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Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

The world was awakened with the good news of the release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston this morning. “Alan Johnston freed” reads the latest entry in the BBC Blog Network, The Editors.

Captured on 12 March in Gaza by the Army of Islam group, Mr. Alan Johnston, 45, was released early this morning. He was handed over to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza City. He is now in the British Consulate in Jerusalem waiting to fly back to UK.

“I literally dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room,” Mr. Johnston said shortly after his release.

The reporter describes his captivity as a frightening experience as he was uncertain how it’d end. He said he had fallen ill from the food but was not tortured during the captivity period. It was hard for him to believe he’d be freed as he said he was “in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable”.

Thanking his colleagues and all who supported him throughout his captivity, he cheered at the overwhelming international campaign for his release. “The thing you don’t want is to be left behind, buried alive, and have the world go on around you,” he said.

Several hundreds of thousands of people around the world had petitioned and rallied for his release.

“It’s been 114 days of a living nightmare,” said his overjoyed father Graham soon after his son’s release.

Answering to questions in the UK Parliament new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “The whole country will welcome the news that Alan Johnston, a fearless journalist whose voice was silenced for too long, is now free.”

Hats off Mr. Johnston for your perseverance and bravery during 16 weeks’ tough times. As we say in French: “Tout est bien qui finit bien”. (All is good that ends well).

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When the media hurts

Some time back I wrote about the ill-treatment journalists are subjected to worldwide in the performance of their duties. I was particularly concerned about attacks, verbal or otherwise, from so-called respected and respectable people. In my Reporters and Journalists, beware I mentioned the case of a journalist treated as “stinky Gypsy” by a head of State.

Today I have to concede that my own country is no exception. The Editor-in-chief of a private radio purports to have been victim of hostile attitude from a senior minister yesterday. He says having suffered verbal attacks as he was soliciting him, after an agreed schedule, for a live reaction to the comments made in a radio interview earlier by a former Finance Minister, now a member of the opposition. The Minister, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, was furious and used aggressive tone against the radio team which was already at his office for relaying. He refused to be interviewed and threw them away with the argument that they had no appointment, the Editor-in-chief said in the 8.00 am news today.

The ex-Finance minister, who was dissecting the measures contained in the budget presented on 15 June, severely criticized the actual minister to the extent of calling him a bluffer for having, according to him, manipulated the figures relating particularly to foreign direct investments. He was also very critical on what he referred to as “earlier harvest” for the minister’s assertions on the country’s rapid economic recovery. It seems these blunt criticisms have annoyed the minister.

The Editor-in-chief maintains having, as a responsible and respectable media person, made prior arrangements with the Minister for a live interview to be broadcast at 5.30 pm following the statements of the ex-minister. The radio has been mentioning about this event since more than two hours in its hourly news, at 3.00 pm and 4.00 pm, and also at 4.30 pm when the evening news of the day was being broadcast.

The Minister denies having agreed for an interview and believes there was a misunderstanding.

The Mauritian Association of Journalists has expressed its solidarity with the Editor-in-chief and urged for a better relation with the press from all quarters. The freedom of opinion is guaranteed by the constitution of the country.

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Media killings continue and know no barriers. Some time back I mentioned the case of media people being subject to violent treatment in Romania and Russia. There’s also the case of missing journalist in Gaza. Not later than yesterday I raised concern about killings in Afghanistan of female journalists fighting for women’s rights.

This time it’s in Iraq, where more than 180 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the beginning of the war in March 2003. In the only month of May 12 journalists have been killed there.

But what is more appalling is the case of another female journalist who was showered with bullets by gunmen in front of her house near Mosul on Thursday June 7. Mother of three girls, aged 45, Sahar al-Haidari has been working for an independent Iraqi news agency in Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad.

Although women journalists, reporters and presenters constitute a minority in such countries, they are on the increase. And it seems male dominated families exert extreme pressure on them with the result that intimidation and threats of violence are also growing.

The brutal treatment and killing of respected and brave journalists as those in the conflict zones are issues of concern not only to the media organizations and their members, but also, and mostly, to the families and close relatives of the victims.

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Women bashing?

Shocking. It’s the least that we can say of cold-blooded murders of women whose only sin was to dare their own way to raise their voice in an endeavour to bring news to the people at large and contribute to the recognition of women’s status.

On the very day I was writing about “women empowerment” in India, one female reporter and presenter for Shamshad TV, Ms Shokila Sanga Amaaj was murdered in Afghanistan. One of the arrested alleged killers had, in the past, repeatedly threatened her for her determination to become an educated and professional figure.

