Archive for ‘Media Freedom and Un-Freedom’

June 3, 2015

How Qatar Used and Abused Its Al Jazeera Journalists

by mkleit

JUNE 2, 2015

Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian journalist who was the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, is the author of “Baghdad Bound: An Interpreter’s Chronicles of the Iraq War.”


CAIRO — This week, I am back in court in an effort to prove my innocence at a retrial on charges that I was a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, designated a terrorist organization in Egypt since December 2013, and that I sought to harm the country’s reputation and security. I already spent 412 days in detention before my conviction in the first trial was overturned on appeal earlier this year.

The terrorism charges against me and my colleague Baher Mohamed are unfounded and have been widely discredited. The other charges relate to our employment by the Al Jazeera media network, which is owned by the state of Qatar.

Following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013, Egypt moved to ban Al Jazeera’s Arabic service in the country, known as Mubasher Misr, because it was perceived as a Qatari-sponsored propaganda mouthpiece for the Brotherhood. I was the bureau chief of the Al Jazeera English service, a separate operation that adhered to higher journalistic standards, which, we assumed, would inoculate us against accusations of bias. We were mistaken.

 Mohamed Fahmy at his retrial on Monday. Credit Amr Nabil/Associated Press

Now, Baher and I find ourselves once again in the soundproof defendants’ cage, fighting to avoid long prison terms. Our friend and fellow Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, will not be with us. Thanks to his government’s work to win his release, Peter is home in Australia.

At the retrial, we will argue that we continued to work despite the broadcast ban because we believed the English service was exempt and Al Jazeera failed to obtain legal clarification from the Egyptian authorities. If, as a result, there were violations of licensing laws, which in any case would be merely misdemeanors, it is the network’s executives from Qatar who should pay, not us. A final ruling from the Egyptian court could come later this month.

My 18-month ordeal may be close to an end, yet I find myself increasingly angry at how my life and the lives of my family and loved ones have been turned upside down. My anger, however, is not directed primarily at the prosecutor, the judiciary or the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It is aimed at my employer, Al Jazeera.

The network knowingly antagonized the Egyptian authorities by defying a court-ordered ban on its Arabic-language service. Behind that, I believe, was the desire of the Qatari royal family to meddle in Egypt’s internal affairs. While Al Jazeera’s Doha executives used the Cairo bureau of Al Jazeera English to give their scheme a veneer of international respectability, they made us unwitting pawns in Qatar’s geopolitical game.

Midway through our first trial, last year, Al Jazeera undermined our defense when it sued Egypt for $150 million in compensation for business losses in Egypt. The network’s own lawyer in our case criticized the lawsuit and quit the case. “Al Jazeera is using my clients,” he told the court,according to Agence France-Presse. “I have emails from (the channel) telling me they don’t care about the defendants and care about insulting Egypt.”

This is why in May I filed a lawsuit in Canada, where I hold citizenship as well as in Egypt, against Al Jazeera. I intend to hold the network accountable for its negligent conduct, and I am seeking $83 million in compensation for my ordeal.

When Al Jazeera was started in 1996, Qatar was widely praised for its enlightened thinking. The network’s 24-hour rolling news coverage was a breath of fresh air in the Middle East’s torpid media scene. The international services, like Al Jazeera English, recruited some of the best names in journalism.

Like many young Arabs, I was impressed. Al Jazeera seemed a model of courageous broadcasting in a region not known for upholding freedom of speech. That was still my view when I became Cairo bureau chief in September 2013.

I have since realized how deeply I, like the viewing public, was duped. I came to see how Qatar used Al Jazeera as a pernicious, if effective, tool of its foreign policy.

A court order shut down Mubasher Misr the same month I joined Al Jazeera English, but the channel continued to broadcast by satellite and Internet from studios in Doha. I soon had concerns that Qatar was compromising our journalism. Against my objections, the Arabic station redubbed our English-language news packages with inflammatory commentary.

I frequently complained to the Doha bosses that broadcasting our reports on the banned Mubasher Misr, which was officially classified as “a national security threat,” put our lives at risk. They told me to get on with the job, but the practice continued — even after Egypt declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, days before our arrest. When we came to trial, the network’s actions made it much harder to disprove the testimony of the prosecution’s lead national security witness that I had worked for Mubasher Misr, inaccurate though it was.

The Doha management also neglected to tell me that it was providing Brotherhood activists in Egypt with video cameras and paying them for footage, which it then broadcast, without explaining its political provenance, on the banned Arabic channel. During my detention, I met a number of prisoners who told me how this worked, and I have seen court documents confirming it.

Al Jazeera’s managers crossed an ethical red line. By attempting to manipulate Egypt’s domestic politics, they were endangering their employees.

Qatar and Al Jazeera will continue to talk about Doha’s progressive values and support for freedom of speech in the region. Just days ago, Qatar’s ambassador to the United Nations piously told the Security Council that her country supported efforts to enhance the safety of journalists and voted for a resolution calling for “a safe and enabling environment for journalists, media professionals and associated personnel to perform their work independently and without undue interference.”

I wonder how the Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami feels as he languishes in Doha’s central prison, serving a life sentence for “criticizing the emir” in a poem. You won’t find his plight highlighted on Al Jazeera’s outlets anytime soon.

I have come to understand that Al Jazeera’s noble-sounding claims are nothing but a glossy whitewash.

October 9, 2013

BBC Caught Staging Syria Chemical Weapons Propaganda?

by mkleit

Former Ambassador labels video “stunning fakery”

Paul Joseph Watson
October 7, 2013

Within 2 hours of posting this story, the BBC filed a copyright claim with YouTube to get the 45 second clip removed. This shows how nervous the BBC is about this information coming to light. News organizations routinely rely on dubious copyright claims to censor damaging revelations. An copy of the video via LiveLeak is embedded below.

A video of a BBC interview with a doctor in Syria in the aftermath of a napalm-style attack appears to have been artificially dubbed to falsely make reference to the incident being a “chemical weapons” attack, a clip that represents “a stunning bit of fakery,” according to former UK Ambassador Craig Murray.


Video was deleted 2hours after it was published

Video was deleted 2hours after it was published


[BBC Fabricated Video]


The news report was first released on August 29, just days before an attack on Syria seemed inevitable, and served to further the narrative that military action was necessary to halt atrocities being committed by President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces.

The first clip is from the original interview with British medic Dr Rola Hallam, from the Hand in Hand for Syria charity. She states;

“..It’s just absolute chaos and carnage here, erm we’ve had a massive influx of
what looks like serious burns, er seems like it must be some sort of, I’m not
really sure, maybe napalm, something similar to that..”

However, in the second clip, which is from the exact same interview, her words are slightly altered.

