CJA Newsletter October 2012
In this edition:
- Sri Lanka – journalists remain under attack
- Pakistan – media threats over Malala coverage
- UK – the implications of the Leveson report
- UK – more BBC World Service cuts
- UK – The news implications of the Savile allegations
- Maldives – arbitrary arrest
- Gambia – newspapers censored
- Gambia – EU budget support trimmed
- South Africa – Zuma drops cartoonist civil case
- Caribbean – defamation laws
- Trinidad – don’t tell the media about crime
- President’s report
- Executive Director’s activity round-up
Sri Lanka – journalists remain under attack
Nine journalists have died since 2011, journalists have been attacked, websites blocked and writers accused of high treason in the ongoing battle for journalistic rights in Sri Lanka.
From the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), there’s a call for “closer attention” to media freedom during Sri Lanka’s post-war process.
The IFJ called in October for its media partners and affiliates to fight against the climate of impunity on violence against media personnel.
The IFJ said that, in the continuing attacks on journalists, G. Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil daily Uthayan, was attacked by unknown assailants and has now been granted political asylum in Switzerland, along with the paper’s Jaffna based reporter S. Kavitharan, who was also repeatedly attacked by unidentified assailants.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific team said that Uthayan has also been issued with a defamation suit by Devananda for having published news reports on 2006 attacks on the newspaper.
IFJ also reports that efforts by the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Journalists Association (SLJA) to highlight the issue of impunity have been attacked by official spokespersons as akin to high treason.
IFEX, the global network for free expression and the IFJ in an October alert, also pointed out how regulation changes, such as the registration of websites, have also obstructed the work of news websites and allowed the raiding of news website offices in Colombo.
Condemnation of the various attacks and crackdowns on media freedom has been global.
Human Rights Watch said in July: “The Sri Lankan government should immediately end harassment of media outlets and journalists in violation of the right to freedom of expression. In the three years since the end of the armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has expanded its efforts to silence critical views”.
The IFJ said in October : “state-controlled media, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Channel ITN and the Lake House publications, have become forums for verbal abuse and vilification of independent journalists and human rights defenders, often with dangerous implications for their physical safety and wellbeing.
“Journalists and human rights defenders who have joined national and international platforms calling for justice and accountability for human rights abuses committed during the quarter-century long civil war, have been at particular risk. The large group of journalists in exile are continually named by official spokespersons, especially over state-owned media, as “anti-national” elements working against their “motherland”.
The CJA website continued to shine a spotlight on developments in Sri Lanka with the October launch of the book “Still counting the dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War” by former BBC correspondent Frances Harrison (see CJA President’s report –EMBED LINK).
Pakistan – Taliban threatens Pakistani media over Malala coverage
Enraged by the global media’s coverage of the assassination attempt on a teenage activist, the Taliban has been threatening Pakistani journalists.
14 year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot on 9 October after defying a Taliban injunction on female education by continuing a blog on BBC Urdu’s Service highlighting Taliban atrocities in the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said it had been responsible for the attack which has left Malala receiving treatment in Britain following the removal of the bullet.
Following coverage of the attempted assassination, the Taliban issued directives to its groups around Pakistan to target local and international media groups.
The Pakistan Press Foundation said that journalists in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and other big cities had been particularly targeted, receiving threatening telephone calls and text messages warning them of serious consequences for covering the Yousafzai case.
The British Guardian newspaper said that a journalist in Swat had to be given police guards after receiving a written warning saying that police had “credible information that you are on the hit list of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat”.
The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and a number of media organisations have expressed concern over the TTP threats.
CJA Pakistan President Adnan Jafri said that “every newspaper, every news channel” has kept the incident at the top of their agenda.
Adnan wrote for the CJA: “The media is flooded with updates and exclusive stories in the said regard.”
“I, in the capacity of News Editor of Pakistan’s largest circulated evening newspaper Daily News (Jang Group of Publications), have carried at least two stories along with the girl’s picture on the front page since then. People’s views and their emotions have also received extensive coverage across the country.
“Pop divas and other celebrities the world over dedicated their works to the exceptional courage of the Pakistani child who is fighting death.”
UK – Leveson and the wider implications for the Commonwealth
CJA UK held a lively discussion in London on 23 October on the implications of the Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking for the wider world.
