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Ex-President's Return Triggers Media Warning from Government in Madagascar

Marc Ravalomanana - Public domain

Marc Ravalomanana – Public domain

The political situation is tense again in Madagascar after ex-president in exile Marc Ravalomanana's return to the country. The conditions under which he came back and the subsequent house arrest and deportation to the North of the country are strongly debated on most malagasy media outlets. Heninkaja Rakotomanantsoa, managing editor of a TV channel in Antananarivo, posted in Malagasy on his facebook profile that all press editors received a warning memo from the government about fact-checking any news pertaining to the return of Marc Ravalomanana : 

 Nahazo fampîtandremana ny Onjam-peo sy ny Fahitalavitra rehetra, sao hono mitarika any amin'ny fanakorontanana saim-bahoaka ny fampahalalam-baovao diso, na tsy voamarina.

All media outlets in Madagascar (TV and radio) received a warning that they will be held responsible of threats to national security if they are caught spreading false information or rumors (since Ravalomananana's return). 

The Struggling Free Press in Myanmar

press-in-myanmarThis image, posted in the online magazine Shan Herald, describes the state of the press in Myanmar. Despite the abolition of the censorship board a few years ago, journalists still face a lot of challenges. This year, reporters have been detained for reporting and asking about some government-initiated projects.

Threats to Press Freedom in the Fight Against Ebola in Liberia

The body of a victim of Ebola virus is seen covered with a sheet at the back of a truck in Monrovia, Liberia -Public Domain

The body of a victim of Ebola virus is seen covered with a sheet at the back of a truck in Monrovia, Liberia -Public Domain

The Press Union of Liberia is concerned about the threat to freedom of information as a result of the actions taken by the government to limit the expansion of the Ebola virus. The union wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice to draw his attention to the challenges media workers are currently facing. Here is an excerpt of the letter:

The Press Union of Liberia’s attention is specifically drawn to several circumstances that do not only restrain journalists in their obligation to seek out and share useful news and information with the public, but significantly threaten even media participation in the global fight against Ebola. By all accounts, the media space in Liberia has been a significant partner in the fight to strengthen awareness in our society about the impact and challenges of the epidemic. Notwithstanding the loss of revenue due to the emergency nature of the epidemic and the effect on general life, the media has remained committed to this fight. Unfortunately, several actions against media by government actors, especially during these times, have simply given room to growing skepticism about the disease, and further exacerbating the denials within the community. We think this is unfair and improper.

How Bloggers Ended Up in Prison for Writing About Human Rights in Ethiopia

Melody Sundberg analyses freedom of expression in Ethiopia after detained Ethiopian bloggers spent 100 days in prison:

Ethiopia is with its almost 94 million population the second most populated country in Africa. Nevertheless, it does not according to an interview with Endalkhachew Chala by Global Voices, have an independent daily newspaper or independent media. There was a need of an alternative voice and the Zone 9:ers therefore began blogging and using social media to write on subjects related to human rights. The name of the group, Zone 9, refers to the zones of the notorious Ethiopian Kality prison, where political prisoners and journalists are being held. The prison has eight zones, but the ninth “zone” refers to the rest of Ethiopia. Even if being outside of the prison walls – you are never truly free; any freethinking individual may be arrested. The bloggers wanted to be the voice of this ninth zone.

In the interview, Endalkachew says that the group had campaigns about respecting the constitution, stopping censorship and respecting the right to demonstrate. The group also visited political prisoners, such as journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu. They wanted to bring the publics’ attention to them by using social media.

Macedonian Police Harass Journalists Covering Protests

Police harassment of media seems to have become a regular occurrence in Macedonia, which has included the detainment and sentencing of some journalists in the country. On August 25, 2014, Macedonian Nova TV journalists were harassed and “stopped from doing their jobs” by police officers while covering protests held in front of the Customs building in Skopje.

In May 2014, there were no consequences for the Macedonian police officers who strong-armed journalists into erasing footage of arrests during riots in the ethnically-charged protests in Skopje. After a complaint was filed by journalists involved in the incident, the Minister of Interior stated that all 34 policemen engaged in the action were interviewed and not one reported such incident. Nova TV compared the metadata in the Word document sent as statement by deputy minister [mk] at the time and calculated that each interview and the compiling of written statements had taken about 7 minutes per policemen, consecutively. Nevertheless, the official investigation of the incident was closed.

On August 26, 2014, Nova TV editor-in-chief Borjan Jovanovski published a public protest letter [mk] informing that police again obstructed journalists while covering a protest. This time it was a protest of disgruntled former Customs workers [mk] in Skopje, who were fired after complaining about work conditions.

Полицијата пресудува на лице место

По не знам кој пат полицијата дрско спречува новинари на НОВА во извршувањето на работните задачи.

