BBC, New York Times, Others Remain Blocked In China – Watchdog

A picture of the Chinese flag

 

China’s “Great Firewall” system of online censorship blocks domestic access to nearly a quarter of the foreign news organisations accredited to report in the country, a press watchdog said Tuesday.

Beijing bars its citizens from accessing the publicly available websites of 23 percent of 215 international news organisations that have journalists based in China, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said in a statement.

Thirty-one percent of news organisations that publish primarily in English, the most widely-spoken foreign language in China, are blocked, the FCCC said in a statement.

The numbers were determined via an analysis by the press club and GreatFire.org, which tracks Chinese online censorship.

The statement was released on the final day of the China-organised sixth annual World Internet Conference in the eastern city of Wuzhen, which the ruling Communist Party uses to further its argument that governments should be able to police their own online turf.

“China’s internet controls have been used to block a growing list of global news sources,” the FCCC said.

“Those digital blocks run counter to the ethos of internet openness, and prevent Chinese access to valuable sources of independent reporting on international matters, as well as China’s own domestic affairs.”

The blocked sites include the BBC, Bloomberg, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yomiuri Shimbun and many others, it said.

The FCCC said according to the government 536 foreign journalists have accreditation to report in China.

The so-called “Great Firewall” is considered the world’s biggest and most sophisticated censorship apparatus.

It blocks a slew of foreign sites including Facebook and Twitter, and Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010, refusing Beijing’s requirement to censor search results.

 

AFP

Buhari Asks Journalists To Be Fair, Accurate While Reporting

President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has felicitated with journalists on the World Press Freedom Day, asking them to be fair and accurate while reporting.

In a statement by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity on Thursday, Buhari urged media practitioners to be rededicated to be the societal watchdogs.

“Journalists must constantly recommit to the canons of fairness, accuracy, objectivity, balance, and other ideas that guide their profession.

“On this occasion of World Press Freedom Day, I urge you to rededicate yourselves to the role of being watchdogs of society, while being mindful of the cohesion and equilibrium of that same society,” he stated.

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The President also reiterated his administration’s commitment to promoting the principles of transparency and press freedom for journalists to strive.

While appealing to reporters to be wary of people that would use the media to emphasize the nation’s fault lines, Buhari stated that the Federal Government “would continue to ensure that the media was not muzzled in any way, since democracy and freedom of expression were kindred spirits.”

“Our administration is committed to the highest levels of transparency, and we will guarantee press freedom at all times.

“We only require that the freedom be used responsibly, and for lofty ideals of national unity and development,” he added.

The World Press Freedom Day is observed every May 3 to celebrate fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world and defend the media from attacks on their independence.

It also seeks to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession globally, especially in conflict-plagued countries.

Here in Nigeria, the theme of this year’s celebration is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation,” comes at a time when the nation recently conducted her general elections.

Press Freedom Advocates Freed After Detention In Tanzania

 

Two press freedom advocates taken from their hotel in Tanzania by security officers have been released, a South African government official said Thursday.

South African journalist Angela Quintal, Africa programme coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and her Kenyan colleague Muthoki Mumo had been detained by authorities on Wednesday without explanation.

However, South African foreign ministry spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told AFP on Thursday that “they were both released”.

Mabaya said their release came “after a lot of calls” but that neither woman had been given back their passport.

“We need to understand the circumstances… (we) must get all the facts in order to engage the Tanzanian authorities,” Mabaya said.

He added that both women were currently at the South African embassy in Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam.

CPJ said that Quintal, a former editor of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper, and Mumo were legally in Tanzania “on a reporting mission” when they were detained.

“Officers who identified themselves as working with the Tanzanian immigration authority detained Quintal and Mumo in their hotel room in Dar es Salaam,” the CPJ said in a statement.

“The officials searched the pair’s belongings and would not return their passports when asked. Quintal and Mumo were then escorted from the hotel and… taken to an unknown location.”

Increasing repression 

Soon after their detention, an uncharacteristic tweet was sent from Quintal’s Twitter account reading “God is great we are released going back to our hotel”, raising fears that someone had accessed her electronic devices.

“The tweet by @angelaquintal was not sent by her,” her niece Genevieve Quintal, also a journalist, wrote. “This shows someone is using her account.”

Both Quintal and Mumo’s social media accounts have since been deactivated.

