December 12, 2003The Academy Award goes to... anyone but the US media. Coverage of the Iraq war, and embedded reporters in particular, came under the spotlight at a workshop hosted by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The event began with the screening of four nominees, all European, in the news coverage category at the Academy's prestigious Emmy awards earlier this year. Channel Four/ITN carried off the title but the content of the final four selections provided interesting fodder for the workshop discussion.
Co-incidentally all four entries emerged from the Gulf conflict. Channel 4's programme began from Baghdad on the day Saddam fell and covered events and atmosphere in the following days. It was joined on the short list by Germany's ARD for a report on the radioactive DU ammunition, France 2 Television for a powerful piece on looting at Baghdad Museum and footage from the UK's Associated Press Television News.
The workshop was chaired by International Academy executive director Georges Le Clere and president Fred Cohen. They explained that the awards were not open to American broadcasters but that didn't stop the audience having a go at the US media and the concept of embedded journalists. Many of the comments were aimed at war coverage in general with the consensus being that the truth had been the first casualty in Iraq. The most acerbic remarks were on US journalists 'sense of theatre' and even American speakers themselves offered no defence on the discussion.
December 11, 2003In the line of fire. Al Jazeera moderator Dr Faisal al-Kasim defended the station's decision to broadcast footage encouraging Muslims to rise up and attack Westerners, saying, "we are in the business of scoops, especially in times of war".
The presenter came under fire during a panel discussion on the role of the media in re-building post-conflict societies and in coping with a clash of cultures. But the focus of much of the discussion fell on how media coverage after some conflicts had incited further violence.
Dr al-Kasim said the US media's attitude towards the Arab world in the wake of September 11 had left tensions between the two cultures at their lowest point. He came under fire from one member of the audience concerned about their broadcasting of messages from terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden, encouraging murder.
Panel chair, BBC News anchor Mishal Husain, asked the guest if he felt responsible for carrying a message asking Muslims to rise up against the US and the West.
The West always brags about freedom of expression and then it starts to muffle others, he argued. The conflict was between Al Qaeda and the US. Why would you want to listen to only one side? Do you want us to forget about Osama bin Laden altogether? If the US had got hold of one tape or another first they would definitely have broadcast it. We are in the business of scoops, especially in times of war." Our space is open. At last, after a long search, Daily Summit tracked down Polymedia, renegade media outfit, evicted from their first home, but now resident in a Genevan cinema/theatre.
Harassed, harangued, haunted, but happy at last! And (there's no better way one can put it) these guys are weird...
First thing you notice: no telephones. But lots of computers, all set up to disseminate what they believe to be real information, the sort that should matter to people.
Polymedia has strong links to Indymedia - a group that has been in the thick of protest against the world order. Seattle, Evian, and now Geneva - the group has a record of reporting from the heart of the action.
Now, they have been forced to relocate to two bases. The Palladium is a brown building, from which thick black and blue smoke belches off the cigarette sticks of our famous journalists. A unused projection screen lies unused, and everywhere there are computers. Close by is the Theatre de la Usine - a larger space.
The Polymedians are busy - but not too busy to speak.
First, Annie, an academic: "We use the Usine for conference talks, discussion, and debates. And in the Palladium, we are experimenting with free software, sharing knowledge and experiences, and updating Polymedia web sites. Ours is a do it yourself movement, which is why I can't tell you my second name: I don't want to sound special. Here at Polymedia, people are simply trying to escape from the rat race. We simply want the freedom to live on our own terms. We are not worried by our problems with the police. We are used to being troubled. Its our sacrifice for a freer world.."
Then American, Sasha Chock: "We do not feel free with 2,000 military and 700 police at the Palexpo. To inform the people, we do not have to go through metal detectors and checkpoints every 200 feet! We do not want to be in a space of controlled information, where they held me up yesterday and divided my papers and leaflets into two piles. The ones I could take in and the ones I couldn't."
