Pakistan: Four Media Workers Dead in First Three Weeks of 2014

Posted January 24th, 2014 at 12:36 pm (UTC+0)
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A journalist holds a placard while taking part in a demonstration in front of the Parliament building in Islamabad January 28, 2013. Journalists from all over the country held a demonstration on Monday against a recent spate of killings of journalists and demand compensation for the deceased. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

A journalist holds a placard while taking part in a demonstration in front of the Parliament building in Islamabad January 28, 2013. Journalists from all over the country held a demonstration on Monday against a recent spate of killings of journalists and demand compensation for the deceased. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Pakistan appears to be living up to its designation by Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups as one of the deadliest countries in which to practice journalism.  So far, 2014 has witnessed the deaths of four media workers.

Last week, three Taliban gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed three employees of Pakistan’s Express News TV. Earlier in the month, unidentified gunmen opened fire on Shan Odhor, a senior journalist with the Aaab Tak News Channel.  The Secretary General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has condemned the incident and warned that these attacks won’t stop Pakistan’s journalists from speaking the truth.  He also announced a 10-day period of mourning for the slain media workers.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) this week wrote a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, calling on him to take serious action to protect his country’s journalists and bring attackers to justice.

“It is time that the Sharif government took its obligations seriously, to ensure justice is done and that the media is able to operate in Pakistan without fear of deadly reprisal,” the IFJ letter read. As long as impunity runs rife in Pakistan, journalists and media workers will continue to die.”

“The government of Pakistan has failed in its duties to protect media workers when the realities for them are all too apparent. It has failed to bring killers to justice and yet these brave journalists continue to try to do their jobs knowing death is a real repercussion.”  IFJ letter to PM Nawaz Sharif, Jan. 21, 2014.

As of this posting, IFJ says it has not received any response to its letter, but insists “the government must respond and the media must be protected.”

Express News was attacked twice in 2013.  Last August, four gunmen on motorcycles fired more than 30 rounds into its Karachi office , injuring two staff members.  In another attack December 2, assailants opened fire on and threw homemade bombs at the same office, injuring a security guard.

Express News says that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the latest attack in a phone call to anchor Javed Chaudhry.  The TTP accuses Pakistani media of spreading “venomous propaganda” against them.

Meanwhile, a regional Taliban spokesman told Reuters, “We will continue to target the media if they do not stop propaganda against Islam and the Taliban.”

 

 

 

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.

Bangladesh Journalist Charged With Sedition

Posted January 21st, 2014 at 4:18 pm (UTC+0)
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401px-Salah_ChoudhuryA Dhaka court has sentenced a controversial newspaper editor to seven years “rigorous imprisonment” for “sedition.”

Police arrested Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on November 29, 2003 — yes, a decade ago —  at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport as he was about to fly to Tel Aviv to attend a writer’s conference.

Choudhury is the editor of the Weekly Blitz,  a small magazine and website.  He was accused of damaging Bangladesh’s image by criticizing Islamism in his articles.

In 2003, the Israel-based International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace invited Choudhury to present a paper at their 2003 conference, where he was reportedly slated to speak about the emergence of radical Islam in Bangladesh.

According to the Bangladeshi Daily Star, he was also accused of having alleged links with Israeli intelligence.

In 2012, he detailed his arrest and detention experience to the Times of Israel, who described him as an “unlikely pro-Israel crusader”:

“I was tortured with electric shocks. They put nails in my ear. They broke my kneecap with a hockey stick. I was interrogated for 15 days and not allowed to bathe. They told me, ‘confess you’re a Zionist spy. Otherwise, why do you support Judaism?’ I said that I’m a good Muslim, and a good Muslim must trust the Jews and Christians. And I’m proud of that.”

“Imprisoning a professional journalist because of what he wrote is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said. “This conviction violates Bangladesh’s own constitution and all international standards on media freedom.

Protesters shout slogans during a clash with police in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014. Reuters

Protesters shout slogans during a clash with police in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, Jan. 5, 2014. Reuters

“We urge the Bangladeshi courts to overturn this verdict and to respect the right to information. Bangladesh must not yield to pressure from radical elements who want those they wrongly brand as ‘blasphemers’ to be severely punished.”

Sohail Choudhury, brother to Shoaib, is now acting as the Weekly Blitz executive editor.

“The verdict is simply unbelievable,” he told RePRESSed.  “The present government is a secular government.  Even our neighbor India supports this government, as the ruling Awami League has always been secular and taken a firm stand against any kind of extremist movement by fundamentalist radicals.

“I am sure the honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh is either unaware or she has been misinterpreted.  Once she is clear about the verdict, she will not only take measures to revise the verdict, but will take measures to punish those involved.”   – Acting Blitz editor, Sohail Choudhury

In July 2006, Choudhury’s Dhaka-based magazine was the target of a bomb attack that RSF condemned at the time. He also received death threats.

Bangladesh is currently being rocked by demonstrations in connection with parliamentary elections held on 5 January.  More than 150 people have died there in recent political violence in recent weeks.  In October, RSF reported on a wave of attacks on journalists in the run-up to the election.

RSF ranks Bangladesh is 144 out of 179 countries in its 2013 press freedom index.

 

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.

