Reporters Without Borders expresses outrage at the Abu Dhabi appeals court confirmation of the 10-month prison sentence of netizen Abdullah Al-Hadidi.
The appeals court made its ruling on 22 May.
Arrested on 22 March, Al-Hadidi was convicted in a lower court in April of having disseminated information on Twitter “in bad faith.” The information concerned the trial of 94 UAE citizens accused of endangering national security.
Al-Hadidi was charged under a new cyber-crime law adopted in late 2012 (Federal Legal Decree 5/2012). The law has aroused strong opposition on the grounds that it can be used to justify severe limits on freedom of expression and information in the UAE.
Reporters Without Borders has also learned of the 11 May arrest of another netizen, Waleed Al-Shehhi. He was in secret detention before his transfer one week later to Al-Wathaba prison.
This human rights defender is being charged under article 28 of the cyber-crime law for having disseminated on his Twitter account information on the trial of 94 UAE citizens, known as the “UAE94.” Article 28 provides for imprisonment and a fine of up to 1 million dirhams (212,000 euros), for anyone who uses information technology “with the intent of inciting to actions, or publishing or disseminating any information, news, caricatures or other images liable to endanger security and its higher interests or infringe on the public order.”
Violations are defined as a crimes against the state, with no appeal allowed.
Reporters Without Borders calls attention to the fact that this netizen did nothing more than use social networks to provide relevant public information. The organization calls for him to be freed immediately and for the charges against him be dropped.
Foreign media and observers have been barred from the 13 trial sessions for the UAE94, and only handpicked representatives of the national media have been allowed into the courtroom. The verdict is expected on 2 July.
Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that three employees of Dainik Ganadoot, a local Bengali-language daily based in Agartala, the capital of the northeastern state of Tripura, were stabbed to death at the newspaper's headquarters by two unidentified intruders on 19 May.
“We are shocked and horrified by this targeted triple murder of news professionals and we call for immediate measures to protect the victims' colleagues and families,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We also urge the police and judicial authorities to pursue their investigation with the aim of quickly identifying the perpetrators and instigators of these awful murders and then bringing them to justice without delay.”
The police said two men entered the newspaper at around 3 p.m., stabbed proof-reader Sujit Bhattacharya and driver Balaram Ghosh and then went upstairs and stabbed office manager Ranjit Chowdhury.
No arrests have so far been made and no measures have been taken to protect the families of the victims, who fear for their safety.
According to the Times of India, three individuals forced their way into the home of the office manager's widow, Bina Chowdhury, on 20 May, refusing to identify themselves to her. The next day, two other unidentified youths went to her home to “investigate.”
Dainik Ganadoot owner Sushil Chowdhury has announced that he will give the family of each victim 100,000 rupees (1,400 euros) in compensation. He has also offered a reward of 1 million rupees for information about the killers.
The opposition called a 12-hour general strike yesterday in Agartala in protest against the murders. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which heads the Tripura state government, did not oppose the strike.
Photo : tripura4u.com
On BBC News developers’ interesting blog on how they’re integrating responsive design into BBC products, the team has posted about how they handle one of the trickiest issues of responsive design — how to deal with images. How can your web page be smart enough to download big, beautiful images when on a big desktop screen and small, optimized ones for a smartphone?
As the BBC News site publishes MANY articles everyday, many images are published too. BBC News has an automated process to create 18 different versions of each published image.
The Internet Archive announced this week that it received a $1 million donation from the Knight Foundation to expand it’s TV News Search and Borrow archive of television news clips. As of now, the archive has just over 400,000 clips that the public can access, link to, or borrow a hard copy for a fee.
“We want to make all knowedge available to everyone, forever, and for free. So it’s an ambituous mission,” laughs Roger Macdonald, the archive’s television news project director.
And it all comes down to closed captioning.
The San Francisco based non-profit records broadcasts, and teases out the news using closed captioning tags and other meta-data. Twenty-four hours after the first airing, the clip is available in the archive. It’s an invaluable resource for journalists, researchers, and documentarians to study what was said, when, where, and in what context. Want to play John Stewart? Go ahead and search clips of ‘Benghazi’ on Fox last week. It can also be used for more noble causes, like tracking political speech. continued…
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
If I had only one short sentence to describe it, I’d say that journalism is factual reports of current events. At least, that’s what I used to say, and I think it’s what most people imagine journalism is. But reports of events have been a shrinking part of American journalism for more than 100 years, as stories have shifted from facts to interpretation.
Interpretation: analysis, explanation, context, or “in-depth” reporting. Journalists are increasingly in the business of supplying meaning and narrative. It no longer makes sense to say that the press only publishes facts.
New research shows this change very clearly. In 1955, stories about events outnumbered other types of front page stories nearly 9 to 1. Now, about half of all stories are something else: a report that tries to explain why, not just what.
This chart is from a paper by Katharine Fink and Michael Schudson of Columbia University, which calls these types of stories “contextual journalism.” (The paper includes an extensive and readable history of all sorts of changes in journalism in the 20th century; recommended for news nerds.) The authors sampled front-page articles from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in five different years from 1955 to 2003, and handcoded each of 1,891 stories into one of four categories:
- conventional: a simple report of an event which happened in the last 24 hours
- contextual: a story containing significant analysis, interpretation, or explanation
- investigative: extensive accountability or “watchdog” reporting
- social empathy: a story about the lives of people unfamiliar to the reader
Investigative journalism picks up after the 1960s but is still only a small percentage of all front-page stories. Meanwhile, contextual journalism increases from under 10 percent to nearly half of all articles. The loser is classic “straight” news: event-centered, inverted-pyramid, who-what-when-how-but-not-so-much-why stories, which have become steadily less popular. All this in the decades before the modern Internet. In fact, previous work showed that the transition away from events began at the dawn of the 20th century.
