This week at Index: Media freedom needs more than just warm words
12 Jul 2019

Friday 12 July 2019
Index's CEO Jodie Ginsberg, left, chairs a panel at the conference.
A team from Index on Censorship took part on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's media freedom conference, which was co-sponsored by the government of Canada, on Wednesday and Thursday. The event drew over 1,000 guests, including government ministers and officials, the diplomatic community, international agencies, journalists, civil society, and academics to examine the challenges facing media freedom and the opportunities to create for a safer environment for journalists.  

"It's great to see the UK is committed to doing more support media freedom. We're looking forward to working with all those involved to make sure we have a flourishing environment for media freedom - not just warm words. That means we'll focus on making sure words are followed with action, and that online restrictions on media freedom are built into considerations," Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg said of the conference. 

One of a handful of high-profile exhibitors, Index was well represented by Ginsberg, head of advocacy Joy Hyvarinen, policy research and advocacy officer Jessica Ní Mhainín, fellowships and advocacy officer Perla Hinojosa, head of content Sean Gallagher and deputy web editor Ryan McChrystal. Current and former Index fellows Terry Anderson, deputy executive director of Cartoonists Rights Network International (2019), journalist Mimi Mefo (2019), journalist Wendy Funes (2018), journalist Zaheena Rasheed (2017),  digital activists Alp Toker and Isik Mater of Netblocks (2017), and journalist Zaina Erhaim (2016) attended and took part in the discussions.

Above: Index fellows Wendy Funes, Terry Anderson, Alp Toker and Zaheena Rasheed.

Ginsberg chaired Taking a Stand: How We Defend Media Freedom, a panel that examined ways to support journalism around the world. She was joined by professor Ivor Gaber, Sussex University; state secretary Roberto Balzaretti, head of directorate for European affairs, Switzerland; John Momoh, chairman & CEO, Channels Television, Nigeria; Tom Jenen, managing director, Internews ‘United for News’ Sustainability Initiative and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street. 

Hyvarinen and Ní Mhainín were part of the panel at Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists' Security in Europe.

Ní Mhainín said that she was struck by the speech given by Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, at another panel on ending the murder of journalists: "It's about courage!" Agnes Callamard exclaimed during her speech on ending journalist murders. Journalists around the world courageously put their lives on the line to report on sensitive issues that are in the public interest. But governments and citizens must also be courageous. Our governments must put their economic interests aside in order to tackle impunity and stand up for human rights. As citizens, we have a duty to hold our governments to account. "The problem is not the bullies - there will always be bullies," Ms Callamard said, "the problem is us".

Above: Index fellow Zaina Erhaim

Also read: 
Governments must uphold existing global commitments to protect media
States must uphold existing global commitments to protect media but also be willing to speak out publicly when others fail to protect journalists and journalism, Index on Censorship said on Tuesday.

Governments must not "cherry pick" media outlets
Index on Censorship condemns the decision by the UK Foreign Office to deny accreditation to Russia’s RT and Sputnik news agencies.

Future of freedom of expression online does not have to be a dark one

UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye speaks to Timandra Harkness about free speech and the internet

David Kaye’s legal career began a decade before the rise of modern social media. Yet Kaye, a professor of international human rights law at the University of California, Berkeley and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, has had to adapt his legal practice to the complex ways in which the internet can be used to prohibit us from — and in some cases, empower us to — freely share information and opinions. 

Kaye spoke to presenter, writer and comedian Timandra Harkness on 9 July to promote his recent book on regulating online freedom of expression, Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet. 


Criticising Kurdish referendum forces journalist to leave Iraq

“There were death threats every day on social media and messages labeling me as a traitor”

Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region has long had a reputation in the west as a bastion of stability in a chaotic region plagued by religious and ethnic tension. Yet despite the oil-rich region’s close ties to the U.S. and billions of dollars in foreign investment, Iraqi Kurdistan is no easy place to be a journalist. 

Reporter escaped Russia after beating, burns

"Please leave. They're going to kill you."

Fatima Tlisova didn’t make it easy for the Russian government to get rid of her. 

As a reporter covering Russia’s fight against Chechen separatists in what was known as the Second Chechen war in the early 2000s, she was kidnapped, beaten and had her fingertips burned with cigarettes by Russian security forces. A colleague at the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta who also wrote critically of the Chechen war, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in 2006. When she later worked as a correspondent for the Associated Press, pro-government media labeled her a traitor and a CIA agent.

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13 July / Join us tomorrow
Index at Orgcon

Index on Censorship will be part of the Activist Space at ORGCon 2019.

ORGCon is hosted by Open Rights Group, which challenges the government’s mass surveillance programme to protect free expression online and push for better digital privacy protections.

21-24 July / Index at Latitude Festival
Forbidden, filthy and uncensored folktales

As dusk falls and the witching hour approaches, gather in the Faraway Forest for sordid, uncensored folk tales as you have never heard them before: Gryla the mountain-troll in Iceland who eats naughty children and killed her first husband, Rapunzel’s sordid late-night tumbles with her prince or Cinderella’s step-sisters chopping off their own toes. Folk stories from around the world have been censored and edited by collectors for years in a bid to remove “taboo” material

Full details

2-4 August / Index at the Cambridge Folk Festival
Folk tales for grown ups

Join Index on Censorship for a weekend of talks and performances in the Flower Garden at Cambridge Folk Festival (1-4 August 2019).

Full details

Index on Censorship defends people's freedom to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution. We publish censored writers and artists, monitor and campaign against censorship, and encourage debate.  

We rely on donations from readers and supporters. By donating to Index you help us to protect freedom of expression and to support those who are denied that right.
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