Reporters Without Borders has published the latest 2016 report on press freedom where Britain has fallen yet again with the organisation making the following statement about press freedom in Britain:
“Terrorist attacks have led to the adoption of draconian security legislation. The government reacted to the London public transport bombings in 2005 with a Terrorism Act the following year that restricts freedom of expression. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) adopted in 2000 allows the authorities to obtain the phone records of journalists in cases of threats to national security. Worse still, despite a law protecting the confidentiality of sources, the police have since 1984 been able to ask the courts to order media outlets to hand over unpublished journalistic source material “in the interests of justice.”
It is hardly surprising that Britain has fallen 4 places in 2016 behind such countries as; Tonga, Belize, OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States), Samoa, Ghana, Suriname, Namibia, Jamaica, with Burkino Faso and Botswana just behind, given recent legislative actions by the Conservative government since 2010.
The Guardian revealed in January 2015 that the British intelligence agency GCHQ described journalists as a “potential threat to security” and that huge quantities of emails of many journalists were among interceptions that went as far back as 2008. It was only the result of the Edward Snowden leaks that as many as 70,000 emails from journalists captured by Britain’s surveillance agency became known.
On the 15th October, Gordon Raynor, Chief Reporter at The Telegraph said– “Investigative journalism will be stopped dead in its tracks and local newspapers may be driven out of business when new laws restricting Britain’s free press come into force next month.” He continues – Media organisations face “the most substantial threat to press freedom in the modern era” as a result of the “menacing” laws passed in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.
An independent report into the implications of the Crime and Courts Act, which came into force on November 3, says that The Telegraph’s landmark investigation into what turned out to be the most explosive political scandal in decades over MPs’ expenses would have been all but impossible under the new regime.
Britain sitting at number 38 flatters reality.
‘Freedom of Press’ is published by the US-based Freedom House, an NGO established in 1941 that has been ranking countries worldwide since 1980 in relation to democracy, human rights and press freedom. In May 2014 it reported that Britain has slipped down the global rankings for freedom of the press to 36th place.
According to Freedom House, “only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a free press—that is, where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.” Although Britain is ranked as safe in press freedom terms one has to wonder given the very heavy handed behaviour by the government at The Guardian over the Snowden files and state surveillance over journalists more widely.
Meanwhile, without any sense of shame, US President Obama, the leader of the ‘free-world’, having presided over continual declines in press freedom sees the USA drop to a pitiful 41st place has the Whitehouse Briefing Room release the following statement (first paragraph):
“On World Press Freedom Day, we thank the journalists around the world without whom democracy could not flourish and whose courageous work helps hold authorities to account. These are the men and women who work to ensure that debate on public issues can be, in the words of Justice William Brennan, “uninhibited, robust, and wide open.”
One glaring component missing from all these so-called press freedom reports is that the biggest economic trade deals in the history of humanity are due to be signed in 2016 …. in total secrecy. In the EU, the European Commission is making the secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal even more secret than any normal person would think possible by the introduction of a new rule last year that means politicians can only view (some selected) TTIP text in a secure ‘reading room’ in Brussels. That is, of course, only after their mobile phones, memo pads, and pens have been taken away and two guards ominously placed in the room to ensure no notes are taken. And even then only after signing confidentiality agreements that threaten prosecutions for any leaks.
In the US, the same ‘reading room’ exists. As The Independent reports:
“In the basement of the US capitol, there is a room, a locked soundproof room, and the only people allowed in this room are US senators, and they can’t bring their assistants, they can’t bring their phones, they can’t even take notes in there. Inside this room is not the codes for our nuclear weapons, it’s not CIA files, it’s not the documents that tell us an alien landed in Roswell. No, in this room is the text of a trade deal (TTIP).”
Press freedom?? This type of secrecy, designed by corporations and the unelected politicians of the EU Commission would have made Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany proud. The EU Commission have now become completely independent of the politicians who represent the 508 million citizens of the 28 nation bloc where millions sign petitions and protest on the streets, get arrested and/or fined in their thousands and yet remain unheard. This is extreme press freedom censorship in every sense of the word. It says something when citizens have to rely on people like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden for any real information on the matter – and both of them are in hiding from British and American police.
And so we come back to RWB who that as it turns out, is financed by none other than the US Congress and by various agencies tied to the US government – who coincidentally are conducting the talks on TTIP.
As GlobalResearch reports: “If we go to the RWB website to find who stands behind these self-anointed judges of world press freedom, we find nothing. Not even their board of directors are named, let alone their financial backers. Their annual published Income and Expenditure statements give no clue who stands behind them financially. RWB’s former Secretary General Robert Menard admitted that the budget for the organization was provided by “US organizations strictly linked with US foreign policy.”
Unfortunately, Reporters Without Borders are pretty much in the same boat as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists amongst many others who have thoroughly important sounding names but in the end prove to be little more than propagandists for their masters.
