DUBAI – The United Arab Emirates recently hosted the first Young Arab Media Leaders Program, held over two weeks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. One hundred participants from 19 different countries took part, while the Arab world remains one of the lowest rated regions for press freedom.
Many international and regional media foundations were part of the program, including Reuters, MBC Group, Al Arabiya, CNN Arabic, New York University Abu Dhabi, the American University in Dubai, Sky News Arabia, Dar Al Hayat, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, AD Media, Dubai Media, Bloomberg, and UTURN Entertainment.
Participants attended 47 workshops, 60 sessions and 10 site visits to the biggest media agencies in the Middle East. They also got met with officials, including UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed, who started the initiative. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, hosted the participants in his palace in Al Ain city near Abu Dhabi.
While the program was the first of its kind in the Arab world and shows the governments’ increasing interest in the media, the region is still one of the lowest-ranking for press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders.
In its 2017 press freedom index, RSF said ten Arab countries were considered to be in a serious situation, eight in a difficult one, and four have noticeable problems.
The Globe Post attended the Dubai media program and interviewed several participants to see how they viewed press freedom in their home countries.
RSF ranked Algeria 134 out of 180 in the index with a score of 42.83, a ‘dramatic deterioration’ from the previous year. Algerian journalist Mokhtarria Bousaif, 24, told The Globe Post that the media in her home country was “working well, because there is a lot of freedom. Anyone who wants to write or say anything is free to do so.” Ms. Bousaif said there were still some press limits in the Arab world, restrictions which she believes are sometimes necessary.
Egypt ranked 161 worldwide with 55.78 points, making it one of the worst-ranked countries on the index.
Sara Seif, 21, from Egypt said the media in the Arab world is always agenda-driven because there is a noticeable contradiction between different media agencies, usually for political reasons. She told The Globe Post that everyone involved wants to direct the public’s opinion, which she thinks is not at all ethical.
Ms. Seif said the role of the media is “to show the information for people,” adding that she believes there are problems within the industry, such as “stereotypes and labeling.”
The Dubai program made a buzz on social media and trended on Twitter in the Arab countries for several days. On November 27, after Mohammed Bin Zayed invited the participants to his palace, he shared two photos on his official Twitter account, saying, “I was happy today to meet more than 100 journalists in the Young Arab Media Leaders Program.”
He added that he is waiting for the journalists to make a positive impact on “our Arab societies.”
Eleven Saudi participants joined the program. Saudi Arabia ranked 168 out of 180 in the RSF index, with a score of 66.02 points. RSF said: “Saudi Arabia has no independent media, the authorities tolerate neither political parties, unions, nor human rights groups, and the level of self-censorship is extremely high.”
Saudi journalist Fatima Al Amer, 24, said press freedom in the Arab world is “negotiable.”
Even though there are some difficulties, “nothing is completely bad or good”. She noted that political situations often do not allow “non-official” parties to express an opposing opinion,” she told The Globe Post.
Ms. Al Amer said she believed every media agency should have an agenda, because it respects the audience’s minds and gives them access to different voices.
The only Mauritanian participant in the program, 30-year-old Mouhamdy Dahah, said is not satisfied with the press in the Arab world.
“Media in the Arab world is still in the beginning,” he told The Globe Post, adding that Mauritania faces many obstacles because it is a developing country, but has witnessed huge changes in the past few years.
Mauritania ranked 55th worldwide – the highest-ranking Arab country – with 26.49 points. Mr. Dahah said “media is free in Mauritania compared to Arab world.”
The host nation UAE ranked 119 worldwide with a score of 39.39. Khalifa Habtour, a 22-year-old Emirati journalist, told The Globe Post that he judges the media is not putting out the right image, based on what he has heard from other people.
Mr. Habtour added, “I like to believe that with time we are getting better.”
Social media has made everyone more free, Mr. Habtour said. “We have always been free, but the limitations are from people themselves. They stop themselves from stating their opinion out of fear, because they are afraid of the consequences they could face.”
He added that he doesn’t think there are consequences for speech in the UAE. Everyone can speak if their opinion is respectable, he said.