The discussion, entitled ‘Will tighter regulation give a green light to enemies of free speech?’ brought passionate exchanges both between panellists and from contributors in the audience.
CJA President Rita Payne opened the session by saying she could not remember a time when the media had topped the headlines with the phone-hacking scandal followed by allegations of child abuse by the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.
Panellist Lord Guy Black, the Executive Director of the Telegraph Media Group, said that “no industry has endured such scrutiny.”
On the discussion over the type of tighter regulation the British media will face following the Leveson Inquiry recommendations, Lord Black said there was “no middle way” and that it had to be either self-regulation or state regulation.
He outlined what he called the “unworkable” case in which statutory regulation would mean that the press could not be independent and that such a route would be “playing with fire.”
He outlined a scenario where newspaper websites could seek to domicile overseas.
On the consequences of such a development in Britain, Lord Black said that “freedom abroad is a fragile flower. What happens here influences what happens abroad”.
The Director of Media Standards Trust, Martin Moore said that self-regulation proposals for the accreditation for journalists would lead to a “closed shop” and perpetuate a small group of media owners and would go against the grain of “open journalism in a digital world.”
He argued that a new regulation was necessary but with not a “slither of opportunity” for politicians to seek control unless the UK wanted to “look like some corrupt banana republic.”
The Secretary of the UK Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, Ian Beales, said that attempts to have a “dab” of state regulation would be like being a “little bit pregnant”.
He warned that moving to areas of state regulation of the media in the UK would be “sending a message to tyrants around the world that it’s OK to tighten the screws.”
The Chair of the Ethics Committee for the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform, Angela Phillips spoke against the idea of state regulation and argued the need of “something to stiffen the resolve of self-regulation.”
She also warned about what she called the “very frightening” prospect of the powerful commercial press controlling access to information through regulation reform.
She argued for the inclusion of some form of statutory right of reply for the public and support for people who have been misrepresented by the media.
Also as a Reader in Journalism at Goldsmiths at the University of London, Angela Phillips pointed out that other developments in media had been lost during the focus on phone-hacking, including the growth of digital media, training for incoming journalists and the decline of the newspaper industry which had nothing to do with Leveson.
Panellist Sunanda Datta-Ray, former Editor of The Statesman, warned that the media should not “go overboard with righteousness” on the phone-hacking issue.
He argued for self-regulation “stiffened with certain do’s and don’ts” and with “certain carrots and canes”.
He warned that too many laws would mean too many loopholes and that the aim had to be to transform the media from a trade to a profession.
Contributions from the floor included passionate speeches about the signals Britain would send out to the world’s dictators by tightening regulations on the freedom of the press in the UK.
UK – More WS cuts
In further cuts to the BBC’s World Service, news programming is being cut from 18 hours to 14 hours per day and a series of programmes are to be axed.
News programmes coming to an end include current affairs show, World Briefing, and financial programme, The Bottom Line. Changes in the Service’s English language programme will include the introduction of a new programme called The Newsroom.
The cuts, which follow the 2011 closure of five language services, are part of a bid to save £42m from the World Service’s grant-in-aid funding from Britain’s Foreign Office.
From April 2014, the World Service will move from the Foreign Office to funding from the BBC’s domestic licence fee payment system.
In other World Service news, veteran news presenter Robin Lustig has announced that he was leaving the BBC. Lustig, who had fronted Newshour and domestic BBC news programme The World Tonight, is ending his 23-year career with the BBC to be able to return to reporting in the field.
UK – Savile scandal
Meanwhile, the BBC has announced two internal inquiries following revelations that one of the BBC’s top DJ’s and TV entertainment hosts of the 1970s and 80s, the late Jimmy Savile, had sexually abused hundreds of young women and men during that period.
While Savile’s behaviour at a number of institutions, including the health sector, grabbed the immediate headlines, the scandal has led to the stepping aside of BBC Two’s Newsnight Editor Peter Rippon during internal investigations into why a Newsnight investigative report on the Savile allegations had been shelved at the end of 2011, only to be made public by rival ITV some months later.
Several BBC news managers are being questioned about the dropped Savile TV report.
Maldives – arbitrary arrest
6 September – Report from Reporters Without Borders, “which condemns the many arbitrary arrests of journalists in recent months, got Minivan News website reporter Ahmed Naish to describe how police arrested him during a protest by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party on 30 August and held him for 24 hours.