UPDATE: Shez Cassim Back Home After Months in UAE Jail

Posted January 14th, 2014 at 5:14 pm (UTC+0)
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As RePRESSed noted in a recent update, Shezanne Cassim, the US citizen who was jailed in the UAE for a parody YouTube video, has been deported from the UAE and is finally back in his home state of Minnesota.

“I think there’s a misconception that I broke a law,” he told reporters of the local NBC television affiliate, KARE (see video, above). “But I want to say I did nothing wrong.  There is nothing illegal about the video, even under UAE law.”

“Due to the political situation there, they’re scared of democracy. They wanted to send a message to the UAE public, saying, ‘Look what we’ll do to people who do just a silly YouTube video, so imagine if you do something that’s actually critical of the government.’ It’s a warning message, and we’re scapegoats.” Shez Cassim, Jan. 9, 2014

Cassim cut short his remarks but indicated that at a later date., he would have much more to say about his experiences and observations in the UAE.

Meanwhile, Cassim’s co-defendents are still in jail, and UAE human rights activist Obaid Yousif has been arrested because he gave information about Cassim’s case to the CNN news network.

The Emirates Center for Human Rights (ECHR) says this is not his first arrest. Al-Zaabi was detained last July for  tweeting, as @bukhaledobaid, messages of political reform in the UAE. He was released a month later on bail because of poor health.

ECHR director Rori Donaghy says he has no doubt Al-Zaabi’s latest arrest is related to the CNN interview.

“There is little doubt that Obaid al-Zaabi has been arrested for being brave enough to speak out against the human rights abuses being carried out by authorities in the UAE,” Donaghy said.  “It is hard to view the UAE as anything short of a police state when citizens disappear at the hands of state security simply for taking part in a television interview.”

Watch Al-Zaabi’s interview with CNN, below:

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.

Island of Nauru Increases Foreign Journalists’ Visa Fees Forty-Fold

Posted January 13th, 2014 at 4:55 pm (UTC+0)
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Refugees gather on one side of a fence to talk with international journalists about their journey that brought them to the Island of Nauru, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001. The refugees were part of 517 rescued from sinking boats north of Australia and will be detained until their claims for asylum can be processed. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Refugees gather on one side of a fence to talk with international journalists about their journey that brought them to the Island of Nauru, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001. The refugees were part of 517 rescued from sinking boats north of Australia and will be detained until their claims for asylum can be processed. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Nations that don’t care for foreign journalists poking around have come up with a variety of interesting ways to silence them.  As RePRESSed noted in an earlier post, China kept New York Times and Bloomberg reporters biting their nails for months before finally renewing their visas.

During its own version of the “Arab Spring,” Bahrain simply stopped journalists at the airport and sent them back home.  Egypt jails some of them.  In Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, as in several other countries, journalists have simply been murdered.

The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru has come up with a novel way to discourage journalists–at least that’s what its opposition says:  It upped the cost of a journalist visa forty-fold — from $181 to more than $7,200.  And the fee is nonrefundable, even if the journalist’s application is turned down.

Nauru is defending the increase as a measure to bolster revenue.  But Nauru’s opposition MPs say the government is trying to prevent foreign journalists from covering the only stories that would be interesting to foreign readers:  Its treatment of asylum seekers.

Nauru mapAmnesty International said in November, 2012, that it had “found a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions creating an increasingly volatile situation on Nauru, with the Australian Government spectacularly failing in its duty of care to asylum seekers.”

Amnesty also says the transfer of asylum seekers from Australia to Nauru violates international law as it acts as a punishment for seeking asylum by boat.

The East Asia and the Pacific sub-region faces a constant influx of migrants and asylum-seekers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The Australian government calls them IMAs (irregular maritime arrivals) and has adopted strict new asylum legislation and policies to handle them.  Australia transfers IMAs to Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be processed.  By the terms of their agreement of August 2013, Australia will give $17 million on top of the $29.9 million Australian foreign aid funding already budgeted for 2013-14.

Currently, more than 700 men, women and children are detained on Nauru, transferred from Australia as part of an arrangement paid for by the Australian government.  Amnesty International has criticized Nauru’s refugee status determination procedures, including in respecting the principle of non-refoulement — that is, not turning refugees away or sending back into danger, something they are obligated not to do under the UN refugee convention.

 

 

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.

UPDATE: Good News for American Jailed in UAE for Spoof YouTube Video

Posted January 7th, 2014 at 4:59 pm (UTC+0)
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Screen grab, exterior of fictional "Satwa Combat School." (via YouTube)

Screen grab, exterior of fictional “Satwa Combat School.” (via YouTube)

The Emirates Center for Human Rights (ECHR) has announced that Shezanne Cassim, the American citizen jailed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for making a spoof video about Dubai’s “Satwa” hip hop culture, is about to be released from jail.  Minneapolis, Minnesota lawyer Susan Burns, who represents Cassim’s family, told RePRESSed that it’s official.

“State Department official channels confirm that he has been transferred to a deportation processing center,” Burns said.  If all goes according to plan,  Cassim, 29, will be heading back home to Minnesota within two to four days.

“The disregard for freedom of expression, the arbitrary application of this cybercrime law, the constant delays revealed the U.A.E. legal system as archaic and unfair by modern standards,” noted Burns.  “However, we are relieved that the U.A.E. finally realized that Shezanne deserved to be released.”

