TACLOBAN, Philippines – Filipino journalists have expressed their solidarity and demands for the release omaf detained community radio broadcaster Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who has been incarcerated over trumped up charges for the past three years.
Among those who organized the event are officers and members of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, IAWRT – Philippines, and the AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network. They include IAWRT’s international vice president Jola Diones Mamangun and IAWRT Philippines’ chapter head Lynda Catindig-Garcia.
The group of Filipino journalists were supposed to visit Cumpio in jail but their requests were turned down by concerned government offices, citing pandemic restrictions.
Still, they met with Cumpio’s mother who have expressed her gratitude to the various media organizations who have reached out in solidarity to their family and has brought the injustices committed against her daughter to the world’s attention.
They have also met with Tacloban-based journalists who have expressed their solidarity to Cumpio’s plight. Campus journalists who were also present said Cumpio’s brand of journalism has inspired them to follow the path that the detained journalist has paved for them.
“Women journalists have been subjected to relentless attacks, particularly gendered disinformation and online harassment that attempt to discredit them and their critical reportage of issues affecting marginalized communities. Others have been charged with trumped up charges, including one of our colleagues, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who continues to be detained for more than three years,” said IAWRT Philippines in a statement last May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day.
AlterMidya, for its part, said the struggle to keep the country’s press genuine free persist as Cumpio remains in detention.
Cumpio has been in detention for more than three years after being arrested over trumped-up charges in February 2020. Her arrest came at the heels of relentless red-tagging against her over her critical reportage on the continuing plight of Typhoon Haiyan survivors and the impacts of militarization in the poor communities of Eastern Visayas.
AlterMidya said, “with every day that Frenchie Mae and independent journalists are deprived of their freedom, burdened by fabricated charges, and silenced by unjust blocking orders– and we Filipinos are deprived of the full realization of our right to expression — it becomes ever more clear that we as a people must continue to fight for press freedom and assert our most fundamental rights.”
IAWRT PhilippineS Chapter have released the online statement and petition to release Frenchie Mae Cumpio during the World Press Freedom Day – Link.
The Deputy Ambassador to the Norwegian embassy in Uganda, Mr. Ole Reidar Bergum has encouraged the Uganda government to support the media to play its rightful role in society. While speaking during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, on May 3, 2023, Mr. Bergum said the media plays a central role in protecting democracy globally, yet media freedom around the world continues to decline, with statistics showing that globally, in 2022 a total of 54 journalists were killed and 263 imprisoned.
Deputy ambassador of the Norwegian embassy in Uganda, Mr. OleReidar Bergum
“The latest world press freedom report shows that a number of countries categorized as having a very serious situation of press freedoms has grown from 18 in 2016 to 28 in 2022. Uganda is no exception. According to the 2022 world press freedom index [report] from Reporters without borders, Uganda is ranked at 132 out of 180 countries, down 7 positions from 2021…. I would like to urge the government of Uganda through the Ministry if ICT to ensure that the media in Uganda is supported to play its role to mobilize its citizens towards progressive actions that increase their participation in decision making.” Mr. Bergum said.
The Deputy Ambassador also encouraged journalists and media practitioners to always reflect gender balance in their reporting.
“I would like to highlight the importance of gender balance reporting, while ideally, the media should strive for accuracy and impartiality, in reality, there are often imbalances including in terms of women and their perspectives. I would like to encourage the media to have an open platform for broader public deliberations especially for issues that disproportionally affect both men and women.” Mr. Bergum noted.
While speaking at the same event, the Minister of Internet Communication Technology and National Guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi said, the Uganda government allows some level of media freedom. He however, acknowledged that sometimes freedom of the press has been violated.