Investigative journalism may have pride of place within the mythology of American news, but that’s not really what journalists have been up to, by and large. Instead, newspaper journalists have been producing ever more of a kind a work that is so little discussed it doesn’t really have a name. Fink and Schudson write:
…there is no standard terminology for this kind of journalism. It has been called interpretative reporting, depth reporting, long-form journalism, explanatory reporting, and analytical reporting. In his extensive interviewing of Washington journalists in the late 1970s, Stephen Hess called it ‘social science journalism’, a mode of reporting with ‘the accent on greater interpretation’ and a clear intention of focusing on causes, not on events as such. Although this category is, in quantitative terms, easily the most important change in reporting in the past half century, it is a form of journalism with no settled name and no hallowed, or even standardized, place in journalism’s understanding of its own recent past.
From this historical look, fast forward to the web era. The last several years have seen a broad conversation about “context” in news. From Matt Thompson’s key observation that a series of chronological updates don’t really inform, to Studio 20′s Explainer project, to a whole series of experiments and speculations around story form, context has been a hot topic for those trying to rethink Internet-era journalism.
I believe this type of contextual journalism is important, and I hope we will get better at understanding and teaching it. The Internet has solved the basic distribution of event-based facts in a variety of ways; no one needs a news organization to know what the White House is saying when all press briefings are posted on YouTube. What we do need is someone to tell us what it means. In other words, journalism must move up the information food chain — as, in fact, it has steadily been doing for five decades!
Why does this type of journalism not even have a name?
I have a suspicion. I think part of the problem is the professional code of “objectivity.” This a value system for journalism that has many parts: truth seeking, neutrality, ethics, credibility. But all of these things are different when the journalist’s job moves from describing events to creating interpretations.
There are usually multiple plausible ways to interpret any event, so what are our standards for saying which interpretations are right? Journalism has a long, sorry history of professional pundits whose analyses of politics and economics turn out to be no better than guessing. In concrete fields such as election forecasting, it may later be obvious who was right. In other cases, there may not be a “right” answer in the traditional, positivist sense of science. These are the classic problems of framing: Is a 0.3 percent drop in unemployment “small” or is it “better than expected”? True neutrality becomes impossible in such cases, because if something has been politicized, you’re going to piss someone off no matter how you interpret it. (See also: hostile media effect.) There may not be an objectively correct or currently knowable meaning for any particular set of factual events, but that won’t stop the fighting over the narrative.
This seems to be a tricky place for truth in journalism. Much easier to say that there are objective facts, knowably correct facts, and that that is all journalism reports. The messy complexity of providing real narratives in a real world is much less authoritative ground. Nonetheless, we all crave interpretation along with our facts. Explanation and analysis and storytelling have become prevalent in practice. We as audiences continue to demand certain types of experts, even when we can’t tell if what they’re saying is any good. We demand reasons why, even if there can be no singular truth. We demand narrative.
What this latest research says to me is that journalism has added interpretation to its core practice, but we’re not really talking about it. The profession still operates with a “just the facts, ma’am” disclaimer that no longer describes what it actually does. Perhaps this is part of why media credibility has been falling for decades.
Photo of Sol LeWitt’s “Objectivity” (1962) via AP/National Gallery of Art.
Fan fiction — fan-written stories featuring characters drawn from pop culture properties, like a tale in which Chewbacca and Boba Fett become star-crossed lovers in 1950s New Jersey — is a huge phenomenon. On one end of the scale, the Fifty Shades of Grey books started out as fan fiction and became the publishing success of 2012; on the other, hundreds of thousands of people put their favorite characters into unusual situations in stories posted free on hubs like Archive of Our Own and FanFiction.Net.
The problem with fan fiction as a publishing business is that it’s of questionable legality. The creators of those characters — the writers of movies, TV shows, and books, or the corporate entities that control their rights — don’t want people selling new stories involving them. (Chewbacca’s love for Boba Fett was always a forbidden love.) And making the licensing arrangements necessarily to publish fan fiction for a profit was generally too much of a bother for anyone to pursue. The result was that turning fan fiction into a business has been somewhere between impractical and impossible.
Amazon took a big step toward slicing that Gordian Knot today by announcing it had made licensing agreements with three fanfic-popular properties — Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries — that will allow fics for those properties to be published for the Kindle, with revenue split between the author and the rightsholder. More deals are on the way.
The new Kindle Worlds platform will enable any author to publish stories based on these characters and then make them available for purchase through the Kindle Store. Amazon will then pay royalties both to the author of the fan fiction and the original rights holder. The standard author’s royalty rate — for fiction that is at least 10,000 words in length — will be just over a third (35 percent) of net revenue.
This has major monetization potential — if fan fiction communities used to getting their fix for free (and in an open, episodic environment) buy into the idea of paying for it (or others getting paid for it).
Family self-promotion alert: If you’re interested in the subject of fan fiction, you should look into Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by University of Utah professor Anne Jamison, which will be published later this year. (And edited by my wife, Leah Wilson.)
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the frequency with which the Obama administration has reacted to leaks by bringing prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act.
Six whistleblowers have been prosecuted under this law since President Obama's inauguration in 2009. Previously, the Espionage Act had only been used three times in response to leaks: in 1973 (for the high-profile Pentagon Papers case during the Vietnam War), in 1985 and in 2005.
These witchhunts violate the principles of the First Amendment by directly impacting on the work of journalists, who are suspected of endangering the country's security when in fact they are just doing what their job requires them to do.
“Today, President Obama said he did not believe journalists should be prosecuted for doing their job,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But there is still a complete contradiction between wanting to promote a federal shield law protecting the confidentiality of sources, which we fully support, and this conspiracy paranoia that makes the federal authorities spy on journalists in order to identify their sources.”
