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Catalan Referendum: Si Democracia, Yes for Chaos

Madrid failed to show sympathy for, or pay enough attention to, Catalunya. That cost them dearly.

Red and yellow striped flags, emblazoned with the blue star of independence, hang from one in every ten balconies, and are draped on the backs of passersby in the streets. The slogan “Si democracia” is stamped on buildings, street signs and even spray painted onto the roads.
 
Thousands upon thousands of campaign posters urging people to vote have been plastered to all public buildings, only to be torn down by the police and re-pasted up the next day. It is the night before 1 October 2017, and the whole city is waiting with bated breath for what comes next.
 

Facebook’s Fake News Fighters Punish Italian Satirical Website

A popular satire website in Italy found out what happens when Facebook loses its sense of humor: they see fake news everywhere.
 
Publishing under the slogan “The filth that makes the news”, Lercio is a fabled multi-award-winning website of satirical news in Italy. 
 
In its early days, some of Lercio’s stories were taken as truth and shared by the mainstream press. However, soon the name Lercio (Italian for “dirt”) appearing alongside as the source of the news became a renowned synonym of virulent satire, to the point that nowadays the expression “Is this Lercio?” has become common use amongst Italians whenever they read or view any scarcely credible news in the mainstream media.
 
But what happens when satire lampooning people or institutions fails to be perceived as such, even by the social media and ends up being treated as misleading “fake news”? More importantly, how exactly do social media draw a distinction between pungent satire and mere trolling?

Facebook News Media: Who Is Winning in Asia?

Chinese and Indian news media command millions of followers on Facebook - but it is in the much tinier Myanmar where news media is really effective?
 
Today, we released the Facebook Index Asia-Pacific, which measures news outlets in this part of the world based on the number of their followers reported to the size of their local market.
 
The news media market on Facebook in the Asia-Pacific region is extremely vibrant. Only two media outlets score more than 100 in the Index in Asia-Pacific, which is a low score compared to, say, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region where we have 17 such news outlets. However, that is explained by the homogeneity of the MENA market, where nations are united by the common use of Arabic. It is not the case in Asia, one of the most diverse continents, an amalgam of language markets, foreign influences and cultures.

Cambodia Daily: Sudden Death, Khmer Style

Cambodia Daily is shutting down operations after nearly a quarter-century in business. An outright dictatorship is on the horizon.
 
The journalists of Cambodia Daily newspaper delivered their last piece of investigative journalism on 4 September 2017. The last edition of the newspaper went out with a bang featuring a story under the headline “Descent Into Outright Dictatorship.”
 
A front page story covered the arrest of Kim Sokha, the Cambodian opposition party leader. Mr Sokha was arrested at his house in the early hours of Sunday, 3 September 2017 under accusations of “treason”, namely his closeness to America.

Philippine Daily Inquirer: Fearless No More?

The sale of a majority stake in the Philippine Daily Inquirer raises concerns about the newspaper’s fabled fearlessness.
 
On 17 July 2017, Marixi Prieto, the chair of the Inquirer Group of Companies, which publishes the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), announced that she relinquished her roughly 68% stake in the paper to the tycoon Ramon Ang (pictured), president of the San Miguel food and beverage conglomerate. PDI is the largest and most influential newspaper in the Philippines.
 
With this acquisition, Mr Ang becomes a partner with the Inquirer minority stakeholder Manny Pangilinan, who also owns TV5, Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), Philex Mining Corporation and Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

Russian Television in Moldova: Winning Hearts and Minds

With blistering attacks on the west and extolling coverage of Russia’s head honchos, Russian TV channels are making inroads in Moldova’s media market.
 
In a 2011 film, the Marvel Comics character Captain America has a mission to stop the mastermind villain Red Skull from using an artifact called the Tesseract as a source of energy to dominate the world. Red Skull is a character depicted as the archenemy of Captain America, the patriotic super-soldier in the eponymous movie serial. Captain America is armed with a shield that is almost unbreakable. He uses it to fight his foes; and he always wins.
 
