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Family of murdered Maltese journalist file lawsuit against police

malta journalist

Family of murdered Maltese journalist file lawsuit against police

Family allege Maltese police are failing to carry out impartial investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s killing

The family of the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was a relentless critic of corruption in the country, are taking legal action against the police force for allegedly failing to ensure the investigation into her killing is impartial and independent.

Caruana Galizia was killed on 16 October after her rental car was blown apart by a powerful explosive device.

Her family are suing Malta’s chief of police on the grounds that the investigation is being overseen by a senior officer who is married to a top government minister, and who was himself the subject of a critical report by Caruana Galizia.

Lawyers acting for the family wrote to the police commissioner at the weekend demanding that his deputy, Silvio Valletta, be removed from the case within three days. After receiving no response, they filed a lawsuit on Wednesday at Malta’s constitutional court calling for his removal.

Valletta is married to Justyne Caruana (no relation to the journalist), who was promoted by the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, to minister for the island of Gozo in June.

Under the European convention on human rights, states are obliged to run independent and objective investigations into any murder.

“The involvement of the deputy commissioner, Silvio Valletta, violates the independence and impartiality of any investigation into the loss of life,” the family claimed in their court filing.

They alleged the police were not keeping them informed of progress, while stories were being “fed to newspapers”.

The court filing claims Caruana Galizia’s murder was a “targeted killing” of a journalist whose work focused on politicians who are members of the same cabinet as the wife of the deputy commissioner.

It alleges the journalist had uncovered “corruption, criminality, conflicts of interest and ethical failures in decision making” by politicians and their associates.

She had also been critical of the failure of Malta’s anti-money-laundering agency, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, to take action on allegations, the filing states. Valletta serves on the board of the FIAU, a fact highlighted by Caruana Galizia in May.

The police department did not respond to questions about the merits of the legal claim or whether Valletta’s work on the case threatened the independence of the investigation.

Caruana said in a statement emailed to the Guardian that she would not comment on the family’s legal claim or who ought to investigate the case: “What matters is that there is total commitment from everyone involved to see this case solved in the shortest time possible.”

Caruana said she had been an MP since 2003 and her husband had been a police inspector since 1993.

“Both of us have always acted professionally in our respective roles and our integrity was never put in doubt or question. We always kept work separate and distinct from our private and married life.

“My husband has worked under different administrations and his loyalty was always to the police force and the state.”

The most significant investigations by the murdered journalist stemmed from the Panama Papers, a leak of documents from the archives of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.

She used the data to uncover a number of offshore companies apparently linked to Muscat’s energy minister and his chief of staff. She also claimed Muscat’s wife was the beneficial owner of the offshore company Egrant. On her blog, she alleged that a series of payments, in the form of loans, had been routed to Egrant, and that the money had come from an account ultimately belonging to the daughter of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan has a valuable contract to supply gas to Malta.

All those named deny any suggestion of wrongdoing, and Muscat has described the allegation against his wife as “fabricated”. He has pointed out that no document proving the allegations has been published or handed to a magistrate.

Muscat and his associates filed libel suits against Caruana Galizia before her murder. They are cooperating with two separate judicial inquiries into the Panama Papers allegations, which have yet to conclude.

Valletta’s marital relationship with a serving minister has been the subject of scrutiny in the past, but the current police commissioner, Lawrence Cutajar, has denied the existence of a conflict of interest. There is no evidence that Valletta’s political connections have interfered in the current investigation.

Valletta, who has been an officer for more than 20 years, has oversight of the criminal investigations department, the drug squad, counter-terrorism, and the financial crimes unit, among others.

Opposition politicians asked in the Maltese parliament earlier this month whether it was appropriate that a minister’s husband was leading the investigation into the murder of a harsh critic of the government. Simon Busuttil, who was leader of the opposition Nationalist party until June, told the parliament he was not questioning Valletta’s professionalism, but that in view of the sensitivity of the case justice had to be done, and be seen to be done.

Malta’s government is offering a €1m reward for information relating to the killing, and the inquiry is being assisted by agents from the FBI and forensics experts from the Netherlands.

The family have raised a number of concerns about the investigation, saying inquiries appear to be focusing only on forensic evidence, rather than examining financial transactions that could uncover vital evidence.

They also suggest leaks from within the police are potentially intimidating those who might come forward with information. These include news that Caruana Galizia’s phone had been recovered from the scene of the explosion.

Politicians across Europe have questioned the rule of law in Malta, the smallest of the European Union’s member states.

This month Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European commission, issued a strongly worded warning.
Responding to a public letter from eight of the world’s largest media organisations, including the New York Times, the BBC and the Guardian, he said: “The eyes of Europe are on the Maltese authorities … We want those directly and indirectly responsible for this horrible murder to be brought to justice.

“And we want the investigations to run their full course, so that any other related wrongdoings that may emerge can also be prosecuted and potential structural problems be resolved.”