Chock's fellow country woman, who identified herself simply as Dee Dee concluded: "The difference between our world and yours is that this space is open. Yours is not."
December 10, 2003Video diaries. One World TV are publishing a series of WSIS video diaries on their website.
December 09, 2003Radio Ga-ga (2). We've talked about the role of radio at WSIS, but now we've discovered that Africa can expect a radio invasion, of sorts.
The radio may not be the top of the range kit, these days - but it is certainly a mighty weapon for rural folks in Africa hungry for information.
The glittering Geneva conference centre, the Palexpo where leaders from across the globe are gathering for WSIS has innumerable stands for ICT stakeholders but anyone who shares the vision of a people oriented communications policy for Africa will not fail to notice the combined back-facing-back stand(s) of the World Association of Community Radio And Broadcasters (AMARC), Catalysing access to ICT,s in Africa (CATIA) and PANOS.
Using the links of Inter world Radio (IWA), this team plan to have more community-based radio stations in Africa and they are serious about this.
Sameer Padania, network development manager with the Inter World Radio told Daily Summit "We believe that radio is the heart of information society". According to her, proliferation of rural radio has been pretty difficult in the past because "English is our medium but surely you know that you need local languages for this".
PANOS is currently building a network of stations in Africa after the Ugandan success. It is also working with two FM stations in Nigeria.
Speaking on the plan for Africa, the vice president of AMARC (north America) Elizabeth Robinson said the company is stepping up its media exchange programme throughout the continent. Its international office is based in Johannesburg, South Africa and is currently maintaining community radio stations in Mali, Senegal and some other countries in southern Africa. "Our plan now is to encourage more African countries to have community media", she added.
For Freda Werden, executive producer of Women International News Gathering Service, CATIA, AMARC, and PANOS working together now represents a positive sign for an African rural revolution.
Oghogho Obayu @ 06:34 PM | Comments (0)
December 08, 2003Stop the press. So, we know how many people each government is sending to the World Summit, but how many of their citizens know they are going? Daily Summit has compiled a league table of journalists accredited to each country.
Does it say something about the Malaysian government's attitude to free speech that it is sending 137 government officials but not one journalist (according to offical lists)?
Scroll down for table.
Switzerland is unsurprisingly top of the table with an army of 300 journalists (are there any Swiss hacks not going?), but it is the French, British and American results that are some of the most intriguing.
France has got a weasel up its trouser leg over the English language's supremacy on the internet and is clearly planning something.
Meanwhile the UK, a country whose government has so little interest in WSIS that it is only sending a junior minister, has a surprisingly high number of journalists attending. You certainly wouldn't have guessed from the advance coverage WSIS has received in the British press.
And the US? For somewhere that has more journalists than any country on the planet 20 doesn't seem that many...
Perhaps more interesting still is the absence of any journalists from Malaysia, despite having the largest government delegation with 137 officials. The only other country to have such a discrepancy between its government and press delegates is Gabon, where civil servants outnumber journos by 33 to 1.
And on a more quizzical note: who would have thought that Bangladesh had such a strong interest in the information society?
300 Switzerland (compared to 48 government officials)
70 France (108 gov't officials)
40 United Kingdom (34 gov't officials)
33 Bangladesh (61 gov't officials)
27 Tunisia (21 gov't officials)
26 Italy (36 gov't officials)
23 Germany (58 gov't officials)
20 United States (66 gov't officials)
16 South Africa
7 Sri Lanka
4 Russian Federation
3 Costa Rica
3 Dem. Rep. of the Congo
1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
1 Czech Rep.
1 Serbia and Montenegro
1 Sierra Leone
1 Solomon Islands
1 Trinidad and Tobago
Jack Malvern @ 12:27 PM | Comments (3)
December 03, 2003In the US, Howard Dean - front-running Democratic presidential candidate - has caused a stir by suggesting he'd break up big media corporations.
