World Press Freedom Day 2014: Honoring the Silenced

Posted May 2nd, 2014 at 4:23 pm (UTC+0)
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Journalists hold photographs of colleagues who have been killed in the last years while covering the news in Mexico, in Mexico City February 23, 2014. Journalists took to the streets several weeks after Gregorio Jimenez de la Cruz, a reporter for the Veracruz state newspaper Notisur y Liberal del Sur, was kidnapped and found buried along with two people. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Mexican authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Jimenez de la Cruz according to a press release. Jimenez de la Cruz was the second journalist to be killed in 2014, according to local media. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Journalists hold photographs of colleagues who have been killed in the last years while covering the news in Mexico, in Mexico City February 23, 2014. Journalists took to the streets several weeks after Gregorio Jimenez de la Cruz, a reporter for the Veracruz state newspaper Notisur y Liberal del Sur, was kidnapped and found buried along with two people. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Mexican authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Jimenez de la Cruz according to a press release. Jimenez de la Cruz was the second journalist to be killed in 2014, according to local media. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Saturday, May 3 marks World Press Freedom Day, the day the United Nations has set aside to recognize the value of freedom of expression, and the sacrifices journalists across the world make every day to achieve this freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is profiling 100 “Information Heroes” on its website and in social media, using the hashtag #Infoheroes.  They include:

  • Waleed Al-Shehhi (@walshehhi), a netizen based in the emirate of Ajman in the United Arab Emirates.  He is currently serving a two-year jail sentence and must pay a fine of more than $136,000 after tweeting about the trial of 94 Emiratis who were arrested and convicted for alleged links with an Islamist terrorist organization and about their alleged torture in custody.
  • Ukrainian investigative journalist Oleksiy Matsuka (@alexmazuka), whose websites Novisti Donbasa and Donetskaya Pravda expose corruption in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and have earned him harassment, surveillance and threats.  In 2011, unknown individuals set fire to his apartment, blocked the exit and barricaded the front door in order to prevent his escape.  Luckily, he was not home at the time.

Oleksiy Matsuka.jpg

 

 

  • The Guardian U.S. version’s Glenn Greenwald, the journalist to whom whistle-blower Edward Snowden turned over thousands of classified documents demonstrating U.S. and British intelligence surveillance programs.  The Guardian not only published the revelations, but won a Pulitzer Prize — and plenty of criticism.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists is marking World Press Freedom Day 2014 by calling for the release of all jailed journalists.  CPJ’s campaign, using the hashtag #Freethepress, highlights the plight of ten individuals:

1. Avaz Zeynally, Azerbaijan, editor of the independent daily Khural

2. Ahmed Humaidan, Bahrain, freelance photographer

3. Ilham Tohti, China, Uighur academic based in Beijing and founder of the news website Uighurbiz

4. Mahmoud Abou Zeid, Egypt, freelance photographer for Corbis and Demotix

5. Dawit Isaac, Eritrea, Swedish-Eritrean co-founder of Setit, once Eritrea’s largest newspaper

6. Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia, columnist for the leading independent weekly Feteh.

7. Siamak Ghaderi, Iran, founder of IRNA-ye maa (our IRNA) blog, LBGT rights defender

8. Fusün Erdoğan, Turkey, former general manager of the leftist Özgür Radyo (The Free Radio)

9. Muhammad Bekjanov, Uzbekistan, editor of the banned opposition newspaper Erk

10. Nguyen Van Hai, Vietnam, Vietnamese blogger who is better known by his pen name Dieu Cay

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Russia: Cracking Down On Dissenting Bloggers

Posted April 23rd, 2014 at 11:06 am (UTC+0)
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Policemen detain Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny (C), after he visited the city's election commission office to submit documents to get registered as a mayoral election candidate, in Moscow July 10, 2013. Protest leader Alexei Navalny vowed he would destroy the political system under President Vladimir Putin that was "sucking the blood out of Russia", after state prosecutors demanded he be jailed for six years on theft charges. Other opposition figures say the trial was intended to prevent Navalny from fulfilling his dream of becoming president and, before that, running for Moscow mayor in September. Navalny was detained on a charge of organizing an unsanctioned rally near the city's election commission office and was then released in less than half an hour. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Policemen detain Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny (C), after he visited the city’s election commission office to submit documents to get registered as a mayoral election candidate, in Moscow July 10, 2013. Protest leader Alexei Navalny vowed he would destroy the political system under President Vladimir Putin that was “sucking the blood out of Russia”, after state prosecutors demanded he be jailed for six years on theft charges. Other opposition figures say the trial was intended to prevent Navalny from fulfilling his dream of becoming president and, before that, running for Moscow mayor in September. Navalny was detained on a charge of organizing an unsanctioned rally near the city’s election commission office and was then released in less than half an hour. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Russia’s State Duma has just adopted a new bill which if enacted would broadly restrict the rights of all high-profile bloggers and social media users by treating them, in essence, as mass media outlets.

