Matt J. Duffy :: Thoughts on Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication

Thoughts On Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication
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About the author

Dr. Matt J. Duffy teaches journalism, media ethics and international communication law. His research focuses on journalism and media laws in the Middle East. Duffy's book "Media Laws of the United Arab Emirates" was published in 2014 by Wolters Kluwer. His academic work has been published in the Berkley Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, the Journal of Middle East Media, American Journalism, the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, and the Newspaper Research Journal. He received a Ph.D. in Public Communication from Georgia State University in the United States where he studied the use of unnamed sources in journalism. Since 2012, Duffy has served on the board of the Arab-United States Association for Communication Educators, an organization that aims to improve journalism in the Middle East. He currently serves as a visiting assistant professor at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

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Duffy’s book “Media Laws of the United Arab Emirates”


Recommended Reading

UAE Observations

Other stuff

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Presentation at 9th Annual Al Jazeera Forum

posted on May 4, 2015 at 1:42 am

I’m honored to be in Doha, Qatar, today presenting at a conference on freedom of expression. Here are the slides from my presentation:

Balancing freedom of expression with national laws and domestic policies from Matt J. Duffy

Comparative analysis of Arab defamation laws

posted on March 27, 2015 at 6:41 am

Presenting this paper today at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium in Knoxville, a gathering of media law educators in the United States.

How can organizations spread press freedom better?

posted on March 23, 2015 at 7:09 am

Here are my slides for my presentation today at the Arab Human Rights conference in Doha, Qatar:

My main points:

  1. Need to focus on judicial rulings and get good ones translated/disseminated.
  2. Need to focus on international approaches — don’t just report that a journalist was arrested, explain how that violates her ability to her job and how other countries protect journalists.
  3. Need for transparency when reporting on free press violations. Who is the judge? The prosecutor? Don’t let them hide behind anonymity.
  4. Focus on penal codes, not just media laws. The two rulings in Africa overturned bad penal code law (criminal defamation and “false news”), not bad media law.


I really stressed the recent ruling from the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights that outlawed criminal defamation. The high court ruled that putting a journalist in jail is incompatible with human rights.

Here’s a link about the court ruling. And here’s a link to theKonate vs. Burkina Faso ruling itself. And here’s a link to the Media Legal Defense Initiative, the NGO that provided defense for the journalist in Burkina Faso who had the temerity to report on the corruption of a public official.

This African court ruling is a landmark decision for this part of the world. I’m working on creating an organization that translates legal rulings like this one for dissemination to Arabic-speaking judges, lawyers, prosecutors and journalists in the Middle East. Contact me if you’d like to help.

Finally, since you’re here, please take a look at my research: Arab Media Laws: Identifying restraints on freedom of the press in the Gulf countries. Here’s an earlier version that was translated into Arabic: قوانين الإعلام العربية: تحديد القيود على حرية الصحافة في دول الخليج.

First Amendment and its global importance

posted on March 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Here’s a great quote from free speech scholar Rodney Smolla:

The American experience with freedom of speech is important to the rest of the world not because our current First Amendment policies are necessarily wise — it is not that Americans have all the perplexing issues of free speech “right.” American thinking on freedom of speech is relevant to the rest of the world because our experience in wrestling with free speech conflicts and communications policy is unusually rich. American society may not have the best answers, but it has thought about the problems more. Under the American First Amendment, the United States has experimented more often than any other culture in the world with the radical presumption that it is better to err on the side of openness than repression, even when the public arguments for repression are alluring.

Found that gem from 1992 in a great journal article by my good friend Kyu Ho Youm.

Bob Simon on Lost Boys leaving Uganda: ‘They packed little, left less behind’

posted on February 24, 2015 at 11:33 am

Just wanted to immortalize those awesome six words of reporting from Bob Simon. He was a true journalist — interested in telling the stories of those without voices. Here’s a great retrospective on his career from 60 Minutes.

100 pieces of great journalism

posted on January 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Good list. Just covers 2014.

Salman Rushdie on satire and religions

posted on January 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Earlier today, 12 journalists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hepbo, were murdered by terrorists angry that the publication had mocked their religion.

