Showing posts tagged "media."
Where is the Media Coverage of Balochistan?
UNPO and the Society for Threatened Peoples hosted a parallel event on Thursday [15th September 2011] at the 18th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council titled ‘Climate of Fear: Enforced Disappearances, Extra-judicial Killings, and Arbitrary Detention in Balochistan’. Immediately prior to the event, UNPO and the Baloch community in Europe participated in a demonstration calling attention to the human rights situation in Balochistan. […]
The event, chaired by UNPO Programme Coordinator Lisa Thomas, drew attention to the disturbing level of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings currently ongoing in Balochistan, Pakistan, as noted by recent extensive reports from Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Ms. Thomas expressed UNPO’s deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Balochistan before highlighting a few key points from the two reports. Of particular note according to Ms. Thomas is HRCP’s discovery of strong evidence indicating the complicity of Pakistan’s security forces in the enforced disappearances and killings that HRW calls a “disturbingly regular feature” of the conflict in Balochistan.
If ever there was a place ripe for citizen media, it is Balochistan. The citizens of Balochistan occupy one of the most strategically important (to NATO, Pakistan, and sundry other powers in the neighborhood) regions on earth. Flush with natural gas and enormous mineral wealth, the province is exploited by an inattentive central government while almost no resources are shared or returned to residents. Allegations continuously surface of a direct Pakistani military and intelligence service role in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Baloch activists, dissidents, and separatists.
And yet Balochistan, and the plight of its citizens, is virtually non-existent in the media ecosystem. Typing “Balochistan” into Google News reveals a paltry 1,180 results, compared with 25,200 for Pakistan and 27,500 for Afghanistan.
This cannot be explained simply as a reflection of the international media’s focus on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as both are wholly entangled with the issues in Balochistan. The Afghan Taliban are referred to as the “Quetta Shura,” named for their supposed base in Balochistan’s capitol city of Quetta. And Pakistan’s ISI, those accused of supporting terrorism and insurgents in the region, are the same intelligence services supposedly victimizing the Baloch population. There is simply no reason for the media to ignore the situation in Balochistan.
That’s where citizen media comes in to play. Citizens of Balochistan should be empowered to tell their own story. As of now their only outlet for stories lies either through international civil society organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, or through local activist or nationalist organizations with questionable motivations and interests.
Balochs should be given the equipment, training, and capacity to produce high impact journalism through whatever medium is available; video, radio, SMS, etc. Baloch voices would provide locals with the crucial information they need from their media, while also bringing the sophistication and local context needed to properly inform the international community.
Citizen media is generally small in scale (think blogs or Youtube videos), but a concentrated effort on building a vibrant citizen media community within Balochistan could then be grown into a fully-functioning, respectable, and sustainable independent news agency. This would require resources and attention from the international community, something Balochistan currently lacks, but a small spark from citizen media can quickly engulf the attention of the rest of the world (as seen in Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere).
What are some of the other ways that the critical issues at stake in Balochistan can be highlighted, understood, and responded to within the media?
Egypt: How To Ensure Free And Fair Elections?
Yesterday in this space we discussed the upcoming elections in Egypt, and the need for international observers to work alongside local organizations to ensure the fairness and accuracy of the polls. International and local observers working together would allow reports of fraud, intimidation, and other improprieties to be more easily verified, increasing the legitimacy of the observation mission.
But what if Egypt’s military continues with its ban on foreign observers, and the burden of monitoring these critical and momentous elections is placed entirely on Egyptian citizens? What are some of the ways the observation mission can be empowered and bolstered without the presence of international monitors?
- Capacity Building - While foreigners are banned from working on the ground, they can still provide training and equipment to local observers inside Egypt. This might include holding workshops on journalism and election law, or even providing smartphones or cameras so observers can better document the process. It is important these capacity building missions remain disinterested toward political actors and election results in order to protect the safety of locals and the credibility of the observation mission.
- Tech Support - There are a variety of tools available for acquiring, publishing and distributing election observation data, such as mapping incident reports on Ushahidi or collecting mobile reports from citizens via FrontlineSMS. Those outside Egypt can work to ensure that these tools are deployed and maintained in a way that is both accessible and intuitive to Egyptian monitors working on the ground. This might come from existing media development and observation organizations, or from crowdsourcing, by activating something like the Standby Task Force (SBTF).
