Anti-Semitism and censorship make headlines in Europe, Pakistan, TanzaniaInternational media add
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 their appreciation of what’s going on," reckons Camus, who warns against a media bias.
The other danger is narrowing the conversation to reflect just one opinion, in this case that new anti-Semitism is the fault of Muslims. Camus says, that’s not the full story.
“It’s very difficult to find dissident voices. Those who are in the minority--I belong to them--have a very hard time finding ways to have the mainstream media listen to what they have to say.”
Dubious deal in Pakistan
In Pakistan, news outlets like Geo TV have also been finding it hard to have their say. The station, which is critical of the military, was recently shut down in most parts of the country. The government denied any responsibility.
However, in a surprise move, Geo TV was put back on, on Thursday 19th April after concluding a deal with the military.
“It’s a very worrying precedent," Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia Pacific desk at Reporters Without Borders told RFI.
"Because if Geo TV wants to be broadcasted, it has to self-censor itself, that’s the message the military wants to send."
Civil society groups in Pakistan say the freedom of the press is increasingly under attack, with the military accused of disappearing activists and journalists.
Last December for instance, 40-year-old Raza Khan, a Pakistani political activist, disappeared from his home. Four months on he’s still missing. The consequence is that entire regions are going silent, as news fails to get reported.
Tanzanian bloggers under scrutiny
But should everyone be allowed to report?
In Tanzania, bloggers could soon have to pay a license of up to 1,000 dollars just to be able to post content online.
The government says it wants to protect the East African nation from “lies” being spread online.
“I can see where the government is coming from," Linet Kwamboka, a Mozilla Tech policy fellow in Nairobi told RFI.
"We had the same case in Kenya where the journalists were calling for more responsibility among the bloggers, because the journalist said well, they have to go through school, they’re taught all their ethics, whereas bloggers tend to be more free thinkers, with no regulation or accountability for the stories they put out.”
Critics though are concerned that the government is using the excuse of regulation as a veil for repression.
Last week authorities arrested the country’s top musician – Diamond Platnumz after he posted a video clip of himself playfully kissing a woman on Instagram, which authorities said was indecent.
Internet freedom under threat
Freedom of speech was one of the requirements for a healthy internet, as revealed in a report earlier this month by Mozilla Fox.
"For me, for a healthy Internet, there needs to be decentralization to be able to understand who owns the speech and who’s responsible for what," said Mozilla Tech policy fellow Kwamboka.
"Then the most important thing there needs to be is a lot of privacy and security," she said. "You need to know that you’re in a safe place and not in a battleground every time you go online to express yourself or to be creative."
Tanzania's online regulations follow the arrests of several people charged with "abusing" the president John Magufuli, a euphemism for criticizing him on Facebook and on WhatsApp.
It’s part of a growing trend of African governments trying to control what’s said online. Kwamboka says they’re fighting a losing battle.
“I feel like there needs to be a better approach to this, because this is a battle that neither the government nor the bloggers are going to win,” she said.
Most people agree there needs to be more responsibility on the internet. The question is who should regulate it and how.
What is behind French website Mediapart's success?International media add
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 privacyInternational media add
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.
"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.
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 GDPR, set to be unveiled on May 25, wants to change that.
"GDPR will grant users greater control of their data," explains Tiwari.
"If any user wants to know what data a company has on them, they can, and have their data deleted," she said.
The outcry has stirred calls for users to disconnect through the hashtag #deletefacebook.
Trust is particularly low in Nigeria, after claims by Wylie that a Canadian-based affiliate of Cambridge Analytica spread violent images in to discredit opponents in the 2007 and 2015 elections.
"The general discussion that we've been having is that people will have to limit the amount of information that they give out online," Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive, director of the research firm Chive-GPS, told RFI.
Despite efforts by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to enhance the privacy of users, Anekwe-Chive says that "people are thinking of ways to limit the amount of data they drop online and curtail the amount of data that is available online."