“..It’s just absolute chaos and carnage here, erm we’ve had a massive influx of
what looks like serious burns, er seems like it must be some sort of chemical
weapon, I’m not really sure..”

The second clip seems to have been artificially dubbed to characterize the event as a “chemical weapon” attack rather than an incendiary bomb attack. Hallam’s mouth is hidden by a mask, making the dub impossible to detect without referring to the original clip.

The clip has sparked frenzied analysis by numerous Internet users, who point out that the background noise in the clip that uses the “chemical weapon” quote is different from the original. The BBC has been asked to explain the discrepancy but has so far not responded.

“I suspect the motive in this instance and others by the BBC are propaganda intended to affect public opinion in the UK in such a way as to congregate support and underpin an offensive against the Syrian government,” writes one user who closely analyzed the audio.

In a subsequent BBC interview, Dr Rola Hallam complained about the UK Parliament’s refusal to authorize a military strike on Syria. Hallam’s father is also on the Syrian National Council, the political body which represents opposition militants.

Hallam’s bias in supporting military action while working for a charity in Syria and being linked to the FSA makes the video clip all the more intriguing. It also explains why the BBC, which has aggressively pushed for military intervention in Syria from the beginning, is apparently using her to stage propaganda.

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said the video represented, “Irrefutable evidence of a stunning bit of fakery by the BBC,” adding that the woman’s words could have been faked in their entirety.

“The disturbing thing is the footage of the doctor talking is precisely the same each time. It is edited so as to give the impression the medic is talking in real time in her natural voice – there are none of the accepted devices used to indicate a voiceover translation. But it must be true that in at least one, and possibly both, the clips she is not talking in real time in her own voice. It is very hard to judge as her mouth and lips are fully covered throughout. Perhaps neither of the above is what she actually said.”

“Terrible things are happening all the time in Syria’s civil war, between Assad’s disparate forces and still more disparate opposition forces, and innocent people are suffering. There are dreadful crimes against civilians on all sides. I have no desire at all to downplay or mitigate that. But once you realise the indisputable fact of the fake interview the BBC has put out, some of the images in this video begin to be less than convincing on close inspection too.”

A link to Murray’s blog on the issue was also tweeted by Wikileaks, the whistleblower organization, under the headline,’ BBC puts out fake video with Syrian medic claiming chemical weapons.’

This would by no means be the first time that evidence of war crimes has been staged in order to lay the blame on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces.

As we have previously highlighted, there are numerous videos showing supporters of the western backed FSA staging fake injuries and deaths for propaganda purposes.

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for and Prison He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

This article was posted: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 10:42 am


Source Source2

July 28, 2013

CIA Admits Using News To Manipulate the USA (1975)

by mkleit

This is an old clip showing admittance of the CIA that they use the mainstream media to manipulate the thoughts and ideas of American citizens in the USA. This has not changed obviously and is good to know happened in the past due to our reality today.

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May 21, 2013

فضيحة «أسوشييتد برس»: «الأمن القومي» يُطيح حريّة الإعلام

by mkleit
نادين شلق

أوباما والاعلام الأميركي في سبيل “حماية” الأمن القومي

لم يكن القراصنة الصينيون من يخترق دفاعات وسائل إعلام أميركيّة… بل إدارة باراك أوباما نفسها. الضحيّة هي وكالة الأنباء الأميركية «أسوشييتد برس»، التي تمّ الكشف عن عملية تجسس على هواتف مراسليها ومحرّريها. الهدف من تلك العمليّة، كان معرفة اسم مصدر سرّب معلومات للوكالة في 7 أيار الماضي، حول إحباط وكالة الاستخبارات الأميركيّة CIA، عمليّة لـ «القاعدة» ضد طائرة تقل ركاباً أميركيين، في اليمن. 

تحت شعار «الأمن القومي»، قرّرت الإدارة الأميركية التجسس على حوالي 20 خطاً هاتفياً، والتطفّل على خصوصية أكثر من 100 مراسل ومحرر في «أسوشييتد برس»، وانتهاك سرية مصادرهم… كلّ ذلك في بلد يقدّس الحريات والديموقراطية، لا بل يشنّ الحروب باسمها. واستيقظ الأميركيّون على تلك الفضيحة، في 13 أيار الحالي، على وقع شجب عالي النبرة في وسائل الإعلام الأميركيّة، لانتهاك خصوصية وكالة الأنباء العريقة. حتى أنّ تبرير خطوة الإدارة الأميركيّة، الذي حاول بعضهم الاحتكام إليه، لم يفتح الباب إلا أمام المزيد من الغضب الإعلامي.

وكتبت صحيفة «واشنطن بوست» أنّ «الرئيس أوباما، المحاضر السابق في القانون الدستوري، والذي جاء إلى البيت الأبيض متعهداً احترام الحريات المدنية، يدير البلاد اليوم، بطريقة مختلفة عما ذخرت به سيرته الذاتية، ومتناقضة مع وعود ما قبل الانتخابات». ورأت صحف أخرى، أنّ أوباما وعد بإدارة تتميّز بالانفتاح والشفافيّة، لكنّ النتيجة كانت أنّ حكومته لجأت إلى التكتم والتعتيم، إلى جانب قيامها بهجوم غير مسبوق على حرية الإعلام، تجلّى في التجسس على «أسوشييتد برس».

رئيس مجلس إدارة «أسوشييتد برس» غاري برويت، وصف التجسُّس على مراسلي وكالته بـ«الأمر غير المبرَّر»، مدافعاً عن حقّ الصحافيين بالحصول على المعلومات من مصادر خاصة. وقال برويت في رسالة إلى وزير العدل النائب العام الأميركي إيريك هولدر، إنّ تلك التسجيلات يمكن أن «تكشف خريطة الطريق المتبعة لجمع الأخبار في الوكالة، إضافة إلى معلومات وعمليّات لا يحقّ للحكومة الاطلاع عليها».

أما هولدر، فقد لجأ إلى النغمة المعتادة لتبرير أخطاء الإدارات الأميركيّة المتعاقبة، قائلاً إن تسريب المعلومات حول عمليّة اليمن، يعدّ «تهديداً للأمن القومي الأميركي». كأنّ عبارة «تهديد الأمن القومي»، صارت تصلح لتكون جواز مرور إلى خصوصية الأميركيين، ومصادر وسائل الإعلام، والصحافيين.

المفارقة في قضية التجسس على «أسوشييتد برس»، أنّ السبب الأصلي في «تهديد الأمن القومي» كما يقال، هو تلقي الوكالة معلومات مسرّبة من مصادر رسمية سريّة… وهذا ما يجب أن تلوم الإدارة الأميركية نفسها عليه بالدرجة الأولى، قبل أن تلجأ لأساليب ملتوية لحماية «معلوماتها السريّة»! باستخدامها كلمة «الأمن القومي» السحرية، انتهكت الإدارة الأميركية حرية الإعلام التي نص عليها الدستور منذ العام 1931، لدرجة شبّه الإعلام الأميركي أوباما بالرئيس ريتشارد نيكسون، مستعيراً من حقبته مصطلح «ووترغيت»، ليتناسب مع ضرورات الحقبة الحالية، ويصير «أوباما غيت» أو «ووترغيت أوباما».

