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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

Worldwide Focus Freedom of the Press

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ISSUE 1


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CONTENTS 04

MEET THE TEAM AFRICA

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Is There Freedom of Expression in Senegal?

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The Situation of the Press in Senegal

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Press Freedom and Its Role in the Modern Democracy

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LATIN AMERICA

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ASIA

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EASTERN EUROPE

Liberticidal Press in Venezuela

Real News or Reel News?

When We Are Free to Wear Handcuffs


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

OF THE WORLD

Directory

Editorial

Editor Mircea Samoila Sub-editors: Pooja B. (India) Alexandra Ichim (Romania) Amine Sall (Senegal) Cheikh Saad Bou Seye (Senegal) Gerhard Jacobs (South Africa) Contact: mirceasamoila@projects-abroad.org Page Layout: Fabiola Sanchez Project Advisor Elisa Glangeaud © Voices of the World, published by Projects Abroad, 2010 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of Projects Abroad. Views and opinions expressed in Voices of the World are not necessarily those of Projects Abroad. The publisher can accept no liability or loss in connection with the contents of the publication.

Our Partners

Welcome to the first Voices of the World Worldwide Focus. This online magazine was born from the ideals of international cooperation and ideas exchange between our different journalism clubs globally. Every new issue will feature a topic that is relevant to young people from all over the world and as such enjoys input from various economic and social backgrounds. In light of the increasing pressure on and scepticism of journalism globally it is only natural that the freedom of the press features as our very first focus. Despite the obvious truths of human rights and the means to access of information, a free and independent press plays a much bigger role than what many people think. Democracy, understanding and personal evolution suffers in a world without access to uncensored information. Creativity stagnates and transparent governance fades as people know less and less about the world around them. Our goal with Voices of the World is to educate and breed an exchange of ideas between people, so it is only natural that freedom of the press becomes our Segway for you to a better understanding of what makes young people around the world ‘tick’. Gerhard Jacobs Sub-editor


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Meet the team

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Natalia Gan Galavis in VENEZUELA

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Paula Osorio in VENEZUELA

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Mame Fatou Dieng in SENEGAL

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Khady Diop in SENEGAL


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

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Sea Point High Journalism Club in SOUTH AFRICA

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Diana-Maria Patru in Romania

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Gayathri R.Warrier in INDIA


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AFRICA

Text by Khady Diop › in SENEGAL

Is There Freedom of Expression in Senegal?


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

This is a much debated issue in my country. At first sight, it can be argued that there exists, after all, freedom of expression in Senegal. In fact, many Senegalese and foreign journalists spend all the time saying about whatever they want. People do not notice any visible pressure on the journalists.

The constitution grants some rights to journalists but those rights are not quite effective if they are taken to justice for defamation.

However, if you compare the behavior of the journalists and the way they break news throughout the different radio stations and TV channels, then you can see that some journalists are not free. For example, journalists working at the “Radio Television du Senegal” always avoid breaking news that harms the government for fear of losing their jobs or having problems with some government officials. Even in the private sector, some journalists tend to attack the government, but they never say anything bad about their bosses. This is the case for Youssou Ndour’s radio and TV group -“Radio Futurs Media”. For example, no RFM journalist has criticized Youssou Ndour’s candidacy in the coming elections despite his lack of education. However, it cannot be denied that certain journalists are trying to do their work well. They are trying to reveal or unveil the government bad acts in spite of the great risks they and their families may face. The constitution grants some rights to journalists but those rights are not quite effective if they are taken to justice for defamation. For example, the Senegalese journalist Abdou Latif Coulibaly was threaten to death and his media group – Sud Communication- was closed when he published a book showing that members of the government are involved in the murder of Maitre Babacar Seye, a judge who was murdered after the presidential elections in 1993. All in all, we cannot say that there really is a free press or freedom of expression in Senegal.


