The Ideas War between the US and Iran

When the U.S. Treasury Department announced in February that economic sanctions would be imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Iran’s state-owned broadcaster, it cited human rights violations as justification for the unusual move. “We will also target those in Iran who are responsible for human right abuses, especially those who deny the Iranian people their basic freedoms of expression, assembly and speech,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in unveiling the restrictions, which also applied to Iranian Cyber Police and other institutions involved in monitoring the...

Twitter triggers tension between  free speech and censorship Apr16

Twitter triggers tension between free speech and ...

In late January, Twitter shut down the account of the Somali militant group al Shabaab, apparently for violating the Twitter Ruleagainst publishing “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” Less than two weeks later, though, the al Qaeda-linked group was back on the social media site with a different username – the latest evidence, say critics, that Twitter’s policing policy needs an overhaul to prevent use by groups identified as “terrorists” by the U.S. government. Al Shabaab’s first Twitter account, @HSMPress, was launched in December 2011. Twitter deactivated that account in January after it published plans to...

Pakistan state TV tries its hand at English broadcasts Apr09

Pakistan state TV tries its hand at English broadc...

With the slogan ‘Changing Perspectives’ and a goal of presenting Pakistan to the rest of the world as a vibrant, modern Islamic state, state-owned Pakistan Television Network at the end of January launched a 24-hour English-language news channel called PTV World. Amid the fanfare in the launch, there was no mention that PTV World is the fourth such broadcasting attempt in Pakistan  – or that the previous three, all failed financially. The earlier failures may not offer much guidance on how well the state’s service will perform, though. Each was an attempt by a private broadcaster to build an advertising base that would...

The Scary Implications of Digital Espionage For Jo...

When the New York Times revealed in late January that Chinese hackers had infiltrated its digital network, including reporters’ email accounts, reaction exploded on Twitter and other social media sites. People speculated that this was yet another example of China’s rising power in the world. But then there was this tweet from writer and reporter Charlie Custer, who manages the translation website ChinaGeeks.com. On the one hand, NYT hacking is a big story. On the other hand, is it? Isn’t this happening to most foreign correspondents constantly? — Charlie Custer (@ChinaGeeks) February 1, 2013 That reminded Howard French, the...

In Indian democracy, free speech is at risk Apr08

In Indian democracy, free speech is at risk

At 2 a.m. on February 9, the Indian government declared a curfew in Indian-controlled Kashmir.A few hours later, Kashmiri residents understood why: New Delhi had decided to execute Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri convicted in a 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. Guru’s hanging was the final act of a controversial case that India knew could spark street protests by many Kashmiris, who claimed charges against Guru were weak, and that he was used as a scapegoat. So once news of the hanging and the strict curfew—which forbade residents from even stepping out of their homes—was delivered by radio, television, and the Internet, New Delhi cut off...

In Journalist Kidnappings, No Set Rules on Media C...

  James Foley was supposed to arrive by 4. It was Thanksgiving, and Foley, a freelance journalist covering the war in Syria for GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse, was going to meet his friend Nicole Tung, another journalist, in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli to catch up and rest for a couple days. But Foley never showed. “I was starting to worry after 6, 7 p.m., when things were very quiet,” Tung said. “By 10, 11, I knew that something had definitely gone wrong.” When she was finally able to get in touch with someone in Syria who had seen Foley (the witness’s identity is being withheld), Tung learned her friend had been...