وتلاحق أوباما فضائح أخرى، أبرزها ردود الفعل المستنكرة لتعاطي الإدارة الأميركيّة مع مقتل سفيرها في بنغازي العام الماضي بعد أزمة «الفيلم المسيء»، وفضيحة استهداف «مصلحة الضرائب» مجموعات تابعة للأحزاب المحافظة والمعارضة. 

وفي قضيّة «أسوشييتد برس»، من السهل تشبيه أداء الرئيس باراك أوباما، بأداء الرئيس الفرنسي الأسبق فرانسوا ميتران، بعد فضيحة التجسُّس على صحافيين وإعلاميين معروفين في فرنسا. تلك الفضيحة التي هزّت المشهد الإعلامي الفرنسي في تسعينيات القرن الماضي، لم تُطمس مفاعيلها على مدى أكثر من عشر سنوات من اكتشافها، رغم إصرار ميتران على تجنب الكلام عنها، والتصرف على أنه في موقع القوي الذي لا يخطئ. أوباما يفعل المثل اليوم، مع إصراره على عدم الاعتذار، بحجة «أن الأميركيين لا ينتظرون منه اعتذاراً».



May 6, 2013

The 10 Worst Countries for Journalists

by mkleit

Each year at this time, Freedom House issues a report on the state of global media freedom. The overall findings for 2012 were bleak: Just 14 percent of the world’s population lives in societies that enjoy vibrant coverage of public affairs, a legal environment that undergirds a free press, and freedom from intrusion by the government or other political forces.

The countries profiled below are members of an ignoble club — the 10 most serious violators of press freedom in the world. Most of these countries do have constitutions that pay tribute to the values of freedom of speech and information, but in reality, these protections are often superseded by laws that criminalize press commentary that, according to these regimes, insults the political leadership, breeds “hate,” supports “terrorism,” or threatens national security.

The methods employed to enforce a regime of censorship vary from the downright thuggish to more nuanced tactics. The absence of outright violence does not necessarily signify that a country enjoys a freer media landscape than a country where journalists are regularly murdered.

Decades of totalitarian control in North Korea and Cuba have rendered serious efforts at independent journalism nonexistent in the first case and rare in the second.

Many believe that the Internet and other forms of new media will be instruments of liberation for the oppressed. But most of the countries described still have relatively low Internet penetration rates, and in every case, policies have been put in place to limit new media’s potential political impact. Whether these measures will prove effective as these countries move to further integrate in the global economy is open to serious question:

1. North Korea

From Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un, North Korea has retained the grimmest media environment in the world. The party-state owns the press in its entirety and devotes considerable energy and resources to the task of preventing North Koreans from hearing alternative interpretations of events.

According to the constitution, news coverage should conform to the “collective spirit,” an Orwellian phrase that in practice means building up the image of the leader as loved by his own people and feared by everyone else and condemning regime critics as “hyenas,” ” jackals,” and other stock insults from an archaic totalitarian vocabulary that other dictatorships abandoned decades ago.

Although the Associated Press has been allowed to set up a bureau in Pyongyang, foreign journalists are placed under the control of special minders, who seize their mobile phones on arrival, guard against chance meetings with ordinary people, and carefully monitor their movements.

While North Korea has kept Internet penetration low, the state has come to recognize new media’s potential as yet another instrument of propaganda both at home and for a foreign audience.

North Korea even maintains its own official YouTube and Twitter handles. Internet connections, however, are restricted to a handful of approved high-level officials and academics who have received state approval. For average citizens, web access is available only to a nationwide intranet — the Kwangmyong — that does not link to foreign sites.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

2. Turkmenistan

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s government maintains near-total control over the media. Indeed, the level of suppression is so complete that while libel is a criminal offense, it is seldom invoked because of the near-total absence of independent reporting.

The regime would probably argue that there is little need for journalistic watchdogs, given that the president was reelected in 2012 with a 97.14 percent majority. State surveillance is so pervasive that kindergartens have been instructed to report on each child’s family members going back three generations.

To be sure, a few courageous reporters and NGO activists do try to inform the public about life in Turkmenistan. But the state has ways to discourage its critics.

The day after human rights defender Nataliya Shabunts criticized the government in a radio interview, a bloody sheep’s head was placed at her door. On a more mundane level, independent-minded reporters are blacklisted and prevented from traveling either inside Turkmenistan or abroad.

On several occasions, the government has ordered the removal of satellite dishes in Ashgabat, which convey various international news stations to Turkmens.

Few complied with the directives, but access to satellite television remains limited due to the cost. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan has announced its intention to launch its own communications satellite to control broadcasting even more thoroughly (currently, Russian and Turkish channels are broadcast in the country).


3. Uzbekistan

President Islam Karimov has an effective, though not especially nuanced, method to silence critical voices: His authorities fine, imprison, or deport individual journalists, and shut down newspapers that depart from the official explanation of events. When dealing with critics, a lack of evidence is not necessarily an obstacle.

Investigative journalist Victor Krymzalov was fined after being found guilty of defamation for an article in that was published without a byline. Another independent journalist, Elena Bondar, was convicted on the unusual charge of “collective libel” for an article about the closing of a university.

One imprisoned journalist, Muhammad Bekjanov — who was charged with attempting to overthrow the regime — was due to be released in January when Kazan’s district court sentenced him to an additional five years on charges of breaking unspecified prison rules.

Uzbekistan has been placed on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ lists of top media censorsand leading jailers of journalists.


4. Eritrea

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 28 journalists were imprisoned in Eritrea at the end of 2012, which makes the country among the most hostile to reporters on a per capita basis.

Nine have been in prison since 2001. Often no charges are made public, though in some cases it is believed that the crime is planning to join other independent reporters who have fled the country.

In an extraordinary twist, the minister of information, Ali Abdu, had reportedly fled Eritrea at the end of 2012 while on a trip in Europe. Ali’s family, including his father and teenage daughter, have since been arrested by Eritrean authorities.

Going into exile is no guarantee of escaping the reach of the Eritrean state. For example, a diaspora journalist running a website in neighboring Sudan,, was arrested in 2011 less than a week after an official visit to Sudan by the Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki.

The government requires all Internet service providers to use government-controlled Internet infrastructure. Many websites managed by Eritreans abroad are blocked, as is YouTube.


