Monthly Archives: November 2013

CPJ honors Ecuadoran journalist in free press fight

The government of Ecuador — like those of Venezuela and Bolivia — has no great love for an independent and free press.

This week The Committee to Protect Journalists honored television anchor, radio host, and reporter Janet Hinostroza from Ecuador for her work in opposing the government’s efforts to stifle independent media. Also honored with the International Press Freedom Award were  Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay, Vietnam), Nedim Şener (Posta, Turkey), and Bassem Youssef (Capital Broadcast Center, Egypt).

Here is an interview with Hinostroza: Fighting for press freedom in Ecuador

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Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom, South America

Pot, meet kettle. Russian media question Honduran elections

It really is funny to see a Russian operation raise questions about the fairness of any election. (Four years after coup: Will Honduran elections be fair?)

And the reporter picked one of the least objective sources for the basis of the article. Opinions are fine if identified as such, but there was absolutely no effort at balance in this “news” story from Honduras.


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Filed under Central America, Honduras, International News Coverage

American people continue to show ignorance on foreign aid

Once again the American people show how woefully ignorant they are about world events.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released its 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health. This year, Kaiser added a look at a “bang for the buck” perception. In other words, does the money the U.S. spend overseas make sense.

To find out if foreign affairs/aid spending makes sense, Kaiser had to learn what people thought the U.S. spent overseas.

And, once again, the message is that the American people have no idea what is being spent.

I have commented about this for some time.

In 2010 a survey by a survey by Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland showed the American people think the US spends 25 percent on foreign affairs.

Actual amount was 1%.

And now, the Kaiser survey shows that the American people have become dumber about this issue.

Consistent with previous Kaiser polls, the 2013 survey finds that the vast majority of the public ove

restimates the size of the federal budget that is spent on foreign aid, with just four percent correctly saying that foreign aid makes up one percent or less of the federal budget. A majority give answers above 10 percent, and on average, Americans answer that 28 percent of the budget is spent on foreign aid.

The survey showed that six in 10 said the U.S. spent too much on foreign aid and 13 percent said we spent too little.

But all is not lost. It appears that some people can be educated and change their views once presented with the facts and context.

When survey respondents are told that only about one percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, the share saying the U.S. spends too little more than doubles (from 13 percent to 28 percent), while the share saying we spend too much drops in half (from 61 percent to 30 percent).

I have pretty much given up on the U.S. foreign affairs agencies trying to explain what they do and why. Way too many — not all but too many — spend so much time talking among themselves and other government agencies that they don’t know how to talk to the American public.

So that leaves journalists to play the watchdog role and explain how U.S. government money is spent overseas, how it affects Main Street USA and the context of that spending.

And OOPS, the journalists are also failing in that job.

So many news organizations have misread the desire of their readers/listeners/viewers for better local news coverage as a desire for only local news.

It is not hard to provide local news with an international connection and to put it in context.

For example, the economically hard-hit state of Michigan exported more than $51 billion to the world. Most of the items were manufactured goods. These are items produced by high-paying jobs.

One would think that there would be more discussion of how good jobs are saved and created in local area through trade would be a good idea for a series of stories.

Likewise, overseas development programs often depend on U.S. products. In this case, small companies — with 100 or fewer workers — often make the goods that get shipped overseas.

And included in that 1% of the federal budget are men and women who work to protect the rights and intellectual property rights of U.S. companies operating overseas.

So for less than a penny on the dollar, small businesses benefit from development programs; good jobs are created from international trade and U.S. companies can operate around the globe helping build a stronger global economy.

Oh, yes, that small amount also pays for all the diplomats who work tireless to resolve issues before those issues fester into a shooting war.

A penny on the dollar brings jobs and security without having to shed blood.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

Too bad it is not getting reported in a way that the American people can understand.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Why it matters when a country is heading for collapse

Fareed Zakaria did a great piece today (Sunday, Nov. 17) on how the Venezuelan government is doing everything on the “how to destroy an economy” check list.

Five ways to ruin an economy

Here is the conclusion. (Read or view the whole piece. It is excellent analysis.)

Venezuela is on a fast-track to total ruin. The world saw this coming under Chavez. We hoped for change, but in his dying days Chavez handpicked a “mini-me” to stay the course. The sad truth is that Venezuela is wasting the world’s largest oil reserves. It could have been as wealthy as Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It could have outstripped Mexico or Brazil. Instead, it is beginning to resemble North Korea, simply by following the most ruinous set of policies in the world.

Click here to see full video.

But why should Americans care — other than for humanitarian concerns for human rights?

The bottom line is trade/jobs and regional stability.

On trade,

  • Venezuela was the United States’ 26th largest goods export market in 2011.
  • The top export categories in 2011 were: Machinery ($3.0 billion), Electrical Machinery ($1.7 billion), Organic Chemicals ($1.3 billion), Optic and Medical Instruments ($810 million), and Vehicles ($682 million).
  • The five largest import categories in 2011 were: Mineral Fuel and Oil (crude) ($42.0 billion), Organic Chemicals ($309 million), Iron and Steel ($263 million), Aluminum ($169 million), and Fertilizers ($152 million).

