Tag Archives: Freedom of Press

The Outernet Lantern: a portable wireless library

20141112131846-lantern_maps

The Outernet Lantern.

One project I have been following very closely since its debut is Outernet: a satellite-based information retrieval system that promotes free–and anonymous–access to information. In a sense, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to shortwave radio in the digital realm, in terms of information access.

I first mentioned Outernet nine months ago; since then, it appears to have met or exceeded all of its development goals.

Yesterday, I received an email from the Outernet campaign regarding a product they have in development called “Lantern.” Outernet describes Lantern thus:

Lantern is an anonymous portable library that constantly receives free data from space.

[…]Lantern continuously receives radio waves broadcast by Outernet from space. Lantern turns the signal into digital files, like webpages, news articles, ebooks, videos, and music. Lantern can receive and store any type of digital file on its internal drive. To view the content stored in Lantern, turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot and connect to Lantern with any Wi-Fi enabled device. All you need is a browser…Here is a quick overview of how the system works:

1. Outernet continuously broadcasts data from space. Most of what we broadcast is decided by you. The rest is either part of our Core Archive (critical content, like educational material or disaster updates) or Sponsored Content. In every case, we tell you how the content got there. If it’s sponsored, we tell you who paid for it.

2. Lantern connects to the satellite signal. A receiver, such as Lantern, can be bought from Outernet, or we’ll show you how to build one yourself. Lantern can receive numerous types of signals from various satellites and frequencies. Lantern can be plugged into a satellite dish to receive data at an even faster rate (200 MB/day and up).

3. Connect your Wi-Fi enabled device to Lantern. Lantern’s Wi-Fi hotspot allows anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone to interact with Lantern’s content. Everything can be viewed in a browser, just like the Internet, except this is an “offline” version.”

20141112131925-Lantern_Diagram

With ETOW in mind, I’ve already pre-ordered a Lantern, supporting the project via IndieGoGo.  During the first 24 hours of the campaign, which started yesterday, the cost of a Lantern is $89 US.

If this interests you, too, watch the following video about Lantern and consider supporting the project at IndieGoGo:

China pays local radio and TV stations to broadcast their content

(Image source: BBC)

(Source: The Independent via Andy Sennitt)

“The BBC has warned that China poses a “direct threat” to its global reach by paying incentives to local broadcast companies to prioritise its state-funded CCTV service over other international networks.

Peter Horrocks, the Director of the BBC’s World Service Group, told The Independent that the BBC’s distribution network was in danger from the hugely-ambitious CCTV and its deep financial resources.

“What the Chinese do is to pay local radio and TV stations to take their content,” he said in an interview with The Independent. “If you are a poor TV station in Tanzania and someone from China comes along and says ‘Will you take this content in Swahili?’ then you are quite likely to take it – so it’s a real threat to the future of the World Service’s content.”

As shortwave radio has become less widely used, the BBC has become increasingly dependent on local distribution partners for its radio and television output in large parts of the developing world. Around 40 per cent of the BBC’s global content is distributed through such intermediaries. “Locally distributed content is a very significant proportion of our overall audience,” said Horrocks. The BBC either seeks payment for its programming or provides it for free.”

[Continue reading…]

CNN to stop broadcasts in Russia

CNN-International

Many thanks to Jonathan Marks who shares this breaking news item via BBC Monitoring:

CNN to stop broadcasting in Russia at end of year

Text of report by Russian state-owned TASS news agency (formerly ITAR-TASS)

Moscow, 10 November. Roskomnadzor [the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications] has nothing to do with the stopping of broadcasts by the TV news channel CNN International on Russian cable networks, Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonskiy has told TASS.

“You should ask CNN’s shareholders about the reasons why the channel is stopping broadcasts,” Ampelonskiy said.

A source who is familiar with CNN’s business in Russia told TASS that CNN is stopping broadcasts on Russian cable networks for commercial reasons.

CNN is distributed in Russia on the cable and satellite networks of operators of subscription television such as Akado, Vympelkom, NTV and others.

The fact that CNN will stop broadcasting on cable networks in Russia from 31 December 2014 is stated in a letter from Turner Broadcasting System Europe (CNN’s owner), a copy of which TASS has. “With this letter we inform you that Turner is stopping the distribution of the CNN International television channel on the territory of the Russian Federation from 31 December 2014,” the letter says. The letter does not give the reasons for the decision. Turner Broadcasting System’s managing director in the CIS, Tatyana Kalita, declined to comment.

Akado and Vympelkom confirmed to TASS that they had received the letter. “Yes, we received the letter. We hope that next year the channel will broadcast on the territory of Russia again,” Vympelkom’s press service said.

