Monthly Archives: March 2012

Article 19: Why free media are important to development and democratization

Great speech in Burma (Myanmar) by Agnes Callamard of Article 19, a freedom of expression group. (Article 19 refers to that provision of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that deals with freedom of expression.)

Role of freedom of expression in democratisation processes: an ARTICLE 19 presentation

Some key points:

Before focusing on the importance and role of a proper legal framework, we may need to reiterate a few things about why freedom of expression, freedom of the media matter.

Human rights are the foundation of human dignity, freedom, justice and peace. The 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights laid out equal rights for all people and three fundamental principles governing human rights: rights are universal, meaning that rights apply to everyone whoever or wherever that person is; inalienable, in that they precede state authority and are based on peoples’ humanity; and indivisible in that all rights are of equal importance.


Freedom of expression and freedom of information are crucial to democracy and the enjoyment of other rights. The importance of freedom of expression was particularly emphasised by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which stated:

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests. It is indispensable for the formation of public opinion. It is also a conditio sine qua non for the development of political parties, trade union, scientific and cultural societies and, in general, those who wish to influence the public. It represents, in short, the means that enable the community, when exercising its opinions, to be sufficiently informed. Consequently, it can be said that a society that is not well informed is not a society that is truly free.

Why rule of law is important in general

The rule of law is to a stable sustainable society what the skeleton is to the human body. Without a strong, stable, unbroken and nourished skeletal underpinning the human body falls, fails, simply cannot function in any reliable manner. With a sound skeletal framework in place, the human body can absorb the stresses of it movements and its ambitions: we can sit, stand, run, create, defend, protect, assert.

Rule of law and freedom of expression

So for the laws to play their role as far as freedom of expression and freedom of the Media are concerned, they must meet a set of international agreed standards. And in the best case scenario, they should also seek to meet existing best practices within the international community.

And why rule of law and freedom of expression are linked:

The right is freedom of expression, under international human rights law, may be restricted in order to protect a legitimate aim, amongst others, the rights of others, and public order, if it is done by law and if it is “necessary in a democratic society” to do so.

To be legitimate, a restriction to freedom of expression must meet a three part test:

First, it must be prescribed by law;

Second, it must pursue a legitimate aim, such as respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security, public order, public health or morals; and

Third, the restriction should be necessary to secure the legitimate aim and meet the test of proportionality.


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Filed under Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, Press Freedom

IFJ calls for Palestinian Authority to release journalist

In case anyone forgot, press freedom is a major issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Palestinian Authority is still having a hard time getting an handle on this whole “freedom of the press” thing. Here is the latest.

IFJ Calls for Release of Palestinian Journalist Held over Protection of Sources

Because of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the territories, Freedom House rank the area as NOT FREE.

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Filed under Censorship, Corruption, International News Coverage

Trafficking and slavery being addressed in Seattle

Congrats to the Washington State attorney general for convening his peers from all 50 states into a conference to fight human trafficking. (Pillars of Hope)

And to the State of Washington for enacting the country’s first law that requires age verification in ads for sex-related services. Age verification for ‘sex-ads’ now the law in Washington; first in nation

Finally the issue of sex tourism, sex trade and human trafficking is getting a hard look within the United States.

We have all heard the stories of sex tourism to Thailand and the Dominican Republic. And tales from Central Asia and Africa of young girls being sold into marriages (or prostitution). But rarely have these stories ever been linked to a domestic U.S. story.

Maybe it is time to see more stories about the links between domestic and international sex trade.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Issues of women’s rights is international in scope

Real quick.

With all the discussion of women’s health issues in the U.S. political scene, it is often forgotten that women in the rest of the world are fighting for even more basic rights.

Once again Yoani Sanchez — blogger from Cuba — says it best:

In short, we want to have a clitoris and rights, to feel pleasure and to speak our opinions, to be known for our skirts, but especially for our ideas.

Read the full blog: With Clitoris and With Rights

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Filed under Censorship, Connections, Cuba, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage

Estimate of illegal residents in USA — Reporting the numbers

The Department of Homeland Security released its estimate of the number of unauthorized (illegal) foreign born in the United States. According to the report about 11.5 million people came to the United States since 1980 and stayed illegally.

Bottom line is that the number of estimated entries of illegal residents to the United States has declined. The peak immigration period occurred 2000-2004 when an estimated 3.3 million people entered the United States. The period of 2005-2010 showed an influx of 1.6 million people. (For the math challenged, the immigration numbers were cut in half.)

To be sure, these numbers are only estimates. The DHS does not have — nor can it ever have — a 100 percent accurate picture of how many people have come in illegally or how many have overstayed their visitor or student visas.

Basically the DHS took the Census Numbers (foreign born, living in the USA) and then subtracted out the asylum grantees, green-card holders, naturalized citizens, etc. This is a method used by many organizations, often the politics of the organization help determine how big or small the number is. (Let’s face it there are plenty of ways to cook the books if you want the numbers to back up a certain position.) But the DHS method is about the most unbiased, straight forward version.

What does that mean for reporters?

First, it gives reporters the most accurate numbers possible of undocumented aliens in the United States. It also gives the ranking of countries these people come from and the U.S. states where they settled.

No surprise that out of the 11.5 million noted in the report, the bulk — about 60 percent — come from Mexico. The Centrals — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are next with a total of 1.5 million. Then comes China, the Philippines and India with an average of 263,000 each.

The India Post notes in its story that the number of Indian immigrants has doubled in the period of the study.

In my home county of Fairfax County the numbers are interesting.

Maybe a reporter looking for trends could start with the Census Bureau data on foreign born. Yes, the data do not tell how many of the respondents are in the States legally, but the tables do show trends in immigration by country of origin.

One of the first questions reporters looking at immigration should ask is: Why are so many people from Country X settling here?

And then maybe ask: What does that mean to the businesses, social programs and politics of the area?

Here are the Fairfax numbers:

Country/Region of Origin   2005 ACS Survey  2010 ACS Survey
Europe 25,000 26,000
Asia 140,000 164,000
China 15,000 18,000
Korea 27,000 32,000
Vietnam 21,000 24,000
 Americas 81,000 106,000
Mexico 6,000 7,000
El Salvador 25,000 31,000
Central America (rest) 22,000 21,000

Oh, the foreign-born population in Fairfax County is 329,000 out of a total 1.1 million people. Yep, that is about one-third of the population in the Washington, D.C. suburb is foreign born.

So here are numbers that show — as if anyone needed real proof — Asian immigration far outstrips immigration from any other region of the world. And with in the Asian group, the Koreans are #1.

Virginia is not in the top 10 of states with undocumented aliens. But the method of looking up data is the same.

Maybe some interested reporters will look beyond the numbers of the DHS report and find out WHY the numbers are the way they are in their areas.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Story Ideas