law

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.
 

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”.
 

Know the Power, Know the Media

Media and journalism are changing fast and so should the media research agenda.
 
Analyzing the role of social media in the recent elections in America, Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times on 16 November 2016 that widespread misinformation online was a “primary factor in the race’s outcome.”
 
I would add that some mainstream media have equally (if not more so) contributed to that outcome. Worse, some of them wholeheartedly embraced that role.
 
Audiences drawn by coverage of Donald Trump have just been good for the business of television. Mr Trump drove ratings up and with them ad sales. The head of CBS TV station, Les Moonves boasted last February that all that coverage of Mr Trump “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” On top of corporate dollars, CBS and other major TV channels pulled in hefty revenues from political advertising. The cost of the 2016 U.S. elections was expected to reach an unprecedented US$11.4bn in political advertising and media buying, a significant jump from the US$7bn in the 2012 elections, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) released earlier this year.

Middle East: Online Conversation Moves out of Facebook and Twitter

Uncomfortable with the government’s aggressive snooping, internet users in the Middle East are increasingly beginning to move their discussions to more impervious chatrooms.
Last summer, the Saudi Arabian government stunned internet freedom activists, and others, when they announced new legal provisions that allow the naming and shaming of offenders of the kingdom’s anti-cyber crime law. The law enables authorities to throw people who produce, prepare, distribute and even store content that “impinges” on public order, religious values and “public morals” via the internet into jail.
 
As if that was not sufficient, the same law allows the naming and shaming of those found guilty of these offenses. In a region like the Middle East where individual reputation is a cornerstone of societal value, naming and shaming has the potential to be even more intimidating than rotting in a Saudi quod. Local observers saw these legal provisions as another step towards stifling criticism by the local authorities, through such a powerful social deterrent.
 

Reform of Myanmar’s Media System: Bracing for a Slow Ride

Local journalists are investing much hope in the newly installed power in Myanmar to reform the country’s media system. But that will be a gargantuan task. Manny Maung argues that it will happen, but slowly.
 
Myanmar has for the first time in five decades sworn in an elected president without military ties. The  road towards democracy has been somewhat flawed, but this marks a significant turn of events from authoritative military rule which the country endured for more than 50 years.
 
Myanmar’s newest president, Htin Kyaw, was until recently a diminutive public figure. The 69 year- old former school friend of Aung San Suu Kyi is seen as a “proxy” president, who she says will act in her place. Aung San Suu Kyi herself cannot step into the top job as a clause in the constitution bans politicians with foreign family members from the presidency – her two sons are British. 

Government Removes All Critical Voices From Croat Public Broadcaster

Shortly after grabbing the country’s political helm, Croatia’s government has begun brashly purging institutions of whomever is not their friend. The public broadcaster HRT is one of their more prominent victims.
 
Croatia’s public service broadcaster, Croatian Radiotelevision (Hrvatska Radiotelevizija, HRT), has undergone many crises in the past two and a half decades, like many of the public service broadcasters in the region. Now, many of its renowned journalists are being removed. This and other editorial changes and shifts at HRT are triggered solely by the change of government, which shows that HRT is far from being a true public service broadcaster.
 
Although it is financed through fees charged on taxpayers, HRT is not close to its public, but serves mainly as a weapon in political power games.

The Romanian Public Television on the Brink of Insolvency

The Romanian public service broadcaster has undergone scores of crises in the past two and a half decades. But now, talk about its insolvency is starting to get serious. The decision-makers’ obsession with the politics involved rather than the reality is likely to provide the last nail in Romanian public media’s coffin.
 
Managed by an interim board of directors and with debts of almost €160m (US$216.5m) at the end of 2014, the Romanian public television Televiziunea Romana (TVR) is closer to collapse than ever.
 

China Plans to Push out Foreign Owners From Its Internet

Chinese authorities have never liked dissenting voices. Now, they want to solve that problem by removing foreign players from their internet. This would be a major blow for international news producers.
 
The Chinese government traditionally doesn’t cope well with critical voices and has done all they can to fence opinionated people off of its internet. But as of next month Chinese authorities seem poised to purge their online space of all foreign players, according to a new set of rules adopted by the country’s industry and IT ministry, which are to take effect on 10 March 2016.
 
 
The move has triggered anxiety amongst some of the larger international media groups that operate in China, as they have pumped hefty investments into building their businesses there. Essentially, if these rules are implemented verbatim, foreign-owned companies with operations on the Chinese internet have to pack up and go. These include news media outlets, entertainment companies, gaming sites and publishers.
 

The Constitutional Issues Behind Apple iPhone Dispute: Individuals’ Freedom Is at Stake

Is it right for Apple to refuse a government’s request to create software to snoop into a terrorist’s phone? Three legal experts say it was the right call. Doing otherwise would have set a dangerous precedent.
 
A lot of noise has been made about the open letter Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO sent after the US government requested the Cupertino company's help to decrypt a terrorist’s smartphone.
 
More than one constitutional issue is at stake.
 

European Court Decision Allows Media to Be Less Paranoid About Online Comments

In summer 2015, a much-criticized decision by Europe’s human rights court left online portals anxious about what comments they allowed on their sites. Now, the same court has reversed that decision in a lawsuit lodged by two Hungarian websites. That means less stress for online media.
 

How to Fight Abuses of Media Power in UK: Be the Media, Know the Media, Change the Media

We have more media, but only a few very powerful companies controlling them. Can anything be done against this hegemony? Professor Des Freedman offers a recipe: “Be the media, know the media, change the media.” He also calls on academics to come out of their ivory towers and join in the policy battles. 
 
