Democracy

Citizens Bill of Journalism Rights

The Committee of Concerned Journalists (CCJ) has developed a set of principles outlining a "consensus about what journalists must offer and what citizens should expect." Its principles include "above all, truthfulness. ... proof that the journalists' first loyalty is to citizens. ...

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Newspaper Reporting Too Timid

Journalists are being far too timid in reporting the news, and the public is poorly informed about the media's role in democracy, veteran journalist Bill Kovach told media ombudsmen on Tuesday. "An awful lot of news organizations are far, far more timid than I would like them to be ... far, far more timid than they have any right to be," said Kovach, a former editor for The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Italy's One-Party Media

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul who already owns most of the country's television outlets, is trying to stamp out the few voices of dissent left on the airwaves. "On Thursday, the conservative prime minister accused two journalists and a comedian who have been critical of him in the past of the 'criminal use' of state television," reports the New York Times. ... Under his government, Mr. Berlusconi said, state television 'cannot be so seditious.'"

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Censorship Wins Out

The Internet has been hyped as "a revolutionary new medium, so inherently empowering and democratizing, that old authoritarian regimes would crumble before it," but Andrew Stroehlein points out that the reality is more sobering. "The idea that the Internet itself is a threat to authoritarian regimes was a bit of delusional post-Cold War optimism.

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Bush Administration Tramples on Press Freedom

When Spozhmai Maiwandi, who ran the Pashto service of the U.S. government's Voice of America, aired remarks made by Taliban leader Mullah Omar not long after September 11, the Bush administration got upset. Maiwandi lost her job. Frank Smyth writes for TomPaine.com that "unfortunately the VOA case is only one of many examples in which Bush officials have manipulated the press, particularly since 9/11. The administration has demonstrated a callous disregard for journalism, truth and transparency.

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The Loyal Opposition

Today's Republican Party demonizes any criticism of President Bush on the grounds that it will "undermine the war effort," and journalists like Tom Gutting are learning the hard way that they can be fired if they question the president's leadership. Yet one of the GOP's most influential forebears, presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, openly criticized Franklin Roosevelt at the peak of the war against fascism.

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EFF Fights "Chilling Effects" on Free Speech

In response to a website alleging that Enron owns the GOP, the Republican party of Texas threatened to sue for "copyright infringement." This is only one of hundreds of cases in which corporate and political heavyweights have used legal threats to intimidate legitimate speech on the Internet.

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Building Democracy by Killing the President

In a lengthy report on Zimbabwe's upcoming elections, Australia's SBS TV uses hidden surveillance videos to document an apparent plan by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to murder the country's sitting president, Robert Mugabe. According to the footage, money to pay for the killing was channeled through BSMG London, an affiliate of the Weber-Shandwick PR firm.

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