ICE blogs

June 29, 2008

US school micro-chips schoolbags

Filed under: ethical space editors blog, Headlines, human rights — news_editor @ 9:56 pm

U.S. School District to Begin Microchipping Students

According to, a US school district has announced a pilot program to monitor student movements by means of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted in their schoolbags.

The Middletown School District in Rhode Island, in partnership with MAP Information Technology Corp, has launched a pilot program to implant RFID chips into the schoolbags of 80 children at the Aquidneck School. Each chip would be programmed with a student identification number, and would be read by an external device installed in one of two school buses. The buses would also be fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices.

Parents or school officials could log onto a school web site to see whether and when specific children had entered or exited which bus, and to look up the bus’s current location as provided by the GPS device.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticized the plan as an invasion of children’s privacy and a potential risk to their safety.

‘There’s absolutely no need to be tagging children,’ said Stephen Brown, executive director of the ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter. According to Brown, the school district should already know where its students are.

‘[This program is] a solution in search of a problem,’ Brown said.

June 5, 2008

US killing of journalists during Iraq invasion ‘not an accident’

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict — news_editor @ 1:11 am

A media rights group has called for a full investigation into a 2003 US shelling that killed two foreign journalists at a Baghdad hotel, claiming that new evidence showed the incident was not an accident. The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said the United States should ‘tell the whole truth’ about the incident at the Palestine Hotel on 8 April, 2003, just a day before Baghdad fell to US invading forces.

The IFJ said a former US army sergeant had reported seeing secret US documents that listed the hotel as a possible target, a statement which it said ‘exposed as a cover-up’ the US claim that the shelling was an accident. ‘Slowly the awful truth about the events of that day are emerging,’ Aidan White, general secretary of the Brussels-based IFJ, said in a statement. ‘This latest information adds to our concern that the failure to properly investigate and report on this attack is covering up the reality that the US was recklessly putting media lives at risk.’

Spanish cameraman Jose Couso, who worked for the private television station Telecinco, and Ukraine-born Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk were killed at the hotel, which was home to about 150 journalists and media staff at the time. A Spanish court threw out murder charges against three US soldiers over the Couso killing, saying there was insufficient evidence indicating an ‘intentional desire’ by them to target civilians in the hotel.

Iraq remains the most dangerous country to report from. According to Journalism Freedom Observatory, a group monitoring and defending the rights of Iraq journalists, 232 media employees — including 22 foreigners — have been killed since the 2003 US led-invasion. Of these, 179 of them were killed while working and the remainder were killed for sectarian reasons or in random acts of violence. At least 14 journalists are also being held hostage by various groups, according to the media watchdog.

Journalists lose right to maintain sources confidential

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, media policy, journalism — news_editor @ 1:10 am

Journalists in Portugal are continuing to protest against recent legislation limiting press freedom The new Journalist Statute strips journalists of their right to maintain the confidentiality of their sources, and contains provisions which prevent them from being paid fairly for the use of their work.

According to the legislation passed last September, journalists must now reveal their sources if requested to do so by a court investigating criminal offences. President Cavaco Silva, recognising that such provisions contravened provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure on professional secrecy, vetoed the bill in August, sending it back to parliament. However, it was subsequently passed by parliament after little more than minor adjustments. Provisions in the Journalist Statute also state that employers may now reuse the work of staff journalists, in any way within their media, without making additional payment to the journalists. This is as long as that reuse is within 30 day of the original publication.

Earlier, the Portuguese Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, came under fire following claims that the government had pressurised journalists after press articles questioned the authenticity of Socrates’ university degree. A poll taken at the time by Portuguese daily Diario Economico showed that 47 per cent of respondents had lost some degree of confidence in Socrates as a result.

Public’s trust in media at ‘depressing’ levels

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 1:09 am

Trust in the British mainstream media has fallen dramatically (and perhaps not surprisingly) over the last five years, according to a YouGov poll published in the latest issue of the British Journalism Review.

The survey asked: ‘How much do you trust the following groups to tell the truth?’ And it put the ‘great deals and fair amounts’ in a positive column. In 2003, BBC news journalists scored 81 per cent; by this year, the figure had slumped to 61 per cent. ITV news journalists fell from 82 to 51 per cent; Channel Four news journalists from 80 to 51 per cent; journalists on up-market newspapers from 65 to 43 per cent; journalists on local newspapers from 60 to 40 per cent and mid-market newspaper journalists 36 to 18 per cent. As Peter Preston commented in the Observer of 1 June 2008: ‘Red-tops may be up 1 per cent on 2003 but only estate agents outdo them in unpopularity.’

Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, in an article intriguingly titled ‘On the road to self-destruction’, describes the results as ‘profoundly depressing, particularly for broadcasters’. Trying to explain the decline in trust, he focuses on the many television phone-in scandals and the widespread illegal trade in personal information highlighted recently by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas. In addition, in identifies ‘The dog-eat-dog effect’. ‘One of the features of a viciously competitive media is the gleeful pleasure derived by some journalists or editors at the downfalls of others. Dog does not so much eat dog as devour it and then scavenge for more. This feeding frenzy is particularly aimed at the broadcasters whose reputation is, perhaps, jealously regarded in some parts of Fleet Street, and is exacerbated by the involvement of celebrity figures. A whiff of scandal around a programme involving Simon Cowell, Ant and Dec or Richard and Judy will be far more alluring to news editors than, say, a banking scam involving a middle-ranking bank official.’

