Category Archives: censorship

NATO Issues Strict Rules For Afghan News Coverage

NATO is imposing strict new restrictions on foreign journalists covering the war in southern Afghanistan. The new rules could very well affect the news that the Canadian people will now be getting from Kandahar.
The new rules have been in place since early March. The enforcement of the rules by the US military is very much like what is in place for reporters covering the news in Iraq.

It is now impossible for Canadian journalists to leave Kandahar Airfield without an escort and then return safely to NATO’s principle base.

Canadian soldiers are required to escort newly arrived journalists everywhere on the airfield. That includes the military going into the showers with reporters.

Some journalists have been confined to sleeping quarters when they are not working.

This measure has been temporarily suspended under pressure from the Canadian military. The military has tried to have the policy reversed.

The Toronto Star reports:

“The media is not the enemy and this is a form of censorship – and it is unacceptable,” Liberal MP Denis Coderre said Tuesday.

“There is a public interest to know what’s going on in the field.”

The Canadian Association Journalists have called on the Harper government to put pressure on the Pentagon to reverse this policy.

The Star reports:

“It sounds like the more control they have over journalists, where they go, who they talk to, they’ll be able to shape the story in a much effective way,” she said.

“That ultimately is not effective for Canadians’ understanding of what’s really going on.”

Some of the same rules do not apply to journalists from the United States. Those rules are a violation of their rights under the United States constitution. One of the differences is that Canadian reporters are also compelled to forfeit their passports to the military for the duration of their stay.

The new measures appear to affect Canadian news organizations the most. Other NATO countries have sent groups of reporters through Kandahar for short-term assignments.

Reporters have noted that an informal reason for the new guidelines is that some U.S. private contractors have been accused of stealing.

The new rules require Canadian journalists be given a full federal government security screening, involving background checks to be granted accreditation.

This new mandate comes just as Washington is about to booster the troops with an additional 21,000 combat soldiers and trainers.

The U.S. security team at Kandahar Airfield has stopped issuing International Security Assistance Force accreditation since February. Now journalists are only given base visitor passes. These passes restrict movements and require those with the passes to be closely monitored.

Some of the stories that Canadian journalists in the past covered had to do with the allegations of torture among Taliban prisoners and the lives of refugees who have been left homeless after bombing raids.

Canadian troops in Kandahar are stationed at the air field also.


Amazon accused of censoring books by removing gay titles

Amazon has dropped gay titles from search results. Is the self imposed censorship from Amazon or is it a glitch in the software program the company is using?
Amazon.com has been accused of censoring books with gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual themes.

An Internet fury was started on Sunday when writer Mark R. Probst wrote about the news on a blog. After contacting Amazon and being told that the books were now classified as ‘adult’ titles.” Mark Wagner warns that the action could be a result of a software glitch on Information Weekly.

Indeed, an Amazon spokeswoman said late Sunday that the change was a “glitch” in their software, they’re fixing it, and they’re still trying to figure out what’s going on. Even in text, she sounded tired.

My prediction: By the end of the day Monday, we’ll find out this is, indeed, a software glitch. Or maybe some bigoted middle manager got too big for his britches. I am confident that this is not a reflection of Amazon policy.

Queerty is one site that isn’t buying the ‘software glitch’ excuse. Amazon sent out a statement to the site:

“We recently discovered a glitch to our Amazon sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed. We’re working to correct the problem as quickly as possible.”

According to the article’s author running a search on homosexuality on Amazon brings up A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality first. When Digital Journal typed the same word in it indeed brought up the book title first. Most of the first ten book shown indeed were of a religious theme.

Mark Probst, the author who started the furor received an email from Amazon after he asked two weeks ago why his gay-themed romance books were removed from the listings.

“In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,
Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage”

The titles are still on the site, they have just been delisted. Amazon reports CNET has simply excluded ‘adult’ material from appearing on some searches and best sellers lists.

After a weekend of Twitters flying back and forth, one has to wonder if Amazon will take a hit over this matter? In times of economic crisis, any help can be devastating.


The Vancouver Police Sorry For Taking Press Camera

The Vancouver Police took a newspaper photographer’s camera last Sunday as the journalist snapped shots following a police shooting.
On Wednesday the police issued a statement about the incident as CBC reports:

“I am here this morning to advise you that the Vancouver Police Department has formally apologized to the Province newspaper for retaining the camera belonging to their photographer Jason Payne for longer than we should have,” Chief Jim Chu told reporters during a morning news briefing.

Canada.com reports that the police know better than to take cameras from the media.

