Monthly Archives: November 2016

Journalist becomes first woman to anchor Canadian news show in a hijab


A Toronto TV reporter is believed to be the first woman in Canada to present the news while wearing a hijab. Ginella Massa filled in for a colleague on a late night broadcast on City News last week – but didn’t initially realise the significance of the event. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, the journalist added:”It wasn’t until my editor said. ‘Hey, great job! Was that a first for Canada? A woman in a Hijab? And I said yes.”
Speaking after the broadcast she explained while the broadcast wasn’t just important for her, she was blown away by the public reaction. “As much as I knew it was important, I didn’t expect the reaction that I received. My phone hasn’t stopped buzzing for the last week.” The 29 year old also believes she became Canada’s first hijab-wearing journalist on screen in 2015, but hadn’t anchored a show until now.

While most of the comments following Massa’s appearance were positive, she did receive some negative messages. “But this is all the more reason in today’s climate to see positive images of Muslim women,” she added. “They are a symbol of Islam when they wear the hijab and that carries a powerful image. It’s so important to see positive images of us in the media.” She also said the show was particularly important in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, with many US journalists telling her they face multiple challenges trying to get on air while wearing a hijab. “That makes me really sad because they’re being held back by someone’s idea of what the public can or cannot handle.”


Trial date set for Toronto journalist’s domestic assault


A Toronto activist and journalist charged with three counts of assault on his former partner has a court date.

Andray Domise, 36, didn’t appear in a west-end Toronto court of Friday to set a court date, which took all morning to settle.

The man who challenged the Rob and Doug Ford on their home turf in Etobicoke during the 2014 municipal election was arrested in February and charged with assaulting his live-in partner on three separate occasions.

Domise issued a statement on Twitter afternoon saying he couldn’t comment on the case but has agreed to step aside from the non-profit from TXDL — a non-profit he helped to found that provides digital literacy training for at-risk youth.

“i agree that taking a leave of absence is the best way to move forward,” Domise wrote. “This issue is mine, and not theirs to deal with.”

His lawyer in court on Friday, William Luke, said the defense has been waiting for documents to move ahead with the case which he said he expects to receive by next week.

Luke wouldn’t reveal what was in the documents but said he believes the matter, “will be resolved once we have the documents.”

Domise has written for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Sun and is a columnist at Maclean’s.

His case is scheduled to be back in court on Jan. 11.

Journalist Mohamed Fahmy describes ‘horrific’ time behind bars in new book


As a journalist with dual Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, Mohamed Fahmy says he was shocked to be thrown in a cell in one of the “most notorious prisons in the Middle East.”

Fahmy was a cell neighbour of members of al-Qaeda and ISIS — “Really mean people that I could never imagine would ever be living under the same roof with me.”

Fahmy was wrongfully incarcerated in December 2013 after being seized by Egyptian forces from a Marriott Hotel, where he had been working as a bureau chief for Al-Jazeera’s English news channel.

He was charged with being a pro-Muslim Brotherhood terrorist who fabricated news and undermined state security. He was freed in 2015.

Fahmy is in Winnipeg Wednesday to promote his new book, The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo’s Scorpion Prison to Freedom. It details his time behind bars, how he survived and the importance of journalism dedicated to holding power to account.

CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa spoke with Fahmy recently about his book and his time in prison.

Egypt hands journalist union head two years in prison


An Egyptian court sentenced the head of a journalists’ union and two board members to two years in prison for harbouring colleagues wanted by the law and spreading false news, judicial sources said.

Yahia Kallash, president of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, Gamal Abdel-Rahim and Khaled Elbalshy were charged in May with sheltering two journalists wanted over protests against the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

 Saturday’s decision to sentence the journalists comes as authorities try to quell rising dissent against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The court set bail at 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($615), a court official said.

The journalists’ lawyer, Sayyed Abou Zeid, at the time told the Reuters news agency that they denied the charges, which relate to a May 2 police raid on the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate to arrest two opposition journalists who had sought shelter from arrest.

Kallash condemned the arrests of Mahmoud El Sakka and Amr Badr, which sparked protests from journalists, and issued a statement two days later demanding the interior minister be sacked.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to drop the charges against the union chiefs.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed Egypt among the top jailers of journalists, and one of the most dangerous places to report from.