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I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.Thomasine F-R.malta journalist

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Thousands attend funeral of Maltese journalist killed while investigating corruption as warning issued to killers

malta journalist

Thousands attend funeral of Maltese journalist killed while investigating corruption as warning issued to killers

‘However hard you try to evade the justice of men, you will never escape from the justice of God

Thousands of mourners at a funeral for a Maltese anti-corruption journalist killed by a car bomb heard a plea for the protection of journalistic freedoms and a warning to her unknown killers.

Daphne Caruana Galizia‘s funeral was held at Malta’s biggest church, near the capital Valletta and two miles from the site where the 53-year-old was killed by a car bomb as she left her home.

The island’s president, prime minister and opposition leader, all targeted in Ms Galizia’s writing, stayed away from the private ceremony, but European Parliament President Antonio Tajani attended as a guest of the family.

Britain’s performing arts has ‘class shaped hole’ warns diversity report

Britain’s performing arts has ‘class shaped hole’ warns diversity report

Widespread action is needed recommends the Labour Party research.

 

A “class shaped hole” exists across the performing arts industry in Britain, a diversity report has found.

Widespread action by government, drama colleges, HMRC, broadcasters, film companies and theatres is needed to counter a “diversity crisis” across performing arts according to Labour Party research, Acting Up.

Led by the party’s MPs Tracy Brabin, an ex-Coronation Street actress, and Gloria De Piero, a former ITV journalist, Acting Up lays out a series of recommendations including urging the government to take action over a drop in the number of GCSE students studying drama.

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Labour MP Tracy Brabin and deputy leader Tom Watson (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

It also calls on the Arts Council to stop funding projects which pay “poverty wages” and the need for a targeted review by Her Majesties Revenue and Customs into enforcing the application of the national living wage across the industry.

The report took evidence from a number of on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent including actress and star of The Good Wife, Cush Jumbo, who revealed she was told her south London accent was “lazy” during her time at drama school and described the experience as the first time she “realised I was of colour”.

Ms De Piero and Ms Brabin said the report shows the arts is “increasingly dominated by a narrow set of people from well off backgrounds”.

Ms Brabin warned a “carousel of the same stories” would continue if action was not taken to increase the amount of working class, disabled and diverse talent.

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Cush Jumbo (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The research, commissioned by the party’s deputy leader and shadow culture secretary, Tom Watson, found an example of the Arts Council funding a project which paid workers or performers as little as £100 a week for eight weeks’ full-time work.

Citing the release of the BBC top paid on-screen talent in highlighting the gender and black, Asian and minority ethnic pay gaps, the report calls for a more comprehensive approach to diversity data collection across film, TV, theatre and drama schools in order to form a clearer picture of the current make-up of the performing arts.

Other key recommendations include:

:: An increase in funding for schools to take students on free trips to the theatre.

:: Reforming the application process for drama schools which currently charge audition fees of up to £100.

:: A revamp of the EBacc – a school performance indicator tied to GCSEs made up of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language – which the report claims has led to a “systematic marginalisation of arts subjects, particularly drama, from schools”.

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Rakie Ayola praised the report (Matt Crossick/PA

Writing in the report, Ms Brabin and Ms De Piero, said: “As women from northern working class backgrounds who went on to work in TV we know what it’s like to have people sneer at your accent and struggle to pay your way.”

They added the issue matters particularly in the performing arts as it offers a “mirror to the nation” and claimed “we’ll all be poorer” if progress is not made.

Rakie Ayola, who is currently starring as Hermione in Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, praised the report and called for immediate action.

She said: “If you ask everyone in the industry if they are for diversity they all put their hands up, but there comes a time when people need to say it out loud. That time is now.”

A Government spokesman said they were “completely committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to take part in arts and culture, including in schools,”.

They also referenced a 2016 Culture White Paper and a review of Arts Council England which aim to make “diversity across the arts workforce a priority”.

He added: “There is no evidence that GCSE entries in arts subjects have declined as a direct result of the introduction of the EBacc performance measure. We are also investing £300 million between 2016 – 2020 to help young people from all backgrounds enjoy music and arts.”

“The government is clear that all businesses, irrespective of size or sector, are responsible for paying the minimum wage and takes action to ensure that everyone receive what they are entitled to,” the spokesman said.

Press Association

ASIAN BBC STARS REVOLT OVER PAY GAP

bbc

ASIAN BBC STARS REVOLT OVER PAY GAP

 

THE BBC must do more to bridge the pay gap between ethnic minorities and white employees, according to journalists and presenters at the corporation, with some pointing out that the organisation had a “tick box” approach to increasing diversity in its programming and elsewhere.

A week after the BBC revealed how many of its staff were paid more than £150,000, a former senior employee slammed the broadcaster, saying “racial diversity has taken a back seat since Greg Dyke left [the organisation]”. Of the 96 highest-paid stars at the BBC, only 10 are from a minority background.

Among them is Sri Lanka-born presenter George Alagiah, who is 25th on the list with earnings of £250,000-£299,999. Radio 4’s Today presenter Mishal Husain, who is of Pakistani origin, earns £200,000-£249,999 and is 47th on the list.

