Issues & Analysis
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ON THE MEDIA: Violence Against Women Journalists Threatens Media Freedom

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage       IPS

A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

NEW YORK, Apr 28 2016 (IPS) – For women journalists, violence and intimidation don’t just happen in conflict zones, they are every day experiences.

“You don’t even have to be in a conflict zone to be violated anymore,” New York Times reporter and author of the Taliban Shuffle Kim Barker said Wednesday at the launch of a new book documenting the daily violence and harassment which women journalists experience.

After writing an opinion-editorial on her experience of sexual harassment in the field, Barker said that an online commenter called her “fat” and “unattractive” and told her that “nobody would want to rape you.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) chose to focus its 2016 edition of the Attacks on the Press book series on the gender-based online harassment, sexual violence and physical assault experienced by women journalists, because of the impact of this violence on press freedom.

“In societies where women have to fight to have control over their own bodies, have to fight to reassert their right in the public space—being a woman journalist is almost a form of activism,” said Egyptian broadcast journalist Rawya Rageh who also spoke at the launch.

Much of the abuse takes place online where attackers can hide behind the anonymity of online comments.

“Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard.” — Jineth Bedoya Lima.

According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Internet users have experienced some form of online harassment. Though men are also subject to harassment, online abuse towards women tends to be more severe, including sexual harassment and threats of violence.

For example, one journalist reported to the The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) that a troll had threatened to “human flesh hunt” her.

Alessandria Masi, a Middle East correspondent for the International Business Times, recalled the comments she received in an essay in CPJ’s book: “I have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army for writing an article that was critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and asked how many people I have to have sexual relations with to get my article published.”

Online abuse is a symptom of deep-seated and pervasive sexism, many note. University of Maryland Law Professor and Author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” Danielle Keats Citron stated that online gender harassment “reinforce(s) gendered stereotypes” where men are perceived as dominant in the workplace while women are sexual objects who have no place in online spaces.

But the threats do not just stay online, they also often manifest in the real world.

Deputy Editor of a Colombian Newspaper Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and raped in 2000 after exposing an underground network of arms trafficking in the country.

In 2012, after reporting on the dangers of female genital mutilation, Liberian journalist Mae Azongo received death threats including that she will be caught and cut if she does not “shut up.” She was forced to go into hiding with her nine-year-old daughter.

A year later, Libyan journalist Khawlija al-Amami was shot at by gunmen who pulled up to her car. Though she survived, she later received a text message warning her to “stop your journalism” or be killed.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) journalists also face similar threats, CPJ added. Most recently, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, was hacked to death in his home.

However, many do not report their cases.

“It was almost like this dirty little secret, you didn’t talk about it…because you had to seem like you were just like one of the guys,” Barker said. She pointed to Lara Logan’s case as the dividing point.

While covering the Egyptian Revolution for CBS, Logan was violently sexually assaulted by a mob of men. During an interview on “60 Minutes,” she described how she was pulled away from her crew, her clothes ripped off, beaten with sticks and raped.

When asked why she spoke out, Logan said that she wanted to break the silence “on what all of us have experienced but never talk about.”

One key reason that many journalists do not speak out is the fear of being pulled out of reporting because of their gender or sexual orientation.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Rageh to participants. “I don’t want to reinforce this idea of who I am or what I am is going to curtail my ability to cover the story, but of course there’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” she continued.

CPJ’s Vice Chair and Executive Editor of the Associated Press Kathleen Carroll noted that the threat of sexual violence has long kept women out of the field of journalism. But there are ways to handle such threats that do not lead to the exclusion of women, she said.

Carroll stated that good tools and training should be provided to journalists, both women and men alike. IWMFestablished a gender-specific security training, preparing women to be in hostile environments. This includes role-play scenarios, risk assessments and communication plans.

Effective, knowledgeable and compassionate leaders are also needed in news agencies in order to help staff minimize threats, Carroll added.

Panelists urged for reform, noting that women are needed in the field.

“The more women you have out there covering those stories, the more those stories get told,” Barker said.

In an essay, Lima also reflected on the importance of women’s voices, stating: “Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard. Our words can stir a fight or bury the hope of change forever.”

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DEVELOPMENT/ON THE MEDIA: IF IT HAD HAPPENED OVER HERE

How would it sound, if African media reported US elections in the same tone as Western media report on polls in Africa and elsewhere?

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Pressure is mounting on the Obama regime to allow international observers and peacekeepers after tribal violence marred election campaigns in the troubled north American nation.

In Addis Ababa, an emergency meeting was called by African leaders to demand a return to rule of law in America, after pro-regime militants attacked a rally addressed by popular opposition leader Donald Trump in Chicago.

“Unless America allows independent international groups to monitor the poll and for peacekeepers to move in and restore order, the poll is a sham and cannot be declared free and fair,” the African Union said.

America refuses to allow independent observers in, only inviting a small observer mission from the EU, a known crony of the regime. “We will only allow friendly states to observe our polls, not hostile nations that come here with predetermined positions,” the White House said.

Bloody clashes have been witnessed in St Louis, a city with a long history of tribal and sectarian conflict.

Raising fears of an escalation of tensions, Trump has threatened to mobilize his youth militia to disrupt the rallies of rival Bernie Sanders, an aging socialist candidate.

Explaining the weekend’s clashes, America experts – based at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, Southern Africa – say Illinois has longstanding, deep-seated ethnic and sectarian tensions that are sure to boil over if the Obama regime does not allow UN peacekeepers before the hotly contested polls in November.

Witnesses said the militants bused in to attack the Trump rally could be heard chanting “Alright”, a racially charged anthem popular among the minority black tribes. The rap song is by Kendrick Lamar, a radical dissident musician from the restive enclave of Compton.

African leaders have also urged contestants to end hate speech and tone down on any rhetoric likely to incite violence. They cited hate speech by Marco Rubio, a member of the Cuban tribe, targeted at Trump’s manhood. Critics say such remarks may lead to an escalation of tensions and cause violence.

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The election has also been marred by reports of widespread voter fraud. Sanders has complained of voter fraud after a controversial narrow loss in the Iowa region to party rival Hillary Clinton, wife of former regime leader Bill.

Trump himself has claimed voter fraud in the region of Florida, raising serious concern in the international community about the credibility of the forthcoming poll.

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There are also concerns over blatant attacks on media freedom. The International Committee for the Protection of Journalists condemned attacks on journalists during the campaign. One reporter covering the violence had been arrested, in a clear attempt by the regime to cover up the sham poll.

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Trump is appealing to nationalist sentiment by accusing the Obama regime of allowing too many immigrants through the country’s porous southern border. His nationalist message has resonated with many among the majority white ethnic group, and especially with the red neck tribes of the impoverished southern parts of the country.

Amid surging support for Trump, many leaders of the Republican Party are plotting to disregard the votes of party supporters and block Trump’s candidacy.

“Republican party leaders must accept the will of the people,” the African Union said in a statement.

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Nod to Joshua Keating’s hilarious “If it happened there” series on Slate.

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DEVELOPMENT: Secret aid worker: is humanitarian work a career for escapists?

By:       23 February 2016      TheGuardian

The grass is always greener elsewhere for western expats, says one development worker.

‘Many of the aid workers I met seemed to be trying to escape something but not quite succeeding.’ Photograph: Narendra Shrestha/EPA

If I had to describe the western expat aid workers I’ve worked with in one word, it would have to be ‘hyper’. Most of the time they’re running around the office – hardly ever on the ground in the communities they’re meant to work in – checking, controlling, advising, shouting, trying to help, working late into the night. I’ve seen locals stare at them like they are a TV show on fast forward.

My first real field experience was in Nepal, in a village in the middle of nowhere, where I shared a flat with Nepalese colleagues. We had a rule that there would be no work talk after 6pm – and we all stuck to it. The village was tiny and there was nothing else to do other than having dinner and a couple of beers once a week in the only local restaurant. I was always careful not to drink too much and shock my Nepalese colleagues.

Kathmandu, on the other hand, was a different world. I’d travel there every couple of months to dive into the real expat world – the hyper one, as I would call it. Almost all the expats I met there were Europeans or Americans, always on a sort of high from their field experience. Even after 9pm, they couldn’t stop talking about work, issues they encountered, failed aid, and how things could be improved. I hardly heard of their families and friends there or back home.

Don’t get me wrong – sitting in a pub and talking to people who shared cultural references with me was great. But I couldn’t help think that the high concentration of expats was rather weird. All of them were full of energy until their last drink – alcohol seemed the only way to get them to turn off. They would find any possible way to invent a crazy adventure – such as hiring a rickshaw at 3am for the equivalent of the average Nepalese weekly wage, driving it drunk and risking their lives in doing so. They were teenagers on a trip to Nepal by night, slightly cocky aid workers by day.

After Nepal, I travelled to a number of other countries, mainly staying in capital cities, and while I encountered some expats who had really tried to integrate into their host communities, most of the rest lived completely detached lives from the country they were working in. You know the stereotype; they have a fancy house with a cook and guards, earn twice as much as the yearly local GDP in a single month, and sneak off to parties at the UN compound during curfew hours.