Source: TASS news agency, Moscow, in Russian 2142 GMT 10 Nov 14

Jonathan also points out this article, which links the cessation of CNN broadcasts to a new law Putin has enacted:

(Source: Advertising Age magazine)

CNN, the cable news channel owned by Time Warner, will stop broadcasting in Russia after a new law was passed that limits foreign ownership in media companies.
Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting division said it hopes to resume broadcasting eventually, according to an e-mailed statement. The move was first reported by Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper. CNN’s Moscow bureau operations are unaffected, according to the statement.

“Turner International is assessing its distribution options for CNN in Russia in light of recent changes in Russian media legislation,” Turner wrote in the statement. “We are bringing our existing distribution relationships to an end while we do that. We hope to re-enter the market in due course, and will notify our partners of any update about resuming these services.” 

Last month, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that requires Russian media with foreign owners to reduce non-Russian ownership to 20% by the end of 2016.

[Continue reading…]

Cameroon takes a note from Mugabe, shuts down 11 media outlets

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Cameroon (Source: CIA)

While I certainly can’t confirm they got the idea from Robert Mugabe, nonetheless, it seems more than coincidental that as Cameroon enters an election cycle, the government is closing down media outlets that journalists describe as critical of the current government.

(Source: VOA via Andy Sennitt)

Cameroon’s National Communications Council has closed down 11 newspapers, television and radio stations, for what it describes as disrespect of ethics and professional norms. But journalists say these private media outlets are being silenced because they are critical of the government.

On Friday morning, Cameroon’s state radio CRTV announced the suspension of three radio stations, a television station and seven newspapers.  The report said Cameroon’s National Communications Council also suspended a journalist and two publishers.

The journalists and media organs were accused of failing to respect professional norms and ethics. But Ngah Christian Mpipgo, publisher of the Guardian Post— one of the suspended newspapers — called the act an abuse of press freedom.

“I mean, I look at it as some kind of repression,” he said. “It is understood that the Guardian Post is too critical of government action, and then coming at a time when we are preparing for elections, I have to just conclude that it is a way of stopping us from exposing a well-planned government rigging machinery,” said Ngah.

The publisher said the law stated publishers should be informed and warned before any government sanctions were meted out.  But that was never done.

“We have never received a warning,” he said.

However, some journalists said the Communications Council had called on media practitioners to be more professional, but the calls were largely ignored.

Simon Lyonga, president of the Yaounde chapter of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, said that many of those working in Cameroon’s media industry were, in his word, quacks.

“We are in a profession where anybody comes in, they usually do not know the ethics of the profession and so go against it.  So I think if somebody is sanctioned for not respecting the ethics of the profession, to me [that] is not press censorship,” said Lyonga.

Some media outlets in Cameroon have published articles warning of alleged actions by the government to rig upcoming municipal and council elections in favor of the ruling party, Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement.

Kilian Ngalla, a journalist who has been closely observing these developments, said the closure of the media outfits could be interpreted as an initiative to silence critical voices.

“At a time elections are coming, it is curious that the government chooses this time to start banning press organs.  When you look at the composition of the National Communication Council, the president there is appointed by the president of the republic. And that director is executing the opinion of the head of state.  I think they are actually gagging the press,” he said.

The suspension order said that except for one radio station, the media outlets may be re-opened next month – after the September 30 elections.

I’ve added this article to a growing list tagged: Why Shortwave Radio?

Cambodia bans foreign radio in advance of elections

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

The Cambodian government has ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting foreign programs ahead of general elections in a move widely seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration on Tuesday asked all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the July 28 elections, saying the move was aimed at “forbidding” foreigners in Cambodia from campaigning for any group in the polls.

Local stations who flout the order face legal action.

“Upon receiving this directive, I would like to ask that all the directors of FM station to implement it accordingly,” acting Information Minister Ouk Pratna said in issuing the order.”If any station doesn’t follow this directive, the Ministry of Information will take legal action against it according to the existing law.”

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—will be barred from being aired under the directive.

Three other foreign broadcasters—the state-run Voice of Vietnam and China Radio International and French public radio station RFI—will not be affected as they operate their own stations in Cambodia.

Move ‘questions legitimacy’ of elections

The U.S. government immediately lodged a protest with the Cambodian authorities over the directive, saying it will throw in doubt the legitimacy of the elections, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is widely expected to win, enabling him to extend his 28 years in power.

The CPP has won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

“The directive is a flagrant infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is yet another incident that starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” John Simmons, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said in a statement.

“While Royal Government officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions, and other efforts to limit freedom of expression, will seriously call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process,” he said.

About 10 local FM stations carry Khmer programs by RFA, which also broadcasts on shortwave in Cambodia.

RFA said in a statement that it “remains committed to bringing objective, accurate, and balanced election coverage to the people of Cambodia at this critical time” and vowed that it “will do so on every delivery platform available.”

“The Ministry of Information’s directive doesn’t stem from complaints of programming irregularities, but rather is a blatant strategy to silence the types of disparate and varied voices that characterize an open and free society,” it said.