BBC Radio 5 Live’s presenter Nihal Arthanayake, who has been with the organisation since 2002, told Eastern Eye on Monday (24) that he was “disappointed to see a lack of ethnic minorities” in the list.

BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake

“The pay gap is an issue which the BBC has admitted needs rectifying,” Nihal said.

An Asian journalist, who did not wish to be identified, told Eastern Eye: “When they say diversity, I don’t think they know or truly mean it. They say: ‘Oh, if we get so-and-so to be on the front of that, then we’ve got the diversity box ticked.”

The journalist added: “I hope this isn’t a conversation that dies down. It would be a shame, especially for minorities, because we want to have our
point of view heard.” While praising the broadcaster for its news
coverage, the journalist nevertheless criticised it for being like an “old boys club – opportunities are given and rules are bent to progress the careers
of a certain mould of people; white, male and from Oxbridge”.

Commenting on the pay gap, the former senior BBC employee alleged that ethnic minorities in the organisation were “not being looked after”.

“I have great admiration for (BBC directorgeneral) Tony Hall but when he’s looking at gender pay, he also needs to look at ethnic minorities as well. He has to do it all and he has to do it now,” the ex-employee said.

“The most important thing is that they need to get a grip on racial diversity in the BBC because it’s just appalling. What the BBC have singularly failed to understand though is that when it comes to racial diversity, only 10 [of the BBC’s top paid stars] are in the top 100. That tells me that we’re not valued at all.

“Why is it that George Alagiah isn’t being paid as much as Hugh Edwards for doing the same job? Why is Mishal Husain, who fronts one of the most influential radio programme in the UK, languishes where she does?”

Ritula Shah, presenter of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4, told Eastern Eye that she “[regards] working for the BBC as a huge privilege”.

BBC Radio 4 presenter Ritula Shah

However, she confirmed that her thoughts surrounding the issue were summarised in the open letter written last weekend by 40 female BBC personalities over the gender pay gap. In it, they said many have “suspected [the pay gap] foryears” and that BBC employees “would be willing to meet [Hall] to discuss ways in which [he] can correct this disparity so that future generations of women do not face this kind of discrimination.”

Among those who signed the open letter were Shah, Husain, Anita Anard and Samira Ahmed.

Reposting the hashtag #BBCWomen on Twitter, stars such as Mishal Husain have brought much attention to the issue by demanding that change needs to happen now.

Others, however, have raised concerns that inequality within minorities is not being addressed enough. Channel 4 journalist Darshna Soni tweeted: “Lots of comment about #BBCpay and the #GenderPayGap. Far less about the difference between what White stars and Black/ Asian stars are paid (sic).”

This is the first time that the BBC has had to publicly reveal the salaries of stars who earn more than £150,000.

In response to the open letter, Lord Hall said: “Over the next three years I want the BBC to be regarded as an exemplar on gender and diversity.”

In 2014, Lord Hall announced that one in seven BBC presenters would be of an ethnic minority within the next three years.

Nihal spoke of his love for the BBC and said he was grateful for the opportunities he had. However, “it has also frustrated me at times as any
employer would,” he added.

The popular presenter has been with the broadcaster for 15 years, working at Radio 1, 1Xtra, BBC Asian Network and now BBC5Live. He is on the independent diversity action plan board that hopes to increase diversity across the corporation’s programmes.

“I have gained shows and had shows taken away from me. The BBC has been good to me and I have brought something unique to the BBC,” he
told Eastern Eye.

“At every juncture I have thought about my future, and alongside my agent, tried to orchestrate where I wanted to be. I prefer to focus on getting to where I want to get to rather than complaining about where I am not. I find that is more positive and less poisonous. I’ve seen bitterness eat up people. I want to try and avoid being that guy.”

The journalist who wished to remain anonymous added: “I’m just glad that this conversation has started. This speaks to our whole society. By April next year, everyone will have to reveal their gender pay discrepancies and I would be very surprised if the BBC is the only one that has this issue when it comes to diversity. If the BBC can’t get it right, then who can?

“It would be a shame if this conversation stopped… we have access and insight that I don’t think necessarily all those who are of white privilege
have. Those are skills that need to be invested in and valued. This conversation is not about tripling anyone’s salary.”

Lord Hall added: “We have taken some significant steps forward but we do need to go further and faster. I have committed the BBC to closing the gap by 2020 and if we can get there earlier, we will.”

On the representation of ethnic minorities in the BBC, he said in a speech last Wednesday (19): “I want to achieve right balance when it comes to
BAME talent too. Here, we have a similarly tough target – 15 per cent by 2020. And, again that’s having an impact, with nearly 20 per cent of the leading talent we’ve hired or promoted in the last few years from BAME backgrounds.”

Labour MP and shadow minister for diverse communities Dawn Butler said the pay gap between white and minority ethnic staff was “shocking”.
She told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (25) “the public must have faith that the BBC pays all its colleagues fairly and on merit, yet the pay list sends a bad message with the majority of the BBC’s highest paid employees being both white and male.”