Cassim  was originally arrested April 7, 2012 and has been held in a high-security prison ever since. The one year court sentence, minus time served, also mandated that he be deported from the UAE following his release–and pay a 10,000 dirham ($2,725) fine.

He and four colleagues were convicted December 23 of “endangering state security” for having produced the video.  Some interpreted it as an attempt to portray the Satwa neighborhood as dangerous and full of criminals.  Cassim  was arrested April 7, 2012, and held in a maximum-security prison.

“I can’t tell you how relieved our family is by this turn of events,” said Shez’s brother, Shervon Cassim.  “We are very excited, and we are grateful to everyone who worked to free Shez.”

ECHR Director Rori Donaghy says while it may be a great relief to the family, “until authorities change the cyber crimes law, it is simply a matter of time before another story of injustice emerges from the UAE.”

 

 

 

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.

In Bahrain, Taking a Photograph Could Land You in Jail

Posted January 6th, 2014 at 9:20 am (UTC+0)
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Bahraini anti-government protesters carry signs with images of jailed photographers, demanding their freedom, during a march Friday, Jan 3, 2014, in the northern village of Barbar, Bahrain. Thousands shouted "down with the government" during the march called by several opposition societies seeking democracy in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini anti-government protesters carry signs with images of jailed photographers, demanding their freedom, during a march Friday, Jan 3, 2014, in the northern village of Barbar, Bahrain. Thousands shouted “down with the government” during the march called by several opposition societies seeking democracy in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

International rights groups are calling for the release of a prominent photographer in Bahrain, who is being held in prison for documenting anti-government protests in that country.  Reporters Without Borders joins the Committee to Protect Journalists in calling for the immediate release of Ahmed Jaber Al-Fardan. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) says that nationalsecurity forces conducted a dawn raid on his family home, confiscating his camera and electronic equipment.  According to Al-Fardan’s family, police showed no warrants.

An anti-government protester throws a Molotov cocktail at riot police during clashes after the funeral procession of Ahmed Abdul-Ameer in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama, November 30, 2013.  According to police, Abdul-Ameer died after suffering burns as he tried to set a warehouse on fire during an anti-government protest. Opposition activists said that he died when he tried to burn tires on the road to create road blocks in the village. REUTERS/Stringer

An anti-government protester throws a Molotov cocktail at riot police during clashes after the funeral procession of Ahmed Abdul-Ameer in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama, November 30, 2013.
According to police, Abdul-Ameer died after suffering burns as he tried to set a warehouse on fire during an anti-government protest. Opposition activists said that he died when he tried to burn tires on the road to create road blocks in the village. REUTERS/Stringer

Al-Fardan is a former member of the Photographic Society of America (PSA) and a contributor to the Italian Nur Photo agency.  He has won awards from both IFEX and Freedom House for his work, which has appeared in media outlets across the world.

In a separate incident the same day, security forces arrested photographer Jaffar Abdul-Nabi Marhoon from a barber shop in his village. Eye witnesses told rights officials that he was severely beaten during the arrest.

Marhoon’s apprehension brings to seven the number of photographers now held in Bahrain jails.

“We also call on the Bahraini authorities to stop using arbitrary detention to gag dissident journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said.  “Such practices constitute a grave threat to freedom of information and flout Bahrain’s international obligations.”

BCHR says these arrests are part of an escalating suppression campaign by authorities against photographers who, through their cameras, document police and security abuses against demonstrators.  The group is calling on the US, UK and UN to pressure Bahraini authorities to:

  • Immediately release all the detained photographers and allow them to work without fear;
  • Stop what they say is a systematic policy of targeting photographers, journalists and bloggers;
  • Hold accountable all those involved in the violations and torture whether by supervision and /or order;
  • Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in ongoing trials.

 

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 Ramps Up Crackdown On Al Jazeera, Other Foreign Journalists

Posted January 3rd, 2014 at 7:07 pm (UTC+0)
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People are seen in a burnt studio of Al Jazeera TV network, at Tahrir Square in Cairo November 21, 2012. The studio used by the Al Jazeera TV network was set on fire in central Cairo as security forces and protesters fought in the streets of the Egyptian capital for a third day. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

People are seen in a burnt studio of Al Jazeera TV network, at Tahrir Square in Cairo November 21, 2012. The studio used by the Al Jazeera TV network was set on fire in central Cairo as security forces and protesters fought in the streets of the Egyptian capital for a third day. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Rights groups and media organizations are expressing outrage over the arrest of three Al Jazeera English (AJE) journalists Sunday.  They were arrested in their makeshift studio in a Cairo hotel, accused of “belonging to a terrorist group and broadcasting false news that harms national security.”

Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy, Peabody-award winning Australian journalist Peter Greste,  producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy were arrested in their makeshift studio in a Marriott hotel room. Authorities also confiscated their cameras and equipment.

Fahmy, as @Repent11, last tweeted on December 28th about attacks on military security buildings in El Arish, in northern Sinai, as well as clashes between security forces and students at Al Azhar University, the 10th century seat of Islamic scholarship in Cairo.  Students had taken to the streets a day earlier to protest the government’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist Fahmygroup. Fahmy’s family is now tweeting on his behalf.