Tanzania government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said he did not know why the two had been taken for questioning.

“My office is monitoring why the so-called CPJ journalists were allowed to enter the country but later were interviewed by immigration and released,” he said on Twitter.

Since his election three years ago, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has cracked down on independent media, closing down critical newspapers while rights groups have protested against the imposition of restrictive laws on freedom of expression.

Reporters Without Borders, a pressure group, ranked Tanzania 93rd out of 180 countries worldwide in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, down 10 places on the previous year.

Other freedoms are also under pressure, with a powerful Dar es Salaam official last week announcing an anti-gay witch-hunt to track down people suspected of engaging in homosexuality, which is illegal in Tanzania under British colonial-era laws.

AFP

Hundreds Of US Newspapers Hit Back At Trump, Defend Free Press

United States President, Donald Trump has repeatedly accused mainstream newspapers of churning out “fake news”. Photo: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

United States newspapers, big and small, on Thursday hit back at Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media with a coordinated campaign of editorials, triggering a fresh tirade from the President on Twitter.

Leading the charge was The Boston Globe, which had called for the drive highlighting the importance of a free press, accompanied by the hashtag #EnemyOfNone.

More than 300 newspapers around the country joined the effort.

“Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current US administration are the ‘enemy of the people,'” the Globe editorial said.

“This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president, much like an old-time charlatan threw out ‘magic’ dust or water on a hopeful crowd,” it added in a piece entitled “Journalists are not the Enemy.”

The front page of the Thursday, August 16, 2018 edition of the Boston Globe newspaper reads “Journalists are Not the Enemy”, Photo: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images/AFP

 

The effort comes amid Trump’s persistent claims that mainstream media outlets that publish articles critical of him are churning out “fake news.”

The New York Times, a frequent target of Trump’s criticism, ran a seven-paragraph editorial under a giant headline with all capital letters that read “A FREE PRESS NEEDS YOU.”

“Insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period,” the Times wrote.

Trump fired back on Twitter by repeating his contention that the “fake” news media is “the opposition party” and claiming the Boston Globe was “in collusion” against him with other media.

“There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS,” he tweeted.

“The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people.”

The US Senate meanwhile countered the White House by unanimously passing a resolution citing the “indispensable role of the free press” and warning that efforts to undermine the media were “an attack on our democratic institutions.”

Other newspapers joining the campaign said Trump’s attacks diminish the importance of journalists in their communities.

“For more than two centuries.. the press has served as a check on power, informing the American people about corruption and greed, triumphs and tragedies, grave mistakes and misdeeds and even ineptitude and dysfunction,” wrote the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico.

Iowa’s Des Moines Register said, “The true enemies of the people — and democracy — are those who try to suffocate truth by vilifying and demonizing the messenger.”

Cannot sit back

Free press advocates argue that Trump’s attacks imperil the constitutional First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

“I don’t think the press can just sit back and take it, they need to make their case when the most powerful man in the world tries to undercut the First Amendment,” said Ken Paulson, a former editor-in-chief of USA Today who is dean of communications at Middle Tennessee State University.

But Paulson questioned whether editorials would be effective.

“The people who read editorials don’t need to be convinced,” he said. “They are not the ones trying to shout you down at presidential rallies.”

The campaign also faced the potential for galvanizing supporters of the president around the notion that the media is out to get him.

The San Francisco Chronicle said it would not join the effort because “it plays into Trump’s narrative that the media are aligned against him.”

But the newspaper said it would “continue to speak out against this president’s war on the free press,” doing it “in our own way, on our own timetable.”

Stakes too high

But media rights advocates say the stakes are too high to allow the president’s claims to go unchecked.

Some say Trump’s comments have incited threats against journalists covering his events, and may have created a climate of hostility that opened the door to violent attacks like a deadly one in June against the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Trump’s references to us as the ‘enemy of the American People’ are no less dangerous because they happen to be strategic,” the Kansas City Star wrote. “That is what Nazis called Jews. It’s how Joseph Stalin’s critics were marked for execution.”

Trump’s actions are also encouraging strongmen such as Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey to treat journalists like enemies, some newspapers said.

“The messages in today’s newspapers are best read not as a drift toward war footing, but rather as a reminder that journalism is important work,” wrote Pete Vernon in the Columbia Journalism Review.

