Category Archives: Middle East

Bags that tell a dramatic story

The International Rescue Committee put together a great series of questions, answers and photos to show what refugees have in the bags as they flee the violence of Syria. (Organized by Medium).

WHAT’S IN MY BAG? What refugees bring when they run for their lives

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Filed under Middle East, Story Ideas

New campaign to free journalists

Thanks to Roy Greenslade at The Guardian for pointing out the new Reporters Without Borders campaign to help journalists in Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and China.

Press freedom body highlights plight of Eritrea’s jailed journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, has launched a fund-raising campaign based around the plight of jailed journalists inEritrea, China and Saudi Arabia.

The Eritrean prisoner is Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned without trial for 13 years after being arrested along with other newspaper editors in 2001.

Isaak is reported to be dying slowly in a prison camp where detainees are tortured by being shut inside steel containers during periods of intense heat. And RWB has used that image of a container to publicise its campaign.

Read full article here.


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Filed under Africa, China, Middle East, 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

“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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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.

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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

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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.


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