Here’s a link to my recent essay published in Mufta on the media laws of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries–Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It’s an update and summation of the my research last year published by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom. Here’s a snippet from the conclusion:
As a result of these various laws and regulations, the press corps in GCC states is far from free or independent. In 2010, one brave editor inside the UAE complained that “there isn’t enough protection provided to journalists and self-censorship is practiced by our newspapers to avoid angering official bodies and to please the government.”
A newspaper in Qatar, the Qatar Peninsula, expressed a similar sentiment. An article entitled “The Crippled Four Estate” detailed the unpleasant experience of receiving a criminal defamation complaint and visit from the police. “The entire process is so harrowing and humiliating for a journalist that he chickens out when it comes to writing critically on issues,” the article stated. Perhaps tellingly, the article no longer appears on the newspaper’s website.
GCC countries regularly receive poor marks from international press freedom organizations such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders. Until the press laws and other regulations in these countries are amended, these states will continue to find themselves at the bottom of the rankings.
In some GCC countries, this is perhaps precisely what the leadership intends.
Please read the rest.
CNN’s Nancy Grace has been sued for defamation by Michael Skakel, a Kennedy relative who’s spent more than a dozen years in prison for murder. Here’s the New York Times article for full background, but suffice it to say that Grace and one of her guests accused Skakel of being tied to the crime with DNA evidence. No such evidence was ever entered in court proceedings so it’s unclear where they got this information.
In order to win a libel case, the plaintiff must prove that the defamatory information was false, disseminated and caused harm. In addition, public figures must prove “actual malice,” that the information was known to be untrue. Private figures need only prove that the journalists acted with negligence of some kind. It’s unclear whether Skakel will be treated as a public or private figure but previous cases have held that people charged with crimes become limited-purpose public figures.
If a public figure, Skakel would need to prove that Grace and her guest knew the DNA evidence was never present and yet said that it was anyway. CNN hasn’t released any details about where Grace got the information but during the discovery process, she will definitely be asked under oath to explain her sourcing. If a private figure, Skakel would need to only prove the Grace and her guest didn’t follow normal newsroom procedures to verify the DNA evidence information.
Either way, Skakel looks to have a good case since the DNA information appears to be definitely untrue.
Another defense will regard Skakel’s tarnished reputation. Some libel cases have been won when the defense proved the plaintiff’s reputation was so bad that it couldn’t be damaged any further. Given that Skakel is out of prison and receiving a new trial, Grace and her co-defendant’s probably won’t be able to make that defense stick.
It’s an interesting case — one that will be fun to follow, as long CNN’s corporate bosses don’t decide to cut their losses and settle.
From the New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897:
… Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding…
– Francis Pharcellus Church
Merry Christmas to all… and to all a Good Night!
For my final four classes in international communication law at Kennesaw State University, I’m assigning readings and videos for the students. If you’d like to follow along, here are the assignments:
- NY Times public editor
- Barrett Brown
- Does the US press side too much with the government? Defend your answer.
- Here are some questions on the readings.
- English legal system: “The World of English Freedoms”
- Amartya Sen: Press freedom and civil society
- NPR story on “Innocence of Muslims.”
- Video: Hamza Yusuf discussing free speech and the right to offend.
- How does Yusuf’s talk compare/contrast with the readings?
- Questions to answer before coming to class.
These are my slides from the AUSACE conference I’m attending in Tangier, Morocco. It’s a summary of my Jadiliyya article on the subject.
Emirati charged with spreading ‘false news’ released
A few tweets about the news that Abdalla al Hadid has served his sentence for tweeting updates about the sedition trial in the United Arab Emirates.
Did you find this story interesting? Be the first to
like or comment.
Tangier, Morocco — Three journalism professors will offer tips on integrating “Social Media in the Newsroom” during a three-hour workshop in Tangier, Morocco on Nov. 14.
The presentation will focus on real-world applications and demonstrate how the top media outlets are incorporating relevant social media features.
Examples will include Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and lesser-known social media tools such as Ushahidi crowd-sourced maps.
“The social media landscape is changing,” Marty Steffans, a professor at University of Missouri, said. “We’ll tell you want you need to know about social media news gathering and news promotion, and what you’ll need to know in the year ahead.”
Steffans will be presenting the workshop along with Kim Fox of the American University of Cairo and Matt Duffy of Kennesaw State University. The workshop will serve both practicing news media professionals and university professors interested in keeping up with the latest social media usage.
AUSACE, the Arab-U.S. Association for Communication Educators, is an academic group dedicated to improving journalism instruction in the Middle East and in the United States.
The new issue of the Journal of Middle East Media features my peer-reviewed article: “‘Cultures of Journalism’ in Arabic- and English-language Newspapers within the United Arab Emirates.” The study examined news coverage in the English-language newspaper The National and the Arabic-language Al Ittihad. It finds that journalism differs greatly between Arabic and English content. Here’s the abstract:
This article examines the “cultures of journalism” at two newspapers in the United Arab Emirates, the Arabic-language Al Ittihad and English-language The National. Founded in 2008, the latter newspaper promised to bring Western-style journalism to the Middle East, so the analysis helps to examine whether it reached this goal. The author and an Arab-language researcher used a “frame analysis” to examine a sample month of coverage (April 2011) during the “Arab Spring.” The researchers looked for examples of four main concepts based on Kovach and Rosenthiel’s Principles of Journalism: Verification and commitment to truth-telling, holding those in power accountable, providing a space for public criticism and compromise, and comprehensive and proportional reporting. The analysis found that the English-language paper covered the news according to those principles far more than the Arabic-language outlet. But The National deviated from these principles when covering “sensitive” subjects such as actions taken by the nation’s security forces. The author concludes with questions about how the different approaches of the English and Arab press may affect the audience’s culture.
Read the whole thing here.
Really enjoying the recently published “New Ethics of Journalism.” Below is a good bit from Clay Shirky on the nature of public argument and debate. Many cultures in Asia and the Arab world are struggling as the Internet forces governments to concede to these public arguments.
Argument, of course, is the human condition, but public argument is not. Indeed, in most places for most of history, publicly available statements have been either made or vetted by the ruling class, with the right of reply rendered impractical, illegal, or both. Expansion of public speech, for both participants and topics, is generally won only after considerable struggle, and of course, any such victory pollutes the sense of what constitutes truth from the previous era, a story that runs from Martin Luther through Ida Tarbell to Mario Savio, the drag queens outside Stonewall, and Julian Assange.
Important to remember the struggle takes time.
Here’s what Sir William Blackstone said about the free press in 1769.
The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.
Sometimes we forget that a “free press” does operate with some limits. But those limits are narrowly drawn and a premium is placed upon political speech.