Stiletto by Max Kolbe – May, 2009

Why Shoot? Just Legislate and Jail

Relations between governments and journalists can be strained even at the best of times. But efforts by authorities around the world to stifle unwanted reports that irritate and upset through draconian legal avenues appear to have reached new levels.

The nutbags in Tehran stole the lion’s share of attention in these stakes with the conviction of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, for espionage. Her one-day trial was closed to the public.

She was sentenced to eight years in prison but the more saner heads among the Iranian authorities ensured her appeal process was quick and said it would be fair. Saberi was freed after the charges were reduced but she must still deal with a two-year suspended sentence.

Further south, in Uganda, the government has taken steps to curtail press freedom dramatically with legislation that would allow state security agents to intercept mobile, print, and electronic communications, which journalists fear will limit their ability to maintain confidentiality when gathering information.

Some politicians want to make it mandatory for journalists to reveal their sources whenever challenged and many see this as the start of fresh attempts to undermine the press and opposition parties ahead of elections in 2011.

President Yoweri Museveni regularly scorns his country’s media houses and has accused the press of being saboteurs. Anyone caught practicing journalism in Uganda without official registration can be jailed. Uganda’s anti-terrorism laws also prescribe the death penalty for any journalist who publishes a positive story about an officially designated terrorist organisation.

Comparing Uganda with Northern Ireland might seem an unfair stretch but consider Suzanne Breen from the Sunday Tribune who is being sued by the police after refusing to divulge her sources within the Real IRA.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland hopes to force her into handing over telephone, computer and written records of her communications with a representative from the splinter group.

While few people would have any sympathy for thugs within the Real IRA the Northern Irish police appear to have more in common with the masters of Uganda and Iran.

Breen happened to be the only reporter in Ireland to receive the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility for the killing of two British soldiers.

She says that she would go to prison rather than accede to the police demand.

Importantly Breen said journalists’ promises to protect sources were essential to their ability to do the job. But she noted that the Real IRA might attack her if she were seen to betray them to police.

While prison is a very real prospect for Breen, life for French photo-journalist Jean-Paul Ney is improving. He’s heading home after spending 16 months in jail in the Ivory Coast for his alleged involvement in an attempted coup.

According to witnesses Ney was visibly relieved as he left Abidjan’s main jail accompanied by French consul Alain Ferre and one of his co-defendants, Modest Sery.

Ney’s lawyer said the bail agreement did not place any restrictions on Ney leaving Ivory Coast and he left for Paris.

The freelance photo-journalist was jailed in January 2008 in Abidjan along with another French national and eight west Africans after being charged with an “attack” and “plotting against the authority of the state.”

Ney says he has no links whatsoever to any coup, and that the case against him had been manipulated. His release followed a meeting between France’s Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.

Back in central Asia and the Sri Lankan army has been getting uppity and attacking foreign journalists covering the final moments of civil war in that country, saying they were indulging in “malicious” reporting based on false information provided by the LTTE rebels.

The LTTE will illicit about as much sympathy as the Real IRA but given the extent of the bombings up north by the Sri Lankan military where thousands of women and children were left stranded as the war came to its dramatic close its hard too take their bleating seriously.

A senior military official was quoted as saying by the state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) that foreign journalists were maliciously reporting inaccurate information provided by Tiger rebels.

And the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS), which is linked to the army, also underlined that foreign journalists in the country are being misled by the LTTE.

“The LTTE has taken many journalists, especially foreign journalist for a ride. We expect foreign journalists to be aware of what happened to the lady who rode the tiger,” it said in a statement.

Yeah, yeah. Truth is also proving to be the final casualty of war.

On a lighter note, Aussie Rules football commentator Sam Newman has about as much journalistic integrity as the president of Uganda but he won’t mind with the folks at Channel Nine paying him a million Aussie bucks a year to deliver his schoolboy wit and antics on The Footy Show.

But now they’re all in trouble after breaching television’s code of conduct after Newman presented a mannequin on air, dressed in lingerie and claimed it was football journalist Caroline Wilson from The Age in Melbourne.

The skit was rather suggestive alongside Newman’s constant sexual innuendo and was complete with the doll wearing a photo of Wilson over its face.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority found that it “was likely, in all the circumstances, to have provoked severe ridicule against the journalist on the grounds of gender”.

The authority noted that Channel Nine had already apologised on air and to Wilson in private, and suspended Newman as well as making the former football star and other members of the production staff undergo professional anti-discrimination training.

Such professional training would not go astray for the presidents of Uganda, Iran, Ivory Coast, the military in Sri Lanka or the cops in Northern Ireland.