In 2013, five Al Jazeera staff were imprisoned in the country on charges that rights groups said were trumped up. Though an international campaign secured their freedom, there are more than 70 journalists still in prison in the country.

Noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar passes away


He also served with the UNESCO in Bangkok and Paris from 1978 to 1986.

Noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar passed away in Pune, aged 72.

The death occurred after a heart attack and multi-organ failure, said Dr. Sanjay Pathare, director, medical services, Ruby Hall Clinic, where the veteran journalist was admitted four days ago.

Mr. Padgaonkar was born in Pune in 1944. He matriculated from St. Vincent’s High School and graduated from Fergusson College, two of the city’s hallowed educational institutions and a doctorate in humanities from the Sorbonne in France in June 1968 before commencing upon his career in journalism.

Fluent in French, he joined the Times of India as its Paris correspondent, serving it in various capacities before being appointed its editor in 1988. He held the post for six years.

Mr. Padgaonkar served with the UNESCO in Bangkok and Paris from 1978 to 1986.

A dyed-in-wool liberal, Mr. Padgaonkar spoke passionately, eloquently and tirelessly against communalism, Hindu nationalism and terrorism among other pressing issues of the day as reflected in his books like When Bombay burned (which he edited, on the 1992-3 Mumbai riots) and numerous essays and articles.

He was equally passionate about the Arts, penning a book on Italian cinema maestro Roberto Rossellini’s eventful sojourn in India, titled Under her Spell(Penguin, 2008).

o: Getty Images (Composite) FacebookTwitterGoogleEmailCopy MEDIA EXCLUSIVE THE TRUMP TRANSITION Donald Trump’s media summit was a ‘f−−−ing firing squad’


Donald Trump scolded media big shots during an off-the-record Trump Tower sitdown on Monday, sources told The Post.

“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”

The stunned reporters tried to get a word in edgewise to discuss access to a Trump administration.

“[‘CBS Good Morning’ co-host Gayle] King did not stand up, but asked some question, ‘How do you propose we the media work with you?’ Chuck Todd asked some pretty pointed questions. David Muir asked, ‘How are you going to cope living in DC while your family is in NYC?’ It was a horrible meeting.”

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway told reporters the gathering went well.

“Excellent meetings with the top executives of the major networks,” she said during a gaggle in the lobby of Trump Tower. “Pretty unprecedented meeting we put together in two days.”

The meeting was off the record, meaning the participants agreed not to talk about the substance of the conversations.

The hour-long session included top execs from network and cable news channels. Among the attendees were NBC’s Deborah Turness, Lester Holt and Chuck Todd; ABC’s James Goldston, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir and Martha Raddatz; CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, John Dickerson, Charlie Rose, Christopher Isham and King; Fox News’ Bill Shine, Jack Abernethy, Jay Wallace and Suzanne Scott; MSNBC’s Phil Griffin, and CNN’s Jeff Zucker and Erin Burnett.

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, plans to meet with Trump on Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from the Trump Team.

Journalists of banned daily Kashmir Reader find their livelihoods hampered


Journalist Abdul Mohamin wakes up every day with a new idea for a story. But the senior correspondent with the now-banned English daily Kashmir Reader has nowhere to write and get them published.

“I was walking through Downtown Srinagar the other day and realised so many stories are waiting to be written. But I can’t write them for my paper,” laments Mohamin.

His paper was banned by the state government on October 2 for “inciting violence” in the backdrop of spiraling violence across Kashmir following the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani in July.

In an order dated September 30, the Srinagar district magistrate said the contents of the newspaper “tends to incite acts of violence and disturb public peace and tranquility” but did not detail which specific report or article did so. Since then, the government has not officially said anything regarding revoking the ban.

Earlier this month, the debate around banning media outlets revived after the Centre ordered NDTV India off the air for a day for allegedly broadcasting “sensitive details” during its coverage of the January Pathankot air base attack.

But the order was put on hold after protests by mediapersons and civil society.

But the continuing ban on the Kashmir Reader continues and observers have questioned the government’s “double standards”.

Kashmir Reader’s journalists meet in the deserted office almost every day and over cups of chai discuss stories that they can’t file and ask each other if there’s any update on the ban.

