USIP's Media, Conflict & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 9 - 15, 2012

Media and Journalism

Internet and Social Media

What's New from PeaceMedia

Media and Journalism

In Burma, a Delicate Balance for New Freedoms of Speech
The weekend before last, black-clad Burmese journalists took to the streets of Rangoon to rail against the suspension of two local newspapers by the country's censorship board. The Voice Weekly and The Envoy were suspended for not submitting stories for pre-publication scrutiny, a legacy of the bad old days of arbitrary rule. The protest and other related developments show how finely-balanced emerging press and speech freedoms are in Burma.
See the full article (PBS, Simon Roughneen, 8/15/12)
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Chad's Flourishing Community Radio Stations Feel the Pinch
Refugee camp radio stations set up by a development charity are loved by their audiences, but face major funding challenges. The stations use a mix of targeted social action programmes and innovations on a range of subjects, often those considered taboo in local communities. These have included interactive phone-ins and discussions to provide information, and a communications channel between [Darfuri] refugees and aid agencies.
See the full article (Guardian, Celeste Hicks, 8/14/12)
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Does Russia-Georgia-War Film Signal a Rift Between Putin and Medvedev?
A slickly produced film featuring some leading Russian military figures who accuse then-President Dmitry Medvedev of indecisiveness on the eve of Russia's brief August 2008 war with Georgia continues to produce shockwaves among the country's political elite. Timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the conflict, the film has been seen as an attack on Medvedev, who is now prime minister, and a bid to portray President Vladimir Putin as a far-seeing and reliable leader.
See the full article (RFE/RL, Robert Coalson, 8/13/12)
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Somalia: 2 Journalists Killed
Two more Somali journalists have been killed in Mogadishu, the capital, in the past two days, bringing the number of journalists slain in the country this year to nine. On Sunday, a man dressed in a high school uniform shot and killed Yusuf Ali Osman, a veteran reporter who has been serving as the director of Somalia's Information Ministry. None of the people involved in the nine media workers deaths this year have been prosecuted.
See the full article (AP, 8/13/12)
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Egypt Bans Two Media Executives from Travel Amid Investigation
Egypt's prosecutor-general has banned the head of a satellite channel and the editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper from travel amid allegations of incitement to kill the president and fueling sectarian strife. The decisions are the latest targeting Tawfiq Okasha, the head of the Al-Faraeen channel and Islam Afifi. Okasha was under investigation by state security prosecutors for allegedly seeking to incite violence against President Mohamed Mursi.
See the full article (Bloomberg, Tarek El-Tablawy, 8/12/12)
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Press Freedom Group Criticizes Oman for Convicting 20 Bloggers, Activists
An international press freedom organization has criticized Oman for convicting 20 activists, including prominent bloggers, on charges of illegal assembly and of insulting the nation's ruler. The cases are part of wider crackdowns against protesters and online activists in the Arabian Peninsula country, which has seen growing calls for more political openness after last year's unrest inspired by the Arab Spring.
See the full article (AP, 8/9/12)
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Pakistan's Eroding Space for Free Expression
Declared as the world's deadliest place for reporters for the past two consecutive years, Pakistan has made little progress in improving the working conditions for journalists. The Pakistani state has historically set a negative precedent by patronizing and glorifying coercive tactics toward the media. Ethnic nationalist groups and extremist religious organizations, have learned these techniques from the government and now expect to enjoy the same level of authority and impunity.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Malik Siraj Akbar, 8/9/12)
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Internet and Social Media

Facebook Shows Off Its Good Side in Aftermath of Iranian Quakes
Back in 2009, at the height of mass protests that followed Iran's disputed presidential election, Facebook emerged as an important tool for protesters to share news and information. It had such an impact that the authorities even branded Facebook a weapon in a "soft war" against the Islamic republic. As a result, users in Iran go through the hassle of going through proxy servers to circumvent the regime's efforts to block Facebook. And this week, their unsanctioned efforts were life-saving.
See the full article (RFE/RL, Hannah Kaviani, 8/15/12)
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UN Body Opens Debate on Internet Future to Public After Critics Slam Secrecy of Talks
The U.N. telecoms agency has invited the world's more than 2 billion Internet users to join a debate about the future of the Internet. Diplomats have for months been holding closed-doors discussions about proposals that include enhanced government surveillance and changing the way Internet traffic is billed. Activists say greater government control of the Internet could endanger free speech online.
See the full article (AP, 8/15/12)
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'Twitter Is My City': An Exclusive Interview with Ai Weiwei
Ai, who lived in New York for much of the 1980s, has become a patron of China's disaffected urbanites, and here, in his tranquil garden, he holds court, offering advice to the thousands of fans, bloggers, activists, and petitioners who visit from all across China and the world. Despite the government's relentless attempts to shut him up, Ai is still talking. The first change he would make to Chinese cities? Free the people.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Jonathan Landreth, 8/13/12)
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Korea Policing the Net. Twist? It's South Korea.
A government critic who called the president a curse word on his Twitter account found it blocked. An activist whose Twitter posting likened officials to pirates for approving a controversial naval base was accused by the navy of criminal defamation. Such a crackdown on Internet freedom would be notable, but perhaps not surprising, in China, with its army of vigilant online censors. But the avid policing of social media in these cases took place in South Korea.
See the full article (New York Times, Choe Sang-Hun, 8/12/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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Syrians Wage Frenzied Propaganda War on Social Media
The battle for Syria is raging on the ground but also on social media, where people on both sides of the conflict are hacking, posting and spamming in a frenzied propaganda war. The Twitter feeds of news organisations have been hacked by pro-regime elements, videos purporting to show atrocities in Syria are regularly posted to YouTube and pro- or anti-government messages often flood Facebook pages.
See the full article (AFP, Marianne Barriaux, 8/12/12)
Click to read "Syria and "The Day After" Project," a USIP On the Issues by Steven Heydemann.
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Make Tweet, Not War
Lebanese political figures have become notorious for taking their rather unseemly catfights to Twitter and Facebook, leading some to wonder whether tweeting their spats is the only thing keeping these pillars of the Lebanese community from literally being at each other's throats. Perhaps Twitter, by providing Lebanese politicians with a platform to get snarky, is the only thing standing in the way of another civil war. Who needs to start shooting when you can run your mouth instead?
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Sulome Anderson, 8/10/12)
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The Anti-social Network: How al-Qaeda Survives
Given the advances in communication technology that were well underway before the 9/11 attacks, it is natural that many counter-network theorists have employed models explicitly rooted in the information age. Many theorists thought of al-Qaeda and other contemporary violent non-state actors as social networks much like those observed on the Internet. Unfortunately for us, al-Qaeda long ago understood how to lessen its organizational signature.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Adam Elkus, 8/9/12)
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What's New from PeaceMedia

"Scilla Elworthy: Fighting with Non-violence" - TEDxExeter
How do you deal with a bully without becoming a thug? In this wise and soulful talk, peace activist Scilla Elworthy maps out the skills we need - as nations and individuals - to fight extreme force without using force in return. To answer the question of why and how non-violence works, she evokes historical heroes - Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela - and the personal philosophies that powered their peaceful protests.
See the full video
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