Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Violations of Press Freedom: Western Democracies too...

Freedom of the press,
Access to sources, Confidentiality of Sources
The real "barometer" of Democracy

After Afghanistan this summer, the website Wikileaks released October 22nd with several media 400,000 classified documents from the archives of the American army on the war in Iraq. The New York Times, United States, the British Guardian, Le Monde in France or the Spiegel in Germany were able to consult these reports 400,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.

This, says Le Monde on its website, reports of incidents written by officers in the field between January 2004 and December 2009. They "describe, day after day, the bombings, fire-fights, searches for weapons caches, arrests and violence against civilians."

These "Leaks"were harshly criticized by US officials sources, [one can understand why] but welcomed by international media and the public who discovered a hidden aspect of the Iraq war. Similar releases are to be made soon again about Afghanistan, according to Wikileaks sources.

Sources, and provided data, are naturally most crucial assets to journalists who then are to establish the credibility or not of these data.

France, in spite of claiming that the secret of sources is the key to democracy and claims in the "Act No. 2010-1 of 4 January 2010 on the confidentiality of journalists' sources with the Article 7 that this Act is applicable throughout the territory of the French Republic" was ranked 44th in the latest ranking on press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Among the reasons cited for poor ranking in France, Jean-Francois Julliard, Secretary General of RSF, quotes Nicolas Sarkozy (29% in the latest popularity survey presidential) majority "abusive" towards journalists, and notes the repeated attempts to violate the confidentiality of sources.

Even in sport journalism: "Le président de l'OL n'a pas aimé un article de L'Equipe". "War is declared between Jean-Michel Aulas and daily L'Equipe. The president of Lyon, very put together by an article published Friday, publicly settled its accounts with one of the daily..."

Commentator Shoichiro Tahara

In the RSF list, Japan is 12th. One recent controversy is the Tahara case. Tahara is a famous TV Asahi commentator and the Kobe District Court has ordered him to turn over a taped interview with a senior Foreign Ministry official as evidence in a lawsuit over remarks he made on TV stating that the ministry knows the people on its list of potential abductees taken by North Korea must already be dead. Soichiro Tahara will appeal to the Osaka High Court, arguing that he should be allowed to keep his news source confidential the Mainichi wrote yesterday. Tahara made the recording on Nov. 11, 2008, when he interviewed the senior official. Tahara is being sued by the parents of an abductee who claim his remarks caused them psychological pain and that he should pay compensation.

RSF 2010 World Press Freedom Index

It is not a surprise that the countries who have a better defined line of respect towards the journalists are in western Europe. The EU leads the list of nations being most respectable of the protection of sources.

Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden are the top 5 and lead the list with European Union nations like Belgium 14th or Luxembourg 15th. Israel, is 86th, the UK 19th, the USA 20th, Singapore 136th, Russia 140th, Brunei 142nd, China 172nd, Hong Kong 34th!

RSF commented after publication of its Press Freedom Index 2010:

"It is disturbing to see several European Union member countries continuing to fall in the index. If it does not pull itself together, the European Union risks losing its position as world leader in respect for human rights. And if that were to happen, how could it be convincing when it asked authoritarian regimes to make improvements? There is an urgent need for the European countries to recover their exemplary status. We are also worried by the harsher line being taken by governments at the other end of the index. Rwanda, Yemen and Syria have joined Burma and North Korea in the group of the world’s most repressive countries towards journalists. This does not bode well for 2011. Unfortunately, the trend in the most authoritarian countries is not one of improvement.

"The Rules Of The Journalism Game"

An article describes that it is not easy to understand freedom of Press, an example in the USA: "Most reporters think that the average reader is totally in the dark about the rules of the journalism game. After the Washington Post fired one of its bloggers last week, readers would be justified in concluding that they know more about the rules than the journalists do. The Washington Post fired David Weigel, a blogger for who covered the Republican Party and conservative politics in general, after it came to light that he had written some nasty e-mails about Ron Paul, Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh."

The story here:

A good story about France, "Mémoire qui flanche La tremblante du journaliste" in

Sources: RSF, CCJ, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, cartoons Sejong, Reporter's Notes

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