Sunday, January 30, 2011

Press Freedom Or Press Free-For-All? Implications Of Libel Reform

Jamaica Gleaner Company

Press Freedom Or Press Free-For-All? Implications Of Libel Reform

Published: Sunday | January 30, 2011

Ian Boyne, Contributor

Libel Reform joint select committee member Horace Chang was especially poignant in Parliament last Tuesday as the House passed the long-overdue report of the committee. "Freedom of expression is not synonymous with freedom of the press, as the press in the modern world is not free but very much part of the business elite."

It was not your garden-variety statement from a representative of a party which has long been synonymous with Big Business as well as conservative ideas. Then Chang delivered himself of this elegant statement: "The press today is not the young, bright and sometimes attractive professionals gracing the media box. It is as much the grey-suited, often little-known directors and owners that can be found in any boardroom." We are grateful to The Gleaner for carrying his remarks on its front page last Wednesday.

Chang's statements were pithy, pungent and powerful. Interestingly, People's National Party Member of Parliament Peter Bunting expressed similar sentiments at an anti-corruption forum with senior journalists and opinion leaders last December. In speaking of anti-corruption efforts, Bunting made reference to "the liberalisation of our defamation laws that has been on the table for some time and which I am guardedly in favour of ... . My only caveat on this is that I believe that whatever liberalisation that takes place should apply equally to media owners and managers as to other politicians and public figures."

Media owners and journalists will, no doubt, see this as the politicians closing ranks and ganging up against the media to protect themselves and their interests. I say it's only a pity that it's the politicians who are raising these issues, for they are legitimate issues that we should long have put on the table for debate. It has always fascinated me that our press-freedom debate here is so way behind North America's and Europe's, because while we focus only on government, in North America and Europe, particularly the United States, there is a lot of focus on corporate power and its ability to threaten ordinary people's freedom of expression and right to know.

And it is not that the private sector is not powerful in Jamaica. We are a modern, liberalised economy where the corporate sector exerts enormous power. Indeed, some would say the press is the corporate sector! John Maxwell, whose journalistic bona fides and relentless passion for his profession no one would dare to question, was fond of saying freedom of the press was freedom for those who owned one.

Maxwell vehemently disagreed with his colleagues who were bawling for libel reform and complaining that they could do little investigative work because of chilling libel laws. In his frequently expressed view, truth is a defence, and if journalists did their work thoroughly and diligently, they could go after many a corrupt official or business person without fear of losing libel suits. Maxwell, as a well-read man, also knew that the press did not constitute the impartial, objective, detached, disinterested Archimedean space it passed off itself to be. The press had its own sectional interests to defend and it often did so masquerading under the cover of "defence of the people's interests" and "the right to know".

Bunting made the point to opinion leaders that "something that everyone denies officially, but everyone knows who works in the industry is a reality", is "the area of boardroom interference in newsrooms". Bunting said this was a "concern or a danger".

I think that that oft-repeated view is overdrawn. There is not nearly as much overt boardroom interference in newsrooms that some people imagine. There is some interference - as every reporter and editor knows. But the 'danger' or 'concern' is more subtle - and systemic - than that.

If board members of media houses had as much nefarious influence over newsrooms and editorial content, some of us would no longer be writing columns!

Material interests

The problem is not direct control or interference over newsrooms. The issue is that the values and interests of capital are diffused through the newsrooms; that the newsroom personnel recognise that it is in their own material interests to please the boardrooms if they want to maintain their jobs and get promotions. They know that if they are not commercially viable, if they don't please advertisers and cater to a mass audience, they won't be around. It's as simple as that.

The media bosses don't have to give direct edicts (I don't say they never). Newsrooms will go for edgy, sexy stories; will entertain the sensationalist stories because they will drive up ratings, beat the competition and excite readers/listeners and viewers. They respect the profit motive. And you are not going to be making huge profits if you don't cater to mass interest and have mass appeal.