Four of the six cases against whistleblowers were initiated in 2010, most notably against Private Bradley Manning. The most recent prosecution, initiated in 2012, resulted in former CIA officer John Kiriakou being sentenced to 30 months in prison on 25 January for revealing details about the methods used by the agency to interrogate terrorism suspects.
“The U.S. public has a right to known how federal employees behave in situations in which respect for human rights is an issue,” Reporters Without Borders added.
Just days after the reports about the seizure of Associated Press phone records, the Washington Post revealed on 20 May that Fox News' chief Washington correspondent James Rosen had been investigated in an “espionage” case.
The newspaper reported that the FBI obtained Rosen's phone records, got access to his email and even extracted information about his movements from this State Department security badge in order to trace the source of a leak.
Without being formally charged, Rosen was named as possible “co-conspirator” in a 2010 case against State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who is accused of leaking a classified report predicting that North Korea would respond to UN sanctions by testing a nuclear bomb.
“We’re used to treating information as ‘free,’” writes Jaron Lanier in his latest book Who Owns the Future?, “but the price we pay for the illusion of ‘free’ is only workable so long as most of the overall economy isn’t about information.”
Lanier argues that a free-culture mindset is dismantling the middle-class economy. In his estimation, the idea “that mankind’s information should be free is idealistic, and understandably popular, but information wouldn’t need to be free it no one were impoverished.”
Who Owns the Future?, like his 2010 book You Are Not a Gadget, is another manifesto attempting to rebuff what he sees as the contemporary ethos of the web. But the followup also refreshingly attempts to pose solutions, one where all participants in this information-based world are paid for what they do and distribute on the web. Throughout, it places particular emphasis on the ways digital technology has unsettled the so-called “creative class” — journalists, musicians, photographers, and the like. As he sees it, the tribulations of those working in such fields may be a premonition for the middle class as a whole. It’s “urgent,” he writes, “to determine if the felling of creative-class careers was an anomaly or an early warning of what is to happen to immeasurably more middle-class jobs later in this century.”
I recently spoke with Lanier and we discussed the ways he sees digital networking disrupting the media, why he thinks advertising can no longer sustain paid journalism, and why he misses the future. Lightly edited and condensed, here’s a transcript of our conversation.Eric Allen Been: You were one of the early advocates of the notion that “information wants to be free.” An idea most media companies initially embraced when it came to the web, and one that now some seem to regret. Could you talk a little bit about why you changed your mind on this line of thinking? Jaron Lanier: Sure. It was based on empirical results. The idea sounded wonderful 30 years ago. It sounded wonderful in the way that perfect libertarianism or perfect socialism can. It sounds right, but with all these attempts to make a perfect system, it doesn’t work out so well. Empirically, what I’ve seen is the hollowing out of middle-class opportunities and that there is an absurdity to the way it’s going. I think we’re not getting the benefits that I initially anticipated. Been: When it came to journalism, what were some of those benefits that you originally expected? I imagine you then thought it would be a largely positive thing. Lanier: Yeah. To use the terminology of the time, we — that is, me and others who were behind a lot of the ideas behind the Web 2.0 ethos or whatever — wanted to “supplant” or “make obsolete” the existing channels of journalism and the existing types of jobs in journalism. But what would come instead would be better — more open and all of that — and less intermediated. What happened instead was a little bit of what we anticipated. In a sense, the vision came true. Yes, anybody can blog and all that — and I still like that stuff — but the bigger problem is that an incredible inequity developed where the people with big computers who were routing what journalists did were getting all the formal benefits. Mainly the money, the power. And the people who were doing the work were so often just getting informal benefits, like reputation and the ability to promote themselves. That isn’t enough. The thing that we missed was how much power would accrue to the people with the biggest computers. That was the thing we didn’t really think through. Been: Historically, technological advances have caused disruptions to industries, but they’ve also tended to provide new jobs to replace the wiped-out ones. There seems to be some optimism in a lot of quarters that journalism can get eventually get on the right track, economically speaking, within the digital world. But you don’t think so. Lanier: The system is slowly destroying itself. I’ll give you an example of how this might work out. Let’s suppose you say in the future, journalists will figure out how to attach themselves to advertising more directly so they’re not left out of the loop. Right now, a lot of journalism is aggregated in various services that create aggregate feeds of one kind or another and those things sell advertising for the final-stop aggregator. And the people doing the real work only get a pittance. A few journalists do well but it’s very few — it’s a winner-take-all world where only a minority does well. Yes, there are a few people, for instance, who have blogs with their own ads and that can bring in some money. You can say, “Well, isn’t that a good model and shouldn’t that be emulated”? The problem is that they’re dependent on the health of the ad servers that place ads. Very few people can handle that directly. And the problem with that is the whole business of using advertising to fund communication on the Internet is inherently self-destructive, because the only stuff that can be advertised on Google or Facebook is stuff that Google hasn’t already forced to be free.
As an example, you might have a company that makes toys and you advertise the toys on Google, and that might show up in journalism about toy safety or something. So journalists can eek some money from people who sell toys. That’s kind of like the traditional model of advertising-supported journalism.
But every type of business that might advertise on Google is gradually being automated and turning into more of an information business. In the case of toys, there’s a 3-D printer where people print out toys. At some point, that will become better and better and more common, and whenever that happens, what happened to music with Napster will happen to toys. It’ll be all about the files and the machines that actually print out the toys. If the files that print out the toys can be made free, the only big business will be the routing of those files, which might be Google or Facebook handling that, and there will be nobody left to advertise on Google.
