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A weekly look at the problems and pleasures facing journalists around the world and the power and responsibilities of news media.


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A weekly look at the problems and pleasures facing journalists around the world and the power and responsibilities of news media.






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Community radio serves Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar

A Bangladeshi community radio station is servicing the needs of Rohingya refugees in the coastal city of Cox's Bazaar. Radio Naf employs both Rohingyas and local Bangladeshis to produce content that helps refugees live in the camps. And in those where there is no radio reception, listener clubs play the broadcasts. Radio Naf is a Bangladeshi community radio that started focusing on the needs of Rohingya refugees in August 2017, following the massive influx of people that poured into south-eastern Bangladesh, fleeing genocide in Myanmar. There are now over a million Rohingya refugees in some 27 camps in Cox’s Bazaar. There was a dire need to channel reliable information about life in refugee camps to the Rohingya in a language they could understand read by people they could relate to. They needed to know how to access food distribution, medicine, shelter, and other such basic information. “Community radio is a concept to develop programmes by the community, for the community and with the community,” says Mohammad Rashidul Hasan, Programme Coordinator of Radio Naf, who is also known as Mr Rashed. Radio Naf, which has been around since 2011, uses Chittagonian dialect, understood by both the local Bangladeshi community and the Rohingyas to broadcast news and programmes to help the refugees. The radio also employs both Rohingya and Bangladeshi journalists; it works with 35 volunteers with an additional 12 based in six Rohingya refugee camps. Bringing the radio to the listeners The various camps sprawled out in Cox’s Bazaar do not all catch radio reception, so Radio Naf set up 22 listener clubs where the programmes are broadcast to a mixed group of 20 men, women, youth and elderly people, who are then instructed to share the information with people in their household and neighbourhood. There are also five information hubs in five different camps, which not only provide information about what is made available to the refugees but also take down their problems and complaints before channelling them to the appropriate organisation. “If they have any complaints, like gender-based violence or something like that, we at once refer this to the camp management committee and sometimes to the relevant NGOs,” says Mr Rashed. Aid for the Rohingya refugees come from all quarters: an array of NGOs, various United Nations organisations, the government of Bangladesh and so on but the refugees are not always aware of the kind of support made available for them. And this where Radio Naf fills in the gap. “We [recently] relayed information from [UN children's fund] Unicef about cholera vaccination,” Mr Rashed reports. Radio Naf produces programmes on an array of issues such as health, shelter, water and sanitation, food distribution, child protection. Environmental education Some of them aim to educate the refugees. The massive arrival of Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazaar led to deforestation of the region. Programmes on the environment are designed to help the refugees understand the importance of preserving the environment and how to cook food without destroying the forest. “There are a lot of children and the camps have no boundaries,” says Mr Rashed to outline some of the contents of programmes on child protection. "Children they go here and there. This is how they might get lost. Or they can be trafficked also. This is why every mother should keep [an] eye on the children and the children also should know where they can move in the camp." Radio Naf uses various formats to broadcast its reports addressing the Rohingyas' concerns. Radio drama is one of them and it is quite popular among listeners. In one play, the actors explain what to do in the eventuality of a cyclone – the region is prone to such disasters – as the shelters in the camps are often made of bamboos and tarpaulin. From a small radio for the fishing community of Teknaf, Radio Naf has developed into a broadcaster/information vector for a population deeply affected by...


