Jason Rezaian (Continuación)

Rappler chief executive and executive editor Maria Ressa during a news conference in Manila on Monday. (Aaron Favila/AP)

On Monday, a court in Manila convicted Filipino American journalist Maria Ressa of something called “cyber libel.” Her case will have severe ramifications for press freedom not only in South Asia but around the world.

“Today a court in the Philippines became complicit in a sinister action to silence a journalist for exposing corruption and abuse,” Amal Clooney, Ressa’s London-based lawyer, said in a statement with co-counsel Caoilfhionn Gallagher. “This conviction is an affront to the rule of law, a stark warning to the press, and a blow to democracy in the Philippines.”

Clooney also called on the U.S. government to “take action to protect their citizen and the values of their Constitution.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Nearly three months into its coronavirus lockdown, India is continuing its transformation into one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t quite manage to pass legislation completely banning independent coverage at the outset of the pandemic, the journalistic climate has been steadily deteriorating regardless.

Small media outlets are suffering financially. Restrictions on movement prevent reporters from getting to the story. And any journalists who dare to question the Modi government’s official line face threats and intimidation. All this is eroding what was once one of the world’s most vibrant media landscapes.

While online attacks against prominent and critical voices with large social media followings have received growing international attention, other journalists working in remote corners of the country, who routinely face threats on their lives, get far less publicity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Many leaders around the world are itching to resume normal life after the devastating economic effects of the pandemic. Yet it is Iran, of all countries, that seems to be moving forward the most aggressively. This week it will be the first large country to resume many normal routines.

In February and March, Iran was hit particularly hard by the quick spread of the covid-19 virus. Its rapid spread caught Iranian society completely off guard, overrunning hospitals with tens of thousands of sick patients. Since then, authorities have implemented measures that slowed transmission rates.

Yet there is still widespread uncertainty about whether those measures justify the push to abandon lockdowns and other measures put in place to limit the spread.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranians wear protective masks and gloves while shopping at a street market for Nowruz, the Persian New Year holiday, in Tehran on Thursday. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Iranians are preparing to celebrate the biggest holiday of the year — even as they confront an expanding coronavirus pandemic. The combination is likely to result in calamity.

Nowruz, when Iranians mark the transition from winter to spring, is the equivalent of New Year’s and Christmas rolled into one. Most institutions in the country shut down for two weeks. Those who can afford it usually chose this time to travel. With foreign air routes mostly shut to Iran because of the virus, that travel was already destined to be almost entirely domestic. Many use the opportunity to make religious pilgrimages, which can result in huge crowds congregating at particular sites.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sometimes, extraordinary circumstances can yield diplomatic breakthroughs. We might be on the cusp of achieving that with Iran.

The coronavirus has hit the country particularly hard. Not only did the authorities lie for many days about the severity of the outbreak, which led to Iran becoming one of the global epicenters of the disease, but sanctions on the economy have also limited the country’s ability to adequately address the crisis.

It’s clear that Iran needs help and the United States and other developed countries could provide it. The Iranian regime is not known for being receptive to aid or advice from the international community — it has stubbornly stuck to its ideological guns through war, earthquakes, etc.…  Seguir leyendo »

Firefighters disinfect a shopping center in Tehran on Friday. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

On Friday, the Iranian government finally began to acknowledge what the world already knows: the covid-19 virus has hit that country extremely hard and it’s likely to get much worse.

In a televised news conference, the spokesman for Iran’s coronavirus task force announced that 4,700 cases of the virus have now been confirmed, including more than 1,200 in the previous 24 hours. The official death count stands at 124.

The ways in which key leaders’ responses differ from those of ordinary citizens tell you everything you need to know about the deepening gulf between the Iranian people and their government and how it might contribute to the spread of the disease.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s inept and dishonest response to the initial outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus is exacerbating an already dangerous situation. Now it is arguably threatening to spark a regional epidemic as well.

Under Iran’s theocratic rule, where human life holds little value, the state’s lackadaisical response was completely predictable.

On Monday, a member of Iran’s parliament claimed that the death toll from the virus in the region he represents has already reached 50 people, far surpassing the 12 deaths the country’s health ministry has confirmed.

His district, Qom, is the epicenter of the coronavirus in Iran.

As the country’s religious capital, home to many seminaries as well as an important Shiite pilgrimage site, Qom is a bustling city of over a million people that receives an estimated 22.5 million visitors each year.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iranian woman walks past election posters in Tehran on Thursday. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Friday, the Islamic Republic of Iran is holding parliamentary elections. Expect Iranians to use the moment to send a powerful message to their government.

Spoiler alert: It won’t be a vote of confidence.

The elections are taking place at a time of extraordinary volatility. Last year, a wave of massive street protests ended with the deaths of hundreds of Iranians. Authorities predictably blamed the unrest on foreign agitators.

Then, in early January, came the targeted killing of Iran’s most influential military commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

Days later, as the regime allowed civilian aircraft to fly during a retaliatory raid on U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Environmentalists are the latest target of crackdowns by a powerful yet paranoid faction of the Iranian regime that seems to believe that progress of any kind is a threat to the Islamic Republic’s national security. This assault on science is the most ridiculous of many such campaigns conducted by hardliners in the past, but the stakes, arguably, have never been higher.Several conservationists were arrested earlier this year. One of them — Kavous Seyed-Emami, a dual Iranian-Canadian national — died mysteriously after several weeks in custody. Iranian authorities say he died by suicide, but few are convinced.

