Thursday, February 23, 2012

For the Fallen

For Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik
Today's page is dedicated to the two journalists killed in Syria yesterday - Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik and all the others who have fallen in the line of duty while "trying to shine a light into the darkest corners of their societies." 

According to Reporters without Borders there have been five such deaths this year. A further 153 reporters have been imprisoned as have 120 internet activists. A report by the Brussels - based International News Safety Institute, quoted in Newswatch.in  says that the situation has steadily worsened since 2000, with over 1000 journalists being killed in the last decade. While there is no consistent information gathering and recording, the hall of shame currently looks like this:

"Iraq (138), Russia (88), Colombia (72), Philippines (55), Iran (54), India (45), Algeria (32), the former republic of Yugoslavia (32), Mexico (31), Pakistan (29), Brazil (27), USA (21), Bangladesh (19), Ukraine (17), Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone & Sri Lanka (16), Afghanistan, Indonesia & Thailand (13)."


As Tom Curley, President and CEO of the Associated Press (AP) pointed out:

“It confirms how insignificant the efforts have been to achieve justice for journalists who are harmed or persecuted as they work to keep the world informed. We are at a perilous point in journalism: fair and accurate coverage is more necessary than ever but the risks to those who pursue it are greater than ever, too.
 
It should be noted that only four of these deaths occurred in war zones. As well as outright murder and imprisonment, there have also been other forms of harrassment and persecution such as beatings, burnings and bombings of newspaper offices, kidnappings, exile or punitive damages claims. Nor are they confined to unstable countries in the midst of civil unrest.

For the most part though, even in Western democracies threats may be more subtle, but they exist nonetheless - from making internet service providers liable for content displayed on their sites, denial of service, forced disclosure and identification of users and sources, to monitoring of phone calls without due process. For specific issues which affect individual countries, please click on the  Reporters without Borders Site.
Also insidious, especially in smaller countries, is the high concentration of media ownership and their dependence on advertising dollars for their survival, giving  undue influence to those with the most money. Most insidious of all, is self censorship. You don't notice what is not there.

Journalists are our eyes and ears. Give them the support and protection they need by signing petitions, writing to your MP or starting your own. Protection for Whistleblowers is also urgently needed along with an international body with the authority to investigate such killings and bring the perpetrators to justice, so that "Killing the Messenger" no longer becomes the easy way to deal with dissent. Australians should also honour and never forget the Balibo Five who were murdered while alerting the world to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1999. They also serve who wield a pen, a camera or an ipod! 
Above all, we must all remain vigilant.


Petitions and sites related to Press and Internet Freedom follow:

Petition to protect Russian Journalists
Petition to protect Gambian Journalists 
Petition Site for Sri Lankan Journalists
 Please let's start one for Iraq!

http://www.care2.com/causes/iraq-war-deadliest-war-for-journalists-since-wwii.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/07/iraqs-heavy-journalist-de_n_708299.html

U.S. Petition for Protection of Whistleblowers in Private Comapnies

U.S. Petiton to protect Whistleblowers in Government

Australia really needs these as well. Limited protection is available for persons reporting to ASIC, The Securities and Investment Commission.
We also need the kind of protection for journalist's sources, that Germany has.
What we really need is effective International protection via the U.N. for all journalists and the right to investigate crimes since many of the countries involved, probably have good reason not to want to investigate too thoroughly.

Internet related sites:

Petition Cisco Systems not to help China in suppressing dissent
Stop the Internet Blacklist Bill
Protect Freedom of Speech on the Internet
Australia: Don't let TPP become the new ACTA
Electronic Frontiers Foundation
The Global Internet Freedom Consortium
The Care2 website  lists a number of others.





















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