I am nervous as I write this. I am in my cold prison cell after my first official exercise session â four glorious hours in the grass yard behind our block and I donât want that right to be snatched away.
Iâve been locked in my cell 24 hours a day for the past 10 days, allowed out only for visits to the prosecutor for questioning, so the chance for a walk in the weak winter sunshine is precious.
So too are the books on history, Arabic and fiction that my neighbors have passed to me, and the pad and pen I now write with.
I want to cling to these tiny joys and avoid anything that might move the prison authorities to punitively withdraw them. I want to protect them almost as much as I want my freedom back.
Peter Greste, A letter from Tora prison.
The News, via ABC (Australia):
Australian journalist Peter Greste will be detained in solitary confinement in Egypt for at least another 15 days.
Greste was arrested in Cairo in late December along with two [Al Jazeera] colleagues, bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed.
Egyptian authorities are accusing the crew of holding illegal meetings with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist group by the military-installed government.
However, the trio says it was merely reporting all sides of the story.
As Greste writes, “The three of us have been accused of collaborating with a terrorist organization [The Muslim Brotherhood], of hosting MB meetings in our hotel rooms, of using unlicensed equipments to deliberately broadcast false information to further their aims and defame and discredit the Egyptian state. The state has presented no evidence to support the allegations, and we have not been formally charged with any crime. But the prosecutor general has just extended our initial 15-day detention by another 15 days to give investigators more time to find something. He can do this indefinitely – one of my prison mates has been behind bars for 6 months without a single charge.”
Hassan El-Laithy, Egypt’s ambassador to Australia, says the detention isn’t personal. Instead, it’s aimed at Al Jazeera as a news organization.
“It has nothing to do with Peter Greste as a person, definitely,” El-Laithy told ABC. “But it is whether those working for a specific television station are abiding by the laws of that specific host country or not.”
Small solace, we imagine, for Greste and his colleagues.
WSJ “Attorney General Holder Pledges Shift On Media”
“Attorney General Eric Holder told news editors in a private meeting Thursday that he is committed to changing Justice Department guidelines on investigations involving journalists, in the wake of recent controversies over the seizure of reporters’ phone and email records.
Mr. Holder and aides said they were open to changing the guidelines the department uses to broaden the circle of officials who have to agree that subpoenas are justified as a last resort. The officials also said they were open to annual reviews with news organizations…”
Yes, but will they spy on reporters unabashedly, and intimidate if not ruin the lives of - perhaps justified - whistleblowers?
As in 1957, 1966 and 1989, Chinese intellectuals are feeling more or less the same fear as one does before an approaching mountain storm. The scariest [fear] of all is not being silenced or sent to prison; it is the sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about what comes next… It’s as if you are walking into a minefield blindfolded.
Hao Qun, as quoted in The Guardian. China Tries to Rein in Microbloggers.
The News, via The Guardian:
China has launched a new drive to tame its boisterous microblogging culture by closing influential accounts belonging to writers and intellectuals who have used them to highlight social injustice.
The strict censorship of mainstream media in China has made social media an essential forum for public debate, but authorities have shown increasing determination to control it. Previous campaigns have warned the public against spreading rumours – a theme that has recurred in this crackdown – and ordered users to register with their real names.
Now attention has turned to the country’s opinion formers. A recent commentary in the state-run Global Times newspaper warned that “Big Vs” – meaning verified accounts with millions of followers – had become “relay stations for online rumours” and accused them of “harming the dignity of the law”.
Somewhat Related: The South China Morning Post reports that the central government has ordered universities to stop teaching seven subjects, among them civil rights, press freedom and the communist party’s past mistakes.
Via the Washington Post:
Iran has arrested 14 journalists for alleged cooperation with foreign-based Persian-language media organizations, several chief editors of Iranian outlets said Monday.
The arrests signal a major escalation in a press crackdown that reflects Iran’s zero tolerance for those who work with dissident media or outlets considered hostile to the regime.
Via the New York Times:
None of the arrests were reported by the raided organizations themselves. Some Iranian journalists said the omissions appeared to reflect fears of further antagonizing the Revolutionary Guards and affiliated security forces whose loyalties lie with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Mehr news agency said the arrested journalists had been accused of “collaborating with some of the Persian-language foreign media” — apparently an allusion to the Persian services of both the BBC and the Voice of America. The Fars news agency, without citing any sources, said the suspects had tried to contact the foreign media and had sought training on photography and filming with cellphone cameras. “Moreover, they wanted to learn how to assemble the pieces and send them to the BBC,” Fars said.
Via the Committee to Protect Journalists:
CPJ ranks Iran as the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with 45 behind bars in 2012, according to its prison census conducted on December 1.
As the Washington Post notes: “Since 2000, Iran’s judiciary has shut down more than 120 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities.”