“We’re facing a crisis at the heart of our media system – in other words with the dominant players across the media landscape – on many different levels: of funding, of ethics, of representation and of legitimacy,” Mr Freedman of Goldsmiths in London said at his inaugural lecture last Tuesday. The crisis is “the increasingly unequal distribution of resources in our media landscape.” Attention, audiences and agendas are dominated by a relatively small number of very powerful companies that all have close associations with the highest echelons in the political system, according to Mr Freedman.
 
 

Pakistani Authorities Want to Muffle Internet Freedom with a Cybercrime Law

Pakistani authorities want to access people’s data stocked online, shut down websites anytime they wish or put people behind bars for trivial activities such as scanning for a wifi network. But a string of valiant activist groups are putting up a good fight.
 
Blackberry made global headlines in November when it announced that it was wrapping up its operations in Pakistan. The decision was prompted by the request of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), the country’s telecoms regulator, to Blackberry to provide the government access to data in its Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) through “backdoors” to the encrypted communications.
 

Ruling Conservatives Want to Install Their Stalwarts at the Helm of Public Media in Poland

The Law and Justice (PiS) party, who won last year’s elections in Poland, rushed to adopt legislation in the last days of 2015 allowing them to fully control the public media management. Criticism abounds, but the government doesn’t care.

“You were talking about introducing BBC standards in Polish public media, but in reality you made Russia Today of them.” It was one of many critical remarks opposition MPs made on the night of 29 December 2015 in the Polish Parliament as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party expeditiously pushed through the bill allowing the Minister of Treasury to change all executives at public television and radio immediately. The remark was related to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s international broadcaster, known as the mouthpiece of the Russian government.

Embattled Nigerian Senate Faces Stiff Opposition Over Anti-Free Speech Bill

Since its inauguration June 2015, the Senate, the upper legislative chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly, has been wading through a series of controversies ranging from bogus salaries and allowances, corruption allegations, underperformance, to most recently an anti-people legislative proposal initiated by senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah who has a rather evasive background.
 
Organizations and individuals including the Nigeria Union of Journalists, civil society groups and civil rights activists, and other well meaning Nigerians, continued to condemn plans of the Nigerian lawmakers to adopt a law that is likely to bludgeon freedom of speech in the country. The proposed bill is laughably named“Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith”. The protest reached its climax on 8 December 2015 when human rights and social media activists marched to the National Assembly in Abuja in a rally tagged #NoToSocialMediaBill.

Right of Reply Law in Mexico: Against Citizens, in Favor of Media Moguls

A new law on the right of reply was adopted last month in Mexico after it had hibernated for eight years in the Congress. But hopes that this act would empower citizens were shattered as the “reply process” put forward by this law is likely to be lengthy, legally convoluted and fully under the control of powerful media corporations.

The procedure for exercising the right of reply in the approved law was shaped by the dominant television groups that have consistently lobbied for retaining the power to decide whether or not to rectify facts disseminated in their shows, newscasts or other programs. They won this game and retained their power. This is why many experts and journalists say that the right of reply law favors the interests of mighty media groups (many of them close to political groups) instead of those of the citizens.

So, what does it take for an ordinary Mexican to reply to what they find false or offensive in the media? The answer is a large quantity of both time and, invariably, headaches.

Plans to Launch “Public Service” TV Channel in Jordan Raise Eyebrows

Jordan’s state television JRTV has seen its audience levels plummeting  in the past decade. Its reform has never succeeded. Now, the government pledges to launch a new TV channel that would truly serve the public. But these plans are raising numerous eyebrows.
 
The government of Jordan has reportedly decided to allocate nearly US$15 million a year to fund a new “public service” broadcast channel.
In the past few weeks, many commentators and media analysts have considered trying to reform  the already bloated and bureaucratic state television, Jordan Radio and Television Corporation (JRTV), which has lost viewership over the years, mainly because it has been unable or unwilling to reform. The decline was the result of the growing number of satellite channels in the region that provided more attractive entertainment and improved programming, including news.
 

Clarin and Telefonica Beat the Law and Hold Sway in Argentina’s Media

Six years ago, the Kirchner government, at loggerheads with the powerful Clarin media group, adopted legislation to hurt dominant players in the country’s media. But not much has changed since then. An analysis from Martin Becerra.

October 2015 was the sixth anniversary of the audiovisual law that replaced a broadcasting act in Argentina, which was inherited from the country’s last military dictatorship (1976-1983). Before 2009, that law had undergone amendments during a period of 20 years. For the past 12 years, the Argentinian presidency was shared by the Kirchners, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. The Kirchner era is ending today as Argentines go to polls to elect a new president. They can’t vote Mrs Kirchner again as she is barred by law from seeking a third term. 

New Press Code in Morocco to Still Send Journalists Behind Bars

A revised press code in Morocco was hoped to give journalists more room to report freely. But a closer look shows that nothing has really changed.

The gravest legal threat to media freedom in Morocco are the laws that restrict the type of content that can be publicly communicated. The 2002 Press Code and the 2003 antiterrorism law put forward criminal penalties for any criticism of “sacred” issues such as the monarchy, Islam and territorial integrity. These laws continue to be applied to online activity, resulting in the prosecution of several online journalists and activists. The minister of communication, Mustapha El Khalfi, in an attempt to modernize the Press Code, released an updated version for review and consultation by civil society in October 2014. The law has not yet been submitted to Parliament for final approval and adoption. 

But does this updated law solve all the journalists’ problems? Far from it.