The new law, billed as a measure against terrorism, will apply to anyone whose blogs or personal websites attract 3,000 or more viewers a day.  It passed a second reading by lawmakers this week and is expected to be adopted next week and handed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for signing.

If all goes according to plan, bloggers would be mandated to publish their last names and initials, as well as their email addresses.  They would also be required to register with the government and follow the same rules as any other media outlet, i.e., verify the accuracy of anything they publish and set age guidelines for content.

Violators will face fines with a fine of as much as $1,000 for individuals and $10,000 for “legal entities.”   Repeat offenders would have their site’s suspended.

Local media says the purpose of the bill is to ensure that blogs and other personal websites are not used to commit crimes, divulge state secrets or promote extremism, pornography or violence.  Bloggers would also be banned from using foul language.

According to Russia’s state news agency ITAR-TASS, the bill is “half-baked,” “leaves many legal loopholes unplugged” and is facing considerable criticism inside Russia.

“The real purpose of the bill is to prevent any criticism of the authorities,” the agency quotes Ilya Shablinsky of Russia’s Presidential Council on Human Rights as saying.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)  expresses similar concerns and is calling on President Vladimir Putin to veto the bill.  “The broad restrictions laid out by this legislation invite both its abuse by Russian authorities to silence their critics and self-censorship on the part of bloggers in order to avoid potential repercussions,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ogniavoa.

If enacted, the bill would go into effect August 1, 2014.

Screenshot of Alexey Navalny's Twitter page.

Screenshot of Alexey Navalny’s Twitter page.

 

This news coincides with reports that a Russian court has found opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny guilty of slander and fined him $8,400 in a ruling observers say could potentially lead to time in jail.

Navalny is a popular blogger whose posted allegations of corruption among government elites.  He emerged from 2011-2012 protests against Putin as the main leader of the opposition and a potential political rival to Putin in 2018 elections.

Navalny is already serving a five-year suspended sentence on a theft conviction that will prevent him from running in the 2018 presidential vote.  He has also been charged with theft and money-laundering in a separate case that will soon go to trial.

In 2012, TIME Magazine named Navalny one of the world’s 100 most influential people.  The same year, Foreign Policy named him one of the globe’s top thinkers.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Russia Ends VOA Radio Broadcasts

Posted April 11th, 2014 at 1:45 pm (UTC+0)
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VOA Russia

In one more example of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia has cut off all programming by the Voice of America, a move which the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the organization that oversees VOA, has strongly condemned.

The decision was delivered in a curt, one-sentence letter from Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads the Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) Information Agency, responding from the BBG’s request to renew its long-standing contract to broadcast in Russia.

Dmitry Kiselyov,  the head of media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) smiles as he attends a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea's incorporation into Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.  AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV

Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) smiles as he attends a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea’s incorporation into Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV

“We are not going to cooperate,” the letter read.

This means that the last VOA programming, which includes news and English-language lessons–has stopped airing on local Moscow frequency 810 AM.

“Moscow has chosen to do the wrong thing and restrict free speech,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “This is a fundamental value shared by many countries around the world.”

Shell pointed out that Russian programming, including Russia Today television, continues to air in the United States.

“We urge Mr. Kiselev and other Russian authorities to open Russian airwaves to more of our programs and those of other international broadcasters,” Shell added. “We’re asking for an even playing field.”

According to RT, Kiselyov says his decision doesn’t have “anything to do with the freedom of speech” but that neither the VOA nor Radio Svoboda (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian service) “have nothing original to say.”

“They sound like they are broadcasting from another world, at least from a world that doesn’t exist anymore” Kiselyov said. “I regard these radio stations as mere spam on our frequencies.”

Kiselyov’s letter to the BBG was dated March 21–which, coincidentally, was the same day that the EU froze his assets and banned his travel.  The EU called him a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine,” according to a list published today in Brussels.

This is the same gentleman who, on his recent television show, boasted that Russia has the capability to turn the US into “radioactive ashes.”

Russia’s decision does not mean that Russians won’t have access to the VOA.  We are still available on our websiteFacebook and Twitter, as well as via satellite.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

China: Woman Activist Detained For Role in Exposing Prison Camp Abuses

Posted April 7th, 2014 at 2:11 pm (UTC+0)
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A woman activist whose efforts helped end China’s “Re-education Through Labor” (RTL) in late 2013 has been arrested and charged with “picking quarrels and making trouble.”