Substitute Captain America with the Russian president Vladimir Putin and Red Skull with a western country and you get a sliver of the Russian television diet in Moldova, an eastern European nation with a population of 3.5 million, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine.
 

Yong Jin Kim: Nonprofit Investigative Journalism Is the Answer

Interview with the investigative journalist Yong Jin Kim of South Korea

Around the turn of the millennium, Yong Jin Kim organized and led the first investigative unit in Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the country's public media broadcaster and the biggest media group in South Korea. In 2013, frustrated by the constant need to fight the muzzles put on investigative journalism in mainstream news media, Mr Kim co-founded the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism (KCIJ), an independent outfit specializing in investigative reporting. He is now KCIJ’s editor-in-chief.
 
Mr Kim’s investigations mainly cover topics related to human rights, criminal justice, media and foreign affairs. One of the stories of which he is most proud is an investigation into how the Korean intelligence agency NIS helped big corporations to prevent people involved in trade unions from getting jobs. NIS is one of the most powerful spy agencies in South Korea, and, since 2013, KCIJ has followed how the agency has abused its power. Kim’s investigation uncovered the involvement of the agency in the 2012 presidential election, when NIS tried to influence public opinion through social media.
 

Estonian Daily Postimees: Journalists Ward off Ownership Meddling

Journalists at the biggest Estonian daily newspaper confront intrusive management.
 
“To our knowledge, for the first time in the history of Postimees, we are told about what [to write] and how we should write. It is prescribed to us whom to cover and with what degree of criticism,” the department heads of the Estonian daily newspaper Postimees wrote in a memo sent last March to the publication’s owner, Margus Linnamae, and its general manager, Sven Nuutmann.
 
Postimees is the largest and oldest daily in Estonia with 160 years of continuous publication. The letter was sent by journalists angered by the repeated practices of the newspaper’s general management to dictate about whom to write or not to write and even in what kind of tone, according to the memo, a draft version of which was intercepted by Eesti Rahvusringhaaling (ERR), Estonia’s public broadcaster.
 

Bopha Phorn: I Love Chasing Hidden Information

Interview with Bopha Phorn, Cambodian investigative journalist
 
Bopha Phorn is a stringer for the Voice of America (VoA) Khmer language service and a part-time lecturer in media and communication at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city. Ms Phorn received the Courage In Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) for her report on rampant illegal logging in her country. Whilst investigating the story, she was shot at by the military police.
 

The Big Facebook Boys in the Russian Commonwealth

Facebook is not particularly popular in the former Soviet Union space when it comes to news media. Outside Russia, though, Facebook news media from other CIS nations are steadily building a strong market.
 
Today, we release Facebook Index CIS/Russia, which measures news outlets in this region based on the number of their followers reported to the size of their local market.
 
The size of the Facebook market in the former Soviet Union space is strikingly small. The Facebook Universe in that part of the world totals some 20 million users. That is less than a fifth of the total combined population in the region. The low popularity of Facebook in the former Soviet Union region, particularly Russia, can to some extent be attributed to the solid position on these markets of Russia-originated social media such as Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki and Mail.ru (originally, an email service that is growing into a social hub). In 2016, Vkontakte alone had a total of some 100 million active users, according to data from the site.
 

Big Brother Building in Romania Phase Two

The companies chosen to build the EU-funded data collection system for Romania’s intelligence agency are hardly the cleanest.
 
In late May 2017, the Romanian Information Service (SRI), Romania’s intelligence agency, selected the companies that will run the controversial SII Analytics project, which IT and surveillance experts described as a Big Brother-like data hoarding system. The winner of the contract is a consortium with Siveco Romania in the driver’s seat, Nova Tech Integrated Solutions as partner, and Romsoft International and BAE Systems as subcontractors, according to information from the SRI.
 

The News of Eastern Europe: Brought to You by Russia

For ten years, the Russian government has built media across eastern Europe. They are becoming a fearsome player in the region’s media market.
 
Last March, far-right British activist Jim Dowson told the Guardian that the website Patriotic News Agency, which he had launched in July 2016 to spread pro-Trump propaganda, has bases in Hungary and Serbia. He said that other such platforms are also based there.
 