I sound judgmental here because this is not how I’d like a foreigner to live in my country when they come to help or support. I understand they need to decompress, particularly when working in an emergency setting, but how you do that is something I have always questioned.

What I also found weird is that most of these men and women seemed unhappy. Whining is a favourite sport of the usual expat: everything in the management is wrong, the office is not right, things do not work in the organisation, in the system, in the country, in the world.

They all seemed to be trying to escape something but not quite succeeding. Everything needed to be fixed constantly, no matter if it was work, the home, the friendship or the relationship. No matter where you were or what was improving, the grass was always greener on the other side – hence the constant need to hop to another disaster, another country.

Of those I became closer to, I often learned of incredibly painful family histories, and saw little recognition that they might be escaping one desperate situation to solve another distant one – one with people they could never really get attached to.

For many aid workers, returning home too is difficult. Whenever an aid worker friend of mine returns home from Somalia to southern France he feels like fleeing: family reunions and shopping malls give him panic attacks.

This is not unusual. When I returned home, I also wondered if I had actually been one of the hyper aid workers I’ve just described, looking for an escape. It took me two years to finally stop dreaming about Afghanistan or Congo, to withdraw from the adrenaline, the high you get, and the constant feeling of having to fix anything I could see. It also took me the same amount of time in therapy to realise I could live back home, face some of my issues and even enjoy a gentler pace of life without trying to prove myself all the time.

Of course, there are many aid workers who might not always have been like the expats who frustrated me. But more recently I’ve started wondering whether for some, choosing a career as an aid worker might be the hidden symptom of earlier trauma in life and not solely the beginning of an adventure. They can’t deal with their own issues, so they make it their mission to desperately try to put a stop to everyone else’s pain.

Do you have a secret aid worker story you’d like to tell? You can contact us confidentially at globaldevpros@theguardian.com – please put “Secret aid worker” in the subject line. If you’d like to encrypt your email to us, here’s instructions on how to set up a PGP mail client and our public PGP key.

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ON THE MEDIA: If It Happened There: Death of Hard-Line Jurist Throws Regime Into Chaos

By Joshua Keating    FEB. 17 2016   Slatest 

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Antonin Scalia, wearing the traditional black robes of his office.

WASHINGTON, United States—The unexpected death of a hard-line conservative jurist on America’s constitutional court has exposed deep fissures within the ruling regime and threatens to throw the country’s fragile political system into months of chaos.

The nine unelected justices who sit for lifetime terms on the Supreme Court are tasked with ensuring that laws passed by the democratically elected government don’t violate the ancient juridical texts upon which the country’s laws are based. As such, they wield immense powers and have the ability to overrule even the president himself. The aged, scholarly jurists, cloaked in long black robes, conduct their deliberations behind closed doors, shielded from the scrutiny of the media, and their most important decisions are often released to the public with great drama but little warning.

Respected by both allies and enemies, Antonin Scalia was a religious fundamentalist and fierce ideologue known for his stylish and original readings of the ancient texts. He led a movement within the court that supported adhering closely to the principles of the nation’s founding revolution, even as many laws have appeared out of step with the values of the modern world. He and his acolytes have often stood in the way of dissidents’ efforts to use the American legal system to seek increased rights for women, gays, and ethnic minorities.

Hard-liners have held a narrow majority on the court until now, but Scalia’s death threatens to tip the balance of power and has set up the latest in a long-running series of confrontations between President Barack Obama and his opponents in the legislature. Obama was elected as a moderate reformer in 2008, pledging to improve America’s relations with the outside world and deliver economic growth. While he has had success in some areas, opposition from the hard-liners controlling the legislature and judiciary has often thwarted his ambitions. For instance, in December, Obama signed a historic agreement with world powers to cut America’s controversial carbon emissions, but many skeptical observers questioned whether he actually had the power to enforce the international community’s demands in the face of staunch opposition from Scalia and his fellow hard-liners on the court.

Obama likely now hopes to replace Scalia with a reformist judge that will support his agenda, though even the most moderate reformer could be unacceptable to powerful hard-liners like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. While normally a straightforward process, the naming of a new justice has been complicated this time by the country’s impending presidential election. Obama is prevented by law from seeking a third term and the hard-liners hoping to recapture the country’s executive compound are demanding that Scalia’s seat be left open until the electorate can choose a new president.

Both sides of America’s traditional political divide are under more pressure than usual this time around. Any compromise by the conservatives in the legislature could benefit the surging ultra-nationalist, far-right campaign of television performer Donald Trump, considered a threat to the establishment across the political spectrum. Obama is likely hoping to hand power to his former foreign secretary Hillary Clinton, a member of the powerful Clinton clan, but radicals within his own coalition have broken off to support the far-left populist campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, known for his scathing attacks on the political influence of America’s ruling oligarchs. The court has abetted this influence with some controversial recent decisions, which Sanders has vowed to overturn.

Outside observers hope that the crisis can be resolved soon. With a divided and short-handed court unable to issue definitive decisions, it’s possible that certain laws may be interpreted differently by lower courts in different regions of the country. Rural areas where the strictest form of political Christianity hold sway may push for restrictions on abortion and on the availability of birth control in accordance with traditional beliefs, in contrast with the coastal urban population centers where such practices are more culturally accepted.

Confusingly, both sides of America’s political divide claim that they are upholding the values of the revolution. If the court continues to be unable to act as the final authority in these disputes, that will only deepen political divisions at a time when unease and violent unrest are already rampant.

But American legal scholars disagree on what the ancient texts say should be done in this situation, and the confrontation is likely to drag on for some time.

(Thanks to @Arabist for the inspiration.)

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DEVELOPMENT: Secret aid worker: who will save the white saviours from themselves?

I see subtle forms of racism all around me. Others call it charity

‘This is Africa’ has become an excuse to do what we damn well please. Photograph: Matthew Simmons/WireImage

When one lives surrounded by well-intentioned, yet gravely mistaken colonialists, missionaries and aid workers, you settle into a jaded state fairly quickly. I live in a town full of westerners who don’t integrate. Fraternising with the natives is next to unheard of – unless, of course, you are sleeping with them. There are western restaurants, and local ones. The signs outside don’t say “no blacks allowed” but the prices do.

Many westerners come to my town to adopt an African child, yet hate Africa. They complain about the circumstances and culture for as long the adoption takes before they whisk their new child off to the land of the free and the brave.

I have seen this interaction labeled as a form of the modern day slave trade. It seems extreme to parallel the two. Adoption can be healing for so many children. However, more often than not westerners are coming and buying children at an exorbitant price. Children that are adopted internationally are often not the ones that truly need it, and more importantly they are not given a choice in the trauma that comes from uprooting one’s entire culture and identity. Instead, through their new parents’ actions and attitudes, they are told that Africa is a bad place and in need of saving. Some even grow to resent their own roots, thinking their biological family and country of origin failed them.

The evidence is right in front of us. It is racism. Yet we call it charity. We tie it with a big, red “Jesus loves you and so do I” bow and pat ourselves on the back. Our actions are reckless. Most give little thought to those we are “helping”, “serving” or, worse of all, “saving”. We are set on our own agenda of self-gratification.

We post on social media about the gallant acts of saving Africa – one child at a time. We post victims of rape, child abuse, and worse, all in the name of “sharing the heartache and heartbreak of Africa”. Because Jesus wants you to know about this broken place.

I worry that in Christian aid worker circles the lack of regulations and the exaltation of the white saviour complex is the perfect storm for a development disaster. Standards that most aid organisations hold themselves to do not apply to missionaries, simply because they believe they have been sent by God. Who needs degrees when one has been called and commissioned? This belief drives those who are ill-equipped to travel here to “save” others, an act applauded back home, but those living in poverty deserve better.

We know how large Africa is, yet we know that our admirers in our home countries don’t. We spoon feed them the story of a broken, yet beautiful, continent (or country depending on your cultural intelligence) knowing they will hang on our every ostentatious word.

While this is racism, in this form it is harder to detect. There are no sit-ins, protests or rallies. We have made it seductive, sexy even, through victimising those we are helping.

Instead, our white guilt has fashioned this new face of racism, equally as dangerous and scarily subtle. Often the beneficiaries of our aid and mission sit idly by because they know speaking out could cost them their job, their support, their stability. To brush aside this as an issue is the epitome of what racism is.

In this town of more than 100 NGOs I know of only a handful who are respectful to local staff. If we are truly here to help we should support our local staff to be leaders, who can stand up to foreigners without fear that they might lose their income or supportive services.

The day I knew I had succeeded was the day my staff told me I was wrong. I had the humility that day to listen – I hope this is something other aid workers can do.

This article was amended on 26 April 2016 to remove personal details.

Do you have a secret aid worker story you’d like to tell? You can contact us confidentially at globaldevpros@theguardian.com – please put “Secret aid worker” in the subject line. If you’d like to encrypt your email to us, here’s instructions on how to set up a PGP mail client and our public PGP key.

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ON THE MEDIA: Reporting on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

11 April – 15 April       Reuters

Course closed for applications.

The global trade in human beings is bigger today than at any time in history. Estimates of the numbers of people caught in modern slavery vary from 21 million to 36 million in an industry worth more than $150 billion in illegal profits a year. It’s one of the biggest stories of our time. Yet a lot of reporting on trafficking and forced labour is mired in cliché, myth and misconception. It often lacks nuanced understanding of the causes of the scourge and the tools to fight it.