Beehive Radio

Mam Sonando, a Cambodian activist who runs the independent Beehive Radio and an ardent critic of Hun Sen’s administration, called the ban “illegal” and “childish” but added that he would comply with the order.

He said the order would hurt political parties scrambling to convey their messages to the people ahead of the elections.

Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, told RFA earlier this week that the Information Ministry is restricting overseas groups from buying airtime at Beehive Radio and had turned down requests to set up relay stations to beam to the provinces.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was puzzled by the Cambodian government’s suggestion of foreign meddling in the elections.

“There has been no history in Cambodia of foreigners participating on a partisan basis in elections,” said Brad Adams, executive director of Asia Division. “What this is really about is they don’t want foreigners coming in and observing the elections and then doing their job independently and professionally and then reporting their results.”

He said the Hun Sen government was trying to prevent reporting of events leading up to the elections.

“It’s about the fact that they know the elections are going to be very poor—they are structurally poor, they are poor in implementation and poor in practice and they don’t want this reported,” Adams said.

“The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that anymore. They can’t keep the eyes and ears of the world out. So, the reality is going to be reported.”

The Cambodian government has ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting foreign programs ahead of general elections in a move widely seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration on Tuesday asked all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the July 28 elections, saying the move was aimed at “forbidding” foreigners in Cambodia from campaigning for any group in the polls.

Local stations who flout the order face legal action.

“Upon receiving this directive, I would like to ask that all the directors of FM station to implement it accordingly,” acting Information Minister Ouk Pratna said in issuing the order.”If any station doesn’t follow this directive, the Ministry of Information will take legal action against it according to the existing law.”

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—will be barred from being aired under the directive.

Three other foreign broadcasters—the state-run Voice of Vietnam and China Radio International and French public radio station RFI—will not be affected as they operate their own stations in Cambodia.

Move ‘questions legitimacy’ of elections

The U.S. government immediately lodged a protest with the Cambodian authorities over the directive, saying it will throw in doubt the legitimacy of the elections, in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is widely expected to win, enabling him to extend his 28 years in power.

The CPP has won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

“The directive is a flagrant infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is yet another incident that starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” John Simmons, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said in a statement.

“While Royal Government officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions, and other efforts to limit freedom of expression, will seriously call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process,” he said.

About 10 local FM stations carry Khmer programs by RFA, which also broadcasts on shortwave in Cambodia.

RFA said in a statement that it “remains committed to bringing objective, accurate, and balanced election coverage to the people of Cambodia at this critical time” and vowed that it “will do so on every delivery platform available.”

“The Ministry of Information’s directive doesn’t stem from complaints of programming irregularities, but rather is a blatant strategy to silence the types of disparate and varied voices that characterize an open and free society,” it said.

Mam Sonando

Mam Sonando, a Cambodian activist who runs the independent Beehive Radio and an ardent critic of Hun Sen’s administration, called the ban “illegal” and “childish” but added that he would comply with the order.

He said the order would hurt political parties scrambling to convey their messages to the people ahead of the elections.

Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, told RFA earlier this week that the Information Ministry is restricting overseas groups from buying airtime at Beehive Radio and had turned down requests to set up relay stations to beam to the provinces.

Election reporting

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was puzzled by the Cambodian government’s suggestion of foreign meddling in the elections.

“There has been no history in Cambodia of foreigners participating on a partisan basis in elections,” said Brad Adams, executive director of HRW’s Asia division. “What this is really about is they don’t want foreigners coming in and observing the elections and then doing their job independently and professionally and reporting their results.”

He said the Hun Sen government was trying to prevent reporting of events leading up to the elections.

“It’s about the fact that they know the elections are going to be very poor—they are structurally poor, they are poor in implementation and poor in practice and they don’t want this reported,” Adams said.

Cambodian Center for Independent Media Director Pa Nguon Teang said the ban was aimed at curbing the views of the opposition in the country.

Freedom of the press has increasingly declined in the country, with reporters exposing government corruption and other illegal activity coming under deadly attack and facing death threats, including from the authorities, according to a rights group and local journalists.

Stifling ‘opposition radio’

Pa Nguon Teang felt the directive was specifically aimed at RFA and VOA.

“The ban intends to stifle the voice of RFA and VOA because the government has regarded the two stations as opposition radio stations,” he said, adding that by preventing local stations from carrying programs by the two entities, the government believes it can “silence” the opposition parties.

Local rights group Adhoc’s chief investigator Ny Chakriya said the ministry’s ban is “not based on any applicable laws,” pointing out that “it is illegal and can’t be enforced.”

“The ban is against the constitution because the constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, also called the move a violation of the constitution.

“Any order preventing media dissemination is against the constitution,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Vuthy Huot and Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Andy Sennitt (with Focus Asia Pacific) points out that VOA has many affiliate stations in Cambodia that will be affected. VOA still plans to broadcast election coverage on medium wave and shortwave, however.

If this sounds all too familiar, you might remember Zimbabwe’s radio ban earlier this year.