Recent statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) following a survey of job applications showed that candidates who had a distinct ethnic minority name suffered bias.

According to the latest labour market statistics, 10 per cent of ethnic minority individuals are unemployed compared to five per cent of the
overall population.

Farah Elani from the Runnymede Trust told Eastern Eye “the data from the BBC is disappointing.”

“It is a structural issue that starts with employment. We need targeted interventions that will result in a better outcome,” she said.

In a time of war, investigative reporting in Ukraine is a tough sell

ukrine press

In a time of war, investigative reporting in Ukraine is a tough sell

 

Dmytro Gnap, an investigative reporter at Hromadske TV, being interviewed by another television station in regards to a story about a wealthy driver who won’t be charged for murder after striking and killing a pedestrian in Kyiv. (Photo credit Cheryl L. Reed)

THE MORNING AFTER JOURNALIST PAVEL SHEREMET was blown up in his car in Kyiv last July 20, a US State Department expert told Fulbright Scholars headed to Ukraine that the post-Soviet country would only become truly democratic when journalists expose its corruption.

I was among a handful of former journalists in that large DC conference room. My Fulbright project—to teach investigative reporting to the next generation of Ukrainian journalists—suddenly took on new significance.

Now, after 10 months of teaching in one of Ukraine’s top graduate journalism programs, I see major challenges to reporting corruption there in a way that makes a difference, especially in the everyday lives of Ukrainians. Most investigative reporting in Ukraine focuses on high-level corruption and pays little attention to failing institutions, which is where most citizens intersect with the government. Too often, it fails to identify and humanize the victims of corruption, or show how changes could be made to improve people’s lives. Investigative reporters are largely uninterested in reporting in-depth about crime and courts, and as result they aren’t pushing the government to open these critical records.

Moreover, the cadre of 25 to 30 reporters who do independent investigative journalism are constantly under attack. Even media watchdogs have disparaged their investigations. Because Ukraine is at war with Russia, journalists who report critically about the Ukrainian government—including the president, military, or police—are labeled tools of Russian propaganda.

“It’s one of the attempts to split journalists,” explains Anna Babinets, 33, an investigative reporter at Hromadske TV, an independent media outlet in Kyiv. “They are saying that either you are with the government and against Russia, or you are with the Kremlin. The war has made people see the world in either black or white.”

Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, more than 60 journalists have been killed, according to the Kyiv Post, an English-language newspaper and website that has tracked the deaths. The gruesome murders—poisonings, a beheading, point-blank shootings, and the latest, Sheremet’s car bombing—are warnings to future reporters, and, to some degree, it’s working. Up and coming journalists say they are reluctant to put their lives on the line.

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“We can write about all this corruption and the bad oligarchs and no one will care,” explains Mariia Yuzych, a Ukrainian journalist and one of my graduate students at Kyiv Mohyla Academy School of Journalism. “Young journalists do not have a prime example of how their work can really change our system of government.”

While journalists face extreme risks in Ukraine, aspects of their professional practice also open them to criticism. Investigative journalism in Ukraine has no uniform ethical standards. Investigative reporters routinely use hidden cameras, don’t always identify themselves as journalists when interviewing people, and in their reports, use dramatic music and effects, like over-the-top re-enactments, to heighten drama.

Ukraine’s journalism schools are partly to blame for the lack of quality reporting. Most are stuck in a Soviet mode in which professors with little or no newsroom experience teach theory—not the practical application of reporting and editing, and certainly not the modern skills of shooting video and using social media. Students themselves often lack the ambition to tackle investigative stories, another legacy of the Soviet system, which seldom rewarded hard work. As a result, the reporters and media executives I spoke with said journalism graduates arrive in their newsrooms unprepared to do basic stories, let alone investigative pieces.

“I’m not seeing anybody coming up who can do the work,” says Vlad Lavrov, one of Ukraine’s leading investigative journalists.

Last year, Lavrov offered data training for journalism students from some of the country’s best schools at an investigative reporting conference in Kyiv. Lavrov gave the students information on Ukrainian businessmen, provided access to the Panama Papers online database, and asked them to write 300- to 500-word stories from the information they developed using those and other sources. Out of about 100 students, no one produced a single story, he says.

“Whenever we said, ‘You have to dig deeper, they didn’t do anything,’” says Lavrov, 40, who was educated to become a businessman but decided journalism was a better fit.

The war in eastern Ukraine—which has claimed 10,090 lives, including about 2,777 civilians, and internally displaced more than 1.5 million people, according to the United Nations—has profoundly altered the climate for investigative reporting.

“There are many sensitive topics—like criticizing the Ukrainian army—which if you cover them, you may be deemed unpatriotic or pro-Russian,” says Oksana Grytsenko, 36, a war correspondent for the Kyiv Post. One of Grytsenko’s recent stories looked at how people who did little or no fighting were receiving lush military benefits, while some who had suffered serious injuries were denied them.