5. Belarus

That Belarus is included in this list is not surprising, given President Alexander Lukashenko’sassertion that, “There is nothing more unbearable for a person than liberty.” He has devoted his nearly 19 years in power to relieving the burden of freedom from his citizens.

One after another, he has shuttered independent newspapers and television stations, used state media as a propaganda weapon, and jailed, fined, and harassed journalists who stubbornly resisted Lukashenko’s unique brand of retro-communism.

The authorities regularly punish or close media that publish materials that do not “correspond to reality” or threaten “the interests of the state.” The law also calls for penalties against outlets that report statements — for example, by political parties or NGOs — that “discredit the Republic of Belarus.”

The government subjects both independent and foreign media as well as press-freedom activists to systematic political intimidation for reporting on human rights abuses and unauthorized demonstrations.

Officials regularly harass the Belarusian Association of Journalists in retaliation for its work defending journalists, and state television broadcasts pseudo-documentaries designed to smear the organization and its leaders. Foreign journalists are not immune from harassment.

Last June, Iryna Khalip, the Belarus correspondent for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, found adecapitated chicken’s head in her mailbox after she had written articles critical of the regime.

With Internet penetration now approaching 50 percent, authorities have devoted considerable resources to gaining control of cyberspace. In response, the state requires domestic and international websites to register with the Information Ministry, forcing many independent print publications to switch to domain names based in neighboring countries.

The state-owned telecommunications company Beltelekom, which is the sole internet service provider, already controls all international data transfers and blocks some critical websites, while the security services reportedly monitor internet communications and spread keylogger Trojan viruses to steal passwords from website editors. The authorities have also responded to the growing influence of the internet by escalating prosecutions of journalists reporting for web sites.

AFP/Getty Images

6. Cuba

Well into the 21st century, Cuba retains a censorship regime that differs little from the policies that prevailed in the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev period. The constitution eschews the hypocritical nods to freedom of expression that are the hallmark of other repressive states.

Instead, it straightforwardly prohibits private ownership of media outlets and allows free speech and journalism only if they “conform to the aims of a socialist society.” Article 91 of the penal code imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state,” and Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.”

Expectations for a more relaxed press environment waned in 2012, as the initial optimism following the 2010 and 2011 release of journalists imprisoned during the 2003 “Black Spring” — when the government arrested and imprisonment 75 Cuban dissidents — gave way to a media crackdown.

Independent Cuban journalists continued to be subject to harassment and arbitrary detention for their reporting on topics deemed sensitive by the government and coverage of internationally-covered events, or any perceived critique of the state.

Such harassment took the form of arbitrary short-term detentions, in deportations, house arrests, and blocking of individuals’ cellular phone service.

By year’s end two imprisoned Cuban journalists faced harsh prison sentences, prompting many to fear a return to earlier periods of repression. Press repression was especially harsh during the  visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island, during which a number of independent journalists and bloggers were subject to short-term detention, and were blocked from attending the pope’s open masses in the cities of Santiago de Cuba and Havana.

Prominent Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez was detained en route to the city of Bayamo to cover a trial, along with her husband, journalist Reinaldo Escobar and dissident blogger Agustín Díaz.

As many as 23 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet, though fewer than 10 percent have access to the web. The vast majority of Internet users have access only to a closely monitored Cuban intranet, consisting of an encyclopedia, email addresses ending in “.cu” used by universities and government officials, and a few government-run websites.

For the average Cuban, access to the World Wide Web comes through outdated dial-up technology, and is often limited to international email. In 2012, the Cuban government set rates for web access at $6.50 an hour, and $1.65 an hour for international email (the average monthly salary is $20).

The regime threatens anyone connecting to the Internet illegally with five years in prison, while the sentence for writing “counterrevolutionary” articles for foreign websites is 20 years.


7. Iran

The assault on freedom of expression continues at an accelerated pace in the Islamic Republic. A major trend of late has been book banning. Some 250 “subversive” titles were banned ahead of the 2012 Tehran International Book Fair, and Cheshmeh Publications, one of the largest publishing houses in Iran, had its operating license revoked in June 2012 for publishing an offensive book about Imam Hossein.

The government directly controls all television and radio broadcasting. Satellite dishes are popular, despite being illegal, and there have been increasing reports of dish confiscation and steep fines.

The authorities frequently issue ad hoc orders banning media coverage of specific topics and events, including the economic impact of international sanctions, the fate of opposition leaders, and criticism of the country’s nuclear policy.

Cooperation with Persian-language satellite news channels based abroad is banned. The government has also placed pressure on the family members of journalists living abroad, including BBC Persian employees, who have been harassed, questioned, and detained by the security and intelligence apparatus.

Last year the government ordered theclosure of the House of Cinema, an independent professional association that supported some 5,000 Iranian filmmakers and artists.

Numerous periodicals were closed for morality or security offenses in 2012, including the independent newspaper Maghreb, which was found in violation of press laws following its publication of a cartoon of President Ahmadinejad.

In a sign of desperation, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an Ahmadinejad adviser and head of the state news agency, was jailed for six months for publishing content “contrary to Islamic standards.” And a special media court found Reuters bureau chief Parisa Hafezi guilty of “disseminating lies” for a story on women practicing martial arts in Iran and suspended the agency’s accreditation.

Iran ranks second in the world for the number of jailed journalists, with 45 behind bars as of December 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Internet penetration has skyrocketed in recent years, but authorities have consequently established draconian laws and practices to restrict access to communication tools, persecute dissidents for their online activity, and strengthen the government’s vast censorship apparatus.

Key international social-media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were blocked after the 2009 election, and the number of disabled political sites continues to expand.

The 2010 Computer Crimes Law is freighted with vaguely defined offenses that effectively criminalize legitimate online expression; the law also legalizes government surveillance of the internet. In January 2012, the authorities unveiled new regulations that oblige cybercafé owners to record the personal information and browsing histories of customers.

The first phase of a national intranet, aimed at disconnecting the population from the global Internet, was launched last September.


8. Equatorial Guinea

By law, the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has prepublication access to newspaper articles and commentaries, a power which, not surprisingly, encourages self-censorship.

Although journalists have been allowed to voice mild criticism of state institutions, criticism of the president, his family, other high-ranking officials, and the security forces is not tolerated. Journalists were unable to inform the public about the multiple international criminal investigations into alleged money-laundering by the president’s son.

Local journalists and private publications are required to register with the government through an impossibly complex bureaucratic process. Few international correspondents are granted access to the country and those who are given visas are subject to censorship and prohibited from reporting on poverty and the oil sector.

In late 2012, press freedom defender Manuel Nze Nsongo died under mysterious circumstances, a major blow for Equatorial Guinea’s independent media.

For those interested in opposition views, the Internet has replaced broadcast media as the source of choice. Unfortunately, Internet penetration is estimated at only 6 percent.

