World Broadcasting Unions calls for commitment to media freedom

The World Broadcasting Unions (WBU) released a statement on July 27, calling for commitment to media freedom and independence in times of crisis. It urged for guaranteed commitments on protecting media independence and safeguarding freedom of expression.

“Media independence is a cornerstone of informed, healthy democracies and central to the values of broadcasters, which also include accuracy, accountability, impartiality, the highest standards of journalism, and the commitment to serve the interests of all audiences everywhere. These are crucial at the best of times. During times of crisis, they are non-negotiable,” WBU said.

The WBU, which is a coordinating body for broadcasting unions across the globe, insisted on the importance and the role of journalism in providing accurate and verified news content as critical to countering the spread of misinformation and disinformation. “An independent media also serves the public interest through rigorous scrutiny and the holding to account. Any exceptional measures introduced by governments in the context of a public emergency must not therefore be used to undermine the ability of the media to freely report on those emergencies, whether they be pandemics or protest movements,” WBU added.

However, journalists are being targeted nevertheless, “In recent documented cases, for example during the George Floyd protests in America, news reporters – including those representing Members of the WBU – have been subjected to unacceptable acts of aggression and intimidation,” the statement added.

“The freedom of the media to report unhindered on unfolding events – and the rights of citizens to have access to trusted information for deciphering them – is fundamental to free speech and society. It must not be compromised in any circumstances,” WBU said.

Statement:

WBU Statement Calling for Commitment to Media Freedom and Independence in Times of Crisis

Press Cuts – 5: Media Freedom Round-up

USA | Hong Kong | Belarus | India |

United Nations expert blames POTUS of ‘onslaught’ against media

The United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, in his last press briefing before the end of his six year tenure accused the White House of mounting an “onslaught” against the media.

“Clearly the signature issue over the past four years now has been the way in which this particular president addresses the media: The way he denigrates the media, denigrates freedom of expression,” kaye said.

Criticism of reporters, spreading “disinformation” and partnerships with conservative media organisations are ways in which the onslaught continues he said. “There clearly is a Trump effect, a very negative one,” he added, when questioned about the impact this has on media freedom around the world.

Kaye raised large concerns about government crackdowns that has worsened amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, without attributing to any specific country, the special rapporteur said, “Unfortunately often under the guise of trying to restrict disinformation, governments have resorted to old tools of clamping down on the free flow of information.”

Know More: U.N. expert accuses White House of ‘onslaught’ against media

New York Times will relocate part of Hong Kong office to Seoul

Many feared that the new national security law implemented in Hong Kong by China would increase scrutiny on media freedom in the semi-autonomous region. Subsequently and almost validating this claim is the news of the New York Times decision to move part of its operations to Seoul. The former British colony has been a bastion for the free press until now.

Some employees in Hong Kong have faced challenges securing work permits, a common phenomenon in China but were rarely a hurdle in the former colony. However, with the new law in effect a lot of uncertainty prevails. Chris Buckley a veteran China correspondent of the New York Times, known for his investigative reporting on china was refused a renewal of his work permit by the city’s immigration department; he received no explanation for the denial.

Also Read: China expels 3 Wall Street Journal reporters as media relations sour

 “China’s sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and our journalism… We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and begin to diversify our editing staff around the region,” an in-house memo from editors and executives to staff communicated.

Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the national security law, “punishes a very small number of crimes and protects the vast majority… The rights and interests enjoyed by the majority of Hong Kong citizens, foreign institutions and personnel including foreign media in Hong Kong in accordance with law are not affected in any way.”

Know More: New York Times will move part of Hong Kong office to Seoul

Belarus police detain 17 journalists covering protests

At least 17 journalists were detained in the cities of Minsk, Brest, and Homel by police for covering protests against the Central Electoral Committee’s decision to deny opposition presidential candidates Valery Tsapkala and Viktar Babaryka to register in the upcoming elections.

Know More: Belarusians took part in spontaneous protest actions. Detainees list

Danil Palyanski, a correspondent with the independent news website Pershiy Region, was detained and convicted for “violation of procedure on mass gatherings,” he was fined 810 Belarusian rubles and later released, said Barys Haretski, Deputy Head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Know More: 37 people awaiting trial in Brest after being detained during protests

“Belarusian authorities must stop detaining and prosecuting journalists if they want the country’s upcoming elections to be seen to have even a shred of legitimacy… The Belarusian press should be allowed to freely report on crucial public events without fear of arrest or harassment” said Gulnoza, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

Know More: Belarus police detain at least 17 journalists covering protests in support of opposition candidates

Two journalists arrested in West Bengal

West Bengal police arrested journalists Suraj Ali Khan, Sheik Safikul Islam and Islam’s wife, Alima Khatun, in Arambagh, Hoogly district, for alleged extortion on June 29. Khan who works as a reporter and Islam, Editor and owner of YouTube channel Arambagh TV, were arrested following a complaint by a local resident who alleged that the two journalists extorted money from him for not publishing images that they had allegedly taken of the complainant cutting down a tree on government land. The journalists’ lawyers told Committee to Protect Journalists, that they believe the arrests were in retaliation to reporting on alleged corruption in government funds distributed to private clubs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Know More: Indian authorities arrest 2 journalists covering corruption allegations in West Bengal

A number of civil society organisations and prominent citizens of the state have expressed their solidarity with the two arrested journalists. A statement signed by retired Supreme Court Justice Asok K Ganguly, former State Chief Secretary Ardhendu Sen and Prasad Ranjan Ray filmmakers Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen and Tarun Majumdar and others have demanded their release.

“These persons were treated in this way not for any heinous crime like murder, rape or dacoity, but only for broadcasting news critical of the State. The way the police surrounded their houses, broke down the doors and carried them off to the police station along with their minor children, bodes ill for our democracy and the Constitution,” a statement signed by the civil society members said.

Know More: Civil society groups, prominent citizens denounce arrest of journalists in Bengal