AFP

Jailed Egyptian Journalist Wins United Nations’ Press Freedom Prize

FILE COPY Egyptian photographer Mahmoud Abdel Shakour, known as Shawkan, gesturing from inside a soundproof glass dock, during his trial in the capital Cairo on August 9, 2016. Photo Credit:  KHALED DESOUKI / AFP

Detained Egyptian photojournalist, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, will be awarded UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize, the United Nations’ cultural body said Monday.

Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

He is one of 700 defendants facing charges of killing police and vandalising property during the clashes.

“The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” said Maria Ressa, head of the UNESCO jury which is awarding the prize.

Egypt’s foreign affairs ministry on Sunday voiced its “profound regret that an organisation with the status of UNESCO would honour a person accused of terrorist and criminal acts”.

Several hundred people, including three journalists, were killed during the security forces’ bloody dispersal of a pro-Morsi sit-in after the military ousted the Islamist in 2013.

Egypt’s first democratically elected president had taken office in 2012 but faced mass protests a year into his controversial rule.

Press freedom group Reporters without Borders (RSF) ranks Egypt 161st out of 180 countries on its press freedom index, saying at least 31 journalists are currently detained in the North African country.

It slammed a decision by the Egyptian prosecution in March to seek the death penalty against Shawkan.

UNESCO said it will officially award its prize to Shawkan on May 2, to mark World Press Freedom Day.

AFP

Nigeria Falls On World Press Freedom Index

The 2017 World Press Freedom index has placed Nigeria at 122 out of 180 countries; down six places since last year.

The report was put together by non-governmental organization, Reporters Without Borders.

Although the Freedom of Information Act was signed into law on May 28 2011, government institutions and officials regularly deny journalists information, and in some cases threaten them for investigating issues that are in the public interest.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, said via a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, that no society can grow without an active press to monitor and report its activities.

He reaffirmed the commitment of the National Assembly to continue to enact laws which will create a conducive environment for journalism to thrive in the country.

National celebrations take place each year to commemorate this day which was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO General Conference in 1991.

This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek declaration on media pluralism and independence.

Niger State Government Commits To Press Freedom

sani bello
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello

It is World Press Freedom Day and the Niger State government has reaffirmed its commitment to upholding and promoting press freedom.

The government says such freedom will enable it engage the people for open and transparent governance.

The Commissioner of Information, Tourism and Culture in the State, Mr Jonathan Vatsa, made the position of the government known in a statement issued on Tuesday to mark the World Press Freedom Day.

Mr Vatsa assured the media that the present administration in the state viewed press as the fourth estate of the realm, partner in lubricating participatory governance as well as ensuring accountability and fight against corruption to achieve development.

He stated that, the government was desirous to always promote freedom of expression as a way of allowing the people to contribute to the process of governance and leveraging on such expression to make correction when necessary for the overall development of the state.

The Commissioner said: “At this auspicious time of the World Press Freedom Day, the government of Niger State under the leadership of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is assuring all practicing journalists in Niger State the commitment of the government to providing the right avenue legally and genuinely possible to continue in discharge their duties”.

According to him, “just as Governor Bello has always said, our doors are always open to constructive criticism that will help to move our dear state forward. We will always advise our dear friends in the media to practice within the confines of the ethical codes that guide their profession”.

“Once again I congratulate the entire media practitioners in the state, Nigeria and world over on this World Press Freedom Day that is a General Assembly of United Nation declaration to promote freedom of expression”.

Ban Ki-moon Tasks Govt On Protection Of An Independent Press

ban ki-moonThe Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has again stressed the need for all governments, politicians Business and citizens to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent, free media.

Ban gave the task in his message on this year’s World Press Freedom Day, with the theme “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This Is Your Right!”.

He further stressed that without this fundamental right, people would be less free and less empowered.

“With it, we can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all,” the UN Secretary-General stressed.

“Watchdog”

A concept note by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said the World Press Freedom Day represented an opportunity to advance the fundamental principles of press freedom and to pay solemn tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

This year’s theme promotes as always, freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and as a human right, protection of press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach and ensuring safety for journalism online and offline.

According to UNESCO “press freedom and access to information are essential to democracy and to sustainable development.

“Sometimes referred to as a “watchdog” of political and societal institutions, journalism is also much more: it demonstrates freedom of expression for society at large, it puts new questions on the development agenda, and it empowers citizens with information.