That’ll happen with everything else — pharmaceuticals, transportation, natural resources — every single area will be subject to more and more automation, which doesn’t have to put people out of work. The only reason automation leads to unemployment is the idea of information being free. It’s a totally artificial problem, but if journalists are counting the Google model to live on, it won’t work. Google is undermining itself, and there will be no one left to buy advertisements.Been: Speaking of advertising, I’m interested in hearing what you think about a lot of people currently lauding BuzzFeed and its use of native advertising. There’s a lot of talk about it solving “the problems of both journalism and advertising at once”, or it being some sort of guiding light for a “future of paid journalism.” Lanier: Advertising, in whatever form, just can’t be the only possible business plan for information. It forces everybody to ultimately compete for the same small pool of advertisers. How much of the economy can advertising really be? It can’t be the whole market. Why on earth are Google and Facebook competing for the same customers when they actually do totally different things? It’s a peculiar problem. You’re saying that there’s only one business plan, one customer set, and everybody has to dive after that. It becomes a very narrow game — there’s not enough there for everybody. It could work out locally a little bit, but it’s not an overall solution. Been: And your solution is what you call a “humanistic information economy.” Could you talk a little bit about how such a system would work? Lanier: There are some theoretical reasons that lead me to believe that if you monetized a deeply connected open network, the distribution of benefits to people would look like a middle class. In other words, there would be a lot of wealth in a lot of people’s hands that could outspend any elite, which is critical for democracy and a market economy to survive. So one benefit is you could get a consistent middle class even when the economy gets really automated. It becomes a real information economy.
A humanistic economy would create a middle class in a new way, instead of through unions and other ad hoc mechanisms. It would create a middle class by compensating people for their value in terms of references to the network. It would create an expanding economy instead of a static one, which is also important. It’s built around the people instead of the machines. It would be a change in paradigm.Been: In the book, you write: “If we demand that everyone turn into a freelancer, then we will all eventually pay an untenable price in heartbreak.” But a lot of what you’re proposing strikes me, in some senses, as a freelance economy. Lanier: That’s right. What I’m proposing is actually a freelance economy, but it’s a freelance economy where freelancing earns you not just income but also wealth. That’s an important distinction to make. What I think should happen is as you start providing information to the network, it then will become a part of other services that grow over time.
So, for instance, let’s suppose you translate between languages, and some of your translations provide example phrase translations that are used in automatic translators. You would keep getting dribbles of royalties from having done that, and you start accumulating a lot of little ways that you’re getting royalties — not in the sense of contractual royalties, just little payments from people that are doing things that benefited from information you provided. If you look at people’s interest in social networking, you see a middle-class distribution of interest. A lot of people would get a lot of little dribs and drabs, and it would accumulate over a lifetime so you’d start to have more and more established information that had been referenced by you that people are using. What should happen is you should start accumulating wealth, some money that shows up because of your past as well as your present moment.Been: So if I simply shared a link to a New York Times article on Twitter, for instance, would there be a payment exchange? If so, who would it go to? Lanier: It would be person-to-person payments. Right now, we’re used to a system where you earn money in blocks, like a salary check, and you’re spending on little things like coffee of something. And in this system, you’d be earning lots of little micropayments all the time. But you would be spending less often. That terrifies people, but it’s a macroeconomic thing. I believe the economy would actually grow if information was monetized, and overall your chances will get a lot better than they are now. Been: You say in the book that this person-to-person payment system is partly inspired by the early work of the sociologist and information technology pioneer, Ted Nelson. Particular, his thoughts about two-way linking over a network. Could you talk a little bit about why you think this is a better way to exchange information? Lanier: The original concept of digital networking that predated the actual existence of digital networking is Ted Nelson’s work from the 1960s. It was different from the networks we know today in a few key ways. All the links were two-way, for one. You would always know who was linking at your website — there would always be backlinks. If you have universal backlinks, you have a basis for micropayments from somebody’s information that’s useful to somebody else. If the government camera on a corner catches you walking by, and it matches against you, you’d be owed some money because you contributed information. Every backlink would be monetized. Monetizing actually decentralizes power rather than centralizing it. Demonetizing a network actually concentrates power around anyone who has the biggest computer analyzing it. Been: Let’s talk about that last point. This is an example of what you call in the book a “Siren Server.” That is, computers on a network that gather data without conceding that money is owed to those individuals mined for the information. Lanier: That’s right. It’s my name for one of the biggest, best, most effective, connected computers on the network. A Siren Server is a big server farm — a remote unmarked building somewhere in the countryside near a river so it can get cooled. It has tons of computers that run as one. It gathers data from the world for free and does more processing of that data that normal computers can do. What it does with the processing is it calculates several moves that the owners can make that put them in an advantage based on a global perspective.
If you’re Amazon, it means you keep track of everybody else’s prices in the world, including little local independent stores, so you can never be outsold. If a store wants to give a book away, Amazon will also do that, so nobody gets a local advantage. If you’re Google, it gives advertisers a way to use a behavioral model of the world to predict which options in front of you are most likely to steer you. If you’re a finance company, it’s a way of bundling derivatives in such a way that somebody else is holding the risk. It’s almost a cryptographic effort. If you’re an insurance company, it’s a way of calculating how to divide populations so you insure the people who least need to be insured. In all these cases, a giant computer calculates an advantage for yourself and you get a global perspective that overwhelms the local advantage that participants in the market might have had before.Been: In the book, you call Craigslist a Siren Server, one that “created a service that has greatly increased convenience for ordinary people, while causing a crisis in local journalism that once relied on paid classified adds.” You write that it “has a tragic quality, since it is as modest and ethical as it can be, eschewing available spying opportunities, and yet it still functions as a Siren Server despite that.” So a Siren Server, in your mind, isn’t necessarily always a malevolent construction. Lanier: That’s true. I don’t think there’s much in the way of evil or competitive intent. It’s the power of having one of the biggest computers. When you suddenly get power by surprise, it’s a seduction. You don’t realize that other people are being hurt. But if it wasn’t Craigslist, it would have been something else. Some computer gets a global perspective on everything and the local advantage goes away. Craigslist calculated away the local advantage that newspapers used to have. Been: So far, the reviews of Who Owns the Future? have been largely positive. But in The Washington Post, Evgeny Morozov criticized it by saying “Lanier’s proposal raises two questions that he never fully confronts.” One being whether a nanopayment system would actually help the middle class once automation hits its tipping point. He cites cab drivers being replaced by self-driving cars and says: “Unless cabdrivers have directly contributed to the making of maps used by self-driving cars, it’s hard to see how a royalty-like system can be justified.” Lanier: This has to do with the value of information. In the book I ask this very question — in the future, in the case of self-driving cars, it’s certainly true that once you’ve been through the streets once, why do it again? The reason is that they’re changing. There might be potholes, or there might be changes to local traffic laws and traffic patterns. The world is dynamic. So over time, maps of streets that need cars to drive on them will need to be updated. The way self-driving cars work is big data. It’s not some brilliant artificial brain that knows how to drive a car. It’s that the streets are digitized in great detail.