But that’s not all. Five days later, in the same country, on 6 June another female journalist, Zakia Zaki, head of a radio station “Sada-e-Sulh” (Peace Radio), was shot dead by three armed men who broke in her home. She was sleeping with her two-year-old son and a baby less than six months’ old.

Threats against women journalists have become a major concern for media people and the International Federation of Journalists. The case of another woman journalist, Ms Shaima Raazi who worked for an independent TV channel (again in Afghanistan) murdered two years ago has remained unresolved.

These are cases that have surfaced out in one country. How many of them have remained unidentified and untracked? Which brings me back to my previous posts on the issue of the dangerous nature of the work a journalist. The posts under reference are:
Journalism – a dangerous occupation
Hats off!
Reporters and Journalists, beware

How ironical: empowering women on one side, and I’m tempted to say, “women bashing” on the other.

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Women empowerment

Women around the world face numerous challenges in their daily life. Victims of discrimination, injustice, rape and poverty, many have, against all odds, to strive for their rights and survival. And if they live in countries where women are treated like second-class citizens, it’s even more difficult to rise up.

I just want to share something I’ve read from Newswatch India. It tells us about how one newspaper in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh dedicates itself to the cause of women’s plight. The paper is called ‘Mahila Paksh’ and is run “by women, for women and to women”. It’s quite a different kind of paper. It’s concerned more with membership than readership. It aims at “creating awareness in the women not about the social issues but awareness for the self”.

It’s interesting to note how it contributes to the empowerment of women who otherwise would have had to content themselves to the so-called fate of injustice and oppression.

Quite a challenging task indeed, especially when the reporters are unskilled and hardly educated. You can also read more about it here at “Writing for their Rights“.

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It’s become commonplace today to assault journalists in the performance of their duty. Unfortunately many pay their lives in bringing to us news fresh and live from the spot of the happening; right from the battle field. No less than 50 journalists have died since the beginning of this year. A record-breaking toll of 155 deaths was reported last year.

Attacks on journalists are taking a new shape. Hostility knows no limits; it is perpetuating from so-called respected and respectable people. Journalists continue to be the targeted, abused and offended not only by soldiers in the field, by criminals or gangsters, or by extremists; but also and even more by ruthless politicians, by arrogant members of government. These people don’t want their stories to be told or filmed as they are. The treatment is even more condemnable when it relates to a woman journalist; and when the “aggressor” is a head of State.

The latest case on record reveals one journalist Andrea Pana being treated as a “stinky Gypsy” by Romanian President Traian Basescu. The President snatched her mobile phone as she was trying to ask him while filming him about a ballot relating to his impeachment on Saturday last.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is outraged. It has condemned such behaviour which it considers intolerable. It is said that the President is used to attacking reporters and calling them by offensive names, using sexist and racist language as was the case with Andrea Pana. Considering this incident as not an isolated one, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said: “….His disgusting behaviour endangers the safety of anyone who is unlucky enough to get close to him…”

The hostile attitude of such caliber has raised my concern over “Journalism as a dangerous occupation”. Such threats are not new; not the first; not even the last, I’m tempted to believe. Reporters and journalists have always been and will ever be exposed… to the whims and caprices of those in power. The more so when the media dare to state the truths about their (wrong) doings; those truths that otherwise would have remained concealed to the extent of fooling the mob.

Journalists and reporters in conflict zones are considered as civilians as per a 1977 protocol of the Geneva Conventions that make it a war crime to target civilians. Unless there is a strong political will, even the best international law may be fraught with difficulties in rendering justice to media victims.

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Hats off!

Some time back I wrote about Journalism as a dangerous occupation I think it’d be proper to come back to it on this World Press Freedom Day celebrated since 1993.

The press is often viewed as the negative force against those in power. Maybe that’s why many of them suffer the fate of being kidnapped, ill-treated, tortured and even killed. The case of Alan Johnston, BBC correspondent in Gaza, who is missing since 12 March is a case among many of serious outrage to the media people.

But it cannot be denied; journalists and the media do play a major role in the consolidation of democracies and in the socio-economic development of nations around the world. Without them many stories (real-life) would have remained untold, for ever. I have in mind those who risk their lives bringing us the live events in times of war and conflict; Iraq, Palestine, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, are but a few of the lands where anybody would fear to tread, not journalists.

They indeed deserve our praise on this day. Hats off!

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