Minister of ICT and National guidance Mr. Chris Baryomunsi
“Press freedom in Uganda is very abundant. Yes, it is very abundant in my assessment. I don’t think you as media practitioners, you live in fear because of your profession. There could be a few incidences, yes, like sometimes we have seen media clashing with security when they are covering riots and demonstrations, which situations we have condemned. I have spoken in public that we need maybe to train our security officers as well as the media to see how they would work together. There are of course a few incidences but by and large, you can’t really say that there is extremely restricted press freedom in Uganda.” Baryomunsi said.
The minister reminded media practitioners that media freedom comes with responsibility and patriotism. He pledged government’s commitment to further improve the state of media freedom in Uganda.
“But as we speak of press freedom, we call for responsible media and patriotic media. Sometimes, you media practitioners, you report as if you are not Ugandans.” Baryomunsi said.
The commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day was supported by the Journalism & Media International Centre of Oslo Metropolitan University in collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda.
On March 8, 2023, on the historic 113th year of the International Women’s Day commemoration, women-journalists, media workers, and academics from across the globe met to share stories and and support each others in a common struggle
The online discussion-solidarity meeting aptly titled, Women in Media: Overcoming Adversity Together, was hosted by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) in collaboration with Journalism and Media International Center of OsloMet University in Norway, and UNESCO Headquarters.
69 participants gathered to highlight their stories and honor their courage, heroism, and resilience. The webinar opened with an introductory message from IAWRT President Dr. Michelle Ferrier. Dr. Elisabeth Eide, journalist, writer, and professor of Journalism Studies at OsloMet University in Norway was the moderator.
Five principled and intrepid women journalists, namely, Najiba Ayubi (Afghanistan), Alina Radu (Moldova), Alyona Nevmerzhytska (Ukraine), Rhea Padilla (Philippines), and Fatuma Matulanga (Tanzania) lent their voices on behalf of their colleagues. Each of them shared how they and other women journalists in their respective countries bravely stood against and endured oppression, war, armed conflict, red-tagging, political persecution and incarceration, radicalization and extremism, online trolling, hate speech, physical and sexual assault, among other forms of abuse.
Najiba Ayubi is an Afghan multi-awarded journalist, and human rights and press freedom activist. She is a recipient of the 2013 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media, and was named one of the 100 Information Heroes by Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) in 2014. She lamented how Islamic extremism has been oppressive and destructive to women journalists, and women, in general, since the Taliban returned to power. She cited thousands of Afghans who fled the country at all costs to preserve their life. Unfortunately, some lost their lives in an attempt to save it. One of whom is an asylum seeker and journalist Torpekai Amarkhel, who was onboard a fleeing boat that capsized near Italy. Ms. Ayubi is the head of IAWRT Afghanistan Chapter and is also in exile in the United States.
Another award-winning investigative journalist from Moldova and managing director of the country’s independent newspaper Zairul de Garda (The Guard Newspaper) is Alina Radu. She shared how women journalists in their country have been marginalized and isolated. Facebook (FB) or Metaverse is inaccessible in Moldova. Thus, she enjoined FB to be sympathetic to women journalists and provide them access to social media, which has been tightly controlled by the government. Ms. Radu currently heads IAWRT Moldova Chapter.
Prominent Ukrainian journalist Alyona Nevmerzhytska, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of media outfit hromadske, explained that while their culture is not particularly oppressive to women, however, things went on a downward spiral since the Russian invasion in February 2022. The incessant air strikes and attacks on the country’s major cities triggered the exodus of around 5 million Ukraine nationals, mostly women and children. Those who remain in the country have to endure extreme living conditions and the ravages of war.
The Philippines’ Rhea Padilla, former National Coordinator of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) deplored the red-tagging, political persecution, intimidation, and even killing of women journalists and media personalities. She raised the case of Tacloban City-based journalist and IAWRT member Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who has been in jail for over three years now for trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and terrorist financing. Ms. Cumpio was among the “Tacloban 5” human rights defenders who were raided and arrested at midnight of February 7, 2020. Her arrest and continued detention speak of insidious yet blatant attacks against journalists in the country, aimed at intimidating and silencing those who are critical in their reporting. Ms. Padilla then called on government authorities for the immediate release of Ms. Cumpio and colleagues.