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Africa Text by Mame Fatou Dieng › in SENEGAL

The situation of the Press in Senegal Freedom of the press refers to the possibility for journalists to communicate information and express their thoughts without feeling any pressure from an external power. This implies the absence of interference from political authorities with the work of the journalists.

frontiers.”Besides, the Constitution of Senegal, through its articles 7, 8, 9 and 10, gives journalists freedom of expression and the possibility to keep their sources of information; but it does not preserve them from persecution, especially when the journalists deal with corruption of political leaders and mismanagement of public funds.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference, and impact information and ideas through any media regardless of

The press plays an important role in people’s life in Senegal. It informs us about what is happening in the country and around the world. For example, journalists in my hometown, Saint Louis,


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

often report histories of child beggars who have been abused or exploited. However it is a real risk to be a journalist in Senegal. If a journalist talks about the private life of important people, they can be attacked physically or be taken to justice. For example the journalist El Malick Seck, chief editor of the Dakar-based newspaper 24H CHRONO was arrested in august 2010 after he had published an article accusing the first Lady Viviane Wade and her son Karim Wade of money laundering . Mr. Seck was charged with disrupting public order disseminating false

In these conditions, journalists cannot do their work properly because there is a lot of pressure.

news and insulting the head of the state President Abdoulaye WADE. President Abdoulaye Wade promised to depenalize press offences but the measure is not

effective yet. In these conditions, journalists cannot do their work properly because there is a lot of pressure.


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Africa Text by Sea Point High Journalism Club › in SOUTH AFRICA By Jaconde Nsumbu, Galante Numbu and Nwabisa Kwinana With help from: Dorcas Matendo, Erica Segunda, Emmanuelle Anguissa, Xabiso Nobathana, Olwethu Mtati Photo: Jun Nakagawa

Press Freedom and Its Role in the Modern Democracy Democracy is ‘a form of government in which the supreme power is put in the hands of the people and exercised directly by them or their elected officials under a free electoral system’.

Citizens have the right to vote for people whom they believe are exemplary leaders and are deserving of their trust. In order to do this, however, the people casting the votes have to be well enough informed on what is going on in the world of politics and what economic repercussions go hand in hand with the decisions of certain leaders. The people have to know the person they are voting for, the good as well as the bad, so as to make an informed decision.

“Press freedom is perhaps the most important and visible component of the freedom of speech, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by most democratic countries’ constitutions. Media are the guarantor of the freedoms of opinion and expression, as they sometimes are the last defence against dictatorship and authoritarianism. When this press freedom is not warranted, people are indoctrinated by the official press and cannot have access to


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

Media are the guarantor of the freedoms of opinion and expression, as they sometimes are the last defence against dictatorship and authoritarianism. other ideas, initiatives or ways of thinking,� said Vincent Zobler, a journalism volunteer from Projects Abroad South Africa. One of the major roles of a free press is to ensure that the above mentioned is brought to the people in a fair, uncensored and unbiased manner; so they may make their own decisions based on the facts.

To know only the positives about our government and our leaders is not encouraging people to judge who they voted for. A nation cannot develop if the people are blinded by a chained press.

A Country on the Brink In 2010 the South African government formally announced the drafting of the Protection of

State Information Act, commonly referred to as the Secrecy bill. This piece of legislation is aimed at classifying certain information pertaining to the government as secret and any journalist of whistleblower found to give out or publish this information can face up to 20 years in prison. This bill is a very close replicate of similar laws in operation during the Apartheid era in South Africa, a time where the media was nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece for the nationalist government. The media community as well as several national and international civil society organisations expressed their concern for and condemnation of the bill and mass protests broke out all across the country. Despite on-going efforts


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Africa

The Secrecy Bill, if written into law, will have a devastating effect on the progress we as a nation have made since the onset of Democracy in 1994. Imagine a life where you did not know what was going on around you.

of opposition and more than two years of peaceful protest the government finally pushed the bill through parliament and it is now in its final stages, before President Jacob Zuma writes it into law.

How Will the Bill Affect the Lives of the Honest as Opposed to the Corrupt? The Secrecy Bill, if written into law, will have a devastating effect on the progress we as a nation have made since the onset of Democracy in 1994. Imagine a life where you did not know what was going on around you. Future generations will be clueless as to what they should be looking for in terms of political progress, they will not know what their government I up to most of the time. Many of our citizens will vote for parties and politicians they know very little about and this could ultimately lead to even more corruption and cover-ups than we already have. 2011 was the year when our leaders were making headlines with one scandal after another, at one point it became blasé to read about another corrupt official, another political leader stealing money or yet another case of misappropriated funds. Ms Frazer, a teacher at Sea Point High School in Cape Town was quoted as saying: “Our current government has realised that its policy of democratic freedom of

speech has exposed them of their wrong-doings; and the secrecy bill will keep their illegal practises just that – a secret.” What will happen to South Africa? Where are we heading? Many people believe that the government is pushing this bill in direct response to the series of embarrassing wrongdoings uncovered in the last couple of years. “What they are doing is wrong. Our heroes have fought and struggled against previous versions of this bill and now they want to bring it back. Such disrespect, a spit in the face,” says Mrs Nonwabo from Cape Town.