But he says he is not yet ready to tell his communication students to pack it in for a job that earns more respect. ‘Good journalism makes a difference to the kind of society we live in, and to distrust it is eventually to destroy it. That’s why trust matters, and that’s why we should all be worried by the findings of this survey.’

Reed drops links to arms trade after journalists protest

Journalists at Reed Elsevier, publishers of more than 2,000 medical and scientific journals, have helped persuade the company to drop its ties to the arms trade. It represents a major victory for collective action to promote principled, ethical journalism. The company said on 29 May 2008 that it had sold the DSEi, ITEC and LAAD defence exhibitions to Britain’s largest independent exhibitions group, Clarion Events, for an undisclosed sum.

Reed’s decision to stop organizing defence shows followed a long campaign of protest by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and by many of its staff. In particular, staff on Reed’s top medical title, the Lancet, claimed the journal could not be linked in any way to the arms industry. In a September 2005 editorial, it commented: ‘On behalf of our readers and contributors, we respectfully ask Reed Elsevier to divest itself of all business interests that threaten human, and especially civilian, health and well-being. Values of harm reduction and science-based decision making are the core of public-health practice.’

In addition, a group of internationally acclaimed writers including J.M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan and Arabella Weir, joined the protest, writing a public letter to coincide with the London Book Fair, a Reed-organised event. They were appalled their trade was ‘commercially connected to one which exacerbates insecurity and repression’. Shareholders also reduced their stakes in Reed promising not to re-invest until it cut all links with the defence exhibitions.


The Facebook of things to come

Filed under: ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 1:06 am

Journalists are increasingly discovering the relevance of social networking sites to their lives and work, according to Kelly Wilson, an assistant editor at the American Journalism Review.

Keyy writes: ‘Across the board, social sites are a way for people to interact as they never could before (or at least, never could with such ease). For journalists that means contacting others for ideas and support on tough assignments or connecting with editors for advice and job opportunities. Many organizations have gone a step further to create groups only for members of their news outlets’ networks.’

The dam broke when Facebook became open to everyone in September 2006. For journalists it brought faster contact with their younger sources as well as ethical dilemmas about operating in such an accountability-free environment. According to Kelly, journalists of all ages are getting onboard with Facebook because they fear being left behind. For Jonathan Landman, 55, a deputy managing editor of the New York Times, knowing what is happening online is crucial to his job, and a huge part of that takes place on Facebook. More than using the site much for himself, he told Kelly he created a profile to help him keep on eye on how the site develops.

Kelly concludes: ‘As in any form of journalism, if you don’t understand where the audience is and what it’s doing, you don’t understand the audience.’
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Al-Jazeera cameraman finally released from ‘worst prison mankind has ever seen’

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, politics, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 12:57 am

Associated Press reports that An Al-Jazeera cameraman released from the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre in April 2008 described it as the worst prison mankind has ever seen. Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese citizen, told a cheering crowd in Khartoum: ‘After 2,340 days spent in the most heinous prison mankind has ever known, we are honored to be here. Thank you, and thank all those defended us and of our right in freedom.’

Al-Haj was the only journalist from a major international news organization held at Guantanamo and many of his supporters saw his detention as punishment for an Arabic television channel whose broadcasts angered US officials. But his imprisonment received very little coverage in the mainstream Western media.

Al-Haj, who was supported while in Guantanamo by the human rights charity Reprieve, said: ‘I was subjected to 130 (interrogation) sessions, more than 35 about Al-Jazeera, and they wanted me to be a spy against Al-Jazeera.’ As a faithful Muslim, he rejected the offer.

Though able to walk a short distance at the event, al-Haj was still weak after a 16-month hunger strike at Guantanamo. His attorney, Zachary Katznelson, who met with al-Haj at the US base April 11, said he was emaciated because of the hunger strike. He said al-Haj had been having problems with his liver and kidneys and had blood in his urine.
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June 4, 2008

Washington Post says NASA’s climate scientists censored

Filed under: ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, politics — news_editor @ 11:42 pm

The Washington Post reports:

An investigation by the NASA inspector general found that political appointees in the space agency’s public affairs office worked to control and distort public accounts of its researchers’ findings about climate change for at least two years, the inspector general’s office said yesterday.
The probe came at the request of 14 senators after The Washington Post and other news outlets reported in 2006 that Bush administration officials had monitored and impeded communications between NASA climate scientists and reporters.
James E. Hansen, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and has campaigned publicly for more stringent limits on greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, told The Post and the New York Times in September 2006 that he had been censored by NASA press officers, and several other agency climate scientists reported similar experiences. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are two of the government’s lead agencies on climate change issues.
From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA’s public affairs office “managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.” It noted elsewhere that “news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution.”
Officials of the Office of Public Affairs told investigators that they regulated communication by NASA scientists for technical rather than political reasons, but the report found “by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career public affairs officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior public affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases.”
The political interference did not extend to the research itself or its dissemination through scientific journals and conferences, the investigators said. “We found no evidence indicating NASA blocked or interfered with the actual research activities of its climate scientists,” the report said, but as a result of the actions of the political appointees, “trust was lost, at least temporarily, between the agency and some of its key employees and perhaps the public it serves.”

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