They participate in regular protests against the ban organised by the media fraternity at Srinagar’s press enclave.

The website of the paper has not been updated since October 2 and the lead story on it remains: “Govt bans publication of Kashmir Reader, says ‘its publication can incite violence and disturb peace’” with a cover picture of the government order.

“There is an uncertainty regarding the ban getting revoked and that’s telling upon the patience of our journalists. Some suspect that continuing the ban might be a ploy by the government to break the organisation’s backbone by making the livelihoods of employees difficult,” said Hilal Mir, editor of Kashmir Reader.

Apart from not being able to report or write, the 30-odd core employees of the newspaper and scores of others involved in peripheral activities – such as hawkers, printing presses and drivers – face immense uncertainty over the revoking of the ban and more importantly, a financial constraint.

The October salary hasn’t been released yet – a major burden for those with families to support, employees say.

“When a reporter’s newspaper is not being published, then why will his sources talk to him? What’s the use? The reporter then might lose his sources and won’t be updated regarding what’s going on,” Mohamin adds.

Many of the journalists are freelancing as of now but they face a conundrum: If the ban continues, they will have search for a new job but it might be difficult to land one because prospective employers may not want to hire a journalist working for a banned publication.

For photographers working with the paper, the ban has meant they have nowhere to publish the day’s news photos, which lose value the next day.

“Because the newspaper is banned, my everyday pictures are not reaching people. And mobile internet is also banned for over four months now, so most people can’t check out my photos on social media either,” said Faisal Khan, a photojournalist with Kashmir Reader.

Kashmir Reader, with a circulation of over 5,000, was minimally dependent on ads from the government, unlike most newspapers, but was backed by a business house.

“The ban hurts. It was a brand of independent journalism at Kashmir Reader. The reporter got his freedom and chased facts without any bias,” says Moazum Mohammad, a senior journalist with the paper.

The ban has been harshly criticised by the Valley’s media bodies, civil society and separatists, while international bodies like the Amnesty International, Pen International and Committee to Protect Journalists have called for revoking the ban.

“I don’t think Kashmir Reader at any point of time incited violence. To ‘incite’ means more than just a report or investigative piece. It means ‘to provoke’. The paper did not report the happenings differently to incite violence; it may have done further investigations into the events,” said justice Hasnain Masoodi, former judge of the state high court and senior advocate at the Supreme Court.

Masoodi added: “It should be noted that the government order is open-ended. You may ban a book or some issues of a newspaper for the content it carried, but you cannot come up with an order to ban a newspaper saying that it may publish some incitement in the future.”

From July 8, when protests began in the Valley till the day the paper was banned, reporters and editors of the Kashmir Reader worked without a break. The newspaper was one of the first to report from the strife-torn south Kashmir region, the epicentre of the ongoing unrest.

But now they have ample time on their hands. Hilal is spending his time reading Kashmiri novels, while Moazum is freelancing and binge watching the American television series House of Cards.

Plane with Russian journalists on way to Peru tracked by Swiss fighter jets

A plane carrying members of the Russian press to the APEC summit in Peru was intercepted and tracked by Swiss fighter jets as soon as it entered the country’s airspace, journalists on board said.

The video from aboard the Russian plane was posted online by one of the passengers, with Swiss military insignias clearly visible on the escorting plane in the footage.

We’re flying above Switzerland. At some point, the plane with the delegation and the journalists is being blocked from three sides by three fighter jets,” Andrey Kolesnikov, editor-in-chief of Russian Pioneer magazine, wrote on Facebook.

Kolesnikov said that the jets were from the Swiss Air Force, as “the flags at the tails and missiles underneath the wings were clearly visible.”

The jets approached the passenger plane so closely “that one could see the unsmiling faces of the pilots,” he added.

One rash move from any of the pilots could have led to a tragedy, the journalist wrote.

At some point, Kolesnikov said that there were fears that the jets would attempt to force the Russian plane to land.

But after the fighter jets escorted the journalists’ plane for 10 minutes, they pulled away. “When they apparently reached the Swiss border, they withdrew at once. And they did it beautifully, I must say,” Kolesnikov wrote.

Kolesnikov called the incident “unprecedented,” also reporting that the plane with the journalists onboard has landed in Lisbon, Portugal, for a scheduled refueling.

