PAKISTAN: An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude has hit south-west Pakistan with tremors being felt as far away as New Delhi. US Geological Survey has issued a “RED” alert which means estimated fatalities of over 1,000 and damages costing over $1 billion. Updates will follow via Twitter.
UNITED NATIONS: The UN meet today in New York. President Obama will give a welcome address followed by a statement by new Iranian President Rouhani.
The 24th Regular session the Human Rights Council are meeting in Geneva today to raise issues of international human rights in relation racism, racial discrimination or xenophobia. There has been much heated debate so far which will be discussed further here.
KENYA: The Westgate situation continues. On Saturday a group of up to 20 militants attacked the shopping mall in the capital Naiobi with guns and grenades. At least 62 people are dead and another are missing and may either have been killed or are being held hostage inside the centre.
There are mixed messages being release by multiple news sources regarding whether any Americans or British citizens were involved. There are also questions asked about how many hostages are still being held inside.
It is both a good and bad time to be a journalist. The internet means there’s more access to information, it’s easier to make yourself heard without a big news agency behind you and news breaks from around the world in moments. But it is also a dangerous time to be a journalist, every day it seems like someone has found a new way to spy on you, more journalists are in jail as of last year than any other time in the last decade and it seems like people are having more and more trouble deciding what a journalist is.
The US Senate seems to think you need some corporation or agency behind you to be a journalist or that it matters how long you’ve been employed. I’ve talked about this before and I disagree. I believe it is the lengths you go to in order to share the truth with the public, to information and educate and provide the context to understand the world we’re in, that makes you a journalist. However those criteria discount many of the overpaid talking heads the Senate seems to have had in mind.
The reaction to the revelations of widespread illegal surveillance by the NSA was surprising. Rather than turning on their government, many mainstream American journalists turned on Greenwald, calling him an “activist” or a “blogger” rather than a journalist.
Then in August, while travelling between Berlin and their home in Rio, Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was stopped and held for 9 hours under the UK’s terrorism powers.
“for the purpose of determining whether the detained person is a terrorist. The use of the power to detain and question someone who the examining officer knows is not a terrorist is plainly not for this purpose, so it would neither be within the spirit nor the letter of the law. There is no suggestion that Miranda is a terrorist, or that his detention and questioning at Heathrow was for any other reason than his involvement in his partner Glenn Greenwald’s reporting of the Edward Snowden story.”
During Miranda’s 9 hour illegal detention in Heathrow, his phone, laptop and external hard drive were confiscated. He was forced to give up the passwords to his social media sites.
It’s hardly as if British security forces thought that Miranda was hiding classified material on Twitter. No, this was a tactic of intimidation and humiliation.
When Greenwald said in an interview that he would continue to report on Snowden documents that had not yet been released it was reported as if he were vowing some mad revenge scheme.
“The US and UK governments are apparently entitled to run around and try to bully and intimidate anyone, including journalists – “to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian”, as Reuters put it – but nobody is allowed to send a message back to them. That’s a double standard that nobody should accept.”
Agents were then sent to supervise the physical destruction of hard drives in the paper’s basement. Rusbridger described the behaviour as “thuggish” but also useless as of course there were multiple copies around the world so they achieved nothing but, in Greenwald’s own words, to make “themselves look incompetently oppressive”.
Multiple journalist protection and human rights organisations around the world have condemned these acts of intimidation and attempted censorship by the British government, including the Committee to Protect Journalists among others.
There must be vigilance and caution when observing attempting abuses of journalistic freedoms, particularly in countries such as the UK and US that previously so highly valued their freedom of the press.
Reading the story of the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner and the following harassment of the Guardian, should concern everyone. It should frighten people. The censorship of the press, intimidating and threatening a journalist’s family are hardly the precursors to good times. In fact I would go out on a limb and say that they are a consistent and undeniable sign that we are losing control of government agencies allegedly in place to protect us. Unfortunately we are now subject to them regardless of what country we are citizens of, rather than the agencies being subject to the will of their citizens.