Relations between governments and journalists can be strained even at the best of times. But efforts by authorities around the world to stifle unwanted reports that irritate and upset through draconian legal avenues appear to have reached new levels.

The nutbags in Tehran stole the lion’s share of attention in these stakes with the conviction of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, for espionage. Her one-day trial was closed to the public.

She was sentenced to eight years in prison but the more saner heads among the Iranian authorities ensured her appeal process was quick and said it would be fair. Saberi was freed after the charges were reduced but she must still deal with a two-year suspended sentence.

Further south, in Uganda, the government has taken steps to curtail press freedom dramatically with legislation that would allow state security agents to intercept mobile, print, and electronic communications, which journalists fear will limit their ability to maintain confidentiality when gathering information.

Some politicians want to make it mandatory for journalists to reveal their sources whenever challenged and many see this as the start of fresh attempts to undermine the press and opposition parties ahead of elections in 2011.

President Yoweri Museveni regularly scorns his country’s media houses and has accused the press of being saboteurs. Anyone caught practicing journalism in Uganda without official registration can be jailed. Uganda’s anti-terrorism laws also prescribe the death penalty for any journalist who publishes a positive story about an officially designated terrorist organisation.

Comparing Uganda with Northern Ireland might seem an unfair stretch but consider Suzanne Breen from the Sunday Tribune who is being sued by the police after refusing to divulge her sources within the Real IRA.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland hopes to force her into handing over telephone, computer and written records of her communications with a representative from the splinter group.

While few people would have any sympathy for thugs within the Real IRA the Northern Irish police appear to have more in common with the masters of Uganda and Iran.

Breen happened to be the only reporter in Ireland to receive the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility for the killing of two British soldiers.

She says that she would go to prison rather than accede to the police demand.

Importantly Breen said journalists’ promises to protect sources were essential to their ability to do the job. But she noted that the Real IRA might attack her if she were seen to betray them to police.

While prison is a very real prospect for Breen, life for French photo-journalist Jean-Paul Ney is improving. He’s heading home after spending 16 months in jail in the Ivory Coast for his alleged involvement in an attempted coup.

According to witnesses Ney was visibly relieved as he left Abidjan’s main jail accompanied by French consul Alain Ferre and one of his co-defendants, Modest Sery.

Ney’s lawyer said the bail agreement did not place any restrictions on Ney leaving Ivory Coast and he left for Paris.

The freelance photo-journalist was jailed in January 2008 in Abidjan along with another French national and eight west Africans after being charged with an “attack” and “plotting against the authority of the state.”

Ney says he has no links whatsoever to any coup, and that the case against him had been manipulated. His release followed a meeting between France’s Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.

Back in central Asia and the Sri Lankan army has been getting uppity and attacking foreign journalists covering the final moments of civil war in that country, saying they were indulging in “malicious” reporting based on false information provided by the LTTE rebels.

The LTTE will illicit about as much sympathy as the Real IRA but given the extent of the bombings up north by the Sri Lankan military where thousands of women and children were left stranded as the war came to its dramatic close its hard too take their bleating seriously.

A senior military official was quoted as saying by the state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) that foreign journalists were maliciously reporting inaccurate information provided by Tiger rebels.

And the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS), which is linked to the army, also underlined that foreign journalists in the country are being misled by the LTTE.

“The LTTE has taken many journalists, especially foreign journalist for a ride. We expect foreign journalists to be aware of what happened to the lady who rode the tiger,” it said in a statement.

Yeah, yeah. Truth is also proving to be the final casualty of war.

On a lighter note, Aussie Rules football commentator Sam Newman has about as much journalistic integrity as the president of Uganda but he won’t mind with the folks at Channel Nine paying him a million Aussie bucks a year to deliver his schoolboy wit and antics on The Footy Show.

But now they’re all in trouble after breaching television’s code of conduct after Newman presented a mannequin on air, dressed in lingerie and claimed it was football journalist Caroline Wilson from The Age in Melbourne.

The skit was rather suggestive alongside Newman’s constant sexual innuendo and was complete with the doll wearing a photo of Wilson over its face.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority found that it “was likely, in all the circumstances, to have provoked severe ridicule against the journalist on the grounds of gender”.

The authority noted that Channel Nine had already apologised on air and to Wilson in private, and suspended Newman as well as making the former football star and other members of the production staff undergo professional anti-discrimination training.

Such professional training would not go astray for the presidents of Uganda, Iran, Ivory Coast, the military in Sri Lanka or the cops in Northern Ireland.

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