Award honours Gzowski

The Association of Electronic Journalists has created an award named after Peter Gzowski, the late Maclean’s editor and long-time CBC radio host of Morningside. The RTNDA Peter Gzowski Award – Best Radio News Information Program was announced today. “Gzowski exemplifies the very best in Canadian Journalism,” said the association said in a press release. It said the Gzowski award will be given to the station “which displays overall excellence in content and presentation in a regularly scheduled news information program, which is not a daily newscast.”

The first Peter Gzowski Award will be handed out at the RTNDA National Awards Ceremony in Ottawa next June. The organization describes itself as “the voice of electronic journalists in Canada,” with the aim of fostering “the very best in Radio, Television, and New Media.”
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A selection of headlines above the first online, breaking-news stories about today’s Statistics Canada crime report. It’s a hot political topic in the context of yesterday’s Conservative government throne speech — which includes a priority on “law and order” measures.

The Globe and Mail:
Homicide rate drops in 2006
Other violent crimes on rise as number of killings with firearms drops for first time in four years, Statscan says. (A Canadian Press story.)  The story’s second graph points out the political connection: “With the minority Conservative government in Ottawa declaring crime – and gun crime – one of its top priorities in Tuesday’s throne speech, Canada’s police services reported 605 homicides in 2006, 58 fewer than the previous year.”

The Toronto Star:
Homicide rate down in 2006
(CP story)

The Vancouver Sun:
Violent crime on the rise
A CanWest staff story. The lead is about the 10 per cent drop in murders, and fewer
murders committed with a gun, and the headline’s claim is only reached
midway through the second paragraph: “But while the murder rate dipped
after two years of going up, Statistics Canada said other violent
crimes, such as attempted murder, serious assaults and robberies, were
on the rise last year.”
Violent crime on the rise
(Same CanWest staff story as in the Sun, same headline)

The National Post:
Murder rate drops, violent crime on the rise
(Same CanWest staff story, but with its comprehensive nature reflected in the headline)
National homicide rate drops in 2006: StatsCan
(Staff story)
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“Shock” at murders of Iraq journalists

The International Federation of Journalists has called on the international community “to take special action to confront the human tragedy in Iraq where the killings of journalists and media staff have reached “shocking proportions that can no longer be ignored.”  Everything about Iraq seems shocking — but the IFJ has had enough with the recent murders of five media workers in Iraq, while it says Iraqi journalists are frustrated that their situation is “not being taken seriously by major players on the international media scene.”

From outside Iraq it’s unclear what can and should be done — other than bear witness. “The international community must stand up and take fresh action to alleviate the distress of journalists and media under siege in Iraq,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, who wants the “media crisis at the top” of political and  social movements. The IFJ is one of several media organizations that set up Iraq Media Safety Group, which set up a “safety office” in Baghdad and aims to “develop high-profile connections with government officials and media owners in the area of security for journalists.”
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Annual Press Freedom Index

Canada ranked 18th on this year’s annual press freedom index from Reporters Without Borders. Along with Germany, it was one of only two G8 countries to make the list’s top 20.

Most of the countries deemed to have the best freedoms are in Europe, with Iceland at the top. The U.S. ranked 48 (immediately behind Nicaragua), and the press-rights group criticized the U.S. for the the detention of Al-Jazeera’s Sudanese cameraman, Sami Al-Haj, since 2002 at the military base of Guantanamo. France was ranked at 31, and Britain at 24.

The countries at the bottom of the list, deemed the least-free, are China, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
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Americas press freedoms eroding

Media freedom is increasingly under attack in the Western Hemisphere, especially in Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia, said the Inter American Press Association. At least 13 employees of media organizations were killed and two disappeared in the past six months in the Western Hemisphere, said the association, which promotes free expression in the Americas.

The group is holding its 63rd General Assembly in Miami, and will release its full report Oct. 16. An Associated Press story from the opening session Oct. 14 is here.
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Pro Publica to be a new form of investigative journalism

A longtime editor of the Wall Street Journal is creating a new kind of journalism, backed by a couple of wealthy donors. Paul Steiger is forming a group of investigative journalists who will give away their work to media outlets. “The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations,” said today’s story in the New York Times.