The arrests bring to five the number of Al Jazeera journalists now detained in Egypt.

Al Jazeera cameraman Mohamed Badr was arrested July 15, 2013, while covering clashes between security forces and supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi in Ramses Square, and Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Abdullah Al Shami was arrested August 14, 2013, while covering the military crackdown on supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsi at an encampment in Rab’aa.

Journalist Metin Turan, a senior reporter from the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, was released by Egyptian authorities in December after being detained for more than 100 days in the Egyptian capital and this week returned home to Istanbul.

Salah Negm is Director of News for Al Jazeera English, based in Doha.  RePRESSed reached him by telephone for an update.

To listen to the interview, use the audio player at the bottom of this post.

RePRESSed:  Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste remain in jail.  They were arrested along with cameraman Mohamed Fawzy on Sunday – what were the charges?

Al Jazeera Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy. Courtesy, Sherif Fahmy.

Al Jazeera Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy. Courtesy/Sherif Fahmy.

Negm: When they were arrested, there were no charges, but what we understand from unofficial accounts is that they were questioned about their relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood.  They were broadcasting and they have videotapes and pictures from around Egypt, and of course we all know that correspondents who work for television will for sure have pictures and they will have video cameras, which is of course quite normal.

As for the relation to the Muslim Brotherhood or terrorism, that is of course a fabrication and nonsense.

RePRESSed:  Your cameraman, Mohamed Fawzy, was released.  Why was he released so quickly, do you think?

Negm:  We don’t know.  No one knows.  In Egypt nowadays, you don’t get justification or explanation. We don’t really get any official account. Their situation now is that they are under investigation.  There is no case yet, and nothing is proven or not proven.  It’s all allegation.

RePRESSed:  Are you in touch with authorities in Egypt?

Negm:  We have our lawyers who are following the case with the prosecutor general, but what we are outraged about is that you don’t arrest journalists like this. They are world-renowned journalists who are working for an international television station.  You don’t arrest them like this for doing their journalistic duty in a normal way.  And that’s not acceptable.

RePRESSed: Mr. Negm, Al Jazeera has a history of bad relations with Egypt going back at least to last summer.  Why do you believe Al Jazeera is being targeted by Egyptian authorities?

Negm:  I wouldn’t say Al Jazeera has bad relations with Egypt.  Al Jazeera was following one editorial policy, which is that we are objective and we broadcast the facts as we know them after verifying them and making sure that they are correct and accurate as much as a journalist can do.

What happens is that when the facts are not suitable to the story that the government, or a political party or a part of the society want to appear, then the relations backfire with that party or government or political power or whatever.  But we are following the same editorial line and editorial policy sanctioned by the establishment of Al Jazeera in 1996 until now.  So, the relationship specifically with Egypt was very good some times and bad other times, depending on how Egyptian authorities liked the facts to go out to the people—or not.

Al Jazeera journalists are not the only ones arrested in Egypt. This undated photograph shows Mohammed Abdel-Moneim, a photojournalist with Al-Badil newspaper, who was arrested with another photographer, Ahmed Hendawi from Yqeen online news network by Egyptian security forces while covering a demonstration in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Military prosecutors interrogated the two journalists arrested a day earlier during a protest organized by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in an eastern Cairo neighborhood, Rawda Ahmed, a lawyer at the Arab Network for Human rights Information, said Saturday.(AP Photo/Mohammed el-Shahed)

Al Jazeera journalists are not the only ones arrested in Egypt. This undated photograph shows Mohammed Abdel-Moneim, a photojournalist with Al-Badil newspaper, who was arrested with another photographer, Ahmed Hendawi from Yqeen online news network by Egyptian security forces while covering a demonstration in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. AP Photo/Mohammed el-Shahed

And that, by the way, isn’t only the case in Egypt.  It is the case with other governments, appallingly, East and West.

RePRESSed:  Other Al Jazeera  journalists were arrested previously.  What do we know about their condition?

Negm: Two journalists working for Al Jazeera Arabic were arrested for almost five months ago now.  One of them [Abdullah Al-Shami, along with over 300 prisoners] is on a hunger strike now.  They are held in a  criminal prison.  One of them is held with something like 15 other inmates in a very small cell.  Their imprisonment is being renewed as under investigation, 15 days at a time, for five months.  And they have not been put on trial. Their case was never referred to a court.  It’s just an extended arbitrary arrest.

RePRESSed:  Has the network been in touch and are family members able to visit?

Negm:  Family members visit with difficulty. The network is in touch through its legal representatives and lawyers.

RePRESSed:  Is there anything you’d like to add that you feel that my readers should know?

Negm:  I would add that journalists do their work and they try to convey the facts and the truth, whether governments and political parties like it or not, and they sometimes pay a price for that.

But in a country that is trying to outline a road map for democracy, this is not at all the way to  achieve democracy, freedom of expression or freedom for people in general, innocent people the government shouldn’t throw in jail this way.

Listen to audio of Cecily Hilleary’s interview with Salah Negm, below:

 

 

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.