Thomson Reuters Foundation’s one-week Reporting on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery course in Mumbai is a unique chance for journalists in India to gain practical skills and knowledge in a country that is home to some 14 million of the world’s modern slaves. Participants will also have access to a high-profile Newsmaker event that is likely to generate headlines.

With support from the C&A Foundation, the workshop offers a combination of specialist expertise and hands-on training, with an emphasis on producing high-impact stories for widespread dissemination.

As well as coming away with a deep understanding of the scale, nature and causes of the problem, participants will learn about efforts to set global standards for combating modern slavery, including fundamental conventions, international instruments and a new, legally binding protocol that requires countries to take real action.

They will discuss the role of media in raising awareness, reducing vulnerability and holding to account governments, law enforcement and businesses. Attendees will look at innovative approaches to fighting trafficking and forced labour and scrutinise the quest for integrated policy responses across borders.

A major focus will be on the ethics of reporting slavery, from how to interact sensitively with traumatised survivors to getting past journalists’ own preconceived notions and stereotypes. We will cover safety issues, particularly when it comes to dealing with sources and reporting on organised crime.

This is an opportunity to pick the brains of reporters who have done extraordinary investigative work or groundbreaking reportage that has changed policy, provoked public outcry or brought traffickers to justice. Attendees will also spend time with experts and those at the coal face of the anti-slavery movement, including some who have been trafficked themselves and gone on to help others move from “victims” to “survivors”.

The workshop will be led by Timothy Large, former director of media development at Thomson Reuters Foundation. Prior to that, he was editor-in-chief of the Foundation’s award-winning news services covering the world’s under-reported stories, including humanitarian issues, human rights, corruption and climate change. Before that, he was a Reuters correspondent.

COURSE DETAILS:

Start date: Apr 11, 2016

End date: Apr 15, 2016

Location: Mumbai, India

Application deadline: Mar 07, 2016

ELIGIBILITY:

Applicants must be Indian full-time journalists or regular contributors to broadcast media organisations in India. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a commitment to a career in journalism in their country, must be a senior journalist with a minimum of three years’ professional experience and have a good level in spoken and written English.If you have been on a Thomson Reuters Foundation training programme within the last two years you will not be eligible to apply.

FUNDING:

Thomson Reuters Foundation can fund  travel expenses and accommodation for participants travelling from outside Mumbai. This arrangement is subject to variation. If you have any questions please email: TRFMedia@thomsonreuters.com

SUBMISSIONS:

A biography of up to 250 words outlining your career

Two recent examples of your published work, preferably relevant to the course for which you are applying, with a brief summary in English (if necessary). TV/Radio journalists can send in their scripts and a brief summary.

A statement of between 250 and 500 words describing any factors affecting your work as a journalist. Explain how you hope to benefit from the course for which you are applying.

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AFGHANISTAN: As Afghan war escalates, schools forced to close

Afghanistan School Security

FILE — In this Jan. 13, 2016 file photo, an Afghan teacher, in brown, helps school children run from the site of clashes near the Pakistan consulate in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. One of Afghanistan’s proudest achievements has been getting millions of children, especially girls, back into school since the toppling of the Taliban, but that gain is crumbling across the south and in other war-torn parts of the country. Hundreds of schools have been forced to shut down because of fighting or Taliban intimidation. (AP Photos/Mohammad Anwar Danishyar, File)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — One of Afghanistan’s proudest achievements has been getting millions of children, especially girls, back into school since the toppling of the Taliban. But that success is crumbling across the south and in other battleground areas of the country, where hundreds of schools have been forced to shut down.

Sometimes the cause is fighting, sometimes it’s intimidation from the Taliban.

Sometimes it’s both, as in the case of the Loy Manda high school in southern Helmand province, part of the Taliban heartland. When the Taliban waged an offensive last winter, the school in the Nad Ali district was caught in the fighting between the militants and Afghan government forces.

“We had six rooms, books, chairs, but now everything is destroyed,” said Hekmatallah, the headmaster, who like some Afghans goes by one name.

He’s working toward reopening, but he had to get permission from the Taliban or else face their retaliation. They said they would allow it, if only boys attend — no girls — and if they are only taught a curriculum meeting the Taliban’s hard-line version of Islam. Taliban mines from the time of the fighting still surround the school, and government forces are stationed just 40 yards (meters) from the school — a potential target for extremist attack.

Between the damage and the danger, none of the school’s 650 students can attend.

That’s the fate for an increasing number of children in the battlezone regions of Afghanistan. In 2015, 615 schools in the country’s 11 most volatile provinces had to close because of violence, according to the Education Ministry. That was on top of the around 600 schools that remained shut down from the year before in those areas.

Almost half the 2015’s school closures were in the final months of the year as the Taliban did not take their customary winter break. Violence escalated across the warmer southern provinces, which were the hardest hit by closures, ministry’s spokesman Mujib Mehrdad said. Last year, 105 of Helmand’s 545 schools shut down, and in neighboring Kandahar, the figure was 150 of 545 schools The heaviest closures were in nearby Zabul, where more half the province’s schools — 140 out of 242 schools — shut their doors.

The United Nations counted 25 students, teachers and other school staff killed in Taliban attacks or crossfire in 2015. In eastern Nangarhar province, the Islamic State group seized control of several districts near the border with Pakistan and terrorized women and girls, banning them from school and work, and in some case forcing them into marriage, according to residents who fled the area.

But extremists’ ideological hatred of the schools and girls’ education is not the only cause of school shutdowns. Human Rights Watch, the New York-based monitoring group, says the Afghan military continues to deploy weaponry in or around schools in battleground areas and uses them as fixed firing positions, even after President Ashraf Ghani banned the use of schools as military bases last year.

That puts children at “grave risk of attack by insurgents who then see schools as military targets,” HRW’s Afghanistan researcher Ahmad Shuja said.

During their time ruling Afghanistan in the 1990s until their overthrow in the 2011 U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban banned girls from school and mandated that boys learn the Quran by rote. Once they fell from power, schools and universities welcomed women back as teachers and students. With funding from the international community the number of children in school grew from 900,000 in 2001 to 8.3 million in 2011, according to figures from the U.N. assistance mission to Afghanistan. UNAMA says girls account for 39 percent of the total — up from near zero under the Taliban.

But in districts where the Taliban have regained control or have enough power to intimidate residents, they have returned to barring girls from the classroom and dictating curriculum for the boys.

In Helmand, where the Taliban control smuggling routes for drugs and other contraband, heavy fighting in recent months has put a number of schools like Loy Manda on the front line of the war, said the head of the provincial education department, Abdul Matin Jafar. In Gereshk district, he said, the education department building was attacked by insurgents, “was completely destroyed and now we have no office there to operate from.”

Mohammad Mosa took his children out of their school in Nad Ali soon after the fighting started, and sent them to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, not just for their safety but to ensure a well-rounded education. The Taliban had told parents in the district that they could re-open the school on condition they hire one of the militants to ensure that only Islamic subjects were taught, he said.

“Our kids were terrified of going to school as both sides are firing rockets, destroying our neighborhood,” Mosa said.

Even temporary school closures result in lower attendances, particularly by girls, once classes resume. In the northern city of Kunduz, which was besieged by the Taliban in October, at least three schools were commandeered by the armed forces for use as bases. False reports were carried by the local Tolo television station that Taliban had entered a Kunduz University women’s dormitory and raped residents during their assault on the city in September. As a result, fewer women returned to their studies once the city was cleared of insurgents, the school’s dean Abdul Qudus Zarifi said.

The HRW report said that girls “often bear the brunt of these disruptions because parents are wary of sending daughters to schools occupied by armed men.”

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DEVELOPMENT: Expat wages up to 900% higher than for local employees, research shows

A survey of 1,300 local and expat workers found a wage gap that ranges from 400-900% and causes significant resentment among local workers

A perception of inequality between local and expat workers causes resentment and disillusionment. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Imagine finding out that your colleagues earn five times more than you. Not only that, but they get all sorts of benefits you’re not eligible for.

They take a month of leave; you get 12 days. Your employer pays for their accommodation, health insurance and even their children’s school fees; you don’t get any of that.

But you have comparable skills and qualifications. You do the same work. In fact, you understand the context of your work better than your higher-paid colleagues.

So why are they earning so much more than you? What if you found out it was simply because of your nationality?

In the humanitarian aid and development sector, this is the reality. Local staff are paid far less and receive fewer benefits than their expatriate colleagues, even when they do similar work and have similar qualifications.

We’ve studied the effects of the wage gap between local and international staff working in lower-income countries in an ESRC-funded project called Addup (Are Development Discrepancies Undermining Performance?). We call this differential treatment the dual salary system.

Expatriates are often quick to dismiss dual salary systems as a non-issue. But local workers told us a different story. They said disparities created significant feelings of workplace injustice. They felt less valued than their expatriate colleagues.

Wage disparities are often a taboo topic, especially when power relations are involved. Socially responsive and accountable research such as the Addup project can “speak truth to power”. This is especially important because differential treatment between international and local aid workers may undermine international aid programs.