Anti-Semitism and censorship make headlines in Europe, Pakistan, Tanzania

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was forced to defend his stance on anti-Semitism, a question that also attracted headlines in France and Germany this week. While in Pakistan and Tanzania, there were concerns about censorship and Internet freedom. A Facebook comment posted a few years ago by Corbyn in which he backed an artist that graffitied a wall with Jewish bankers counting their money, is what has reignited the debate on anti-Semitism within the British Labour party. The Labour leader who had initially supported the mural in the name of free speech, conceded he was wrong to support an "offensive" work. Labour MP Luciana Berger said last month she was unsatisfied with his response and told lawmakers that under Corbyn anti-Semitism had become "more common place (...) and more corrosive.” The media was fast to react. Too fast perhaps according to Eline Jeanne, who works with the Media Diversity Institute in the UK. “I think an issue like this can be sensationalized quite easily, which I think was definitely for some publications what they did," she told RFI. "One of the things that was kind of forgotten was the broader issue of anti-Semitism in the UK, which I think was kind of a letdown,” she added. Anti-Semitism as a political weapon Some of Corbyn's critics, who consider him too left-wing, also accuse him of complacency towards anti-Semitism, in some cases linking the charge to his support for the Palestinian cause. A charge he strongly denies. His supporters however argue that anti-Semitism is being used as a weapon to discredit him ahead of next month's local elections. The fact that few outlets mentioned the political context was another oversight, comments Jeanne. “Definitely the comment Corbyn made should have been brought to light," she says, but questions why the issue is being raised now, when the Facebook comment was posted in 2012. For her, more investigative pieces were needed to identify "the intentions of the person [Luciana Berger] besides wanting to highlight the potential anti-Semitism in the Labour party.” Wrong language on anti-Semitism Elsewhere, an anti-Semitic incident grabbed headlines in Germany. An Israeli wearing a kippa was recently attacked by a Syrian refugee in a trendy neighbourhood of Berlin, with the attacker yelling ‘Jew’ in Arabic. The video went viral. The attack prompted a strong show of solidarity, but did little to dampen fears among Germany’s Jewish community, who connect hatred of Jews today to that of Europe's past. Yet covering anti-Semitism isn’t always easy, particularly when it comes to language, explains Eline Jeanne from the Media Diversity Institute. “Often we see people using anti-Semitic language either in their headlines or in the way they explain things without even realizing it," she said, in reference to a recent article on Hungarian businessman George Soros. "The headline used, alluded to him as being a puppeteer, which definitely has anti-Semitic backgrounds, but I think the journalist didn’t intentionally do that," she said. To report the issue well, Jeanne says journalists need "more time" and education about what anti-Semitism is and isn't. "We also need to give Jewish community members a voice as well," she added. Narrowing the debate "We never hear from those who are concerned," Jean-Yves Camus, Director of the Observatory of Radical Politics in Paris, said. "I mean the average Jew living in a small town or in a suburb of Paris, the media don’t go there,” he told RFI. The French capital, which has seen a string of killings of Jews, was recently hit by another anti-Semitic attack, this time against an elderly Jewish woman, prompting thousands to march in her memory, together with a manifesto signed by 300 intellectuals denouncing what they call a new anti-Semtism, inspired by radicalized Islamic minorities. “I’m very scared that the situation is only in the hands of a few intellectuals who sign manifestos and go on TV shows to tell...


What is behind French website Mediapart's success?

Ten years ago, when a group of disillusioned French journalists decided to quit their jobs and start their own independent website, industry watchers were skeptical, as Matthew Kay reports. They said the public would never pay for news in the age of free information - and their project would fail. But a decade later Mediapart has become an industry leader - consistently setting the news agenda in France. Their investigations have unearthed corruption at the heart of French industry, led to the fraud conviction of a former socialist minister and seen ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy place under criminal investigation. And if that wasn't enough, the website is turns a profit - unique in age of free online news. Mediapart's publishing editor, Edwy Plenel, explains the site's recipe for success.