French journalism schools question their written entrance examsInternational media add
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?International media add
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 AfricaInternational media add
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 they faced, the abuse, those who were killed… And the huge amount of money they lost. But I would like to ask IOM to help the migrants before they leave and not wait until they are sent back home.You should help people when they most need it. And if IOM cannot do any of that, can it refund some of the money spent by the migrants ? I cried a lot when listening to the programme and I thought I was lucky not to have left."
Baba Sy’s interview was aired on Radio Oxyjeunes in woloff, one of the main languages spoken in Senegal. Using local languages instead of "western" languages such as French or English – incidentally the language of former colonial powers – is important for the listeners to relate to the message broadcast.
"We tried to have as many local languages as possible [during the training]. It [touches] people’s heart in a way French or English won’t. When some stories come from abroad, they say that it is some kind of manipulation from countries which don’t want to see migrants coming. Talking to them in the language [they use] to express their emotions, also helps them to build their opinion," says Jean-Luc Mootoosamy.
He admits that the most difficult aspect of the training was to "deconstruct" what the journalists were doing before. They tend to do very long interviews, out of which they would take only one minute for the broadcasts.
Mootoosamy said that there was a wealth of untapped information at their disposal. So, they worked on interviews the journalists did, isolating various extracts that may be used for various purposes : a spot, a portrait, gathering information for a debate…
Niger and Senegal were the first two countries where Aware Migrants’ initiative of training local radio journalists took place. It may be extended to other countries but, according to IOM, only if it gathers the funds to do so.
Tweet to Leonard Doyle
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Journalists in France should be wary of legislation against fake news, warn analystsInternational media add
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
What now for journalists in Zimbabwe?International media add
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 mediaInternational media add
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 expertes.eu that is trying to change that number.
No Weinstein for BollywoodInternational media add
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 that will play out legally because homosexuality is a criminal offence in India."
Film critic Rajeev Masand corroborates: “There is an unspoken condition that if you were 'flexible' … if an aspiring actor was willing to be intimate with a gay filmmaker, there would be chances to further his or her career but this is in the realm of gossip.”
Flawed justice system
Among the evidence released against Weinstein is the audio secretly recorded by an Italian model meeting him in a hotel room in 2015.
Audio and video recordings are only admissible as evidence in Indian courts if their authenticity is established, Roy points out.
“There lies the problem, as courts are reluctant to rely on them as clinching evidence. Electronic documents produced through media sting operation are seen as unreliable by courts,” he says.
Seventy percent of Indian women who have experienced workplace sexual harassment do not report it and, according to Vikram Roy, the convictions in rape cases is negligeable.
“It is a scandal. Why should anybody come out before the firing line and … complain about sexual harassment when the offender will get out acquitted or come out on bail and hound them?" he asks. "Unless we give the women stronger laws, things will not change as fast as perhaps it changed in the United States."
"What has happened to Harvey Weinstein is unimaginable in India for many, many years to come," says Veena Venugopal. "I highly doubt I will see it in my lifetime."
The allegations against Weinstein run over the last 30 years but the reports only came out now when the Hollywood moghul was no longer as powerful as he used to be. One of the American reporters said that he faced pressure not to release reports about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
Does Bollywood wield such power over the media and can it exert pressure for damaging reports not be released?
Vikram Roy believes this is the case and that some entertainment journalists have to “toe the line” or run the risk of being boycotted.
“Public relations firms are now the interface between the media and Bollywood. They protect their celebrity clan with much enthusiasm. Some of these companies dictate what one can ask at a red carpet. Often production houses write up the fine print on what media can report and what media cannot,” he declares.
Masand disagrees. A lot of journalists enjoy considerable freedom and are not afraid of “going after sacred cows/film directors”, he believes. But he also says that entertainment journalism has become “PR driven”.
“Film journalism is just dull! They are not doing responsible, investigative journalism. If you had your facts and the people on the record, I do think a story like that would be explosive and would be completely embraced by news organisation. I don’t think that Bollywood has that much clout that it could kill a story like that.”