Safeguarding the Future Regardless of the government’s best efforts there


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remain pockets of resistance throughout the country. Opposition parties, trade unions religious groups and of course the people, have all spoken. This fight will be taken to the Constitutional court if necessary. No country can grow in culture, diversity, transparency and peace when it is marred by secrets and coverups. Democracy flourishes in the freest of press environments and when the people are educated and informed about what is going on around them. A free press is often the trophy of struggling against oppression. This is the case also with South Africa. Joe Slovo, Chris Hani, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and Nelson Mandela – to name but a few – fought for a free country, a free press and the democratic rights of all South Africans. We must not

reverse what so many people suffered for; honour the legacy of these giants by protecting our democratic right to a free press. “It is only such a free press that can temper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizen. It is only such a free press that can be the vigilant watchdog of the public interest against the temptation on the part of those who wield it to abuse that power. It is only such a free press that can have the capacity to relentlessly expose excesses and corruption on the part of government, state officials and other institutions that hold power in society.” Nelson Mandela, first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa.


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LATIN AMERICA

Text by Natalia Gan Galavis › in VENEZUELA & Paula Osorio › in VENEZUELA

Liberticidal Press in Venezuela

“As long as expressions don’t incite hatred or crime- even though these could be offensive or sensationalist-, they are protected by the principle of freedom of expression.” These are words of Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch, an organization that has called attention in regards to the situation of freedom of the press in Venezuela given several worrying events since the beginning of Chavez’s government in 1999. 1

Chavez and his declared “media war” Powers that are doubtfully independent from the Executive in Venezuela, have been used to pressure opposition media channels. Both judges and members of parliament have either generated convictions or initiating trials against key personalities, or created laws that benefit the central power. The closure of Radio Caracas Televisión “RCTV” is a clear example of the “media war” happening in the country. This channel- one of the few critics to Chavez’s administration- was put off the air in 2007 after 53 years of transmission2. The reasons given by the officials were mainly the refusal to renew the channel’s broadcasting license. TVES, a government owned channel, was put instead on the air frequency with RCTV’s broadcast equipment. This costly equipment was seized, without financial compensation in exchange to “RCTV” in order to take away a critic media against the government and put it to the service of a new one, pro Chavez ideology. Consequently, other TV stations like “Venevision” and “Televen” decided to auto censor their criticism against the government3, after “RCTV’s” example was made clear. When it was time for both channels to renew their broadcast licenses in 2008 and 2009, they were not denied nor legal


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

usually come without notice and all TV channels and radio stations are obligated to stop their programming and assume the costs of these transmissions. Also the origin of the funds are unknown casting into doubt levels of transparency in the country5.

Venezuelans have been living in a convoluted environment signaled by stark polarization. This “media war” in which government and opposition have continuously confronted each other has created considerable cleavage among Venezuelans.

actions were initiated against them.

to exile- including the owner of

Meanwhile, other medias still critic

“Globovision”, Guillermo Zuloaga.

to Chavez’s administration, such

However, not only has Chavez

as the TV station “Globovision” or

regulated expression of the

the daily newspaper “El Nacional”,

press continuously, but he is also

are facing legal and financial

constantly present through his

prosecutions for publishing

weekly show “Aló Presidente”,

news and images that reflected

which can last several hours.

governments’ insufficient action

According to Teodoro Petkoff, a

towards prisons management and

prominent economist and politician

homicidal violence, respectively.

in Venezuela, president Chavez has done 2125 national broadcasts

There is also another important effect to take into consideration: Venezuelans have been living in a convoluted environment signaled by stark polarization. This “media war” in which government and opposition have continuously confronted each other has created considerable cleavage among Venezuelans. This Revolution’s nature is confrontational excluding contrary opinions that interrupt the “process”6 . The President has named opposition sectors “nauseous oligarchy”, the “emaciated”, among other epithets. Can tolerance be expected towards media that does not portray the government’s view? Even though opposition media is still relatively rampant, does that mean that the conditions for freedom of expression have been constructed by the government or has this sector battled through it instead?

1. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2011: Venezuela, http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2011/venezuela 2. The RCTV episode bolstered the “Students’ Movement”, a spontaneous protest group conformed by young people from a variety of universities who demonstrated their disapproval against a governmental decision believed to be unjust and unilateral. 3. For more detailed information about Freedom of the Press in Venezuela: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4cab06171e.html

Additionally, opponents from the

that have occupied almost 1500

media have been persecuted:

hours from 1999 until 2010- without

physical attacks, orders of

counting the transmissions of his

detention and imprisonments of

Sunday program4. These national

5. Venezuela on place 164 out of 178 according to the Transparency International’s corruption index.

journalists, leading several of these

broadcasts, known as “cadenas”,

6. Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, Revolución o Democracia

4. Notiactual, Petkoff: Chávez ha realizado 2 mil 125 cadenas presidenciales en 11 años


16 Text by Gayathri R.Warrier › in INDIA

ASIA

Real News or Reel News? ‘Freedom of the press’! When one hears these words, one thinks about the various media through which the news from all over the world is being conveyed to us. The press media includes newspapers, the television, the radio as well as the internet. We get almost all information about the happenings in the world through these various media. So, it is safe to say that people depend upon media for information relating to happenings from all over the world. This being the case, the media has to take great care

may not be accurate. They are aware of the various

in collecting, verifying, and publishing any information.

ways in which the news maybe twisted.

Earlier, while reading an article or watching a news

Nowadays, the practice of paid news is becoming very

telecast, people believed whatever was being said. Is

common. We hear of a lot of cases where people have

it the case now? Now, that’s a million dollar question!

been told not to reveal the truth. In some cases, if

The public have also become very knowledgeable. They

the newspapers refuse to oblige them, they may even

have started questioning. They want to know the truth

resort to violence. So, most of the newspapers are

behind whatever is being conveyed to them. The reason

forced to oblige them, fearing their lives. This situation

for this change is that they are now aware of the fact

has to change. We must all unite together and strive to

that sometimes, the information given in the media

eliminate this burning issue from our society.


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I really wanted to know the opinions of the general public and hence, spoke to a varied group. The common thing that they all had to say was that the press is not given the freedom that it actually requires. As Mr. Sadagopan, (56), aptly said, “The freedom of the press is something that has to be ensured, so as to be sure that the news that people read or listen to is accurate and has not been fabricated.” “The government has to take measures to ensure the freedom of the press, bringing out laws, which ensure the same,” points out Ms. Reena, (19). The opinion of Ms. Smitha is that just bringing out laws will not suffice. There has to be strict enforcement of the laws, with severe punishments given to the offenders. “The members of the press are often threatened to publish or withdraw certain information,” says Dr. Raghav, (79). “The government has to protect the press media from such activities. Only then will our country grow.” A few others say that even if the press is given freedom, there may be misuse of this. “The press themselves have to be careful while reporting the news. They should report the facts as they are, without dramatizing them,” is the thought of Mr. Ramesh, (45). “The members of the press have to be strictly warned against reporting false information or reporting events without proper verification of the facts. The offenders should be

given severe punishment,” said Dr. Rajeev. “The reporting done by the press should be in an unbiased manner, without taking sides on any issues. The work of the press is to just report the facts as they are and not interpret them or give any opinions or suggestions regarding the same,” said Ms. Lakshmi. There are some other cases where the press themselves give out wrong information either intentionally or unintentionally.

the news itself, appeared in the 10th page and had no importance whatsoever. The result was that the reputation and honour of the judge were put in jeopardy. Such gross misinformation must not be reported. The press has to take great care while reporting incidents such as these. While the press has been given freedom, it is also given a responsibility. It has to see to it that the information it prints out is correct and is of importance to the people. The press may exercise its freedom, provided it fulfils its

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” They don’t verify their facts. For example, there was a case, in which the judge of the High Court was accused of buying land from someone, at a lower rate. This case had appeared in the front page of various newspapers, along with the photo of the judge. Verifications later showed that the judge had, in fact, bought the land in the open market, and at its correct price. The newspapers were asked to apologize and they did so. But the apology, which is as important as

responsibilities. It is necessary for all of us to keep in mind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states thus:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”