Looking at this shows that Venezuela buys American finished products while  the US buys natural resources. Finished products — machinery, vehicles, etc — mean high-paying quality jobs.

The top five U.S. states that export to Venezuela include the ones you might think, Texas, Florida and Louisiana (Numbers 1-3.) But Number 4 is Michigan and Number 5 is California. A collapse of the Venezuelan economy could mean more joblessness across the USA.

On regional stability, let’s face it, fighting the transportation of illegal drugs is a key component. And Venezuela is the major source for the shipping of drugs to North America and Europe. (Venezuela: Where the Traffickers Wear Military Uniforms)

There are also humanitarian and business issues.

With jobs across the United States at risk and humanitarian concerns growing, more and proper coverage of Venezuela is needed.

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Filed under International News Coverage, South America, Story Ideas, Trade

Really Russia? Reporting is propaganda.

Thanks to Roy Greenslade at The Guardian for this tidbit.

Russian paper accused of ‘gay propaganda’ for reporting news

A Russian newspaper has been accused of breaking the country’s “gay propaganda” law because it published a news story about a teacher who was fired because of his sexual orientation.

The state’s media watchdog, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service (FMMIS), sent the editor-in-chief of the Molodoi Dalnevostochnik a notice claiming the item propagated homosexual relations.

It followed a report in the paper, based in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, that included an interview with geography teacher Alexander Yermoshkin about the circumstances of his dismissal

I guess Moscow will use any excuse to shut down reporting it doesn’t like.

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Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

FARC: Rebels or just thugs

The latest news of the narco-trafficking operation known as FARC in Colombia is that the Colombian government revealed FARC was planning to kill former president Alvaro Uribe. (Colombia uncovers Farc plot to kill ex-president Uribe)

The BBC — and most media outlets — call FARC a “rebel” organization. 

The definition of “rebel” is pretty straight forward: 

“a person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler.”

Synonyms for the word include: revolutionary, insurgent, revolutionist, mutineer, insurrectionist, insurrectionary, guerrilla, terrorist, freedom fighter.

Now it is true that the FARC have no love for the form of government in Colombia. In fact, they seem to despise any government as much as the Zetas in Mexico or the 18th Street gang in Honduras. 

It is true that FARC started as a political military organization. But the facts are that they are now nothing more than just another narco-trafficking gang looking to consolidate its power through violence and corruption. 

Giving them the title of “rebel” seems to legitimize their actions, or at least excuse them for political reasons.

So, I kind of wish journalists would call the FARC what they are instead of allowing them to come off as some sort of freedom fighters. The form of government they are fighting is democracy. Their actions show them to be just another gang looking to make money and corrupt legal systems.

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Filed under Corruption, International News Coverage, South America

Russia reverts to threatening journalists, this time on Olympic coverage

The latest take down in Russia is that journalists using “non-professional” equipment will lose their credentials at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Olympics Will Not Be Tweeted, Vined, Or Instagrammed — Or Maybe They Will (BuzzFeed)

The news came directly from the state-run association that handles press credentials and reported on

The use of mobile phones by journalists who write for the filming of athletes or spectators during the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi will be considered a serious violation and will result in cancellation of their accreditation. – Journalists are banned from shooting gadgets Olympics in Sochi

The Atlantic reports:

At a seminar for sports reporters covering the games on Friday, Vasily Konov, the state-run RIA’s top sports journalist, made clear any time a journalist is caught using their phone to capture the Games in real time it “will be considered a serious violation and will result in cancellation of accreditation.” RIA’s sports division handles accreditation for Sochi. Only photographers will special passes and appropriate equipment — proper SLR and digital video cameras — will be able to document the action. “The organizers, of course, will not affect the usual crowd,” Konov told the gathered reporters , but assured them organizers would punish those who are caught.

And right after that the International Olympic Committee had to step in and reassure journalists that use of social media is not a “get kicked out of the country” offense. The IOC responded to an e-mail query from USAToday:

Journalists will be allowed to use Instagram, Twitter and other social media to post still photos and news from the Sochi Olympics, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams confirmed to For The Win in an email on Monday.

“Please take as many photos as you like!” he wrote.

While it may look as if this little kerfuffle has settled down — the IOC, after all runs the Olympics and forced China into taking most of its Internet censoring software — the issue of how Russia treats free and independent media is still a big issue.

Reporters and news teams have been arrested and harassed as they try to do stories about the Olympic preparations. And others have had their credentials either delayed, denied or withdrawn. (Russia Curbs Freedom of Press Ahead of Olympics)

The harassment also extends to NGOs trying to get word out about environmental damage caused by the Olympic preparation. (And, of course, to reporters talking to those NGOs.)

According to Freedom House, Russian media are not free.


Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, officials used the country’s politicized and corrupt court system to harass the few remaining independent journalists who dared to criticize widespread abuses by the authorities.


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