"Yes, we're going to break up giant media enterprises," Dean promised. "What we're going to do is say that media enterprises can't be as big as they are today."
Dean claimed that "11 companies in this country control 90 percent of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television," adding that "We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont [the state he governs] where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP."
Many commentators sniff blood. CK Rairden, writing in the Washington Dispatch, claims that Dean is unravelling, as the "real Howard Dean is revealed," while James Lileks asks: "does Dean really want to be President?" Answering his own question: "one wonders, when he opens his mouth."
It remains to be seen if going after big media will prove a good campaign tactic but, as yet, there is no word on this story on Dean's own blog.
Dean is getting a lot of international coverage not just for what he is saying, but for the way he is trying to use the web to build a grassroots campaign (see also here, here, here and here).
December 02, 2003'All-new' protest. Reporters Without Borders, smarting at their exclusion from WSIS, (discussed here), have told journalists that "an original and news-worthy form of protest" is to be announced one day before the summit starts. I'm looking forward to their news conference, but a cynic reading the press release might suggest they haven't yet decided what form the protest will take...
November 27, 2003Freedom of expression under threat. A list of booby traps lying in wait at WSIS has been issued by the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). The WPFC articulates a western free-enterprise view on freedom of expression, media diversity and the role of government in ICTs. The WPFC fear is that, in the WSIS/U.N. "one country-one vote" environment,the developed and richer countries will find themselves in a minority.
WPFC suspects include obvious ones like China which recently announced a programme of standards improvements and quality controls - taken by many to mean buttressing the firewall which insulates China's 68 million-strong web community (the world's second largest) from foreign influences; and Saudi Arabia which, according to a Harvard Law School study reported by the BBC, has - for cultural reasons - blocked up to 2,000 sites.
The Council of Europe (which represents 44 European countries) is also targeted for adopting through its decision-making body, the Council of Ministers, a measure to criminalize "hate speech" on the internet- something which the WPFC, like many libertarian groups, sees as potentially violating civil rights on the internet.
Is the web - unlike other media platforms - a place where "anything goes"?
Andrew Taussig @ 11:52 AM | TrackBack
November 26, 2003Last minute bid for pre-WSIS solutions. Marc Furrer, the Swiss Government's Information Minister, plans last minute talks, on Dec 5 and 6 - the very eve of WSIS - to find agreement on key contentious issues. The No. 1 issue, for Furrer, is defining "the role of the press in the digital age... it's big.. for countries like Iran, China, Syria and Tunisia".
Believe it or not, Switzerland, home to perhaps the UN's biggest European operations, only joined the U.N. in March 2002: not because anyone had excluded the Swiss but because it took that long before the people in a tightly fought referendum overcame their inborn resistance to international entanglements and the fear that membership would affect their long-prized neutrality.
Hosting WSIS is Switzerland's first task as a member of the U.N. family - which may explain the investment in the so-called parallel events like the World Electronic Media Forum - and Minister Furrer's initiative in setting up those last ditch meetings. "It doesn't have to be high-level people - not ministers", says Furrer, "but I want people who can negotiate because they won't be able to consult with their capitals any more".
WSIS-watchers who have waded through three and a half PREPCOMS may be wondering whether to hold their breath on December 5 and 6.
Andrew Taussig @ 04:49 PM | TrackBack
November 25, 2003Hijab news. Khadija Bin Ghena, established newsreader on Al-Jazeera, read her bulletin on 24 November in the same way she has done for the past five years; except, for the first time, she was wearing Hijab. In both Arab and Western societies few expect a female journalist, to do so, probably due to misconceptions about Muhajjabat (women in headscarfs) - generally perceived as subordinate rather that self-motivated and independent. Ultimately, the issue of Hijab has gone beyond religious and social dimensions, namely in Turkey and Europe, and, as such, it's something that should be discussed at WSIS.
Katia Nasser @ 10:29 PM | TrackBackIn the news, the India Economic Summit is receiving plenty of coverage. With 1 million people employed, the ICT sector is being touted as a model for other industries. However, there are worries about a backlash from rich countries losing jobs (some US comment here).
