Tag Archives: journalists

2012: A deadly year for press freedom

19 Dec

A new report by Reporters Without Borders reveals the bleak dangers that journalists are faced with in their daily work. With 141 people killed, 2012 has been one of the worst years for press freedom in a long time.

“2012 was an extremely deadly year,” says Ulrike Gruska of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The organization’s just-published annual report shows a total of 141 journalists, bloggers and media workers were killed because of their work. Of these, six were media employees and 47 were bloggers – the report describes these as “citizen journalists.” In addition, 88 professional journalists were killed in the course of their duties – more than at any time since the introduction of the RSF annual reports in 1995.

“The 88 journalists killed in 2012 lost their lives while covering wars or bombings, or were murdered by groups linked to organized crime (including drug trafficking), by Islamist militias or on the orders of corrupt officials,” the report said.

Al Husseini Abu Dief 

Al Husseini Abu Dief died filming the unrest in Cairo

Al Husseini Abu Dief died filming the unrest in Cairo

Egyptian journalist Al Husseini Abu Dief was shot dead in early December while filming unrest in Cairo. The 33-year-old photojournalist from the daily newspaper Al-Fagr, who trained at the DW Akademie, was covering the presidential palace, where he wanted to film the clashes between supporters and opponents of President Morsi. According to an eyewitness, Al Husseini Abu Dief was shot at close range by an unknown assailant. Six days later, he died of his injuries.

2012 was particularly dangerous for citizen journalists, bloggers and Internet reporters. Five died in 2011 – but in 2012 there were 47 deaths around the world, 44 in Syria alone. “In Syria, many people have tried to break through the regime’s information blockade,” Gruska said, “by getting information out of the country, whether in the form of blogs and video messages or mobile phone videos. And we had to rely on this heavily in our Syria coverage in Germany because there were hardly any professional journalists on the ground.”

Syria: deadly for journalists

Mazen Darwish

Mazen Darwish – whereabouts still unknown

The report calls Syria a “cemetery for news providers.” “The problem for Syrian colleagues is they very often get caught in the crossfire,” explains Nils Butcher, editor of Zenith magazine, which focuses on the Arab and Islamic world. “To many rebels, employees of state television do not count as neutral observers of the war. Islamist groups in particular have systematically attacked, abducted and executed Syrian state media journalists.”

Even employees of Russian media are in great danger, said Metzger, who last did research in Syria in October 2012. He also gave examples of abuses by government troops, such as the bombing of an opposition press center. A total of 65 media workers were killed in Syria in 2012 while working. Some 21 were imprisoned, including Mazen Darwish. “Being a journalist in Syria is like walking on a minefield”, Darwish once said. “No one can say when a mine will explode.” Among others, the 38-year-old founded the “Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression”. Darwish was arrested in February 2012. Where he has been held ever since is unknown.

Reporters Without Borders is now honoring Darwish with an award for his courage and commitment. Also awarded for 2012 is the Afghan newspaper “8Sobh”, meaning “Eight o’clock in the morning.”

Cameraman at work silhouettes side view (photo: sahua)141 journalists, bloggers and media workers were killed because of their work in 2012

Brazil: World Cup fever and murder of journalists

The report says 2012 was a “black year” for Somalia, where 18 journalists were killed, more than ever before in a single year. In Pakistan, 10 journalists and media workers were killed. For years, the country has been one of the most dangerous places for working journalists, writes RSF.

Journalists also live dangerously in Mexico – especially if they are writing about organized crime, and thus about drug trafficking and the links between criminal bosses and civil servants. Six journalists were killed there in 2012.

Reporters Without Borders also counts Brazil among the most dangerous countries – even though it is the venue for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. Five reporters have died here – two were apparently murdered because they were researching cases of drug smuggling.

More journalists in jail than ever

The other numbers RSF released also give cause for deep concern: more than 1,000 journalists and bloggers were arrested in 2012. A further 2,000 reporters were threatened or attacked.

At present, 193 journalists are in prisons worldwide, 70 in Turkey alone. In the case of 42 of them, RSF is sure that there is a connection with their profession. China also imprisons professional and citizen journalists – at present there are about 100 behind bars, most of whom have been there for many years are are living in inhumane conditions. Often corrupt regional officials are behind the judgments, to get rid of their harshest critics.

‘Eritrea arrests journalists and leaves them to rot’

Eritrea currently has 28 journalists in jail – sometimes in solitary confinement in underground cells. The report reserves its harshest criticism for this East African country: “One of the planet’s few remaining totalitarian dictatorships and ranked last in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Eritrea arrests journalists and leaves them to rot in prison on the least suspicion of posing a threat to national security or taking a critical view of government policies.”

Journalists face dangers in other countries, too: Oman and Cuba, for example, took steps against bloggers critical of the government, the report said. It also leveled harsh accusations at Iran. In Africa, northern Mali was the main source of concern. The report did not offer criticism of Western countries.



In DRC, journalists report being threatened in Bukavu

2 Dec

“We condemn the threats and acts of intimidation against journalists in Bukavu who are simply doing their jobs,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We hold authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo responsible for the safety and well-being of all journalists and urge them to investigate these reported threats.”

Solange Lusiku, editor of the leading independent monthly Le Souverain, told CPJ that on November 21 she received a phone call from a blocked number. The unidentified caller told her she was going to be killed. Lusiku also said that on Friday, an unidentified man and soldiers visited a cyber café that she frequents and demanded to know her whereabouts. Fearing reprisal, she has since fled Bukavu.

In the most recent edition of Le Souverain, Lusiku had written an editorial blaming Rwanda for fueling instability in the Eastern Congo. Le Souverain covers current affairs in the region, including politics and the M23 rebellion in neighboring North Kivu.

