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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.

The Politics of “Pretty” in Jamaica

As Laurie-Ann Chin is crowned this year's Miss Jamaica World – apparently despite the live audience's disapproval – Carolyn Joy Cooper, who blogs at Jamaica Woman Tongue, takes on the ugly underbelly of the country's beauty contests.

“If you follow these beauty contests, it’s easy to predict the outcome,” she says. “The light-skinned girl is almost always going to win.” This certainly seems to be the trend. Writer Marlon James blogged about “The Miss Jamaica Mulatto Factory” in 2008. More recently, author Kei Miller contended that the Miss Jamaica franchise represents “hierarchies of race and class as they still operate in Jamaica today”, saying:

The issue is that there is an idea in Jamaica of who is beautiful and who isn’t…that this idea of beauty is, to a large extent, a racially constructed one.

Cooper, who tracked the trend as far back as the 1960s, recalled a column she had written five years ago, dealing with the same issue, in which she “mischievously suggested that we forget about old-style beauty contests and promote a new model”:

So every year we ask ourselves this very loaded question: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?’ And we all know the usual answer: ‘the fairest.’ But in an ‘out-of-many-one’ society it’s simply not fair that it’s only one type of beauty that is almost always privileged as the winner.

She also challenged the politics of beauty, saying, “It’s really all about power”:

Judges assume the right to decide who is ugly and who is beautiful. Who gives them that power? The contestants? The audience? The owners of the competition?

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.

In Defense of the National Gallery of Jamaica's Director

Over the last month, the National Gallery of Jamaica's executive director's leadership was the target of criticism, first via an anonymous letter written to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, and then in a blog post written by blogger Annie Paul, which she prefaced by saying:

I’ve been closely involved with the Gallery, serving on its Exhibitions Committee for the last few years and before that its PR Committee. In these capacities I’ve been privy to some of the internal workings of the institution and have experienced at first hand some of the problems I will be detailing in this post.

Now, a different perspective has come to light, in the form of a letter to the editor from Jamaican artist Jacqueline Bishop, who writes “about the Veerle Poupeye I know”:

I have never known anyone to champion Jamaican art and Jamaican artists as tirelessly as Veerle Poupeye does.

Consequently, I have watched with growing alarm and dismay as her name has been maligned, and someone of great integrity and generosity is consistently caricatured in, among other places, The Gleaner.

The ‘Concerned Visitor’ of the July 19 letter is right to point out the lack of financial and other support to the National Gallery of Jamaica. And I, too, wonder about the alignment of ‘youth’ and ‘culture’ under a single government portfolio. However, there is more than enough for Jamaicans of all shades, stripes and kinds to discuss and critique and try to understand and work against and through and towards in Jamaican art and visual art culture, without resorting to name-calling and character assassination.

The National Gallery of Jamaica will launch an exhibit to celebrate its 40th anniversary on August 31.

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.

Trinidadian Diaspora Blogger Appeals to Domestic Violence Victims After Seeing Rice Viral Video

Once the video of Ray Rice (the American football player for the Baltimore Ravens) hitting his wife went viral, Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella couldn't get the incident out of her mind. “The video where he spits and hits the woman who would go on to be his wife, where he knocks her unconscious and drags her out of the elevator,” she says, “It’s enough to give you nightmares.”

She was also not impressed by the public's response, citing distasteful hashtags on Twitter that made light of a distressing situation and a general bent towards blaming the victim. The blogger, Patrice Grell-Yursik, expressed her concern for the plight of Janay, Rice's wife, and their daughter – but in her effort to understand her situation, she realised that Rice is one of many women stuck in the cycle of domestic abuse:

The more I [...] considered this story [...], the more I kept thinking about my best friend from childhood. Her name is Carys Jenkins, and she works as the manager of the independent domestic violence advisory service (IDVA) at RISE. She’s been working closely with women dealing with domestic violence for years and years. When I mentioned how sick seeing the Ray Rice video made me, she simply responded, ‘I see lots of videos.’

Jenkins shared with her the “cycle of abuse” and the psychological tactics women use to survive. The post also offered practical advice to women who may be contemplating leaving an abusive union, with the blogger noting that “one of the few good things to come out of this story is the sharing and honesty by people who have experienced domestic violence themselves [...] For anyone who’s stuck in an abusive relationship, please know there’s a way out. Please know that a healthy, loving relationship isn’t one that diminishes you as a person or threatens your health and happiness. You can break the cycle of abuse.”

Conversations and Images From Highway Africa 2014

Highway Africa 2014 took place on 7-8 September, 2014 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. The theme of the conference was Social Media – from the margins to the mainstream. Find images and conversations about the conference here.

Mexican Cartoonist Compares James Foley's Execution with Presidential Interview

Flowers laid for American journalist James Foley - Arlington

Flowers laid for American journalist James Foley, Arlington Cemetery. Photo by Cynthia Rucker. Copyright Demotix (20 August 2014).

On August 21, Mexican cartoonist Francisco Calderón raised controversy after publishing on his daily cartoon section on Grupo Reforma, an image depicting president Enrique Peña Nieto wearing an orange jumpsuit and kneeling down in front of a masked executioner. The image is a clear reference to the brutal murder of reporter James Foley in Syria, on August 19, by the jihadist group Islamic State that was later published on video as a warning to the United States.

Thursday August 21, 2014 THE INTERVIEW THE ALL THE TERNURITAS WOULD'VE LOVED.

The title of the cartoon plays with the idea that an execution like the suffered by Foley would have been the kind of “interview” the “ternuritas” (cuties) would've loved. Ternurita is the name some people use for Peña Nieto government opponents.

Some Twitter users reacted to the cartoon:

Your cartoon is a total disrespect to the life of James Foley. Let's hope it's just your ignorance.

Because being firm when questioning is the same thing that beheading. Right, right winger cartoonist?

It's a shame that Francisco Calderon makes a cartoon with a beheading. Will he make one about dead children in Gaza?

Only Mexico can gather the necessary dose of insensitivity and numbskullness to make fun of James Foley's death.

Ferguson Evocative of Civil Rights Movement, Says Trinidadian Diaspora Blogger

What’s happened – and what is HAPPENING in Ferguson makes my heart hurt. The ache won’t go away. The anger won’t go away. We’re witnessing history in the making, and history repeating itself. What will be the lessons we learn this time? What scars will we bear?

Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella says that “the whole world is watching” how the United States handles Ferguson.

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].

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