Aseel Al Fasatla, 23, one of the Jordanian participants, said “the press in Jordan is developing in a good way.” RSF ranked Jordan 138 in the 2017 press freedom index.
Dubai has always been a regional media hub, home to hundreds of regional and international media agencies. The Arab world’s new media leaders acknowledged obstacles to press freedom within their home countries, but said they believed the program would help them develop their skills and abilities to use new tools to deliver their ideas and opinions, as well as multiple Arab-language content in different mediums.
Ms. Seif said Young Arab Media Leaders was an important initiative because “one hundred leaders from 19 different countries can make a difference.”
The Globe Post
The pro-Kurdish dihaber news agency, which was shut down by the most recent government decree published early Friday morning, announced that it will continue practicing journalism and bring the facts to light despite the government crackdown.
In a statement from its website on Friday, dihaber said it was the target of the Turkish government as it was the only reliable source from the southeastern part of Turkey, where the Kurdish population has been persecuted by the government.
Established on Nov. 14, 2016, the news agency was shut down by government decree number 693, which was issued on Friday.
According to the statement, exclusive reports by dihaber, especially those revealing the Turkish government’s persecution of Kurds, annoyed those in power and paved way for its closure.
On March 21 dihaber reported that a Diyarbakır man named Kemal Kurkut, who was on the street during a Nevruz celebration that turned into a protest, was shot to death by a police officer. Two police officers were suspended as part of an investigation into Kurkut’s death after dihaber released photos taken at the time of the shooting.
Most recently, dihaber released a video showing a police officer stealing money and jewelry during a raid on the house of a Kurdish suspect in Manisa.
A number of dihaber reporters have been either detained or arrested as part of a government crackdown on critical media in Turkey.
In concluding its statement, dihaber said it was closed because it has done its duty to shed light on the truth despite government decrees.
“The journalists of dihaber, who abide by the principles of journalism, will continue insist on bringing the truth to light,” it said.
Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) President Tevfik Kızgınkaya said on Saturday that more than 900 press cards were cancelled and 151 are now in jail as part of a media crackdown following a failed coup in July 2016.
Speaking with dokuz8 website on Saturday, Kızgınkaya said “the media crackdown in Turkey is just reminiscent to stock market that we have to calculate [number] of jailed journalists.”
Underlining that there is a continuous crackdown on media freedom in Turkey by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Kızgınkaya added “we wake up to new arrest of journalists every morning.”
Kızgınkaya said more than 900 press cards of journalists in Turkey were cancelled and presently there are 151 journalists in prisons.
Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of its media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a July 2016 coup attempt.
According to Turkey Purge website, based on information compiled from PEN International, Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), 274 journalists were jailed in Turkey following the failed coup last year. While some 160 of them are still kept under arrest, remaining released pending trial or cleared of charges.
However, the most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 275 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of August 5, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 251 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 109 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)
An indictment seeking up to 15 years in prison for German-Turkish journalist Meşale Tolu on charges of disseminating the propaganda of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been accepted by the İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court, the Etkin news agency (ETHA) reported on Friday.
ETHA reporter and translator Tolu, who has been in pretrial detention since April 30, was accused of PKK membership and propaganda.
The statements by a secret witness said Tolu was part of an organization working on behalf of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) and that she attended protests staged by the Socialist Women Councils (SKM).
Tolu is accused of attending a march in Kadıköy in 2014 organized to commemorate Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı, who lost his life fighting against the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Kurdish town of Kobani, paying condolences to MLKP member Ivana Hoffman who died in Syria, attending a protest against corruption organized by the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) in 2014 in Kadıköy and attending the funerals of MLKP members Yeliz Erbay and Şirin Öter.
The indictment claimed two legal Marxist Theory journals were found in Tolu’s house.
The first trial is set to begin on Oct. 11 or 12.
Ankara’s relations with Berlin have been strained since Turkey’s crackdown on opposition groups, including journalists and human rights defenders, after a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has fined the Kanal D television channel for airing a Turkish animation movie “Şerafettin the Bad Cat,” which has a smoker and alcohol addict cat character, the t24 news website reported on Friday.
The animation, based on the popular Turkish comic strip of the same name, was aired by Kanal D, which warned viewers of sexual and negative behavior content and put a viewing age limit for children under 13.