The media's need to be commercially viable and profitable places limits on its ability to fully serve the public interest. Some of the vulgar journalism and unabashed promotion of media owners' interests you see here is not because of decrees from boardrooms. We have overzealous media workers who know how to please 'The Boss' without being told - and they do so willingly because they know it will pay off. Journalists who work in public relations please their clients, and some journalists do the same for their media bosses. And in-between, the people's interests get squeezed.

The masses don't have the financial clout and the goodies that the politicians and the corporate sector have to entice journalists. They can't give the cushy jobs and contracts to the journalists to serve their interests. Chang made an important distinction when he demarcated freedom of expression from freedom of the press. They are not necessarily the same. Indeed, Horace, you said it beautifully: The press is very much part of the business elite. The big media in this country are not owned by poor people. And even if some 'poor people' own shares, they don't get to make the important day-to-day decisions.

Catering to people

The interests of the press happen to coincide with the interests of the poor in a number of instances because the press, if it is to be a viable capitalist enterprise, has to cater to some of the people's interests. But don't you be naïve enough to believe that media can be oblivious to the drive - the intense drive - to be profitable.

We need a broader discussion on press freedom in Jamaica; one that includes a discussion on the power of the private sector. There is an issue right now with Claro and other telecommunication companies wanting to build cell sites in areas where people are protesting their presence. How many special media reports and daring focus you think we are going to get on this when these companies are spending so much money in advertising and sponsorships?

I bet you the media would have more strength for politicians in the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party than for Claro, LIME and Digicel executives. Politicians don't have the money power that these executives have and they can't do as much for media as they can.

The media allow the private sector to get away with a lot in Jamaica, not just because media owners are themselves private sector and play golf, tennis and drink Johnnie Walker Black with other movers and shakers in business; but journalists themselves understand the constraints and practise self-censorship.

I believe in a vigorous, trenchant, quarrelsome, investigative and boisterous press. US Justice Brennan was right in saying, as he handed down his opinion in that landmark New York Times v Sullivan case in 1964: "We consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open and that it may include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."

Noted Stanford University philosopher and Boston Review editor Joshua Cohen, in his book Philosophy, Politics and Democracy, puts it well: "Expression sometimes has unambiguous costs. It is sometimes offensive, disgusting or outrageous; it produces reputational injury and emotional distress. But the presence of such costs does not, as a general matter, suffice to remove protection from expression." Indeed.

Easier for journalists

Jamaica's libel reform will make it easier for journalists to do their work. The common-law offence of criminal libel has been abolished and the time within which one can bring a charge for libel has been reduced from six to two years. Significantly. the assessment for damages has been removed from the discretion of juries and will only be determined by judges. Juries tend to award huge damages.

The joint select committee has rejected the demand by the Media Association Jamaica Ltd to put a cap on damages, contending that judges are reasonable people and would not make outrageous awards. I can't finally decide where I come down on this one, as I don't want to encourage recklessness in journalism, but I still want journalists to be bold and daring enough to go after corrupt politicians, public officials and business people and to even use incendiary language in doing so. I want journalists to have no fears when going after them.

Justice Brennan expressed it well: "Would-be critics of official conduct may be deterred from voicing their criticism even though it is believed to be true and even though it is in fact true, because of doubt whether it can be proved in court or fear of the expense of having to do so." That's one benefit of capping damages, short of adopting the Sullivan rule. I am inclined to that view. Perhaps both the Small Committee and the joint select committee erred in not making that important concession to the media fraternity. The Reynolds principle of qualified privilege to criticise public officials, which the parliamentarians have, in effect, endorsed; along with the defence of truth (over the defence of justification) and the imminent whistle-blower legislation should give us, as journalists, significant ammunition to do serious damage to the edifice of corruption in Jamaica.