We asked Reporters Without Borders why there had been no mention of TTIP in any of their reports. At the time of publication, we have received no reply.
By Joe Emersberger | Zblogs | March 21, 2014
An op-ed in Ultimas Noticias (20/3/14), Venezuela’s largest circulating newspaper, stated that “One can’t keep playing around with Maduro’s assassin government and its insincere calls for peace”.
It goes on to state that Maduro’s government will go down in history as one of the most murderous and dictatorial ever, and makes a thinly veiled call for its unconstitutional ouster.
How does a vehemently anti-government op-ed like this appear in Venezuela’s largest newspaper when Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Venezuela 116 out of 179 in its “freedom of expression” index?
The international corporate press eagerly bolsters RSF’s assessment and prominently reports any allegation of censorship by the Maduro government, as it did with the Chavez government. But if international reporters have integrity, and believe their own coverage, shouldn’t this op-ed be deemed extremely newsworthy? Doesn’t the appearance of this op-ed reveal a spectacular act of courage on the part of both the author and Ultimas Noticias ? In fact, it doesn’t.
The author of the op-ed appears regularly in Ultimas Noticas as do similar authors like [prominent opposition politician] Antonio Ledezma. The op-ed is noteworthy only because it exposes the remarkable dishonesty of RSF and the international corporate media.
Ultimas Noticas also a published an investigative report in February that led to the arrests of government agents implicated in the killing of a protester. In May of last year, it published that transcript of a private conversation in which a prominent government supporter, Mario Silva, talked about corruption within government ranks and named prominent allies of Maduro’s government.
You can literally read Ultimas Noticas on any random day and find reporting and op-eds that completely demolish the lies peddled by RSF and international media about the state of press freedom in Venezuela.
Foreign reporters in Venezuela who are honest and not ideologically hostile to the Maduro government, may indeed face resource constraints that prevent them from seeking out some stories that contradict the prevailing distortions. Wealthy, urban based, English speaking government opponents have many ways to make their stories and opinions readily and economically available to foreign journalists. However, that can’t excuse failing to inform readers about what regularly appears in an outlet like Ultimas Noticias. If most people in English speaking countries believe that the media is far less free in Venezuela than in their own countries, it actually highlights the deplorable state of press freedom in their own.
JUBA – South Sudan police detained three journalists from the Gurtong website on Friday in the capital Juba, two days after a leading political commentator, Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol, was shot dead by unknown gunmen.
At around 10am the journalists’ driver was arrested and taken to a police station after he failed to show his driving licence. The incident occured on the road to Hai Referendum in Gudelle , the western suburb of the capital where Awuol was killed early on Wednesday morning.
The three reporters say they followed the police car which had taken their colleague to Bukul police station but when they entered a scuffle broke out and they were all beaten and detained. The police had wanted to delete photos taken by the journalists, one of the reporters said.
However, the pressmen added, a more senior police officer intervened and released the reporters, recommending that they open a case against the police for mistreating them.
The spokesman of the South Sudan Police Services, Col. James Monday, told UN Radio Miraya FM’s ’Inside South Sudan Program’ at 5 pm on Friday that the three policemen who were involved had been placed in detention for further questioning.
One of the journalist told Sudan Tribune that the police “did not know that we journalists” until they started taking photographs at the police station. Although they had press cards, the journalists said that they did not have time to show them to the police before they were beaten and detained.
He said that their cameras and recorders were taken from them as the policemen wanted to delete any information or photos taken but the equipment was returned upon their release.
All the three journalists work for the Gurtong website, one of the online publications that the late Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol used to write for before his death.
UN concerned over death of columnist
On Friday the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expressed “deep concern” over the death of the independent columnist who was also known as Diing Chan Awuol and wrote under the pen name, Isaiah Ding Abraham.
Awuol had worked for the United Nations during the war as well as, at other times, fighting with the southern rebels which now govern independent South Sudan.
In a statement, UNMISS said that the full and thorough investigation promised by South Sudan President Salva Kiir was of “utmost importance”.
Awuol was shot outside his home in Gudelle between midnight and 4am on 5 December. Family members and friends have spoken anonymously about the threats he received before his death due to articles, which were often critical of government.
As well as Gurtong, Awuol also wrote frequent columns for Sudan Tribune and also wrote for the Destiny newspaper, while it was publishing.
Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday that Awuol’s “death is a tragic setback to the hopes cherished by South Sudan’s defenders of freedom of opinion since independence” in July 2011 as part of a landmark 2005 peace deal with Khartoum.
The press freedom group added: “The way this case is handled will be test for freedom of information and free speech in this young nation. Only a tireless fight against impunity for crimes of violence against journalists and other news providers will preserve these freedoms, which are the basis of democracy.”
If it is established that Awuol’s death was motivated by his writing, he will be the first South Sudanese journalist to be killed in connection with his work.