Estonian Public Media Gets Government Manpower

The appointment of a high government official in the body that governs Estonia’s public broadcaster is opening a can of worms. He promises to keep his two hats apart - but some people don’t trust him.
 
On 3 May 2017, Riigikogu, Estonia’s parliament, appointed Paavo Nogene to the post of Chancellor of the Ministry of Culture, who is the second highest official in the ministry, in the council of the Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR). Mr Nogene was appointed thanks to his credentials as an “expert.” The reshuffling included the appointment of three new ERR council members. This was a regular move, given the fact that the terms of three former council members, all appointed because they qualify as experts, had expired.
 

Why Good Journalism Lost to Noisy Populists

Open society media camp has lost the information war with the often inarticulate, yet vociferous, populist lot. To gain back the trust of the masses, they have to learn a more popular language.
 
“If a Republican acted like me and ran for office, it’d be a movement. Donald Trump has proven me right. People are tired of pussies.”
 
It was not the first time Mike Cernovich, the Southern California-based founder of the blog Danger & Play, was sharing such a contentious opinion online. The tweet, posted in the summer of 2015, was both a premonition (about Mr Trump’s rise to America’s presidency) and a telltale sign of the new generation of influencers in the country's political discourse.
 

Marcela Turati: Expose the Hidden Interests of Big Media Companies

Interview with award-winning investigative journalist Marcela Turati, Marcela Turati is an investigative journalist who specializes in covering the impact of Mexican drug war on society.
 
Marcela Turati also has experience in human rights activism, and she reports on poverty and marginalized groups. She has been vocal against the murders and exile of journalists in Mexico. Ms Turati works for Proceso, a leading news weekly in Mexico. She co-founded Periodistas de a Pie (Journalists on Foot), an outfit dedicated to training journalists to improve the quality of their journalism and to defend freedom of expression.
 

The Price of Digital Rights

Internet companies and telcos are not particularly good at disclosing policies on freedom of expression and privacy. On a long-term basis, this could dent their sales.
 
Last summer, as electoral debates were heating up in America, anti-Hillary voters in possession of iPhones could find a facetious method to vent their fury against the Democratic candidate for how negligently she handled her emails. HillAwry, a game developed by John Matze from Base10 company, was made available by Apple on its iPhones. The goal of the game was “to collect as much money through email donations as possible while maintaining a decent approval rating in the polls.”

Helena Bengtsson: Bringing People Back to Facts, Our Biggest Challenge

Interview with Helena Bengtsson of the Guardian in Britain, previously the database editor at Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national television broadcaster.
 
Helena Bengtsson is the editor of data projects at the Guardian newspaper in London, United Kingdom. She previously worked as the database editor at Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national television broadcaster. In 2006 and 2007, she was the database editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. She has been awarded the Stora Journalistpriset (Great Journalism Award) in Sweden twice, in 2010 for Valpejl.se and in 2016 for Innovator of the Year.
 

Orban Launches Attack on Prominent University in Hungary

Hungarian government is poised to shut down the Central European University (CEU), George Soros’ key asset in the country.
 
The Ministry of Human Capacities in Budapest announced today that a number of universities are operating “illegally” in Hungary. Its representatives said that the government found “irregularities” in the operations of several foreign universities that operate in Hungary.
 

Telcos and Internet Companies, Bad at Informing People About Their Rights

The world’s telecom and internet behemoths are far from being transparent when it comes to users’ privacy. It’s time for them to improve.
 
The world’s most powerful telecommunications, internet, and mobile companies are mostly failing at informing consumers about their rights, according to Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index
 

How Italy Wants to Slam Fake News: Use Fines and Prison

Italian lawmakers have reacted to the spread of fake news and misinformation with an authoritarian law. Far from solving the problem, though, it in fact creates even more.
 
A new strain of meningitis brought in by African immigrants ravages the country. Members of parliament pass a law setting up a “crisis fund” for their survival if they can’t find a job after completing their mandate. The icing on the cake: the Prime Minister urges Italians to “stop whining and start making sacrifices”.
 