Journalist Fatuma Matulanga is the CEO of Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation in Zanzibar and IAWRT Tanzania’s Chapter head. She shared how women in their country have been disproportionately represented in media. Most Media Studies graduates and professionals ended up as PR officers and spokespersons. Women have been marginalized and paid less than their male counterparts, and are in dire need of training and retooling.
Theresa Chorbacher of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Paris talked about the organization’s mandate to work on press freedom and its various legal, policy-making, and capability-building initiatives to promote the safety of women journalists worldwide, and address the issue of impunity. In 2022, UNESCO published “The Chilling”, a report of a three-year intensive study on online violence against women journalists in 15 countries, conducted by researchers from the US-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the UK-based Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM). The report sheds light on the “evolving challenges faced by women journalists, identifies political actors as top perpetrators of online violence against women journalists using popular social media platforms, maps out the online-offline violence trajectory, and offers practical recommendations for intergovernmental organizations, States, Big Tech, the news industry, legal and judicial actors, and civil society”. Truly, the adversities faced by women journalists in and out of the newsroom may seem daunting and insurmountable. But we can overcome it if we unite and work together in this fight.
The 39th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) took place from 18 to 20November 2022, hosted by the chapter in Tanzania. Delegates from all chapters worldwide met in Zanzibar under the headline Gendered Media Perspectives: Conflict, Covid and Climate Change.
The main plenary on the first day was Afghanistan after Taliban: Status of Women Journalists. The testimonies came from members of IAWRT Afghanistan in exile and online, Najiba Ayubi, Kreshma Fakhri, Somaia Walizadeh – and Abdul Basir Quraishi.
Reena Mohan from India and Elisabeth Eide from JMIC (online) also shared their experiences about the status of the Afghan journalists after Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. Sharmini Boyle of Internews Pakistan was also present online, and the book “Lives, Jobs, Homeland:Afghan Women Journalists Lose All” was launched.
Digital Safe House (DSH)for journalists at riskwas the focus of another session. Speakers were Colette Simonne Heefner of International Media Support (IMS), Oona Solberg of JMIC and Sue Onslow of Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Therese Patricia San Diego Torres told about the experiences of the pilot project DSH in the Philippines and Birgitte Jallov presented DSH Moldova. Also Greta Gober spoke; as the one who came up with the idea of a DSH originally.
Countdown to Climate Change was the title of another plenary discussion moderated by Michelle Ferrier, the new international president. JMICs Elisabeth Eide also participated online in this panel together with Lia Torres fromCenter for Environmental Concerns in the Philippines, Becky Bisong from Cameroon and Monica Magoke Mhoja and Maria Matui from Tanzania.
The outgoing IAWRT president and treasurer, Violet Gonda and Jola Diones-Mamangun presented their reports in the final session. Chapter reports from Afghanistan, Cameroon, India, Iraq-Kurdistan, Kenya, Nepal, Norway, Moldova, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, USA and the new IAWRT chapter in Sierra Leone followed. Different committees also shared their reports. The turned-over ceremony of the new IAWRT International Board was also one of the highlights of the conference.
The photojournalistic collaboration between Bangladeshi and Norwegian institutions was mentioned when Arve Ofstad presented his new book “Norway and Bangladesh A Fifty-Year Relationship 1971-2022” in Oslo 28 October.
Under the headline “Photojournalism – an important tool for the free press” the cooperation between the internationally renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam and his Pathshala South Asia Media Institute and the photojournalism education in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at OsloMet since 2003 is described:
“They have become familiar with and have adapted to other cultures and have been exposed to new challenges in participating countries. At the same time, they have learned new techniques and acquired an international network. In many countries, journalism is a vulnerable profession, and photojournalists can document events that others want to keep hidden.”
Several previous ambassadors were present when the Norwegian translation of the book was launched in Norad – Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in Oslo.