Facebook data misuse scandal sparks calls for greater privacy

Trust in social media has hit a new low, following revelations that data of fifty million Facebook users, ended up in the hands of a UK data analysis company, and may have been used to influence Donald Trump's 2016 election and Brexit. Facebook this week announced new measures to protect users' privacy. The scandal has highlighted the challenge facing tech firms in ensuring personal information is not used for profit. Cambridge Analyica, the company at the heart of the privacy scandal engulfing Facebook, is accused of fraudulently obtaining data from the social media giant and then using it to run election ads on behalf of US president Donald Trump and the Vote Leave campaign in the UK. "These tech giants are actually using the users' data without their knowing, and what exactly they're using the data for," Arunima Tiwari, a Global Policy Analyst with the Indian research firm R Strategic, told RFI. "And they are losing the users' trust because of these scams," she said. A Cambridge academic called Aleksandr Kogan made a 'Test Your Personality' app, and paid users a small fee to get them to download it. Two hundred and seventy thousand people did, sharing details about themselves, and unknowingly, their friends as well. Fifty million Facebook users in total were targetted. The information was then sold to Cambridge Analytica. The UK data analysis company vigorously denies the charges levelled against it, but declined RFI's request for an interview. "It is categorically untrue that Cambrige Analytica has never used Facebook data," Christopher Wylie, the company's former research director, who revealed the scandal, told British MPs on Tuesday 27 March. "The acquisition using Alexander Kogan's app was the foundational data set of the company," Wylie said. The scandal has raised disturbing questions about the use of social media in political campaigns. Facebook insists it had no idea the data taken from its site was being used, but it took months to act and the episode has exposed yet again, its laxity towards privacy, after coming under fire in 2015 for not doing enough to tackle fake news. No hacking "Facebook is in the wrong because they were too lackadaisical about how they treated their users' privacy," reckons Chris Kavanagh, a Cognitive Anthropologist at Oxford, living in Japan. However, he dismisses reports that the data breach was a hack, saying users granted Facebook permission for a third party app to access their data. "They made use of a feature that was freely available to any developer on the Facebook platform that applied for it, prior to 2015. Describing it as a breach, suggests that they somehow exploited the system, but in reality they were making use of a feature that tens of thousands of developers use to harvest profile information and that kind of thing," he told RFI. Emma Suleiman, founder and CEO of a digital PR agency in Paris, agrees. “To be clear, it's not just Facebook," she told RFI. "Everything you do online is tracked, seen and registered. There are databases all over the world filled with your online life. This data is used for research, analysis, targeted advertising and probably for companies and governments spying on you. Is this a bad thing? It’s there any way but what you make of it is the real question.” Tiwari for her part, wants better regulation. She says crypted language has enabled tech firms like Facebook to manipulate users. "What they do is prepare a privacy policy that is vague and ambiguous, and users do not necessarily understand the language and what they're trying to portray." Need for public awareness Kavanagh hopes that the scandal will encourage users to be more cautious and to read the small print. Right now, the terms and conditions are "buried so deep in the settings" that no one knows they can opt out of a third party app and prevent their data being shared by their friends, he said. A new European law, called the General Data Protection Regulation or...


French journalism schools question their written entrance exams

Spring is recruitment season for journalism schools in France, and each of the country's 14 accredited journalism schools receives hundreds of applicants each year for only a handful of spots. Some schools are rethinking their entrance exams to attract a more diverse group of students, and to diversify the media. (Click on the photo to listen to the report) In this piece: - Julie Joly, director of the CFJ (Centre de Formation des Journalistes), which has changed its 2018 entrance exam, from a competitive test to an essay-style application - Remy Le Champion, deputy director of the journalism school at the Pantheon-Assas university in Paris, which has a seven-step entrance exam - Rayya Roumanos, Journalism institute at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne, which has questions about its entrance exam, but has no plans to change it


Is Samuel Sam-Sumana looking for political revenge in Sierra Leone?

Voters are getting ready for the upcoming elections in Sierra Leone on 7 March, as 16 presidential hopefuls for the country’s top job. Musa Tarawally of the Citizens Democratic party wants to bring back values through education and investment. One of the frontrunners is Samuel Sam-Sumana of the Coalition for Change party. The two-time former vice president under President Ernest Bai Koroma was unceremoniously fired from his post in 2015. RFI’s Laura Angela Bagnetto is in Freetown. She spoke to presidential hopeful Samuel Sam-Sumana at his residence in the hills of the capital to find out if he is looking for political revenge.