Between 2006 and 2011, Liu Hua served three terms in the Masanjia Women’s “Re-education Through Labor” (RTL) camp as punishment for her efforts to blow the whistle on corruption in her village of Zhangliangba.  Following her release from Masanjia, Liu appeared in the documentary The Women of Masanjia Labor Camp (above), which exposed torture and abuses within the entire RTL system. Amnesty International reports that it is generally believed Liu has been arrested because of her role in that film.

Liu Hua was first picked up by public security police in Beijing on March 10th and transferred back to the Shenyang Number 1 Detention Centre. She has been questioned repeatedly by police officers about the allegations of torture that she made in the documentary about the Masanjia camp, as well as her other activist activities in Beijing during this year’s session of the National People’s Congress in February, in the company of 20 other former Masanjia inmates.

In the documentary, she describes the shocking torture of female inmates by RTL guards.

Ai Xiaoming, professor at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou and a noted rights activist, compared the atrocities in Masanjia to those committed in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

On 28 December 2013, the government passed a resolution that abolished the Re-education Through Labor (RTL) system.

According to the Human Rights in China website, Liu was formerly the village head of Zhangliangbao, Honglingbao Township, in the Sujiatun District of Shenyang, Liaoning Province.

Beginning in 2004, Liu and her husband, former village chairman Yue Yongjin, had been petitioning Beijing to intervene in forcible land seizures in the village.

“In 2002, Liu and Yue accused the previous village committee of embezzling collective assets. Subsequently, Zhangliangbao residents elected Yue as village chairman and Liu as village head, but the previous officers refused to provide them with the official seal, making it impossible for Yue and Liu to exercise their official powers. Nevertheless, Liu and Yue brought in outside auditors to examine the village accounts, and the auditors determined that local village officials had unlawfully sold and reallocated collective property, including the village school.”  – “Rural Land Activists Detained after Petitioning over Corruption,” Human Rights in China, March 27, 2006

Amnesty International is urging that China immediately and unconditionally release Liu and to cease punishment of those who report rights abuses in China, in line with international standards.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

CAUSE: Collaborating to Beat Big Brother

Posted April 4th, 2014 at 6:22 pm (UTC+0)
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A demonstrator holds a banner during a protest rally against internet surveillance in Berlin, September 7, 2013.

A demonstrator holds a banner during a protest rally against internet surveillance in Berlin, September 7, 2013.

 

More and more journalists, netizens and dissidents are ending up in prison after their online communications are intercepted. The adoption of a legal framework that protects online freedoms is essential, both as regards the overall issue of Internet surveillance and the particular problem of firms that export surveillance products. Grégoire Pouget, Reporters Without Borders.

A new international coalition of human rights organizations launched today in Brussels.  In an online open letter to governments (see below), CAUSE–the Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports–is calling on global leaders to live up to their moral responsibility and commit to regulating private exports of surveillance systems and technologies used by dictators to crush dissent and stifle free speech.

“No country seems off limits to companies that create and sell these damaging surveillance tools,” reads CAUSE’s petition.  “Various reports document their use in countries as diverse as Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Morocco and Ethiopia amongst others. The current lack of concerted and effective international trade regulation has fostered an environment in which commercial companies have enabled authoritarian regimes with pervasive surveillance capabilities.

CAUSE, comprising Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Privacy International and Reporters without Borders – cites a $5 billion international trade in communication surveillance technologies and wants to hold both governments and private companies accountable for governments abuse of spying software and related tools and equipment.

CAUSE Open Letter

We, the undersigned organisations, express our grave concern at the development and the irresponsible sale and export of surveillance technologies across the world, where they are being used by oppressive and authoritarian regimes for internal repression of their citizens and in violation of a range of fundamental human rights.

No country seems off limits to companies that create and sell these damaging surveillance tools: various reports document their use in countries as diverse as Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Morocco and Ethiopia amongst others. The current lack of concerted and effective international trade regulation has fostered an environment in which commercial companies have enabled authoritarian regimes with pervasive surveillance capabilities. 

The proliferation of these technologies allows for mass surveillance of entire countries, via hacking computers or phones, mapping, profiling and analysing social networks, installing malware allowing for surreptitious extraction of data, and mass internet monitoring and filtering through the tapping of under-sea fibre-optics cables that carry all communications traffic in and out of countries. These technologies enable regimes to crush dissent or criticism, chill free speech and destroy the fundamental rights that underpin democratic societies. 

