male dominated society can imagine the harassment and hassles these women face. I join with Barker in praising Logan for speaking out.

Unfortunately, the actions of those who molested Logan and other female correspondents seem to have opened up two lines of commentary that is both uncivil and stupid.

While most comments that have flooded the websites of news organizations have been supportive of Lara Logan, some have been down right racist and misogynistic

NPR Ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard talked about how NPR had to take down some comments from its website and has to come up with a new way to monitor the comments because of the uncivil actions of a few.

NPR Struggling with Crude Behavior by Some Users of Its Web Site

And don’t think for a minute the women who volunteer to go into war zones don’t know what they are getting into. So there is none of this “being politically correct” crap.

Male reporters have faced beatings and assaults while covering events in Egypt and Bahrain. But no one is saying that maybe the news organization should not send them to cover the story.

As Barker points out, sometimes the female correspondents come back with stories that their male counterparts either don’t think about or can’t get.

Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

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Filed under International News Coverage

Update: Jasmine Revolution in China more a dry run

The call for  demonstrations in 13 Chinese cities under the banner of a “Jasmine Revolution” results in a number of arrests but no real threat to the Beijing authorities. (China tries to stamp out ‘Jasmine Revolution’)

One of the gathering places in Beijing was the Wangfujing pedestrian mall. Because it is always busy on Sundays, it was hard to separate protesters from rubberneckers from shoppers. According the AP, many wondered if there was a celebrity in the area because of the heavy police presence and dozens of foreign reporters and news cameras.

But in the end, it looked as if it could have been a decent dry run.

“Lots of people in here are Twitter users and came to watch like me,” said 42-year-old Hu Di. “Actually this didn’t have much organization, but it’s a chance to meet each other. It’s like preparing for the future.”

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Filed under Censorship, China

Great Firewall adds another term to block: Jasmine

After the “Jasmine Revolution” in Egypt, the party leadership in China has been getting nervous.

During the uprising in Egypt, “Mubarak” and “Egypt” were blocked by the censors running the Great Chinese Firewall. The latest term to be blocked could hurt people who want to talk about a particular kind of very popular tea.

Searches for the word “jasmine” were blocked Saturday on China’s largest Twitter-like microblog, and the website where the request first appeared said it was hit by an attack.

According to the Associated Press, activists circulated a call for people to gather in more than a dozen cities Sunday for a “Jasmine Revolution.” (China blocks web calls for “Jasmine Revolution)

According to the report, those receiving the message did not know who started the call but they seemed more than willing to pass it on. The message reportedly called on people to show up in town squares in 13 cities and shout “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness.”

The authorities are taking the chain-letter seriously. They started rounding up  dissidents and their lawyers all day Saturday.

A U.S.-based Chinese-language website — Boxun.com — was the first to post the call. Within hours it was hit with a denial of service attack.

The site operators told the AP it was the most serious denial of service attack they ever received. They added the company believes the attack is related to the Jasmine Revolution proposed on Feb. 20 in China.

I really do wonder what will happen if people want to discuss the qualities of different jasmine teas.

UPDATE:

You can go to the Boxun site to get an update of what happened. (Use Google Translate if you don’t read simplified Chinese characters.)

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, International News Coverage

International students wonder: What are the rules of dating?

First posted at Journalism, the World and the Future at George Mason University.

Voice of America has a great blog entry about the trials and tribulations of international students in the United States trying to figure out that whole love and dating thing.

Love and Dating for International Students

It’s clearly too late for Valentine’s Day, but who says this kind of story can only be written at a certain time of the year.

For college journalists, the cultural issues that exchange and full-time international students face is an excellent opportunity to inform the larger campus population of the diversity on the campus.

For journalists in the community press, this issue presents a similar opportunity to discuss and explore the diversity of the community. It is also a good way to air out some of the cultural differences that could cause friction between the immigrant community and others in the area.

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Filed under Story Ideas

China — with a nervous eye — looks at the Middle East

Great piece by Perry Link on why the Chinese leadership is nervous about all this democracy hubbub  in the Middle East: Middle East Revolutions: The View from China

Yes, the use of technology to promote democracy and civil liberties is a concern, but the big issue for China seems to be the destruction of the idea that some people just need authoritarian leaders to be happy.

I love the end of the lede graf:

Thus, while Chinese censors have declared the word Mubarak (along with “Egypt” and others) to be “sensitive” and have set up filters to delete any message that contains it, Chinese Web users, in their usual cat-and-mouse game, have invented witty substitutes. These include “Mu Xiaoping” and “Mu Jintao”—which, by playing on the names of China’s own autocrats, get around the censors and up the ante at the same time.

And obviously the Egyptians knew they were playing to an international audience.

We all saw the signs in English on the U.S. media and on BBC. But there were also signs in Chinese, a fact not missed by Link — but missed by the Western media.

How Egyptians might feel about China, whether in regard to the government in Beijing or the people who have endorsed Charter 08, is hard to say. But it is certainly interesting that a few of the protesters’ signs in Tahrir Square—“Mubarak Go!” and “The Egyptian People Demand Mubarak Resign”—were written in Chinese.

Clearly the Egyptians understood truly global impact of their actions. (Wonder if there were any signs in Hebrew?)

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Filed under Censorship, China, International News Coverage, Middle East, Press Freedom