Using local radio to tackle illegal migration in Africa

African radio journalists are being trained to report on illegal immigration – or irregular migration – in the hope that they can deter the local population from taking the dangerous migration routes towards Europe. Aware Migrants is a campaign by IOM (the International Organisation for Migration) to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal immigration. One aspect of the campaign consists in training journalists from community radios in Africa. A training programme took place at the end of last year in Niger and Senegal comprising a few radio stations selected by AMARC, the World Association of Community Radios, based in Brussels. "If you are going to migrate, migrating irregularly is not the best way. We think it is particularly important to get the message to the public in these countries of origin. And what better way to do that than through radio, especially community radios", Leonard Doyle, a spokesperson for IOM says. He adds that IOM is trying "peer to peer communication" instead of using the usual channels like government agencies or international organisations telling people that they shouldn’t migrate irregularly. IOM prefers to leave it to the returnees, the migrants that returned to their countries of origin, to tell stories about their ordeals. "People for whatever reason feel that they don’t have a lot of hope at home and [even though] the numbers are declinining, people are taking greater and more dangerous risks. "Anybody who thinks that going through Libya is a clever idea needs to have their head examined because people are being taken off the bus, they are being exploited by criminal gangs, migrants have become the economy of that sad and benighted country due to a lack of governance," adds Doyle. Using local languages Jean-Luc Mootoosamy is the director of Media Expertise and the journalist who conducted the short training programmes in Niger and Senegal. He felt it was particularly important to use local languages and ensure that the reports remain factual, not carrying any value judgement towards either potential migrants or returnees. "It was quite difficult to find the right angle.They [the journalists] know that lots of people are leaving and that there are lots of smugglers also in town who do not want them to report on these stories. They don’t really know how to address this question. We worked on not telling [the listeners] what to do but rather open the mic to testimonies of people who came back so that they can tell their stories," says Mootoosamy. Codou Loume is a journalist with Radio Oxyjeunes, based in the town of Pikine in Senegal. She was among the journalists selected to attend the four-day training session in Dakar. Loume feels the training helped changed the way she now reports on irregular migration. She has been reporting on this issue for the past five years and, prior to the training, relied heavily on information gathered on the internet, from international media organisations or other institutions like the United Nations or IOM. "All that we gave was negative. We used exactly the [same] words that the occidental [western] media used. We did not used our own words," Codou Loume says. She said that she now understands the importance of giving the opportunity to the migrants to use their own words to explain what happened to them when they left the country illegally. "The training teached me... to do a spot, before I never did that. I never did the portrait of a migrant. And it made a big difference because it is after that training that people came to me and told me I decided to go but now I [will] stay in Senegal and work here", adds Loume. Baba Sy is one of the listeners of Radio Oxyjeunes who changed his mind about paying smugglers a large sum of money to smuggle him to Europe. After listening to one of the radio programmes he opted to stay and invest the money he saved in Pikine. "I was shocked by the testimonies I heard from migrants who came back. The hardship...


Journalists in France should be wary of legislation against fake news, warn analysts

There were many reactions to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to make a law against fake news, including that it would infringe on free speech and would be difficult to implement. International Media looks into the legalities of such a legislation, and what it would mean for journalists in France. (Click on the photo to listen) Featured in this piece: - Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, with a focus on media literacy - Florence G'Sell, a professor of private law, who has written about the proposed fake news legislation


Watching Pakistan's female journalists

In this week's International Media, RFI's Fabien Jannic-Cherbonnel takes a look at a new study on the surveillance of female journalists in Pakistan.


What now for journalists in Zimbabwe?

In this week's International Media, Fabien Jannic-Cherbonnel takes a look at what is next for journalists in Zimbabwe just a few weeks after President Robert Mugabe resigned.


Website showcases women experts in French media

International media is casting an eye on France this week, and the status of female experts. Worldwide, only about 20 per cent of experts who appear in the media are women. France is right in the average. RFI’s Sarah Elzas looks at a website that is trying to change that number.


No Weinstein for Bollywood

The Weinstein effect where men in power are held accountable for their sexual misconduct has had a ripple effect across the world. But has it reached Bollywood, the worlds’s most prolific film industry? Three Indian journalists have examined how India's cinema capital and its media deal with sexual predators in B-Town. With at least 2,000 movies released each year, India’s Hindi film industry is the most prolific in the world. And Bollywood’s casting-couch policy is an open secret. It is such a common practice that it shocks no one and is almost accepted as being part of the way to become an actress. In a patriarchal structure such as Bollywood, journalist Veena Venugopal explains, actresses rely on a sort of godfather figure who helps them navigate the industry, in exchange for some form of compensation. “For someone who is well-established in the film industry, they’ve got there because they’ve played by the rules,” says Venugopal, who writes on gender issues for the Hindu daily. "And one of the rules is that you accept the existence of the casting couch and you keep quiet about it. “Talent is important but the ability to navigate a very difficult landscape, especially for women, is even more important." Culture of silence Women in the Indian film industry feel no incentive to complain about any form of sexual misconduct because, up until now, perpetrators have hardly faced any serious repercussions. Rajeev Masand, film critic for CNN–News 18, recalls the recent cases of two film makers who faced charges related to sexual misconduct: “Vikhas Bahl was accused of sexual harassment by assistant directors, nothing came of it; Madhur Bhandarkar was accused of rape, the court ultimately let him go for lack of evidence. There has not really been a landmark judgement… that would encourage other actresses to come out and name names," he points out. "This is a culture that thrives on silence.” After the US's Harvey Weinstein scandal hit the headlines, some top Indian actresses confided, off the record, to Masand that they had faced similar behaviour on the part of filmmakers. While they told Masand they wished they could have reported the situation, they admitted they didn't do so and, instead, opted not to work with these film makers. “They all seemed to think that was the best route to take and it doesn’t cross most people’s mind that perhaps it is more important to name and shame," concludes Masand. Victim-shaming and financial insecurity In India victim-shaming in sexual violence cases is very common. Venugopal says that victims are shunned by their friends and family. Because there is such a low number of women in the workforce, the ones who are assaulted are blamed and meant to think that they have asked for it, she observes. “This is a culture where victims are shamed and blamed," Masand agrees. "The first question that would be asked of a woman who’d complained she was harassed would be 'What was she wearing? Was she drinking? Was she smoking? Did she ask for it?' You can see why women would be very apprehensive about naming names." Financial insecurity is another reason why some actresses prefer to keep silent. RFI Delhi correpondent Vickram Roy has interviewed a number of budding actresses who chose not to report incidents of sexual harassment to the police. “They will not name their molestors because there is no support system in India,” he says. Women and actresses who enjoy financial privileges and do not have bills to pay at the end of the month can afford to refuse to work with the most dubious characters of the industry. Others do not have that choice. More recently, the Bollywood “whisper network” indicates that casting-couches have now been extended to male actors as well. Veena Venugopal heard stories about “producers and directors seeking sexual favours from men as well". “It is all in the realm of gossip right now," she says. "There are no formal complaints lodged. If there is, I don’t how...