The current Norwegian ambassador to Bangladesh, Espen Rikter-Svendsen, drew the line back to 14 April 1972 in his opening. He also told about the ambitious celebration in Dhaka in the spring, when the English translation was launched.
State Secretary Erling Rimestad talked about the successful efforts to reduce poverty and the current challenges regarding freedom of expression and democracy in Bangladesh.
Executive Vice President Rita Skjærvik in Telenor emphasized their contribution to digital development in the country, one of the largest mobile markets in the world.
Environmental anthropologist Camelia Dewan presented her research about the containerships in Chittagong (now Chattogram), and emphasized green recycling.
Director General of Norad, Bård Vegar Solhjell, was born the same year as the cooperation between Norway and Bangladesh started. He pointed to the stunning development the country has gone through, and sees democracy and human rights, climate changes and the size of the Bangla economy as important in the years ahead.
“Safety of Journalists Training Program” was held in Istanbul on October 15-16, in cooperation with TOVAK (Turkish Social Services Foundation), TGS (The Journalists’ Union of Turkey) and JMIC-OsloMet.
The first day of the training was entirely allocated to Abeer Saady, one of the distinguished international safety experts working with JMIC. In a total of 4 sessions, interactive training content on how to stay away from violence and how journalists can protect themselves, and the risks and threats that reporters frequently face were discussed.
On the second day of the training, how journalists can also protect their mental health when applying for psychological support, and legal aspects of journalism safety and digital security were discussed in 3 separate sessions. All sessions had content covering both the offline and online safety of journalists.
The lessons were very productive thanks to the hands-on training method that allowed the participants to share their experiences and learn from each other. At the end of the 2-day training, most of the participants said that they found the training very satisfying, with reference to the awareness they gained on journalism safety and the practical knowledge they gained. In addition, they stated that they wanted to cover all their deficiencies in this regard with more detailed, longer-term training in the near future.
The safety handbook “What if…” by Abeer Saady is translated to Turkish. Abeer Saady was asked to do a safety training in Turkey when the book was launched by TGS before the summer, and she is invited back again.
The Faculty of Humanities, Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) (FCCU), in collaboration with the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and Journalism and Media International Centre (JMIC) at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) in Norway, hosted a three-day workshop on “Peace Journalism” on the topic of “Surviving the social media onslaught: Mainstream journalism, peace, and democracy in the transitional societies” in Lahore in Pakistan 11 – 13 October 2022.
If we agree with Marshal McLuhan in the slightest possible way, the advent of social media ushers is the dawn of a new phase in human civilisation. The rise of social media has taken the world by storm: online aggression, polarisation in human societies, populism, fake news, alternative truth, and many challenges outweigh the original euphoria of the arrival of the new saviour. There is no doubt about the positive influence of the social media: interactive discourse patterns, freedom to express ones views without any dependence on external gate keepers, voices for the voiceless, representation of the marginalised. All these but seem to be a lost cause amid the chaos created by echo chamber mentality through creating communities of consent. The public sphere is lost to the populist and the ‘unfinished project of modernity’ seems falling apart.
The three day peace journalism workshop on Surviving the Social Media Onslaught: Mainstream Journalism, Peace and Democracy in Transitional Societies was organised at Forman Christian College University, Lahore in collaboration with Journalism and Media International Center, OsloMet Norway from October 11 to 13, 2022. Head of the department of Journalism & Media Studies at OsloMet, Anne Hege Simonsen also participated in the Lahore workshop.
77 participants registered through a Google link, 51 of these were invited, while 45 successfully completed the workshop to win their certificates of participation. All universities offering mass communication degrees in Lahore were represented in the workshop. Participants from Multan in southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Peshawar and Swat), Karachi, and Islamabad also participated in the activity. Working journalists from Lahore and Peshawar were also among the participants. The workshop program was organised around four themes: theoretical concepts of peace journalism within the context of social media and preservation of democracy, practical journalists’ insights into the working of the social media dominated media structures in Pakistan, technological aspects of social media platforms’ perils and potentials, expertise from fields outside academic and practical journalism.
