Archive for the 'State-Controlled Media' Category

Burma: Liberalisation to conceal repression?

Burma, also known as Myanmar, held its first elections in 20 years in November 2010, and the new ‘civilian’ government took office in March 2011. However, as many international observers have reported, the elections were fraudulent and undemocratic. A quarter of the seats on Parliament are reserved for the military, and a military-backed party controls 80% of the rest. According to reports, the government continues to imprison political opponents,  use convicts as human shields for the military, violently repress ethnic minorities, silence critics through censorship of the press, and limit access to information through surveillance of the internet, among other claims. The result is absolute military rule wearing the mask of democracy; a mask that the government thinks it can continue to wear as long as it controls the press and the internet. Continue reading ‘Burma: Liberalisation to conceal repression?’

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Mexico: Code of Ethics v Freedom of Expression

Ms Carmen Aristegui, a well-known Mexican journalist was fired from a major Mexican radio station MVS Noticias, in February 2011, for “violating the station’s code of ethics” by “broadcasting rumour as news” and subsequently refusing to make an on-air apology.

Ms Aristegui’s dismissal came after she aired a controversial radio broadcast suggesting that the Presidency of the Republic should address the accusations of President Calderon’s alleged drinking problem.  According to Ms Aristegui, her statement  “was an editorial comment based on a news event” which followed an episode that occurred in the Congress, where a left-wing deputy of the Labour Party (Partido del Trabajo (PT) displayed a banner with an image of President Calderon together with the following text: “Would you let a drunk person drive your car? You wouldn’t, right? So, why do you let him drive your country?“ However, no evidence was presented to support such allegations. Continue reading ‘Mexico: Code of Ethics v Freedom of Expression’

Rwanda’s ’genocide ideology’ laws: threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law

In many post-conflict societies, a delicate balance must be struck between safeguarding rights and freedoms and taking measures to prevent future conflict.  Rwanda is often cited as a case where this debate is particularly relevant, given the severe ethnic conflicts resulting in the 1994 Genocide, and the subsequent passing of post-conflict “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” laws. In theory, these laws were created to stifle the kind of hate speech broadcasted during the 1994 genocide, but in practice they have been used to silence critics of the current government, as reported in Amnesty International’s 2011 Report, Unsafe to speak out: Restrictions on freedom of expression in Rwanda. Continue reading ‘Rwanda’s ’genocide ideology’ laws: threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law’

China’s crackdown on human rights lawyers

In a press release dated 14 April 2011, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) called for ‘an end to intimidation and abuse of human rights lawyers in China’. The IBAHRI’s press release names 9 human rights lawyers who had ‘disappeared’ since February 2011. Some have since been released, others are still missing. Indeed, according to Amnesty International, it appears that the Chinese government has embarked over the past few months on a fresh wave of repression in its ongoing  ‘campaign of harassment and intimidation’ of human rights lawyers.  Continue reading ‘China’s crackdown on human rights lawyers’

The Banished Pharaoh: Lessons in freedom of expression

The 11th February 2011 marked a seminal moment for the right to freedom of expression: the day Hosni Mubarak resigned from his 30 year rule, in response to the expressed will of his people.

The country has been subject to emergency law since 1967. This authorised a number of restrictions on personal freedom of assembly and movement, sanctioned the surveillance of personal messages, and permitted the confiscation of publications. Egypt’s economic climate had deteriorated with increased poverty, rising prices, social exclusion and unemployment, food price inflation and low minimum wages. Two thirds of the country’s population are under 30, with this group comprising 90% of the Egypt’s unemployed. By contrast, personal enrichment and corruption was rife amongst the political elite. Reports suggest that the former president had misappropriated up to £40 billion during his reign, more than double the estimated amount that the notorious Bernard Madoff stole using his Ponzi Scheme. Continue reading ‘The Banished Pharaoh: Lessons in freedom of expression’

Burma: Elections without Free Expression

Burma has been under a military government since a coup in 1962. The last general election held in 1990 was won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) by 392 of 485 seats. Shortly following this, the military leaders ruled out a quick transfer of power due to a lack of constitution and Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD leader, was placed under house arrest for endangering the state. Continue reading ‘Burma: Elections without Free Expression’

The deteriorating freedom of expression situation in Fiji

Three months after the Media Industry Development Decree was issued by Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the objects of the Decree are beginning to feel its effect. Australian-owned News Limited are having to sell their newspaper, Fiji Times, targeted by a clause in the Decree which requires all media outlet directors and 90 percent of shareholders to be citizens and permanent residents of Fiji. The Decree also prohibits news broadcasts ‘against the national interest or public order.’

The Decree follows the deportation in 2008 of two staff of the Times, with government officials citing work permit problems. In 2009 a court ruled that Bainimarama’s 2006 coup was illegal, leading him to step down in an apparent prelude to restoring democracy. However, he returned, re-appointed as Prime Minister until 2014, and suspended the Constitution. The Public Emergency Regulations 2009 was decreed on 10 April 2009 and remains in effect.

First the prolonged state of ‘emergency’ enabled government restrictions on media freedom, such as sending ‘information officers’ into newsrooms to prevent ‘negative’ stories being reported. Now with the issuing of the Media Industry Development Decree, the rules of property ownership have also been enlisted potentially to squeeze out critical commentary. Both can be utilised as indirect attacks on media freedom, making public space an inhospitable landscape where free expression may ultimately be inoperable.


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