Tag Archives: Press freedom

From fiery Alberta to North Korea, America’s genie to London’s mayor: Facts, and Opinions, this week

Flames rise in Industrial area south Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada May 3, 2016. Courtesy CBC News/Handout via REUTERS

Flames rise in Industrial area south Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada May 3, 2016. Courtesy CBC News/Handout via REUTERS

Fort McMurray: Boom, bust …burned, by Rod Nickel and Liz Hampton

A convoy of evacuees from the Canadian oil town of Fort McMurray drove through the heart of a massive wildfire guided by police and military helicopters as they sought to reach safety to the south of the burning city. “Our life is here. We will go back and rebuild,” vowed one. … read more

By Unknown - http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/ourl/res.php?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&url_tim=2014-06-25T15%3A39%3A41Z&url_ctx_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Actx&rft_dat=3592868&rfr_id=info%3Asid%2Fcollectionscanada.gc.ca%3Apam&lang=eng MIKAN no. 3592868, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4928941

Athabasca oil sands on the banks of the river, c. 1900 Photo: Collections Canada

Fort McMurray: from “black pitch” and salt to oil sands. By Brian Brennan

The story of Fort McMurray is one of long hibernation followed by rapid growth. The oilsands developments turned it from a sleepy little northern frontier town into Alberta’s most explosive boom city. But it took almost two centuries for the development to happen. The boom had been foretold from the time fur trader Peter Pond explored the region in 1778 …read more

Sadiq Khan: British dream reality for London’s first Muslim mayor, by Parveen Akhtar

In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor.

The Irreconcilable Narratives of America’s South, by Ruth Hopkins, Wits Justice Project

In Montgomery the narrative of a proud confederacy is visceral and dominant and is echoed in its street names, buildings, signs and statues. But the Equal Justice Initiative, instead of protesting the display of Southern pride and honour, has started an elaborate and ambitious remembrance project that not only includes the collection of soil from sites of lynchings to remember the victims.  Alabama’s huge slave population and Montgomery’s central role in the confederacy are intimately connected. … read more

Commentary:

North Korea’s Kim rattles the bars of his cageNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un signs a document regarding a long range rocket launch in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 7, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

A good rule of thumb is to always be deeply suspicious of optimistic projections for the future of North Korea. There have been some rose-tinted forecasts wafting from Pyongyang this week as the Workers’ Party of Korea holds its first congress since 1980. The congress was called to endorse the leadership of Kim Jong-un, 33, who took over after the death of his father Kim Jong-il at the end of 2011. … read more

Trump has made racism and violence “OK” in the US, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

Donald Trump is not the real problem in the rise of racism  in the US . He is merely the catalyst. It’s his ham-handed ridiculous racism masquerading as “policy” or “outreach” that’s the problem. He has let the racist and bigoted genie out of the bottle and it won’t go back in peacefully. America needs to prepare for scenes of violence and hatred it may not have seen since the 60s in the South. … read more

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Elsewhere ….

On World Press Freedom Day, May 3,  Reporters Sans Frontieres/Reporters Without Borders launched a campaign called “Great Year for Censorship.” Its aim is to draw attention to “a deep and worrying decline in the ability of journalists to operate freely and independently throughout the world,” and especially targets leaders in 12 countries who have “trampled on media freedom and gagged journalists in various spectacular ways.”

RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, released in April,  reveals “a climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests,” said the organization.

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Freedom of the press ain’t so free anymore

TOM REGAN  
February 20, 2015 

journalists

Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents, said Reporters sans Frontieres.

Many years ago, when I was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University, a colleague and friend from Uganda, Charles Unyongo-Obbo, and I were the last two people to leave a function. As we walked out into the crisp fall air of Cambridge I noticed that Charles was scanning up and down the street. I asked him what was wrong.

“I’m just looking for the police car,” he told me. “I know there won’t be any police cars here but I can’t afford to let my guard down because when I go back home they will be there.”

Charles’ comments had a profound effect on the way I saw the world of journalism. In the United States (and in Canada, where I was working at the time) freedom of the press is taken for granted. Basically we can say and write whatever we like, without fear of the kind of consequences that my friend from Uganda worried about. And I think because of that illusion of press freedom, first world journalists often lose sight of the fact that reporting is a dangerous, often thankless business for most journalists in the world. 

I thought of Charles once again as I read Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontieres’ latest report on world press freedoms. The picture that the report paints is not a cheery one.

“According to the Paris-based watchdog’s latest World Press Freedom Index, published Thursday, two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed performed less well than in 2013, while there was an 8 percent increase in the number of violations of freedom of information in 2014 compared to the year before,” Agence-France Press reported.

There were the usual suspects of course. China, Vietnam, North Korea, Iran, and Cuba were all near the bottom of the rankings. After a relatively short flourishing, press freedom in Russia is almost gone. All the countries in the Middle East did poorly.

But it was this comment that really caught my eye.

“Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents,” said RSF.

That’s a pretty alarming statement: “In retreat on all five continents.” And that includes the one on which I live, North America.

Because as much as we would like to believe that we have unlimited free press in the U.S., that’s often not the case. In fact, in terms of the RSF world rankings, the United States fell 3 spots last year to 49th place out of 180. Some of the countries that finished ahead of the United States: Namibia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Uruguay, Cyprus, Tonga, El Salvador (which is truly stunning) and Malta.

Freedom of the press in North America, and in the United States in particular, faces numerous threats: economic censorship where businesses of all sizes threaten reporters with economic and legal retaliations for unfavorable stories; increasing concentration of control of the media in a handful of huge corporations and a few dozen media executives; police actions against reporters such as those in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police rounded up numerous members of the media in order to prevent them from covering the polices tactics in that racially torn city; and most important, government actions against the media like the many ones undertaken by the Obama administration.

For all of its liberal policies on issues like immigration, gay marriage, contraception and similar progressive issues, no administration in recent memory has been so unfriendly to the media nor has taken so many legal actions meant to silence the press – such as suing reporters who have written about important leaks that have embarrassed the government – nor has carried out so many illegal actions itself in order to spy on the media. (See the many reports from WikiLeaks and on Edward Snowden.

One might argue that the proliferation of media sites on the Internet and social media would counteract this development to some degree. And it has, but not by very much. With one or two notable exceptions (ProPublica in particular), most well-known Internet media sites in the US spent far too much of their time concentrating on click-bait stories, celebrity news, and water cooler tidbits. 

A country often gets the press it deserves, particularly in the Western world. While we have no dictatorships in countries like the United States, Canada, Britain, France or Australia, we do have governments which will do everything in their power to reduce the importance of media and any unfavorable coverage of their actions.

And most Americans have grown fat, lazy and complacent about freedom of the press because of the illusion that it is unlimited. While we may have more talking heads giving their opinions on the air, in print and online than Medusa had snakeheads, important stories like government abuse of privacy in the name of a nebulous security are in danger of being silenced before they can even be reported.

“The press doesn’t stop publishing, by the way, in a fascist escalation; it simply watches what it says,” American author Naomi Wolf wrote. “That too can be an incremental process, and the pace at which the free press polices itself depends on how journalists are targeted.”

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com 

Notes:

Reporters Sans Frontieres report: http://index.rsf.org/#!/presentation

Mass Internet Surveillance Unlawful: Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/06/gchq-mass-internet-surveillance-unlawful-court-nsa

Wikileaks report by the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29cables.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Democracy Now, on Edward Snowden

 

 

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board in Canada, and for the Christian Science Monitor and Boston Globe newspapers, and National Public Radio, in the United States. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

 

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