Urgent Appeal To Save The Life Of A Baloch Journalist In Pakistan

Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada) has released an urgent appeal today expressing serious concern over the Pakistani paramilitary’s attempted abduction of Qazi Dad Mohammad Rehan, 27 in the coastal town of Gwadar, Balochistan.

Director General UNESCO
Paris, France

Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada) has released an urgent appeal today expressing serious concern over the Pakistani paramilitary’s attempted abduction of Qazi Dad Mohammad Rehan, 27 in the coastal town of Gwadar, Balochistan. Thirty soldiers of the Frontier Corps (FC) in three vehicles with the intent to abduct him raided Mr. Rehan’s house on December 13, 2010 under the direct orders of Colonel Mahboob Ali, Commander FC, Gwadar. Military Intelligence (MI) officers and uniformed soldiers of the paramilitary arrived in vehicles with Frontier Corps licence plates and surrounded the house in the early hours between 2 am – 3 am. Luckily, Mr. Rehan escaped prior to the raid and the soldiers severely beat up his brothers and questioned them about his whereabouts.
Ironically, this happens to be the same town from where Abdul (Lala) Hameed Hayatan, 25, a Baloch journalist went missing on October 25, 2010 whose bullet-riddled body was discovered on November 18, 2010 outside the city of Turbat. His friends and family reportedly believe that Pakistani security agents are responsible for his disappearance and in-custody killing. Abdul Hameed Hayatan was a colleague of Mr. Rehan and both were involved in activism and members of the Baloch National Movement.
Mr. Rehan’s life is in extreme danger and once the Pakistani security forces take him away, he will never live to see the light of the day.
Mr. Rehan is the Secretary General of Gwadar Press Club, a journalist, poet, and the former Information Secretary of Baloch National Movement (BNM). He also is the bureau chief of Daily Tawar, editor of Murwarid, a Balochi literary magazine, and publisher of a blog. He is the voice behind the enforced disappearances of Baloch youth and journalists in Balochistan today, struggling against the complete media blackout in the Pakistani newspapers on the issues of gross human rights violations committed by the Pakistani intelligence agencies in the province.
According to Reporters without Borders (RWB), out of twelve journalists killed in the line of duty in Pakistan this year, four belong to Balochistan including the recent target killing of Muhammad Khan Sasoli in Khuzdar, Balochistan.
The Pakistani paramilitary and intelligence services have devised a policy of blocking all information to media by harassing, illegally abducting, and target killing of Baloch journalists. Several Balochistan-based newspapers, online daily papers, and websites have been banned or shutdown. Enforced disappearances in Balochistan have exceeded the number of people gone missing in the Pinochet era Chile in the 1970s and equals the 13000 mark during the ‘Dirty war’ in Argentina (1976-1983). In the last six months alone, the Pakistani security forces abducted and tortured to death 72 Baloch activists including students and journalists and dumped their disfigured bodies in the open fields.
Mutilated bodies of Mr. Qambar Chakar and Mr. Ilyas Nazar were found near Turbat on January 5, 2011. Both the bodies clearly showed signs of severe torture with several bullets shot in the head. The Pakistani security forces abducted Mr. Chakar, 24, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS) on November 26, 2010 for the second time. Mr. Ilyas Nazar, 26, a journalist was whisked away by the Pakistani paramilitary on December 22, 2010. Enforced disappearances, illegal detention, torture, extra judicial and in-custody killings have become rampant in Balochistan with a complete media blackout on the gruesome incidents.
Mr. Rehan has sent out an S.O.S. message to the international community, human rights bodies, and organizations for the protection of journalists to save his life. The message indicated that the paramilitary forces have surrounded the coastal town of Gwadar, controlling all the points of entry and exit. He desperately said in the message, “There is nowhere to hide or escape, the circle of death is closing upon me and the Pakistani security hounds are after my blood.”
BHRC (Canada) appeals to the international community, leaders of the western democracies, human rights groups, and the world journalist community to save the life of Qazi Dad Mohammad Rehan. We should not wait for his bullet-riddled body dumped and found in a field.
Zaffar Baloch
BHRC (Canada)