What will Bulgaria’s EU presidency do for press freedom?

Bulgaria, with the worst press freedom record in EU, is to take over presidency in January. According to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders [RSF], Bulgaria is the worst country in the EU country in terms of press freedom. In the last rankings it stands at a dismal 109th position out of 179 in the 2017 Press Freedom Index. This puts it on a par with Bolivia, Gabon and Paraguay. On January 1, Sofia will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union, but will it clean up its act? On August 24, 2017, journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva was fired by her newspaper. As a reporter for the mass-circulation Trud [“Labor”] daily, she had published a story outlining allegations that massive amounts of US, Saudi and Bulgarian weapons were shipped by the Azerbaijani Silk Way airline to Syria. Weapons to Syria Ultimately, the arms ended up in the hands of jihadists related to Al Qaeda and the Al Nusra Front. Gaytandzhieva was the first to use leaked documents in Russian, English and Bulgarian, published by Anonymous Bulgaria, and obtained after a cyber breach at the Azerbaijani embassy in Sofia. The documents explained how the US, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria and other countries chartered the Azerbaijani Silk Way airline to transport massive amounts of weapons to Syria. The documents also corroborated Gaytandzhieva’s own findings from a trip, in December 2016, to Aleppo after troops of the Syrian government army had retaken the city. There, she said, locals had pointed her to an underground warehouse, left behind by alleged Jihadists, filled with mortar grenades and assault weapons made in Bulgaria. National security questions However, one-and-a-half months after the story was published, Gaytandzhieva says she received a call from by the State Agency for National Security [DANS ] telling her to visit them. “I didn’t get a subpoena, or further notice that I would have been interrogated, I just got a phone call by a special agent from the Bulgarian National Security Agency the previous day,” she told RFI. DANS only questioned her about the leaked documents, not about the weapons supplies [story] in general. “I felt anger because nobody interrogated me after I found Bulgarian weapons in Aleppo in December of 2016,” she says. Media interference Two hours after her run-in with the Agency, the editorial manager of her newspaper urged her to come to the office, where, to her shock, she was told she had to immediately leave her job, even though she was preparing a follow-up trip to Syria. Petio Blaskov, the owner and editor of Trud, did not reply by emailed queries by RFI as to the reasons why Gaytanzhieva was fired. “There are many cases like this,” says Lada Trifonova Price, a Lecturer in Journalism with Sheffield Hallam University, “it is a pattern. “Journalists are being either physically attacked with violence, intimidated or harassed, or fired from their jobs or demoted,” she says. Corruption prevails The reason, RSF explained, is an “environment dominated by corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs including Deylan Peevski, a former head of Bulgaria’s main intelligence agency and owner of the New Bulgarian Media Group. A 2014 study by the European Association of Journalists – Bulgaria chapter - found that “more than half (52%) of the journalists in Bulgaria admit that political pressure is continuously exercised upon their media. More than 30% say that politicians pressured them themselves. This can take many forms. Rossen Bossev, a journalist with Capital Weekly, an economic publication, relates that his newspaper was fined heavily after a series of publications on fraudulent actions by corporate commercial banks. “But instead of looking at the alleged fraud, “the prosecutors’ office in Sofia opened a preliminary investigation into the officials who leaked [the information],” says Bossev. The journalists who investigated the leaks ended up being questioned. They were charged for...