She warns that large pay gaps “may be undermining poverty-reduction initiativesbefore they even reach the community”.

The OECD wants wealthy countries to spend 0.7% of their gross national income on foreign aid. While the UK met this target two years ago and enshrined it in law, Australia’s aid budget has been slashed. The Lowy Institute says the former Abbott government’s cuts to foreign aid were the largest ever and will mean Australia’s aid expenditure falls to just 0.22% of gross national income.

With the aid program already under pressure, the negative effects of pay disparities may be making it even more difficult for programs to achieve their goals.

Causes of the wage gap

The wage and benefits gap cannot be explained by differences in experience or skills. Addup compared local and expatriate workers doing similar work with equivalent skills and experience. Rather, dual salaries exist because expatriates originate from higher-income economies and labour markets.

Appropriately enough perhaps, dual salaries are popularly referred to in some Pacific countries as “economic apartheid”. Having this kind of nomenclature in the aid sector is ironic considering its poverty-reduction aim.

The dual salary system is a difficult structural inequity that makes it hard for many workers in aid and development – both local and international staff alike – to work together, support each other and achieve project goals.

How big is the gap?

Our research measured the size of the wage gap and its effects on workers in six lower-income countries: India, China, Malawi, Uganda, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

We surveyed nearly 1,300 local and expatriate workers from around 200 organisations. These organisations were drawn from the aid, education, government and business sectors of the six countries. Participants worked in a range of job roles, from teachers, to engineers, to doctors and managers, with expertise in areas such as microfinance, child labour, program administration and much more. The organisations draw aid funding from governments and donors around the globe.

Across the Addup sample, local staff were paid four times less on average than their international counterparts. This was despite having similar education and experience. In Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, the average rose to nine. In individual cases the difference was far greater. Alarmingly, 80% of local workers said that their pay was not sufficient to meet their everyday needs.

Disparities are not limited to salaries. They include accommodation allowances, vehicles, household staff, school fees, insurance and other benefits. These commonly form part of expatriate packages that are not available to local staff.

And while Addup is to date perhaps the most detailed study of pay disparities in the humanitarian sector, research from the corporate sector has had similar findings. A study of local and expatriate managers in multinational companies in Singapore, for example, found salary disparities were causing resentment and dissatisfaction among local managers.

The Singaporean study found that dissatisfaction relating to disparities ultimately reduces productivity and encourages high staff turnover.

Local brain drain

Our research also found that dual salary systems were contributing to a brain drain because talented local staff often leave their home countries for higher-paying jobs overseas.

This may make it hard for the humanitarian sector to achieve its goals of building capacity in aid recipient countries and increasing local ownership of development initiatives.

So what is the solution? Many NGOs are aware of the issue and concerned about it. Together with NGO umbrella organisation CHS Alliance (formed by the merger of Hap International and People in Aid) and Birches Group, we are working to develop evidence-informed good practice in the domain of sustainable livelihood and living wages for aid and humanitarian workers.

This partnership named ProjectFair hopes to identify wage policy options that align with local workforce aspirations and can ensure sustainable human services in the aid and development sector.

The new round of global development goals – the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – has highlighted the importance of decent work, reducing inequality and enabling sustainable livelihoods for the eradication of poverty everywhere.

If the SDGs are to avoid the criticisms of their predecessors, the millennium development goals, we will need to vertically integrate global goals with local, everyday workplace practices. This project, focused as it is on everyday workplaces and organisational policies, is an example of that kind of process, in an area we can all make a difference.

Stuart C Carr ia a lecturer in the industrial and organisational psychology programme at Massey University in New Zealand. Ishbel McWha-Hermann is an early career fellow in international human resource management at the University of Edinburgh

This article was originally published on the Conversation. Read the original articlehere.

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ON THE MEDIA: VR Becoming an Actual Reality for Documentarians

By: CASEY FREEMAN HOWE      APRIL 18, 2016      IDA

From Condition One’s 'In the Presence of Animals' (Dirs.: Danfung Dennis, Casey Brown, Phil McNally). Photo: Casey Brown. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

From Condition One’s ‘In the Presence of Animals’ (Dirs.: Danfung Dennis, Casey Brown, Phil McNally). Photo: Casey Brown. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Following a brief test run in the 1990s, virtual reality has rapidly taken hold over the past few years as a potent tool for exploring the possibilities of storytelling—first among the gaming community, then among such early adaptors as Nonny de la Pena, who started in journalism. The Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and SXSW have all incorporated VR programming into their respective new media mixes, and the medium hit the mainstream in Fall 2015 when The New York Times distributed Google Cardboard viewers to 1.5 million subscribers to experience what The Old Gray Lady has to offer through the double lens.

But what goes into producing and editing these VR projects? How far removed is the process from the skill set required for making “flatties”? Documentary tracked down some of leading purveyors of this new form to share their experiences and the specific challenges of working in this immersive medium.

Danfung Dennis, founder and CEO of Condition One.

Danfung Dennis, founder and CEO of Condition One.

For Danfung Dennis, former war photographer and an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker for his documentary Hell and Back Again, virtual reality is a natural transition. “I’m following in the tradition of bearing witness to suffering,” says Dennis. “It’s been a continuation from photojournalism to documentary film and now into virtual reality.”

His VR production company, Condition One, is currently circulating a number of pieces. For each of these, the goal is to create “presence”—the feeling of being at the scene. But how to achieve and describe that presence? That’s something documentary filmmakers working in VR are still experimenting with.

“We’re no longer trying to work within a frame,” says Dennis. “So the techniques and the storytelling, the cinematography, the editing—all of that’s for a flat frame. That frame is now gone. So, while I still think the sense of ethics and the [documentary] methods are still valid, the actual techniques of storytelling are very different. We’re now thinking a lot more about space and proximity to the viewer.”

From Condition One’s 'In the Presence of Animals' (Dirs.: Danfung Dennis, Casey Brown, Phil McNally). Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

From Condition One’s ‘In the Presence of Animals’ (Dirs.: Danfung Dennis, Casey Brown, Phil McNally). Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Dennis conceptualizes that space in concentric rings of near field, medium field and far field. “Far field is important to establish the sense of place,” he explains. “Medium field adds depth and cues that this is a real environment. But the near-field presence, which is the hardest to capture, is what evokes this powerful sense at a deep level of your brain that this is real.”

He explains that though the near-field environment has the most payoff in terms of presence, it is also the most difficult to execute technically, mostly due to seams and shadows. But like any documentary medium, Dennis believes that viewers are willing to forgive some imperfect shots if the content is powerful.

For example, In the Presence of Animals, one of Condition One’s experimental short pieces, contains a key moment where a bison walks directly up to the camera and the viewer can see its eye and experience the immensity of the animal. “It’s one of the most broken shots we’ve ever put out,” Dennis admits. “The exposure changes, the seam changes, it disappears for a second. But in the end it didn’t really matter because people, when they came out, just said, ‘I was next to this massive bison.’ They weren’t saying, ‘Oh, I saw the seams, or I saw this, or I saw a tripod.’ There’s no way to remove a shadow from a moving animal. And so you see the tripod shadow fall on the animal. These are all things that would be nice if we could completely remove them, but if the presence is there, you can get away with a lot of those errors. But that said, we were really aiming for the highest-quality stitching and seamless images without any of those small image-quality errors.”

From Gabo Arora and Chris Milk’s 'Waves of Grace', commissioned for Vrse.works by the United Nations. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

From Gabo Arora and Chris Milk’s ‘Waves of Grace’, commissioned for Vrse.works by the United Nations. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

 

Gabo Arora, senior advisor and filmmaker at the United Nations, and, through Vrse.works, director and producer, with Chris Milk, of the UN-commissioned 'Clouds Over Syria' and 'Waves of Grace'.

Gabo Arora, senior advisor and filmmaker at the United Nations, and, through Vrse.works, director and producer, with Chris Milk, of the UN-commissioned ‘Clouds Over Syria’ and ‘Waves of Grace’.

Gabo Arora, a senior advisor and filmmaker at the United Nations, is also one of the “creators” withVrse.works, a virtual reality studio. He directed, with Vrse.works creative director Chris Milk, the UN-commissioned Clouds Over Sidra and Waves of Grace, two powerful pieces that take on the refugee and Ebola crisis, respectively. Arora has spent over 15 years doing humanitarian work in disaster and conflict zones and thinks VR is an ideal medium for social impact work because it “levels the distance between the subject and viewer, giving a more equal exchange. With less distance is more understanding and more engagement.

“VR is also less dominated by information sharing,” he continues. “It is more about making you feel. The concern is not as much about, ‘Did you understand?’ but [more about], ‘Do you feel present?’ A storyteller in VR has to communicate much more subtly, which allows for more reflection, more poetry, as there is more experimentation.”

Both of Arora’s acclaimed virtual reality pieces take on issues that received extensive mainstream media coverage, but he believes VR can take viewers beyond the “one-dimensional and often sensational” approach of traditional media. “Reality is often much more nuanced and complex, and often times ordinary,” he says. “I really felt VR could capture what was missing. Somehow if you could really be there and share in the experience with the people, at their level, I thought it would be compelling and new.”