He later told RT that a similar incident had taken place over Switzerland six years ago, but the fighter jets had maintained a much longer distance from the Russian government plane.

“I understand journalists are stress-resistant, including myself, but some people on board might have suffered a heart attack because of what they saw,” he said.

“The pilot [of the Swiss jet] was clearly visible as we shot him through the window. He spotted us and even waved his hand, but then diverted for a short while and returned to his position right under our plane’s wing. As a person, I felt unpleasant and uncomfortable,” Kolesnikov added.

However, the captain of the Russian jet calmed the media down, saying that “the practice of escorts of special flights in Swiss airspace [has existed] for a long time and isn’t unique.”

“On this air route, we are regularly accompanied by jets from this country’s Air Force,” the pilot told TASS.

Swiss jets acted in accordance with a preliminary agreement with the Russian side and posed no threat to the Il-96 plane and its passengers, he added.

UK journalists slam Russia for Big Brother spying laws – but keep mum as same laws get passed in UK

The greatest invasion of privacy known to the British people is about to come into force, allowing spy agencies to access your cellphone and monitor your internet traffic. But why are British journalists and MPs staying remarkably hush-hush about it?

Has mainstream media been told by London and Washington to steer clear of reporting on new spying legislation in the UK, which even Edward Snowden calls “scary”? It seems that journalists in the UK are struggling somehow to pick up the big story some tech sites have broken, in that the British will soon be spied on via their own telephones – and worse, that all their internet history is to be stored by intelligence services and possibly even be used to blackmail them into cooperating with police and security services.

Incredibly, recently the UK House of Lords provisionally gave the green light to the most draconian spying laws to date, which forces internet providers and hardware firms to make it easier for GCHQ to hack into people’s phones and get into their computers to monitor their online habits.

The draft laws were originally introduced into the House of Commons under then-Home Secretary Theresa May in 2015. They are popularly known as the “Snoopers’ Charter.”

You would have had to read the reports on the dark web carefully, though, to believe that you hadn’t seen them weeks earlier somewhere before. In fact, you had. Near-identical laws had been passed earlier in the summer and were splashed around by western media, with UK hacks leading the cavalcade. But that was in Russia.

In June, journalists were scrambling over themselves to demonize Russia’s parliament, which had passed harsh anti-terrorism measures, drawing the wrath of a bevy of human rights campaigners, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who warned they will “roll back personal freedoms and privacy.”

Russia’s own lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted 325 to 1 to adopt the “Yarovaya law,” a package of amendments authored by the ruling United Russia party member Irina Yarovaya, who has carved her anti-democratic reputation out on the backs of protesters and non-governmental organizations who cry that their liberties are being hung out to dry.

Snowden, who has lived in Russia since receiving asylum in 2013, tweeted that the “Big Brother law” was an “unworkable, unjustifiable violation of rights” according to Britain’s own left wing, libertarian broadsheet The Guardian, which quoted him saying it would “take money and liberty from every Russian without improving safety.”

The American whistleblower did cause a ruckus is the UK in October 2015, though, when he told a BBC journalist that Britain’s own data spying center was already spying on people via their cellphones, using a technology called “Smurfs.”

Snowden spoke to Panorama in Moscow, where he fled in 2013 after leaking to the media details of extensive internet and phone surveillance operations by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

He said both agencies had invested heavily in technology allowing them to hack smartphones. “They want to own your phone instead of you,” he said.

Where is the same hue and cry though from the British press, when its own two assemblies seem poised to back new laws which would give the security services in the UK new, unparalleled access to the private lives and habits of its citizens?

But it’s not only journalists who are mysteriously not covering the big story which will make George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother look like a minor inconvenience to privacy.

Parliamentarians themselves seem to have been arrested by some divine power which has prevented them from scrutinizing the text of the “bill” which some suspect has both been written in haste – with entire pages written in vague terms – and is now being rushed through the parliament. Perhaps it might have something to do with one paragraph of the draft, which exempts MPs themselves from being the victim of the new snooping laws?

So why did Russia and now Britain take such moves in the name of anti-terrorism? And why are MPs and journalists trying to keep a lid on it?

