Category Archives: Middle East

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Middle East, Press Freedom

“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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Middle East, Story Ideas

Journalism is not terrorism

Roy Greenslade at the Guardian has a great piece on the arrest and prosecution of journalists in Egypt.

Al-Jazeera reporter – journalism is not terrorism and I’m not a terrorist

A lot of commentary on this piece is not needed.

One sub-head in the column says it all when it comes to the need for free and independent media: Cairo is a rumour mill – who knows what to believe?

Just go to the column and read it. Well worth your time.

Leave a comment

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

Egypt: Thinking is okay, as long as it is in line with gov’t rules

Things keep getting worse for journalists in Egypt.

The Columbia Journalism Review notes that there are now no Al Jazeera journalists operating in Egypt.

Despite what so many ill-informed Americans think, Al-Jazeera is a very good news organization that digs deep into their stories. To not have Al Jazeera working in Egypt means that the world is missing much of the nuance and multifaceted issues that take place during social upheavals.

The bottom line is that the Egyptian government has charged 20 Al Jazeera journalists of joining terrorist groups, broadcasting false news and distorting Egypt’s international image.

Just off the top of my head, nothing hurts Egypt’s international image more than tossing journalists in jail.

The most discussed case is the group known as the “Marriott Cell” (Al Jazeera arrests in Egypt cause concern). Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, and Australian correspondent Peter Greste, were arrested in late December. The journalists were all part of Al Jazeera English and were arrested at the Marriott Hotel where they set up shop.

The charges seem against the three seem to revolve around the fact that they were talking to as many people as possible about the demonstrations against the government. And some of those sources were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the twisted thinking of the generals running things in Egypt, interviewing someone is the same as agreeing to that person’s political beliefs. (Amazing how dictatorships all think alike on this issue. The same thing happens in China and Cuba.)

So, thanks to the Egyptian government the public is denied access to important news. Al Jazeera, which has proven itself to be on of the best in  getting information to the public about what is happening in an Arab countries, is no longer to function in the country.

The message is clear that reporters — Egyptian and foreign — need to toe the line.

Foreign correspondents are concerned that the case could establish a precedent of criminalizing ordinary journalistic contact with the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government recently designated a terrorist organization. After the military deposed Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi in July, the new government launched a clampdown on the Islamist group and other political opponents, killing more than 1,000 and arresting thousands of others.

In an attempt to reassure international journalists, Egypt’s State Information Service issued a statement on Thursday, saying that “Egyptian law does not criminalize mere contact with or prior knowing of anyone accused of committing a crime or any person imprisoned pending a case.” The statement however contained that such contact is legal unless such contact constitutes “involvement in committing the crime by means of assisting, inciting or prior agreement.”

Not everyone was reassured. Guardian correspondent Patrick Kingsley quipped on Twitter, “Thinking is ok, as long as your thoughts are in line with a set of rules we make up as we go along.”

– There are no Al Jazeera journalists reporting in Egypt, CJR 2/3/14

1 Comment

Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, Middle East, Press Freedom

Jordan blocking more websites

Al Bawada reported yesterday that the Kingdom of Jordan is now blocking more 200 websites.

Access to Jordan News Websites Blocked: Press & Publications Crackdown Launched

Access to a number of news websites in Jordan has been blocked, after a warning letter was sent to the Telecommuincations Regulatory Commission (TRC) on Sunday.

The letter was sent by Head of the Press and Publications Department Fayez Al Shawabkah. “Based on Article (49), Paragraph (G) of the Press and Publications Law number (8) for the year 1988 and its amendments, I decided to block the news websites included in the annexed list, effective on its date”, Al Shawabkah said in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by Al Bawaba.

More than 250 websites were listed in the letter.

Rest of article.

The International Press Institute criticized the blockage and urged Jordanian authorities to guarantee the public’s free access to information.

“The recent blockages to news websites in Jordan, as well as the tightening restrictions on social media commentary are an enormous blow to freedom of expression and threaten the public’s access to important information” IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said.

“We encourage authorities in Jordan and elsewhere to find alternatives to ensuring the quality of content that do not jeopardize international or domestic agreements, or restrict free access to information,” he added.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage, Middle East

Mursi sets media crackdown record

Revolutions are supposed to make things better.

So please tell me how is it better for every one that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has surpassed all the past modern dictators in bringing charges against media workers for insulting the nation’s leader?

Mursi’s crackdown on media sets a new record in Egypt’s history

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said that the number of filed legal cases against journalists was four times more than the number of files reported during former President Hosni Mubarak’s era and 24 times more in comparison to late President Anwar Sadat.

Read the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information report: “The Crime of Insulting the President, a Crime of an Authoritarian Regime”

Severe violations against the freedom of expression, almost 40 blatant violations in the first 100 hundred days of the first elect-president in the history of the modern Egypt.

The reports and religion’s defamation cases were increased.

In the second hundred days of his rule and before it ends, he had a new record in harassing the writers, journalists, newspapers and satellite channels by the charges that deemed to be stigma in the rule of any democratic rule.

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Middle East, Press Freedom

Journalists and war zones, a new danger

David Carr has a good piece in the New York Times on how attacks against journalists in conflict zones are being written off as attacks on terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Using War as Cover to Target Journalists

He cites the case of two Al-Aqsa TV journalists:

Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama worked as cameramen for Al-Aqsa TV, which is run by Hamas and whose reporting frequently reflects that affiliation. They were covering events in central Gaza when a missile struck their car, which, according to Al-Aqsa, was clearly marked with the letters “TV.” (The car just in front of them was carrying a translator and driver for The New York Times, so the execution hit close to our organization.) And Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of the private Al-Quds Educational Radio, was also in a car when it was hit by a missile.

I would think there would be better examples of the use of war to attack journalists. Journalists from Al-Aqsa have as much editorial freedom as those from Xinhua or the North Korean media.

 

Should journalists — independent or not — have been targeted? Nope.

Should Israel have targeted the journalists in their vehicle? Nope.

Is Al-Aqsa TV independent from an organization centrally involved in a war? Also, nope. Under a general theory of war-making, targeting propaganda arms of an enemy makes sense. But that means headquarters and propaganda masters, not necessarily the grunts.

And, as Carr points out, a lot of the growing danger comes as the bean counters reduce the resources necessary for independent journalists to do their jobs:

At a time when news outlets in the United States are cutting foreign operations for monetary reasons, cheap and ubiquitous technology has lowered the entry barrier for others who want to engage in journalism, some of whom are already in the theater of conflict and may have partisan motives. Many of those newer players are young and inexperienced in ways that make them particularly vulnerable in the middle of dangerous conflicts.

Other journalists have close affiliations with partisan forces in these conflicts.

As news media organizations become increasingly politicized, all journalists risk ending up as collateral casualties because they are working adjacent to outlets viewed as purveyors of propaganda.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Killings, Middle East