In May 2016, Grytsenko and 4,500 other journalists worldwide discovered that their names, cell phone numbers, and addresses had been posted on the internet site Myrotvorets, which purports to expose “enemies of Ukraine.” The site claimed the journalists had “cooperated with terrorists” because they received accreditation from separatists to report in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Several of the journalists received threatening phone calls and emails. “It was really dangerous for some of them,” says Grytsenko, who believes she was spared any reprisals because her stories appear in English.

A few months later, Grytsenko wrote a story about the Ukrainian Security Police (SBU) operating secret prisons in which they detained people who had voiced pro-Russian sentiments. I invited Grytsenko to speak to my journalism class about her work, which I hoped would inspire my students. Instead, the students grilled her about her decision to report such stories during wartime.

“It makes the army look bad,” one student said. Another said: “It is bad for society. We need to support the government.”

Grytsenko told the students that such stories push the country to improve by forcing it to weed out corruption. “The real journalists are the ones who tell what the real problems are in the army, in the country, in the government,” she said.

After her talk, three students out of 21 expressed a vague interest in investigative reporting, and no one wanted to cover the war.

“Americans romanticize being war correspondents,” said Mariia Ulianovska, 24, a journalism graduate student with a bachelor’s degree in law. “When the war is fought in your country and not overseas, it’s more real. We see the devastation and the danger up close.”

Her reasoning—echoed by several others in class—struck me as remarkably lucid for such a young journalist. Even US war coverage in Iraq and Afghanistan tended to be pro-government.

Lavrov, who is technically on staff at the Kyiv Post, but whose salary is largely paid by the global Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), isn’t surprised by the students’ attitudes.

“When it comes to war correspondents, you must understand there is no consensus on their role [and] whether it is to cover the facts fully, which would be super difficult because Ukrainian journalists do not have not access to the other side,” he says. “It’s an unfortunate situation with media watchdogs in Ukraine taking the stance that journalists should be on the side of the government.”

Lavrov and his colleagues Babinets and Dymtro Gnap—who have their own investigative NGO called Slidstvo.info—have been highly criticized for their reports about President Viktor Poroshenko’s administration. Last year, the three worked on a video report that aired online at Hromadske TV. Entitled “President Poroshenko’s Secret Life,” the report was based on documents that were part of the the database known as the Panama Papers. The 20-minute investigation showed a re-enactment of Poroshenko’s lawyers setting up offshore accounts while the Ukrainian army was engaged in some of its bloodiest battles with Russian-backed separatists.

“People were asking: ‘How could you accuse our president of setting up offshore accounts during a time of war?’” Lavrov remembers. “I still stand behind it because during the worst military conflict in your country, you don’t expect the president, who is commander in chief of the army, to be working simultaneously on tax evasion offshore schemes.”

Poroshenko said the accounts were established to set up a blind trust, not to avoid taxes.

An independent media council made up of journalism critics and lawyers summoned the reporters to defend their story.

“They asked us why we used every word of the text in that story,” says Babinets, who lost her appetite for mountain climbing and extreme sports once she became an investigative reporter. “Then they said we are working for the Kremlin. And from then on, that became the discussion. Even our former [journalism] colleagues criticized us.”

 

Journalism Critics

Yevhen Fedchenko, who sits on the board of Hromadske TV, has also been critical. A former TV anchor and current director of Kyiv Mohyla Academy School of Journalism, he is familiar with Western journalism standards, having been a Fulbright Scholar for a year at USC-Annenberg.

“Investigative reporting is a growing sector in Ukraine,” he says. “But it is self-centered and sometimes infantile in its approaches and its critical judgment of it results. It’s self-centered because the journalists see themselves as the most important part of the project.’’

Fedchenko criticized the Panama Papers’ juxtaposition of war scenes and re-enactments as an attempt to play on people’s emotions. “The Panama Papers report was a simulation of a real investigative project,” he says.

In late May, OCCRP released an investigative documentary of the Sheremet car bombing, titled Killing Pavel. The documentary took almost 10 months to report and produce, and the reporters believed its quality would make it a model for future investigative pieces.

Unlike the Panama Papers piece, which used moody music and special effects, the Sheremet documentary is Western in its approach and style. The 50-minute film shows reporters collecting and analyzing security footage taken near Sheremet’s apartment. The reporters—who included Lavrov, Babinets, and Gnap—painstakingly track down a man with former ties to SBU, who on closed-circuit videos appeared to be staking out Sheremet’s apartment the night before the assassination. The story suggests that SBU may have been behind the murder, and that police have done little to find the killers. The film’s narrator lists the government authorities who declined to meet with reporters.

As soon as Killing Pavel was released, the stinging backlash began. The team was criticized for a host of purported offenses, including not sharing their findings with authorities prior to release. (The reporters say they prepared a two-minute video summation of their findings to show Poroshenko, but still couldn’t get a meeting, a key point that was bewilderingly absent from the film.) Media critics questioned whether the report had jeopardized the police investigation.

“The documentary didn’t deliver anything,” Fedchenko says. “It’s just bits of scenes glued together with emotional stuff. It was the same as the Panama Papers. It’s conspiracy theories.” He added, “It didn’t produce any answers or valuable outcome. The result was that it basically framed law enforcement. That’s no secret. Everyone knows they’re not doing enough.”