Spanish, Catalan media reflect polarisation of politics

The crisis in Spain around the declaration of independence of Catalonia continues. Madrid has jailed the former members of the regional government, accusing them of sedition. The crisis is political, and is playing out in the media, which has become even more polarised. In this week’s International Media, Sarah Elzas takes a look at the state of Spanish – and Catalan – media.


Native American journalists break free of mainstream media

Is a new era for Native American media in the United States opening up? Three Native American journalists talk about challenging stereotypes and bringing a nuanced voice to indigenous issues. They belong to a generation that believes in making things happen, despite all the odds, and not waiting for mainstream media to catch on. Native Americans once owned the land in the United States, it was theirs before the white settlers arrived. They are the First People, whom archaeologists believe have been on the North American continent for some 50,000 years. Today they represent less than one percent of the United States’ total population. An estimated 2.7 million tribal citizens associated with 567 federally recognised tribes. Tribal issues hardly make it into the US mainstream media. When people outside the US read, listen or watch news about the country, it is as if America’s First Nation have become a ghost nation. Levi Rickert, the Michigan-based founder, editor and publisher of multimedia news platform Native News Online, says that is primarily due to the size of the Native American population. Kevin Abourezk, who is based in Nebraska where he is the managing editor of, a Native American online news site run by the Winnebago Tribe, believes it is because there are so few Native Americans in mainstream media. Jenni Monet ( is an award winning Native American independent journalist from the Laguna Pueblo tribe. She has been working as a journalist for 19 years, most of it spent covering indigenous issues across the world. Under-reported narrative “There is a serious need for the indigenous narrative. [It] is the most chronically under-reported narrative in mainstream today, not only in the US but around the world,” she says. She points out that out of the hundreds of tribes living in the United States, only a tiny fraction of them attracts the attention of the media: the Lakotas, the Navaho Nation or the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. “It is not a mistake that these tribes are among the most popular in the mainstream because the mainstream goes towards the familiar. They like the poverty out of the Lakotas because it is so blatant. The cyclical nature of it is so raw. They like the Navaho Nation because it is so mystical with medicine-man and the south-west desert… They like the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma because who doesn’t firmly believe they have some ounce of Cherokee ancestry in their family lineage? These sorts of narratives as told by outsiders themselves have just been perpetuated for decades.” For Kevin Abourezk, who is from the Rosebud Lakota tribe, it is often difficult for Native journalists to get editors of non-native media to accept their story ideas. “Editors are acutely aware of who their readers are and [what] they want to read,” he explains. According to Abourezk, in areas where there are a significant number of Native Americans like Gallup, New Mexico or Rapid City, South Dakota, tribal issues will get more coverage. He says it is reflected in publications like the New York Times or smaller ones like the Sioux City Journal. Standing Rock, a reckoning One story that made it to mainstream media around the world was the long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Thousands of Native Americans, joined by non-Natives, gathered in North Dakota to support the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes in their fight against the pipeline, a 3.8-billion-dollar investment. They say it desecrates sacred grounds and threatens the water quality of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The pipeline carries crude oil beneath their only source of drinking water. Across the globe, videos circulated, showing the violent repression of the protesters by private security guards, riot police and national guards. In their arsenal to deal with demonstrations, they used, among other things, sound cannons, rubber bullets and dog attacks. Jenni Monet covered the story for six...


Jordan muzzles media, Myanmar media targets Rohingya

In our weekly media program, we travel to Jordan where the media watchdog is being muzzled. We also go to Myanmar, where cartoonists and journalists appear to have lost their objectivity and take aim at Rohingya muslims, adding insult to injury to people who the UN and human rights groups say are being persecuted and forcibly evicted from their home lands.