For the press themselves, there is too much about the Snooping Charter which chimes with what many tabloid journalists were doing themselves in the UK in recent years – hacking ordinary people’s mobile phones – which culminated in The Leveson Report in 2012 recommending a new press watchdog which could punish phone hacking hacks.

But there is also, more likely, a collusion between MPs and journalists with the former directing political editors to not cover the story until it can be released on the same day as a terrorist incident – thereby giving a pretext for government spin doctors to serenade its virtues while news reporters walk across broken glass with police sirens and flashing lights providing the required audiovisual histrionics.

It’s unlikely that the UK has not been already tapping into telephones for years though and that the charter is more about forcing the private sector to cooperate more on snooping.

Furthermore, it appears that Britain is a little behind both the Russians and the Americans who have been at it for years.

In New York City, A key NSA program called BLARNEY is allegedly run out of a secret location in the building that taps into “communications of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and at least 38 countries, including close US allies such as Germany, Japan, and France,” an NSA report leaked by Edward Snowdon reveals.

According to The Intercept, BLARNEY documents detail how the program does “full take” surveillance, meaning it gathers both content and metadata in bulk by using “commercial partnerships” to “gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.” The data collection falls into six different categories: “counterproliferation, counterterrorism, diplomatic, economic, military, and political.”

Want to protect yourself from the British government snooping on you? Start looking at getting a VPN and using encrypting software like TOR. Can’t handle all that tech? Become an MP.

Canadian journalists push for ‘shield law’ to protect sources


Journalists and parliamentarians are putting pressure on the Liberal government to enhance the protection of reporters and confidential sources, calling for quick legislative changes instead of rhetorical support for the freedom of the press.

The calls flow from recent cases in which police spied on journalists to obtain information on their sources, raising questions across Canada about the quality of the judicial process for obtaining warrants.

At a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, two journalists who are in legal battles with police authorities backed a proposal for a “shield law” that allows reporters to protect the identity of their sources and confidential information.

“Mine is just one of many cases of the growing erosion of press freedom in Canada,” said Ben Makuch, a journalist for Vice News who is refusing to provide information from a confidential source to the RCMP.

Mr. Makuch faces a possible jail sentence for refusing to comply with a court order. He said the RCMP’s actions have created “irreparable damage” to journalists’ ability to win the trust of sources.

Patrick Lagacé, a journalist at La Presse, recently learned that the Montreal police service had obtained judicial approval to consult his phone records, tap his phone and trigger the GPS on his mobile device to track his meetings with sources. He said the Liberal government is saying all the right words in the defence of journalistic freedom, but that police officers need to face tougher requirements to go after a journalist’s sources.

“The mentality of police officers is not different whether you are in Saskatchewan or British Columbia or Quebec,” Mr. Lagacé said. “I am convinced that other police agencies, if they can have access to this type of information, will try to do so without asking themselves any questions.”

Also present at the news conference were journalist and author Mohamed Fahmy, who was imprisoned for more than a year in Egypt because of his reporting, and Tom Henheffer, the executive-director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

Mr. Henheffer said he distrusts agencies such as the RCMP and CSIS that have increased means to monitor electronic communications, and that new laws are needed to curtail their powers.

“The fact is the state apparatus and the surveillance capabilities of the state are absolutely enormous, and we cannot fully protect ourselves against them,” he said. “That is why there needs to be a change at the legislative level in order for us to really enjoy a free press in Canada. I don’t fully trust government agencies because there is a lack of accountability, but all of that can be fixed with simple legislative changes.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed his concerns over the recent revelations involving Mr. Lagacé, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said his government is open to toughening the rules that govern how and when the federal government can investigate members of the media.

“All of the safeguards in place at the federal level are being reassessed to make sure they are strong enough,” he said in the House of Commons. “We are welcoming any input from journalists, lawyers or others if they have suggestions to make about how the law needs to be improved.”

The NDP is arguing the government needs to go further and launch a public inquiry into the protection of sources at the federal level.

“The government certainly talks a better game than the previous [Conservative government], but at the end of the day, it’s the legislation that matters,” NDP MP Matthew Dubé said.

Independent senator André Pratte – a former editorial writer at La Presse – has promised to table legislation if the federal government does not quickly change the rules that govern how police authorities obtain warrants to track journalists and their sources.

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