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,”
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
“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.
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.”
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
“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
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.”
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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.