Meanwhile, Disney and Rupert Murdoch's Star India have plans for the sub-continent, with Star's CEO claiming that India "could become an important destination for production of entertainment software." Bollywood film makers agree, with one predicting that 70 percent of global revenue in the entertainment business will come from Asia over the next 10 years.
No summit is complete without demonstrations. In New Delhi, Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, is being compared to Hitler.
David Steven @ 08:10 AM | TrackBack
November 22, 2003Tunisian internet journalist, Zouhair Yahyaoui, whose story we reported here, has been freed...
David Steven @ 07:17 PM | TrackBackOn the box. Kofi Annan has been celebrating World Television Day (yes, really) and loyally linking this momentous event both to the summit and the World Electronic Media Forum.
"Television can be a tremendous force for good," the UN Secretary General said. "It can educate great numbers of people about the world around them. It can show us how much we have in common with our neighbours, near and far. And, it can shed light on the dark corners, where ignorance and hatred fester."
However, Mr Annan is worried that poor countries do not export enough TV programmes to the rich world: "The flow of information ought not be one way only, from North to South; this has led to a burgeoning 'content divide' that threatens to overwhelm or marginalize local views and voices."
Mr. Annan wants to "preserve and promote cultural and linguistic diversity" without infringing on media freedoms."
David Steven @ 06:53 PM | TrackBack
November 17, 2003The Future- It seems that the internet community is growing so fast that newspapers around the globe are trying to preserve their status. "In France, circulation has fallen from around 6 million daily readers in 1945 to 1 million in 2000 - and quite likely 800 000 today. In the USA, huge demographic swathes, including the 18-24 age group beloved of advertisers, have no members willing to read a newspaper every day. Among traditionally newspaper friendly social groups, the number of individuals reading a paper a day has dropped dramatically in the past four decades."
"Even in the UK, with a vibrant and noisy national newspaper business, circulations are falling (with some exceptions). Paul Horrocks, editor of regional daily The Manchester Evening News, went so far as to say that some newspapers are looking at ways to guarantee their survival, never mind prosper."
Ahmed Reda @ 05:56 PM
November 16, 2003Refused Entry to WSIS A row is brewing over the non-admission to WSIS of Reporters sans frontieres a civil society organization supporting reporters' rights to gather and publish information.
The Joint Caucus had already been angered by the WSIS Executive Secretariat's decision to exclude Human Rights in China - presumptively under pressure from the Chinese Government.
The official reason given for the WSIS Executive Secretariat decision on RSF is its one-year suspension from ECOSOC (resulting from incidents at a March 2003 meeting of the Commission on Human Rights) - that suspension, says the Secretariat, bars RSF from all UN gatherings including WSIS.
Countering this, the WSIS Civil Society Media and Human Rights Joint Caucus has expressed "consternation and astonishment" at a "procedurally" based decision, violating the fundamental spirit and principles of WSIS. The Caucus requested that the decision be rescinded.
Andrew Taussig @ 08:31 PM
November 15, 2003Murdoch flexes his muscles. Rupert Murdoch came back to town - London town that is. The media magnate whose empire embraces the US, the UK and his native Australia arrived for the coronation of son James as CEO of satellite broadcaster BSkyB - one of two big beasts (along with the BBC, of course) on the British media landscape. A rumoured shareholder rebellion against the Rupert-James combination failed to materialize.
In separate interviews Rupert told BBC Economics Editor Jeff Randall (November 14) that, if James didn't measure up he would "of course" have to go. And James told Money Telegraph's Robert Peston in "Facing Down Dad" that he worked for the Board and not his father.
Now the pair (and the BSky Board) can contemplate a possible takeover of Channel 5 following the UK's recent relaxation of cross-media ownership rules: The bigger prize of the now combined (Carlton-Granada) ITV Plc, open to operators not already active in UK broadcasting, is still denied him.
