As CVs go, it’s certainly unconventional. As Dr Rowan Williams, outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury and self-proclaimed ‘hairy lefty’, toddles off to ruminate in Cambridge quadrangles, his successor appears to be cut from quite a different clerical cloth. The Bishop of Durham and archbishop-elect, Justin Welby, ought to have grimacing Guardian leader writers sharpening their pencils with relish: for, with apologies to Lady Bracknell, to be an old Etonian is unfortunate, but to be an ex-oil executive as well looks like carelessness.
newspapers and democracy
‘The buck stops with Candy’, screamed the US’s Fox News; ‘Candy Crowley sides with Obama’, fulminated the UK’s Daily Mail. Such a reaction from two well-known conservative media outlets in response to moderator Candy Crowley’s performance in last night’s second US presidential debate seems both unsurprising and unremarkable, given both the innately problematic nature of the job and her own prior indications of how she would complete it. The tussle between those who proclaim their journalistic impartiality and those who assert the presence of political bias is as old as the hills; given her unapologetically robust analysis of the role beforehand – ‘to give the conversation direction and get the questions answered’ – controversy was perhaps inevitable.
Venezuelans take to the polls on Sunday in what many commentators are describing as the most important election in a generation – not only for the oil-rich nation but also for the entire continent. Despite reports of an alarming increase in attacks against the media that have constricted open debate, public opinion may not be as one-sided as official statistics suggest. With rising discontent and a polarised electorate, the stage is set for a dramatic run-in this weekend that could have reverberations for Leftist governments throughout the Americas.
If Public TV were sole barometer for electoral opinion, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles would have abandoned his campaign months ago. Coverage of incumbent President Hugo Chávez in the public media has eclipsed that of his unifying challenger, with years of government manoeuvring having succeeded in turning the state’s media apparatus into nothing short of a pro-Chávez propaganda machine. This is despite strict rules limiting both candidates to only three minutes of airtime per-day. The last private station to have sparred with the government, Globovisión, was relieved of over US$2 million following a Supreme Court decision to uphold fines many perceived to be in direct retaliation for the channel’s critical coverage. Despite the setback, the channel has continued its pro-opposition stance.
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.
Newspapers have traditionally been an objective purveyor of news, not a player or participant in events.
At the same time, digital players like Facebook and Twitter are being seen as being enablers of good causes – the Arab Spring is a case in point. “Newspapers have been content to report these phenomenon, rather than shape them,” says Rahul Kansal, Chief Marketing Officer of the Times of India.
The Times set out to change that – to enable public service campaigns while building its reputation for being a force for change.
Mr Kansal describes himself as a ‘crass marketer’. But by using marketing techniques, the newspaper succeeded in “playing a vastly enhanced role in the life of the reader” and gained a reputation as an activist.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have welcomed Ecuador President Rafael Correa's decision to pardon the executives and former opinion editor of the El Universo newspaper, but said the charges and conviction should never have occurred in the first place.
"We are delighted that President Correa has decided to issue a pardon, but the charges should never have been issued and the Ecuadorean courts should never have levied jail sentences and a US$40 million fine," the global organisations said in a statement.
"We are also pleased that the president has decided to withdraw a separate suit against Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita, two journalists who were ordered to pay US$2 million," the statement said. "Jail sentences and excessive fines have a chilling effect on the press and violate all standards of freedom of expression. We call on the president to ensure that Ecuador reforms its libel laws to conform with international standards."
Ecuador's National Court of Justice earlier this month upheld a libel judgment, a 40 million dollar fine and 3-year prison sentences against El Universo and its directors Carlos, César and Nicolas Pérez. Two of them fled the country, while a third took refuge in the Panamanian Embassy in Quito.
How have government-media relations changed after the arrival of WikiLeaks and the scandal at the News of the World, wondered panellists at a WPFC and UNESCO-organised conference in Paris last week, The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World.
Henrikas Yushkiavitshus, the former UNESCO Assistant Director General for Communication and Information and former Vice-Chairman of Gostel Radio in Moscow, opened the session on government-media relations by reminding the audience that the relationship between media and goverments has always been fraught, since well before the birth of Wikileaks as a phenomenon. Governments, he said in his opening remarks, will not always cooperate with the media. The situation is complicated by the public perception of the media, which cannot be counted on to be favourable. Indeed in the United States, public trust in the media stood at 46% in 2008, 2 points below public trust in the government, and that figure continued to drop over the following two years.
The arrests of five Sun journalists over alleged corrupt payments made to police and public officials have prompted angry responses from sections of the UK press and from the National Union of Journalists.
Sun deputy editor Geoff Webster, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, picture editor John Edwards and deputy news editor John Sturgis were arrested early on Saturday morning and later released on bail.
Trevor Kavanagh at The Sun condemned the arrests in an article today, beginning "The Sun is not a 'swamp' that needs draining". He protested that the paper's journalists are being "treated like members of an organised crime gang" who are "subjects of the biggest police operation in British criminal history".
For more on this story please see our sister publication www.sfnblog.com
Has the media played a significant role in inciting the public to protest in the Arab World? Participants in the first session of the 2012 Arab Free Press Forum in Tunis discussed whether the media is a mirror that reflects peoples ideas, as Al Jazeera English senior political analyst Marwan Bishara suggested, or whether it works more actively.
Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al Hayat, although emphasizing that as she lives in New York she doesn't have a complete picture of media on the ground, said that she believes some satellite channels did not distinguish between covering the events and inciting people to engage in revolution.
Mohamed El Dahshan, Egyptian economist and writer, stressed the importance of considering different types of media that different people follow. Some local media which are under government authority have proved an obstacle to change and threatened protesters. As one of the audience noted, media will always be a hindrance if they are not telling the truth.
2012 is presidential election year in the US and election fever has already started.
Starting with the caucases, continuing with the primaries and with their eyes already on the presidential race ending in November 2012, newspapers are getting ready.
"Election coverage is bigger than any one newsroom" so the right approach should be teaming up to be able to assure the coverage is as wide and accurate as possible, some believe. Or at least this is what NBC News and Newsweek/Daily Beast have decided to do in view of the upcoming presidential battle. Shared content will appear on the Newsweek pages and online on The Daily Beast.
The decision isn't surprising in itself, Justin Ellis wrote on NiemanLab. Double the resources, double the coverage, double the audience. Also, he explains, looking back to past electoral experience, this is not even new, quoting as examples the Times and CBS News or ABC News and The Washington Post partnering on polls.
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