AFP/Getty Images

9. Syria

Journalists are not immune to the Syrian slaughterhouse. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists there were 28 killed during 2012, with the Assad regime and the opposition dividing responsibility.

Conditions were abysmal for reporters even before the current conflict. The 2001 Press Law allows for broad state control over all print media and forbids reporting on topics that are deemed sensitive by the government, such as issues of national security or national unity; it also forbids the publication of inaccurate information, as interpreted by the state.

Individuals found guilty of violating the Press Law face one to three years in prison and fines ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. The prime minister has the power to grant or deny licenses to journalists.

In 2011, Assad issued a new media law, which prohibits a “monopoly on the media,” guarantees the “right to access information about public affairs,” and bans “the arrest, questioning, or searching of journalists.”

However, it also bars the media from publishing content that affects “national unity and national security,” inciting sectarian strife or “hate crimes.” The law also forbids the publication of any information about the armed forces.

Article 3 states that the law “upholds freedom of expression guaranteed in the Syrian constitution” and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but Article 4 says the media must “respect this freedom of expression” by “practicing it with awareness and responsibility.” Not surprisingly, the government continued to arrest journalists under the ambiguous charge of threatening “national security.”

Syria’s civil war has made a bad media landscape even worse. Syrian authorities continue to forcibly restrict coverage of the unrest and misreport the uprising on state-run television stations.

Until rather recently, Assad tried to control world perceptions by banning all but a few foreign journalists, though that policy has begun to change. At the same time, the regime’s loss of control in certain regions has meant less pervasive censorship.

Media outlets that previously did not cover political developments have become sources of genuine news for Syrians in parts of the country. There is now more open criticism of the regime. Pro-opposition newspapers, such as SuryitnaOxygen,Hurriyat, and Enab Baladi, have also popped up, though they tend to circulate either underground or online.

Citizen journalists continue to be critical in providing foreign outlets with video recordings of protests and atrocities, but the authenticity of these recordings can be difficult to verify.

AFP/Getty Images

10. Bahrain

Restrictions on the press have steadily worsened since pro-democracy protests began in 2011. Media control is made simple by the fact that the government owns all broadcast media outlets and the private owners of the three main newspapers have close ties to the state.

The government and its supporters have used the press to smear human rights and opposition activists. Self-censorship is encouraged by the vaguely worded 2002 Press Law, which allows the state to imprison journalists for criticizing the king or Islam, or for threatening “national security.”

Many domestic journalists have been arrested and detained without warrants and confessions have been extracted through torture. The prominent blogger Ali Abdulemam, a regular contributor to the popular opposition web forum Bahrain Online, was sentenced, in absentia to 15 years in prison by a military court in 2011, and he remained missing in 2012.

The government continues to block a number of opposition websites, including those that broadcast protests. The authorities also obstructed foreign journalists’ through the denial of visas and arrests and deportations of those who have tried to cover protest demonstrations.

A Shi’a media exists only outside the country, but the state has spent huge amounts on cyber censorship and monitoring capabilities and has become increasingly effective at blocking access to foreign-based sites.



February 21, 2013

الصحافة الفلسطينية أقوى من سجون الاحتلال وشكراً Instagram

by mkleit
فادي أبو سعدى

رام الله | أمام سجن عوفر القريب من رام الله، احتشد أمس العشرات من الصحافيين الفلسطينيين، رافعين لافتات مطالبة بـ«الحرية للصحافيين الفلسطينيين في سجون الاحتلال» تزامناً مع محاكمة الصحافي عامر أبو عرفة المعتقل في سجون الاحتلال منذ أكثر من عام ونصف العام. علماً أنّه تم تمديد اعتقاله إدارياً أربع مرات، بالإضافة إلى محاكمة رسام الكاريكاتور محمد سباعنة الذي اعتُقل عند «معبر الكرامة» السبت الماضي. كان ذلك التجمّع مناسبةً أيضاً لاستعادة أسماء عشرات الإعلاميين المعتقلين في سجون الاحتلال من محمد خضر، ومحمد التاج، وحمزة برناط، وسمير عجاوي، وعنان سمير، إلى شريف الرجوب، وأحمد مسيطف.

نقيب الصحافيين الفلسطينيين عبد الناصر النجار قال لـ«الأخبار» بأنّنا «هنا للوقوف إلى جانب أسرانا من الصحافيين. يحاكم عامر أبو عرفة للمرة الرابعة بالاعتقال الإداري من دون تهمة، فيما رسام الكاريكاتور محمد سباعنة اعتقل عند «جسر الكرامة» وهو عائد من الأردن، لا لسبب خطير إلا رسوماته الكاريكاتورية في صحيفة «الحياة الجديدة» المحلية، فيما يضرب الصحافي محمد التاج عن الطعام منذ أكثر من 100 يوم».

وأكّد النجار أنّ «اعتصامنا هو رسالة تضامن تطالب بالإفراج الفوري عن الصحافيين، واحتجاج على الاعتداءات المستمرة والمتصاعدة من قبل قوات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي على الصحافيين الفلسطينيين في مناطق الاحتكاك والتغطية. ونذكّر هنا باستشهاد ثلاثة صحافيين فلسطينيين في غزة قبل أشهر. كما أنّ الاعتصام رسالة أخرى من الصحافيين الفلسطينيين تجاه كل الأسرى في سجون الاحتلال، وتحديداً المضربين عن الطعام، لأنّ دور الإعلام الفلسطيني مهم جداً في تشكيل رأي عام داعم لقضايانا الوطنية، ولأننا نريد تحريك الرأي العام المحلي والدولي، قبل أن نضطر لتشييعهم شهداء بعد فوات الأوان». وأشار إلى أنّ «اعتداءات قوات الاحتلال على الصحافيين ازدادت فى الفترة الماضية. بل يتم استهدافهم بشكل مباشر بهدف حجب المعلومات وتعتيم الصورة، ومنع تسليط الضوء على معاناة الأسرى داخل سجون الاحتلال».

بدورها، تحدثت الناطقة باسم وزارة الإعلام نداء يونس لـ«الأخبار» بأنّ التوجّه إلى معتقل عوفر للاعتصام هناك، جاء تنديداً واستنكاراً لسياسة الاحتلال الإسرائيلي الممنهجة لاستهداف الصحافيين، خصوصاً أنّ الهجمة متصاعدة في الضفة الغربية المحتلة. وأعلنت يونس أنّ وزارة الإعلام الفلسطينية قامت بتوجيه رسالتين أولاهما إلى رئيس «الاتحاد الدولي للصحافيين» جيم بوملحة، وثانيتها إلى رئيس «اتحاد الصحافيين العرب» أحمد بهبهاني، مطالبةً بممارسة كل ضغط ممكن على دولة الاحتلال بهدف الكف عن استهداف الصحافيين الفلسطينيين، وتطبيق القوانين الدولية المتعلّقة بالتغطية الصحافية في «مناطق الصراع» لأنّ الاحتلال لا يلتزم بشيء منها. وأكدت يونس أنّ الرسالتين طالبتا الاتحادين العربي والدولي للصحافيين بالتوجه إلى الجهات الدولية ذات الصلة لمحاسبة الاحتلال الإسرائيلي على ممارساته ضد حرية التعبير، واستهداف الصحافي الفلسطيني أينما وجد من دون أي رادع.

