USIP's Media, Conflict & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, January 26 - February 1, 2012

Media and Journalism

Internet and Social Media

What's New from PeaceMedia

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Media and Journalism

Free Press Euphoria Fading Fast in South Sudan (Reuters, 1/31/12)
Dengdit Ayok's dream of a free press in Africa's newest nation dissolved when he was arrested and beaten up after writing about the wedding of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's daughter. Reporters say there is no clear mechanism for censorship or monitoring but the very lack of a media law allows security forces to make summary arrests on behalf of ministers upset by an article.
See the full article
Click to read "The Politics of Oil and a Proposed Pipeline for South Sudan ," a USIP On the Issues by Jon Temin and Raymond Gilpin.
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Somali Radio Station That Shabab Can't Stand
Threatened for years by both the Islamist al-Shabab group and circles within the government, a Somali radio station has lost its third director since 2007. "We have been targeted because of our uncensored editorial policy," Mohamed Amiin Adow, a representative for the station, told Al Jazeera. "We try to expose every part of Somalia of what they are doing to the public. We are targeted for our independence."
See the full article (Al Jazeera, Mujib Mashal, 1/29/12)
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Ethiopia: Journalists, Politicians Get Jail Time
An Ethiopian judge on Thursday handed down prison sentences ranging from 14 years to life to three journalists and two politicians. The five were arrested last year and charged last week under Ethiopia's controversial anti-terrorism laws. Ethiopian officials had said they were involved in planning attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications and power lines. Ethiopia has arrested close to 200 people, among them journalists and opposition politicians and members, under last year's anti-terrorism proclamation.
See the full article (AP, Luc Van Kemenade, 1/27/12)
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US Says Iran Seeking to Snuff Out Free Expression
The United States Thursday accused Iran of trying to quash all freedom of expression ahead of March elections, as it cracks down on reporters and bloggers. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland cited the reported arrests of four journalists and death sentences imposed on two bloggers, who she said face imminent execution over charges of spreading corruption.
See the full article (AFP, 1/27/12)
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Al-Jazeera Gets Green Light to Reopen Office
Kuwait has allowed pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera to reopen its office in the Gulf state more than a year after ordering its closure. The Al-Jazeera office was previously closed for three years from November 2002, reopening only after a visit by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. It has maintained an antagonistic relationship with most Arab regimes and, as a result, has had its offices shut down, its bureau ransacked, its journalists arrested and its signals jammed.
See the full article (AFP, 1/27/12)
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Press Freedom Index: Big Falls for Arab Trio in Year of Protest
Three Arab countries where popular risings have been quashed have achieved their worst-ever rankings in the annual press freedom index. But the falls by Syria, Bahrain and Yemen are among many changes that reflect a year of unrest and protest. While Libya (154th) turned the page on the Gaddafi era, Egypt (166th) fell 39 places because the military leadership which replaced the Mubarak regime in February has dashed the hopes of democrats.
See the full article (Guardian, Roy Greenslade, 1/26/12)
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For Turkish Journalists, Arrest is a Real Danger
In the wake of the Arab Spring, some Muslims in North Africa are looking across the Mediterranean to Turkey as a potential model of a state that can be modern, Islamic and democratic. But some analysts in the region say that model is flawed, and they are questioning Turkey's human-rights record and its dealings with the press. Critics say the government is using Turkey's slow-moving and sometimes opaque justice system to stifle dissent.
See the full article (NPR, Peter Kenyon, 1/26/12)
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For Many in Pakistan, a Television Show Goes Too Far
One morning last week, television viewers in Pakistan were treated to a darkly comic sight: a posse of middle-class women roaming through a public park in Karachi, on the hunt for dating couples engaged in "immoral" behavior. This hour long spectacle, broadcast live on Samaa TV on Jan. 17, set off a furious reaction in parts of Pakistan. "Journalists don't have the right to become moral police," said Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia. "We need to draw a line."
See the full article (New York Times, Declan Walsh, 1/26/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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Internet and Social Media