So where does the data come from? To a degree, from automated cameras. But no matter where it comes from, at the bottom of the chain there will be someone operating it. It’s not really automated. Whoever that is — maybe somebody wearing Google Glass on their head that sees a new pothole, or somebody on their bike that sees it — only a few people will pick up that data. At that point, when the data becomes rarified, the value should go up. The updating of the input that is needed is more valuable, per bit, than we imagine it would be today. Cabbies themselves, that’s irrelevant. There won’t be cabbies. They’ll have to be doing other things. Been: His other question is “how many [online] services would survive his proposed reforms?” Morozov brings up Wikipedia and says the “introduction of monetary incentives would probably affect authors’ motivation. Wikipedia the nonprofit attracts far more of them than would Wikipedia the startup.” Lanier: But in what I’m proposing, Wikipedia would not pay you — it would be a person-to-person thing. I’m proposing that there’s no shop and people are paying each other when they create things like Wikipedia. Which is very different. If it’s going through a central hub, it creates a very narrow range of winners. If it’s not, it’s a whole different story.
The online services that would survive would be the ones that can add value to the data that people are providing anyway. Instagram could perhaps charge to do cool effects on your pictures, but the mere connections between you and other people would not be billable, it would just be normal. People would pay each other for that. The services would have to do more now than they are. A lot of services are just gatekeepers and would not survive and they shouldn’t. It would force people to up their game.Been: Speaking of upping one’s game, you get a strong sense throughout the book that you think society is no longer future-minded. Towards the end, you write that you “miss the future.” What do you mean by that statement? Lanier: It seems that there’s a loss of ambition or a lowering of standards for what we should expect from the future. We hyped up things like being able to network — and we understood it was a step on a path — but these days I call the open-source idea the MSG of journalism.
An example would be this: Take some story that would be totally boring, like garbage bags are being left on the street. But if you say, “open-source software is being used to track garbage bags on the street,” there’s something about it that it makes it seem interesting. And that makes it a low bar for what seems interesting. A very unambitious idea of what innovation can be.
Photo of Jaron Lanier by Dan Farber used under a Creative Commons license.
The European Union’s proposal to strengthen national media self-regulatory bodies has triggered a new debate on whether or not regulatory institutions carry out their tasks effectively and efficiently. A Europe-wide research project “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe” (MediaAcT) polled journalists from 14 countries to see how effective media regulation is, and how it should change. This report outlines some of the preliminary findings.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, caused a stir among journalists and media managers when she released her proposals on media regulation and measures to protect press freedom, in January this year. Her “High-Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism” focused on the consequences of high media-concentration in Eastern and Southern Europe. It also proposed strengthening national media self-regulation bodies, recommending that all European member states have an independent media or press council, which – in contrast to the current state of affairs in many European countries – should be able to impose strict sanctions.
Several journalists and media associations interpreted the report as a sign that the EU wanted to restrict the freedom of the press. British journalists were especially sensitive to the debate, as the British government and media are currently battling over the shape of their own regulatory bodies. The British government ordered a review of the media after it emerged that some reporters from the News of the World had hacked into the voice mails of people in the news. Lord Justice Leveson, who carried out an extensive investigation into the matter, criticized the failure of Britain’s self regulatory body, the Press Complaints Commission to check tabloid excesses. pleaded for a system of “controlled self-control,” a system whereby the media self regulated within a legally agreed framework. His proposals have divided the British government and media.
Old versus new models of media accountability
With the pressures of today’s highly competitive and increasingly digital market, are traditional models of media self-regulation, using professional codes of conduct and press councils, still relevant? Or do we need new forms of participative media accountability that involve both journalists and those who use the media? What role do traditional and new, often web based, tools of accountability play within the different media systems and journalism cultures in Europe?
A research team addressed these questions within the framework of the international research project “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe” (MediaAcT) at the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism at the Technical University of Dortmund. 1,762 journalists from twelve European (Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK, Estonia and Spain) and two Arabic countries (Tunisia and Jordan) were surveyed in 2011 and 2012.
More piercing force for media accountability
According to the survey results, journalists know about the existence of laws, guidelines, and regulations, that can affect their work. In almost all of the 14 countries involved in the study, journalists said they consider media laws and the ethical guidelines set by their newsroom as having the biggest impact on their work. They also note that traditional instruments of media self-control such as press councils and professional codes of conduct, exert much less influence than the codes of their own newsrooms.
From an empirical point of view, it is understandable that the European Union questions whether the current potential of sanctions that European press councils have at their disposal are sufficient. And while press councils are often derided as ‘toothless tigers’, media professionals consider the alternatives to be even less acceptable.
The journalists who participated in the study believe ombudsmen and criticism of the media made in trade magazines, the mass media and external bodies such as NGOs and scientists, only have a marginal impact. They also believe that recently developed models of media observation, such as journalists’ blogs, or the citizens themselves, are not yet able to compete with the traditional instruments of regulation.