The media freedom NGO reminds the authorities that arbitrary arrest violates article 46 of the Maldivian constitution, which says: “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained, arrested or imprisoned except as provided by law by the People’s Majlis [parliament] in accordance with article 16 of this constitution”.
Reporters Without Borders deplores the repeated obstruction of media personnel in the course of their work and urges the government to put a stop to arrests designed to intimidate journalists and encourage self-censorship.
The media and netizens played an important role during the Nasheed administration’s ouster in February, photographing and filming aspects of the accompanying crackdown that embarrassed authorities. Some journalists told Reporters Without Borders this was the reason for the current increase in arrests of professional and citizen journalists.
Riot police known as Special Operations (SO) stopped Naish at 5:30 p.m. on 30 August in the Malé district of Sosun Magu as he was photographing them arresting a young demonstrator. They asked him for his press pass, which he did not have on him at the time, and, after refusing to accept his business card as identification, handcuffed him and led him away.
“My hands were tied behind my back with a clip and the SO officer who did so kept tightening it,” Naish said in his account. “Another officer kept pinching my arms and hitting my ankles with his boot, telling me to walk faster.”
More people were arrested, including two who had been taking photographs or videos of the police. They were bundled into a vehicle and taken to police headquarters and then transferred to a detention centre on Dhoonidhoo, an island just to the north of the capital.
“They took my personal belongings ( . . . ) I was then photographed and taken before an investigating officer (IO) who informed me that I was arrested for obstructing police duty and causing public disorder. I refused to sign the arrest form because, in addition to stating a false reason for the arrest, the place of arrest noted in the form was incorrect.”
After being placed in a large cell with other people arrested during the demonstration, Naish asked to see a doctor because his wrists were swollen. The doctor sprayed his wrists and gave him a painkiller. He was then allowed to speak to two lawyers and described to them the circumstances of his arrest.
“I talked to seven people who were arrested similarly for taking photographs. However all were accused of obstructing police duty, disobeying orders and causing loss of public order.”
At around 2 a.m., he was moved to a large cell where 25 other people were already being held. He was finally released without charge the next afternoon, after being held for about 24 hours.
“I found out later than government-aligned private broadcaster Villa Television showed footage of my arrest, which would have confirmed that the police lied about the place of arrest. It would also show that I was not jeopardizing public order.”
Naish added that a journalist with Mini Radio 97FM, Ali Nahyk, was arrested on 31 August for similar reasons.
Maldives is ranked 73rd out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, which was compiled before February’s turmoil, when President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign and Vice-President Mohammed Waheed took over. The media situation has worsened dramatically since then.”
Gambia – Two newspapers censored during execution debate
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) from Lagos, Nigeria reported in September that two independent newspapers were ordered to cease publication immediately.
Agents from the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) gave no explanation when they served notice on The Standard newspaper and The Daily News.
They had been told that the president had ordered the immediate closures and that clarification could be sought from the president’s office.
The main body representing journalists, the Gambia Press Union, said in a statement that it was concerned about deteriorating media freedoms in the Gambia.
The Gambia Dispatch reported in September that the president’s office had also ordered the closure of a community radio station and that two journalists had been charged for applying for permits to protest against the execution of nine death row inmates.
Gambia – EU cancels budget support money over human rights concerns.
$26m (22m Euros) in 2010 budget support from the European Union to Gambia had been cancelled over EU concerns about human rights and governance.
The journal, EU Business quotes a report released during the summer on the 2011 European Union-Gambia cooperation report handed to President Yahya Jammeh earlier this year.
AFP report an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying that new EU guidelines would lead to “an even stronger link between budget support and the commitment and record of countries to democracy, human rights and rule of law.”
Zuma drops media charges
South African president, Jacob Zuma, is to drop a four-year old lawsuit claiming damages from award-winning cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro.
Shapiro, whose pen name is Zapiro, had portrayed ‘Lady Justice’ about to be raped in a 2008 cartoon criticising anti-secrecy laws which would muzzle the media.
The cartoon showed Lady Justice pinned down by four figures representing the ANC, the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and the trade union organisation, Cosatu.
They’re saying “Go for it, Boss!” to President Zuma who is depicted unbuckling his belt.