UPDATE: Good News/Bad News for Times, Bloomberg Journalists in China

Posted January 3rd, 2014 at 12:22 am (UTC+0)
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A Chinese police man checks the identity of a foreign journalist near the Xidan shopping district, one of two sites designated on an internet call for protest in Beijing, China, Sunday, March 6, 2011. The Chinese capital began ramping up controls on foreign journalists amid calls on the Internet for anti-government protests styled on those rocking the Middle East and North Africa.

A Chinese police man checks the identity of a foreign journalist near the Xidan shopping district, one of two sites designated on an internet call for protest in Beijing, China, Sunday, March 6, 2011. The Chinese capital began ramping up controls on foreign journalists amid calls on the Internet for anti-government protests styled on those rocking the Middle East and North Africa.

As reported in an earlier post, about two dozen New York Times and Bloomberg journalists have been waiting anxiously for China to renew their visas and allow them to continue reporting.

Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that at least two Times reporters are being forced to leave China–Beijing correspondent and former Reuters reporter Chris Buckley and Philip P. Pan, who was to have served as the new Beijing bureau chief, have failed to secure visas.

China became angry with the Times two years ago over a report about the wealth of former premier Wen Jiabao., and the Times website has been blocked in China ever since.  But oddly,Times correspondent David Barboza has had his visa renewed and will remain in China.  He’s the reporter who wrote the original story about Wen’s family fortune.

In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, Chinese billionaire and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao at right gestures to a driver of one of the new Chinese car he offered to owners of Japanese cars damaged during anti-Japan protests in Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu province. Chen offered replacement cars to 43 of his microblog followers who had their cars damaged by demonstrators. (AP Photo)

In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, Chinese billionaire and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao at right gestures to a driver of one of the new Chinese car he offered to owners of Japanese cars damaged during anti-Japan protests in Nanjing in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. Chen offered replacement cars to 43 of his microblog followers who had their cars damaged by demonstrators. (AP Photo)

Reuters reported December 19 that China had renewed press accreditations for Bloomberg News and several Times reporters.  No names were mentioned.

This news coincides with an odd Reuters report: An eccentric Chinese recycling tycoon named Chen Guangbiao says he wants to buy the New York Times – and he’ll be talking it over with a “leading shareholder” in New York on January 5.

Observers say such a sale is highly unlikely, but Chen says, “There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price.”

This is the same Chen who recently sprayed fire extinguisher liquid into his mouth to prove it was not toxic.

 

 

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.

In Memoriam: Remembering Journalists Killed Covering Syria in 2013

Posted December 30th, 2013 at 9:02 am (UTC+0)
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Syrian activist and photographer Molhem Barakat, who has died while covering the country's conflict, is seen at an undisclosed location

Syrian activist and photographer Molhem Barakat, who has died while covering the country’s conflict, is seen at an undisclosed location.

We received sad news from Syria during the holiday season:   Molhem Barakat, a young Syrian photographer who freelanced for Reuters and whose iconic photos appeared in many global publications, was killed a few days ago in the line of duty.  Believed to be no older than 19–possibly as young as 17–years old, Baraka was shot dead on Friday, December 20, as he photographed a battle between rebels and regime forces over a hospital which rebels said the government had turned into military barracks.

Barakat is the latest of dozens of journalists, reporters, photographers and videographers killed in 2013 while trying to bring the news of the Syria conflict to the world’s attention. As listed by Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), they include:

Iraqi freelance cameraman Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili

Iraqi freelance cameraman Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili/REUTERS

Yasser Faysal Al-Joumaili,a freelance Iraqi cameraman, killed execution- style December 4, 2013, by members of the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“Joumaili is the first foreign journalist to be murdered by an armed opposition group in northern Syria’s so-called ‘liberated’ areas,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Mohamed Yamen Naddaf,  a cameraman with the opposition news agency Shahba Press, was shot by a sniper November 24, 2013 while covering clashes between the Syrian army and the rebels in the Al-Sheik Saied neighborhood of Aleppo. Shahba Press editor-in-chief Ma’moun Abu Amr told CPJ that Naddaf, who was accompanying the rebels, was killed instantly.

Mohamed Ahmed Taysir Bellou, a cameraman with Shahba Press and editor of opposition station Shahba TV, was shot by a sniper while he was covering  clashes in the Lairmoon district of Aleppo.

Mohammad Saeed was killed by a hooded man using a silenced gun in the Aleppo village of Hreitan, Syrian opposition activist said. (Al Arabiya) Alqaeda linked assasins shot him while he is having a haircut in his home town north of Syria

Mohammad Saeed was killed by a hooded man using a silenced gun in the Aleppo village of Hreitan.

Mohamed Saeed, a correspondent for the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya News Channel, killed October 29, 2013.  Nabeel Alkhatib, Al-Alarabiya Executive Editor, told RePRESSed that it is believed that Al-Qaida-linked assasins shot Saeed while he was having a haircut in his home town.  Other reports say Saeed was killed by a hooded man using a silencer on his gun in the Aleppo village of Hreitan.  A native of Aleppo, Saeed earned his bachelor degree from Aleppo University and subsequently worked with a variety of media outlets preparing news stories and video reports.

Nour al-Din Al-Hafiri, a freelance videographer and citizen journalist, al-Hafri died from injuries he received on September 27, 2013, while covering clashes in a western suburb of Damascus, according to local activists and news reports. The media office of the Syrian Revolution Command Council in Damascus Suburbs (SRCC) where al-Hafiri worked told CPJ that he was hit by shrapnel from a tank shell while filming clashes in the town in Al-Bahariyah.  Al-Hafri died two days later, September 29, 2013, in Al-Bahariyah, Syria.