Venugopal believes that it is not so much a case of Bollywood producers exerting pressure on media houses but rather the kind of pressure they can apply on the victims.
“If a potential Bollywood actress was to talk about this in public – [she would need] to come on the record before you carry a story like this – that is virtually the end of her career! That is where the Bollywood power really is. It is not in clamping down on the media, it is clamping down on potential victims.”
At the end of the day, it is the very nature of Bollywood that drives its moral compass. As Rajeev Masand puts it, “Bollywood is a boy’s club.”
“It is a very insular business. Anybody who complains in Bollywood is quickly labelled difficult. That person quickly becomes unhirable, unlike Hollywood where the support is for the victim. In the Weinstein case, when the lid was blown, so many people in power came out and condemned it. I don’t see that happening here. It embarasses me a great deal to admit that unfortunately here, the support will rally around the film makers and the perpetrators. It is just easier to hush the victims”
Follow Veena Venugopal on Twitter @veenavenugopal
Follow Rajeev Masand on Twitter @RajeevMasand
Follow Vikram Roy on Twitter @PrataoChakravar
Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt
What will Bulgaria’s EU presidency do for press freedom?International media add
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 SyriaUltimately, 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 questionsHowever, 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 interferenceTwo 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 prevailsThe 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 writing about misconduct at corporate commercial banks, or what is said to be “attacking bank stability in Bulgaria.” The punishment, handed down by the Bulgarian Financial Supervision Committee is €75,000 and an additional €5,000 for the journalists’ refusal to disclose sources.Journalists assaultedThere are more severe examples. Sheffield lecturer Price cites the case of Stoyan Tonchev, owner of the local news website Zad Kulisite (Behind the Scenes) who was known for his investigations into alleged corruption and abuse of power in his city, the Bulgarian Black Sea resort town of Pomorie.On January 14, 2015, Tonchev was brutally beaten by what he described as a “man dressed in black.” The Committee to Protect Journalists, which highlighted the case, reported that Tonchev reports that the attacker “repeatedly hit him on the head with a blunt object while asking, ‘How long will you keep writing?’"Tonchev survived with a skull fracture, a concussion, a broken nose, and multiple hematomas that disfigured his face and after he was hospitalized for two weeks.According to Price, an arrest was made, but the person who allegedly assaulted Tonchev was released on bail. “So far there’s been no result into this investigation,” she told RFI.Bulgaria running the EUOn January 1, Bulgaria will head the rotating presidency of the European Union for a period of six months.After meeting on 8th of November with Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, the former karate coach and Interior Minister Boyko Borisov, European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that Bulgaria’s upcoming presidency is “a unique chance for this marvelous country [ … ] to show, to prove, to demonstrate that the Bulgarians know what is what when it comes to Europe. Europe is part of the DNA of Bulgaria.Indeed, part of Europe’s DNA flows into Bulgaria in the form of financial support, but not always to the places it was intended to go.This years’ report on the state of the Bulgarian media commissioned by the International Research & Exchanges Board [IREX], an international, non-profit organization that specializes in global education, says that some of the media with links to the media empire of Delyan Peevski, “are among the biggest beneficiaries of EU funds distributed by the government.”“It is really disgusting,” says Bossev. “The government is contracting mediators who subcontract those sites."In this way, “yellow press” tabloids that, according to Bossev, “spread fake news” receive EU money via the government meant, “to promote the Bulgarian presidency of the EU.”This is done through a process that RSF says “is conducted with a complete lack of transparency, in effect bribing editors to go easy on the government in their political reporting or refrain from covering certain problematic stories altogether."Meanwhile, the EU does take notice and on several occasions has issued stern warnings and reports that highlight abuses to Bulgaria’s media freedom.“Unfortunately, journalists in Bulgaria are not happy about that,” says Price, the Sheffield Hallam University media lecturer“The EU seems to be taking the hands-off, soft approach, despite its spoken commitment to media freedom and the importance of journalism for democracy," he said.