Publisher: mhd

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Truth always prevails

Truth always prevails


There is this famous saying that “a clear conscience fears no accusation,” and ultimately truth has to prevail come what may. It is also a fact that distance drums sound fairer.
A wrong perception prevails within the country and abroad that the Dawn management feels pride in upholding the rule of law, but gone are the days when such perception had any weightage. Since the joining of Mr Nasir Abbas as Editor, there is no concept of the rule of law and there are lies all around, because Mr Nasir has surrendered all the powers of a professional editor to the Dawn management, nullifying the pride of Dawn which earlier used to function under a strong professional editor.
A classical example of such a lie can be judged from the fact that the federal government under the Cost Of Living (Relief) Act, 1973, had granted Rs300 per month Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) w.e.f. 01-03-1997 and Rs100 per month from 01-02-1998. Notwithstanding the legal obligation, the Dawn management instead of extending the above COLA to employees refused to abide by the same on false pretexts, leaving no option for me but to resort to legal action.
During legal proceedings, the true faces of Mr Hameed Haroon, Abbas Nasir & Co, who were party in the case, got exposed. One cannot believe but this is a fact that Hameed Haroon and Abbas Nasir took plea that they are already paying COLA since the issuance of notification by the federal government and claimed that ex gratia amount of Rs8,916 was being paid to the undersigned.
Knowingly that it was totally a misconception, and a false plea to escape from the legal obligation, Mr Hameed Hroon and Abbas Nasir, who otherwise claim themselves to be champions of rule of law, human rights, etc were adamant to refrain from payment of the legitimate amount to the undersigned and other employees of Dawn in the shape of COLA.
One would be really disturbed to learn how egoistic Mr Abbas Nasir and Hameed Haroon are that they filed appeals before the Labour Court and also moved in the Lahore High Court to try their luck to deceive the law under false pretexts, yet they could not succeed.
In all such false pleas, Hameed Haroon and Abbas Nasir spent more than Rs1 million as legal charges, apart from expenses incurred on lawyers and other staff of the Dawn management travelling to and fro to deceive the law, but they miserably failed in their game-plan.
One can judge from their conduct the cruel mentality of these gentlemen. It speaks volumes about their menial mental level, which also clearly indicaes that Dawn’s prestige and grace is being ruined by these persons with their rigid and anti-worker attitude.
How can Dawn, under the editorship of Mr Abbas Nasir, pen down summons in editorials criticising various departments for delaying development projects, causing escalation in cost and how can it criticise various organisations for not extending legal rights to their employees? All that glitters is not gold, and the myth of Dawn has been shattered by a handful of individuals like Mr Nasir.
With the blessings of the Almighty Allah, I succeeded in the legal battle and a copy of the cheque I have received (and reproduced here) reflects that “he that falls today may rise tomorrow.” He that is down needs fear no fall, he that is low no pride. He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide. Truth always prevails!

Massacre of journalistic values by Mr. Abbas Nasir, Editor Daily “DAWN”.

Massacre of journalistic values by Mr. Abbas Nasir, Editor Daily “DAWN”.

Massacre of journalistic values by Mr. Abbas Nasir, Editor Daily “DAWN”.

It is quite surprising to note the surprise expressed by few after I broke
my three-year silence to unmask the non professional and anti-worker role
of Mr. Abbas Nasir, Editor “Dawn.”

The “objection” to my letter was made that why did I keep sitting on this
expose for three years?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, this very fact is the proof of my commitment
to professional ethics and decency which kept me away from publishing or
making public injustices done to me by the Editor Dawn unless he crossed
all boundaries of decencies and stooped so low by issuing an ad against me
which was unprecedented in Dawn’s laudable history.