АНАЛИЗА: Полицијата во цензорска акција

Полицијата одзема видео и фото материјали од новинарите во Ѓорче Петров

Денеска нашиот репортер Дехран Муратов имаше задача да го регистрира протестот на граѓаните кои сметаат дека им биле повредени правата при одлуката на Царинската управа да ги избрка од работа. Овие лица заглавени во правните лавиринти на (не)правната држава денеска сакаа да добијат одговор од одговорните во Царинската управа за нивниот нерешен статус. Нивниот обид да го добијат тоа што им следува НОВА имаше намера да го регистрира аудиовизуелно. При извршувањето на оваа задача на новинарот Муратов дрско му пристапи полицијата со барање да им го даде неговиот мобилен телефон. Телефонот му бил привремено одземен по што полицајците без никаква основа си дозволиле да ги прегледуваат содржините во телефонот на новинарот Муратов.

Овој случај на дрско попречување при извршување на професионална задача од страна на полицијата и уште погрубо одземање на нечија сопственост, како и претурање во базата на неговите лични податоци немаме намера да го пријавиме во службата за внатрешна контрола бидејќи немаме дилеми дека станува збор за грубо прекршување на законите од страна на полицијата, но и како последица на нашето последно и горчливо искуство со Секторот за внатрешна контрола при МВР кога наша колешка од НОВА и други новинари од Фокус и Радио Слободна Европа на свој грб ја почуствуваа „независноста“ на Секторот за внатрешна контрола на полицијата. Нашата преставка ја споделуваме јавно со потсетување на членовите од законот за полиција. Во членот 57 од овој закон се вели:

Полицискиот службеник може привремено да одземе предмети со наредба на суд, во случаите утврдени со Законот за кривичната постапка.

Одземањето на предмети може да се изврши и без наредба на суд во следниве случаи:
1) кога постојат основи за сомневање дека се работи за предмет на кривично дело, прекршок или имотна корист прибавена со кривично дело или прекршок кој може да послужи како доказ во постапката, доколку постои опасност од одлагање;
2) кога заради заштита на општата безбедност, одземањето на предметот неопходно е потребно и
3) на лице на кое привремено му е ограничена слободата на движење, а поседува или може да употреби предмет за самоповредување, напад или бегство.

Исто така, јавно се обраќаме до Здружението на новинарите за ова грубо кршење на слободата на медиумите и попречување на новинарите да си ја извршуваат својата работа. По поплаките кои во минатото ги упативмe директно до ЗНМ за слични инциденти сега до нив упатуваме јавен апел да ги превземат сите неопходни мерки за да ги заштитата правата на новинарите на што ги обврзуваат сите основачки акти.

Police Passes Judgement on the Spot

Yet another time police impertinently stopped NOVA journalists in performance of their work tasks.

Analys: Police in censoring action [mk]
Police seized video and photo materials from journalists in Gjorche Petrov [mk]

Today our reporter Dehran Muratov had an assignment to register the protest of citizens [mk] who claim that their rights were violated with the decision of the Customs Authority to fire them. These people are stuck into the legal labyrinths of the (un)legal state gathered to demand answers by the Customs Authority about their unsolved status. NOVA intended to create audiovisual documentation of these efforts. While performing this assignment, police officers approached the journalist Muratov, harshly ordering him to hand over his mobile telephone. Muratov’s telephone was temporarily requisitioned, and without any legal ground the policemen browsed through the stored contents.

We do not intend to file an official complaint to the Police Internal Control Office regarding this case of impudent prohibition by the police in performing a professional task, and moreover the rough seizure of personal property, including rummaging through a database containing personal data. While we have no dilemmas that this is a case of harsh violation of the laws by the police, we base our decision on the previous bitter experience with the Ministry of Interior Internal Control Office. Then, our colleague from NOVA, as well as colleagues from Fokus and Radio Free Europe felt the “independence” [mk] of this sector. Therefore we share our complaint publicly, to remind about the relevant Article 57 of the Law on Police, which states:

Police officer can temporarily seize objects with a court order, in cases proscribed by the Law on Criminal Procedure.

Seizure of objects can be done without court order in the following situations:
1) When there are grounds to suspect that the object has been appropriated during performance of a criminal act, misdemeanor or as material benefit resulting from a criminal act or misdemeanor which can be used as evidence during the court procedure, if there’s an peril of postponement;
2) When in order to ensure protection of public safety, the seizure of the object is necessary, and
3) From a person with a temporarily limited freedom of movement, and owns or may use the object to inflict self-harm, for assault or escape.

NOVA also publicly demands that the Association of Journalists of Macedonia address this harsh violation of freedom of the media and obstructing journalists to perform their duties. After the complaints we addressed to AJM about similar incident we now send a public appeal to conduct all necessary measures to protect the rights of journalists, according to their acts of incorporation [i.e. Statutes].