Younger journalists are more willing to consider alternative forms of regulation and accountability. Social media platforms are rated as the most important instrument of media accountability. The surveyed journalists state that they have received an increasing amount of feedback and criticism from their audience via Facebook and Twitter. The dialogue with their audience via social media is particularly important for the journalists in the two Arabic countries who are affected by their experience with governmental censorship.
It is the media companies’ responsibility
Looking at how the journalists’ points of view on media self-control and accountability differ in several countries, it becomes apparent that journalists in the Northern European countries which have a long history of self-control and professional structures appreciate press councils and press codes much more than their colleagues in the other countries. In Eastern and Southern European countries the professional culture of journalism is less developed, and professional consciousness is less distinctive. Professional codes of conduct have a much lower value in these countries where the journalists rely more on the guidelines used within their own newsroom.
The survey highlights the key role media companies have in the protection of professional and ethical standards – they play a bigger role in this context than the professional associations do. Journalists who work in newsrooms that support the debate on quality journalism attach greater importance to instruments of media self-control and seem to be more sensitive towards the topic of media accountability in general.
The MediaAcT study also shows that freelance journalists are noticeably disinterested in the topic of media self-regulation and media accountability. Journalists who are not deeply-seated in a newsroom seem to worry more about the marketability of their next story than about media responsibility. Besides, freelancers only rarely become the target of criticism from ombudsmen, media bloggers and others.
The dangerous effects of outsourcing
Media companies need to realize that they endanger their own success by continuing to outsource editorial tasks. In doing so they create a less engaged journalist class, which is less concerned with professional standards. The danger is that this downward pressure exacerbates the existing problems of the media’s credibility.
In Eastern and Southern Europe, journalists are even more skeptical about concept of media transparency. Many Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Polish journalists believe that publishing corrections or making newsroom processes transparent online will damage the bond of trust between journalists and the audience. More than anywhere else, the journalists from these four countries as well as from Jordan and Tunisia told the researchers that they worked for distinctly politically orientated media outlets, and therefore felt pressured by the government or that their work was constrained by a specific political idea.
In these countries, journalists and media users probably have different expectations of journalistic credibility and an efficient media self-regulation system. But are the Northern European “model” countries of media accountability immune to the influence of Southern and Eastern European models in the long-term?
Criticism by the audience is not appreciated
Only half of the respondents admit to taking audience criticism seriously. Journalists prefer to define what “good journalism” is on their own terms or among their colleagues. When asked to whom journalists feel responsible, 95 percent say their own conscience – they feel less constrained by “professional journalistic standards” or their “sources” and even less so by “the target audience” (82 percent) and the “public in general” (74 percent).
The study’s conclusion is that on the one side, journalism is still a profession affected first and foremost by individual ethics, and less by common professional standards, while on the other, many journalists are too ignorant of their most important stakeholders: their audience, even as the future of traditional media itself looks precarious.
In general, journalists claim that they are transparent and open in their work. The support calls for the disclosure of media ownership and say they want to be contactable by their audience online, but they dislike bodies and processes that question their traditional role as gate-keepers.
Criticism of colleagues is not common
In many countries there is hardly any culture of criticism from peers within newsrooms. Just a third of all the journalists surveyed admitted to criticizing their colleagues often or frequently. One of the rare exceptions is Finland, where newsrooms are less hierarchically organized, are journalists criticized more often by their peers.
External criticism by politicians, scientists or media users is also considered unwelcome and is often perceived as unfair by journalists. But howdoes this attitude sit in an era where influential institutions call for more media transparency? A model of journalism that fails to initiate a critical debate about its weaknesses and problems possibly misses the opportunity to highlight its strengths and its essential role within an efficient democracy in the digital age.
More incentives for self-regulation
This study should act as a wake-up call. On the one hand, almost 95 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement “media responsibility is an indispensable prerequisite for press freedom”, while on the other, the data shows that journalists exactly calculate what it “costs” them to follow the rules – or not.
If the media wants to avoid political repressions in the medium term, we can’t just pay lip service to the above-mentioned statement. Models of regulated self-regulation – where the government stimulates the media’s self-control by setting financial and legal incentives, but of course refrains from any sanctions – could be a solution. Our data clearly shows that journalists don’t want state intervention – the statement “formal systems of media regulation are open to political abuse” was widely supported by the almost 1,700 journalists who responded to our survey. But they perceive the existing instruments as insufficient as well – in sharp contrast to the industry representatives who, in reaction to the High-Level Group report, claimed that the existing systems of media self-regulation work properly and well. For example, while many UK industry representatives vocally opposed any form of co-regulation, journalists in the UK gave highest support to the statement “to be effective media self-regulation needs more sanctions.”
There is a wide divergence of opinion on how media self-regulation may become more effective but there are already some inspiring examples in Europe. Irish newsrooms receive legal benefits when they actively engage in media accountability. These examples could become trend-setters in a time when journalists from Finland to Romania regard economic pressure as the most serious threat to quality journalism.
This report presents the results of the international research project “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe” (MediaAcT) for the very first time. The project is based on a cooperation of partner institutions in Eastern and Western Europe and the Arab World. The Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, has been responsible for the project’s coordination. The project is running for a period of three years and will end in July 2013. The study focuses on a culturally comparative analysis of traditional and innovative media accountability instruments (MAI), both online and offline. The empirical core of the study is a standardized online survey of 1,762 journalists across 14 countries. The survey which identified the attitudes of media professionals towards different media accountability instruments was conducted in 2011 and 2012. Further information is provided on the project’s website www.mediaact.eu .