In one of the last photos taken by freelance photographer Molhem Barakat, Hasan, an 11 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army distributes tea to his fellow fighters in Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal district December 7, 2013.  Barakat was only a few years older than the boys pictured. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

In one of the last photos taken by freelance photographer Molhem Barakat, Hasan, an 11 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army distributes tea to his fellow fighters in Aleppo’s Karm al-Jabal district December 7, 2013. Barakat was only a few years older than the boys pictured. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

Abdel Aziz Mahmoud Hasoun, Masar Press, September 5, 2013, in Jobar, Damascus, Syria. Hasoun, also known as Qusay Al-Shami, was a correspondent for the opposition news agency Masar Press. He was killed by a tank shell while covering clashes between rebel and regime forces in the Damascus suburb of Jobar, Masar Press and local human rights groups reported. The Syrian Journalists Association reported that before joining Masar Press, Hasoun had documented the uprising as a citizen journalist. Under his pseudonym Qusay al-Shami,

Muhammad Hassan Al-Musalama, citizen journalist with the Revolutionaries of Daraa Al-Muhata,Tariq Al-Sadd, died August 20, 2013, in Daraa, Syria. Al-Musalama was killed while filming clashes in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, according to the Syrian Journalists Association and local news reports. Abo Kasem, a fellow member of the Revolutionaries, told CPJ that al-Musalama filmed local events and clashes in the city for the group’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Shahir al-Muaddamani, former director of the media office of the Local Council of Daraya City media office, was killed August 16, 2013 by a shell while on his way to cover clashes in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, according to news reports and Mohanad Abu al-Zein, the current media director.

Muhammed Tariq Jadua, a videographer for the Jisr Al-Shaghur Multimedia Network (JMN), was killed on July 27, 2013, while covering clashes between Syrian rebels and government forces, according to news reports and his colleagues. JMN staff told CPJ that Jadua was filming mortar fire by the Artillery of Islam Battalion, an independent rebel unit in Syria, on a regime checkpoint. Habib al-Jisry, a member of the battalion’s media office who was with Jadua when he died, told CPJ that they were both filming the battle when a shell fired by a regime T-72 tank exploded near them.

Fidaa al-Baali, a 20-year-old citizen journalist and activist, died of shrapnel wounds he sustained from government shelling of Qaboun district in Damascus in early June, according to news reports.The journalist was hospitalized for several weeks in a coma before he died on July 5, 2013.  Al-Baali, who was also popularly known as “Mohamed Moaz,” began filming and documenting the conflict in Syria when the uprising began in March 2011, The New York Times reported.

Hadi Baghbani, an Iranian documentary filmmaker working for IRTVU,was killed on August 20, along with his film crew, while filming alongside Syrian government forces.

Yara Abbas, a reporter for the al-Ikhbariya news channel, is seen in this undated handout photo distributed to Reuters by Syria's national news agency SANA on May 27, 2013.

Yara Abbas, a reporter for the al-Ikhbariya news channel, is seen in this undated handout photo distributed to Reuters by Syria’s national news agency SANA on May 27, 2013.

Yara Abbas, a prominent war correspondent for Syria’s Al-Ikhbariya TV, died May 27, 2013 near the military air base of Dabaa in the central province of Homs. Dabaa air base is located near Qusair, which at the time had been under attack by government forces and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

Abd Al-Rahim Kour Hassan, also known as “Mohammed al-Ghazali,” was the director of broadcasting for Watan FM. He was killed April 2, 2013. The Syrian government informed Hassan’s family about his death, but did not offer any other details. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPR), he had been arrested in Damascus in January and died while being held at Palestine Branch, a feared prison of Syria’s Military Intelligence Security that is known for the severe abuse of prisoners. The station, local opposition groups, and press freedom groups including the Syrian Journalists Association said he had been tortured to death.

Youssef Younis, freelance journalist, was shot April 24, 2013, in Damascus, Syria, while covering clashes between the rebel Free Syrian Army and government forces in the suburb of Sidi Meqdad, according to opposition news reports and the Beirut-based watchdog the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKeyes). Younis had traveled with the rebel forces to cover an attack against government forces who were occupying several buildings in the neighborhood, the reports said. Younis, 24, who was popularly known as “Abu Mujahid,” was a photographer and videographer who regularly filmed clashes between the rebels and government forces. He had studied economics at Damascus University, but left school in 2011 to cover the Syrian uprising as a citizen journalist.

Amer Diab, a freelance reporter and cameraman, was shot by government forces on March 29, 2013, while covering clashes between the rebel Free Syrian Army and Syrian government forces in the neighborhood of Al-Otaiba, Damascus, according to the Saudi-based news website Al-Sharq and the Syrian Center for Human Rights. Diab, who was known locally as “Abu al-Majid al-Ghoutani,” regularly filmed and reported on clashes in the Damascus suburb of Al-Ghouta al-Sharqiya. He also contributed reporting to the pro-opposition TV channel Orient News and the Free Syrian Army TV channel Suri al-Hur (The Free Syrian) and was the spokesman for the Media Office of Al-Ghouta al-Sharqiya, the Marj Branch, according to the Media Office and Shaam News Network.

