Egypt sentences 3 Al Jazeera reporters to 3 years in prison

Baher Mohamed, a journalist with Al Jazeera English, in the court room on Saturday in Cairo. Credit Asmaa Waguih/Reuters
They are sentenced to three years in prison, on charges widely believed to be politically motivated and otherwise baseless.

UK papers' own regulation plan rejected

In the wake of the UK's "phone hacking" press misconduct scandal, the Leveson Report proposed statutory regulation of the media. The newspapers' own alternative, suggesting a special charter covering the press, was rejected this week, reports the BBC. But the outcome also officially reopens the debate, writes Ross Hawkins, at a time when politicians will be more willing to "stave off open warfare with the press in the run up to an election." Read the rest
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UK press-regulation defines "press" so broadly as to include tweeters, Facebook users, bloggers

UK regulations may soon regulate all tweeters, bloggers, and other people who post on the Internet as part of a new system of press regulation.

Today in London, Parliament is the in throes of a closed-door horse-trading exercise over "Leveson" -- that is, the Leveson Inquiry in to the bad behavior of the British press, whose tabloids got caught illegally spying on people (from MPs and Lords down to grieving parents of murdered children), bribing cops high and low, and otherwise engaging in shenanigans that were pretty awful. Strangely, although all of these things were already illegal (but were not vigorously investigated by cops and politicos who were beholden to the press for lucrative "columns," gifts, and favourable coverage), the English political establishment has decided that the real problem is that the press isn't regulated enough.

The Tories want the press regulated without a specific law -- they favour an obscure instrument called a Royal Charter. Labour and the LibDems want a press-regulating law. All of the coverage of this issue today is about the difference between these two options. What neither of them are talking about is Schedule 4, which establishes that the new rules will cover "a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)" where publication "takes place in the United Kingdom" and relates to "news or information about public affairs" or "opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs."

In a nutshell, then: if you press a button labelled "publish" or "submit" or "tweet" while in the UK, these rules as written will treat you as a newspaper proprietor, and make you vulnerable to an arbitration procedure where the complainer pays nothing, but you have to pay to defend yourself, and that will potentially have the power to fine you, force you to censor your posts, and force you to print "corrections" and "apologies" in a manner that the regulator will get to specify. Read the rest

Freedom of the Press Foundation launches: crowdsourcing funding for transparency and accountability

I'm proud to serve as a board member for the newly-launched Freedom of the Press Foundation, dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. The project accepts tax-deductible donations to an array of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability. The board includes Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow, actor and activist John Cusack, and other journalists and activists with whom I'm honored to serve.

Early news coverage: New York Times, Huffington Post, Firedoglake. An op-ed by Barlow and Ellsberg is here. A press release on the launch is here. A list of beneficiary organizations here. Twitter: @FreedomofPress. Read the rest

Canada to science: Drop dead

Not long ago, Cory told you about how the Canadian government has been muzzling scientists—refusing to let them speak freely with the press and, thus, controlling what research the public gets to know about. Not surprisingly, it's research on topics that are politically inconvenient to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government—climate change, for instance—that end up getting frozen.

This issue was the topic of a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver. And although the Canadian government did schedule a free press breakfast in the same time slot, word of this issue got out to a lot of journalists from around the world who hadn't heard about it before. That means we're likely to start seeing more attention being drawn to this issue.

Case in point: The Harper government and its opposition to the open distribution of scientific information was the subject of a Feb. 29th editorial in Nature—one of the biggest and most-read scientific journals in the world.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won power in 2006, there has been a gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists and other government workers. Researchers who once would have felt comfortable responding freely and promptly to journalists are now required to direct inquiries to a media-relations office, which demands written questions in advance, and might not permit scientists to speak. Canadian journalists have documented several instances in which prominent researchers have been prevented from discussing published, peer-reviewed literature. Policy directives and e-mails obtained from the government through freedom of information reveal a confused and Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.

Read the rest

US slumps in press freedom rankings

In this year's Reporters Without Borders international press freedom index, the U.S. slumped to 47th place, a fall of 27 places, largely due to arrests of journalists covering protests. The full report is available in PDF format. [RSF] Read the rest

The dronecam revolution will be webcast: Interview with Tim Pool of "The Other 99"

Webcaster Tim Pool of "The Other 99."

In recent weeks, one source of live news coverage for the Occupy Wall Street movement stood out above all others. Not a cable news network, not a newspaper, but a 25-year-old guy named Tim Pool. He packs a smartphone with unlimited data, a copy of Ustream's mobile video streaming app, and a battery pack to keep it all going — which he has for 21 hours straight, on big news days. Soon, Tim and team plan to have have their own hacker-made flying camera-drones, to provide aerial footage TV news chopppers can't. The guerrilla web stream "The Other 99" has reached more than 2 million unique viewers over the last two months, and become a source of eyes on the ground unmatched by big media. The project runs solely on donations. Is The Other 99's webcast the start of a new news normal, and could Pool be one of many DIY backpack broadcasters to come? I tracked him down in New York between streams to find out what he thinks, and how and why he does what he does. — XJ

Xeni Jardin: Break down your current gear setup for us, would you?

Tim Pool: The backpack I use is just a regular backpack. My gear is a Samsung GALAXY S II (on Sprint, because they offer unlimited data) and an Energizer XPAL 18000, and I literally slide the external battery into my back pocket and I plug my phone into it. Read the rest

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