The loudest detractor was Natalia Ligachova, a media critic at the website “Detector Media: a Ukrainian Media Watchdog.”

“The authors make a claim that SBU might be involved in Pavel Sheremet’s murder. But, when watching this film, we see that there are no sufficient arguments for such a strong allegation. That is to say, there’s whipping up of emotions without a sufficient body of evidence,” Ligachova explains in an email. She also questions why reporters didn’t turn over the identity of a key witness, instead of waiting months until the documentary aired.

Ligachova and reporter Gnap got into a spat on Facebook. “I claimed to be the real watchdog, and not a Maltese,” says Gnap, 39. “I didn’t call her personally a dog. I said, ‘You are a media critic and you also need to support and protect the media community from soft censorship of the government. You need to support reporters. You need to be a real watchdog of Ukrainian media society, and not act like a Maltese.’”

Fedchenko characterized Gnap’s portion of the exchange as arrogant and unprofessional. Ligachova is “a very well respected media critic,” he says. “She asked a lot of questions, which sounded reasonable. Instead to getting answers, she was brushed off.” He adds: “Dmytro [Gnap] is not a journalist. He’s a politician. He really needs to switch sides of the barricades. He’s basically using journalism for his own personal agenda.”

Gnap says he was surprised at Fedchenko’s criticism, since he says Fedchecko had lauded him as “a brave and professional investigator” only a few years ago when Gnap exposed the large-scale corruption of former President Petro Yanukovych and his friends, who siphoned millions from government coffers. “But now when I do the same things about President Poroshenko and his friends, Fedchenko says I’m not an objective journalist. Could there be some connection here?”

Fedchenko says that Gnap was courageous for his investigative reporting during the Yanukovych regime. “It was dangerous for a journalist,” he says. “The added value was that journalists could make a difference. But you cannot be a professional ‘opposition journalist’ all the time just because it’s a good position and you will always get your portion of attention with that.”

Katya Gorchinskaya, CEO of Hromadske TV, which airs many of Gnap’s stories, strongly disagrees with the criticism. “Fedchenko is in the patriotic camp that says in the times of war, we shouldn’t be criticizing the president because we are undermining trust. I think it’s just wrong. If you don’t identify problems, they’ll never get fixed. If you don’t look for graft, the army will continue to be starved. I think it’s very unpatriotic not to do it.”

Fedchenko admits he’s a Poroshenko supporter. “I consider Poroshenko to be the most able president in recent Ukrainian history, but that does not mean that he should not be subject to criticism. But the criticism should be grounded and justified and scaled according to his wrongdoings. He should also be credited for all his positive efforts in nation-building during times of war.”

Fedchenko says he’s simply trying to raise the level of journalism in his country, and he feels the investigative reporters are “an incestuous group” who are not critical enough of their own work. “If you say something against their work, then you become kind of a foil.”

 

Oligarch-funded vs NGO-funded Investigations

Part of the reason investigative reporting is growing in Ukraine is that oligarch-owned TV stations have their own investigative teams, though they largely target their employers’ enemies.

“They’re just over-sensationalized stories taken out of context,” says Gorchinskaya, who was a well-regarded former editor and reporter before leading Hromadske. “It’s actually quite shocking what people think is investigative reporting. The media in Ukraine is used to either promote business interests of the oligarch directly, or to promote political interests. It’s very effective.”

Even President Poroshenko owns his own media station, and seems to hold sway over the other oligarchs who own media outlets. According to a 2016 VoxUkraine content analysis, there were almost no negative mentions of the president on the country’s largest television stations, where most Ukrainians get their news.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are three or four independent investigative teams, financed by Western grants. The teams produce their own content and contract with various media, usually small and medium independent outlets, to publish their work. This arrangement allows the teams to retain editorial control. The partnership gives media organizations the option of publishing or not publishing the work, but the outlets do not have any editorial input.

Critics say dependence on donor-supported reporting creates a quest for big stories involving top officials at the expense of uncovering smaller-scale corruption in local city councils, courts, police departments, hospitals, and schools.

Albania Arrests Journalist Over Death Threat to EU Diplomat

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Albania Arrests Journalist Over Death Threat to EU Diplomat Albanian police have arrested journalist Kastrit Myftaraj for writing on Facebook that killing the head of the EU delegation

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Albanian police on Wednesday arrested a journalist, Kastriot Myftaraj, for calling on people to kill the Croatian head of the EU Delegation to Albania, Romana Vlahutin.

The arrest follows posts on his Facebook page on May 7, when Myftaraj published an article which said: “Every Albanian who loves his country can kill Romana, and this is going to be an anti-terrorist attack, not a terrorist one.”

The journalist accused Vlahutin of lending unconditional support to the centre-left government of Prime Minister, Edi Rama, of plotting against the opposition and of trying to create a movement called “New Yugoslavia”. Myftaraj also implied that she has links to billionaire magnate and philanthropist George Soros.