We work in diverse and challenging environments across the world defending international human rights. We have seen the impact and effect these tools have on citizens and civil society groups alike. Inaction will further embolden the surveillance trade and normalise state surveillance.

We urge governments to come together and take action. 

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Russia: Enforced Psychiatric ‘Treatment’ for Activist

Posted March 31st, 2014 at 1:24 pm (UTC+0)
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Mikhail Kosenko sits inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow May 29, 2013. A Russian court on Tuesday ordered Kosenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin confined to a psychiatric ward indefinitely over clashes with police at a protest, a ruling likened by rights activists to abuses of psychiatry during the Soviet era to jail dissidents. Kosenko, who had undergone outpatient psychiatric treatment before his arrest, was among more than two dozen accused of rioting at a protest in Moscow on May 6, 2012, the eve of Putin's inauguration to a new six-year term. Picture taken May 29, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Mikhail Kosenko sits inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Moscow May 29, 2013. A Russian court on Tuesday ordered Kosenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin confined to a psychiatric ward indefinitely over clashes with police at a protest, a ruling likened by rights activists to abuses of psychiatry during the Soviet era to jail dissidents. Kosenko, who had undergone outpatient psychiatric treatment before his arrest, was among more than two dozen accused of rioting at a protest in Moscow on May 6, 2012, the eve of Putin’s inauguration to a new six-year term. Picture taken May 29, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A troubling report from Index on Censorship this morning:  A 39 year-old activist arrested in 2012 for taking part in a protest in Moscow could be spending the rest of his life in a state-owned hospital.

Last week, Mikhail Kosenko lost his appeal case against enforced psychiatric treatment and was sent to a hospital for an indefinite term.  How long he spends will depend on the opinions of doctors who, says INDEX, may not be politically neutral.

Kosenko was arrested by Moscow police on May 6, 2012, while participating in a protest against President Vladimir Putin, just one day before Putin’s inauguration for a third term. It isn’t clear what, exactly, happened that day.  The New Yorker reported last October that police had changed the route of the march without informing anyone, and somehow clashes ensued between protesters and police, near Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square.

KosenkoKosenko was  fined 500 ruples–about $15–and sent home.  But a month later, police raided his home and took him away.  He was charged with participating in a protest and assaulting a police officer, and finally sentenced October 8, 2013 after a trial in which, according to Amnesty International, which sat in on court hearings, failed to prove his guilt. In fact, Amnesty said the evidence and testimonies of eyewitnesses overwhelmingly supported his innocence.

“To incarcerate Mikhail Kosenko forcibly in a psychiatric unit smacks of the worst excesses of the now defunct Soviet era when dissidents were languishing in mental institutions, treated as mental patients only because they dared to speak their mind,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, said at the time.

Kosenko has suffered from mental illness and depression which may be related to a concussion he suffered while he was in the army almost 20 years ago, and has been treated for it.

According to the Moscow Times, Russia’s Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia issued a special announcement about the case:

“On the basis of a conversation that lasted less than one hour, the specialists made the far more serious diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia instead of the diagnosis of sluggish neurosis-like schizophrenia that Kosenko was treated for over the course of 12 years,” the association said.

kosenko2Worse, the Serbsky Center — formerly, the State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry, the Soviet flagship for punitive psychiatric punishment — which interviewed Kosenko told prosecutors that he “required compulsory treatment” since “he presented a danger to himself and others.”

During the 1970s and 1980s, enforced punitive psychiatry was so common that a quarter of all political dissidents were declared “mentally ill.”

In a 2010 article for Oxford University’s Schizophrenia Bulletin, psychiatrist and Sovietologist Robert van Voren explained that the political abuse of psychiatry in the USSR  “originated from the concept that persons who opposed the Soviet regime were mentally ill because there was no other logical explanation why one would oppose the best sociopolitical system in the world.”

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Egypt: Journalist, Three Others Killed in Friday Protests

Posted March 28th, 2014 at 3:35 pm (UTC+0)
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Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Ukraine – Russia: Media Wars

Posted March 27th, 2014 at 8:14 pm (UTC+0)
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A Ukrainian serviceman watches a TV broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, at a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean town of Belbek March 21, 2014. Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously approved a treaty on annexing Ukraine's Crimea region on Friday, clearing the way for President Vladimir Putin to sign it into law. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

A Ukrainian serviceman watches a TV broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, at a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean town of Belbek March 21, 2014. Russia’s upper house of parliament unanimously approved a treaty on annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region on Friday, clearing the way for President Vladimir Putin to sign it into law. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

 

As tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia has slammed Kyiv over the decision to suspend broadcast licenses of several Russian state television networks, a move that led Ukrainian cable companies to dump a number of Russian TV channels from their line-ups.

Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, is quoted by RT as calling the ban “an attack on democratic freedoms, and a violation of international obligations.”

Dolgov told the Voice of Russia that Ukraine’s real motive was “to cut off millions of citizens of Ukraine from the impartial information and substantive information about the negative phenomena in the humanitarian field which are happening in Ukraine.”

 

UkrainecensorsUkraine’s largest cable operator Volya, which boasts about 20 percent of Ukraine’s pay-TV market, says it removed Russian international channels NTV Mir, RTR Planeta and Perviy Kanal/Channel One from its line-up at midnight Wednesday night, and will begin carrying Russian independent news and information channel Dozhd (“Rain”).

By coincidence, Russia’s biggest cable companies have dropped Dozhd from their lineups for “economic and logistical problems.”

Earlier this year, as Russians prepared to mark the 70th anniversary of the 900-day blockade of Leningrad, Dozhd angered the Kremlin by asking viewers whether Leningrad should have been surrendered in order to save the hundreds of thousands who died of starvation there.

Gigi.jpg

 

Dozhd, the only independent network in Russia, is now in the middle of a one-week fundraising telethon. A Kremlin spokesperson wished the channel luck in raising enough money to stay on air.  Without a miraculous infusion of cash, the network will not last another week.  It is not yet clear whether the deal with Ukraine will allow for its survival.

Recently, Ukraine’s Council for National Security and Defense began a probe into Russian networks in that country, accusing them of “spreading information that poses a threat to Ukraine’s national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”  Russia denies those accusations against its networks.

At the same time, journalists trying to report in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have faced harassment, intimidation and physical assaults. Web news sites have suffered cyber attacks and Russia blocked transmission of four Crimean TV stations, replacing them with signals from Russian state television.

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Turkey Bans Twitter Ahead of March Elections

Posted March 21st, 2014 at 12:04 pm (UTC+0)
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Person holds a Samsung Galaxy S4 displaying a Twitter error message in front of Turkish national flag in this illustration taken in ZenicaIn an astonishing move aimed at curbing the spread of information ahead of March 30 presidential elections, Turkey’s courts have blocked Twitter.  The move came within hours of comments made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to supporters during a campaign rally:

“Twitter, mwitter!,” Erdogan told supporters at a rally late on Thursday.  That’s a phrase Reuters compares to the English rhyming slang, “Twitter, schmitter!”

“The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is.”  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, March 20, 2014

Almost instantly, a new hashtag was born: #TwitterIsBannedInTurkey, and the news went viral.

Twitter’s @policy account earlier messaged Turkish users, advising them to tweet by SMS, but according to reports, it isn’t clear whether these can be viewed inside Turkey.

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul–tweeting as @cbabdullahgul–said Friday that social media bans are not acceptable and expressed hope that the ban wouldn’t last long.

Meanwhile, the opposition Republican People’s Party says it will challenge the ban and file a criminal complaint against Erdogan for violating personal freedoms.

Twitter has been blamed for spreading an incriminating recording featuring Erdogan and his son debating how to hide large amounts of cash.  Erdogan sayss the recording is a fake and has promised to punish those responsible.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

Afghanistan: Swedish Journalist Killed in Kabul

Posted March 11th, 2014 at 4:08 pm (UTC+0)
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Swedish journalist Nils Horner is pictured in StockholmSwedish Radio today is mourning the loss of its South Asia correspondent.  Nils Horner, 51, was gunned down in the streets of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.  Swedish Radio’s Director-General Cilla Benkö called today one of the worst days in the corporation’s history.

According to a statement released by Afghan police, Horner was shot several times in the head while talking with his translator.  The shooting occurred in the fashionable Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, near the Lebanese restaurant where gunmen shot dead 21 people in January.

The Taliban say they had nothing to do with his murder.

“We checked with our mujahideen and they are not involved,”Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP.  “We don’t take responsibility for this incident.”

In just over three weeks, Afghanis will go to the polls to elect a new president.  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that journalists are often attacked or harrassed while covering elections.  Since February 15, when campaigning for the upcoming election began, around 20 journalists have been attacked.

Réza Moïni, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk, called Horner’s death a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by journalists in Afghanistan.

“Although the Afghan media have developed in the past few years, mounting violence and above all the complete impunity enjoyed by those responsible for attacks on journalists could jeopardize election coverage and, with it, the entire democratic process,” Moïni said.

 

 

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

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About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.

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