The newness and compelling nature of VR, however, may be a double-edged sword. “I do worry that filmmakers—and journalists in particular—may make the mistake of believing that VR is enough, that somehow the technology will amplify their cause because the technology is so compelling,” Arora explains. “That just won’t last, but [it] is an easy trap to fall into. You have to see it as something that is harder, not easier, than traditional ways of doing things.”

“Story is [still] king,” Arora maintains. “But how you tell it has to be completely different because you cannot rely on the same tropes as before. You can’t rely on jump cuts and close-ups; you really need to let things breathe a bit more. The pacing is also very hard, and what you think would work, when you put on a headset, doesn’t always work. It either feels too rushed or slow. The rhythm of it is still something that is hard to figure out.”

Filmmaker Lucy Walker, who made 'A History of Cuban Dance' through Vrse.works.

Filmmaker Lucy Walker, who made ‘A History of Cuban Dance’ through Vrse.works.

“One of the most exciting aspects of VR is that the visual vocabulary hasn’t been settled upon—it’s still being invented,” notes Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker, another creator in the Vrse.works collective. She is particularly interested in camera placement, choreography and how height and distance from the subject affects the experience, and says that she loves placing the camera so that “there are multiple points of interest within the 360-degree field of view.”

For her piece A History of Cuban Dance—a story she chose because Cuba is a place that people are eager to visit and “VR is the closest thing we have to a teleportation machine”—Walker and her team “experimented with the degree to which we inserted ourselves into the midst of the action. In some shots the camera is a bit removed and takes in the dancers from roughly the position that a dance audience would conventionally observe the performance. In others, we play with the idea of entering the space of the dance.”

Part of the appeal of the medium for Walker is that “it’s possible to shoot in a very low-key way that is perfect for documentary filmmakers. One of the wonders of VR is that, as cutting-edge as it is, we’re able to shoot with a small crew. The crew size varied from just myself alone, for one shot only, to myself and a DP, for much of it, to occasionally having a sound recordist and more help as well.”

From Lucy Walker’s 'A History of Cuban Dance'. Photo: Lucy Walker, Juan Carlos Zaldivar. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

From Lucy Walker’s ‘A History of Cuban Dance’. Photo: Lucy Walker, Juan Carlos Zaldivar. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Though Walker has recently started using cable cams, advanced rigging and even “primitive” monitoring, she says A History of Cuban Dance was made using a grip kit that consisted of little more than “a c-stand and some gaffer tape.”

That is changing quickly, however. “None of the shoots I’ve done resemble one another,” Walker notes. “A month doesn’t go by without new iterations of the camera gear or stitching software. I’ve filmed with a different rig every month since September when I filmed A History of Cuban Dance.”

So what does the rapidly evolving production process for live action virtual reality look like? At the most basic level, pairs of stereoscopic cameras capture footage in 360 degrees. There are commercial options for rigs beginning to emerge, and Condition One and Vrse.works both work with bespoke rigs that have been in development for years.

Part of the pre-production process is figuring out where the crew is going to hide, or alternatively, how the crew is going to be a part of the shot. Though filmmakers can shoot with plates and capture 180 degrees at a time (especially since each shot will be worked on in post-production anyway), most seem to think that shooting 360 degrees is preferable for the fast-paced, dynamic work that occurs during documentary production. It is also perhaps the more ethical choice.

The footage from all of the cameras is then imported into editing software and stitched together, beginning with a rough stitch. Once the final sequence is chosen, the fine stitching is a lengthy, tedious process.

“The seams are one of the first technical challenges,” Dennis explains. “These seams will break that sense of presence, and eliminating them can be a very time-consuming process in post-production. An artist goes in and rotoscopes, compositing and trying to match every pixel with the next frame. And with 16 cameras, that can take weeks, if not months, for a single shot. So developing the software to do that became the next critical component of the pipeline to assemble these videos together in a seamless, stereoscopic 360-degree video.

From Gabo Arora and Chris Milk’s 'Waves of Grace', commissioned for Vrse.works by the United Nations.

From Lucy Walker’s ‘A History of Cuban Dance’. Photo: Lucy Walker, Juan Carlos Zaldivar. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

“Then playing the stereoscopic videos back is very demanding,” Dennis continues. “Computationally demanding. These are 4K videos. Once they’ve been stitched, they’re at 48 frames per second. And that we know is the bare minimum for VR. Traditional film is shot at 24 for that kind of filmic look. We’ve kind of gotten used to that. But in VR, if you shoot at 24 frames per second, it looks stuttery. It looks like you’re looking at video. So we then think, 60 frames, 90 frames, and eventually 120 and up will be required to really get the smooth, natural feeling of movement in VR.”

Sound is another critical component, Dennis points out. “We’re designing the capture and the post-production workflow to achieve realistic spatial audio. We use four microphones, mini- shotguns, offset by 90-degrees. And then we run them through software that mimics that human ear and the shape of the head to create these binaural audio tracks. And then we use a custom audio player to fix those four different audio tracks in space.”

Dennis says that using this audio production process makes it “so as you look around, the audio stays where it should be. It’s very subtle but extremely powerful in convincing the mind that this is a real experience.” Eventually, he thinks, the camera system and software technology will evolve far enough that one person could be shooting virtual reality in the field.

Animation is another production option for documentary filmmakers looking to explore the medium. All of VR pioneer Nonny de la Pena’s “immersive journalism” pieces use 3D animation, constructed using journalistic standards. For example, her piece Use of Force(about a border police brutality case) uses primary sources such as audio recordings from actual 911 calls and floor plans of the house where the incident took place to reconstruct the event as accurately as possible.

From James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s 'Notes on Blindness', for which Arnaud Colinart produced the VR component. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

From James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s ‘Notes on Blindness’, for which Arnaud Colinart produced the VR component. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Arnaud Colinart, a producer at AGAT Films/ExNihilo and one of the creative directors of the virtual reality component of the project Notes on Blindness, thinks that “animation and CGI gives the best performance in VR for now.” Notes on Blindness is based on the audio recordings of British professor of philosophy and theology John Hull, who documented his experience of going blind. The story was first conceived as a short film for New York Times Op-Docs in 2014, and directors James Spinney and Peter Middleton premiered a feature-length version of the film in this year’s New Frontiers competition at Sundance. With Amaury La Burthe from the French start-up Audiogaming, Colinart led the effort to create the accompanying virtual reality experience, called Notes on Blindness—Into Darkness.

“I think right now, virtual reality is at the same point as the birth of cinema, with the Lumière brothers and Train Pulling into Station,” Colinart asserts. “But just after that, you had Georges Méliès, who created A Trip to the Moon, which is sometimes considered the first narrative film because he used visual effects to create story. Now we see the birth of VR storytelling as more than just gadget or gimmick.”

The VR experience relies on Hull’s original audio recordings to guide the experience. Each chapter uses abstract 3D animation to explore the experience of going blind through a different memory. Making a virtual reality experience about blindness is perhaps a counterintuitive choice, but the emotional resonance of the experience suggests that virtual reality shows great potential for multisensory immersion.

From 'Notes on Blindness—Into Darkness' (Dirs.: Arnaud Colinart, Amaury Laburthe), the VR component of James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s 'Notes on Blindness.' (C) Ex Nihilo, Archer's Mark, ARTE France - 2016. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

From ‘Notes on Blindness—Into Darkness’ (Dirs.: Arnaud Colinart, Amaury Laburthe), the VR component of James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s ‘Notes on Blindness.’ (C) Ex Nihilo, Archer’s Mark, ARTE France – 2016. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

The filmmakers developed the experience using Unity, a multi-platform gaming development tool, and utilized the Agile method—an iterative, prototype-driven design process popular in software development. Colinart thinks there is a lot to borrow from software and video game-development, and that creating VR experiences in this manner will help accelerate the learning process for VR storytelling and its mise en scènevocabulary. “I think all stories can be told in VR, but we need to find the good way to do it,” Colinart maintains. “It’s like, you read books, and you say, ‘How can I adapt this in a movie?’ I think all books can be adapted, but you have to find the right way to adapt it to another way of telling the story; and I think it’s the same for VR. This is the start of this art of writing, as we discover little by little what VR can bring to storytelling.”

The Notes on Blindness experience uses chapters, a format in which Colinart sees great potential for VR because it mitigates some of the headset discomfort issues that may limit longer-form pieces. “Maybe we will have long-form stories, but they’ll be broken up into chapters and consumed that way,” he suggests.

From James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s 'Notes on Blindness', for which Arnaud Colinart produced the VR component. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

From James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s ‘Notes on Blindness’, for which Arnaud Colinart produced the VR component. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Beyond the headset ergonomics, creating experiences that don’t induce motion sickness is another component of production that is new for most documentary filmmakers. While some VR reviewers have bemoaned the stationary camera in many pieces, Dennis argues that “the fastest way to make someone motion sick is to move the camera in an unstabilized way.” He thinks this will change as the medium advances and viewers develop “VR legs,” but for now he suggests that filmmakers start with a locked tripod.

Another issue Dennis sees is the presentation of virtual reality experiences. In film, he says, there is a strong viewing tradition. “Lights down. Someone introduces the director, they say few words, and they say, ‘Quiet, cell phones off,’ and then you watch the work.” In virtual reality, he says, “It’s put on this headset, and you jump in, then you jump out.”