The publication of a “Public Notice”, through Manager (H.R.) by Mr. Abbas
Nasir Editor Dawn was aimed at damaging my prestige and honour before the
public in general and professional fraternity in particular. This was the
reason which forced me to unmask Abbas Nasir’s true face which has been
hiding for a long time.
It is unfortunate that Mr Abbas Nasir held a professional and
innocent journalist guilty of “misconduct” without any cause,
occasion, proof, or reason. Hence it was time to call a spade a
Dear friends, on 11-07-2006 I went to Karachi, on my own
initiative, to have meeting with Mr. Abbas Nasir. During the
meeting I offered Mr Abbas Nasir to resign if there was any
complaint against me about my performance, my professional or
personal conduct.

Trying to play smart in response to my offer, Mr. Abbas Nasir shifted the
blame to Haroon-Sehgal family. He told me “off the record” that the actual
reason was that the Haroon–Segal Family was not pleased to see me in the
Daily Dawn. In the very next breath he enquired about my relations with
the Haroon–Segal Family on which I apprised him in detail. He got a
promise from me not to make public the details narrated to him by me. He
also promised that he would also keep the matter secret. I kept the word
but Mr. Abbas Nasir failed to keep the promise. Therefore, now I also
have the moral right to make my point of view public.
After listening to my comments on the reservations the
Haroon–Segal family had about me, Mr. Abbas Nasir scornfully
reiterated before me that these capitalists, whether in Mills or
in the Dawn, exercise the same anti-worker seth mentality. He
then asked me not to disclose the said remarks.
Moreover, he said that my personal file was not available to him
at that time and therefore asked me to see him again at 5.00 P.M.
the next day (12-0706) at his Dawn Office, Karachi. But when I
went to see him as per schedule, he conveyed a false message
through his Office Secretary, Sh. Latif, that he could not see me
because he was not feeling well, although he was present in his
office. He passed on further instructions to me to go back to
Faisalabad and carry on my job. He also promised that he would
call me again to Karachi whenever required.
The following detailed letter was sent to him by me;
July 28, 2006

Most respectfully submitted that the undersigned visited your Office on
11th July, 2006 with a request to review the Transfer Order’s dated 27th
June 2006 issued by the Management whereby I have been posted at Karachi
vide Memorandum No. M (HR)/PHPL/06/4472.
You were kind enough to give me patient hearing and listen to my
viewpoint sympathetically wherein it was transpired that my transfer was
an outcome of a “series of complaints” moved by various persons. But the
complaints or name of complainants were not disclosed to me.
With respect to this disclosure the following humble submission are made: -
i. No verbal or written complaint had ever been intimated to me. No
explanation was called from me.
ii. My conscience as well as my service record was clean and clear. I had
always tried my utmost to serve the institution faithfully and honestly.
iii. Dictates of justice and fair play demand that I should have been
afforded an opportunity of self-defence and called upon for explanation of
my position in case there was any complaint or charge against me.
iv. I also humbly informed you that some Police quarters feeling perplexed
had been after me to “fix me up” to satisfy their hurt ego due to my
fearless and honest reporting exposing their inefficiency and corruption.
v. I also appraised your honour that some powerful police officers who
were proceeded against by the Government and concerned agencies due to my
reporting were constantly threatening myself and my family and “some
handpicked journalists who are always readily available for playing in the
hands of police officers for sake of paltry gains had been given the
assignment of launching a vilification campaign against me.
vi. I also submitted that a particular journalist Mafia accustomed to
cheap and corrupt practices, wanted to tarnish the clean image of DAWN and
myself and to bring it under their umbrella, desperately wanted to get rid
of me by all means.
vii. I also submit that I have credible, substantial and corroborative
evidence and facts to prove the facts stated above.
viii. I humbly prayed before you and also submitted a written
representation mainly agitating that if my transfer had been ordered on
some complaint, action on the same may kindly be deferred till holding and
finalization of inquiry.
ix. I also prayed that in case of any complaint against me, open inquiry
may kindly be conducted.
x. Your goodself was apprised that once when I was present in the Press
Club, situated near DAWN Office, alongwith Mr. Muhammad Shafique, Reporter of “AAJ Television”, and Mr. Ajmal Malik, Reporter of Daily EXPRESS, when
Messrs. Imran Akram, Chief News Desk Lahore Dawn Office and Murtaza Razvi,
whom I had not known or met before, visited me without prior information
and without any file or folio, telling me that they came on some friends
invitation for lunch in the Serena Hotel Faisalabad and thought of paying
a casual visit to the DAWN Office. I also told that I warmly welcomed both
of them and apprised both the gentlemen of the project of the Press Club
by asking them to take a round of the under construction Press Club
Project. A model of the FPC was also shown to them along with a brief out
the feature of the buildings. They were invited by me to have a cup of tea
by in the DAWN Office where they stayed for about 20 minutes and took just
soft drinks instead of tea.
xi. During brief gossip the following question were put by Murtaza Razvi
in a causal manner:-

