ICE blogs

December 13, 2016

259 journalists in jail around the world

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 12:02 pm

Some 259 journalists are currently in jail around the world – the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990.

Turkey where there were at least 81 journalists behind bars topped the list. Dozens of other journalists remain imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work.

China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to second place with 38 journalists in jail. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia follow as the worst jailers of journalists.

CPJ executive director Joel Simon commented: ‘Journalists working to gather and share information are performing a public service and their rights are protected under international law. It is shocking, therefore, that so many governments are violating their international commitments by jailing journalists and suppressing critical speech.’ Turkey was at the vanguard of this authoritarian trend. ‘Every day that Turkey’s journalists languish in jail in violation of that country’s own laws, Turkey’s standing in the world is diminished.’

For the first time since 2008 Iran is not among the top five worst jailers since many of those sentenced in the 2009 post-election crackdown have served their sentences and been released. The Americas region, which had no jailed journalists in 2015, appears on this year’s census with four journalists in prison. The vast majority of journalists in jail worked online and/or in print, while about 14 per cent are broadcast journalists.

The prison census does not include journalists who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups such as freelance British journalist John Cantlie, held by the Islamic State. These are classified as ‘missing’ or ‘abducted’ and CPJ estimates that at least 40 journalists are in these categories in the Middle East and North Africa.

• See https://www.cpj.org/reports/2016/12/journalists-jailed-record-high-turkey-crackdown.php

December 9, 2016

Phillip Knightley: The supreme journo

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:55 am

Phillip Knightley, the investigative reporter who has died aged 87, was a wonderful story-teller. Once he told my students at City University (where I was a journalism lecturer from 1984 to 2003) how, when he was a rookie reporter in the late 1940s on a suburban Australian rag, the news appeared to have dried up for the next edition so his editor asked him to invent a story. Phillip promptly wrote a ‘report’ about a man (he dubbed him ‘the hook man’) who terrorised women on the local buses by lifting up their skirts with a clothes peg. So the front page splash headline: ‘”Hook man” terrorises women on the buses’ duly appeared on the Friday. Not surprisingly, Phillip worried about the response of the local cops to his invented ‘exclusive’. Monday passed without any call from the cops. Then on Tuesday, he received a call from the local police station. ‘Is that Knightley?’ the cop asked abruptly. ‘Yes,’ he responded nervously. ‘Well,’ the cop continued, ‘you know that “hook man” – we’ve caught him!’

In every respect, that was a typical Phillip story: extremely funny – but was it true or false: fact or fiction? In reality, the story as well as being extremely entertaining was a device to encourage his audience to be sceptical.

Indeed, Phillip was for me the supreme journo: always sceptical, fiercely intelligent, courageous, witty, highly sociable, politically astute – as well as being a brilliant writer and story teller.

His achievements in journalism and publishing were vast: major roles in The Sunday Times’s investigations into the thalidomide scandal and Kim Philby, the British intelligence chief exposed as a Soviet spy; twice awarded the Journalist of the Year award; closely involved in the work of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – and so on.

But his contribution to the development of journalism education in this country was substantial too. His major texts (The first casualty, his seminal history of war reporting; The second oldest profession, on spying, and his autobiography, A hack’s progress) are essential reading for all journalism students. They capture the best elements of journalism: original, clear writing, the synthesis of a vast amount of often complex information, a political awareness, an immediacy; a sense of history and a fascination with the complexities of human nature. As he wrote at the end of A hack’s progress: ‘So my advice for the new generation of journalists is to ignore the accountants, the proprietors and the conventional editors and get on with it. And your assignment is the same as mine has been – the world and the millions of fascinating people who inhabit it.’

Moreover, Phillip clearly enjoyed the contact with students and his appearances at City University and more recently at the University of Lincoln (after I became a professor there in 2003 and where Phillip was appointed a Visiting Professor) always drew big, appreciative crowds. He was also inspirational in smaller, workshop settings, forever keen to share his knowledge of investigative techniques and his spin on various tricky ethical/political dilemmas. For instance, intriguingly, he never had a bad word to say about cheque-book journalism.

Phillip spent a lot of his career writing on the intelligence services – but he was never seduced by the lure of the secret world and very critical of the hacks who got too close to the spooks. As he wrote: ‘…although journalism is riddled with people working for intelligence services, I would stay clear of the game.’ In his autobiography, he concluded wryly: ‘The main threat to an intelligence agent comes not from the security service in the country against which he is operating but from his own centre, his own people.’ And he bravely revealed that the Philby scoop was, in fact, a highly managed operation. The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) ‘knew beforehand what we were about to publish each week. The editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times, Denis Hamilton, had come to an agreement with the service’. So much for intrepid investigative reporting!

Phillip was also an activist journalist. For instance, in 1999, I organised a meeting at the Freedom Forum in London protesting at Fleet Street’s coverage of the Nato attacks on Serbia and Phillip immediately agreed to speak on a panel. At international forums and in media articles (in both the prestigious press and alternative, progressive journals), he constantly criticised government and military moves to censor and sanitise the reporting of war – and journalists’ failure to confront the secret state effectively. As he reflected: ‘I know now that the influence journalists can exercise is limited and that what we achieve is not always what we intended. It is the fight that counts.’

Richard Lance Keeble,
Joint editor, Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics

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