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Journalism: Drifting Dangerously

Seema Sengupta

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A picture speaks a thousand words. The image of rescuers retrieving Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s motionless body – perhaps lifeless too at that point of time – from the homicide site in occupied West Bank’s Jenin does point to an alarming truth. Journalism has become the most dangerous profession in the world today, with practitioners – labelled as “soft targets” – being widely considered as fair game. From gunmen, both State authorized and proscribed, to propagators of jingoistic politics, everybody seems to have developed a penchant for targeting journalists.

Who can forget Czech President Milos Zeman brandishing a replica of an AK-47, with “for journalists” inscribed in it, in a press conference? Early last year political protestors scratched “murder the media” on the door of the US Capitol – the seat of American democracy, and six months later, in July, members of Afghanistan’s Taliban militia brutally executed on-duty Pulitzer award-winning Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, holed up in a Mosque to evade heavy gunfight during an assignment. Like Shireen, Danish too was in his press vest. Ironically, this was supposed to be the century of the media, and yet we ended up having a dangerous ecosystem where news gatherers are frequently turning into news themselves.

The UN reported fifty-five journalists and media professionals casualty last year, with nearly nine in ten killings since 2006 still remaining unresolved. “Far too many journalists paid the ultimate price to bring truth to light” lamented UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. She underscored the dire need of independent, factual information in a conflict-ridden world more than ever before.

Despite the UNESCO chief’s concern over systematic targeting of journalists, for the UN and western world in general, Shireen is just another number in the list of victims who perished while contributing to freedom of expression, promotion of democracy and ushering of peace in these turbulent times. Her sacrifice will be remembered, the calculated risk she took to disseminate truth will be applauded, but her death will remain a collateral casualty – mortality from occupational hazards to be precise. Israel’s aversion to a criminal investigation into Shireen’s death lay bare the duplicity of the West, paying lip service to the call for closure. As Danish’s family learnt the hard way, while fighting a legal battle in the International Criminal Court, justice for these crusaders will not come easy. After all, we live in a world where destructive rhetoric has taken a toll on people’s ability to emotionally relate to the pains of fellow humans.

I do not know if Shireen and Danish knew each other, but both flew on the wings of honest truth-telling to try and shape the narrative and discourage society from travelling along a dead-end path to nowhere. Their zeal for capturing the underlying messages of life was unparalleled, and they excelled in it too. Shireen covered the harsh realities of occupied life with meticulous dedication. She never deviated from revealing the human cost of occupation. Countless statistics, faceless people, heart wrenching stories of separation found place in Shireen’s reporting. Helpless parents struggling to ensure children’s treatment for want of special permit, individuals prevented from attending relatives’ funeral, mothers giving birth at check point, students missing examination and scholarship, patients losing the fight for life due to travel restrictions – innumerable stories of tragedy and personal losses from the embattled Palestinian territory continues to evoke strong emotion. Shireen documented such anguish without losing objectivity – never allowing her Palestinian identity to overshadow the journalistic instinct and etiquettes, which made her a public icon. A beacon to the rookie scribes back home, her narrative remained inextricably linked to that stuffy experience of growing up in a territory which is prison-like in ambience. Shireen’s brush with death during earlier assignments remains a testimony to the dangerous working conditions of Palestinian journalists and their grit as well.

The intense urge to be the voice of the voiceless, who are deliberately silenced and remain unheard, made journalists like Shireen take risk time and again while reporting on the Gaza wars, Intifada, enforced eviction from homes, indiscriminate killings of Palestinian youths, detention without charge and continuous expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory. In her death, Shireen eventually succeeded in bringing back the focus of the world to the necessity of a quicker political settlement to the Palestine issue so that no more talents are sacrificed in such a gruesome manner.

Danish, too, used his lens to create instant visual imprints on the human brain, concerning events happening around us that shake societal conscience, and in the process ruffled too many feathers. His pandemic photographs, the controversial Citizenship Act protest images from the heart of the Indian capital or that famous snap of frenzied mob beating a Muslim man ruthlessly during the 2020 Delhi riots, which shed light on the entrenched Islamophobia in society, enraged the Hindu right wing forces in India. Danish was on the hit list of majoritarian fanatics, but escaped fatality, only to fall into Taliban’s hands eventually.

Danish, like Shireen, might have been a victim of targeted killing, but both were consumed by hate, which blurs our vision and detaches us from sanity and rational thinking. Taliban guerrillas not only pumped bullets into Danish’s chest indiscriminately but also ran him over to mutilate the body further. Incidentally, methodical demonization of journalism through name calling has heightened risk factors and led to plummeting of trust in recent times. As journalists are frequently hunted down and murdered in cold blood for disseminating awkward facts, one wonders, what is the remedy to this ailment? To bring a perceptible change in the situation and reverse this dangerous trend, there is a need for greater awareness and stronger public defence of journalism’s true value for society. That can only happen when journalists do not shy away from telling their own stories of harassment to the world aggressively. Besides, judicial activism can help prosecute attacks against journalists.

We lose dozens of Shireen and Danish regularly. Is there an effective answer to such criminal assault on an essential pillar of democracy? Can the formation of an UN mandated high-powered investigation committee, to resolve those hundreds of cold cases of journalists killed for doing their job honestly, act as a deterrent? Three more reporters were killed around the world along with Shireen in the second week of May. It is an authoritarian world that we live in where even practicing democracies rely on subtle constitutional censorship to muzzle the press. Only legal retribution can send a stern message that the work and life of a journalist is priceless. The big question is, who will bell the cat to protect independent journalism and bring closure to the families of the dead?