“It provides a context in which the diversity of cultural expressions can flourish”.

Union Seeks Better Welfare For Journalists

pressOwners of media organisations in Nigeria have been asked to improve the welfare of their employees and also ensure there is a life insurance policy for them.

The President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Mohammed Garba, made the appealed on Monday, as Nigeria joins other countries to mark the World Press Freedom Day.

The NUJ President also warned security agencies and politicians to stop further harassment and intimidation of journalists while performing their official functions.

Mr Garba was spoke to Channels Television on Monday during a seminar to mark the World Press Freedom Day in Kaduna themed “Let Journalism Thrive Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality and Media Safety in Digital Age”.

He also lamented that many journalists in Nigeria had suffered one form of brutality or harassment in the hands of security agencies, politicians and individuals while discharging their constitutional duties.

The NUJ President extolled the contribution of journalists in deepening the nation’s democracy, but expressed sadness over government’s poor implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.

During the last general elections in Nigeria, many Journalists were brutalised while covering campaign rallies and election.

Every year, May 3 is set aside as World Press Freedom Day. A date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom and to defend the media from attacks on their independence, as well as paying tribute to Journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

The date serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while Journalists, Editors and Publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.

Russian Police Detain Dozens For Umbrella Protest

Russian Police on Saturday, February 8, detained dozens of umbrella-wielding demonstrators protesting after three television providers dropped a station that made its name covering massive street demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin.

The arrests follow reports of the detention of up to 14 gay rights activists on Friday, the day of the opening of Sochi Olympic Games – an event which has drawn international criticism of Russia’s human rights record.

“We want to protect the freedom of media in our country…Now they attack Dozhd. We want at least some remnants of freedom to stay on in our country,” said supporter Arina, standing under an umbrella next to her young son.

Saturday’s demonstrators had gathered near Moscow’s Red Square to protest the “censorship” of Dozhd (TV Rain), an independent-minded television station which has aired aggressive reporting critical of Russian authorities and even-handed broadcasts on Ukraine’s anti-government protests.

“I’m shocked. When they began opening umbrellas police started detaining them. It was like: ‘If you open an umbrella, proceed to the police bus’,” Yekaterina, a Dozhd supporter, said, giving only her first name.

Dozhd, which faced criticism after asking on its website if Leningrad, now St Petersburg, should have been surrendered to Nazi Germany to save lives during a World War II blockade, was dropped by three TV providers in and around Moscow in late January.

The station said the move amounted to “censorship and pressure”, a sentiment echoed by protesters on Saturday.

Policemen frogmarched protesters to vans after they unfurled umbrellas to show their support for TV Rain.

“Those are just people, the viewers of TV Dozhd (Rain). We did not and do not call on anyone to come to picket lines. But we are grateful to them for that support. If I’m not mistaken, that is the third action that has been held in Moscow. This support gives us strength to go on working in a difficult situation,” said Dozhd producer Yegor Maksimov.

Around 40 people were detained in total, Russian newswire Interfax reported, citing a police spokesman.

Abia To Institutionalise Data Bank System For Information Dissemination

The new E-library complex being built by the Abia state government is almost 80 percent complete.

In view of this, machinery has been put to work for an institutionalised data bank system that would allow journalists and citizens of Abia state from any location to access projects, governance and achievements of the government.

Commissioner for Information, Dr Eze Chikamnayo while briefing journalists at the Nigerian Union of Journalists Secretariat in Umuahia, disclosed that this system would make their job easier.

He credited the efforts made so far to the determination of the government to enhance social development for the good of its citizenry.

Press Freedom: Nigeria Is Ahead Of Some African Countries – NUJ President

The president Nigerian Union of Journalist Mr. Garba Mohammed, speaking on the press freedom in Nigeria today said that what the government has accommodated in terms of analysis in most media houses cannot be accommodated in some countries in Africa, so Nigeria has gone far in achieving expression of speech.

While speaking on Channels Television’s Breakfast Show Sunrise Daily, he stated that Nigeria can’t be compared to Somalia because on a regular basis journalists are assaulted in Somalia, he said a committee will be set up to verify these claims.

He added that being in a democratic system journalists have not been killed while performing their duties, except during insurgencies