Mahmoud Natouf, reporter and videographer for Sana al-Thawra (Syrian Arab News Agency of the Revolution), Moadamyat Al-Sham Media Center. Natouf was killed March 14, 2013, during government shelling of the Damascus suburb of Moadamyat al-Sham, according to his employer and news reports. He was filming government shelling in a residential area near the neighborhood mosque when he was hit by rocket fire, the Moadamyat al-Sham Media Center reported on its Facebook page.The center has published hundreds of videos and reached almost a million views since the establishment of its YouTube channel in September, 2012.

In another iconic photo taken by deceased freelance photographer Molhem Barakat, Mohammad (R), a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, aims his weapon as he runs from snipers loyal to the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district October 29, 2013. Mohammad joined the Free Syrian Army after his father died during clashes with the Syrian regime. The gun he is using was his father's.   REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

In another iconic photo taken by deceased freelance photographer Molhem Barakat, Mohammad (R), a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, aims his weapon as he runs from snipers loyal to the Syrian regime in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha district October 29, 2013. Mohammad joined the Free Syrian Army after his father died during clashes with the Syrian regime. The gun he is using was his father’s. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

Ghaith Abd al-Jawad documented clashes and protests for the Qaboun Media Center, a group of opposition citizen journalists who film clashes in the neighborhood of Qaboun and publish the unattributed videos online, according to international broadcaster Al-Jazeera and the local press freedom group Syrian Journalists Association.  Known  locally as “Abu Teem,” al-Jawad was killed with Amr Badir al-Deen Junaid, the head of the Qaboun Media Center on March 10, 2013, by a mortar shell fired by pro-Assad forces in Qaboun, according to Shaam News Network and other reports. The Qaboun Media Center posted a video of a shell landing close to one of its other photographers, who was uninjured, on the same day.

Amr Badir al-Deen Junaid, the head of the Qaboun Media Center and known locally as “Abu Ameer,” was killed with Ghaith Abd al-Jawad (above) by a mortar shell fired by pro-Assad forces in Qaboun on March 10, 2013, according to Shaam News Network and other reports.

Walid Jamil Amira, with the Jobar Media Center, was killed by sniper fire while covering clashes near the Damascus suburb of Abaseen on March 3, 2013, according to Shaam News Network and the local press freedom group Syrian Journalists Association who confirmed the death via email. Several opposition groups said Amira was killed by a pro-Assad sniper, but did not offer further details. Amira, who was known locally as “Abu Omar,” documented clashes and protests for the Jobar Media Center, a group of opposition citizen journalists who film clashes in the neighborhood of Jobar and publish the unattributed videos online, according to the reports. The Jobar Media Center posted a YouTube video that it said was taken on the day Amira died and was the last footage the journalist filmed. In the video, Amira repeatedly says “God is great” as shells explode all around him in Jobar.

Mohamed Saeed al-Hamwi, Qaboun Media Center, died on February 17, 2013 of shrapnel wounds he sustained while filming government shelling of the Qaboun district of Damascus on February 5, according to local news reports and the Beirut-based press freedom organization Samir Kassir Foundation. He was hit in the eye by a piece of shrapnel in the mortar strike, the reports said. He was hospitalized in a coma for almost two weeks before he died. The journalist, who was also popularly known as “Ghias Shami,” began filming and documenting the conflict in Syria when the uprising began in March 2011, news reports said.

Youssef Adel Bakri (Youssef Abu Jad), also known as Youssef Abu Jad, was a reporter and videographer for the local news outlet Halab News Network (HNN). He was killed February 15, 2013, in government shelling of the Karam al-Tarab neighborhood in Aleppo while filming the bombardment of the neighborhood by government forces, according to HNN and Al-Jazeera.

Loay al-Nimir, freelance cameraman, and two of his colleagues, Issam Obeid and Abdel Karim Nazir Ismail, were killed when a mortar shell hit them while they were filming clashes between security forces and armed rebels in the southern Damascus suburb of Arbin January 31, 2013, according to news reports.  The three videographers contributed to the Syrian Media Center, a local news organization that has posted thousands of videos and news stories documenting the Syrian conflict since March 2011.

Olivier Voisin, a free-lance photographer, died February 24, 2013.  Voisin had been wounded by shrapnel on February 21, 2013, while covering the operations of an armed opposition group in Syria’s Idlib province.  He was  evacuated hospital in the city of Antakya, Turkey, where he died three days later.