“As police officers we know, or should know, that media personnel have special protections in law, and that a search warrant is the appropriate legal mechanism to seize such evidence from a media person in these circumstances,” said Chu. “Unfortunately, the constable was not given the appropriate advice by a senior officer.”

The camera was seized for about an hour when an officer believed it had pictures of police shooting a man as he tried to ram a police car with a stolen truck. The man was hit in and leg and suffered gun shot wounds.

Chu says that the police were unaware that the camera belonged to a member of the press.

The Calagary Herald was told Payne’s side of the story.

“They said I was obstructing justice and they were going to confiscate my camera as evidence. They ended up taking my camera from me. It was either that or be arrested,” he said.

“They were manhandling me,” he said. Payne was shocked.

Payne’s side of the story fits into what another witness recalled. A movie crew was witness to the events as they were filming close by. The best-boy on the production Nicholas-Kandie told the Calgary Herald.

“He was assaulted by the police. They had him in a lock hold and (Payne) had his foot on his camera,” trying to stop it from being taken, said Nicholas-Kandie.

The Editor-in-Chief at the Province, Wayne Moriarty said that he would be investigating the matter. He wants to know why his photographer had to endure what he called typical police bully tactics.

While Payne accepted the chief’s apology he denies that he did not identify himself as a member of the press.

“I appreciate the explanation that Chief Chu has presented but I reject his claim that I did not identify myself immediately as a press photographer for the Province newspaper,” said Payne, a news photographer for 16 years. “The first thing I did when the police attention was drawn to me was to tell them that I was a press photographer for the Province newspaper. I was there in an official capacity as a journalist and I reject that claim that I did not announce who I was immediately.”

Chu has told his officers since the incident that they do not have authority to take cameras from either the press or the public unless they have made an arrest, have a warrant or believe important evidence may be destroyed.

Police can easily track down images from the press but when it comes to the general public that is iffy. At times for investigative reasons those cameras can be taken for that reason.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a formal complaint with the police board about the incident.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression joins in with condemning the event.

CJFE calls upon the Vancouver police and police departments across the
country to ensure that their officers are given comprehensive training that
sets out the rights of the media. We also expect that police will be held
accountable if they flout these rights. CJFE looks forward to the results of
an internal investigation that the Vancouver police has indicated it will be
holding.


Wall Street Journal editor being sued for contempt of court

A Wall Street Journal editor has been sued for contempt of court in Singapore. The lawsuit stems from three articles last year on the city-state’s judiciary.
Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page, is being sued by the Attorney-General’s office in Singapore. High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang approved the application for the lawsuit allowing it to precede to court. The courts are also proceeding on contempt charges against the newspaper’s international editor Daniel Hertzberg and managing editor Christine Glancey.

The Attorney-General has alleged that the three articles “contained passages that scandalize the Singapore judiciary.” The news pieces were published in the Journal’s Asia edition in the editorials and opinion section.

The articles in question dealt with Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and others having to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew damages for libel, a letter from Dr. Chee as a rebuttal of the first editorial and an editorial on the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute’s report on the Singapore judiciary.

In November Justice Tay found the Journal in contempt of court fining it $16,250 for publishing the articles. It was the largest fine that the court’s have ever levied against a paper.

In the last few years Singapore’s leaders has sued journalists and political opponents for alleged defamation. The courts have ruled in favor of the leaders in these cases. Fines have been issued to Bloomberg, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune from these lawsuits.

Human Rights Watch called Singapore out last year on their use of defamation lawsuits as a means to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians.

Government leaders say that they are in their right to defend their personal and professional reputations. They say articles that speak out against them take away the respect that they need from the public and interferes with their ability to govern properly.


Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says youngest on NDNAD under 1

DNA stored in the UK national database includes that of an infant under the age of one. The oldest person with a profile is over the age of 90.
After the announcement was made Monday night by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith she stated that the Government would be taking ‘immediate steps’ to remove all profiles of children under the age of 10 from the database.

The Daily Mail reports:

She told Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne: ‘As at November 26 2008, the youngest person with a profile on the NDNAD was aged under one year and the oldest was over 90 years old.’

In December last year Ms. Smith had said that there would be changes to the way the database operates.

The national DNA database was set up to aid the police by quickly identifying offenders, make earlier arrests, securing more convictions and providing critical investigative leads for police investigations.

The database is the largest of any country. By 2005 over 3.4 million DNA profiles had been stored but at times those profiles have been controversial.

There are those that say that the database is turning the UK into a police state and that Big Brother is looking over the land.

There have been reports that the NDNAD potentially infringes civil liberties and could in the future be used for malign purposes.

David Mery of The Register has been one who has written against the database’s retention of DNA of innocent people.