Salman Rushdie released the following statement, which seems perfectly apt:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

His words may offend and affront some of my Muslim friends. Nonetheless, he’s right. Freedom of expression demands no less.

Roger Ebert is the best film reviewer of all time

posted on December 23, 2014 at 8:33 am

Here are the first six graphs of Roger Ebert’s review of “Death Sentence”:

When he was asked by Johnny Carson how a magazine could quote him saying he really would murder to avenge his family, Charles Bronson looked Carson in the eye and said, “Because the quote is accurate. I really could, and I would.” There was a little silence then, because Bronson was totally convincing.

He was publicizing “Death Wish” (1974), his film about a man whose wife is killed and daughter raped. He gets a gun and starts posing as bait for muggers, a middle-aged guy with a bag of groceries. Then he shoots them dead. I think he kills about 11 victims (17 in the book) and is nicknamed “The New York Vigilante,” but the homicide rate drops 50 percent in New York, and so a cop cuts him a deal: Get out of town. As the film ends, he’s drawing a bead on a guy in Chicago.

Funny thing. When Bronson made “Death Wish II” (1982), it was set in Los Angeles, even though Brian Garfield, the author of the novel Death Wish, had written a 1975 sequel, Death Sentence, set in Chicago. Ah, yes, here’s my copy right here, dedicated to “Jay Robert Nash, John McHugh, Roger Ebert and Bill Granger, Chicago front-pagers all, with thanks.”

He was thanking us because he’d come to Chicago to research the city (in two days, as I recall), and we agreed to meet him at the Billy Goat to feed him the real dope. The Goat (“no fries, cheeps”) is a hamburger-and-booze emporium tucked away on the lower level of Michigan Avenue, responsible for the enticing aroma of frying onions that pedestrians enjoy in front of the Wrigley Building. You will recognize the tavern on the book’s Page 27, “a block from Tribune Tower and equidistant from the Sun-Times and Daily News press rooms.” His hero figures police reporters who hang out there “might be the best source of information about the unfamiliar city.” He carries his beer to the back of the bar, where “there were nine or 10 men and women roughed up by alcohol and cigarettes and the cynicism of insider’s experience.” He got the Billy Goat right.

Bronson went on to make “Death Wish 3″ (1985), “Death Wish 4″ (1987) and “Death Wish V” (1994), by which date he was 73 and didn’t need the bag of groceries as bait. They were set variously in Los Angeles and New York, largely filmed in Toronto, and never did get back to Chicago, reportedly because Garfield hated the first movie and its sequels so much he would never sell the rights to Death Sentence. But now here at last, in 2007, is “Death Sentence,” and it is filmed in, that’s right, South Carolina. It doesn’t follow the book, either.

Kevin Bacon steps into the Bronson role, although curiously, even with the real sequel to work with, his name is changed from Paul Benjamin to Nick Hume. In the movie’s first press releases, he was John Hume. In the Bronson movies, he was Paul Kersey. There is always a legal reason for these things. I favor John Paul. Probably another bad idea. You may have no interest in the information I’ve shared so far, but I’ll bet you don’t read it anywhere else. Probably a reason for that, too.

Nope, I was interested. Ebert’s a fantastic writer — won a Pulitzer Prize for film reviews. I miss being able to pick up his reviews.

Videos for Introduction to Mass Communication classes

posted on November 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Here’s an editable, shareable Google doc with several online videos that are useful in teaching principles of mass communication. Please feel free to add your own favorite.

Digital journalism tools you should be teaching your students

posted on October 28, 2014 at 2:18 am

I recently sat on a panel that addressed journalism pedagogy. Here’s the list of digital journalism tool I told the crowd they should embrace:

New Content Management System (CMS)

Social media Content Management System


Data Journalism
Tableau Public

Audio clips

Audio editor

Video editor
Many choices

Tracking twitter hits

Starbucks Exercise
… and here’s a link to an exercise I had planned to mention that brings together the power of social media, the power of the press, and the power of good Public Relations. And it involves Starbucks.

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