Friday, May 18, 2012

No retreat on press freedom globally for first time in eight years, says Freedom House

9 May 2012

No retreat on press freedom globally for first time in eight years, says Freedom House


Freedom House’s 2012 press freedom map: green=free, yellow=partly free, purple=not freeFreedom House’s 2012 press freedom map: green=free, yellow=partly free, purple=not free
With authoritarian regimes crumbling in the Middle East and North Africa, freedom of the press made precarious gains in 2011, and for the first time in eight years showed no overall decline, says Freedom House in its annual global survey.

The Arab Spring unleashed the media in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, which all rose from "not free" to "partly free", according to the report.

"The newly opened media environments in countries like Tunisia and Libya, while still tenuous and far from perfect, are critical for the future of democratic development in the region and must be nurtured and protected," Freedom House's president David J. Kramer said.

China and authoritarian nations in Africa and the Middle East censored news of the Arab Spring, Freedom House said. In Uganda, Angola and Djibouti, "the authorities cracked down, sometimes violently, on journalists covering the demonstrations."

As usual, Western democracies ranked high in the report. But Freedom House marked down the ranking of the United States slightly for heavy-handed police crackdowns on journalists covering various Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.

The United Kingdom also was marked down slightly for riot-related press restrictions, and legal "super-injunctions" that bar the media from reporting even the existence of an injunction against coverage of celebrities and wealthy individuals.

Italy, a rare example of a Western Europe nation not rated as having a free press, rose slightly in Freedom House's rankings as media magnate Silvio Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister. But it is still considered only "partly free".

Although established democracies historically do quite well in Freedom House's survey, two had their status downgraded from "free" to "partly free".

"Heightened harassment of journalists trying to cover protest movements contributed to a decline in Chile's status," Freedom House said.

"And following a sharp numerical slide in 2010, Hungary was downgraded to 'partly free' due to concerted efforts by the conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to seize control over the legal and regulatory framework for media,'" the report said.

Of 197 countries surveyed on a wide variety of freedom of press issues, Freedom House found 66 nations rated "free," 72 "partly free" and 59 "not free".

Largely because of China, "which boasts the world's most sophisticated system of media repression," Freedom House found that 40.5 percent of the world's population live in a "not free" media environment, while 45 percent had a "partly free" press and just 14.5 percent live in counties with a "free press".

Freedom House listed eight nations as the "worst of the worst" for press freedom: Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 
Source : IFEX

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up

25 April 2012

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up



The full findings won't be released until 2013, but the report details how external auditors are being granted unprecedented access to the workings of the three Internet giants to see if they are ready and willing to implement GNI's principles on free expression and privacy.

Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists (which belongs to GNI) said, "Six years ago the idea that the titans of the Internet would open up their inner workings to outside scrutiny seemed a stretch."
According to the report, all three companies "need to engage more directly with human rights groups and scrutinise vendors more closely."

GNI specifically faults the tech industry as a whole for insufficient restrictions surrounding "dual-use" hardware technologies, such as routing and network equipment, that could be used for censorship and surveillance purposes.

The report also raised concerns about vendor contracts in place before GNI was established in 2008, as well as the need for tech firms to make specific disclosure to users when their data might be viewed by government authorities. It also recommends better free expression and privacy training for the board of directors.

GNI is a voluntary group of Internet companies, freedom of expression groups, progressive investors, and academics that includes IFEX members CPJ, Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship. It aims to provide a global standard for the Internet and technology sector when dealing with government requests affecting free speech and privacy.
sOURCE: IFEX

9 May 2012

Facebook joins Internet freedom group

 

Facebook has become the first official observer at the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a non-government organisation dedicated to promoting Internet freedom and privacy rights, GNI announced last week.

GNI - which counts Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! as founding members - was created in 2008 to help global Internet companies deal with government requests affecting free speech and privacy. IFEX members the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship belong to the initiative.


GNI works with independent assessors to evaluate how companies are handling challenges they face.