- Media Focus - International news agencies can target their coverage on Egypt’s elections with a special focus on the legitimacy of the polling process. Foreign press can downplay unhelpful reporting and commentary, such as Western hand-wringing over religious parties or overemphases on the role and agency of foreign powers, while focusing instead on providing meaningful context to international viewers. What are the stakes of this election? Who are the political players, and what policies are to be decided? Answering these and other questions will allow the international audience to truly understand - and respond accordingly to - Egypt’s election.
- Citizen Media - Citizens on the ground, using mobile phones, digital cameras, laptops, and all manner of multimedia tools, can harness the power of the press for themselves in order to document the election process. This allows not only local civil society and monitoring organizations but individual citizens themselves to publish their findings and tell their own story to the world without relying on mainstream institutions. Citizen media is flexible enough to operate in particularly dangerous (or plainly unwelcoming) environments, such as a repressive police state. And yet, provided with the right skill sets, it is still high quality enough to deliver substantive journalism with the timeliness and impact required for monitoring this critical election.
- Education - Egyptian citizens must be educated on the specifics of the election process, including not only procedure (How do you register? Where is your polling station?) but also the issues at stake (Who are the candidates? What is their platform?) and the obligations of individuals and the government (What are your rights? How do you spot illegal campaigning or fraud?). This education can be done in a variety of ways, from using traditional social networks, such as family, classmates, and religious communities, to tapping digital social networking like Facebook and Twitter. As witnessed during the anti-Mubarak uprisings earlier this year, Egypt’s communities are more than capable of disseminating information and coordinating activities amongst the population. This power can be harnessed again to ensure a fully equipped and informed electorate on voting day.
There are several examples of where election monitoring can be conducted in less than ideal circumstances, be it in police states with no access to foreign observers or in conflict zones with very little infrastructure and media access. Here are a few:
Monitoring elections is an incredibly complex and difficult task, particularly in this case with the crucial and unprecedented post-revolutionary elections in Egypt.
What are some of the other ways both the international community and Egyptian citizens can work to ensure a free and fair election? We will continue to monitor this story closely, and your suggestions, comments, and solutions are welcomed.
//Photo by Bikyamasr.com
"[C]hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders [and] and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status."
Judge Kermit Lipez, US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in a ruling in favor of Simon Glik, a Massachusetts man arrested for videotaping police officers with his cell phone as they detained another man. Glik was accused of illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner and disturbing the peace.
Matthew Ingram, GigaOm, Freedom of the press applies to everyone — yes, even bloggers.
Egypt will start parliamentary elections on November 21, Al Arabiya Television and the Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Saturday, the country’s first vote since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February after 30 years of autocratic rule.
Al-Ahram quoted Egypt’s election commission head, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, as saying voting for the lower house, the People’s Assembly, will be held in three stages starting on November 21 and ending on January 3. Voting for the upper house, the Shura Council, will begin on January 22, 2012 and finish on March 4.
These dates aren’t confirmed, they’re only leaks to regional media outlets. A spokesmen for the military says only that the official dates will be announced on September 26.
The legitimacy of these polls, with history as a guide, are to be rightfully questioned. Reuters reports that some efforts are being made to ensure a free and fair election:
The [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] has said the judiciary will oversee the vote to ensure a free and fair poll. A member of the council said in July the election will be held in three stages to make it easier for monitors to oversee voting.
One question is the role that international media and election monitoring organizations will play in the transition to credible democracy. Although Egypt’s revolution was successful in overthrowing the Mubarak regime, Egyptians still live under a military junta accustomed to total domination of society, including within the judiciary offered as one of the primary election monitors.
