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Ed Webb

Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump - Columbia Journalism Review - 0 views

  • “I can’t make a living reporting from the Middle East anymore,” said Sulome in mid-December. “I just can’t justify doing this to myself.” The day we spoke, she heard that Foreign Policy, one of the most reliable destinations for freelancers writing on-the-ground, deeply reported international pieces, would be closing its foreign bureaus. (CJR independently confirmed this, though it has not been publicly announced.) “They are one of the only publications that publish these kinds of stories,” she said, letting out a defeated sigh.
  • Sulome blames a news cycle dominated by Donald Trump. Newspapers, magazines, and TV news programs simply have less space for freelance international stories than before—unless, of course, they directly involve Trump.
  • Trump was the focus of 41 percent of American news coverage in his first 100 days in office. That’s three times the amount of coverage showered on previous presidents
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  • Foreign news coverage has been taking a hit for decades. According to a 2014 Pew report, American newspapers even then had cut their international reporting staff by 24 percent in less than a decade. Network news coverage of stories with a foreign dateline averaged 500 minutes per year in 2016, compared to an average 1,500 minutes in 1988, according to a study by Tyndall.

    “Clearly it’s harder for international stories to end up on front pages now,” says Ben Pauker, who served as the executive editor of Foreign Policy for seven years until the end of 2017. He is now a managing editor at Vox. From his own experience, Pauker says, it’s simply an issue of editorial bandwidth. “There’s only so much content an editorial team can process.”

  • In October 2017, Sulome thought she had landed the story of her career. The US had just announced a $7 million reward for a Hezbollah operative believed to be scouting locations for terror attacks on American soil—something it had never done before. Having interviewed Hezbollah fighters for the last six years, Sulome had unique access to the upper echelons of its militants, including that specific operative’s family members. Over the course of her reporting, Hezbollah members told her they had contingency plans to strike government and military targets on US soil and that they had surface-to-air missiles, which had not been reported before. Convinced she had struck gold, she was elated when the piece was commissioned by a dream publication she’d never written for before. But days later, that publication rescinded its decision, saying that Sulome had done too much of the reporting before she was commissioned. Sulome was in shock. She went on to pitch the story to eight other publications, and no one was interested.
  • I’ll go back to the Middle East on trips if I find someone who wants a story, but I’m not going to live there and do this full-time, because it’s really taking a toll on me
  • According to Nathalie Applewhite, managing director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the lack of international coverage has become a real problem for Pulitzer grant recipients. Those grants, she says, were established to address the earlier crisis in which news organizations were closing foreign bureaus and could no longer fund big foreign reporting projects. “Now we’re seeing an even bigger challenge,” she says. “We’re providing the monetary support, but the problem is finding the space for it.”

    Grant applicants, Applewhite adds, are finding it harder to get commitments from editors to publish their work upon completion of their reporting. And stories that already have commitments are sitting on the shelf much longer, as they are continuously postponed for breaking Trump news.

  • As the daughter of two former Middle East-based journalists, Sulome knows what it used to be like for people like her. “I grew up surrounded by foreign correspondents, and it was a very different time. There was a healthy foreign press, and most of them were staff. The Chicago Tribune had a Beirut bureau for example. So when people say we’re in a golden age of journalism today, I’m like, Really?
  • The divestment from foreign news coverage, she believes, has forced journalists to risk their lives to tell stories they feel are important. Now, some publications are refusing to commission stories in which the reporter already took the risk of doing the reporting on spec. Believing that this will discourage freelancers from putting their lives in danger, this policy adds to the problem more than it solves it.
  • “When people lose sight of what’s going on around the world, we allow our government to make foreign policy decisions that don’t benefit us. It makes it so much easier for them to do that when we don’t have the facts. Like if we don’t know that the crisis in Yemen is killing and starving so many people and making Yemenis more extremist, how will people know not to support a policy in which we are attacking Yemenis?”

  • “Whether it’s environmental, ethnic or religious conflict, these are issues that may seem far away, but if we ignore them they can have a very real impact on us at home. International security issues, global health scares, and environmental crises know no borders, and I think we ignore them at our own peril.”
Ed Webb

Egypt's media bill may bring demise of small, online outlets - The Washington Post - 0 views

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    Egyptian journalists said Wednesday that a new draft bill regulating the media would likely bring the demise of dozens of low-budget, online media outlets serving as a refuge for young writers and liberal activists escaping government restrictions on freedom of expression.
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    Egyptian journalists said Wednesday that a new draft bill regulating the media would likely bring the demise of dozens of low-budget, online media outlets serving as a refuge for young writers and liberal activists escaping government restrictions on freedom of expression.
Ed Webb

Egyptian media gloats over fabricated Guardian articles | Mada Masr - 0 views

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    I know Mayton a little. He always had a bad reputation among fellow journalists in Cairo. Note how innacurate the Egyptian media reports are on this story: treating it as a propaganda gift to justify the local line that foreign media are biased against Egypt.
Ed Webb

Egypt sentences six to death in espionage case - AJE News - 0 views

  • An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced six people to death, including two Al Jazeera journalists, who were accused of leaking state secrets to Qatar.
  • The defendants include Ibrahim Helal, former director of news at Al Jazeera's Arabic channel. He is not in Egypt and was tried in absentia.

    Another, also tried in absentia, is Jordanian citizen Alaa Omar Mohamed Sablan, identified by the prosecution as an Al Jazeera journalist.

    Asmaa Mohamed al-Khatib, identified as a reporter with the pro-Brotherhood Rassd news outlet, was also sentenced to death in absentia. Al Jazeera has long denounced Egypt's treatment of its journalists with the hashtag #journalismisnotacrime.