His death rightly unleashed an uproar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran has long been a leader in the ugly industry of silencing journalists within and beyond its borders, but Saudi Arabia’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul earlier this month eclipses even Tehran’s depraved treatment of reporters.

Theoretically, the Saudis’ blunder could give Iran a rare opportunity to improve its international standing by correcting its abysmal record on free expression and distancing itself from the growing repression of the media by its Arab and Turkish neighbors.

Early indications, though, are that Iran is determined to continue its tradition of silencing reporters on the flimsiest charges. The detention of journalist Pouyan Khoshhal is the latest example.…  Seguir leyendo »

Reuters journalists Wa Lone, center, and Kyaw Soe Oo gesture as they prepare to leave the Insein township court in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sept. 3. They were both sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty of violating a state-secrets act while working on a story. (Lynn Bo Bo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Two journalists in Myanmar have been imprisoned for nearly a year for after exposing the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. But this isn’t just a story about press freedom. It also underscores some of the greatest challenges facing the relationship between governments and the people they govern.

“We’re seeing more and more laws that criminalize speech and increasingly zealous prosecution under those laws in many countries”, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney told me last week in New York. “Governments who are not well-meaning will do whatever they can get away with. So the question is: Is there a proper international response? Do they have something to fear?…  Seguir leyendo »

Even though Iran has long been involved in disinformation, it hasn’t exactly managed to distinguish itself in the field. Iranian propaganda is generally a mess.

That history offers a useful filter for this week’s revelations from Facebook, Twitter and now Google about Iran’s disinformation campaigns on social media.

Working with our industry peers today, we have suspended 284 accounts from Twitter for engaging in coordinated manipulation. Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran.

— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) August 22, 2018

A familiar paradox presents itself: The same country that shuns the notion of free expression at home is happy to turn other countries’ free media to its own benefit.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters in Tehran cheer for the Iranian national team during a screening of its World Cup match against Spain on June 20. (AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, 18 influential Iranian women living in the West, published an open letter to FIFA calling on the organization that governs international soccer to help put an end to a decades-old ban on women attending male sporting events in Iran.

The issue has become a major story line at this year’s World Cup being held in Russia, as women inside Iran push for the right to attend games freely. “The disconnect between the people of Iran and the government of Iran on this issue is glaring: Iran’s is a celebratory culture; even as the people face serious economic and political strains, they are jubilant as they watch their team,” the letter states.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Iran’s leading human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was arrested again. It was a reminder that President Hassan Rouhani is failing to deliver on many of the key reforms he promised when he was elected in 2013.

Writing on his Facebook page, Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, announced that “a few hours ago Nasrin was arrested at home and sent to the court at Evin [Prison].”

This family has been through all of this before. “I once told interrogators in the interrogation room: ‘Of all the things the authorities should do for their country, you only know one, and that is arresting people,'” Khandan fearlessly wrote in his post.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last weekend, as Nicaragua’s police brutally cracked down on protesters demonstrating against President Daniel Ortega, journalist Angel Gahona was presenting a related story on Facebook Live. During the middle of his report, a shot rang out. The image from his cellphone stopped working.

He had taken a bullet in the head. Shortly thereafter, he was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. Yet another journalist killed for doing his job — while doing his job — as the state of free expression around the world continues its downward spiral.

Today, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) releases its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, an annual review of 180 countries and their relationship with the media.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week three journalists were killed in rural areas of India. You probably haven’t heard much about their deaths — or their lives — since they all worked for small local outlets, covering powerful interests who may have decided it was easier to murder them than to face their questions.

Their killers are unlikely to face justice. The issues the three journalists covered so passionately will continue to plague Indian society. And observers will mourn the slow decline of free expression in the world’s largest democracy.

Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh were run over by a car in Bihar state. Sandeep Sharma, a television journalist in Madhya Pradesh, was riding his motorcycle when he was hit by a truck.…  Seguir leyendo »

People celebrate the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government as a way out of the political crisis during a rally in Bratislava, Slovakia, on March 16. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

A month after the grisly double murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, the aftershocks continue to reverberate throughout Slovakia, underscoring the country’s struggles with corruption but also the vital importance of the quest to uncover it.

The murders have been met with universal condemnation and outrage inside Slovakia and throughout the European Union. Kuciak was the first journalist ever to be killed for his work in Slovakia’s 25 years as an independent state. Until now, it had enjoyed a reputation as a country where expression was generally tolerated.

The report that Kuciak was working on — a meticulous account of the ties between government officials and an Italian mafia syndicate accused of defrauding the E.U.…  Seguir leyendo »

For years, staffers of the BBC’s Iranian-language services — and their family members back in Iran — have endured threats to their safety and liberty. Last week the BBC took extraordinary and unprecedented action. It filed a complaint with the United Nation Human Rights Commission on behalf of 152 employees of its Persian-language service against the government of the Islamic Republic, hoping to halt a systematic campaign to silence journalists.

The problem isn’t new. But the broadcaster decided it had to act publicly last November, after Iran’s judiciary moved in August to seize the assets of Persian Service staffers and blocked financial transactions between them and their family members in Iran.…  Seguir leyendo »