a) What was the connection between DAWN News Office and the Press Club
b) Whether I had any other source of Income other than DAWN?
c) Whether I had any connection with the PPP?

Obviously, I was not confronted with any complaint or allegation.
Therefore, I look that said questions were just a part of an informal
chat only. However, I took a pain to inform him that: -
a) The DAWN office had been acquired by me from the City District
Government in an open auction. A rent deed to that effect was also shown
to him.
b) The PC building was also under the administrative control of the CDG on
rent basis at the rate of Rs. 5/- per month. I also told him that the rent
of the Press Club building was paid by me for the last 20 years as the
same had never been paid in the past. I also shown him the notices issued
by the CDG for vacation of the PC building for non-payment of the rent
owing to which I paid the rent for said period.
c) My wife had been running two schools, which she established in 1977 and
in 1980 in two separate buildings, which were duly recognized and
registered by the Education Department before her marriage. Presently, she
is running an academy in 130-C Peoples Colony building, which she got on
rent in March 1980 and the rent deed is also in her name. The income of
the academy is purely of my wife and I have directly or indirectly nothing
to do with the affairs of the academy.
d) My source of earning was only through DAWN and contribution in the
Herald magazine.
e) I had no connection with the PPP or any other political party. Neither
I am beneficiary in any manner in the past or present with courtesy of the
PPP or any political party.

Both the gentlemen expressed their satisfaction and told that there was
no specific purpose of their questions except informal chat and left the
DAWN office Faisalabad.
It was prayed by me before your honour that a loyal and consciences
worker like me may not be allowed to be disgraced as a result of false
conspiracy by a few jealous journalists.
You are kind enough to inquire about my welfare and told me that my
personal file at the moment was not with you and directed me to see you
on 12th July, 2006 to discuss what type of the allegations were on the
As per your direction, I turned up in the office of the Secretary to
Editor, at 3:45 PM, who told me that “you are not feeling well and could
not meet me. He also informed me that you had ordered to me to go back
with a message that you would find time to call me again. I was just
leaving the office of the Secretary to Editor, when all of sudden you
opened the door and finding me there repeated the message which you had
left with the Secretary for me. You were kind enough to assure me that I
would be provided a fare opportunity of self-defence in case of any
allegation against me. You were also kind enough to assure me that I
would not be subjected to public disgrace and given me a word of honour
that if my innocence was proved, the transfer orders would be revoked and
I would not be humiliated in any manner.
In the end, I would beg once again that I may kindly not be condemned
unheard and provided an opportunity of self-defence in case of any
complaint against me. It is also prayed in the name of justice and fair
play that if my transfer orders have been issued on the basis of some
complaint, the same may very kindly be deferred till formal inquiry,
which I am prepared to face.
With profoundest regards.