The viewing presentation, Dennis notes, is particularly important for experiences like Condition One’s Factory Farm, which takes viewers into a factory farm and active slaughterhouse facility in Mexico. In it, viewers are guided by José Valle, the director of investigations at the advocacy organization Animal Equality. “Every time you move into a new environment, you ask, ‘Why am I here?'” Dennis says. “And with José, he’s doing his normal work. He is documenting abuse for his investigations. And so you get to be with him while he’s working, while he’s filming, gaining evidence. It is really helpful to have a guide, especially in this type of situation, which is so graphic and gut-wrenching. He gives you the courage to stay and watch it.”

Within the experience, Valle also gives warnings about the material ahead, telling viewers that they’re going to see very graphic footage, and warning them, “This is your last chance to leave.” It builds a level of trust in the guide, as the viewer has ample opportunity to remove the headset before entering the slaughterhouse.

Trust, Dennis says, is essential to this type of work. “He’s there with you. And he’s experiencing it. So in a way, you feel like you’ve got someone with you, and you’re not alone. You don’t want to run away.”

At Condition One’s Sundance exhibition, Valle was actually there to greet viewers in person as they came out of the VR experience. Dennis recounts how one viewer got through the entire experience and how she held it together until she saw him in person. “Then it just struck home: ‘That was real! He’s right here!'” The viewer burst into tears and shook Valle’s hand. “People were having really tremendously emotional responses and having a moral inquiry into their own actions, which I think is the power of VR.”

Casey Freeman Howe is a graduate fellow at the Center for Media and Social Impact in Washington, DC.

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DEVELOPMENT: What the Panama Papers Mean for Global Development

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage     IPS

Tax justice campaigners in Kenya. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

Tax justice campaigners in Kenya. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 12 2016 (IPS) – The financial secrecy and tax evasion revealed by the Panama Papers has an extraordinary human cost in developing countries and threatens the realisation of the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

The ongoing leak — made public by media outlets including German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, theInternational Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – has already prompted protests and investigations around the world. The papers connect thousands of prominent figures to secretive offshore companies in 21 tax havens and reveal the inner workings of the offshore finance industry.

The documents focus on Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, with its 210,000 entities, and has led to allegations that the firm aided public officials and multinational corporations to avoid taxes. Mossack Fonseca say that media reports have misrepresented the nature of their work and its role in global financial markets.

In one case, leaked emails contained in the Panama Papers suggest that the Heritage Oil and Gas Ltd Company (HOGL), sought help from Mossack Fonseca to sidestep tax laws in Uganda. According to ICIJ, upon the sale of an oil field, the company received a tax bill of $404 million. In an effort to avoid paying the taxes, the entity fought the Ugandan courts and meanwhile tried to relocate to Mauritius, according to the leaked emails.

Mauritius has a double tax agreement with Uganda, allowing companies such as HOGL to only pay taxes in one of the two countries. In 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) listed Mauritius as a preferred location for companies due to its minimal tax laws.

These havens deny developing countries such as Uganda of much needed tax revenue for essential services, Oxfam’s Senior Tax Policy Advisor Tatu Ilunga told IPS.

“Tax havens are at the heart of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share, depriving governments – rich and poor – of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality,” said Ilunga.

In Uganda, approximately 37 percent live on less than $1.25 per day. The East African nation also has one of the highest rates of maternal and under-five mortality rates in the world. According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), Uganda is one of the top ten countries that account for the majority of global maternal deaths.

In a country that lacks access to health services, HOGL’s $404 million in taxes represents more than the country’s health budget.

Former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State James Ibori was also implicated in the Panama Papers,allegedly using Mossack Fonseca as an agent for four offshore companies in Panama and Seychelles. These entities provide anonymity, hiding true owners’ names and actions and thus allowing for finances and assets to be undeclared and untaxed. 

Though he was detained in 2012 for diverting up to $75 million out of the country, Nigerian authorities estimate that Ibori stole and stored over $290 million in tax havens.

Like Uganda, Nigeria ranks low in health indicators, contributing to some 10 percent of global maternal, infant and child deaths. Poverty has increased in the country with 61 percent living below the poverty line, according to the most recent Nigerian Bureau of Statistics report.

The Niger Delta region in particular, despite being a significant contributor to the country’s economy through oil production, remains the poorest and least developed region in Nigeria. In Ibori’s Delta state alone, 45 percent of people live in poverty. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) report found that the majority of people in the region lack access to potable water, electricity, health facilities and infrastructure including roads and telecommunications.

“Have you seen any taps here?…Water used to run in public taps, but that had stopped 20 years ago. We basically drink from the river and creeks…hygiene is secondary,” a Niger Delta Resident told UNDP.

Though Ibori’s stashed money represents only a slice of Nigeria’s budget, it is indicative of a global and pervasive problem that goes beyond Mossack Fonseca.

Transparency International’s Senior Policy Coordinator Craig Fagan told IPS: “If you think about the millions of files that have been released and the number of high profile individuals [in the Panama Papers], this is just one law firm in Panama.” .

“We can be certain that there are many other law firms whether in London, Hong Kong, New York, Miami that are operating similar structures,” he said.

According to Oxfam estimates, at least $18.5 trillion is hidden in tax havens worldwide. The organisation found that two thirds of this offshore wealth is hidden in European Union related tax havens while a third is in UK-linked sites where it is left undeclared and untaxed.  Oxfam said that their estimate is a conservative one.

The Swiss Leaks, also released by ICIJ in 2015, revealed how over 106,000 clients from Venezuela to Sri Lanka hid more than $100 billion in Swiss HSBC bank accounts.

Another analysis from Tax Justice Network (TJN) reveals that between $21 to $32 trillion is being diverted into offshore companies.

This has enormous effects in developing countries, costing poor nations over $100 billion in lost tax revenues every year, according to Oxfam. The charity also found that tax dodging by multinational corporations alone costs the developing world between $100 billion and $160 billion per year. Added with profit shifting, approximately $250 billion and $300 billion is lost.

This “missing” money could lift every person above the $1.25 per day poverty threshold three times over, according to Brookings Institution calculations.

Oxfam added that for every $1 billion lost through commercial tax evasion, 11 million people at risk across the Sahel region could have enough to eat, 400,000 midwives could be paid in Sub-Saharan Africa which has the highest maternal mortality rates, and 200 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets could be purchased to reduce child mortality from malaria.

In addition to lost development finance, Ilunga also noted to IPS that such actions have exacerbated inequality in the world, stating: “This is the same rigged system that has created the situation where…the wealth of the richest 1% surpasses the combined wealth of the rest of the world.”

Though the use offshore companies is not illegal, Ilunga asserted that the legality of such actions is precisely the issue.

“Tax dodging exists in a legal gray area with some activities clearly violating the spirit of the law even though those activities are not technically illegal. But the fact that these activities are legal is precisely the scandal we are most concerned with,” Ilunga said.

Fagan told IPS that it does not matter whether it is legally acceptable to have tax avoidance schemes.

“Just because it’s not illegal does not mean it is not a form of manipulation, form of corruption,” he said.

Ilunga and Fagan noted that the Panama Papers are a wake-up call and urged governments to end harmful tax practices and close loopholes. They highlighted the need to institute a public registry which lists companies’ true owners, where money is being earned and how much is being earned.

Ahead of the United Kingdom’s anti-corruption summit to be held in May 2016, Oxfam and TJN also called on the U.K. to lead the fight by halting their large network of tax havens including in the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

“The anti-corruption summit provides an opportunity to dismantle the financial secrecy that threatens the [Sustainable Development Goals’] progress against poverty before it even begins,” said Oxfam Policy Advisor Luke Gibson and TJN’s Director of Research Alex Cobham in a briefing paper.

Cobham told IPS that though global reforms are essential, domestic stakeholders must ensure that tax revenues will be used to help meet the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Included in the SDGs are commitments to reduce illicit financial flows and corruption by 2030 and to strengthen domestic resource mobilization including improving capacity for tax and revenue collection.

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ON THE MEDIA: What If African Media Reported US Elections Like Western Media Report on Africa?

By: Ndesanjo Macha            21 April 2016         GlobalVoices

 

A screenshot of footage, uploaded to YouTube by Storyful, of a protester who was assaulted by a Donald Trump supporter being restrained by police at a rally in North Carolina.

A screenshot of footage, uploaded to YouTube by Storyful, of a protester who was assaulted by a Donald Trump supporter being restrained by police at a rally in North Carolina.

Coverage of Africa by Western media often portray the continent in a negative light or in a simplistic manner, placing emphasis on conflict, corruption and tribal divisions. But Western media don’t adopt that same tone when they report on their own countries.

Following in the footsteps of Joshua Keating’s “If it happened there” series on US news magazine Slate, Tumblr user Ragamberi asked himself, “How would it sound, if African media reported US elections in the same tone as Western media report on polls in Africa and elsewhere?”

His answer became a post titled, “If It had Happened Over Here”. Here are a few excerpts of how he imagined African coverage of the contentious presidential race in the US might read.