Ed Webb

Egypt falls again in World Press Freedom Index, now ranked 159th | RSF - 0 views

  • Amid growing hostility to media criticism of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government, Egypt has fallen one place in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published today.
  • the media reflect the country’s polarization between support for Sisi and opposition, but the authoritarian regime has used the fraught security situation to crack down on critical journalists in the name of stability and national security
  • Now ranked 159th out of 180 countries, Egypt had fallen steadily in the Index since the end of the Mubarak era, when it was ranked 127th out of 173 countries
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  • in the anti-terrorism law adopted in August. Under article 33, the media are now obliged to limit themselves to the government’s version of terrorist attacks
Ed Webb

Egyptian activists bemoan 'attack on media' - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 3 views

  • Journalist Khaled El Balshy — a keen defender of freedom of expression and a democracy advocate, deputy head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate and head of the syndicate’s Freedom Committee — has been vigorously campaigning for the release of jailed journalists in Egypt. This week Balshy himself faced prosecution and risked being imprisoned on charges of “inciting protests, insulting the police and inciting to overthrow the regime.”
  • On April 6 the Interior Ministry, which had filed the legal complaint against him, was forced to withdraw the lawsuit following an outcry from fellow journalists, free speech advocates and rights organizations
  • Minutes after hearing of the warrant for his arrest, he boldly declared in a Facebook post: “If they want to arrest me, I’m in my office. I’m not better than those who are imprisoned.”
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  • he hoped that his prosecution would “throw the spotlight on the cases of others unjustly detained in Egypt, especially the jailed journalists." Since the military takeover of the country in July 2013, tens of thousands of political opposition figures have been arrested and detained as part of a sweeping security crackdown on dissent that has targeted Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters as well as secular activists, researchers, journalists and intellectuals
  • Balshy on April 4 published a list of some 40 journalists in Egypt who were either imprisoned or under threat of being detained
  • While there has hardly been any noise over the jailing of journalists with alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the verdicts against Naaot and Nagy and the arrest warrant against Balshy provoked outrage in Egypt. After an outcry in Egyptian media over the conviction of Naaot, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last week urged parliament to review the country’s blasphemy laws, which critics have denounced as outdated and harmful. Meanwhile, in an outpouring of anger on social media over Nagy’s conviction, activists have campaigned for the novelist’s release using the Arabic hashtag that translates into #CreativityOnTrial.
  • Twenty-two rights organizations, six political parties and nearly 100 individuals signed a strongly worded petition condemning the warrant for Balshy’s arrest as “an attack on the media.”
  • Until recently, much of the Egyptian media and the majority of Egyptians had also rejected international criticism of the restrictions on the media in Egypt, perceiving the criticism as “part of the foreign conspiracy to destroy Egypt.” Lately however, there has been an almost abrupt turnabout with more journalists — including regime loyalists and those who had previously practiced self-censorship — becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of “the muzzling of journalists through intimidation tactics” and “the unfair detention of writers and researchers.”
  • The regime clearly has not learned the lesson from Mubarak’s unplugging of the Internet during the 2011 uprising — a move that fueled the anger against the former dictator, leading to his ultimate overthrow. The government must acknowledge that the right to information and freedom of expression are basic human rights.
Ed Webb

Turkey bans media from landmark press freedom case | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • "The trial of Dundar and Gul is a test for the rule of law in Turkey," said Christophe Deloire, secretary general of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. "These are two journalists, not dangerous terrorists."
  • Almost 2,000 people have been prosecuted for "insulting" Erdogan since the former premier became president in August 2014, Turkey's justice minister said earlier this month.
Ed Webb

What it's like to be a foreign journalist in Turkey - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Midd... - 1 views

  • A male journalist from Europe who has lived in Ankara for the last five years told Al-Monitor, “In the beginning, the toughest challenge was to survive the amount of food I was forced to eat because of the Turkish hospitality. In 2012 and 2013, the situation changed drastically and more and more often I had to cover street demonstrations and violent protests. Until that time the biggest danger I faced was being trampled by wrestling camels. After that it became normal to deal with tear gas, water cannons, plastic bullets and stones hurled by protesters. Nowadays, the biggest challenge is to be able to report in an environment where self-censorship is a constant danger and whoever disagrees with what you write or objects to the photos you take thinks you are against them. It is also very hard to obtain interviews, especially from ordinary people who seem to be afraid of talking with a foreigner.”
  • “Writing about Turkish politics is becoming increasingly a dangerous occupation. Several government officials who agree to talk demand they would like to preview the piece prior to publication. One MHP [Nationalist Action Party] official asked me to kill a piece because it included a section on the HDP [Peoples' Democratic Party]. He said his name could not appear in the international press with the names of the terrorists. There are plenty of capricious examples that turn proper reporting into an impasse.”
  • There is an increasingly sophisticated government propaganda apparatus — directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP — and they often point their guns at anyone even nominally critical of the AKP or [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. Sometimes they are nice — always looking for gullible foreigners to convert to the cause, but they can also be incredibly vicious
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  • it seems like certain sources, namely academics, are a bit less likely to talk lately, which, if true, means the government has successfully accomplished its goal of silencing some of its most credible critics. More generally, the political situation has gotten much, much worse, and most of my Turkish and Kurdish friends have either been further radicalized or have simply given up and withdrawn from politics and following the news. There's a great feeling of helplessness. It's an exciting life for a journalist, but it's also just incredibly sad and often seemingly hopeless
Ed Webb

Safety of journalists takes centre stage at Doha events - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

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    MENA has become a particularly dangerous region for journalists, but was not always so.
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