According to "Politico", Facebook has resisted pressure from lawmakers to join in the past, and other than the initial members, technology firms have been slow to embrace the organisation.


"The resistance is, in part, due to concern that the organisation is too focused on corporate assessments, something large companies are more apt to do than smaller ones. Critics believe GNI should be looking more at government practices around the world that constrain the Internet," said "Politico".


"Others argue that it is the role of governments to take stands on human rights not private companies," the U.S. political paper added.


Facebook's 12-month observer status means it will participate in GNI sessions but doesn't have to commit to the GNI principles, or submit to an independent assessment. After 12 months, the firm will either have to decide to join or leave GNI.


"If they walk away at the end of 12 months, it will be apparent to people they are walking away from accountability," Arvind Ganesan, a GNI board member from Human Rights Watch, told "Politico".


Meg Roggensack of Human Rights First, another GNI member, said that "because of its size and scope, Facebook is a leader [in] privacy. It's important that they be in the tent not outside of it. This doesn't put them in the tent, but it's an important step and underlines our point that companies can't go it alone."


Facebook vice president for global public policy Marne Levine said the company wants to work with GNI and its members "to promote a free and open Internet."


"Building a better understanding of the value of the open Internet, and its direct impact on job creation, education, and good governance, is critical, and precisely where the work of GNI can be useful," Levine said.


The news comes as Facebook is preparing for its initial public offering, in which the company is projected to raise US$10 billion. In order to grow, Facebook may be interested in entering China, which could present some human rights issues, says "Politico". 

 Source : IFEX

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up

25 April 2012

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! submit to external free expression check-up



The Global Network Initiative (GNI) has just released its annual report, which takes a critical look at how three of its founding members, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, are giving information to repressive governments or working with unscrupulous vendors.

The full findings won't be released until 2013, but the report details how external auditors are being granted unprecedented access to the workings of the three Internet giants to see if they are ready and willing to implement GNI's principles on free expression and privacy.

Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists (which belongs to GNI) said, "Six years ago the idea that the titans of the Internet would open up their inner workings to outside scrutiny seemed a stretch."

According to the report, all three companies "need to engage more directly with human rights groups and scrutinise vendors more closely."

GNI specifically faults the tech industry as a whole for insufficient restrictions surrounding "dual-use" hardware technologies, such as routing and network equipment, that could be used for censorship and surveillance purposes.

The report also raised concerns about vendor contracts in place before GNI was established in 2008, as well as the need for tech firms to make specific disclosure to users when their data might be viewed by government authorities. It also recommends better free expression and privacy training for the board of directors.

GNI is a voluntary group of Internet companies, freedom of expression groups, progressive investors, and academics that includes IFEX members CPJ, Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship. It aims to provide a global standard for the Internet and technology sector when dealing with government requests affecting free speech and privacy.

Source : IFEX

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

OAS adopts proposals that could weaken role of free expression special rapporteur

OAS adopts proposals that could weaken role of free expression special rapporteur


New proposals adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States could be used to threaten the authority of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero
New proposals adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States could be used to threaten the authority of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero
The Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council adopted the proposals of a working group that could be used to threaten the authority of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, report IFEX's Latin American and Caribbean group (IFEX-ALC), the International Press Institute (IPI) and other IFEX members.

As IFEX reported last month, those recommendations had been designed and pushed for by Ecuador, whose government has repeatedly criticised the efforts of the special rapporteur for interfering in internal affairs.

Ecuador's permanent representative to the OAS, María Isabel Salvador, stressed that her country wanted only to ensure that all eight Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) rapporteurships were being treated equally. "All rights deserve the same attention and all rapporteurships should have the same resources," she told news reporters, according to IPI.

Unlike the other rapporteurs, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression publishes an extensive stand-alone annual report and benefits from external funding. If fully implemented, Ecuador's recommendations would end both of those practices, forcing the inclusion of the annual report into a larger report about the region generally and requiring balanced funding among the rapporteurs. The third recommendation calls for a code of conduct to govern the rapporteur.