In the Randall interview Mr Murdoch also flexed his newspaper proprietor's political muscles. Welcoming new Tory leader Michael Howard in term's of the offical Opposition party's credibility, Murdoch hinted that his best-selling Sun daily tabloid- a key element in the PR strategy associated with Tony Blair's 1997 and 2001 New Labour election landslides - could not be counted on for support next time. Murdoch also owns the Times and Sunday Times, two of the most influential broadsheets.
Whilst acknowledging the British PM's "courage in the international sphere"(a reference to the Bush-Blair alliance over Iraq), he implied that the Tories might have more attractive policies to resist intrusion on British sovereignty by the new EU constitution.
Teasingly he said he had good relations with both Tony Blair and Michael Howard, adding "the jury is out".
Andrew Taussig @ 11:38 PMMedia Moguls and Putin Power. At WSIS, a key media issue will be how commercial motivation and state power impact on press freedom.
Russia is a prime case study. Less than a decade ago,in the Yeltsin era, journalists complained about media tycoons being protected by government. Now, under Putin, as the state is accused of veering towards Soviet-style interventions, it's a different story. Journalists and commercial media bosses fighting on the same side.
But it's not a satisfactory situation, says Andrei Vasilyev, Editor of Commerziant one of three dailies owned by tycoon-in-exile, London-based Boris Berezovsky. "A newspaper with claims to objectivity and independence cannot allow its editorial policy to be affected by its owner's relations with the Kremlin".
Putin, though, can point to research showing that 55% of Russians favour the State President strengthening his control over the media. 15 all.
Andrew Taussig @ 12:58 PM
November 14, 2003In the news, Steven Lang reports that arguments over the role of the media are stopping consensus being reached on a draft declaration to be considered by heads of government in Geneva.
"China argues that since the WSIS meeting is about the Information Society, it is purely a technical meeting," he wrotes, "and as such, the media certainly has no special role to play."
Chinese delegates are blocking proceedings every time press freedom is raising, supported by Venezuela, Mexico and Egypt. They are "effectively wearing down other delegates who believe that media has a key responsibility in the Information Society. An observer at the proceedings noted that even the United States, one of the more vocal supporters of press freedom, appears to have lost its passion for including media as a stakeholder."
David Steven @ 08:46 AM
November 12, 2003In the news, the International Federation of Journalists is furious that freelance journalists will only get press accreditation if they have a confirmed assignment from a media outlet.
"This process is another form of censorship," according to their General Secretary. "Freelancers who show a regular press card should undeniably be allowed in the Summit discussions. Public information and adequate coverage of the Summit are essential, particularly at a time where summit negotiations have been suffering from a lack of transparency".
David Steven @ 03:34 PM
October 25, 2003Tunisia gets it in the neck, from French NGO, Reporters without Borders.
They're campaigning hard on behalf of cyber-dissident, Zouhair Yahyaoui, who ran an online magazine under the pseudonym Ettounsi.
Ettuunisi was recently sentenced to two years in prison for "spreading false news", after being hung by his arms through three gruelling torture sessions.
How can Tunisia pose as a friend of freedom, but jail Internet dissidents? the NGO asks.
David Steven @ 11:01 AM | TrackBackWhy the summit matters to Latin American journalists:
"Why all this fuss about yet another United Nations chat fest? Because Latin American journalists have learned through long and bitter experience that the obtuse blather issued at these international jaw-jaws is often used by their governments back home to justify censoring and closing newspapers and fining or imprisoning journalists."
David Steven @ 10:51 AM | TrackBackIs coverage is the way forward? Technology analyst Bill Thompson says few journalists have reported on the pending summit because it "is simply that it is not going to have any impact". I'm not so sure - won't highlighting and reporting the event successfully help to pressure the representatives in Geneva into a reaching a progressive and useful agreement?
Erin Dean @ 10:39 AM | TrackBack