By Emma Sinclair-Webb, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Emma Sinclair-Webb is a senior Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch who focuses on Turkey. The views expressed are her own.
Sevan Nişanyan, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, wrote a blog entry last September stating that critical comments about religion don’t constitute hate speech. “Making fun of an Arab leader who claimed he contacted God hundreds of years ago and received political, financial and sexual benefits is not hate speech,” he said. “It is an almost kindergarten-level test of what is called freedom of expression.”
An Istanbul court disagreed and on May 22 – for these very words – sentenced him to 13 months in prison for “insulting the religious values of one section of the population.” What makes his prosecution even more chilling is the fact that it followed public comments by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ recommending that Nişanyan should be prosecuted.
There have been dramatic developments in Turkey in recent months as the government embarks on a bold attempt to end the entrenched conflict with the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and to start down the long road to peace with the Kurdish minority. While the sight of uniformed and armed PKK fighters – male and female – retreating to camps over the border in Iraqi Kurdistan is tangible evidence of progress toward peace, the Turkish authorities and judiciary are still cracking down on people who express dissent in words rather than with an AK47.
By Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Karin Deutsch Karlekar is project director of Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report. The views expressed are her own.
At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive that media freedom is on the decline. After all, in a world in which news is being produced by a broader range of professionals – as well as citizen journalists and bloggers – information is flowing at faster rates than ever before. And with news being transmitted through a greater variety of mediums – including newspapers, radio, television, the internet, mobile phones, flash drives, and social media – one might expect the level of media freedom worldwide to be improving, not worsening.
Yet Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report, which measures the environment journalists operate within as well as access to news and information, shows that the world’s media are often facing growing pressures in a range of political settings. An overall decline in the level of global media freedom – reversing last year’s improvement – was driven by declines in almost every region of the world. Reasons for the deterioration included the continued, increasingly sophisticated repression of independent journalism and new media by authoritarian regimes; the ripple effects of the European economic crisis and longer-term challenges to the financial sustainability of print media; and ongoing threats from nonstate actors such as radical Islamists and organized crime groups.
By Kelley Currie, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Kelley Currie is a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute in Washington. The views expressed are her own.
Authoritarian regimes have traditionally relied heavily on controlling the flow of information that their subjects receive as a critical element of maintaining political power. The Chinese Communist Party is no different: they have an extensive and well-funded propaganda apparatus that’s integrated into all aspects of the Party’s operations, coupled with a sophisticated set of tools that are used to control the Chinese public’s access to alternative sources of information. After decades of maintaining a fairly successful monopoly on the flow of information, the party-state’s current approach is much more calibrated and nuanced. It seems to be based on the principles of modern flood-control techniques: allow a greater flow in certain channels when necessary to take the pressure off the highest risk zones. While these techniques are generally successful, recently we’ve seen how freak events and unexpected storms can overwhelm systems that are based on routine handling of high probability events.
The analogy to flood control is an apt one given the latest disaster to tax Beijing’s information management apparatus: the deadly floods that swept through the capital on July 21. The systemic failures that led to at least 77 flood-related deaths have been broadly commented on, and have recalled another deadly infrastructure disaster that occurred almost exactly one year earlier: the Wenzhou high-speed-rail crash on July 23, 2011.
By Fareed Zakaria
The death of Syria's defense minister – in an apparent suicide bombing for which the Syrian rebels have claimed responsibility – is a sign that the rebellion is gaining strength and the Assad regime is cracking. I certainly hope so, but it's important for us to admit that we actually know very little about what is going on in Syria.
Naturally, our hearts are with the rebels and the Free Syrian Army, so when we hear reports about this bombing, we hope it is a sign of their growing reach and effectiveness. But we don't really know much about the circumstances. Is the use of suicide bombing, for example, a sign of the greater involvement of Islamic jihadis?
Similarly, when we hear about a massacre, such as reports last week surrounding events in Hama province, we naturally assume that it has been done by the Syrian military in the most brutal possible way.
Editor's Note: Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in the US State Department (2009-2011), is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. For more from Slaughter, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Anne-Marie Slaughter.
By Anne-Marie Slaughter, Project Syndicate
On February 1, the United Nations Security Council met to consider the Arab League’s proposal to end the violence in Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represented the United States. Midway through her remarks, she began speaking not to the Syrian ambassador, who was in the room, or even the Syrian government, but directly to the Syrian people. She said that change in Syria would require Syrians of every faith and ethnicity to work together, protecting and respecting the rights of minorities.
Addressing those minorities, she continued: “We do hear your fears, and we do honor your aspirations. Do not let the current regime exploit them to extend this crisis.” She told Syria’s business, military, and other leaders that they must recognize that their futures lie with the state, not with the regime. “Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one man or his family.” FULL POST
Stefano Nesi may just be the next big name in Italian couture fashion merchandising. No, he’s not a designer about to grace Milan’s runways during international fashion week. He’s actually a graduate economics student, turned carpet salesman, turned cell phone entrepreneur. And his legacy? The New Generation Mobile (NGM) empire, complete with a deluxe line of phones customized to a range of possible consumer demographics. Whether you’re a customer of the bestselling ‘Vanity line’ phone or inclined to buy the Van Gogh Bluetooth-enabled device, Nesi has found a way to seamlessly cater to his diverse clientele network, and perhaps more importantly, to all of their illicit needs. FULL POST
You can never get tired of the adventures of He-Man, Vladimir Putin. One day the Russian prime minister is shooting whales with a crossbow, the next day he's a judo expert. You've seen him shirtless and flexing his muscles. You've also seen him diving into the sea to discover treasure.