The contents of the letter above are not part of “off the
record” discussion. Very politely and courteously it was
alluded to by me that Mr. Abbas Nasir had failed to see me
inspite of prior appointment, and despite his presence in the
office he made an excuse.
However, Mr. Abbas Nasir was not gracious enough to reply to,
or contradict the contents of the said letter till todate.
I wish to lay before you the subsequent evens and facts
relating to this issue.

True colours of Hameed Haroon

True colours of Hameed Haroon (Daily DAWN) on display!

True colours of Hameed Haroon

(Daily DAWN) on display!

Hameed Haroon CEO DAWN Group

Hameed Haroon CEO DAWN Group

There is a general impression all over the country, especially among journalists, that Dawn is the only newspaper in Pakistan where self respect of workers is not injured, and where they are not subjected to forced labour. However, the ground reality is very different.
For over 30 years, the arrogant perennial bachelor and Chief Executive of Dawn, Mr. Hameed Haroon, has been in the forefront in the exploitation of workers. Time and again, he has violated the rights of workers and, in fact, publicly claims to be the biggest litigant who excels in playing tricks to defy and deter court orders for long and indefinite periods, in order to deprive newspaper workers of their legitimate rights.
The dilemma is that his evil genius has succeeded in defying orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan, resolutions adopted by all the four Provincial Assemblies, the National Assembly, the Senate and even the Federal Cabinet. By non-implementing the 7th Wage Award, he is depriving newspaper employees of their legitimate rights since July I, 2000, by securing a restraint order from the Sindh High Court, and is cleverly managing through misrepresentations to avoid notices to the other party, and its consequent appearance in court.
Similarly, a masked forced labour camp has been set up by Mr Hameed Haroon where workers are made to work at much lesser wages than those laid down by the Wage Board Awards, and he also flouts labour laws.
A majority of workers are shown as employees of fake companies to escape from payment of lawful wages and income taxes.
Here I would like to mention my case, which is a glaring example of this brutality. I was employed in Dawn at Faisalabad on March 1, 1983, and was designated as Correspondent, whereas, as per functional duties assigned and performed by me, I should have been designated as a Special Correspondent. This was intentionally done to deprive me of my legitimate grade and allowances which were restored by the Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees, after a long drawn litigation on 10-09-2009.
The true colours of the unscrupulous Mr. Hameed Haroon have been displayed for the world to see and ponder upon. Unfortunately, Mr. Abbas Nasir (Editor DAWN) has chosen to blindly follow his instructions, thereby becoming a tool to propagate his savagery.

Shamsul Islam Naz
Cellular +92(0)300 8665523

During Cairo protests, journalists find themselves in the firing line

During Cairo protests, journalists find themselves in the firing line

Saturday, 29 January 2011 | By Cyril Washbrook (contact the writer)

A defiant protester stands in front of a burning barricade on 28 January 2011 (Photo: Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak have been met with violent repression (Photo: Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Journalists covering the anti-government protests in Cairo have been targeted by Egyptian security forces, with watchdogs and media organisations reporting that several media workers have been assaulted or detained this week.

Both local and international outlets have been targeted as part of Egypt's efforts to stop the flow of information through new and traditional media. President Hosni Mubarak has also ordered the shutdown of most internet and mobile phone services in the country.

One of the casualties of the violence was the BBC Arabicreporter Assad Sawey, who was beaten repeatedly by plainclothes police while watching the popular protests unfold in the capital. Sawey subsequently appeared on-air - covered with blood and his head bandaged - to give an account of what happened.

"Secret police, plainclothes police obviously were targeting journalists," Sawey told BBC News before being transported to hospital.

"They kind of surrounded us, from the back... and when they came they arrested me. I said: 'I'm BBC.' [But] they didn't care about BBC or any other organisation. They were targeting journalists deliberately."

The BBC's global news director, Peter Horrocks, condemned the assault and said that the corporation would be pursuing the matter with Egyptian officials.