South Sudan’s ruling party – the SPLM – and the young nation’s army – the SPLA – have proven sensitive to criticism since they came to power in 2005, struggling to adjust to the move from guerilla movement to responsible governance.
One of Awuol’s relatives told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday: “I knew he would one day be assassinated for his writings and I told him to stop but he said he would prefer to die than to stop writing.”
- South Sudan police authorities investigate killing of political commentator (sudantribune.com)
- RWB: Opinion writer gunned down outside Juba home (sudantribune.com)
An Israeli journalist who drew on leaked army documents to report the deliberate assassinations of Palestinian leaders was convicted on Thursday, but spared jail time in a plea bargain.
Uri Blau of Haaretz newspaper will do four months community service after confessing to reduced charges of possessing classified information without authorization but “with no intent to harm national security,” Israel’s State Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Prosecutors had earlier stated Blau could face more serious espionage charges. That provoked protests from journalists who argued Israel’s reputation for media freedom was at stake.
Blau reported in 2008 that top army officers in the occupied West Bank had given shoot-to-kill orders to troops chasing Palestinian gunmen.
The front-page story was based on documents given to Blau by former army conscript Anat Kamm, who had downloaded them, and hundreds of others, from her computer while a clerk with the military’s high command.
Kamm was jailed for four and a half years in October under a separate plea bargain.
Human rights groups have criticized Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders since the early days of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.
Haaretz said charging Blau was “unfortunate and sets a precedent in terms of its ramifications on the freedom of press in Israel, and especially on the ability to cover the security apparatus.” Other Israeli journalists echoed the condemnation.
Blau’s plea bargain is subject to formal approval by Tel Aviv District Court.
A recent Reporters Without Borders study ranked Israel 92nd out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom, behind countries such as Congo, Kenya and Serbia.
- Israeli Government to Prosecute Uri Blau for Espionage (richardsilverstein.com)
BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities should release the director of a new Palestinian satellite broadcaster who has been detained since Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
“Israeli authorities should consider the message they are sending by imprisoning the head of a station that covers news about prisoners,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s coordinator for Mideast issues.
“Authorities should not be holding Bahaa Khairi Moussa, and certainly not without explanation. He should be released immediately, and the station’s equipment should be returned.”
Moussa, the general director of the Palestine Prisoner Channel, was arrested Thursday in Jenin. Soldiers confiscated his station’s equipment during the raid, his colleagues said.
Reporters Without Borders, meanwhile, strongly condemned the arrest.
“Such abuses aimed at stifling the Palestinian media must cease,” the group said Monday.
“This is the third time since the start of 2012 that the Israeli authorities have victimized a Palestinian media organization. We call for the immediate release of Baha Mousa and the return of all confiscated equipment,” the Paris-based group said in a statement.
It called the raid “illegal under international law” because it took place in Palestinian territory.
In April, soldiers shut down the officers of a new broadcaster in occupied East Jerusalem and in February, soldiers raided two Palestinian TV stations, Watan and Al-Quds TV in Ramallah.
- Israel ‘arrests TV director, confiscates equipment’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel arrests 800,000 Palestinians since 1948 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces raided the Jerusalem office of a university media institute on Monday, shutting down the launch of an online media network and detaining employees.
Plainclothes police shut down the launch of the Hona al-Quds news site in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City, and confiscated equipment and files, network director Harun Abu Arrah told Ma’an.
Two employees — Adel Ruished and Mohannad Izheman — were detained, and guests attending the launch were blocked from entering.
Employees were presented with an order signed by the Israeli minister of internal security forbidding the event as a banned initiative of the Palestinian Authority, director of Al-Quds University Institute for Modern Media Lucy Nusseibeh told Ma’an.
The university, which launched Hona al-Quds, has been registered as an independent non-governmental organization with Israeli authorities for decades, Nusseibeh added.
The launch was intended to take place simultaneously with the institute’s Ramallah office by Skype.
Izheman, a university security guard, has since been released with a summons to return to police offices on Tuesday, and Ruished, the university’s Administrative Director of Jerusalem Affairs, is still being held, a university statement said.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the facility was “closed until further notice,” on suspicions of use for Palestinian official activity in Jerusalem.
“This is the second attack on our media institution in five weeks — this is education and not a political project,” Nusseibeh said.
In late February, Israeli forces raided the institute’s Al-Quds Educational TV in Ramallah-district Al-Bireh and confiscated its broadcasting equipment, claiming it was interrupting legal broadcasting.
The same day, Israeli forces also raided Watan TV’s newsroom in Ramallah and seized transmitters.
Reporters Without Borders said at the time it was “deeply shocked” by the raids.
“These arbitrary and illegal operations served yet again to intimidate Palestinian media and journalists, the victims of repeated attacks by the (Israeli army),” the group said in a statement.
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces attack press with ‘total impunity’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Union condemns Israel extending journalist detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)