A statement from the office of the president said: “After careful consideration and consultation with his legal team, President Zuma has taken a decision to withdraw his claim against the respondents, and pay a contribution to their costs,” his office said in a statement.”
“The president…would like to avoid setting a legal precedent that may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech, with the unforeseen consequences this may have on our media, public commentators and citizens.”
The statement went on to say that the cartoon was still seen as an affront to the dignity of the president.
The lawsuit had claimed 4m rand in damages from Avusa media and 1m rand from a former Sunday Times editor ($578,000 in total) for publishing the cartoon.
The civil case had been due to have started on 29 October.
Caribbean – repeal criminal defamation laws
(Oct 15, 2012) The International Press Institute released a final report on its June mission to four Caribbean countries, cautiously welcoming progress in three of them toward the repeal of criminal defamation and insult laws but urging political leaders to remain committed to reform.
During the near two-week long mission, IPI delegates met with representatives of government, law enforcement, media, and civil society in Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago as part of its campaign to decriminalise defamation across the Caribbean.
“Overall, we are pleased with the outcome of our visit to the Caribbean and I am confident that our campaign is off to a good start,” said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie, who led the mission.
“In three of the countries that we visited, top elected officials expressed agreement with our position that criminal libel laws are colonial-era relics designed to suppress dissent and criticism and have no place in the modern democracies of the Caribbean. I believe we still have some way to go in convincing Barbados to lead the way in repealing criminal defamation, but was encouraged that the Prime Minister has agreed to revisit the issue.”
Ms Bethel McKenzie urged political leaders to summon the political will necessary to complete the decriminalisation process.
“Recognising the threat that criminal libel laws pose to a free society is only the first step,” she emphasised, noting that civil courts were better suited to handle libel claims.
Nearly all independent states in the Caribbean have criminal defamation laws on their books that establish a penalty of at least one year in prison. The Caribbean has witnessed several criminal libel prosecutions over the last 15 years, including two in the Dominican Republic this year.
IPI’s campaign and the mission in particular were prompted by concern that criminal-defamation laws could be used by prominent figures to chill critical opinion and squelch investigations into alleged wrongdoings in order to protect their economic and political interests. Even where criminal defamation laws are not actively applied, their existence encourages self-censorship on issues of public interest.”
Trinidad – don’t tell the media
In a move which made the international headlines, Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister Jack Warner came up with a strategy to deal with concern about crime levels in the Caribbean republic.
Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice president and now Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister, instructed the police to stop releasing crime reports and statistics to the media.
He said that reports of violent crime encouraged people to commit more crime and that the country’s opposition were using police information to cause mayhem.
Meanwhile, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) has condemned what it describes as a smear campaign against two investigative journalists.
Reporters without Borders said it was “concerned about the effect of a smear operation against certain journalists and the government’s desire to force the privately-owned broadcast media to carry official announcements free of charge as in some Latin American countries, where they are called “cadenas.”
The media freedom organisation also called for an independent commission to look into the passing of the phone records of a reporter from the state phone company to a state development agency in an alleged bid to find the reporter’s sources.
Reporters Without Borders compared the case of Trinidad Guardian reporter Anika Gumbs-Sandiford and an earlier incident involving Newsday reporter Andre Bagoo who had also been investigating a state institution.
“In the present case (Gumbs-Sandiford), the authorities seem to have resorted to domestic espionage, which is all the more outrageous as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s government publicly undertook to end such practices in 2010, leading to parliament’s adoption of the Interception of Communications Act,” the media freedom institution said.
Reporters Without Borders raised all the developments in Trinidad – from the phone record incidents, the smear campaign against local journalists, Jack Warner’s instructions to the police and the new requirement for local stations to carry five minutes of free government programming.
“Such a measure (free government programming) is not in accordance with the requirements of pluralism,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Its implementation would create the conditions for a media war and there is still time to stop this.”
“Reporters Without Borders does however welcome Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s announcement at the International Press Institute’s latest world congress in June that Trinidad will soon decriminalize defamation.”
CJA President’s Report (this is a précis of the report by CJA International President Rita Payne. The full report is available on the CJA website):
Rita Payne reports on the range of events held in London during the last quarter including the July discussion on Afghanistan after NATO pulls out: Will it stand or will it fall, the July screening of Koel by first-time director, Bonny Mukherjee, the October launch of a book by former BBC correspondent, Frances Harrison –Still counting the dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War, and the October Leveson Inquiry discussion (see above).