When anti-terrorism laws are used to sacrifice free speech

Anti-terrorism laws are sometimes used to muzzle the media. Journalists Denis Nkwebo in Cameroon and Mohanad El Sangary in Egypt detail the challenges they and their colleagues face in trying to navigate deliberately opaque laws and not land in prison. Anti-terrorism laws were enacted in 2013 in Egypt and in 2014 in Cameroon. And one of the things that Denis Nkwebo and Mohanad El Sangary said to each other was how surprisingly similar their situations were. In both countries the laws' provisions are criticised for being too broadly worded, for carrying the death sentence as the maximum penalty, and for allowing those accused of terrorism to be detained indefinitely. Cameroon's law says citizens can be tried in military court; in Egypt, citizens can be tried either before a military or a special court. A climate of fear In Cameroon, journalists have been arrested under terrorism charges because they either reported on Boko Haram, or on the unrest in the Anglophone regions where some residents feel they are treated as second class citizens and do not enjoy the same rights as Cameroonians in the French-speaking regions. Denis Nkwebo is based in Douala where he is the deputy editor-in-chief of the French daily, Le Jour. He is also the President of the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union and a member of the Steering Committee of the Federation of African Journalists. “Under section seven of the [anti-terrorism] law… if you fail to denounce to the authorities those planning a public demonstration, you could face charges,” says Nkwebo. Eleven journalists working in the north-western and south-western Anglophone regions have been arrested and only one, Awah Thomas, still remains in custody. This climate of fear has made journalists including those living in Francophone areas less willing to cover what is going on in the English-speaking regions. In both Cameroon and Egypt, it is an offence to report anything that contradicts the government’s statements, or that of the military. “Journalists are harassed. Many media owners have been stopped from airing programmes on what is happening in that part [of Cameroon],” Nkwebo comments. Mohanad El Sangary is a freelance journalist based in Cairo. He is one of the few journalists willing to come and speak on our show and give his name. In addition to the anti-terrorism law that has installed an atmosphere of fear in Egypt, there is a nationwide state of emergency in place which also allows the government to censor the media before publication. “The government has blocked more than 420 news website in Egypt,” explains El Sangary. “They have stopped some newspapers from circulating, [like] Daily News Egypt, the only newspaper printed in English, under the pretence that the owner is [a member of the] Muslim Brotherhood.” A game of cat and mouse to escape jail To circumvent such stringent rules, Egyptians use VPN websites. But El Sangary says it is “a game of cat and mouse” because the government keeps blocking the VPN. More often than not, he says, people follow journalists on social media to keep abreast of the news. Twitter and Facebook are the preferred platforms. “News outlets like Mada Masr find creative ways to fight the blockade. So they publish their articles on their Facebook page. But unless there is a political change on the ground, there isn’t going to be a real solution,” El Sangany explains. In Cameroon as well as in Egypt, journalists do not trust the judiciary to uphold the rule of law. “In Cameroon, [there is] the case of Ahmed Abba. He was brought in front of a military court. At no point in time was the judiciary able to bring evidence against him. But he [got] ten years. “We are very afraid of the trend the judiciary is taking in this country. It is not the place of the journalists to face a military court!” Nkwebo exclaims. In Egypt, El Sangary describes a more complex situation where part of the judiciary is controlled by the government and part is not, and...


Journalists fear crackdown in India

Three weeks after the murder of outspoken Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh, the press in India fears their industry may be under threat. The high profile editor was shot dead outside her home in the southern city of Bangalore on Tuesday 6 September. Her death has sparked calls for greater protection of female journalists. Rarely has the death of a journalist sparked so much outcry in India. Soon after news of Gauri Lankesh's murder emerged, demonstrations and artwork sprung up in Bangalore and other Indian cities to call for justice. A fierce critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right wing government, Lankesh was shot in broad daylight as she entered her home in Bangalore on Tuesday 6 September. "This particular case has hit the headlines," explains Sabina Inderjit, Vice President of the Indian Journalists Union and an Executive Committee member of the International Federation of Journalists. "It is clearly seen as an attack on the freedom of expression." Concerns about press freedom have intensified since the BJP government of Narendra Modi took office in 2014. Lankesh herself had voiced concern about the threat posed to journalists who didn’t toe the Hindu-nationalist line. Under threat While no motive has yet been established for her death, the Press Club of India said in a statement it believed it was connected to Lankesh’s work. "We have a situation where journalists are definitely, definitely feeling stifled," continues Inderjit. "Now I'm not saying it’s just the right wing government, but in today’s time there is a fear among us that if you speak out against the powers that be, you could be under threat.” Her words are chilling, particularly in the light of the death of a second Indian journalist in less than a month. Shantanu Bhowmick, a reporter covering political unrest, was beaten to death during violent clashes on Thursday 21 September. No arrests have yet been made in connection with his death. Nor has there been significant breakthrough in the investigation into Lankesh's murder either. "Out of 28 states, only one has passed a law to protect journalists," says Inderjit, commenting on India's poor record on journalists' safety. "There should be a law to protect journalists," she says, hoping that Lankesh's murder will serve as a catalyst for change. Calls for journalist protection Lankesh's death and its ramifications for journalists' safety, particularly women, featured prominently at this year’s UN General Assembly in New York. The Human Rights Council in fact adopted a mini resolution calling for the safety of women journalists. "There is a better understanding from the international community of the question of the safety of journalists," explains Blaise Lempen, Secretary General of the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), who was at the UN General Assembly. According to Lempen, 3% of journalists killed last year were women, and this number has increased among the the death toll of casualties already registered this year, which includes the Swedish journalist Kim Wall, murdered in Denmark on August 10. "We’ve seen all this year that governments are more sensitive to the issue and are more active in this field," he says. With more women working in dangerous environments, critics will want to hope that this growing awareness will actually transform into concrete protection on the ground.