“They are constantly calling for the government to respect media freedom, to society to debate, to see how it can be changed, but there are no specific actions to achieve this."The fact that the Bulgarian government is sensible to criticism was evinced when it withdrew the fines against Capital Weekly and other media outlets after pressure from the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe [OSCE], the Council of Europe and NGOs. However, no apologies were offered.RSF’s Pauline Adès-Mével expressed hope that Bulgaria will become “more efficient in its fight against mafias and rampant corruption before taking on the EU presidency” in January.As for Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, she is now working as a freelancer, again working on an investigation related to the weapons trade.“I definitely feel better as I am not obliged to follow editorial policy,” she wrote to RFI.However, her task will not be easy. According to Nikolay Staykov, of the Sofia-based Anti-Corruption Fund, the Bulgarian military industry is going through a “golden time; all big and the smaller manufacturers work on double shifts,” and there is a “kind of national consensus to remain silent on what’s going on with these weapon exports,” he says.Gaytandzhieva knows this. She explained that the director of DANS [the agency that called her in for interrogation], the ministers of Defence, of Economy and of Interior, are all members of the Commission for Export Control which gives permits and export licenses to arms dealers. This means that the director of DANS is well aware of all those weapons deals as well as Bulgarian ministers.“How are they going to investigate themselves? In Bulgaria, there is no such thing as freedom of speech, in Bulgaria the media organisations serve politicians, not the Bulgarian people,” she said.
Spanish, Catalan media reflect polarisation of politicsInternational media add
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 mediaInternational media add
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 Indianz.com, 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 (www.jennimonet.com) 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.
“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 consecutive months and was embedded at the Standing Rock reservation for four months, until the end of March 2017. She was arrested and, along with seven other journalists, is still facing charges for criminal trespass and rioting brought by the local Morton County.
Why did it take such a violent crackdown for news about Standing Rock to make the headlines?
“People were maimed,” remembers Jenni Monet. “People were sent into hypothermic shock after being doused with water on a sub-freezing night in November to the point where legacy media could not simply ignore it anymore. They reported on that story 48 hours later. It takes for brown people to die before it becomes unfortunately headline news.”
Monnet says that when the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were happening the story was competing with “one thing and one thing only, Donald Trump”. Based on her own experience, Monet describes the newsrooms obsession with “clickbait”, stories need to pull “the most shares, the most tweets, drive comments from viewers”.
“If Standing Rock proved anything, it’s that [tribal] issues aren’t complicated at all. You just need a lot of people to talk about them. Standing Rock is going to continue to be a case study for us when we look at the power of indigenous media. And, for me and my fellow native journalists, we cannot forget those strides and those gains that were made from Standing Rock.”
Native American journalism
Journalism for Native Americans by Native Americans goes back to the 19th century with the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper founded in 1828. It was written in both English and the Cherokee alphabet created by Sequoyah.
“That newspaper was democracy at work … sovereignty at work. It was the tribe itself having a voice and shaping a narrative that otherwise was completely removed from any sort of publication back then,” declares Jenni Monet.
The newspaper emerged at a time when the Cherokee Nation was debating what action to take while facing forced relocation from their ancestral land in south-eastern United States. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee people were rounded up and forced to relocate to an area west of the Mississippi River designated as Indian Territory. The journey became known as the “trail of tears”.
Tribal newspapers are still very popular, according to Kevin Abourezk, and probably the most popular among the various native news platforms. Most tribes of a certain size have a newspaper that they publish and distribute to their members on the reservations.
But such media do not cover national issues pertaining to the Indian Country. “Just a handful of websites” will cover, for example, a hearing in Washington related to some law dealing with Indian Trust Land. And that’s a problem for Kevin Abourezk.
For Jenni Monet, indigenous media shouldn’t only be for the tribal communities, nor should it only look at “outsiders” as an audience. It should be “somewhere in between”.
“What we saw at Standing Rock was this widespread embrace of concepts that editors themselves have often couched as topics too weighty for their listenership to endure. It was amazing to see on CNN, Sara Sidner quote Lakota prophecy. And a segment about treaty rights. These topics are not too complicated. What they are is sorely underreported.”