Paul Myers: News Organizations Should Not Be Intimidated

Interview with BBC's Paul Myers
 
Paul Myers joined the BBC in 1995 as an information researcher. In time, with the growing significance of the internet, Mr Myers blended his technical knowledge with journalism. He has devised innovative strategies that have led researchers to evidence they would never have otherwise found. Today, Mr Myers heads up BBC Academy’s Investigation Support project. In the past, he has worked with leading BBC programs such as Panorama, Watchdog, Inside Out, BBC News and the BBC World Service.
 

News Media in Africa: The Big Boys on Facebook

Today, we released Facebook Index Africa, which ranks Africa-based news media according to how much of the local Facebook markets they control.
 
Big Boys on the Block
The African Facebook market is highly concentrated. Unlike other continents, Africa has a fair amount of dominant news outlets. More than 100 news outlets in our Facebook Index reach at least ten readers in their national market. The continent also boasts ten news media platforms with a score of over 50, meaning a reach of over half of the Facebook population in the markets they’re targeting.
 

Where Internet Grows Fast

Fast growth in connectivity and use of the internet in nations such as Myanmar, Malaysia and Algeria is all good news for independent journalism; and bad news for autocratic, corrupt governments.
 
St Kitts and Nevis is a small duo of islands in the Caribbean with a population of a mite under 55,000. That doesn’t include tourists, whose number is always higher than the local populace. The country rarely features in international news. When it does, it’s mostly the topic of travel articles and tourism fairs. The local bromide is “Rush Slowly.” That’s what visitors are advised at all times during their holiday in the islands.
 
But life on the islands is not that slack. Political brawls and politicians evicted from parliament, suspicious deals with money from the local treasury and the role of the country in a controversial citizen-by-investment program were just a few of the peppery stories that made it into the local media this year.
 

Monitoring and Killing Public Opinion Online: A Booming Industry in China

China has traditionally been a masterful manipulator of public opinion. It has finally perfected a system to weed out dissent on the internet, too.
 
Days before the inauguration of the American president-elect Donald Trump, bosses at Chinese media outlets received a list of instructions about how to cover this event. Journalists were ordered to use only reports written by the country’s central state media. The idea was to belittle the investiture of the boisterous American president, who has repeatedly pledged to abandon America’s “One China” policy, a promise that is irking the Chinese upper crust.
 
That is not unusual in a country where the media operates under the watchful eye of the state censorship machinery. Censorship is the norm in China. Directives on how to cover events and issues are common among China’s media and journalists.
 
In order to keep critics aligned, though, Chinese authorities have gone much further: they have turned monitoring of public opinion online into a round-the-clock industry. Its goal is to neuter the very object of monitoring: public opinion.
 

Latin American News Media: Who Is Big on Facebook?

Today, we released the Facebook Index Latin America, which ranks news media platforms from Latin America based on the number of Facebook followers compared to the size of their market.
 

Central America, Still Lagging Behind

In spite of high inequality and rampant poverty, which further contributed to the widening digital divide in Latin America, the internet has experienced accelerated growth. Some 55% of the inhabitants of Latin America used internet in 2015, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), a UN agency.
 

Public Media Must Finally Change

Critics of taxpayer funding for public media are on the rise; and for good reason. It’s time for public media to take their audience seriously.
 
Sieglinde  Baumert, 46, from the small town of Geisa, in the German region of Thuringia, last year became the first person ever sent behind bars for failing to pay the license fee. This is a tax that all German households are obliged to pay to finance the country’s public service media, namely the TV channels ARD and ZDF, and the German radio.
 
Ms Baumert was sentenced to six months in prison. In April last year she was released from jail after two months, as the German public broadcaster dropped the case against her.
 
Increasingly, Germans are caterwauling about legal provisions forcing all households in Germany to pay €17.50 (US$21) a month to keep the country’s radio and TV in business. They say that they should be free to decide what media they want to fund. In 2015, the agency collecting the license fee in Germany issued over 25 million warnings to households who failed to pay this fee, an increase of about 20% compared to the previous year.
 
But Germany is not an isolated case. Controversies over the funding of public media are rife elsewhere.
 

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