“If you are among the estimated 573,639 to 857,366 innocents whose DNA profile is on the National DNA Database (NDNAD), you should act now. Don’t wait until the time the police will have to weed out these records and samples.”


China Plans Blacklist For Journalists By End Of The Year

According to the Huffington Post China is planning on creating a blacklist of journalists. Those journalist are the ones that break the strict Chinese rules for media.
The announcement was made last Friday according to a report in the China Press and Publishing Journal. The agency controls state-owned Chinese media and plans to have a database of media professionals who have broken the rules up within the year.

Journalists that appear on the blacklist will have their press cards taken away. They will be restricted from news reporting and editing news material.

China is well known for controlling what is reported in the media. During the summer games in Beijing some of the rules were temporarily relaxed. That policy has gone with the Olympic flame. Journalists in China are imprisoned when reporting about corruption in the private sector or in the government.

The national database is just one of the means that the government has planned to supervise news coverage according to Li Dongdong, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication. There will also be tightened reviews for press credentials and standardized qualifications for editors of newspapers and magazines.

These measures will not apply to outside journalists. Chinese citizens are forbidden to work as journalist for foreign media organizations.


Opinion: Oxford University Press Eliminates Words About Christianity, Monarchy

The Oxford University Press has removed words form its Junior Dictionary that have to do with Christianity and British history.

Gone are words like “aisle”, “bishop”, “chapel”,”abbey” and “saint”. Apparently those are no longer words for kids who use the dictionary. Words that have to do with the internet like “blog” and “broadband” however made the new edition.

The publisher says that the language changes reflect the modern, multicultural, multi-faith society that England has become.
Academics aren’t buying it. They fear that using this edition of the dictionary will short change youth when it come to their British heritage.


The Telegraph
reports:

“We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable,” said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University. “The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us.”

When words such as abbey and willow are replaced by modern terms like MP3 player and voicemail something is dangerously wrong. Language does change with the times but eliminating words that are still used in society is a step into the world of censorship that we can not take sitting down.

Mother Lisa Saunders is “horrified” by the huge change from 1978 that has taken place with the most current edition of the dictionary.

“I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions,” said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. “I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed. We know that language moves on and we can’t be fuddy-duddy about it but you don’t cull hundreds of important words in order to get in a different set of ICT words.”

Oxford defends the changes saying that it selects the words with the aid of the Children’s Corpus. The Children’s Corpus is a list of 50 million words that make up general language from children’s books and terms found in school curriculum. Lexicographers use word frequency as a means of adding and deleting words from the list.

The head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press says that a huge consideration is the size of the volume and little hands that have to handle it.

“When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don’t go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as “Pentecost” or “Whitsun” would have been in 20 years ago but not now.”

Words removed from this edition of the dictionary.

Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

Dwarf, elf, goblin

Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words added to the dictionary.

Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue

Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro

Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph


Opinion: Reporters Arrested During RNC Have Charges Dropped

St. Paul officials are saying that they are dropping criminal charges against the slew of journalists that were arrested during the Republican National Convention’s protests Friday.

The Huffington Post quotes Mayor Chris Coleman:

“This decision reflects the values we have in St. Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press,” Coleman said in a prepared statement.

He added, “At the scene, the police did their duty in protecting public safety. In this decision, we are serving the public’s interest to maintain the integrity of our democracy, system of justice and freedom of the press.”

The city isn’t sure yet how many cases will be affected by the choice to let the reporters off the hook. They plan to use a ‘broad defination’ of journalist. That could mean bloggers who were put in plastic cuffs will be among those whose First Amendment rights will be valued.

More than 800 people were arrested during the convention for protesting.

Amy Goodman is one of those who was busted along with staffers. She is the host of Democracy Now!

It’s all well and good to drop the charges and cite the First Amendment but where the heck was it when it mattered? When journalists are locked up instead of being allowed to cover the day to day happenings of the news it sends out a strong message.


Death Tends To Quiet A Reporter, No Arrests Keep Others Silent

In the past 15 years there have been 500 deaths with only 15 percent of the cases being brought to justice for one career. Would it surprise you to know that journalism is a dangerous business and the law isn’t that concerned when a reporter is murdered?

“Every time a journalist is murdered and the killer is allowed to walk free, it sends a terrible signal to the press and to others who would harm journalists,” said Joel Simon, executive director of New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Censorship is alive and well in many parts of the world. Silence is achieved by a bullet into one who doesn’t conform and gets the truth out. In 2007 alone there were 65 journalists silenced. According to CPJ governments either don’t have the means available to prosecute those who quiet reporters or have no desire to even bother with the case.

