WAN-IFRA

A publication of the World Editors Forum

Date

Mon - 28.07.2014


Press Freedom

By WAN-IFRA

Free the press! It is a familiar refrain, one that grows louder year-on-year yet never loses relevancy. Why should a free press even be up for discussion? Are we failing to get the message across?

The simple answer is that the press equals power, and wherever power lies there are those who seek to control or influence it. By nature, a free press is untamed; capable of speaking unfiltered to public opinion, it has always been a vital conduit for free expression.

It has therefore been a constant target.

As we increasingly embrace our digital citizenship, the tyrants who oppose free speech are quickly learning how to act as digital oppressors. Targets are more numerous, attacks more complicated and diverse. Our awareness and vigilance must adjust with similar voracity.

Impunity for the killers of journalists extends also to those who murder bloggers. Censorship does not discriminate between editorial platforms. Prisons are built for those who “offend”, regardless of media.

It is impossible to prevent the oppressors of free speech from eroding our basic freedoms. And they do, as the press freedom indexes show, frequently and without heed for the consequences.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2013-05-03 10:56

In his new book Fighting For The Press, author James Goodale, former chief counsel for The New York Times during the Pentagon Papers trial, looks back on the occasion of the trial's 40th anniversary at the press freedom issues that still exist in the US today.

In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Goodale blasts the Obama Administration, calling it the worst for press freedom in history. He compares the Pentagon papers trial to the current Wikileaks battle, saying:

“The biggest challenge today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks… [Assange will] go to jail for doing what every journalist does.” 

Julian Assange was charged with leaking national documents along with Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of having leaked a massive number of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Goodale argues that if Assange is indicted for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, Obama would be violating the First Amendment.

Author

Briana Seftel

Date

2013-03-22 16:43

In a statement released March 11, Malian journalists declared a strike to demand the release of Boukary Daou, editor of the daily Le Républicain, who was arrested for publishing an open letter criticizing the living conditions of soldiers the salary of Captain Amadou Sanogo, leader of the March 22, 2012 coup that ousted President Toumani Toure.

Daou was arrested without charge since March 6 by the State Security, Mali’s intelligence agency. He is being held without access to lawyers or his family, and he has been beaten and interrogated about the source of the letter, according to media reports. After unsuccessful pleas to secure Dao’s release, media outlets initiated an unprecedented media blackout.

According to a BBC report, in the capital of Bamako where about 40 newspaper titles are published each week, none have appeared on news stands since the blackout. 16 radio stations have also gone silent, or just play music. However state-owned media will continue to run.

Author

Briana Seftel

Date

2013-03-19 11:28

The agreement, which The Guardian lays out, will create a regulatory body to replace the Press Complaints Commission. The new group will be capable of directing apologies and corrections from news organizations and enforcing fines up to £1 million.

Critically, the regulator will be established through royal charter rather than law. However, a clause will be inserted to Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill that states that all royal charters cannot be amended without meeting the requirements laid out in the charters themselves. In this case, this charter will say that it cannot be modified without agreement from two-thirds of both houses of parliament.

While Prime Minister David Cameron maintains that “it’s not statutory underpinning,” Clegg and Miliband both address the clause as such. The clause makes no mention to Leveson or press regulation; rather, it encompasses all royal charters.

“What we wanted to avoid and have avoided is a press law,” Cameron said.

Author

Kira Witkin's picture

Kira Witkin

Date

2013-03-18 18:45

Grupo Clarín, the publisher of Argentina’s most widely read daily newspaper and the largest media conglomerate in the country, once enjoyed a favourable relationship with the government. Now, the two are engaged in a public tussle in which each side claims that the other poses a threat to freedom of expression: the administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner accuses Clarín of having a monopolistic stranglehold over the country’s media, and the news conglomerate charges the government with striving to stifle dissenting voices.

The conflict’s focal point is the controversial “Media Law,” also known as the Audiovisual Communication Services Act (No 26.522), passed by Argentina’s Congress in October 2009. Article 45 of this law limits the number of broadcasting licenses that any media organisation can hold, and Article 161 establishes a procedure to divest incompliant companies of their holdings. Proponents call it a move to increase media plurality; detractors consider the measure a government ploy to dismantle its most vocal critic.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-11-21 19:03

This article was updated at 10:11 am on Friday, November 9. 