جيش الاحتلال من جهته، لم يرقه اعتصام الصحافيين أمام سجن عوفر، ولا هتافاتهم، ولا اللافتات التي رفعوها تضامناً مع زملائهم، فقام عدد كبير من الجنود بمهاجمتهم، وحدث تدافع عنيف مع الصحافيين، ومشادات كلامية، انتهت بتهديد الاحتلال للصحافيين باستخدام القوة في حال لم يغادروا خلال دقائق.

وكان عشرات الصحافيين الفلسطينيين قد شاركوا في الاعتصام من مختلف وسائل الإعلام المحلية، والعربية والدولية، تاركين على الأرض معداتهم من كاميرات وفيديو وأوراق، وحتى ملابسهم الرسمية كواقي الرصاص، ليرفعوا اللافتات تضامناً مع زملائهم المعتقلين في سجون الاحتلال الإسرائيلي. كما نظّم صحافيو مدينة الخليل المحتلة في جنوب الضفة الغربية، اعتصاماً تضامنياً مع عامر أبو عرفة زميلهم وابن مدينتهم، ورفعوا اللافتات التي تطالب بالإفراج عنه، والتوقف عن اعتبار «الصحافي» الفلسطيني «تهمة» بالنسبة إلى الاحتلال الإسرائيلي.


نادين كنعان

قضية إعلامية جديدة تهز «وزارة الحرب الإسرائيلية». عبر حسابه الخاص على موقع تبادل الصورة «إنستاغرام»، نشر أحد القنّاصة الإسرائيليين صورة تظهر رأس طفل فلسطيني من خلال منظار رشّاشه. وعلى الرغم من أنّ التأكد من ظروف التقاط الصورة لم يكن ممكناً، إلا أن رسالتها العدوانية بدت واضحة تماماً، وسط ترجيحات أنّها التقطت في بلدة فلسطينية نظراً إلى ظهور المآذن والعمارة العربية في الخلفية. خطوة مور أوستروفسكي (20 عاماً) دفعت جيش العدو إلى فتح تحقيق في الحادثة، فيما راح ناطق عسكري اسرائيلي يبرّر هذه الفضيحة، قائلاً إنّ هذه الممارسات «لا تتلاءم مع روحية الجيش وقيمه» وفق ما ذكرت صحيفة «هآرتس» الإسرائيلية أمس. ويبدو أنّ ضغوطاً اسرائيلية رسمية مورست على الجندي العامل في «وحدة القنص» الذي قال إنّه لم يلتقط الصورة شخصياً، بل وجدها على شبكة الإنترنت، قبل أن يسارع إلى إغلاق حسابه على Instagram مع تفاعل القضية.

«الانتفاضة الإلكترونية» (Electronic Intifada) كانت أوّل من أثار المسألة، لتشغل بها الرأي العام عبر الشبكة العنكبوتية طوال نهاية الأسبوع الماضي، قبل أن تتناولها وسائل الإعلام الغربية بكثافة. وعمدت «الانتفاضة» إلى نشر الصورة، لتعود وتنشر مجموعة من الصور المنقولة عن حساب أوستروفسكي «الإنستاغرامي» تتضمن لقطات لجنود اسرائيليين يستعرضون أمام الكاميرا حاملين أسلحة ثقيلة. ولّدت صورة الفتى الفلسطيني ردود فعل حتى في أوساط المجتمع الاسرائيلي، إذ أدان مقاتلون قدامى في جيش الاحتلال الذين يحاولون زيادة الوعي تجاه الانتهاكات الإسرائيلية في الضفة الغربية هذه الفضيحة. وأوردت صحيفة الـ«غارديان» البريطانية أنّ أحد هؤلاء قال عبر صفحة المقاتلين القدامى على فايسبوك إنّ «تلك هي الصورة الحقيقية للاحتلال، وللسيطرة العسكرية على المدنيين».

إلا أنّها ليست المرّة الأولى التي تظهر فيها ممارسات الاحتلال الهمجية إلى العلن. في كانون الأول (ديسمبر) الماضي، اكتشفت «الانتفاضة الإلكترونية» الجندي السابق نيسيم أسيس (22 عاماً) من مستوطنة «بيت إل»، الذي عرض صورة عنصرية له عبر Instargram تبيّنه وهو يلعق سائلاً أحمر على سكين (يرجّح أنّه صلصة طماطم) مذيّلة بعبارة: «تبّاً لكل العرب، دمهم لذيذ». وهنا أيضاً، لا بد من الإشارة إلى الجندي الذي نشر صورته على فايسبوك إلى جانب مواطن فلسطيني معصوب العينين ومكبّل اليدين، فضلاً عن الجندية الإسرائيلية التي نشرت صوراً لها قبل سنوات مع معتقلين فلسطينيين. صورة الفتى الفلسطيني أثارت موجة استهجان في الإعلام الغربي، لكنّها ليست سوى واحدة من مئات الممارسات الهمجية التي تحدث كل يوم في فلسطين.


November 21, 2012

5 Lies the Media Keeps Repeating About Gaza

by mkleit

Political Scientist, Human Rights Activist


As Israel continues to pound Gaza, the Palestinian death toll of the latest round of violence has crossed the 100 mark. Thus far, the American media has given Israeli officials and spokespersons a free pass to shape the narrative of this conflict with falsehoods. Here are the top 5 lies the media doesn’t challenge about the crisis in Gaza:

1. Israel Was Forced to Respond to Rockets to Defend Its Citizens 

CNN, like many other American outlets, chose to begin the story of the latest round of violence in Gaza on November 10th, when 4 Israeli soldiers were wounded by Palestinian fire, and the IDF “retaliated” by killing several Palestinians. But just two days before, a 13 year old Palestinian boy was killed in an Israeli military incursion into Gaza (among other fatalities in preceding days). Is there any reason why those couldn’t be the starting point of the “cycle of violence”? The bias was even more blatant in 2008/09, when Israel’s massive assault on Gaza (which killed 1400+ Palestinians) was cast as self-defense, even though it was acknowledged in passing that Israel was the party that broke the ceasefire agreement in place at the time. Are the Palestinians not entitled to self-defense? And if indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire is not an acceptable response to Israeli violence (which it absolutely isn’t), how can indiscriminate Israeli bombings of Gaza ever be acceptable? And why is the broader context, the fact that Gaza remains under Israeli blockade and military control, overlooked?