IFEX-ALC, an alliance of 16 IFEX members based in the region, along with international rights groups such as IPI, ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have spoken out in support of the rapporteur, Catalina Botero, and the office she leads.

According to the Knight Center, more than 60 NGOs and civil society representatives have alleged that the changes will damage the rapporteur's effectiveness and autonomy.

While there is still concern, IFEX-ALC members and the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information noted that there was not unanimous support for Ecuador's recommendations on the Permanent Council. They say that "an overwhelming majority" said the recommendations "should be adopted only if they would lead to a genuine strengthening of the system in place to protect human rights and the work of the special rapporteur."

Countries like Costa Rica, Uruguay and Panama strongly supported the existing role of the special rapporteur and rejected any significant reforms that could weaken its mandate, they said.

But Mexico and Colombia had ambiguous responses. The Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) criticised the Colombian representative for characterising the reforms as "positive" and for not defending the role played by the special rapporteur in guaranteeing freedom of expression in the region.

For the moment, the recommendations are non-binding. According to the Knight Center, final approval depends on the votes of the 34 member nations at the next OAS General Assembly meeting, which will be held in Bolivia in June 2012.

In the meantime, IFEX-ALC members and the Regional Alliance have written to OAS members and encouraged them to "carefully evaluate the recommendations…, only adopting those that do not negatively affect the system itself, or potential victims or users of the Inter-American Human Rights System."

Source : IFEX

Nominate the blog that best defends free expression

Nominate the blog that best defends free expression

The world's largest international blog competition is now open for entries! Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in conjunction with German media group Deutsche Welle wants you to name the blog from anywhere in the world that best defends free expression, as part of the Best of the Blogs Awards (the BOBs).

Suggest candidates in 17 categories, including the RSF award, which aims to support bloggers in countries where freedom of speech and press are limited - and goes to a blog that takes a strong stance for freedom of information all over the world.

There are also awards for Best Blog, Best Use of Technology for Social Good, Best Social Activism Campaign, Best Video Channel, and best blog in each of the BOBs' 11 contest languages.

This year the Special Topic Award puts the spotlight on culture and education, paying special attention to projects and initiatives that look at the right to education and promote intercultural dialogue.

Then, for a month starting on 2 April, look over the nominees in each category and vote for the ones you think represent the best of the best. Winners will be announced on 2 May.

Nominate your favourites here.

Source : IFEX 

Data Journalism Awards open for entries

7 March 2012

Data Journalism Awards open for entries

Think you can get your message across in an age of information overload? Consider applying for the Data Journalism Awards, the first international contest recognising outstanding work and editorial excellence in the field of data journalism worldwide. The deadline for submissions is 10 April 2012.

The Data Journalism Awards are organised by the Global Editors Network, Google and the European Journalism Centre.

The jury, which include representatives from "The New York Times", Thomson-Reuters and "La Nacion", will select a winner for local/regional and national/international work from each the following three categories: data-driven investigative journalism; data visualisation and storytelling; and data-driven applications.

A total of 45,000 Euros (US $57,000) is up for distribution to the winners, who will be announced at the Global News Network's World Summit in Paris on 31 May 2012.


Source: IFEX

Kurt Schork Awards now accepting submissions

11 April 2012

Kurt Schork Awards now accepting submissions



The Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism celebrate freelance journalists and local reporters who show great courage in reporting on controversial issues. The deadline for entries is 31 May 2012.

Two prizes of US$5,000 each are awarded annually, one to a freelance journalist covering international news, and the other to a local journalist covering events within their home country or region. The stories can be about conflict, human rights, cross-border issues, corruption, or any other issue of controversy in a particular country or region.

Underwritten by the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund, the prizes honour Kurt Schork, a U.S. freelance journalist who was killed in a military ambush while on assignment for Reuters in Sierra Leone in May 2000.

For more information, visit the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund awards page.


Source : IFEX

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
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