Making their voice heard
“It’s our time to tell our stories,” declares Levi Rickert, who is from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. He deplores the way in which Native Americans are portrayed in the US media. And that’s one of the reasons he decided to set up Native News Online in 2011.
“We are perceived as being conquested people, losers… [associated with] alcoholism, poverty... I try to identify stories that really show the progress and achievements of American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
For Rickert, this is a more a calling than a job. “It is almost like a trusteeship given to me by the Creator to really do my part,” he say, “We serve many tribal nations from around the United States. I try to purposefully find writers from around the country that can write about their region, their tribal nation. The non-native media will not always write about our stories, we can certainly do it.”
As for Jenni Monet, she opted for the precarious position of being an independent journalist rather than being attached to a particular news organisation in order to have a greater chance of getting her stories about indigenous peoples and their rights movements published.
“I’ve worked for some of the biggest brands in the industry and I understand how newsrooms operate. [Being] independent, I can choose many of these decision makers and pitch and pitch and pitch,” declares Jenni Monet, host of the podcast, Still here: Modern stories of resilience, indigenously told.
“People are starting to wake up a little and realise that there is a whole vast Indian country out there,” adds Monet. A generation of journalists, whom she describes as front-runners, took the lead in creating a nuanced narrative and paved the way for her generation. “I’m so grateful for writers like Tim Giago, Mark Trahant, Suzan Shown Harjo, Bunty Anquoe and the list can go on.”
Kevin Abourezk recently decided to start working full time for the Native news website, Indianz.com. Most of his 18 years as a journalist were spent working for the Lincoln Journal Star, a non-Native daily.
“I’ve always wanted to work for native media but I’ve also for a long time felt it was important to reach out to non-Native Americans and trying to educate them about issues facing Native Americans.”
Abourezk says that his former editors were great and welcomed his stories. However, they had a preference for a certain type of stories. One of them is White Clay, a small town of 14 people in Nebraska with four liquor stores selling four million cans of beer a year to the Pine Ridge reservation, which has a population of 40,000 people.
In September this year Indian Country Today, a prominent newspaper and website, put a stop to its activities after 25 years in business, citing financial constraints. This brought some big changes in the world of Native journalism in America, explained Abourezk, and it was one of the reasons why he decided to move to Indianz.com.
“When Indian Country Today decided to shut down … that left a huge vacuum in the world of Native journalism. I felt it was important for Native journalists to step up and fill the vacuum the best we can.”
It took two years of incubation before Levi Rickert’s launched Native News Online. A sustainable business model providing independent reporting appears to be a difficult goal to achieve. Rickert says that he is constantly trying to figure out how to make it work on the small Native media scene
“It is a struggle. We have to fight for advertising, sponsorships, many times we are marginalized. You just have to get pass the ‘Nos’ and get people to say ‘Yes’. You have to have the tenacity to keep going even when it looks dismal out there.”
The words that really encapsulate what the Native American journalists we spoke to are trying to achieve probably come from one Native News Online viewer:
“You write how we Indians want to be written about.”
Follow Jenni Monet on Twitter @jennimonet
Follow Kevin Abourezk on Twitter @Kevin_Abourezk
Follow Levi Rickert on Twitter @Native_NewsNet
Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt
Sound editor: Alain Bleu
Music by Raye Zaragoza (In the river) and Camp Pueblo Singers (Water is life)
Jordan muzzles media, Myanmar media targets RohingyaInternational media add
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 speechInternational media add
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 where others are governed by what the journalist describes as their ideologies.
Solidarity is the answer to oppression
Answering a question posed by Nkwebo, El Sangary says that working together on a continental scale could be a solution to put a stop to such oppression.
“We need to organise ourselves in groups and unions [that can] lobby freedom of speech in Africa. Of course, it is going to be dangerous because of our governments. But we can, at least, try to find publishing venues to support each other. And if a journalist in Cameroon goes missing, then everyone in Africa, in the world, knows he or she went missing.”