A German version of this article was published in the German trade magazine “Message – Internationale Zeitschrift für Journalismus” No. 2 / 2013
Photo credits: MediaAcT
A trial of the alleged attackers of Lukpan Akhmedyarov (Лукпан Ахмедьяров), begun on 14 May, was scheduled to resume on 22 May in the special regional court of Uralsk, in northwest Kazakhstan. Attackers tried to kill the high-profile dissident journalist in front of his home on the night of 19 April 2012.
The initial investigation of the crime was a “farce,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But the investigation has been conducted professionally since it was restarted about one year ago – at least so far. Procedural safeguards have been respected, and the planned nature of the attack and its connection with Akhmedyarov's work have been recognized.”
However, “It remains essential that the investigation go to the heart of the matter by discovering those who ordered this savage attack,” the press freedom organization said. “The new trial session must be completely transparent.”
The first part of the trial was open to journalists. But, at the defendants' request, the press was not allowed to photograph and film the session.
Four individuals stand accused of the crime: Almaz Batyrkhairov and Manarbek Akbulatov, the alleged attackers; Askhat Tahkambetov, charged with having planned the attempt under the orders of an unknown party; and Mursalim Sultangereev, accused of having driven the attackers to the site of the murder attempt.
All four were indicted for attempted murder under article 96-24 of the criminal code. They are also accused of violating article 235 by forming an organized crime group, an allegation they deny.
Batyrkhairov and Akbulatov admitted having attacked the journalist at Takhambetov's instigation. But they declared that they merely wanted to scare him, not to kill him. The driver confessed to having transported the men but denied knowing their intention. And the alleged organizer denied all connection to the case.
Local police conducted the first investigation. That led to the arrest in May 2012 of suspects who were mere scapegoats. They were released after a special team of investigators was sent from the capital city of Astana.
Akhmedyarov told Reporters Without Borders during an interview in Astana in January 2013 that the two alleged attackers were in fact the men who assaulted him. He said that he had every reason to trust in the new investigation.
The journalist is demanding that the defendants pay a total of 10 million tenge (51,540 euros) in damages and interest. But he said he would withdraw that demand if they name the person behind the attack.
Akhmedyarov reports for the local Uralskaya Nedelya daily. He won the 2012 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. In the attack at the centre of the current case, Akhmedyarov was stabbed repeatedly, shot with an air pistol and beaten on the head. He was hospitalized for one month and then underwent a long course of therapy.
At the moment Akhmedyarov face demands for a total of 28 million tenge (144,300 euros) in legal proceedings prompted by his work. These were clear attempts to silence his journalism.
Kazakhstan is ranked 160th of 179 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Israel - Unsupported accusations against French TV correspondent over coverage of Palestinian teenager's shooting
The Israeli government has just published a report of its investigation into French TV station France 2's controversial coverage of 12-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-Durrah's death during rioting in the Gaza Strip on 30 September 2000 and the disputed claim that he was killed by a shot fired from Israeli positions.
The report's release came three days ahead today's announcement by a Paris appeal court that it will finally issue its ruling on 26 June in the defamation case between France 2's Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Enderlin, and Media Rating founder Philippe Karsenty, who suggested that the teenager's death was staged.
The Israeli report, which is very critical of France 2's staff, was produced by a committee consisting of representatives of various ministries, the police and the Israel Defence Forces. It was appointed by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu last September.
“While the Israeli government has the right to respond publicly to a media report it regards as damaging, the nature and substance of this report are questionable and give the impression of a smear operation,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“As regards the substance, Charles Enderlin has always said he would be ready to testify to a commission of enquiry in conditions that guaranteed impartiality and independence. These conditions were not respected, and Enderlin was not asked to testify. Nor was he asked to provide his unused footage of the incident.
“Above all, the committee's published findings consist of just 11 pages on the ‘facts' of the case and has another 30 pages condemning the way France 2's report was used. We think it is absurd and unacceptable to accuse Enderlin's report of having ‘played a major role in inciting terrorism and violence, both in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and worldwide'.”
The committee claims to have based its findings on France 2's raw video footage of the incident. Enderlin says he posted all of the footage online. Is that what the committee used? The report's authors do not say. It claims there is no evidence to support Enderlin's account of the incident but produces no evidence to support its own claim.
The committee claims that evidence suggests that neither Muhammad al-Durrah nor his father, Jamal Al-Durrah, sustained a gunshot injury that day. In particular, it claims that no trace of blood was found the next day at the spot where they were filmed. The report, which does not name the source of this claim, also claims there was no sign of blood in the video footage.
According to the committee's findings, the broadcast footage excluded a movement of Muhammad al-Durrah's hand and elbow that can be seen in the raw footage after Enderlin's voice said he had been killed.
The committee quotes Dr. Ricardo Nachman, deputy director of the Tel Aviv forensic centre, as saying the boy could not have moved in that way if, as France 2 claimed, he had already been hit by gunfire.
The Franco-Israeli surgeon Yehuda David is quoted in the report's appendix as saying the father's injuries could have been sustained prior to the incident filmed by France 2's cameraman. But David bases his claim on medical reports and did not examine Jamal Al-Durrah himself after the incident.
“This report is absurd,” Enderlin said. “How can the report's authors omit the fact that Jamal Al-Durrah was hospitalized the next day in the Jordanian capital of Amman? How can they claim that the Israel Defence Forces did not open fire?”
A journalist's friend, Guillaume Weill-Raynal, added: “No ballistic report has ever been produced to support these claims, which were already being made prior to this report.”
Barak Ravid, the Israeli daily Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent, said: “This report on the Muhammad al-Durrah case is probably one of the least convincing documents produced by the Israeli government in recent years.”
Reporters Without Borders has written an open letter to the eight approved candidates in the Islamic Republic of Iran's 11th presidential election, requesting that they publicly commit themselves to support freedom of information.
