Tag Archives: Press freedom

Press Freedom In Kazakhstan– Is There Any?

Freedom of the press is among the most precious needs in newly democratic societies where the concept that a group of men and women who are not part of the political apparatus stand apart as watch dogs concerned about the rights of society. Rights activists asked Kazakhstan’s security services to end their investigation of a journalist accused of publishing state secrets. The journalist, Ramazan Yesergepov was charged with publishing a secret document dealing with collusion between security forces and a tax official.

As in so many of such cases, it is important for all facets of the media to shine the light of truth on activities of security groups which use “state secrets” as an explanation of their control of information as to what the public has a right to read. Human rights Watch says Kazakh authorities have failed to live up to promises that freedom of the press will be allowed in their nation.

Kenya President Supports Media Control Bill

President Kibaki of Kenya signed into law a new bill which empowers the government to take action against the media on grounds it is protecting national security. The controversial Communications Bill 2008 the government is given powers to restrict the freedom of the media during a period of national emergency. Prime Minister Raila Odinga had promised the media the bill would not be signed by the president, but, apparently, President Kibaki decided to double-cross his own prime minister. Machaia Gaitho, chair of the Editors Guild, described the bill as “retrogressive” and said the president simply wanted a tool to “clamp down on democracy” even though all factions in the media opposed passage of such a restrictive bill.

Kibaki insists the bill allows economic development to proceed by giving the government power to deal with electronic transactions. “While press freedom is a cardinal pillar of democracy, this is a right that carries with it special duties and responsibilities. Press freedom must be counterbalanced with other freedoms and must at all times take into account the overriding interest and safety of Kenya.”

The president’s words match those of every tyrant who has used “national emergency” or the “safety of the population” to throttle the forces of democracy.

Egyptian Journalists Fight For Freedom Of Press

Egypt is a major player in the struggle to achieve peace in the Middle East, but, unfortunately it is led by President Mubarak who has absolutely no understanding of how a democratic society should function. Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate appealed to the Prosecutor General to stop implementation of a prison sentence against the journalist ibrahim Eissa. The editor-in-chef of Al-Dostour lost his appeal to halt the prison sentence which is based on his “heinous crime” of writing an article which suggested that President Mubarak was in ill health! The Court agreed with the prosecutor’s claim such stories had a detrimental impact on the nation’s economy.

A major failure of the Mubarak government is creating conditions for a free press since such voices are critical to ensure the current corruption and inefficiency is brought to light. Mubarak does not understand that journalists such as Eissa are the ones who can assist in working toward a situation in which Egyptian society can be reformed so that those at the bottom of society have their needs addressed. It is sad that the voice of free expression is silenced over a silly topic such as saying the head of government might be in ill health.

Malaysia Warns Christian Papers To Avoid Politics

The Muslim majority government of Malaysia has accused a Christian newspaper of breaking publication rules by running articles deemed political and insulting to Islam. Ethnic Malaysia is a mixture of many groups including Buddhists, Christians and Hindus who live under the rule of a Muslim controlled society. the Herald was warned about printing articles that dealt with political issues in society rather than only printing material related to the Christian religion. The Reverend Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, denied any article disparaged the Muslim religion and emphasized the article dealt with the concept of Jihad as it related to the anger of Muslims after the September 11 attack. “We comment on issues,” noted Andrew, as most newspapers do in carrying out their function to report the news.

Currently the Herald is engaged in a ridiculous law action brought by the government because it used the word “Allah” as a synonym for God. Malaysia might well look to the Muslim controlled government of Turkey which does not get into the type of dispute which only serves to make non-Muslims shake their head in wonder.

Freedom Of The Press On Trial In Germany

New legislation in the German parliament threatens to endanger basic rights of freedom of the press and the right of reporters to protect the anonymity of their sources. A bill is working its way through the Bundestag which compels telecom providers to make recording of all communications regardless of whether or not the person is under investigation or simply an individual communicating with family and friends. This storehouse of data would be made available to law enforcement agencies. In effect, it allows the government to pick and choose any data about any person who has communicated via telecom or the Internet. This legislation would make impossible for journalists to guarantee the right of privacy to sources when engaged in any aspect of investigative reporting. The proposed law also allows a judge to weigh the needs of prosecutors in deciding whether or not a journalist must be compelled to testify.

In a sense, we are witnessing George Bush’s export of anti-democratic processes in the pursuit of enabling democracy to triumph over the supposed forces of evil. The American Patriot Act is now being copied in many societies including Germany and Hungary. There is something terribly ironic in debasing democratic values in pursuit of gaining democratic values. But, we live in the age of Bush when words lose meaning and torture becomes an act of kindness. Hopefully, saner minds will halt passage of this law in Germany.

Egypt Ranks At Bottom In Press Freedom

President Mubarak is a firm ally of George Bush in the fight to extend democracy to the world. Unfortunately, the just released World Press Freedom Index ranks Egypt at the bottom of the list of countries failing to support the concept of freedom of the press. Egypt came out 146 of 169 countries that were listed. Eritrea holds the 169th position due to President Issalas Afeworki’s crackdown which has ended he idea of any independent newspapers and resulted in four reporters dying while in detention.

The editors of four leading Egyptian independent newspapers have been sentenced to one year in jail for “publishing false information(about the health of President Mubarak) likely o disturb public order.” The chief editor of al-Ahram and two reporters for the paper received two year prison terms for misquoting the Minister of Justice. Reda Helal, an editor for al-Ahram, disappeared four years ago on her way home from work. This pattern of cracking down on newspapers and reporters who challenge the Egyptian government comes at a time when there are numerous reports of President Mubarak grooming his son as his successor. The Egyptian people need an open forum of ideas to examine their future, but this does not appear likely as long as Mubarak is in charge.