El Sangary wanted to know whether the anti-terror laws are really effective in fighting back terrorism in Cameroon. Nkwebo does not believe this is the case.
“These laws have never stopped Boko Haram. It has simply stopped journalists from going to the field. I, personally, have stopped travelling to the far North [to cover Boko Haram] because you don’t know what happens to you if you go there,” says Nkwebo.
"In my case, I was assault on orders from the ministry of defence," he adds.
Not giving up
When journalists work under such a climate of repression, when their lives are in danger, when self-censorship becomes a method of survival, how do they find the inspiration to continue doing the work and not give up?
For Nwebo: “We are permanently negotiating with some authorities to be allowed to do our work. It is an obligation for each and every journalist to defend the truth… to go wherever there is need for information, whatever the risks may be.”
For El Sangary: “The reason I write is to make a difference. We write out of hope and hope trumps fear.”
Follow Denis Nkewbo on Twitter @DENISNKWEBO
Follow Mohanad El Sangary on Facebook
Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt
Journalists fear crackdown in IndiaInternational media add
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.
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 AfricaInternational media add
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.
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 towards a particular community.
“When, for example, the President is speaking in his native language to his community, that will not find its way to television, newspapers or radio because this is considered sometimes offending to other communities.”
An efficient media regulatory body
The Communications Authority of Kenya is another contributing factor explains Linus Kaikai.
“Oversight has improved greatly and that has improved responsibility [from] presenters and producers. Our regulatory body is keeping an eye on broadcasts and print media to ensure that some of this hate speech in 2007 that ended up in the International Criminal Court do not arise again," he said.
But Kaikai warns that the danger still remains when politicians use their native languages on community radio stations as they then tend to drop their guards.
In Sierra Leone, however, Kelvin Lewis deplores that the country’s Independent Media Commission is not as impartial as it should be and he says it is one of the main reason why he has set up this training programme for journalists ahead of the 2018 elections.
“The media outlets associated with the ruling party get away with a lot of things. Those on the other side, if they do same, will be held responsible very quickly”, Lewis said.
Legal actions may be an option but then again Kelvin Lewis remains skeptical: “You wonder how the courts will rule against the ruling part. It is almost not likely.”
Radio is the preferred media among Sierra Leoneans with 70 different stations scattered across the country even though there are some 120 newspapers circulating, mostly in the capital Freetown.
In Kenya TV is the most popular media. There are only 3 local television stations in Sierra Leone with two of them being privately owned. Kryo is the language most used by the radio stations in Sierra Leone with Mende being more dominant in the East and Temne in the North.
The challenge resides in ensuring that the community radios broadcasting in the local languages focus on issues affecting the country and not on ethnicity or ethnic concerns. “We have a programme now called National Dialogue and we are urging the press to go along with it,” says Kelvin Lewis.
The two journalists also discussed transfer of power in their respective countries and how the political divide is linked to geography and ethnic groups.
One of Kelvin’s burning question for his East African collegue, Linus, was the latter’s last name, Kaikai, a typically Sierra Leonean surname. Listen to the last part of the programme where Linus reveals the connection between East and West Africa.
Follow Linus Kaikai on Twitter @LinusKaikai
Follow Kelvin Lewis on Twitter @kelvinxlewis
Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt
Murder in India, closure in CambodiaInternational media add
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.
China cracks down on internet access by banning VPNsInternational media add
China has said it is going to put a total ban on private computer networks known as VPNs, which allow people to get onto the internet when it's blocked in part by authorities. RFI's Fabien Jannic-Cherbonnel has more, in this week's look at media around the world.
Is Arte guilty of censorship?International media add
A documentary about anti-Semitism was broadcast this week, after initially being cancelled. The film was scrapped by the French-German television station Arte, which said the final version didn't correspond to the original remit.
Eventually the film was broadcast in Germany and in France.
Was Arte guilty of censorship? Or did the film-makers get it wrong?
In this week's International Media, RFI's Christina Okello looks at the row.