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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?

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WHO calls for ‘urgent action’ as monkeypox cases in Europe spark concerns

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WHO’s Europe chief has warned cases in the region have tripled in the last two weeks and appealed to countries to do more to ensure the previously rare disease does not become entrenched on the continent.

The European Region remains the centre of the expanding monkeypox outbreak, with the World Health Organisation saying that efforts are needed to prevent the disease.

New cases have tripled since June 15 to over 4,500 laboratory-confirmed infections across the WHO Europe Region, which extends from Greenland in the northwest to the Russian Far East.

“Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said on Friday.

From Jan 1 to June 22, altogether 3,413 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death have been reported to WHO from 50 countries and territories in five WHO Regions.

In the meantime, WHO continues to assess the risk of monkeypox in the European Region as “high”, given the continued threat to public health and the rapid expansion of the disease.

WHO said continued challenges hamper the response, with additional cases reported among women and children.

The WHO European Region represents almost 90% of all laboratory-confirmed and globally reported cases since mid-May.

READ MORE: Lone monkeypox vaccine maker ready to meet demand

Six new countries

Kluge said that since his last statement on June 15, six new countries and areas have reported monkeypox cases, taking the total to 31.

The WHO regional chief said close to 10% of patients were reported hospitalized for treatment or isolation purposes, and one patient has been admitted to an ICU.

“The vast majority of cases have presented with a rash, and about three-quarters have reported systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sore throat, or headache,” said Kluge.

WHO said 26 countries and areas have submitted detailed information.

“We need to continue to examine this information carefully over the next few weeks and months to understand better exposure risks, clinical presentations in different population groups, and — most importantly — to rapidly identify any changes in the trajectory of the outbreak that would affect our public health risk assessment,” said Kluge.

Monkeypox is related to smallpox, which killed millions around the world every year before it was eradicated in 1980, but has far less severe symptoms.

The disease starts with a fever and quickly develops into a rash, with the formation of scabs. It is usually mild and typically clears up spontaneously after two to three weeks.

READ MORE: Monkeypox cases increase in US, over 700 infections detected globally

Source: TRTWorld

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UN Ocean Conference: Joint effort needed to combat plastic pollution

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Twenty-one new governments announced they will join the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment at the UN Ocean Conference on June 27, further boosting the leadership on tackling plastic pollution.

Established in 2018 and led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Commitment has united more than 500 signatories including businesses, governments and other organizations to drive the transition towards a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste.

Plastic is everywhere in our lives, but after we use it, it ends up in the ocean. At least 11 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year, according to the UN, making up 80 percent of all marine debris.

Plastic pollution can have a serious impact on the entire marine ecosystem. Plastic entangles animals and is ingested by marine species. More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution, according to the UN. Plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish each year.

Workers hang a The UN holds its Oceans Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, June 27-July 1. /VCG

Switching from virgin plastic to recycled plastic is one of the most effective ways to reduce plastic pollution. However, less than 10 percent of the plastic used around the world is recycled, said the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on February 22.

Instead of recycling plastic, more greenhouse gases are emitted each time virgin plastic or single-use plastic is produced, used and disposed. According to projections by UNEP, by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal, would account for 15 percent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As greenhouse gas emissions increase, the planet will become hotter, and the oceans will also be seriously affected, by phenomena such as sea level rise and ocean temperature rise.

As glaciers melt and sea levels rise, animals are losing their homes. /VCG

Plastic pollution is one of the major global environmental problems, which brings great challenges to global sustainable development. It is estimated that the annual amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean could triple by 2040, according to the UN.

Many countries have issued a number of plastic pollution control policies, and more and more of them have passed some sort of full or partial ban on plastic bags.

India imposed a ban on single-use plastics on items ranging from straws to cigarette packets to combat worsening pollution in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people on July 1. Canada will impose a ban on the manufacture and import of single-use plastics by the end of the year.

China has always attached great importance to the control of plastic pollution. As early as 2007, policies were introduced to restrict the production, sale and use of plastic bags. China pledged to substantially extend its laws to combat plastic bag use, first banning all non-compostable bags in major cities by the end of 2020 and extending the ban to the entire country by 2022.

Plastic pollution is a major global environmental problem. /VCG

It’s urgent for all countries to work together to combat plastic pollution.

In March this year, a historic resolution was adopted by countries at the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly. It calls for the convening of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop – by the end of 2024 – an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

Source: CGTN

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Gov’t does not obstruct freedom of expression: Speaker

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Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed has stated the administration of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih does not obstruct freedom of expression. He made the statement in response to a question at the fifth programme of the Ask Speaker series.

Speaking at the programme, Speaker Nasheed said he has not seen President Solih’s administration try to obstruct freedom of speech and expression, and does not believe there are efforts to do so. However, the speaker stated the constitution does not grant freedom of expression without limits and boundaries. He said these boundaries must be respected, especially when it could affect diplomatic relations established with other countries.

During the programme, Speaker Nasheed was also asked if he might contest in the presidential election next year as an independent candidate after leaving the main ruling party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). In response to this question, the speaker said he hopes to remain at MDP till his last day and would definitely not be seen in another party. He said MDP has a vision for the future, and will seek ways to resolve internal conflicts and implement its development vision for the country.

During the programme, Speaker Nasheed answered questions on parliamentary work, as well as other political and social matters. The speaker highlighted the important work carried out by the parliament across the last two terms, including several important bills.

 

Source: psmnews

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