Macedonian Civic Sector Starts Fundraising to Aid Independent Fokus Magazine

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) appealed in October 2014 to all journalists and citizens to show solidarity with the journalists of Fokus magazine, who are subject to what has been deemed by many as harsh punishment due to a lost defamation law suit for some of the investigative pieces they published. A Fokus journalist and its editor-in-chief have to pay over 9,300 euros to the Director of the Macedonian Security and Counter-Intelligence Directorate Sasho Mijalkov, who brought the defamation law suit against them.

AJM believes that the verdict is unfair and directed against critical journalism, which is essential for the functioning of Macedonian democracy.

Our colleagues are not able to pay the fee, therefore AJM appeals for mobilization and solidarity of the membership, the journalistic community and the public in Macedonia.

We believe that our support will be a contribution for the survival of free thought and criticism towards the ways the government is practicing power in the country.

Moreover, we believe that the support of the press and public will be a direct contribution to safeguarding the freedom of expression in Macedonia. Therefore we urge within your capabilities to donate to the following bank account:

AJM Solidarity Fund: 300000003296484
The Commercial Bank
Purpose of payment: Donation for the reporters from Focus

Mijalkov announced that, when Fokus staff paid the fine, he would donate the part of the money he receives to an orphanage. This, nevertheless, means endangering the survival of the magazine and the livelihood of its staff.

Other civic organizations also sounded alarms after hearing of the fine decided by a Skopje court. For instance, the National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia of Macedonia is organizing a fundraising event in Skopje Old Town on October 14, 2014, to aid Fokus in covering the defamation fine and cover court costs.

Iranian Judiciary Sets 1-Month Deadline to Block Viber

Iranian judiciary has set a one-month deadline for Hassan Rohani's government to block or to control messaging applications Viber, WhatsApp and TangoMe.

China's New Regulations on Instant Messaging Tools Explained

Hu Yong, associate professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, explained the issue at stake regarding China's latest regulations on instant messaging tools on Chinafile. The regulations forbidden public account holders, except from registered media organizations accounts, to republish articles on current events. The result is a highly selective enforcement of law as any comment can fall under the category of “news commentary”.

Documenting Nationalistic Hate Speech in Macedonian Media

Human rights expert, activist, and blogger Žarko Trajanoski published a series of analyses about nationalistic, right-wing hate speech in Macedonian media, often veiled as “patriotic” speech.

„Патриотскиот“ говор на омраза е препознатлив по намерата за разгорување, поттикнување, или оправдување на омраза кон внатрешните и надворешните „непријатели“. Во основата на ваквиот говорот на омраза е поделбата на „Ние“ („патриотите“) и „Тие“ (непатриотите), кои се етикетирани со најразлични стигматизирачки називи. „Патриотскиот“ говор на омраза честопати се користи како инструмент за психолошко насилство врз критичарите на актуелната власт, од страна на провладини политичари, новинари или колумнисти.

Во првиот дел од анализава ќе се фокусираме на повеќе примери на „патриотски“ говор на омраза во кој се таргетираат домашни „предавници“, „странски платеници“, „кодоши“…

“Patriotic” hate speech is recognizable by the intention of inciting, encouraging or justifying hatred towards internal and external “enemies.” At the core of this hate speech is the division to “We” (“patriots”) and “Them” (non-patriots) that are labeled with various stigmatizing names. “Patriotic” hate speech is often used as an instrument of psychological violence against critics of the current government, by pro-government politicians, journalists or columnists.

In the first part of this analysis we will focus on several examples of “patriotic” hate speech targeting domestic “traitors”, “foreign mercenaries“, “informers” of the former regime…

Three parts of Trajanoski's independent analysis are available in Macedonian and English, while the author has promised to continue the series in the near future. The examples are informative both to those interested in the political and media situation in Macedonia, but also to students of hate speech as a wider phenomenon, in particular as an instance of wider anti-democratic trends in southeastern Europe.

The first part of the analysis covers Hate towards internal “enemies”. The second and third parts of Trajanoski's study document and discuss examples of hate speech directed at activists and non-government organizations in Macedonia. Trajanoski's work is also part of a larger on-going civic fact-checking project of Macedonian media.

China Blocks Beijing Independent Film Festival

Beijing authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening on August 23, 2014. The move is seen as a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls. According to indie director Huang Wenhai, the shutdown was “the darkest day in the history of Chinese independent film.” Started in 2006 by independent art critic Li Xianting, the film festival is a place for indie filmmakers to share and discuss their work. Although the festivals like this had some trouble with the police over the years, it's the first time the whole festival has been blocked. The police also took away records of the Li's work for investigation. 

China Media Project has more details about happenings around the shutdown.

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