RTÜK experts fined the channel on grounds of airing the motion picture 21:40 and claimed that swear words were still heard despite the censoring beep sounds, the alcoholic drink was not covered up and the cat was trying to mate.
RTÜK said the warning signs used before the broadcast were useless and the movie would attract the attention of children since it was animated.
This statement was originally published on ipi.media on 21 July 2017.
The International Press Institute (IPI) today expressed concern over the imposition of emergency powers in Zambia and recent comments made by the inspector-general of police that some publications could be closed while the 90-day state of emergency was in place.
On July 5, 2017 Zambian President Edgar Lungu initiated a “state of threatened public emergency” and indicated that he might declare a full state of emergency if the “existing situation” in the country is “allowed to continue”, a procedure set out in the country’s Constitution.
The move came amid a string of apparent arson attacks, including one that burnt down the capital Lusaka’s main market. Lungu alleged that supporters of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) were behind the attacks, which he said were intended to “make the country ungovernable.”
Zambia’s National Assembly approved the emergency powers invoked by Lungu on July 11 and extended the state of threatened emergency for a period of 90 days. The vote was held without the participation of 48 UPND members of parliament, who were suspended for 30 days without pay by the speaker of the National Assembly after they boycotted an address by Lungu to the house.
Invocation of Art. 31 of Zambia’s Constitution allows the president to invoke the Preservation of Public Security Act, which enables the president to prohibit public gatherings, impose curfews and restrict the media, among other actions. It also gives the police increased powers of arrest and detention.
Speaking to journalists at Zambia police headquarters in Lusaka on Saturday, police Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja suggested that some “publications” could be shut down while the emergency powers were in place.
“During this period, police will regulate and prohibit publication and dissemination of matters [that are] pre-judicial to public safety,” he said.
Kanganja noted that the regulations in the Preservation of Public Security Act could be revised at any time.
“As we speak, there will be additions to what I have commented on,” he said. “You will find [that] we’ll limit some of these publications, social media and the rest where people are abusing, we might end up limiting on those publications.”
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis expressed concern that the imposition of emergency powers was politically motivated.
“Given developments in Zambia in the last year, the partial state of emergency would seem to be part of a broader effort that we have observed to silence critical voices, including the country’s remaining independent media outlets, and to step up the crackdown on the main opposition party, while at the same time fending off challenges from within his own party,” he commented.
“We fear that emergency rule could facilitate human rights violations and we call on Zambia’s government to respect the vital role of media freedom in a democracy and to refrain from exerting political pressure on the country’s media outlets.”
Zambia was until recently regarded a model for stability, democracy and human rights in Africa, but events leading up to and since disputed August 2016 general elections that saw President Lungu narrowly re-elected to a second term have raised serious concerns about the state of democracy and media freedom in Zambia.
UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who narrowly lost the 2016 presidential election to Lungu, is currently behind bars, arrested on trumped up treason charges after his motorcade allegedly blocked Lungu’s presidential motorcade in April.
Zambia’s independent media has largely been suppressed, with the most egregious case being the closure of tabloid newspaper The Post in late 2016. Prior to the 2016 elections, Zambia’s revenue authorities seized the offices and printing presses of the what was then the country’s leading independent newspaper over allegedly unpaid taxes.
Forced to produce the newspaper from a clandestine location for another five months, The Post was shut down for good in November after the government used complaints by four former staffers over unpaid wages to place the paper in liquidation proceedings.
In February, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Post owner and Editor-in-Chief Fred M’membe, who is accused of concealing Post assets and preventing a handover of the company’s books to the liquidator.
The independent newspaper The Mast, founded by M’membe and his wife Mutinta Mazoka-M’membe in the wake of The Post’s closure, has also been a target of pressure. The government has tried to prevent the printing of The Mast on numerous occasions, and the liquidator is now seeking its dissolution, alleging that the paper’s leaders converted Post assets.
Last August, the government also suspended the operating licences of the country’s largest privately-owned television channel, Muvi TV, and two private radio stations on “national security” grounds, although the suspensions were lifted after the broadcasters apologised. The government later acknowledged that the broadcasters were targeted because of their perceived bias against Lungu’s PF party before and after the general elections.