The list of eight approved candidates published yesterday by the Guardian Council – whose members are directly chosen and appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – offers little hope that the 14 June election will be conducted in a clear and transparent manner.
In 2009, the presidential was stolen the day after the polling. This year's election is being stolen before the official campaign even starts.
The Iranian regime openly flouts freedom of information, a fundamental freedom that is essential for free and fair elections. During President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two terms, respect for human rights conditions has declined dramatically in the Islamic Republic.
Over the past eight years, more than 200 newspapers have been shut down and more than 300 journalists and netizens have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
To ensure that its recommendations do not go unheard and to put the issue of respect for basic rights at the centre of the election campaign, Reporters Without Borders is today issuing a challenge to the candidates.
It is calling on them to undertake to free all imprisoned journalists and netizens and to ensure that Iran observes its international obligations to respect freedom of information. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran ratified in 1975.
To the Candidates,
The Guardian Council yesterday officially approved your candidacies for the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the election to be held on 14 June. Reporters Without Borders, an international organization for defence of freedom of information, wishes to call your attention to the intolerable lack of respect for this basic right in your country. Violations include the repression of journalists and netizens, and the complete impunity afforded those responsible.
Reporters Without Borders asks that all presidential candidates pledge openly and unconditionally to respect freedom of information, and to establish the rule of law in Iran. These are demands of the Iranian people, and constitute essential conditions for Iran to emerge from isolation.
Specifically, Reporters Without Borders asks all candidates to commit themselves to the following actions:
- Demand the unconditional release of the 52 journalists and netizens who are today imprisoned in Iran. Some of them were arrested following President Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection in June 2009 and remain incarcerated four years later. Their only crime is to have exercised their constitutional right to freedom of information. This right will not be observed in Iran as long as arrests and arbitrary detentions remain a systematic practice by Iranian authorities intent on muzzling the media and silencing civil society.
- Begin a fundamental reform of media law, aimed in particular at decriminalizing press law violations and guaranteeing freedom of information without discrimination based on language, religion or political opinion. A revision of the 1986 press law (amended in 2000 and 2009 to include online publications) is urgently needed. The law allows authorities to verify that the media “do not damage the foundation of the Islamic Republic,” “do not insult the Supreme Leader,” and “do not disseminate false information.” Amendments that require online publications to be licensed must be repealed.
- Ensure that Iranian citizens have free, uncensored and unmonitored Internet access. The launching of a “halal Internet” designed to impose a digital apartheid, constitutes a danger for Iran.
- End arbitrary actions and impunity. The murders of dissident journalists must not go unpunished. These cases include the deaths of Ebrahim Zalzadeh, Majid Charif, Mohammed Mokhtari, Mohammed Jafar Pouyandeh and Pirouz Davani, all executed by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security in November and December 1988. Likewise, the deaths in detention of Zahra Kazemi (2003), Ayfer Serçe (2006), the young blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi and Sattar Beheshti (2012). Those who planned and carried out these crimes must be brought to justice.
As long as these demands go unmet, Iranians will not be able to think of themselves as a free people.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters.
Reporters Without Borders
Do you have the New York Times Best Seller list memorized? Do you have a passion for books and want to get into the publishing business?
In this episode of “Score That Job,” career expert, author and mediabistro editor Vicki Salemi sat down with Andrea Weinzimer of Hachette Book Group to get the inside dirt on what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Here a few tips — know the industry and know which authors they publish (hint: rhymes with James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, David Sedaris…). Or just watch the video.
You can view our other MediabistroTV productions on our YouTube Channel.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved legislation to ensure the United States complies with two broadly supported international nuclear security accords, but a key Senate opponent on Tuesday affirmed his lingering opposition.
The 390-3 vote marked the chamber's second endorsement of measures needed to comply with the treaties and two separate maritime security agreements. The two nuclear pacts, which address nuclear terrorism law and domestic nuclear material security, are themselves relatively noncontroversial; the Senate issued resolutions of advice and consent for them in 2008. House lawmakers, though, took nearly four years to break a stalemate over measures included in the legislation that could extend wiretapping authorities and apply the death penalty in nuclear terrorism cases.
The House first passed the legislation last summer without those elements, but, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said he wanted them included, and an anonymous hold prevented a Senate vote. Grassley would be willing to consider it on the Senate floor this year with a separate vote on the death penalty provision, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said. Senate Democrats last year prevented passage of a draft containing revisions sought by Grassley.
As with four prior drafts, the newest bill would complete U.S. ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The pact, which entered into force in 2007 and now has 86 states parties, requires member nations to criminalize possession and use of nuclear and radiological weapons by individuals. It establishes guidelines for cooperating in the extradition and prosecution of individuals linked to a nuclear plot or threat.
The bill would also bring the United States into line with a 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The amendment updates the 1980s-era pact, which governs international shipments of civilian nuclear material, by including standards for securing nonmilitary atomic substances held, used or transferred within a single nation’s borders.
Sixty-seven governments had fully adopted the amendment as of last month. To take effect, the measure must receive backing from two-thirds of the full treaty's signatories. The original convention now has 148 members, placing the amendment's implementation threshold at 99 states.
"Many other countries have indicated that they are waiting for the United States to complete ratification before moving ahead with their own ratification processes, since it was the United States that pushed for the amendment in the first place,” Kingston Reif, nuclear nonproliferation director at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, said in comments released by the Fissile Materials Working Group. Responding to one of Grassley's key objections to the House-approved language, Reif and another expert argued last week that existing law already allows for the execution of convicted nuclear terrorists.
"In the wake of the Boston attacks, it seems clear that an attack involving radiological or nuclear material would allow prosecutors plenty of latitude to seek the death penalty,” Reif and Miles Pomper, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote in a World Politics Review column last Friday.
Story by Diane Barnes, courtesy of Global Security Newswire.