2. Israel Tries to Avoid Civilian Casualties

It must be aggravating for Israel’s propagandists when high-ranking political officials slip and get off the sanitized/approved message for public consumption. Yesterday, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Not to be outdone, Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said “we need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.” If you’re thinking this is just rhetoric, consider the fact that, according to Amnesty International, Israel “flattened… busy neighborhoods” into “moonscapes” during its last major assault on Gaza in 2008/09. And it wasn’t just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose consciencecould not bear to remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming forward.

If, for some odd reason, you cannot decide whether it is official Israeli spokespersons or soldiers of conscience and human rights investigators who are telling the truth, consider this question: If Hamas has only managed to kill 3 people despite being bent on killing civilians with thousands of indiscriminate rockets, how has Israel managed to kill several dozen Palestinian civilians when it is using sophisticated precision weapons to avoid civilian casualties? In just one Israeli attack yesterday, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in a matter of minutes than the total number of all Israelis killed by rocket fire from Gaza over the last 3 years. The truth is exposed by the utter disregard for civilian life we see in practice, reaffirmed by testimonies and investigative evidence.

3. This Is About Security

If Israel’s main objective were indeed to end the rocket fire from Gaza, all it had to do was accept the truce offered by the Palestinian factions before the Jabari assassination. And if the blockade of Gaza was just about keeping weapons from coming in, why are Palestinian exports from Gaza not allowed out? Why were food items ever restricted? The truth is, this isn’t about security; it’s about punishing the population of Gaza for domestic Israeli political consumption. When Gilad Sharon recommended the decimation of Gaza, he justified it by saying “the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas.” Sharon may find this posturing to be rewarding in some circles, but it’s actually the very same logic used by terrorists to attack civilians in democracies. Are Israeli civilians considered legitimate targets of violence because they elected right wing Israeli leaders who commit atrocities against the Palestinians? Of course not, and only a broken moral compass can keep this principle from consistently applying to Palestinian civilians as well.

4. Hamas Is the Problem

Between their religious right-wing domestic agenda, and their refusal to renounce violence against civilians, I’m most certainly no fan of Hamas. But whenever you hear Israel try to scapegoat Hamas for the crisis in Gaza, there are two things to consider. First, Hamas hasn’t only showed preparedness to have a truce with Israel if Israel ended its attacks on Gaza, but has also suggested (though with mixed signals) that it is open to a two-state solution. Second, and more importantly, Hamas didn’t come to power until 2006/07. Between 1993 and 2006 (13 years), Israel had the more moderate, peaceful, and pliant Palestinian authority (which recognizes Israel and renounces violence) to deal with as a partner for peace. What did Israel do? Did it make peace? Or did it continue to occupy Palestinian land, violate Palestinian rights, and usurp Palestinian resources? What strengthened Hamas and other extremists in Palestine is precisely the moderates’ failure to secure any Palestinian rights through cooperation and negotiations. The truth is entirely inverted here: it is Israel’s escalating violations of Palestinian rights which strengthen the extremists.

5. There is a Military Solution to this Conflict

This is not the first time, and probably not the last, that Israel has engaged in a military campaign to pummel its opponents into submission. But are we any closer to ending this conflict today after decades of violence? The answer is a resounding no. After the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah emerged stronger. After the 2009 war on Gaza, Hamas remained in power and maintained possession of thousands of rockets. Israel’s military superiority, while indeed impressive (thanks to $30 billion in U.S. military aid this decade), is not stronger than the Palestinian will to live in dignity. The way to end the firing of rockets in the short term is to agree to a truce and end the blockade of Gaza. The way to resolve the entire conflict in the long term is to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and allow the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination. We’re probably close to a ceasefire agreement to end this round of violence. The real challenge is ending the Israeli occupation for long-term peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.


Huffington Post

November 7, 2012

Lebanese media today

by mkleit

Across Cultures

Lebanon has long been recognized as having one of the most open and diverse media Environments in the Middle East. It was the first Arab country to permit private radio and television and there are now more than six independent television stations. Political interests have a strong influence though, as most media owners are affiliated with either a political party or a religious sect and content reflects their respective ideologies.

Several studies said that this “politicization” of the media is not new and that since the 1975-1990 civil war, when the majority of newspapers and broadcast stations were created, the media has strongly reflected the country’s pluralism and divisions.

Aligning with a particular political movement was the sense that a journalist might be better protected if they were working under a “political umbrella” rather than independently. This also means, however, that journalists risk losing their credibility as independent observers increasingly…

View original post 186 more words

November 5, 2012

CIA Needs You! CIA Has You!

by mkleit

A short video that has attached different bits of truth behind Facebook’s creation and its current use…
“Our most powerful enemy is our ignorance” – Julien Assange

November 4, 2012

Citizens, the Floor is Yours!

by mkleit

by Nadia Faris


Citizen journalistic experiences differ from one context to the next in terms of roles and objectives, the produced contents, their formats and their quality.

Citizens, the Floor is Yours!


In 2012, Reporters without borders* identified 30 netizen and citizen journalists killed around the world and 128 that have been imprisoned. The price they pay is extremely high, but it is because their work is about raising awareness of the social and political turmoil within their countries; the kind of stories that people in power want to keep hidden.

In Syria, for instance, 29 citizen reporters have lost their lives. Targeting them is meant to stop them from exposing the injustice on the ground. The situation is critical such that the victims of the oppression are normal citizens who don’t always belong to any professional press or media organ and whose only weapons are words and smartphones.

Who are they? And what pushes them to trade their passivity and “quiet life” for the adventurous race of journalism?  

Grassroots, participatory, street or citizen journalism… The denominations are multiple but they represent the same profile: “a person who has the necessary tools to spread information, pictures and videos (smart phone, laptop, internet connection) but who does not do it within an institution for a paid salary. He uses alternative news media – mostly self-created – as a platform to spread his/her work.” Dima Khatib, journalist in Aljazeera and an Arab blogger explains that a citizen journalist can be anyone, not necessarily a person who studied or practiced journalism. They follow no code of ethics nor have a professional creed except self-imposed ones.

-Citizen journalists have the advantage of being independent from the system but they also lack the credibility of a professional journalist. A citizen journalist is always expected to be subjective in his/her coverage of events, seeing things from their own personal perspective.

Khatib distinguishes two types of citizen journalists, occasional and dedicated ones.

-The first can be born in a matter of minutes without prior preparation or planning, finding themselves accidentally in the middle of an event which they can film and then spread the pictures and their own accounts of it.

-The second category plan to cover events, and sometimes they are part of the organization itself of the events they cover. They have blogs, readers, followers, etc. And some of them have great credibility obtained over time and through practice. They become a regular source for traditional media and even analysts. Some even become online stars!

