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Censorship

What influences journalists’ attitudes toward freedom of information?

Jing Guo's picture

The Government of Iraq recently withdrew lawsuits against news media and journalists nationwide and adopted an access to information law in the Kurdish region. Jing Guo explores the range of opinions journalists have regarding freedom of information in a country experiencing political transition.

In December of last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the withdrawal of all government lawsuits against news media and journalists under the previous administration, signaling a departure from the media policies of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki. This announcement, in addition to the adoption of an access to information law in the Iraqi Kurdistan region a year ago, marked a positive step toward freedom of expression and information in the post-authoritarian country.
 
In Iraq, a functioning national freedom of information law is long overdue for supporting an independent media sector and the public’s right to know, both of which are among the fundamental pillars of democracy.  With open access to government meetings and records, journalists can serve as conduits of information between the governing and the governed.  At the same time, citizens and journalists can help strengthen democratic governance by holding those in power accountable.
 
Today, more than a decade after the end of full state control, Iraqi journalists are still largely “in transition.” As proponents and users of the legislation, their views of freedom of information are important in the passing and implementation of the law. What do journalists think about accessing government information in their country? What factors shape their views?

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

 These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Dial ICT for conflict? Four lessons on conflict and contention in the info age
The Washington Post
The past decade has witnessed an explosion of interest among political scientists in the outbreak and dynamics of civil wars. Much of this research has been facilitated by the rise of electronic media, including newspapers but extending to social media (Twitter, Facebook) that permit the collection of fine-grained data on patterns of civil war violence. At the same time, a parallel research program has emerged that centers on the effects of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Yet these two research efforts rarely intersect.
 
Improving Innovation in Africa
Harvard Business Review
Opportunity is on the rise in Africa. New research, funded by the Tony Elumelu Foundation and conducted by my team at the African Institution of Technology, shows that within Africa, innovation is accelerating and the continent is finding better ways of solving local problems, even as it attracts top technology global brands. Young Africans are unleashing entrepreneurial energies as governments continue to enact reforms that improve business environments. An increasing number of start-ups are providing solutions to different business problems in the region. These are deepening the continent’s competitive capabilities to diversify the economies beyond just minerals and hydrocarbon. Despite this progress, Africa is still deeply underperforming in core areas that will redesign its economy and make it more sustainable.
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
World Press Freedom Index 2015: decline on all fronts
Reporters Without Borders
The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks the performance of 180 countries according to a range of criteria that include media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.  The 2015 World Press Freedom Index highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information in 2014. Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.
 
Discontent with Politics Common in Many Emerging and Developing Nations
Pew Global Research Center
People in emerging and developing countries around the world are on balance unhappy with the way their political systems are working. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds that, across 31 emerging and developing nations, a median of 52% are dissatisfied with their political system, while 44% are satisfied. Discontent is particularly widespread in the Middle East and Latin America, where about six-in-ten say their system is not working well. The opposite is true, however, in Asia – a median of 60% are either very or somewhat satisfied with their political system.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Many in Emerging and Developing Nations Disconnected from Politics
Pew Research
In recent years, high-profile protest movements have erupted in several emerging and developing countries, roiling, and sometimes overturning, the political status quo in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, Brazil, Thailand and other nations. Millions have demonstrated, and activists have pioneered new forms of online engagement.  However, a recent Pew Research Center survey finds that many people in these nations remain relatively disconnected from politics. Although most vote in elections, few take part in other forms of political participation.
 
21st-century censorship
Columbia Journalism Review
Two beliefs safely inhabit the canon of contemporary thinking about journalism. The first is that the internet is the most powerful force disrupting the news media. The second is that the internet and the communication and information tools it spawned, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, are shifting power from governments to civil society and to individual bloggers, netizens, or “citizen journalists.”  It is hard to disagree with these two beliefs. Yet they obscure evidence that governments are having as much success as the internet in disrupting independent media and determining the information that reaches society. Moreover, in many poor countries or in those with autocratic regimes, government actions are more important than the internet in defining how information is produced and consumed, and by whom. 
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
Tightening the Net: Governments Expand Online Controls
Freedom House
Internet freedom around the world has declined for the fourth consecutive year, with a growing number of countries introducing online censorship and monitoring practices that are simultaneously more aggressive and more sophisticated in their targeting of individual users. In a departure from the past, when most governments preferred a behind-the-scenes approach to internet control, countries are rapidly adopting new laws that legitimize existing repression and effectively criminalize online dissent.

Is vote-buying always bad for development?
International Growth Center
Elections in the developing world suffer from considerable problems such as ballot fraud, low voter education. electoral violence, and clientelism. If developing world elections do not revolve mainly around policy accountability, there could be important consequences for economic development

New Study Offers Us Fresh Insights into the Attitudes and Behaviors of Online Users in the Middle East

CGCS's picture

Damian Radcliffe outlines a new report from Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology on internet behaviors in the Middle East. To read the full report, click here

Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) published a new full length study on the attitudes and behaviors of internet users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The 20,000 word study benchmarks the experience of the online population in the region against global users in five key areas: access to technology, attitudes towards the internet, levels of concern, trust in online actors, and user behaviors—demonstrating in the process that, despite clear cultural considerations, MENA is not an outlier.

