Wounded French journalist Edith Bouvier was one of the lucky ones to get out of Syria alive earlier this year
* The number of journalists killed in Syria since the start of the uprising reaches 33
* Somali TV and radio reporters survive murder attempts
* Journalists arrested, beaten, murdered in Sudan, Somalia, Turkey, the West Bank
* Russian Wikipedia shut down, temporarily
* The New York Times prefers to criticize Israel; launch Chinese edition
Because a large number of journalists subscribe to this list, I occasionally send dispatches dealing with the media in general, including items not directly concerning the Middle East.
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There are two other dispatches this weekend:
1. Libyan journalists kidnapped
2. Death toll of journalists in Syria reaches 33
3. Facebook apologizes for deleting post on Syrian torture
4. Somali TV and radio reporters survive murder attempts
5. Journalists arrested, beaten in Sudan
6. Turkish journalists protest police raid
7. Palestinian security forces attack journalists
8. Russian Wikipedia shuts down to protest Putin’s Internet crackdown
9. China blocks Bloomberg for exposing financial affairs of man expected to become president
10. The Daily Mail, now world’s biggest online news site, plans global expansion
11. The New York Times launches a Chinese-language online edition, following the WSJ and FT
12. Sky TV enters 24-hour Arabic news market; Bloomberg set to follow
JOURNALISM CAN BE A DANGEROUS BUSINESS
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
While many major international news outlets continue to focus obsessively on any perceived Israeli wrongdoing, and have made dubious claims that the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu has somehow clamped down on media freedoms – when in fact Israel continues to enjoy one of the freest and most diverse media in the world – below are some stories about media restrictions and threats against journalists elsewhere, which have been less widely reported.
LIBYAN JOURNALISTS KIDNAPPED
Two Libyan journalists were abducted after covering last week’s Libyan elections. Reporter Abdelqadir Fassouk and cameraman Yusuf Badi, both of whom work for the Tobacts TV station, disappeared in Bani Walid.
In a video later sent to news media by their captors that showed the men (still apparently in good health) their captors demanded the release of detainees in Misrata in return for the release of the journalists.
DEATH TOLL OF JOURNALISTS IN SYRIA REACHES 33
The death toll of foreign and local journalists killed in Syria since the start of the uprising in March last year has reached 33.
The past few weeks have been particularly deadly, according to a newly-released report by the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), written in conjunction with the Doha Centre for Media Freedom. Around 10 journalists and citizen-journalists have been killed in the last 7 weeks alone.
RSF said that the Assad regime has managed to impose a virtual international media blackout by preventing most foreign journalists from entering the country, and by killing several who have made it in.
FACEBOOK APOLOGIZES FOR DELETING POST ON SYRIAN TORTURE
The social media giant Facebook has apologized after it deleted a free speech group’s posting about torture and other human rights abuses in Syria. Facebook said the page had been deleted in error.
The social network removed a status update by (Facebook user) Article 19, a group which campaigns for freedom of speech, which linked to a report by Human Rights Watch documenting 27 “torture facilities” run by the Syrian regime in its attempt to intimidate and kill the civilian population.
A spokesman for Facebook said the post was mistakenly removed by a member of its “moderation team”, which receives a high volume of “take-down requests.”
Agnes Callamard, the executive director of Article 19, accused Facebook of acting like “judge, jury and executioner” in the way it removes material from its website.
Among other recent items on Syrian torture, please see:
SOMALI TV AND RADIO REPORTERS SURVIVE MURDER ATTEMPTS
Somali TV reporter and anchor Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle has survived an assassination attempt. He was sprayed with bullets by two gunmen who shot him near his home in Mogadishu.
He managed to flee inside his house, after sustaining bullet wounds to his stomach and legs, before the gunmen could finish the job.
It is thought that Abdulkadir, who works for Universal TV, was targeted by gunmen from the Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, which disapproves of his political reporting.
Last month, Somali radio journalist Mohamed Nur Mohamed survived a shooting in Mogadishu. So far this year, six journalists have been murdered in Somalia.
JOURNALISTS ARRESTED, BEATEN IN SUDAN
Security forces in Sudan have arrested scores of people, including several journalists, in a brutal crackdown on protests against government austerity measures and price increases.
In breaking up the protests, police are said to have used excessive force, including live ammunition.
International journalists have also been arrested while trying to report on the protests. Simon Martelli, a correspondent for Agence France Presse, was detained for 14 hours in Khartoum. And Salma al-Wardany, an Egyptian journalist working for Bloomberg, was detained and then deported from Sudan after she attempted to cover the protests.
TURKISH JOURNALISTS PROTEST POLICE RAID
Turkish journalists staged street protests after security forces raided the offices of two Istanbul-based news agencies, Güneş and Etkin (ETHA), as well as the premises of the Atilım newspaper, two weeks ago.
During the raid, police seized both work material and personal belongings of journalists while detaining them in their offices for several hours.
ETHA editor Nadiye Gürbüz said notes concerning ongoing news investigations were confiscated along with archive material.
Ercan İpekçi, the chairman of the Turkish journalists’ union, criticized the continuing crackdown on democratic rights by Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian Erdogan government.
Last November, a judge at the European Court of Human Rights said Turkey had the worst press freedom record among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
Among other recent dispatches on Turkey, please see:
* Erdogan would rather see Turks die than have them rescued by Israelis (Oct. 24, 2011)
* From Turkey: A tale of two cities: Istanbul vs. Jerusalem (June 10, 2011)
PALESTINIAN SECURITY FORCES ATTACK JOURNALISTS
At least four journalists in the West Bank were assaulted by Palestinian Authority security forces earlier this month as the journalists attempted to cover protests against the Palestinian Authority.
