22 October 2008


Coverage of terrorism in Kazakhstan. National security in Malaysia. Privacy laws all over the world. These are just some of the topics that are being addressed by five new interim members to the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX).

This month, the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) in Malaysia, the London-based Exiled Journalists Network (EJN), Privacy International (PI) and Kyrgyzstan's Public Association "Journalists" (PAJ) join the 81-member-strong IFEX network as interim members.

ACM helps to cover an underrepresented region in IFEX. ACM, considered the premier regional organisation for Caribbean journalists, trains and networks journalists in the region. Over the past couple of years it has highlighted the issue of government withdrawal of state advertising to a major Guyanese newspaper, and the expulsion of two Caribbean journalists from Antigua and Barbuda - for what ACM believed to be political motives. See what else ACM has been up to here: http://www.acmediaworkers.com
CIJ is a partner of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, focusing on training, media defence and advocacy for journalists in Malaysia. These days, it has been busy campaigning for the overturning of the Internal Security Act (ISA), an anti-terrorism measure that allows for detention without trial. Just this September, blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, who gained infamy as the country's top blogger for his posts that criticise the government, was served a detention order for two years under the ISA. His detention will have "triple effects," says CIJ: sending a chilling message to other bloggers, preventing future whistleblowers from safely exposing a wrongdoing, and dampening the fervour of public discussion on critical issues. See: http://www.cijmalaysia.org
EJN, based in the U.K., is run by and for exiled journalists. It has recently announced plans to create Press Freedom House, a safe house in London modelled after the Maison des Journalistes in Paris, that gives new arrivals temporary accommodation and training - and a chance to adapt to life in the U.K. This year, EJN focused their annual Press Freedom Forum on censorship and state restrictions on press freedom in Belarus. See: http://www.exiledjournalists.net
London-based PI has been around since 1990, campaigning worldwide to protect people from surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations. PI has published around 30 major research reports, including "Freedom of Information around the World", a survey of freedom of information laws and practices in 70 countries - near the number of countries with FOI laws on their books. "Silencing Sources", which was released last year, found that governments worldwide are increasingly undermining the protection of journalists' sources, and journalists are paying the price with fines or jail time. See: http://www.privacyinternational.org
PAJ is IFEX's first member in Kyrgyzstan. PAJ was a key partner in the pioneering study "Political extremism, terrorism and media in Central Asia", an International Media Support-led project that found there is little linkage between coverage of extremism and a media's motivation to increase audience and revenue. Rather, the media in Central Asia tend to cover acts of terrorism and political extremism only when incidents occur - and with a neutral tone, "in order to avoid possible criticism from the government." PAJ hopes to increase its monitoring of free expression violations in Kyrgyzstan. See: http://www.monitoring.kg
The interim members must be confirmed as members at the next IFEX general meeting, scheduled for June 2009 in Norway. In the meantime, watch out for what the five new interim members are doing as their work is highlighted on the IFEX network.

(22 October 2008)

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