Tribal violence

Pressure is mounting on the Obama regime to allow international observers and peacekeepers after tribal violence marred election campaigns in the troubled north American nation.

In Addis Ababa, an emergency meeting was called by African leaders to demand a return to rule of law in America, after pro-regime militants attacked a rally addressed by popular opposition leader Donald Trump in Chicago.

“Unless America allows independent international groups to monitor the poll and for peacekeepers to move in and restore order, the poll is a sham and cannot be declared free and fair,” the African Union said.

[…]

Explaining the weekend’s clashes, America experts – based at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, Southern Africa – say Illinois has longstanding, deep-seated ethnic and sectarian tensions that are sure to boil over if the Obama regime does not allow UN peacekeepers before the hotly contested polls in November.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has seen violence break out several times at his rallies. Trump in turn has used violent rhetoric in speeches and on social media:

Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!

Voter fraud

The election has also been marred by reports of widespread voter fraud. Sanders has complained of voter fraud after a controversial narrow loss in the Iowa region to party rival Hillary Clinton, wife of former regime leader Bill.

Trump himself has claimed voter fraud in the region of Florida, raising serious concern in the international community about the credibility of the forthcoming poll.

Throughout the primaries race, which determines the candidate who will represent the Democratic and Republican parties in the presidential elections, accusations of fraud have been tossed around on both sides of the aisle, and voters have complained the system is unfair.

Attacks on media freedom

There are also concerns over blatant attacks on media freedom. The International Committee for the Protection of Journalists condemned attacks on journalists during the campaign.

A journalist for CBS News was arrested while reporting on clashes at a rally for Donald Trump in Chicago in March. A charge of resisting arrest was eventually dropped.

Read the full post here.

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AFGHANISTAN: Interview- Don’t let Afghanistan become forgotten crisis – Red Cross official

By: Emma Batha           22 Apr 2016          Reuters 

Afghan men clear the rubble of their damaged house after yesterday's suicide car bomb attack on a government security building in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Afghan men clear the rubble of their damaged house after yesterday’s suicide car bomb attack on a government security building in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

LONDON, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The world must not let Afghanistan become a forgotten crisis, a senior Red Cross official said on Friday as he warned of spiralling violence, donor fatigue and a worrying “brain drain” of educated professionals.

“The international community must keep their attention on Afghanistan. It’s far from being over. It’s not the time to switch off,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan.

He warned that violence – which is at levels not seen since 2001 – would likely escalate in the coming year.

“The security situation has really deteriorated … and my prediction is a further deterioration,” Marti said. “Potentially the 18 months ahead of us will be much tougher.”

Marti is meeting government officials in European capitals and Washington to press for greater political, financial and humanitarian support.

“The message is (we need) to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a forgotten or ignored conflict,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London.

Marti was speaking just days after a suicide attack in Kabul killed 64 people and injured hundreds more in the deadliest single incident of its kind in the capital since 2011.

The Taliban, which claimed responsibility, is believed to be stronger than at any point since it was ousted by U.S.-backed forces in 2001. Fighters loyal to Islamic State have also emerged in pockets of the country.

Marti said the ICRC had evacuated 600 war-wounded in the first three months of the year – a high number given that fighting usually tails off in winter when mountain passes are snowed in.

“It … demonstrates that the fighting season is going to be tough this year and the humanitarian response needs to be up to it,” he said.

The Taliban, which wants to drive Afghanistan’s Western-backed government from power, announced the start of their spring offensive on April 12.

BRAIN DRAIN

The ICRC said it was particularly alarmed by the rising number of civilian casualties which hit a record high for the seventh successive year in 2015, with over 11,000 non-combatants killed or injured.

Attacks against medical facilities and staff have also risen 50 percent in the last year, making it more difficult for civilians to access healthcare.

Marti said the ICRC was launching a flying surgical team which will tour hospitals in provincial capitals around Afghanistan, training medical staff to respond to emergencies.

An estimated one million people are displaced within Afghanistan and others have fled abroad. Afghans are the second largest group of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe behind Syrians.

Marti warned of a “brain drain” as middle class professionals pack their bags in an exodus which could have serious implications for the country.

“What makes me pretty worried about the future of this country is that I know Afghans … who were here 10 years ago hoping to create a future for Afghanistan and who are now picking up their belongings and fleeing to Europe or to Canada.

“(This) illustrates for me that they are losing hope for the future of this country.”

Afghanistan is suffering from donor fatigue, partly because international attention was focused on Syria and Iraq, he said.

“We’ve seen a decrease in general interest for Afghanistan, but the situation is actually getting worse. It’s dangerous.”

(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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ON THE MEDIA: 2016 World Press Freedom Index: a “deep and disturbing” decline in media freedom

April 13, 2016      RSF

The 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will publish on 20 April, shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels.

The 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will publish on 20 April, shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels. Ever since the 2013 index, Reporters Without Borders has been calculating indicators of the overall level of media freedom violations in each of the world’s regions and worldwide. The higher the figure, the worse the situation. The global indicator has gone from 3719 points last year to 3857 points this year, a 3.71% deterioration. The decline since 2013 is 13.6%.

The many reasons for this decline in freedom of information include the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of governments in countries such as Turkey and Egypt, tighter government control of state-owned media, even in some European countries such as Poland, and security situations that have become more and more fraught, in Libya and Burundi, for example, or that are completely disastrous, as in Yemen.

The survival of independent news coverage is becoming increasingly precarious in both the state and privately-owned media because of the threat from ideologies, especially religious ideologies, that are hostile to media freedom, and from large-scale propaganda machines. Throughout the world, “oligarchs” are buying up media outlets and are exercising pressure that compounds the pressure already coming from governments.

All of the Index’s indicators show a decline from 2013 to 2016. This is especially the case for infrastructure. Some governments do not hesitate to suspend access to the Internet or even to destroy the premises, broadcast equipment or printing presses of media outlets they dislike. The infrastructure indicator fell 16% from 2013 to 2016.

The legislative framework has registered an equally marked decline. Many laws have been adopted penalizing journalists on such spurious charges as “insulting the president,” “blasphemy” or “supporting terrorism.” Growing self-censorship is the knock-on effect of this alarming situation. The “media environment and self-censorship” indicator has fallen by more than 10% from 2013 to 2016.

Every continent has seen its score decline. The Americas have plunged 20.5%, above all as a result of the impact of physical attacks and murders targeting journalists in Mexico and Central America. Europe and the Balkans declined 6.5%, above all because of the growing influence of extremist movements and ultraconservative governments.

The Central Asia/Eastern Europe region’s already bad score deteriorated by 5% as a result of the increasingly glacial environment for media freedom and free speech in countries with authoritarian regimes.

Published by Reporters Without Borders annually since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries using the following criteria – pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.

See the 2016 World Press Freedom Index on the RSF.org website from 20 April onwards.

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HAITI: Haiti will miss election deadline, no date for new president

15 Apr 2016      By: Joseph Guyler Delva     Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, April 14 (Reuters) – Haiti will not meet a deadline to complete its presidential election by April 24, the top election official said on Thursday, without giving a new date to hold the already delayed vote in the impoverished Caribbean country.

The election was postponed in January after sometimes violent protests over allegations of fraud in the first round. An interim government has been running the country since the last president’s term ended in February.

“It is clear that the elections won’t take place on April 24, but we are still assessing the election machinery as we make decisions about the way forward,” the head of a newly appointed electoral council, Leopold Berlanger, told Reuters.

He said the delay, which comes after political battles over the formation of the interim government, meant that temporary President Jocelerme Privert would not hand over to an elected successor by May 14, as agreed in a cross-party deal to overcome the crisis.

“It is also clear that the fact that the elections won’t take place this month means it is impossible to have a new elected president by May 14,” Berlanger said.

The results of the first round in October put Jovenel Moise in first place and Jude Celestin in second for a runoff, but Celestin and several more of the 52 losing candidates rejected the outcome.

Before completing the process, the election council is overseeing a second evaluation of the results to test the claims of fraud and decide which candidates should take part.

Supporters of former president Michel Martelly and his favoured candidate, Moise, have protested in recent days, claiming Privert is dragging his feet so his allies can cling on to power. The protesters demand the election be held as soon as possible. (Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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ON THE MEDIA: A new understanding: What makes people trust and rely on news

This research was conducted by the Media Insight Project — an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

trust-header

The meaning of trust in news

In order to refine the industry’s understanding of trust and develop actionable characteristics of a source, this study explores trust through its link to source reliance. Prior research shows that the way people define trustworthy news generally yields vague definitions that cannot be put into practice. However, people can readily identify the specific factors that lead them to rely or not rely on a particular news source. Some of these factors relate to trust (e.g. getting the facts right) and others likely do not (e.g. its content is entertaining).

In this study, we measure the reasons people rely on sources in order to provide insights into the importance they place on specific factors that might be related to trust. We then link these specific factors to more general principles of trust such as accuracy or completeness.

The chart below shows the traditional principles of trust on the left and their corresponding actionable factors on the right.