The entity will be called Pro Publica, and it’s the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, political Democrats and former chief executives of a U.S. financial company. They have committed $10 million a year to the project, with smaller amounts from other sources. That will fund, said the Times story, a newsroom in New York City with a large staff of 24 investigative journalists and a dozen other employees.

UPDATE: Slate’s Jack Shafer has some strong opinions on the funders/founders of Pro Publica whose past attitude to a free press has been, well, less than respectful, he suggests. His solution?

If I were a newspaper editor considering ProPublica copy for a future issue, the first thing I’d want is proof of a firewall preventing the Sandlers and other funders from picking—or nixing—the targets of its probes. And if I were an editorial writer, I’d call upon Herbert Sandler to provide ProPublica with 10 years of funding ($100 million), and then resign from his post as the organization’s chairman so he’ll never be tempted to bollix up what might turn out to be a good thing.
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Racial journalism in America: “retelling folk tales”

There have been many calls on blogs, journalism sites and various public speakers for more, not less, stories about the so-called Jena 6 (six Americans involved in an incident of noose-hanging then beatings). The issue struck me as not critical to Canadians especially just now, with so many other big issues here and around the world and a dearth of space and time. However today’s thoughtful essay in the New York Times about media coverage of the affair, “Racial Crisis? Or Just Rope in the Hands of Fools,” is I think relevant, and to everyone in modern media. An excerpt:

There are few historic moments as honored and ingrained in the American psyche as those from the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, but how much they translate to the current moment is far less clear. So maybe the product relaunch of the noose as an odious signifier of hate speech bespeaks something fundamentally askew in the national psyche.

And maybe it’s just the distorting mirror of the never-ending media cavalcade, where any moron with a Sharpie and a length of cord from Home Depot can make a statement heard round the world.

“One theory about media is that it’s not so much telling the news as it is retelling old folk tales,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “The idea should be to put facts in context, not to put them into familiar arrangements that reinforce old attitudes.”

See also Jena six case: What’s fact?
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China increasing Internet censorship: AP report

An Associated Press story takes a look at increased surveillance and censorship in China in the lead-up to the Communist Party Congress next week. “”For China’s 162 million web users, surfing the Internet can be like
running an obstacle course with blocked websites, partial search
results, and posts disappearing at every turn,” said the story by reporter Alexa Olesen. The piece also looks briefly at how one blogger, who is also a lawyer, is suing his Internet Service Provider over censorship. An excerpt:

In the lead-up to the sensitive Communist Party Congress, which convenes Monday to approve top leaders who will serve under President Hu Jintao through 2012, authorities have been casting an even wider net than usual in their search for web content they deem to be politically threatening or potentially destabilizing.

“What you see now is unprecedented,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. “They are forcing most of the interactive sites to simply close down and have unplugged Internet data centres. These are things they haven’t done before.”

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U.S. has detained AP Pulitzer winning photog for 18 months

American authorities have now detained Iraqi news photographer Bilal Hussein, who worked for the Associated Press and is a Pulitzer Prize winner, for 18 months.

The AP’s web site today has a special feature on Hussein, which includes a long list of links with comprehensive information:

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein since April 12, 2006, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing. “We want the rule of law to prevail,” says AP President and CEO Tom Curley. “He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable.” Military officials say that Hussein was being held for “imperative reasons of security” under United Nations resolutions. A Pentagon spokesman reiterated that stance Sept. 18. Hussein is a 35-year-old Iraqi citizen and a native of Fallujah. AP executives said an internal review of his work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system. Hussein began working for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained.

Bilal Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide — 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom. In Hussein’s case, Curley and other AP executives say, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him. 

 Reporters Without Borders is outraged. And the Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on the U.S. to release him.
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China’s Big Brother techniques

Reporters Without Borders and “Chinese Human Rights Defenders” says their new joint study “reveals how that country’s government censors the Internet and how the Internet Information Administrative Bureau controls the leading news websites.”

Reporters Without Borders calls China the world’s biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissident. Reporters Without Borders also has a petition, announced in 2001, to boycott the 2008 games in Beijing.)

Also this week, Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists gave a speech in which he called on the Chinese government to release the 29 journalists now imprisoned in China and to begin dismantling the country’s vast censorship system. Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, urged China and the International Olympic Committee to meet the free-press promises made when the 2008 Games were awarded to Beijing. The Games are less than a year away. Here’s a link to the speech, before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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