The reasons behind the advent of this phenomenon are not haphazard. It can be one or the correlation of many factors. The basic one that comes to mind may be the amateurism of some who would engage in the journalistic vocation as a pastime rather than a profession.  Call them bloggers or writers in heart; they are, to a certain extent playing the role of reporters too.

For Olivier Truc, French journalist and Nordic and Baltic correspondent based in Sweden, motivations are numerous.

-The fact that a person who is not a professional journalist wants to convey information, and share it with the largest number of people should not be surprising. It is much needed. This person can be a privileged witness of an injustice and react to it, says Truc.

Besides, the absence of free independent media may also explain this new tendency. It is also relevant to link it to the loss of trust in the classical mainstream media because of the lack or the manipulation in covering certain issues. They broadcast information to the public at large, but the news agenda setting may still be too narrow.

In that sense, Khatib emphasizes that “mass media has agendas and makes editorial decisions which may transform or present an event in a way that is very different to how the people living that event would see it. So citizens decide to show their own point of view. Also, media might not care about certain topics, so citizen journalists try to push those topics onto the table.”

-In developed countries, citizen journalists are fighting the monopoly of news by mass media which is controlled by some economic and political elite, Khatib adds.


The product of its particular environment

Citizen journalistic experiences differ from one context to another in terms of roles and objectives, the produced contents, their formats and their quality.

In Nordic countries, for instance, Truc considers that “citizen journalists” work closely with traditional media as witnesses.

– They call people for testimonies and encourage those with exclusive information to communicate it to them. In the end, traditional media take the benefit from these “reporters” without even paying them like real journalists.

In other regions of the world, citizen journalists are more active. They are not only the countermeasure to the established media system but also to the political one.

In the case of Arab revolutions, Truc talks about real citizen reporters who have the technical means that allow them to cover a situation ‘live’. Yet, they cannot be considered as journalists that are accountable for their work. Truc prefers to call them “observers”, a concept used by “France 24”, the French TV Network. “That seems more honest.”

For Khatib, the Arab revolutions gave citizen journalists quite a big opportunity to flourish and become influential and powerful, as well as indispensable.

-In countries where a free press is totally banned, the only way to get the information out is through alternative journalism such as citizen journalism. Brave citizens risk their lives to film and spread pictures of protests and crackdown in countries where no journalists are allowed to be or to work.

-Outside this total blackout /censorship context, citizen journalists have become very useful complementary sources of information. If traditional media do not cover something, then citizen journalists will. If traditional media covers something in an incomplete or biased way, citizen journalists will come up with the missing parts or points of view of the story. Citizen journalists sometimes manage to force their own news agenda on traditional media by showing online what traditional media do not show and cornering mass media into covering what they might not have wanted to cover otherwise.

Khatib recognizes that Arab Revolutions have set a new path for citizen journalists. However, she points out that citizen journalists in the Arab World are still a minority as they will have access to education, internet, hi-tech, etc.

-They are also a minority that can afford to either do the citizen journalism work outside working or study hours, or even just dedicate all their time for it, thus having an alternative source of income from their family or their savings. Therefore they don’t necessarily represent all of society at all times.

About their impact on the ground, Khatib believes that they have surprised the Arab governments who did not expect them to be so powerful.

-Citizen journalists proved to be very resourceful in facing state practices aimed at stopping any coverage of the protests and the crackdown. Without these citizen journalists how would we have known what was happening in every small village in Tunisia, in the heart of Tahrir Square at night, in Syria or in Bahrain? Without the fast circulation of information, the protests might have taken a longer time to spread geographically. Even in countries like Saudi Arabia where revolution has not taken place, citizen journalists have been active in telling us about political prisoners or protests in the eastern part of the country.

The relationship with the professional media

New actors have then been introduced to today’s media scenery playing a role in informing the public and unveiling facts. Some traditional media in their attempt to follow this movement and to adopt it somehow, propose services inviting the public to share information: blogging in newspaper web pages, participating via video-telephony or posting videos on TV programs. Yet, we cannot talk about a real cohabitation of citizenry and professional journalism. A primary reason is that the citizen journalists do not produce work regularly enough or in an organized manner that allows them to compete. Secondly, professional journalists remain cautious about the way they need to deal with citizen journalists work, for several reasons.

As a journalist, Truc sees that his role is increasingly to sort out the continuous flow of information coming from multiple sources. But also, as a reporter, he has to go more and more on the ground, to feel and see things, speak and listen to people. As a professional, Truc invests both his competence and his title; he follows an established code of ethics. His readers have expectations from him, including a sense of hierarchy or peer review of the information he disseminates. “We can’t require the same thing from citizen journalists” he exclaims.

Nowadays, new media offer more visibility. Citizen reporters can skip the traditional media and create their tribunes within social networks. But, they should get into the traditional media if they want recognition.

Truc gives the example of Syria where some individuals who are not journalists take the camera and become indispensable witnesses, risking their lives.

-Those who will emerge and whose reputation will grow gradually will become journalists, even without a press card and a pay slip. Hopefully, they will create a future for a new Syrian independent media.

For Khatib, dealing with citizen journalists started mainly with the Arab revolutions. She has been in touch with some of them occasionally in her work in Latin America. But with Arab uprisings, she learned to interact with them on a daily basis, use them as a source of information and audio-video material.

Khatib does not trust any citizen journalist. She has developed her own methods for verifying the veracity of their information, especially with many of them being anonymous.

-With time I became familiar with citizen journalists spread across the Arab World, says Khatib. I became aware of their different points of view. Some have very high degrees of credibility to me, some have less. I did meet many of them face to face in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia after having dealt with them for months online while covering the Arab Revolutions on social media networks from my home in Caracas.

This personal contact helps her to make judgments as to their credibility and their point of view. Khatib explains that she often uses, in coverage of Arab revolutions on Twitter, information and material gathered by citizen journalists on the ground; she puts it into context, using her knowledge, experience and credibility as a professional journalist.

Khatib sees in this a very good example of collaboration between the two forms of journalism. In her point of view, the relationship between citizen journalism and classical media is a forced marriage.

– They have to learn to co-exist peacefully, respecting each other and trying to take advantage of each other’s existence rather than be confrontational. One cannot exist without the other anymore.

A common fate!

They have different statuses, experiences, publics, credibility and practices, except that in hot zones they may face the same dangers. Data is available about professional journalists that have been targeted during the coverage of an armed conflict. Unfortunately, citizen journalists, unlike the professional ones, are largely unknown to the media groups even when they are persecuted in times of war. Despite the fact that they risk their safety and lives for the sake of broadcasting their voices and the pulse of the street, they remain anonymous.


The Nordic Page

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