How media and ethnic politics intertwine in Africa

Journalists Kelvin Lewis in Sierra Leone and Linus Kaikai in Kenya discuss how best to navigate the murky waters of ethnic politics, especially when reporting on elections. They found out that even though their countries were on opposite sides of the continent, they shared the same concerns over how political blocs play on ethnicity to win votes. Both Kenya and Sierra Leone are multi-ethnic countries where some politicians do not hesitate to manipulate voters along ethnic lines and fuel rancor using tribalism as a political tool. Kenya has an unfortunate history of post-electoral violence and Sierra Leone is gearing up for presidential elections in March 2018. Kelvin Lewis and Linus Kaikai discussed how the media in Kenya managed to navigate through such thorny issues and how Sierra Leone’s media is attempting not to fall into the trap of ethnic politics. Kelvin Lewis says that signs of tensions are surfacing and that the political contenders are alreday facing attack. “If the situation is not managed well, it might lead into serious conflict. Ethnicity and regionalism… are the bane of the our politics in Sierra Leone,” he told RFI Conflict is not merely a word, or an abstract notion for Kelvin Lewis. As a journalist with 30 years experience, he has lived and reported through Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war (1991 – 2002) and will not accept his country spiralling into further chaos. This is one of the reason why, as the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), he has set up a training programme for journalists on balanced political reporting and conflict sensitive reporting. The programme is opened to all journalists (six to eight hundred of them) and not only SLAJ’s 600 members. There are at least four training sessions planned. One in each of the country’s four regions, to be held in their headquarter towns. Accountability pays Linus Kaikai, general manager of NTV, Nation Television, who in a 20 year career has covered a number of Kenyan elections, says that the level of post-electoral violence in Kenya has dramatically dropped since 2007/2008 when over one thousand people died. “One of the steps that made this last election relatively peaceful was that the threat for consequences was real. For politicians, the International Criminal Court can come in. For you citizen, the local courts can come in and there will be consequences for that violence”, explains Linus Kaikai The media in Kenya also played a key role in that respect. In 2013, it successfully managed to organise debates involving all eight presidential candidates to outline their agenda. “This changed the narrative from focus on tribes and ethnic communities to focusing on issues,” says Kaikai. "It was a success in 2013 but not quite so this year in 2017 because the debates were boycotted by the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and the controversies surrounding other candidates." Kelvin Lewis asked Linus Kaikai how the Kenyan media helped tame down the ethnic bias that was prevalent during the 2013 general elections. “The use of ethnicity as a mobilization tool is still very much strong and alive in Kenyan politics”, Kaikai replied. "First of all, the main players rally their tribe behind [them] and then build a coalition of tribes to meet the other coalition of tribes.” Avoid associating ethnic groups with parties Linus Kaikai admits that it has been very difficult for the media in Kenya to break this pattern. “[We] tried to avoid references to [naming] the communities and stick to the party names. For example, media deliberately avoid making references to those communities or tribes rallied around the Jubilee party [of President Uhuru Kenyatta], [same for] the National Super Alliance, NASA, associated with Raila Odinga and the coalition of tribes associated with that bloc.” The other step undertaken by Kenyan media to stay clear of ethnic tensions was to also avoid reproducing speeches in local languages addressed...


Murder in India, closure in Cambodia

In this week’s International Media, we go to India, where activists, politicians and journalists demanded a full investigation into the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a newspaper editor and outspoken critic of the ruling Hindu nationalist party whose death has sparked an outpouring of anger. Meanwhile in Cambodia one of the country’s last independent newspapers was closed with the disappearance of the Cambodia Daily. The newspaper announced on Sunday it was closing after 24 years after being slapped with a $6.3 million tax bill which its publishers said was politically motivated.