Media Tracker lists the challenges and achievements of the journalists and media organisations worldwide. Here’s a list of journalism at risk stories in the recent month. We would like to thank international media protection organisation and news outlets for their content.
- A record fine of 350,000 euros was imposed recently on TVN24, a privately owned Polish TV news channel. The fine was ordered by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), which regulates the broadcast media. It said TVN24 “promoted illegal actions” and “encouraged behaviour threatening the country’s security” in its coverage of anti-government demonstrations in December 2016, when it showed opposition leaders urging the population to participate in the protests.
- Earlier in December, authorities in Tajikistan arrested Khayrullo Mirsaidov after he published an open letter to the country’s president, Emomali Rahmon, the general prosecutor, and the governor of his native Sughd region asking them to take stern measures against the corrupt local authorities. In the letter, published a month ago in the local media, he alleged that the sports and youth department head for the Sughd region, Olim Zohidzoda, requested $1,000 in kickbacks from the local comedy troupe he manages. Zohidzoda denied the allegations, accusing the journalist of defamation. On December 8, courts charged Mirsaidov with embezzlement, forgery, false reporting to police, and inciting ethnic and religious hatred, ordering the journalist detention for two months. The ongoing investigation against Miraidov threatens a penalty of 21 years in jail. Mirsaidov covers politics, human rights issues, rights of ethnic minorities, and environmental problems in Tajikistan and Central Asia since 2000, contributing to notable international media and development organisations. (CPJ)
- In Canada, Bill Sawchuk, reporter with St. Catharines Standard, was kicked out of the Niagara Regional Council meeting, ordered to leave City Hall and threatened with police action in case of noncompliance. Sawchuk’s notes and computer was seized by city clerk Frank Fabiano, allegedly on the orders of Chief Administrative Officer Carmen D’Angelo.
Sawchuk regularly covers meetings and was in attendance when a regular session was moved in-camera to discuss a code of conduct violation by Coun. Andy Petrowski. After leaving the chamber, Sawchuk was notified by staff that he was suspected of surreptitiously recording the closed session with his laptop. After repeated inquiries by the Standard and their legal counsel, the laptop was eventually retrieved from the staff member’s office and returned.
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and TV5MONDE awarded Press Freedom Prize 2017 as part of the World Forum for Democracy in partnership with the City of Strasbourg. Winners were selected from 18 nominees in journalist, media and citizen-journalist categories.
- “Journalist” category laureate Tomasz Piatek is an investigative reporter for the Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza, facing a possible three-year jail term on charges brought by Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz before a military court. Prompted by a book entitled “Macierewicz and his secret” sheds light on the minister’s relations with persons linked to the Russian intelligence services. Ever since its publication, Piatek has been the target of attacks in the pro-government media and has been getting serious threats.
- “Media” category laureate Medyascope is an independent Web TV by prominent Turkish journalist Ruşen Çakır combining new-technology and sound reporting to initiate a public debate largely suppressed in Turkey. Videos are broadcast online and are made available as podcasts to give a voice to journalists targeted by the government, and to citizen-journalists. Its programmes carry sections e.g., politics, society, culture and sport. Some of its programming comes in Kurdish, German, French and English.
- “Citizen-journalist” category laureate Soheil Arabi is an Iranian photographer imprisoned for the past four years. Post-arrest, he was tortured and thrown in solitary confinement for two months to confess involvement in creating a Facebook network blaspheming against Islam and criticizing the government. After a long court battle he was initially sentenced him to three years in prison, 30 lashes and a heavy fine. He was later retried and sentenced to death, but the death sentence was eventually overturned and in 2015 to seven and a half years in prison. In July of this year, his wife was arrested and was held for eight days. She still receives threats and harassment. Soheil Arabi began a hunger strike at the end of August.