What about President Medvedev, the other half of the Russian ruling duo? Don't worry, the Kremlin isn't ignoring him. They've just released this video on the president's web site. Medvedev is playing the macho sport of...badminton. The message is clear – Putin gets to brandish crossbows, Medvedev gets to hit a birdie or a shuttlecock. Very macho, indeed.
The cruel comparisons don't end there. We found this picture at a doll exhibition in Moscow. Yes, it's a decidedly nerdy Medvedev, tourist camera and all, right beside a warrior-like Vladimir Putin. We get it, Kremlin spin department. We know who's really the boss.
Editor's Note: Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. For more from Sachs, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Project Syndicate
The past half-century has been the age of electronic mass media. Television has reshaped society in every corner of the world. Now an explosion of new media devices is joining the TV set: DVDs, computers, game boxes, smart phones, and more. A growing body of evidence suggests that this media proliferation has countless ill effects.
The United States led the world into the television age, and the implications can be seen most directly in America’s long love affair with what Harlan Ellison memorably called “the glass teat.” In 1950, fewer than 8% of American households owned a TV; by 1960, 90% had one. That level of penetration took decades longer to achieve elsewhere, and the poorest countries are still not there. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Sarah Stillman, a visiting scholar at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, is the recipient of their inaugural Reporting Award. She recently published The Invisible Army in The New Yorker. Check out her website here.
By Sarah Stillman – Special to CNN
There is something about pretty white girls, bloody knives and the slightest whiff of sex that gets the international news machine humming like nothing else. All three factors merged explosively Monday in a crowded appeals court in Perugia, Italy. There, before several hundred journalists and other spectators, American college student Amanda Knox, 24, was cleared of murdering her study-abroad roommate, Meredith Kercher, in a sexually-motivated crime four years ago. Already, feature film rights to Knox’s story are flying, and book publishers, too, are salivating.
Until recently, the prevailing explanation for “Foxy Knoxy’s” guilt had been a surreal one. A game of rough sex went terribly wrong that evening in 2007, alleged Italian prosecutors. The young American student, her boyfriend and a local immigrant man were behind the perverse ordeal - or so echoed tabloids and reputable papers on both sides of the Atlantic - ending up in Kercher’s bloody death.
This orgy-centered narrative was bandied about by lawyers in the Italian courtroom, as were terms like “she-devil” and “witch.” But was any of it true? After four years of Knox’s incarceration based on an increasingly shaky set of extracted confessions and problematic forensic evidence, prosecutors’ made-for-late-night version of the crime has finally been snuffed this week. Knox, now officially freed, is heading home to Seattle.
All this has left the press to ask, somewhat sheepishly: were mainstream theories about Knox’s guilt driven primarily, as Slate.com’s Katie Crouch argued last month, by our collective lust for a kinky tale? FULL POST
Editor's Note: Philip Seib is a professor at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Center on Public Diplomacy. He is author of The Al Jazeera Effect and Real-Time Diplomacy: Politics and Power in the Social Media Era, which will be published next April.
The resignation last week of Wadah Khanfar as managing director of Al Jazeera has provoked speculation that scandal lurks beneath his departure. Many have pointed to a WikiLeaks cable stating that Khanfar had succumbed to pressure from the U.S. in 2005 and played down civilian casualties in some of the network's coverage of the Iraq War. Others have argued that larger political matters related to its coverage of the Arab Spring - especially its unrestrained, albeit selective, endorsement of democratic reforms - forced Khanfar's ouster.
Both suggestions contain more fancy than substance: it is hard to believe that Doha did not already know about Khanfar's talking to the U.S. ambassador or that pro-democracy strands in Al Jazeera's programming would end his career. (Khanfar regularly ruffled feathers during his tenure.) A far likelier explanation is that, after eight stressful years, Khanfar simply decided that he had contributed all he could to the network. Indeed, his contributions have been transformative. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Shashank Joshi is a doctoral student at Harvard University and an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
By Shashank Joshi – Special to CNN’s Global Public Square
There is some way to go in Libya – but Tripoli has all but fallen, and only a few major centers of resistance remain standing. Why did the Libyan war get here, rather than withering into just one more of the abortive coups and rebellions that have flecked Colonel Gadhafi’s forty-two years in power? After all, the same British special forces now hunting the deposed leader were, scarcely a few years ago, training his elite troops. In 2008 and 2009, the U.S. government authorized $71 million in arms sales to Libya.
In understanding how the fall of Tripoli will create its own ripples, we have to understand why Libya was affected in the first place. Longstanding political economy grievances were certainly present, but these had not suddenly worsened. And despite widespread accounts of the Twitter revolution, the answer is not social media. Only 5.5 percent of Libya enjoys Internet access and a pitiful 0.96 percent is on Twitter. FULL POST
An inept security guard, a sour-faced secretary and a bumbling Minister of Garbage?
Paging Ricky Gervais, did you know your template for the original British hit show "The Office" is about to be redone again? It seems that way judging by a clip posted on blogs reportedly for a new show in Afghanistan called "The Ministry." The mockumentary tone of the show is just like the British and American version, which stars Steve Carell, but Afghanistan's "The Ministry" will tackle topics more serious than the shows in the West.
ToloTV, a company that began broadcasting in Afghanistan in 2004, will give its audience in the war-torn country "Office"-esque episodes focused on political corruption, the Washington Post reports. FULL POST