In July, the junta announced that there would be no foreign observers allowed to monitor the upcoming elections, citing the need to protect Egypt’s sovereignty. During Egypt’s last elections (under the Mubarak regime), fraud and election improprieties were widespread and well-documented, as Patrick Meier wrote back in May:
Another report submitted on December 5, 2010 was even more specific: “Buying out votes in Al Manshiaya Province as following: 7:30[am] price of voter was 100 pound […]. At 12[pm] the price of voter was 250 pound, at 3 pm the price was 200 pound, at 5 pm the price was 300 pound for half an hour, and at 6 pm the price was 30 pound.” Another report revealed “bribe-fixing” by noting that votes ranged from 100-150 Pounds as a result of a “coalition between delegates to reduce the price in Ghirbal, Alexandria.” […]
Additional incidents mapped on the Ushahidi platform included reports of deliberate power cuts to prevent people from voting. As a result, one voter complained in “Al Saaida Zaniab election center: we could not find my name in voters lists, despite I voted in the same committee. Nobody helped to find my name on list because the electricity cut out.” […]
Reports also documented harassment and violence by thugs, often against Muslim Brotherhood candidates, the use of Quran verses in election speeches and the use of mini buses at polling centers to bus in people from the National Party. […]
As thoroughly and specifically as these incidents are documented, their validity can still be questioned due to the fact that they come singularly from Egyptian activists. Activists are burdened with incentives and interests that might tarnish the quality of their reporting, whereas international organizations (such as the Carter Center or Democracy International) don’t come with these same biases and fallibilities.
Until full trust and credibility is restored to Egypt’s government and civil society institutions - including the judiciary - then impartial, international observers must be allowed to monitor the upcoming elections.
Wall Street. September 17. [Photos: @julpepitone]
Why won’t the mainstream media cover the #OccupyWallStreet Protests?
Every time a breaking news event happens on the weekends, such as the mass uprisings in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the fall of Tripoli to the rebel army, and today’s protests in New York, people tune in to CNN, MSNBC, FOX, or even their local news station hoping to see live coverage. They want video, so they know what it looks like. They want the correspondents on the ground to give them the latest facts. And they want the pundits to help them put it all into context.
And every time they tune in, they get…none of this. Instead they find some stupid show about police chases or an infomercial or maybe just re-runs (!!!) of last night’s news.
And this makes us very, very angry. That in turn leads to some interesting phenomenon, such as this tweet from @USDayofRage. Some of have convinced themselves that there is an elaborate media conspiracy to “blackout” coverage of the Wall Street protests. See this:
A media blackout would make sense to an extent, in terms of the authorities’ attempts to ensure that people don’t see the crowd and decide to join in. But it would also be an acknowledgement of media complicity in the silencing of what promises ot be a peaceful protest.
For one thing, the media doesn’t work for the authorities. In fact, the authorities hate the media. They hate the cameras, microphones, and notepads used to illuminate their activities to the public and hold them accountable. And they often specifically target anyone wielding these tools.
But the most important misconception is that there is some kind of media complicity with the authorities to not cover the weekend protests. This is false. The news is a business, and in the United States, that business model is entirely market driven. The mainstream media doesn’t cover breaking news on weekends because nobody watches the mainstream media on weekends. It’s really that simple.
Because you didn’t watch the news last Saturday, or the Saturday before that, or the Saturday before that, there will be no news broadcast this Saturday. The markets, you, have spoken. You don’t care about the news on weekends.
Except, of course, when you do. And then you get infomercials and re-runs. What do you do about this?
1) Support your mainstream media. Tune in every single weekend, whether or not there’s breaking news to follow. Watch the commercials, buy the products, click on the links, participate in the wholly unscientific text messaging polls, download the smartphone app, sign up for the premium account, everything that it takes to support these massive multi-million dollar businesses. Make it worth their time to have makeup artists, camera crews, audio technicians, IT departments, anchors, reporters, pundits, graphic artists, editors, producers, and a phalanx of interns ready and standing by for whatever issue strikes your fancy this week, whether it’s the fall of Tripoli or populist demonstrations on Wall Street.
2) Support your local independent/citizen journalist. They don’t rely on the same overhead and infrastructure as the mainstream media, making them far more flexible and immediate. Their tools are cellphones, laptops, and digital cameras, not studios, green screens, and satellite vans. They work in natural disasters, protests, and war zones, and most importantly, they work weekends. But they need your help. Click that donate button, buy that t-shirt from their CafePress, support their Kickstarter project. They don’t work for corporations, they work directly for you.