All the four thematic streams contributed to the understanding of the working of mediated societies in transition. The academic presentations of research projects gave an insight into the working of the research structures in Pakistan. These were mutually beneficial for the presenters and the audiences, the former getting valuable feedback from a well versed audience, while the latter having access to the latest developments.
The theoretical submissions were balanced by the experiences from the field. Working journalists gave their views on the practical impact of social media on their everyday working in the media. Views from outside the realm of peace studies and journalism came handy through inputs from counter insurgency and counter terrorism perspectives. It also made clear the distinction between the former and the latter two, peace studies being a social process, believing in the goodness and equality of humankind, while anything counter (insurgency or terrorism) serving as strategic responses by political structures used by state apparatuses, resting on the premise of a belligerent other within the same society.
Last but not least was the discussions on the ethical pitfalls in times of war. Truth being the first casualty of any aggression, leaving no victors. The presentation on visual literacy helped the audience to identify their own biases to move out of their personal utopias and become more self-reflective. The discussion on public sphere within the context of Juergen Habermas’ latest book were the highlight of how theoretical underpinnings could be used to practically develop a discourse.
Like all things human, the workshop deepened our understanding of the new media, the challenges and potentials it offers, and how to harness these independent energies for the betterments of human societies. The possibility of a global and shared idea of humanity is very much in sight. It is a vague path with no guarantees or milestones. The only way to explore is to keep moving forward and digging deeper to unearth the best possible option for peace and democracy through our feeble capacities as journalists and educationists.
In May, Norwegian and Palestinian students collaborated at OsloMet, investigating the conditions of press freedom in seven countries
The Rig on press freedom is a journalistic end-of-year-project that has been an annual happening for the first year journalism students at OsloMet for more than a decade.
Professor Elsebeth Frey and her colleague Mathias Falch have arranged the same project at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine in 2017 and 2019, and in May this year, Palestinians that participated in these workshops joined the Norwegian students during the Rig.
The Norwegians and Palestinians worked together in small groups with interpreters, writing news stories about the press freedom in Tanzania, Lebanon, Tunisia, South Africa, Austria, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
This is the first time OsloMet receives student visits from abroad during the Rig.
Marie Lauvdal collaborated with Reem Maree on an article about freelancers in Lebanon.
– It helped a lot when we were interviewing sources from Lebanon since Reem spoke Arabic. She also helped me translate various websites and videos, Lauvdal said.
Aziza Jaljouy worked with the Tanzania group.
– It makes you think about how different press freedom is in different countries, she said.
Read more about the Palestinians experience of the Rig:
On Tuesday 14 June JMIC (Journalism & Media International Center) at OsloMet presented a report on the development of Afghan journalism after the Taliban takeover in mid-August 2021.
The study is based on analysis of media content from six Afghan outlets, as well as interviews with prominent media leaders, and journalists still working inside Afghanistan. It is to our knowledge the most comprehensive report on this issue so far.
The event was addressed by:
H.E. Youssof Ghafoorzai, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Norway, Oddgeir Osland, Dean at the Faculty of Social Sciences, OsloMet, and Knut Olav Åmås, Director, Free Expression Foundation.
The report was presented by:
Elisabeth Eide (Professor Emerita, project leader), Hasina Shirzad (MA student, OsloMet), and Zahir Athari (researcher, UiO).
Other team members are postdoc fellow at OsloMet Mahmud Farjami as well as Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, Director of Nai-SOMA, a media watchdog in Afghanistan, who could not be present at the occasion.
The presentation was followed by comments from Mr. Sharif Hassanyar, previous Director of Ariana TV network in Afghanistan Kristian Berg Harpviken, Research Professor, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Responses from the authors and questions from the audience.
The event was streamed for those who could not attend physically.