Rita also outlines activities by members focusing on different parts of the Commonwealth.
Rita writes: “2012 started with a bang for the CJA with an extremely successful conference in Malta, the election of new committee members and the enthusiastic participation of representatives from our branches. CJA-UK events have made a big impact with our discussion on the Leveson inquiry attracting more than 150 attendants – a record. Several of our other branches have hosted a range of creative programmes. I’m hoping 2013 will prove to be an even more productive year for the CJA in which we will make big strides in helping to ensure that freedom of the media is given high priority across the Commonwealth”.
Patricia Perkel, CJA Executive Director rounds up CJA activity around the globe:
Ehsan Sehar of CJA Pakistan has been organizing sessions for rural journalists using the basic journalism training manuals that are financed in part by a CJA grant of $800.
CJA Sarawak helped boost its profile by sponsoring a photojournalism contest and has secured a RM5, 000 government grant toward journalism training. President Caroline Jackson says winning the grant was a collective effort.
CJA Cameroon is working with the British High Commission and the US Embassy to host an Investigative Reporting competition, with focus on Human Rights and Corruption. Prizes include cash and laptop computers.
Who doesn’t like winning awards? Executive Committee member Syed Nahas Pasha brought hundreds of curry cooks and fans to London for a gala awards event he established with his brother. Together they head Curry Life magazine.
CJA UK has hosted a large number of events from book launches to a sold-out session on the Leveson inquiry. Those events generate a number of spin-off articles in the media, and have been successful enough to attract some sponsorship.
I had a delightful opportunity to meet with Executive Committee member Jayanta Roy Chowdhury during his working trip to Canada. He was in Toronto briefly and then toured mines in northern Ontario.
President Rita Payne is headed for Sierra Leone in the later half of this month as part of an elections observer team. I’ve had inquiry from a journalist in Sierra Leone about forming a branch there, and have put him and Rita in email touch with each other.
I hope you’ve noticed the new sections on the website – regional forums that allow discussion and comment on issues of general interest. There’s also a new training section that I hope will become a useful place to look for recommended books and articles.
And finally….the good news slot:
Harare, October 15th – Derek Smail writes from Zimbabwe: In a further confirmation that the Daily News is the best newspaper in the country by a mile, the popular paper’s journalists scooped the highest number of awards at the 2012 National Journalism and Media Awards (Njama) held in Harare on Friday.
The Njama awards gave credence to Zamps’ latest readership report which confirmed that the Daily News is not just the fastest-growing newspaper in the country, but also the only national daily that is registering readership growth in the country.
The Daily News, which marked its first re-launch anniversary this year – following nearly eight years of forced closure by President Robert Mugabe’s government -, took the biggest share of the awards. The paper had the highest number of nominations at six, and also won the highest number of awards at Friday’s glittering ceremony.
The Herald and Manica Post were tied in second position, with three awards each; the Financial Gazette had two; and ZBCTV and the Sunday Mail one each. Other winners came from the Chronicle and Pungwe News.
Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) Group Editor, Stanley Gama thanked his young newsroom team members for their dedication, diligence, hard work and resilience in the face of hostility from the enemies of Zimbabwe’s emerging democracy.
“We face people who try to knock us down all the time because we tell it like it is, and in a way no other competitor has so far managed to do. Quite admirably, my colleagues have withstood this onslaught from these lowlifes without flinching, helping to water and nurture our fledgling democracy in the process,” he said.
“Ours is truly a miracle story. Our detractors and haters thought that we could never come back, and that if we did we would not last.”
Competitions and events:
19 November – London Poet in the City presents The poetry of free expression – a special 40th anniversary celebration of Index on Censorship, the UK’s free expression organisation.
This evening’s event features poems read by some of Index’s supporters, including actors Simon Callow, Janet Suzman and Roger Lloyd-Pack, and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, Chair of Index on Censorship.
The idea is to feature contemporary poets discussing their work in the context of censorship and threats to free expression and the power of poetry.
23 November – International Day to end impunity: to mark this, IFEX, the global network for Freedom of Expression, is holding a competition. Draw attention to impunity in an editorial cartoon: http://daytoendimpunity.org/contest/. Deadline for entry: November 4th.