Last November the Global Initiative to Combat Impunity was launched by CPJ. They just released the “Impunity Index” to coincide with World Press Freedom Day. That was on Sunday, it barely made a blip in the world of media.

This year the list detailed journalists who were killed in the line of duty whose cases have had no convictions. For a country to be included in the list it had to have had more than five unsolved murders between 1998 to 2007.

Cases where a journalist was killed in combat zones were not included on this year’s list for the sake of objectivity. Cases that included a conviction of the murder but not the mastermind behind such assassins were also not included on the list.

Not surprisingly the countries with the most unsolved murders of journalists were Iraq, Sierra Leone and Somalia. These three countries have high levels of internal conflicts. What is surprising is that other countries listed have stable governments and are considered democracies such as India, Russia and Mexico yet the murder of journalists still go unannounced.

In some incidents journalists have been killed because they uncovered and expose government corruptions. Such was a case in the Philippines where a journalist was murdered after using the media to highlight that a mayor had stolen steel beams from a public construction site for his own use. Other local journalists may cease to write about such corruptions for fear they will be the next target of a gunman. When these murders go without arrests it tells those who wish to quiet the press that they are in the clear.

Censorship doesn’t just take place with the loss of life. Threats, intimidation all play a part in quieting reporters. When it’s life and death rules sometimes a journalist will opt to play by the ‘rules’ and survive.

Generally if a conviction does take place in the worst offending countries it is because a foreign journalist was the target of an assassin’s bullet.

“We are calling for action, thorough investigations and vigorous prosecutions in all journalist homicides,” Simon said


op-ed:Welcome To The New America, Police State

The United States of America was founded on freedoms and rights. Freedoms of speech and religion, the right to pursue happiness. The right to privacy in your own home. Somewhere along the lines in the past decade something has gone terribly wrong.

The Merriam-Webster definition of a police state is as follows: a political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.

The Urban Dictionary says it is a country where the police watch what you do and try to control your life. Where there’s cameras in town centres and on public transport. Where you can be arrested because of something you said to a friend about the leaders of your country. Where police stop and search people for no reason. Where you can be detained without charge or trial. Where the state plants bugs with impunity. Where protesters have to get police permits, and where police regularly attack protesters.

It has been revealed that the United States government issued a subpoena to Amazon.com to obtain the identities of customers who brought their books from the site. It’s not the first time the citizens of the U.S. have faced this kind of personal invasion by the government. The Patriot Act of 2001 allows for the government and FBI to gain access to business records, medical records, educational records and library records, including stored electronic data and communications.

The Amazon deal was blocked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker.

“Well-founded or not, rumors of an Orwellian federal criminal investigation into the reading habits of Amazon’s customers could frighten countless potential customers into canceling planned online book purchases.”

The United States government is already listening in on its citizens calls, both domestic and international. Your emails can be tapped. There is no longer the right of citizens to have a search warrant before Big Brother comes knocking because they don’t bother to knock, they sneak in the back door while you chat on the phone. But it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone because they may act up about it.

Speaking of acting up if you don’t have a [url=http://media.www.michigandaily.com/media/storage/paper851/news/2002/10/02/Opinion/A.Permit.We.Protest-1412692.shtml t=_blank]permit then you could be in trouble. The issuing of permits to protest took place quickly after 9/11. Getting arrested if you protest the war in Iraq should seem insane to Americans but it happens all the time. Speakers are hauled off before they can let their opinions heard. War Vets are handcuffed and hauled away for protesting the new war on Veteran’s Day.

What is most frightening about these acts? The American people have been silent. They haven’t caused an uproar as their freedoms flee into the government’s hands.

We have a government who is the only one in the world that has dropped nuclear weapons on civilians going after oil rich countries because they have an idea that there are weapons of mass destruction. Or was that claim simply used to make it seem okay to invade a country after the U.N. said no? Iran is the next target.

“The President cannot eliminate constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen by proclaiming a civilian, even a criminal civilian, an enemy combatant subject to indefinite military detention,” the panel found.

Living in a police state means that the police don’t have to have a reason to arrest you. Wait a minute, that hasn’t happened in the United States to their citizens! Wrong. Jose Padilla was held for months without charges before his trial. Yaser Esam Hamdi was held for three years without charges. Maher Hawash is another.

These little pieces of the puzzle of freedom that go missing may not seem like much in the beginning. But as each piece is removed it stands the chance of being lost. As each piece is lost the overall puzzle changes its image.

When freedoms slowly and quietly are removed the landscape of a country changes. When you relook at the definitions again for police state do you see a new puzzle starting to become complete?