Google to Censor Blogger Blogs on a 'Per Country Basis'
Google has quietly announced changes to its Blogger free-blogging platform that will enable the blocking of content only in countries where censorship is required. "Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law," Google wrote [in its announcement].
See the full article (Wired, David Kravets, 1/31/12)
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Netanyahu Chats on Facebook with Arab World
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent 30 minutes Monday in a first-of-its-kind live Facebook chat with Arabs from around the world in an effort to use social media to deconstruct stereotypes about him and Israel. Netanyahu's spokesman for the Arabic media translated the questions that came into Netanyahu's Arabic Facebook page in real time, and then immediately typed in Arabic Netanyahu's responses. [Israeli government figures claim that] about 700 people took part, including from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, the Palestinian Authority and North Africa.
See the full article (Jerusalem Post, Herb Keinon, 1/31/12)
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Anti-terrorism Police Target 'Extremist' Internet Files
Two years ago the Association of Chief Police Officers set up a nationwide trial project, the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIU), which was tasked with shutting down or removing extremist content from the web. The unit has received over 2,000 referrals since it officially began its work 18 months ago. [CTIU head] Supt Jayne Snelgrove says that if a domain is hosted in the UK they can act quickly with service providers to take it down or remove the offending content.
See the full article (BBC, Sanjiv Buttoo, 1/30/12)
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Internet Censorship from Around the Globe
Last week, public outrage forced congress to table some bills backed by Hollywood lobbyists that would have barred access to sites accused of piracy. But Hollywood's influence extends well beyond the US Congress. Bob talks to Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has created a website called Global Chokepoints that tracks pending or existing legislation worldwide that would kick people or websites off the internet.
See the full article (NPR, 1/27/12)
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New Apps Help Activists Sharing Video to Remain Anonymous
A pair of new apps, launched via a collaboration between WITNESS, The Guardian Project, and the International Bar Association, are attempting to ensure better "visual anonymity" and "visual privacy" for activists -- but also to preserve that video for posterity. ObscuraCam, which is currently only built for Android, allows users to post videos online with pixilated faces to protect their identities. It can also delete potentially incriminating metadata attached to the video.
See the full article (RFE/RL, Luke Allnutt, 1/27/12)
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Revolution, Women And Social Media in The Middle East
With her arms still bandaged from the assault she suffered at the hands of Egypt's ruling military power last November, [Egyptian-American activist Mona el] Tahawey was greeted like a celebrity as she kicked off the Yahoo! Change Your World Cairo summit Wednesday. The event brought together many of the region's leading activists to tell their stories of revolutions -- both successful and unsuccessful -- and discuss how women were using social and digital media to bring about positive change.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Courtney C. Radsch, 1/27/12)
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Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry Documents Artist's Social-Media Dissent
Most art documentaries feature paintbrushes or chisels. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry opens with a surveillance camera. Alison Klayman's entertaining, compelling and thought-provoking film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week, follows the Beijing-based architect, conceptual artist and provocateur as he does battle with Chinese authorities. Footage from Never Sorry shows him thinner, looking broken, and he's under a one-year ban from using social media.
See the full article (Wired, Jason Silverman, 1/27/12)
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Twitter's Country-specific Censorship Tool Prompts User Protest
Some Twitter users say they will stop using the service on Saturday in protest of the company's new rule that allows for content to be blocked in specific countries. Critics worry that Twitter's policy will destroy its capability to work as a platform for impromptu social movements, a role it played so prominently during the Arab Spring. The company said that as it continues to grow globally it's had to rethink its policies on free expression.
See the full article (Washington Post, Hayley Tsukayama, 1/27/12)
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21st Century Statecraft: Forging U.S. Digital Diplomacy
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made 21st Century Statecraft, or using digital networks to advance America's interests around the world, a key part of our foreign policy approach. So we're continually asking ourselves as we look at our foreign policy priorities - how can innovation help us do this better, faster, and more economically? Social media offers a powerful way for the State Department to listen to foreign publics and better understand their needs and aspirations.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Victoria Esser, 1/26/12)
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FBI Plans Social Network Map Alert Mash-up Application
The FBI is seeking to develop an early-warning system based on material "scraped" from social networks. It says the application should provide information about possible domestic and global threats superimposed onto maps "using mash-up technology". The FBI says the information would be used to help it to predict the likely actions of "bad actors", detect instances of people deliberately misleading law enforcement officers and spot the vulnerabilities of suspect groups.
See the full article (BBC, 1/26/12)
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How Africa Tweets
In an analysis of more than 11.5 million geolocated tweets posted during the last three months of 2011, Portland Communications and the platform Tweetminster gathered data about the continent's use of the social network. Fascinatingly, 68 percent of those polled said they also use Twitter to monitor the news, making Twitter a potentially effective, if still nascent, way to circumvent African nations' generally highly restricted media institutions.
See the full article (Atlantic, Megan Garber, 1/26/12)
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What's New from PeaceMedia

"Building Peace Without Travelling" - Bridging the Divide
By harnessing the power of the Internet, it is possible to connect peacebuilders across cultures, languages, and distances. This video shows how Google, the popular search engine, can deliver opportunities to get involved with civil society programs around the world.
See the full video
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