"The BBC condemns this assault on one of our correspondents by the authorities. We shall be forcefully protesting this brutal action directly to the Egyptian authorities," he said.

Several other incidents involving the intimidation of journalists have been documented over the past five days. The Guardian's Jack Shenker was assaulted by police on Tuesday, while a CNN crew was threatened and had its equipment confiscated while attempting to report on yesterday's events.

Meanwhile, France's foreign ministry said on Friday that four detained French journalists had been released by Egyptian authorities. The journalists are employed by Le Figaro, Journal du Dimanche, Paris Match and the Sipa Press photographic agency.

Mubarak has declared that he intends to remain in power, despite calls from tens of thousands of protesters for his resignation after three decades at the helm. Troops and tanks were ordered into the streets on Friday night as part of his ongoing efforts to end the riots forcefully.

Television coverage by Al Jazeera and its international partner Al Jazeera English has been credited with giving greater prominence to the events in Egypt, as well as the uprising in Tunisia that began in December.

Media Spy discussion: International Journalism and Media

Egypt instigates media blackout, police target journalists

Egypt instigates media blackout, police target journalists

Plainclothes police chase what Reuters says is unidentified foreign journalist today in Cairo. (Reuters /Goran Tomasevic )
Plainclothes police chase what Reuters says is unidentified foreign journalist today in Cairo. (Reuters /Goran Tomasevic )

New York, January 28, 2011--Egyptian authorities have taken unprecedented measures to block media coverage of widespread protests against the government, which are on their fourth day. CPJ condemns Cairo's news blackout and calls for authorities to immediately restore Internet and mobile phone services, end the targeting of the press, and allow media to conduct their work freely.

Since Tuesday, Egypt has witnessed widespread protests against poverty and corruption, and calls for democratic changes. Authorities suspended Internet and mobile phone service, according to news reports and mobile operators, in an attempt to block media coverage and communications between protesters. Security forces today continued violent physical attacks on journalists.

"We are deeply disturbed by the government's efforts to impose a media blackout inEgypt," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Security forces are also becoming increasingly violent against both demonstrators and journalists. The government in Cairo seems to have learned nothing from the Tunisian experience that unfolded just two short weeks ago."

CPJ is tracking how the Egyptian government is shutting down Internet access and SMS service. See CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator Danny O'Brien's piece on the situation here.

"There is no greater disruption for the work of journalists than the disruption of mobile phone services and text messages; this in itself constitutes an attack on journalists and their freedom to cover the events that are shaking Egypt now," Al-Jazeera correspondent Samir Ali said on-air.

Below is a list of attacks in which security forces have targeted journalists:

  • BBC correspondent Asadallah al-Sawi was injured when security forces hit him in the back of the head, sources within the BBC Arabic service told CPJ. Al-Sawi was taken to the hospital and is recovering. (See BBC video of the journalist describing his beating here.)
  • Ahmad Mansour, a veteran Al-Jazeera journalist, was detained for over an hour in front of the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo, Al-Jazeera reported. The Qatar-based satellite station reported that several journalists were prevented from entering Egypt through the Cairo International Airport, including its own reporter, Yassir Abu Hilala.
  • Four French journalists, working for Le Figaro, Journal du Dimanche, Sipa Photo Agency, and Paris Match, have been detained while covering street protests in Cairo, according to news reports.
  • CNN journalists were assaulted and their equipment confiscated while covering the street protests, the station reported. Ben Wedeman, CNN senior international correspondent, and Mary Rogers, a photojournalist with Wedemen, were surrounded and attacked by plainclothes police who took their cameras.

Gamal Fahmy, a senior member of the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, told CPJ that photographers and cameramen have been clearly targeted since demonstrations started on Tuesday. "There is a clear trend of attacking photographers and cameramen, confiscating their equipment or erasing their memory cards and the goal is clear: to interfere with images of the demonstrations," Fahmy said.

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