Albanian police on Wednesday confirmed the arrest in accordance with the criminal code, which stipulates penalties of up to three years in jail for inciting violence against the constitutional order.

“Myftaraj published an article in which he makes open calls for violent acts against the constitutional order,” the police statement read.

The journalist was freed a few hours after his arrest on Wednesday, as the prosecutors did not find him responsible for any criminal wrongdoings.

The European Commission told BIRN in a statement in Thursday that the use of threats to attempt to intimidate the Head of the EU Delegation to Albania, and the delegation’s staff, will not be tolerated.

“Calls for violence and hate speech are unacceptable,” the statement read, also stating that the Commission trust that Albanian authorities and citizens will take a clear stance against this type of threat.

– See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/journalist-arrested-for-violence-calls-against-eu-ambassador-05-10-2017#sthash.4t3U9xbp.dpuf

German journalist Mesale Tolu arrested in Turkey

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German journalist arrested in Turkey

German media have reported that Mesale Tolu has been in detention under allegations

of terrorism since April 30. Her work had appeared in pro-Kurdish media, including an outlet closed as part of government crackdowns.

Türkei Gefängnis Antalya (picture-alliance/dpa/T. Bozoglu)

German journalist Mesale Tolu was reportedly arrested during an overnight raid at her Istanbul apartment in the early hours of May 1. The socialist daily publication “Neues Deutschland” first reported the arrest in Germany, which later was corroborated by German state broadcaster ARD and Turkish newspaper “Diken”.

Tolu was reportedly placed under remand facing allegations of spreading “propaganda for a terrorist organization” as well as “membership in a terrorist group.” However, many of the more than 150 journalist arrested in Turkey under ongoing state of emergency measures introduced in the wake of the failed coup of July 15, 2016, are facing similar accusations. German daily newspaper TAZ meanwhile said that, according to Turkish sources, 33-year-old Tolu’s arrest had been part of a police raid aimed at clamping down on socialist movements in particular.

Husband also behind bars

Prior to her arrest, Mesale Tolu’s work had mainly been published by organizations seen as having socialist, pro-Kurdish leanings, such the private ETHA news agency and the Netherlands-based Firat News Agency (ANF), which the Turkish government links to the outlawed terror group PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). She also worked for “Özgür Radyo” (Free Radio), which was closed as part of the government purge.

Kiev to bar Russian journalists who visited Crimea from Eurovision despite valid accreditation

Kiev to bar Russian journalists who visited Crimea from Eurovision despite valid accreditation

Deniz Yucel German journalist detained in Turkey moved to prison

free Deniz Yucel

German journalist detained in Turkey moved to prison

Deniz Yucel says it’s like he ‘won back a little bit of my freedom’

Thomson Reuters Posted: Mar 01, 2017 

A German-Turkish journalist whose arrest in Turkey has badly jolted relations between Ankara and Berlin was quoted on Wednesday as saying the conditions of his detention had improved markedly since his transfer to prison from a police cell.

He has since been moved again to a second prison.

Deniz Yucel, who holds German and Turkish citizenship, was arrested on Monday on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting public violence, after first being detained on Feb. 14.

Yucel, who faces up to 10½ years in jail if convicted, denies the charges.

The arrest has provoked sharp rebukes from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who told reporters that German-Turkish relations were facing one of their greatest challenges of recent times.

Merkel underscored her concerns during a rally in the northern town of Demmin on Wednesday evening, telling members of her Christian Democratic Union that the German government would “do everything in its power” to secure Yucel’s release.

Independent journalism is a basic pillar of democracy that can “never be questioned, even when it is uncomfortable,” she said.

British Government Funded Outlet Offered Journalist $17,000 a Month to Produce Propaganda for Syrian Rebels

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GlobalResearch: The Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) media office, a major Syrian opposition media outfit and frequent source of information for Western media, is funded by the British government and is managed by Westerners operating out of Turkey, according to emails provided to AlterNet by a Middle East reporter RFS tried to recruit.

The outlet stirred controversy this November when it released a video at the height of the Mannequin Challenge, a pop culture craze in which people compete for how long they can freeze in place on video. The RFS video depicted a staged rescue by the White Helmets, the Western-funded rescue group that operates exclusively in rebel-held territory. RFS quickly removed the video and issued an apology out of apparent concern that the staged rescue could raise questions about the authenticity of other videos by the White Helmets.

Over the summer, the Middle East reporter, who asked not to be named, was contacted by an American acquaintance and former colleague about working for RFS.

“I’m currently in Istanbul, working on a media project for the HMG [the British government],” wrote the acquaintance in an email time-stamped June 23. “We’re working on media surrounding the Syrian conflict, as one of their three partners.” The email included links to RFS Media’s English website and SMO Media, an Arabic website that covers the Southern Front, a Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) group.

“[W]e’re looking for a managing editor/production manager to head up our team here in Istanbul, and I thought you’d be a great fit. I was wondering if you had any interest, or knew of anyone looking to move out to Istanbul for an opportunity,” the acquaintance added.