3) Support good media policy. As a citizen, paying attention to the politics and policy of the media and journalism can often be as important as paying attention to the news itself. Josh Sterns writes:
Media ownership, public broadcasting, telecom policy – the government is already deeply engaged in shaping our media in ways that impact the future of journalism. It’s not a matter of if government should be involved, but how. And we’ll end up with the best results if journalists, journalism schools, and the public are part of that debate, not on the sidelines.
If you want good media, quality journalism, and real, immediate coverage of breaking news events that matter most to you, then your participation is required. You can’t wait until news happens to you to start caring about the news.
The audience must trust that the journalist does not have an agenda and is not brining an agenda to the conversation (read: medium of publication).
No one is perfectly objective and no one is without conflict.
Compromised reporting is an ambiguous beat. However: a compromised reporter or editor can leverage access to relationships, information, and events that the public cannot (think simple: press credentials are powerful), and a compromised reporter can leverage this access in ways that are beneficial to her or himself or the news organization backing the credentials. Thus the reportage can be colored and influenced - both subtly and overtly - in ways the public is unaware of.
Good journalists know when and where to be transparent, good journalists are self-aware of potential conflicts, good journalists have a relationship with the audience but are not beholden to their audience, and good journalists aren’t on the take and cannot be bought by money, access, or flattery.
Consider this when reading hard news, tech blogs, and everything in between and remember: it’s not about the objectivity, it’s about the agenda.
As the uprising in the Middle East has become an eye opener for all of us, it’s the citizens of these countries who can best tell their story. For us living in the western world, we often take for granted our safety in picking up a camera, filming whatever we want, and sharing it with the world. In these conflict countries, this could be a matter of life and death. With this in mind, Small World News developed their Guide to Safely and Securely Producing Media. This guide helps provide a background into producing media effectively and safely. The guide is designed with these revolutionaries in mind and easily assessable on a cell phone, e-book reader, or computer. Currently the version is in English and Arabic, but with an Creative Commons license, the guide will continue to expand and develop to everyone who needs it.
Can Hyperlocal Save Lives?
Somali refugees in Kenya lack basic access to communication and information about the aid and services available to them. From Internews:
The assessment surveyed over 600 refugees and shows that large numbers of displaced Somalis don’t have the information they need to access basic aid: More than 70 percent of newly-arrived refugees say they lack information on how to register for aid and similar numbers say they need information on how to locate missing family members. High figures are also recorded for lack of information on how to access health care how to access shelter, how to communicate with family outside the camps and more.
The report suggests a number of excellent solutions:
The report makes several recommendations, including: conducting workshops on communications for humanitarian organizations; establishing a humanitarian communications officer in Dadaab for communicating with affected populations; increasing support to Star FM, the main Kenyan broadcaster in Somali language, for broadcasting local humanitarian information; and establishing a communications research hub and a media training center for both host and refugee communities. It is important to note that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has already set up an Information Dissemination Group to specifically look into the communications needs of local communities “in the light of the current emergency and identified gaps by Internews’ assessment” (page 11).
What are some of the other ways that communication and access to information can be increased within the Dadaab camps?
Generally when media makers theorize on hyperlocal content, they consider it only in the context of developed communities with ready access to communication infrastructure (internet, television, etc). Further it is usually considered only as a complement to wider-scope media (such as the pairing of local news with nightly national news in the United States).
But the camp in Dadaab provides an especially difficult case, with its lack of access to most IT infrastructure (meaning no Facebook, no crowdmapping), and its need for exclusively local content (no need for international media organizations). The solutions that might immediately come to mind are almost certainly unworkable here.
Instead what is required is a concentrated effort on building the capacity of locals inside the camp to communicate and access information themselves. With this in mind, we can judge the recommendations of Internews’ report to be very much on the right track.
Expanding existing media systems, such as their example of StarFM, and developing the capacity of community leaders, as shown in the video, to provide their constituency with the necessary information will help move toward a realistic solution within the constraints of life in the refugee camp.
What else can be done? And what lessons - on hyperlocal media, on community information and communication, and on development, can be learned from the case of Dadaab?