In fact, compared to their global counterparts, online users in the Middle East are among the most enthusiastic commentators about the positive impact that the internet has on their lives.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Most Of What We Need For Smart Cities Already Exists
Forbes
The compelling thing about the emerging Internet of Things, says technologist Tom Armitage, is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel — or the water and sewage systems, or the electrical and transportation grids. To a large degree, you can create massive connectivity by simple (well, relatively simple) augmentation. “By overlaying existing infrastructure with intelligent software and sensors, you can turn it into something else and connect it to a larger system,” says Armitage.

Mideast Media Study: Facebook Rules; Censoring Entertainment OK
PBS Media Shift
A new study by Northwestern University in Qatar and the Doha Film Institute reveals that Middle Eastern citizens are quite active online, with many spending time on the web daily to watch news and entertainment video, access social media and stream music, film and TV. “Entertainment Media Use In the Middle East” is a six-nation survey detailing the media habits of those in Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. The results of the survey, which involved 6,000 in-person interviews, are, in part, a reflection of how the Internet has transformed Arab nations since the Arab Spring. More than ever, consumers in the Middle East/North Africa (MERA) region are using technology to pass along vital information, incite social and political change, become citizen journalists and be entertained.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

What makes people happy and why it matters for development
The Guardian
Happiness economics is a new field that strives to find out what really makes people happy based on surveys asking citizens: "How satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?" or "How happy are you?". Rather than letting experts define what makes for the good life from an armchair perspective, happiness economics allows us to identify the factors that matter for people's wellbeing as they themselves experience it.  When the original millenium development goals (MDGs) were formulated, happiness economics barely existed. Before 2000, less than five scientific articles a year dealt with "subjective wellbeing", academic speak for happiness and life satisfaction. Over the course of the past decade, though, their number has risen enormously. A World Happiness Report launched last year at the United Nations summarises the evidence to date.

The problem with data journalism
Quartz
The recent boom in “data-driven” journalism projects is exciting. It can elevate our knowledge, enliven statistics, and make us all more numerate.  But I worry that data give commentary a false sense of authority since data analysis is inherently prone to bias. The author’s priors, what he believes or wants to be true before looking at the data, often taint results that might appear pure and scientific. Even data-backed journalism is opinion journalism. So as we embark on this new wave of journalism, we should be aware of what we are getting and what we should trust.  Economics blogger James Schneider recently opined on how journalists highlight research, even if it’s not credible, that confirms their argument and ignores work that undermines it.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Behind a Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt
Bloomberg BusinessWeek
For months now, protestors have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all these places, protestors are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won election in relatively free polls. And in nearly all these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with the very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin.

Where Did Press Freedom Suffer Most in 2013? Online.
PBS Media Shift
This month the Committee to Protect Journalists released its annual analysis of Attacks on the Press, including a “Risk List” of the places where press freedom suffered most in 2013. As you might expect, conflict areas filled much of the list — Syria, Egypt, Turkey — but the place on the top of the list was not a country. It was cyberspace. In the past, the list has focused on highlighting nations where freedom of the press are under attack, but this year CPJ wrote, “We chose to add the supranational platform of cyberspace to the list because of the profound erosion of freedom on the Internet a critical sphere for journalists worldwide.” Including cyberspace is a recognition that, at least in terms of press freedom and freedom of expression, the web is not virtual reality, it is reality.

The Dictator’s Dilemma

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In an influential article in Foreign Affairs entitled ‘The Political Power of Social Media’, published in January 2011, Clay Shirky described the dictator’s dilemma, also called the conservative dilemma, as follows:
 

The dilemma is created by new media that increase public access to speech or assembly; with the spread of such media, whether photocopiers or Web browsers, a state accustomed to having a monopoly of public speech finds itself called to account for anomalies between its view of events and the public’s. The two responses to the conservative dilemma are censorship and propaganda. But neither of these is as effective as the enforced silence of citizens. The state will censor critics or produce propaganda as it needs to, but both of those actions have higher costs than simply not having any critics to silence or reply to in the first place. But if a government were to shut down Internet access or ban cellphones, it would risk radicalizing otherwise pro-regime citizens or harming the economy.

Many dictatorial or authoritarian regimes are sitting right on the butt-hurting horns of that dilemma right now. What is driving it is, of course, the explosive growth in mobile technology worldwide, what Michael Saylor, in a book of that title, calls The Mobile Wave. Cell phones, smart phones and internet access are driving into more and more corners of the world. For a current run-down of the mind-boggling statistics please see this Pew Research Report: ‘Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology’. And for current reporting on how the dictator’s dilemma is playing out in some contexts please see ‘How Emerging Markets’ Internet Policies Are Undermining Their Economic Recovery’ from Forbes.


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