Mourners carry the coffin of Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili during his funeral procession in Falluja, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad, December 8, 2013. An al Qaeda-linked group in Syria executed Joumaili, an Iraqi freelance cameraman and the first foreign journalist killed by insurgents in the conflict, a press freedoms watchdog said on December 5, 2013. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized Joumali while he was on a reporting trip in northern Syria's Idlib province on December 4, 2013. Joumali was then executed and his body later arrived in Turkey, although the exact circumstances of his death were unclear, the report said. Joumali, 32, was from the Iraqi city of Fallujah and had three children, it added. He worked for Reuters in Iraq from 2003 to 2009. Reporters Without Borders said Joumali was the 20th professional journalist and 8th foreign journalist to die in the Syrian conflict, which started in May, 2011 as a peaceful protest movement and slid into civil war after a crackdown. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Mourners carry the coffin of Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili during his funeral procession in Falluja, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad, December 8, 2013. An al Qaeda-linked group in Syria executed Joumaili, an Iraqi freelance cameraman and the first foreign journalist killed by insurgents in the conflict, a press freedoms watchdog said on December 5, 2013. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized Joumali while he was on a reporting trip in northern Syria’s Idlib province on December 4, 2013. Joumali was then executed and his body later arrived in Turkey, although the exact circumstances of his death were unclear, the report said. Joumali, 32, was from the Iraqi city of Fallujah and had three children, it added. He worked for Reuters in Iraq from 2003 to 2009. Reporters Without Borders said Joumali was the 20th professional journalist and 8th foreign journalist to die in the Syrian conflict, which started in May, 2011 as a peaceful protest movement and slid into civil war after a crackdown. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Issam Obeid and two of his colleagues, Abdel Karim Nazir Ismail (below) and Loay al-Nimir (above), were killed January 31, 2013, when a mortar shell hit them while they were filming clashes between security forces and armed rebels in the southern Damascus suburb of Arbin, according to news reports. The three videographers contributed to the Syrian Media Center, a local news organization that has posted thousands of videos and news stories documenting the Syrian conflict since March 2011.

Abdel Karim Nazir Ismail and his two colleagues, named, were killed January 31, 2013, when a mortar shell hit them while they were filming clashes between security forces and armed rebels in the southern Damascus suburb of Arbin

Mohamed Abd Al-Rahman a sports reporter for Syria News, was killed January 25, 2013. According to the CPR, the pro-government news website Syria News reported on its website that one of its sports reporters, Mohamed Abd al-Rahman was shot, along with four of his family members, by a “pro-government armed group” in Damascus.

Mohamed al-Mesalma, a reporter for Al-Jazeera also known as Mohamed al-Hourani, was shot by a sniper on January 18, 2013, while reporting on fighting in the village of Basri al-Hariri in the city of Daraa, Al-Jazeera reported.

Yves Debay, Assault online news magazine, was killed January 17, 2013, by a sniper while covering fighting in Aleppo in Syria. Debay, a Belgian-born French journalist, was based in Aleppo, where he covered clashes between the Syrian army and opposition forces in the city for Assault, according to news reports. A veteran military correspondent, he contributed reports for the French military magazine Raid, and had written several books about military conflicts.

Bassem Fawaz al-Zabi, a freelance journalist, was shot in the chest by a sniper on January 13, 2013, while covering clashes between the Syrian army and rebel forces in the neighborhood of Tafas in the southern city of Daraa, according to regional and local news outlets.  It was not immediately clear if al-Zabi was targeted by a sniper affiliated with the Syrian regime, or was shot by a gunman on the side of the rebel forces.  He was a third-year dental student at Damascus University, but left his studies to become a journalist, and regularly filmed clashes between the army and rebel forces in the neighborhood of Tafas and contributed to several local news outlets including Tafas News, according to news reports.

Suhail Mahmoud al-Ali, a news editor and reporter for the pro-government outlet Dunya TV, died on January 4, 2013,  from bullet wounds he sustained on December 31, according to state news agency SANA and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who spoke to CPJ by email. SANA reported that the assailants shot al-Ali in his car as he drove to his home in the suburbs of Damascus from the offices of Dunya TV.

If you know of anyone of any nationality or political persuasion who has been left off of this list, please contact the blog author at chilleary@voanews.com.  And if you would like to correct any of the information contained in this post or pay tribute to anyone on this list, please feel free to do so in the comments section, below.

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.

Facebook Knows When We Self-Censor and What Makes Us Do It

Posted December 25th, 2013 at 9:55 am (UTC+0)
3 comments

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Self-censorship is defined as censorship imposed from within out of fear of the consequences.

Put more bluntly, it’s the practice of keeping our mouths shut.  A journalist living and working in a repressive society may refrain from writing about government corruption out of fear of going to jail or worse; a celebrity might decide against writing personal memoirs that would expose family secrets and put him at risk of losing his inheritance.

A recent study by Facebook suggests that we all practice some form of self-censorship.  Study authors Sauvik Das and Facebook’s Adam Kramer collected and analyzed data from 3.9 million Facebook users over 17 days in July 2012.  They found that 71% of users self-censor at the last minute when posting.

The study found that people decide to self-censor for several reasons:

(1)  users didn’t want to set off or continue an argument;
(2)  users didn’t want to offend others;
(3)  users didn’t want to bore others;
(4)  users didn’t want to post content that they believed might be inconsistent with their      self-representations; and
(5)  users neglected to post due to technological constraints (e.g., inconvenience of using a
mobile app)

And oh, by the way, if you’re wondering how the study authors came up with their data:  They say they didn’t read private messages and monitor what, exactly, was erased.  But they can track the changes in the code whenever a user enters characters into one of the update boxes. Researchers also tracked anything types in comment boxes and could track whenever characters were deleted.

They say they simply deduced that self-censorship was taking place if a post or comment took more than 10 minutes to write and was at least five characters long.

Do you ever censor yourself on social media?  Tell us why in the comments below.

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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