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Cyberspace Joins CPJ’s Media Risk List In 2013


Supranational Cyberspace joined the Risk List in 2013, which the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has developed to flag countries where media freedom is in significant decline. Countries that have displayed the most alarming regress in 2013 are: Egypt, Russia, Syria, Vietnam, Turkey, Bangladesh, Liberia, Ecuador, and Zambia.

CPJ said that the decentralised nature of the internet had once provided protection to journalists investigating and reporting controversial issues more than the traditional media. However today, as the documents of NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed, global surveillance by the United States and its allies was a threat to the work journalists do by compromising privacy of their communication.
CPJ quoted Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament and leader on Internet freedom issues: “‘Countries who seek to gain control over their people through the Internet have their own agendas. They are in search of larger governmental control or even censorship online. We must ensure the NSA-triggered debate does not become a race to the bottom.'”
CPJ said other trends witnessed in 2013 include:
  • Deterioration in several indicators, including fatalities and censorship, in Egypt
  • New legislation to stifle free speech in Ecuador, Liberia, Russia, Vietnam, and Zambia
  • Firings and forced resignations of journalists in Turkey at the government’s behest
  • Targeted violence against journalists in Bangladesh and Russia, and a soaring rate of abductions in Syria
  • Crackdowns on online journalism in Russia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh
Please click hereto read the summary; and herefor the Risk List 2013.

 

Pictures as Protest

By Katie McNish

The New York Times last week reported on a dicey situation in Zambia, where a journalist’s effort at activism backfired and landed her in jail.

Chansa Kabwela, the news editor of the Zambian daily The Post – which has been critical of the impoverished country’s “corrupt” regime – was concerned about the national health care worker’s strike. She was approached by a distraught man bearing photos of a gruesome incident: his wife, naked outside a local hospital where she had been denied medical attention by striking workers, giving birth to a child who died hours later. According to Ms. Kabwela, the man hoped that if The Post published the photos, more tragedies like his family’s could be avoided. She and The Post’s other editors decided that the images were too disturbing for publication, but felt they were important given the dire situation. On June 10, Ms. Kabwela sent copies of the photos to several women’s groups and public officials, including the Vice President and Health Minister, urging them to “take quick action and end this strike.”

But, Ms. Kabwela told the Times, “the government deliberately decided to misunderstand my intention,” – to draw attention to the suffering caused by the strike – and instead dubbed the images “pornographic.” On June 13, she was arrested and charged with “distributing obscene materials in order to corrupt the morals of society.” She was released on bond but faces up to five years in prison.

Some have speculated that this incident has been a government response to The Post’s negative editorials, though statements by both the government officials and some of women’s groups that received the photos pointed only to the woman’s nakedness, highlighting her lack of “privacy and dignity.”

Ms. Kabwela issued an apology and the strike has since ended, but the war of words between the The Post and the Zambian government continues. Recent editorials have called President Rupiah Banda and his government’s response to the incident an “abuse of power.”