In a followup phone conversation, the acquaintance explained to the reporter what the job would entail.

“I would have been talking to opposition people on the ground and writing news pieces based on statements from media activists who are affiliated with the armed groups in places like Aleppo,” the reporter later explained.

The salary offered for this task was an eye-popping $17,000 a month.

The reporter ultimately decided not to pursue the RFS position because he felt it would be journalistically unethical.

“The idea that I would work for the government of a country that’s intimately involved in the Syrian conflict is one that’s incomprehensible for me as a journalist,” he told AlterNet.

This was far beyond working for state-owned media in my opinion. It was to actually be a mouthpiece for specific armed groups that are backed by a Western regime with a long history of disastrous interference in this region. That doesn’t mean I don’t have sympathy for people who are against the Syrian government. I am not pro-regime. At the same time, I am a journalist and would like to maintain my integrity at that level.

The reporter declined to recommend others for the job, saying, “I’m not going to facilitate some dubious relationship between a reporter and what is obviously a propaganda outlet,” he said.

RFS did not respond to a request for comment.

Go-to source for information-starved Western media

Western media often relies on self-described “media activists” in areas controlled by Western- and Gulf-backed militant groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra (until recently Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. These groups are explicitly anti-democratic and have been implicated in human rights violations from mass execution to using caged religious minorities as human shields. Most recently, civilians fleeing rebel-held eastern Aleppo have described being fired on by militants seeking to prevent them from escaping to the safety of government-controlled territory.

Two months ago, I spoke over the phone to a frequently quoted media activist living in East Aleppo. He told me that if he publicly criticizes the armed opposition groups, he risks being tortured, or worse. Indeed, a largely ignored report by Amnesty International published in June revealed that civilians in opposition-controlled Aleppo and Idlib have been subjected to abduction, torture and summary execution simply for criticizing armed groups on social media.

RFS’s videos and hashtags are regularly picked up by major Western media outlets. One of its videos has even been cited by human rights groups as evidence of Russian war crimes. Among its most viral campaigns is #AvengersInAleppo, which featured photos of children living in East Aleppo holding up signs calling on Marvel comic book superheroes to save them. (East Aleppo is controlled by a number of extremist groups led by Al Qaeda’s renamed offshoot, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.)

Prior to that, RFS capitalized on the popularity of Pokémon Go to sell a pro-interventionist message to Western audiences with photos of children in opposition-controlled areas of Syria holding up photos of Pokémon characters with messages calling for intervention. The campaign garnered favorable media coverage from major outlets, including the Guardian, the Washington PostCNN, the IndependentReuters, and the BBC, none of which have bothered to question the origins of RFS or similar pro-opposition outlets.

A $3 million British government propaganda campaign for Syria’s rebels

RFS Media is just one of several different propaganda outlets financed by the U.K. Foreign Office. A recent investigation by the Guardian revealed that the British Foreign Office Conflict and Stability Fund has secretly pumped at least £2.4 million (over $3 million U.S.) into pro-rebel propaganda outfits based out of Istanbul.

The money began flowing after the British parliament voted against bombing the Syrian government in late 2013. (RFS Media launched in December 2013 in both English and Arabic.) The vote against war was attributed in large part to public pressure, as citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, reluctant to overthrow yet another Middle Eastern government after the disasters in Iraq and Libya, mobilized against another campaign for Western regime change in Syria.

After the political defeat, the U.K. Foreign Office embarked on a clandestine propaganda campaign to suppress the public’s anti-war sensibility, hiring private contractors to “produce videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups, and effectively run a press office for opposition fighters,” according to the Guardian.

The purpose of the propaganda, euphemistically referred to as “strategic communications” by the Foreign Office, is to clandestinely “influence the course of the war by shaping perceptions of opposition fighters” and provide “strategic communications and media operations support to the Syrian moderate armed opposition.”

Sanitizing the armed opposition as “moderate” has been a difficult task to be sure. While Western officials were well aware of the extremist and violently sectarian ideology that dominated the opposition early in the conflict, they deliberately chose to whitewash their atrocities in favor of weakening the Syrian government. RSF Media has stayed true to that goal, portraying armed groups as liberators and protectors adored by the people living under them, a narrative Western media outlets have enthusiastically echoed even as their own reporters were kidnapped, ransomed and even shot by Western-backed rebels.

This has presented a puzzling contradiction in Syria coverage. On the one hand, foreign reporters do not dare enter opposition areas for fear of being abducted. Yet the same media outlets that refrain from sending their reporters to opposition areas are comfortable amplifying propaganda that comes out of these areas with almost zero scrutiny, despite the fact that such information almost certainly requires the approval of the armed groups they fear may kidnap their reporters.

The warped picture of Syria that has been provided to Western media consumers is not the fault of the Syrian opposition, which is merely advancing its own most immediate public relations needs without regard for the objective truth, as combatants in war often do. It is, however, a damning indictment of a media establishment that has failed to scrutinize convenient pro-war narratives that serve their own governments’ geopolitical interests.

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in the Washington D.C. area.

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