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EASTERN EUROPE

Text by Diana-Maria Patru › in Romania

When We Are Free to Wear Handcuffs When you think about press, is “scandal” the first word that crosses your mind? VIPs? Politics? Excuse me…cheap politics? Or maybe culture? Uhm…but I doubt about the last one… Of course, it depends on what kind of reader you are and which are your interests, but the big picture is all about cheap information which nobody needs to know for their knowledge, but for their curiosity and amusement. The sad part is that there are so many publications that promote scandals and gossips that you are sometimes tempted to generalize the idea that this is the purpose of the Press. In theory, it is not like that: the Press has the role to inform citizens about the political, economical, cultural facts from all over the

world. But who needs theory when we have the freedom of the press which let us write whatever we like? I need to appeal again to theory to tell you how freedom of the press appears in the dictionary: “the right of newspapers to publish news and opinions without being controlled by the government”. Do you see how I always have to turn back to theory to clarify things which should be the same in reality too? In fact, the ones who are free in the story of freedom of the press are those who have the financial power of the newspapers, the ones

who own them. They make the rules, they say what journalists can write about or better said.. what journalists cannot write about. Those big daddy’s are free to manipulate some people who will then manipulate the majority. Yes, it seems to be a story with monsters, but today I’m not in the mood for Sci-Fi scenarios. So, the press is not free at all, this is a shadow of one of the biggest tricks in this world. Most of those modern monsters with ties are politicians or influential men who have enough money to defend themselves in the society by buying a newspaper


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Worldwide Focus Issue 1

or even a television. Again, this phenomenon is not 100 percent general. There are journalists who write in their names without being paid to write lies, but the ones who are in charge are many more. A technique practiced at all levels of the press now is the ’grey propagande’ which reffers to those who mix in an article lies and well known truths in order to give the impression that all that it is written there is authentic. So, this is what you get when we talk about freedom of the press. Now, let me ask you what would change if we didn’t have the freedom of the press. Well, it wouldn’t make a world of difference because in that case, the press would be banned by law and not by people with money. Those who write „ugly” truths would go to jail, they wouldn’t only be fired from their work place. Not that I suggest going to jail is a a little, but the concept of „freedom of the Press” wouldn’t exist anyway as real and concrete. No matter the purpose of the press is, to manipulate or to inform, it is always written for citizens. Population is the one who consumes the product of the Press, so the influence of what is told in Press is crucial: there is a category of people who don’t know very much about what happens in this world and if they have the „luck” to encounter in their way an article full of lies they won’t distinguish if what they read is true or false, but they will simply assume that opinion as being theirs too. They don’feel manipulated. They just feel „informed”. And it’s not hard to find such people in these days. Their number even increases. Basically, the manipulators of the Press assist to a regression of the level of culture in society just because

Most of those modern monsters with ties are politicians or influential men who have enough money to defend themselves in the society by buying a newspaper or even a television. of their images which can’t get damaged. This is one of the most dangerous repercussions of this akward freedom of the press. Anyhow, the restriction of the freedom of the Press wouldn’t be a solution because after so many years of liberty, a ban in this sense would develop great fights and arguments all over the world. For example, nowdays teenagers are used to a lot of freedom, the freedom of...everything and it’s not only that, but they are also at the age when they think nothing could stop them. So, a restriction of any nature would be at least a crime in their opinion. They would shout out loud asking for democracy which is also a missunderstood term. Still, nothing wrong with what teenagers think: democracy and freedom of the press fit because only in a democratic country you can have the freedom of expressing any opinion you have, but I think that the concept of freedom of the press is not well understood. People believe it’s great to write about whatever crosses your mind and it really is, but how many of them ask themselves if what they write is useful or helpful or not? If what they write is just cheap stuff or if there are any constructive ideas which would help humanity in any sense? We already live in a world where alienation is dancing on the

tables and being profound is such a rare phenomenon. What I am trying to say is that before we hurry to enjoy the freedom of the press, we should maybe learn more about its moral weight. Everytime we think about writing something, it would be good to take into account if what we say will help someone in any way or would it be harmful? Still, the most important thing remains the honesty with which we write. There are true bad things who could help people to prevent unpleasant situations, and there are lies which are never any good, even if for a moment they could make people happy. So, in a world where we have the right to say anything we like about anything we want, we don’t know what to do with this freedom. We give it an unhealthy meaning and instead of enjoying it, we harm ourselves like birds on skyscapers. It would be more important to distinguish the things which is worth writing about or not, and only after that to meet with that great term of „Freedom of the Press”.


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