The reporters and photographers were badly beaten and in some cases had their equipment confiscated.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms called for a governmental investigation into circumstances surrounding the beating of reporters.
One journalist, Muhammad Juradat was allegedly beaten by plain clothes police officers at the site of the demonstration in Ramallah and then taken to a police station where he was abused again. PA President Abbas told Voice of Palestine radio that journalists need to cover more stories about Israel and less about themselves.
(Among other recent past dispatches concerning attempts by the Palestinian Authority to suppress free media and the Internet, please see items in this dispatch and this one.
RUSSIAN WIKIPEDIA SHUTS DOWN TO PROTEST PUTIN’S INTERNET CRACKDOWN
The Russian-language edition of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia made itself unavailable to users for one day last week to protest amendments to the Russian information law.
Ru.wikipedia.org appeared on July 10 with a black slash across its main page that read: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”
In spite of this protest, the following day, July 11, the Russian State Duma rushed through a new law which, in the words of critics, could “lead to the creation of extrajudicial censorship of the whole Russian-language Internet.”
Russian Wikipedia says the new law could “prompt the creation of a Russian version of the Great China Firewall,” a reference to the Chinese regime’s system of firewalls, filters, and other obstructions to hinder free Internet browsing by Chinese citizens.
“Only a few countries have similar regulations – countries like China and North Korea,” said Stanislav Kozlovsky, executive director of Wikimedia Russia.
Vladimir Putin, who was recently “elected” to an unprecedented third term as Russian president, already has control over virtually the entire print and broadcast media, following various legal moves and the intimidation (and murder) of journalists who criticized his abuse of power. Now it seems he is moving to prevent the dissemination of opposition views online too.
Last month, police raided the homes of prominent pro-democracy activists. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, wrongly portrayed as some kind of “moderate” by some naive opinion writers for The New York Times, has strongly backed the new restrictive media law.
THE DAILY MAIL, NOW WORLD’S BIGGEST ONLINE NEWS SITE, PLANS GLOBAL EXPANSION
Britain’s right-of-center, middle market newspaper The Daily Mail, which has overtaken The New York Times and The Huffington Post to become the world’s most-visited newspaper website, has plans for increased U.S. growth and new bureaux in Toronto, Delhi and Sydney, according to sources at the paper – as well as an eventual Spanish-language site.
Although many of the items on Mail Online’s site comprise a fast and furious diet of picture-led celebrity stories there is also serious political news too, including coverage of the Middle East which is certainly fairer to Israel than The New York Times or most other British papers.
The Daily Mail already has more than 90 million unique browsers.
CHINA BLOCKS BLOOMBERG FOR EXPOSING FINANCIAL AFFAIRS OF MAN EXPECTED TO BECOME PRESIDENT
Two weeks ago, the Chinese authorities blocked access to the Bloomberg news website after it revealed assets of relatives of the man tipped to be China’s next president, Xi Jinping. These included various multi-million dollar properties they own in Hong Kong.
It is widely predicted by experts that Xi Jinping will become the general secretary of the Communist party later this year and president of China next spring.
THE NEW YORK TIMES LAUNCHES A CHINESE-LANGUAGE ONLINE EDITION, FOLLOWING THE WSJ AND FT
The New York Times has introduced a Chinese-language website, called cn.nytimes.com. The paper said it is part of a continuing effort to expand its reach to international readers, which it termed “educated, affluent, global citizens.” The site will publish about 30 articles a day in categories such as world affairs, business and culture.
Joseph Kahn, the paper’s foreign editor, said that about two-thirds of the content would be translated from Times articles and one-third would be written by Chinese editors and local freelance journalists.
In an attempt to avoid censorship issues, the Times said that it would not become an official Chinese media company and has set up its server outside China. The paper admitted that the Chinese authorities “occasionally” blocked articles from nytimes.com.
Kahn said he was hopeful that the Chinese authorities would let the new site operate freely. He said: “China operates a very vigorous firewall. We have no control over that. We hope and expect that Chinese officials will welcome what we’re doing.”
The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times already have Chinese-language sites. Kahn said that he hoped the new Times website would be “a vigorous competitor.”
In recent years, many Western publishers have expanded into China, in the hope of gaining a slice of the fast growing luxury advertising market.
SKY TV ENTERS 24-HOUR ARABIC NEWS MARKET; BLOOMBERG SET TO FOLLOW
This is a repeat item from my dispatch of May 8, 2012, just to remind readers:
Sky News became the latest Western media outlet to launch a 24-hour Arabic language news network on Sunday. The BBC, France 24, Russia Today, China Today, Iran’s Press TV and others already run 24-hour Arabic language news networks. But the market remains dominated by Al Jazeera, which is controlled by Qatar’s dictatorship, and the rival Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya.
Sky News has set up a 400-person news operation – backed by a senior member of the Abu Dhabi royal family. Sky News Arabia’s joint venture partner, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is also a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and one of the most senior members of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. He also owns Manchester City football club, which next weekend is tipped to beat rivals Manchester United to win the prestigious English Premier League for the first time in 44 years.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Waleed bin Talal, a major investor in Sky News’s controlling shareholder, News Corp, is also preparing soon to launch a news channel of his own, in partnership with Bloomberg News.
Several countries are attempting to use media as a tool of their foreign policy.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]