In stark juxtaposition with the boisterous political process we have recently witnessed in the United States is the choreographed 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which opened in Beijing this morning. During this weeklong meeting, the single party state will undergo its once-in-a-decade political transition, with President Hu Jintao handing the Party’s reigns to Vice President Xi Jinping.

Colloquially known as the “Eighteenth Big,” or “shiba da,” this is the first Communist Party Congress to be taking place in the age of Weibo, China’s three year-old Twitter equivalent, which has around 300 million users. Chinese social media commentators, however, are up against a much more foreboding foe than that which unnerved some of their American counterparts in the lead-up to election night: instead of the prospect of a great white fail whale, they are confronted with the reality of a Great Firewall.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-11-08 19:28

South African President Jacob Zuma has withdrawn a four year-old defamation claim against Avusa Media, publisher of the Sunday Times newspaper, over a 2008 depiction by cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (known by the pen name “Zapiro”) of Zuma dropping his pants as he prepares to rape a female personification of the justice system.

The case was due to be heard in the South Gauteng High Court today. Instead, Zuma announced his decision to drop the claim in a statement on Saturday, citing a desire “to avoid setting a legal precedent that may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech, with the unforeseen consequences this may have on our media, public commentators and citizens.”

Initially, Zuma had claimed damages totaling 5 million rand ($580,000)-- 4 million from Avusa Media for defamation, as well as 1 million from the former editor of the Sunday Times Mondli Makhanya for insulting the President’s dignity. Last week, Zuma’s lawyers reduced the claim to 100,000 rand ($11,500) and an apology. Under the new settlement, the President has dropped all charges, and will pay 50 percent of the defendants’ legal costs.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-10-29 17:51

A Malaysian court ruled this week that publishing a newspaper is a fundamental right.

The ruling offers hope for greater journalistic independence in a country where most major newspapers are owned by or affiliated to the government.

The court case was between the Malaysian government and Malaysiakini, an independent news website that attracts 400,000 daily readers.

Malaysiakini, which is seeking to expand its audience through a print newspaper, launched the legal proceedings two years ago when the government denied its application for a publishing permit, without which no newspaper may be printed in Malaysia.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled on Monday that the government should not have rejected the application, and would have to re-evaluate.

The decision will make it harder for the government to block an application for a printing permit, said Shanmuga Kanesalingam, a lawyer who represented Malaysiakini, according to The New York Times, because under the new ruling, officials will have to demonstrate that the planned publication would be immoral, or would pose a threat to public order, national security, or national sovereignty.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-10-03 17:44

Vietnamese authorities declared three bloggers guilty of “spreading propaganda against the state” after a brief, high-security trial in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday, sentencing them to between four and 12 years in jail, followed by house arrest.

All three are founding members of the Club for Free Journalists, a group established in 2007 to promote liberty of expression in the tightly controlled communist country. They were accused of posting political articles on this organisation’s website, and for writing about forbidden subjects such as state corruption and social justice on their individual blogs.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-09-26 15:59

For the 48 years leading up to August 20 of this year, reporters in Burma were required to submit their articles to state censors before publication, who would hand them back covered in red ink, keeping a tight grip on information that reached public attention. Now, not only has the government abolished this practice, but Burma could be preparing to allow private daily newspapers to emerge in coming months, said Ye Htut, the country’s Deputy Information Minister, on Monday.

“Our minister would like to see private dailies early next year,” Htut told Reuters, referring to the new Information Minister U Aung Kyi, who replaced a “hardliner” in a cabinet reshuffle last month. Currently, there are privately owned weekly journals and monthly magazines operating in Burma, but the four daily newspapers are all state-run.

Aung Kyi, whom Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper has referred to as a “reputed liberal,” apparently plans to introduce a new “Media Law” that all parties would accpet as well as a Press Council, both of which Htut has called “prerequisites” for the emergence of private dailies.

Author

Emma Knight's picture

Emma Knight

Date

2012-09-04 14:40

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