Le Souverain Editor-in-Chief Baudry Aluma told CPJ that he had also received threatening phone calls after he published an editorial in October. His story discussed alleged infighting within the local ruling party and allegations of mismanagement brought by some politicians against members of the ruling administration. The editorial also suggested that a cabinet reshuffle would be appropriate. Aluma told CPJ he has gone into hiding.

Christian Shadiki, police superintendent of Bukavu, told CPJ that he would investigate the threats against Lusiku and Aluma.

Blaise Sanyila, director of private broadcaster Vision Shala Media, told CPJ that on Friday he had received a threatening phone call from a blocked number. Sanyila also hosts a current affairs weekly call-in show for the station, he said. The journalist told CPJ that the unidentified caller threatened him in relation to his reporting and said that they would “put an end to everything” he said.

The day before the phone call, Sanyila said he had been interrogated for two hours by national intelligence agents in connection with his on-air interview with a spokesman of the M23 rebel group that had just seized the eastern city of Goma. Fearing reprisal, the journalist has since fled Bukavu.

Sanyila also told CPJ he was threatened by Marcellin Cishambo, governor of South Kivu, on October 13 after he aired a critical article about the official. Cishambo denied to CPJ that he had threatened the journalist.

Jean Baptiste Badera, a local correspondent for Agence France-Presse and director of local broadcaster Canal Futur Télévision, told CPJ that he, along with Lusiku and Sanyila, had received another threatening text message on Friday from an unknown number that named Cishambo as being part of a plot to kill them and seven other people in the next two days.

Cishambo denied to CPJ any involvement in the alleged plot to kill the journalists. “I don’t threaten journalists,” he said.

Badera told CPJ that he had been threatened in the past.  He also said he had suspended his weekly call-in talk show, “Plein Feu,” that discussed current affairs because of the worsening security situation in the region.

Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende told CPJ today he was not aware of the threats.

  • For more data and analysis on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, click here.

Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mobile Phone Security: 5 Things Everyone Should Know

24 Aug


by Mary McGuire, Senior Communications Manager, Freedom House
recent studyconducted by Freedom House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors evaluated a comprehensive range of mobile technologies—from smartphone devices including iPhone, Nokia, and Droid, to the applications and security protocols that are installed on them—to determine how secure one can really be on a mobile phone. The purpose of the effort was to assess the dangers of using mobile phones in countries where privacy rights are not respected, and where the rule of law and due process are faulty or non-existent. Mobile phones, rather than internet-enabled computers, are often the communications method of choice in these countries, which makes them a top priority for government surveillance. The findings of the study were quite worrying.

Across the board, the assessed technologies failed to adequately protect user security. In autocratic countries such as Belarus, China, and Iran, this has serious implications for human rights defenders, journalists, and political opposition figures, as well as for ordinary citizens. Individuals who manage to get on the bad side of the government in these countries are harassed, imprisoned, tortured, or even killed, and there is no structure in place to prevent authorities from using mobile phone data to carry out such abuses.

Are citizens in non-democratic countries the only ones who should be concerned? Perhaps not. In the United States and other democracies, there are certainly institutions and procedures designed to protect user privacy, as well as legal remedies if one’s privacy rights are violated. But these safeguards are far from ironclad, and they may be falling behind the pace of technological development. Moreover, even the most benign government is likely to be tempted by the monitoring opportunities associated with devices like smartphones, which a growing number of citizens carry 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Here are five things everyone should know about the safety of their mobile phones:

Big Brother could be watching. The video and audio recording capabilities that have become so vital to capturing important moments in our lives are also perfect surveillance tools for intrusive governments. It is even possible for the cameras and microphones in smartphones to be remotely activated by government agencies and mobile service providers.

There is nowhere to hide. The Global Positioning System (GPS) that allows us to get directions, find local businesses, and keep tabs on our friends and family members can also be used by governments to track our movements. Because most of our phones rarely leave our sight, we are essentially carrying personal tracking devices.

Our mobile carriers can’t protect us. Mobile providers gather personal data to keep up with our constant desire for customized services, and perhaps more importantly, because it is immensely profitable for them. However, once this data has been gathered, it is for the most part out of our control. Relying on these companies to make the right decisions about who is allowed access to personal information—particularly under threat from governments or when the provider itself is a  state enterprise—is not a very safe bet.

The choice is not ours. When we buy a computer, we have the power to install the security tools of our choice, including applications that encrypt communications, circumvent censorship, and detect viruses and malware. When we buy a mobile phone, we are generally forced to use the default settings of the mobile operating systems we purchase. According to the recent Freedom House study, these default settings are grossly inadequate for keeping us secure. Moreover, add-on security and encryption options are often incompatible with the phones and/or limit one’s ability to use other features.

Everyone is to blame. Because mobile security is threatened on various fronts—mobile networks, operating systems, applications, handsets, and users—it is nearly impossible for any single actor to change the situation. The only way to better protect our security is through improved coordination among all players. In the meantime, users in repressive environments should be aware of the risks they are taking, particularly if they are engaging in activities likely to put them on the radar screen of their government.

Photo Credit: Gesa Henselma

The technology that some governments are using to oppress their own citizens is primarily developed in advanced democratic countries. The developers of these tools appear more concerned with potential profits than the potential risks they might pose when misused by repressive regimes. But even those of us who do not have to fear an authoritarian government should care about what we may be giving up in order to live in an interconnected world. Our information is out there, possibly forever, and probably out of our control. It might be time to start demanding new phones and applications that protect our privacy and security as well as entertain us.


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