Tuesday 16 February 2010

Press Freedom: Does 'naming and shaming' work as journalists' death toll reaches record?

Does "naming and shaming" those who attack journalists still work in the internet age?, asks Committee to Protect Journalists executive director Joel Simon in a new report.
Writing in the introduction to 'Attacks on the Press 2009', Simon  notes that despite the efforts of press freedom campaigners,  the massacre of 31 journalists and media workers in the Philippines pushed the 2009 media death toll to the highest level ever recorded by CPJ and the number of journalists in prison also rose, fueled by the crackdown in Iran.
Simon says; "For more than three decades, the strategy of “name and shame” has been a hallmark of the international human rights movement. The guiding premise is that even the most brutal leaders want to hide—or at least justify—their repressive actions. If abuses could be exposed through meticulously documented reports, and if those reports could generate coverage in major international media outlets, governments would be compelled to curb their most egregious behavior.
"The strategy worked exceptionally well from the 1970s through the 1990s, when foreign correspondents functioned as information gatekeepers, broadly shaping perceptions about events in a particular country. This was a time when a single editorial in a major publication like The New York Times or The Washington Post could mobilize public opinion and produce a shift in policy. Those days are over."
But, he adds: "Today’s fragmented and diffuse media landscape has opened new opportunities for advocacy campaigns, ones that unite local and international concerns, ones that use blogs, e-mail blasts, and social media to shape public opinion. With the power of traditional media diminished, getting your message out is a painstaking process that demands the use of multiple methods. This is true whether you are running a political campaign, marketing a movie, or fighting for the human rights of journalists working in repressive countries.
"The good news is that these new strategies are effective, even in places you would not expect. Governments, including the most recalcitrant and repressive, still respond to international pressure."
He claims: "Press freedom defenders are speaking to more audiences and using a greater range of tactics than ever before."
Simon concludes: "The tragedies of 2009 only make our challenge more clear. Creating vibrant and secure global media requires new strategic thinking to bring killers to justice, to reduce the number of journalists in jail, and to support reporters working in exile or in repressive environments. On all of these fronts, there has been progress.... Protestations from repressive governments about “foreign meddling” and “secret agendas” are evidence that our campaigns are having the intended effect. The revolution in global information has created new challenges, but “name and shame” is alive and well."
Picture: Honduran police surround AP photographer Dario Lopez-Mills as he covers protests that followed the June presidential coup. (Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas)

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