World

Iran, EU call for swift cessation of Gaza conflict

FI

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TEHRAN, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have highlighted the necessity to end the conflict in the Gaza Strip as soon as possible.

In a phone call on Saturday, the two sides discussed the latest developments in Gaza as well as cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to a statement published on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website on Sunday.

The Iranian foreign minister stressed the need to stop the Israeli “crimes” against Palestinians, noting that it was necessary to immediately end Israel’s military attacks against people in Gaza and prepare the ground for the delivery of more humanitarian aid to the coastal enclave.

He warned of Israel’s “plot” and move to forcefully displace the Palestinian people from their land, and an expansion of the conflict in the region if the Israeli attacks were not stopped.

Amir-Abdollahian blamed the “U.S. support as the main factor encouraging Israel to continue its military aggression against and killing of civilians in Gaza,” stressing that Washington’s policies in support of Israel also played an important role in prolonging and expanding the conflict.

He pointed to Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, saying it would continue within technical and legal frameworks.

The EU foreign policy chief, for his part, emphasized the need to reduce tensions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as soon as possible, stressing that the EU was making efforts to make Israel committed to respecting international law.

He underlined Iran’s role in helping ease tensions in the region, saying “we also believe that the solution to Palestine’s issue is focusing on the diplomatic path and the continuation of the military attacks will only exacerbate the tensions.”

Borrell expressed hope that the constructive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA would continue.

On Oct. 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, firing thousands of rockets and infiltrating Israeli territory, while Israel responded with airstrikes, ground operations and punitive measures that included a siege on the Gaza Strip.

More than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict, with 75 percent of them being children, women and the elderly, according to the Gaza-based Health Ministry. Israeli authorities said about 1,200 people were killed on the Israeli side, mostly during the Hamas surprise attack.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Hassan Latheef elected leader of Democrats with 1,704 votes

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Preliminary results show that The Democrats’ Interim Chairperson Hassan Latheef led polls to win the party’s leadership during the internal elections held on Saturday.

As per the preliminary results announced by Central Henveiru MP Ali Azim on behalf of The Democrats on Sunday night, West Henveiru MP Hassan Latheef received 1,704 votes while his competitor, former STO MD Hussain Amer Rashad received 1,300 votes.

Azim said The Democrats had 5.083 members as of Saturday, of which 3,209 members voted in the internal election – amounting to 54 percent of the members. He added that this marks the highest number of members who have voted in the internal election of a political party in recent times.

The internal election on Saturday which was held from 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday was to elect members for 32 posts within the party, including the posts of the party’s leader and deputy leader. A total of 70 members contested for the posts.

Some members took to social media last night to express discontent after the publication of the results of the election was delayed. Some of them alleged alterations to the results as well.

Near 10pm, The Democrats, in its official account on X, said the results will be announced today.

An hour after the post, Hassan Latheef announced his win. Amr contested the claim, citing he had been leading polls as per the result sheet.

However, in a turn of events on Sunday, Amr said he will no longer comment on the results.

The Democrats was formed from a breakaway faction from main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which comprised of members that supported former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The party received the green light from the Elections Commission to proceed with its formation on May 24th.

Following this, the party contested September’s presidential election coming in third with 15,800 votes.

As per EC, The Democrats had 3,280 as of the end of August.

Source(s): sun.mv

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MP Saleem elected parliament’s deputy speaker

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Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem, on Sunday night, has been elected the deputy speaker of the parliament.

The post of the deputy speaker of the parliament became vacant following the resignation of former deputy speaker, North Galolhu MP Eva Abdulla earlier today.

Subsequently, the parliament scheduled a sitting for 8:30pm tonight, to elect a new deputy speaker.

The majority party in the parliament, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) put forth the names of MP Saleem and Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir for deputy speaker during the sitting.

MP Jabir’s name was put forth by Thoddoo MP Hassan Shiyan and seconded by Gadhdhoo MP Ahmed Zahir. Although MP Jabir had expressed interest in the post earlier, it was MP Saleem who won the vote taken by MDP’s parliamentary group earlier in the note.

The secret vote taken to elect a deputy speaker of the parliament was counted by a five-member committee constituted for the purpose. The committee comprised of Mahibadhoo MM Ahmed Thoriq, North Machangolhi MP Mohamed Rasheed, Thulusdhoo MP Ibrahim Naseer, South Henveiru MP Hussain Shaheem and Nolhivaram MP Mohamed Rasheed – who received the unanimous approval of 60 lawmakers.

Sunday night’s secret vote was won by MP Saleem.

A total of 74 lawmakers participated in the vote. MP Saleem received 51 votes while MP Jabir received 23 votes.

MP Eva resigned as deputy speaker at a sitting held on Sunday morning to hear the no-confidence motion filed against her by MDP.

During the sitting, she was granted the opportunity to present her defense; an opportunity she took up.

However, concluding her defense, Eva said she had tendered her resignation.

Shortly afterwards, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Aslam, who presided over the sitting, confirmed he had received Eva’s resignation letter. After reading aloud the letter, Speaker Aslam announced his decision to accept the resignation.

The no-confidence motion against Eva was submitted by MDP with the signatures of 50 lawmakers.

Prior to this, MDP had also filed a no-confidence motion against former speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Eva’s cousin and fellow member of The Democrats. Nasheed tendered his resignation after stalling to motion from proceeding for days.

Source(s): sun.mv

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