General Principle of Trust Specific and Actionable Factors Related to Trust
Completeness The reporting is in‑depth
It always has the latest news and information
It covers all the day’s events
Accuracy It presents expert sources and data
It gets the facts right
Balance It provides diverse points of view
It shares my point of view
I see my community and people like me in the reporting
Transparency I know and trust its journalists
It explains the way it gathers and reports news and information
Presentation and Design It’s concise and gets to the point
It is easy to find news and information I’m looking for
It uses visuals such as photos, videos, lists, or charts*
It allows people to comment on news and information*
The news and information include hyperlinks to get more information*
The site or app loads fast*
It works well on my mobile phone*
The ads do not interfere with getting news and information*
Convenience and Entertainment I can multitask or use it when I’m doing something else like household chores
It presents news and information in a way I can talk about it
It makes it entertaining
It’s a source I’ve always used

* The component applies only to digital sources

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

The research then dug deeper on these specific factors related to trust. To do so, we asked people what topics they follow most closely in the news. We then asked them to think about the sources they rely on for following those topics and then to name their favorite one. Finally, we asked them how important different qualities are when relying on that source for that topic.

This source‑specific approach allows us to get beyond general ideas, such as accuracy, and to isolate what a concept like accuracy means for people.

Inside the broader concept of completeness, for instance, we are able to test how important it is for people that the reporting is in‑depth, that it contains all the day’s news, or that it is always up to date with the latest results.

Inside the general and sometimes elusive principle of balance we are able to test how important it is for people to see differing points of view, views they agree with, or to see their community reflected in the coverage.

This approach also allows us to test the importance of certain modern presentation factors, such as navigability and use of visuals.

Overall, accuracy and completeness are the most-cited categories of trust

Past research had found that four or five main principles made up credibility or trust in the news: accuracy, balance, and fairness central among them. Some scholars broke fairness into additional parts, such as completeness and transparency. Others suggested concepts related to clarity or presentation.

In part so this new research can be compared to that older work, we test whether people recognize these traditional concepts today. At the most general level, we find Americans do still value these traditional and general concepts of news trustworthiness.

Americans rate accuracy as the most important general principle related to trust. Eighty‑five percent describe getting the facts right as an extremely or very important factor of a trustworthy source.

That is followed by completeness (providing all the important news and information), which 77 percent describe as very important.

A sizable majority (68 percent) also say transparency (the idea that news organizations explain the way they gather and report the news) is very important.

And 66 percent rate balance (reporting that provides different views) as a key factor of trustworthy sources.

Fewer Americans, but still nearly half, cite presentation (having a high quality and professional appearance) as a very important factor for trustworthiness.

But as we will see in a moment, those numbers change when people are asked to drill down into specific factors related to trust and other factors that lead them to rely on certain sources for different news topics.

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Accuracy and completeness are the most important principles of trust in a news source

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allAccuracyCompletenessTransparencyBalancePresentation0102030405060708090100

Data Source: Question: Thinking about the sources you consider trustworthy, how important is each of the following factors?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

Getting inside the broad categories of trust

The next step involves drilling deeper into the reasons why people rely on specific news sources.

We broke the five general trust principles — accuracy, balance, completeness, transparency, and presentation — into 12 actionable and specific factors related to trust. In doing so, we found that many of these 12 are important for why people rely on certain sources of news. Some are significantly more important than others.

We also look at four additional factors that relate to entertainment and convenience, which may be more important in an age of greater consumer choice.

The idea that a news organization should get the facts right is cited more than any other specific factor as vital. Fully 80 percent rate it extremely or very important.

Being up to date with the latest news and information — something related to completeness — emerges as the second biggest reason people rely on a specific source, at 76 percent.

Despite presentation falling lower on the list of more general principles people think make a news source trustworthy, a specific factor related to presentation — that a news account be concise and get to the point — ranks third overall (with 72 percent of respondents citing it as very important) when we asked people why they rely on a particular news source.

 

“As soon as I start getting outdated news (even if by a few hours) or find out they aren’t giving me the whole story, that’s when I start to go somewhere else for news,” said Zach, a younger, hard news consumer.

Another element of accuracy — that a news account cites expert sources and data — ties for fourth among the 12 specific factors related to trust we explore. Fully 70 percent describe this as very important. Seventy percent also cite navigability — that is, easy to find the news and information you are looking for — as critical.

In other words, having something be navigable, clear, and easy to use is a key part of whether people rely on and value it.

Nearly as important to people as clarity and navigability is depth. Fully 67 percent cite that the reporting is in‑depth as extremely or very important. On its face, people wanting news to be in‑depth might reflect a contradictory preference to their desire for news that is concise. It may also reflect, however, a desire for news that is in‑depth, but no longer than absolutely necessary.

The three specific factors Americans are least likely to report as being very important are that a source makes the news entertaining (38 percent), that they see their community or people like them in the reporting (36 percent), and that it shares their point of view (32 percent).

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Accuracy

Which factors matter?

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allIt gets the facts rightIt presents expert sources and data020406080100

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Completeness

Which factors matter?

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allIt always has the latest news andinformationThe reporting is in-depthIt covers all the day’s events020406080100

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Presentation

Which factors matter?

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allIt’s concise and gets to the pointIt is easy to find news andinformation you’re looking for020406080100

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Transparency

Which factors matter?

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allYou know and trust its journalistsIt explains the way it gathers andreports news and information020406080100

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Balance

Which factors matter?

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allIt provides diverse points of viewYou see your community and peoplelike you in the reportingIt shares your point of view020406080100

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

  1. DATA
  2. CHART

Convenience or entertainment

Which factors matter?

Extremely/very importantSomewhat importantNot very/not important at allIt presents news and information in away you can talk about itIt’s a source you’ve always usedYou can multitask or use it whenyou’re doing something elseIt makes it entertaining020406080100It makes it entertainingSomewhat important: 36%

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

MEDIA INSIGHT PROJECT

Breaking news is different — transparency becomes more important

The qualitative research conducted as part of the study (a combination of ethnography and focus groups) also indicated something else: The importance of certain components of trust may vary depending on whether a story is breaking news or is coverage of an ongoing trend or issue.

In focus groups, people said they understand that not all the facts may be known during a breaking news event such as a natural disaster, mass shooting, or terrorist act. When there are conflicting accounts about what is happening, people even said they understand if some of the information presented may not be true.

In those instances, some people raised the idea that transparency from a source about what is “factual and verified” versus what is the reporter’s theory or speculation is more important than immediate accuracy.

People also said that during breaking news they are more likely to look at multiple sources to try to find the latest information.

“When a story breaks, I’m flipping back and forth between channels because I need to know if anything developed that I didn’t hear about,” said David, a younger, hard news consumer. “And I’m on my phone, I’m on social at the same time.”

People’s news behavior and expectations change as news stories progress and become less ambiguous. Getting the facts right returns as the most important component in their determinations of trust. “After the fact, I have higher standards because people have time to do due diligence,” said Drew, a younger, hard news consumer.

In other words, among the issues that determine what makes a news account trustworthy is timing — or where an unfolding story stands and how much time there has been for reporting.

Read more on the original site.

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DEVELOPMENT: How to reduce humanitarian need

20 Apr 2016  By: Stephen O’Brien, UNOCHA and Kevin J. Jenkins, World Vision International  Original

A woman carries her child in a camp sheltering internally displaced people (IDPs) next to the M’Poko international airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

In the next decade, most of the world’s acutely vulnerable people will be living in fragile and conflict-affected cities and States. If current trends persist, conflict will continue to consume 80 per cent of humanitarian funding, setting back development by trillions of dollars. In 2014, over 13 per cent of the global economy was drained away by violence and war. The costs of protracted violence and deepening fragility will lead to lost childhoods, lost lives and lost opportunities. We must find a better way to not only save lives now, but also to address the root causes of fragility and build resilience over the long term.

Doing so must be underpinned by strong political leadership to resolve and prevent conflict. The human and financial costs of not doing so are simply too high. In the absence of political solutions from Syria to Iraq to the Central African Republic, there are severe limits to what principled humanitarian action can achieve.

When it comes to addressing fragility, international leaders, the United Nations and civil-society partners made history with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development when they pledged to leave no-one behind and to reach those furthest behind first. In doing so, international leaders promised to put the needs and priorities of the most-vulnerable people at the forefront of all development efforts. Turning this promise into action is fundamental to realizing the UN Secretary-General’s vision for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul: to commit to moving from delivering aid to ending need.

To end need, we must stop thinking about relief and development as a sequence. Instead, we must find new ways to comprehensively reduce vulnerability and risk while in tandem meeting pressing humanitarian needs in line with humanitarian principles. This shift will disrupt our current model, in which humanitarian, development, peace, security and other institutions simultaneously work on different projects to different time frames and budgets within the same communities. Instead, wherever operationally possible, national Governments, humanitarian and development agencies, civil society and the private sector will need to work together to set common goals and outcomes over multiple years.

This will require us to work transparently to develop a common understanding of the risks and vulnerabilities people face in each context and prioritizing how to address them together. It will require each of us to overcome institutional barriers and plan our work based on each institution devoting their best services, skills and experience, context by context.

We look to an end to the short-term projects, launched year after year, which have dominated humanitarian response for the past decades and provided little strategic vision for focusing on results for the people we serve. In the cases of DRC, Somalia and Sudan, annual appeals have been repeated for 13 years running. People do not want simply to survive; they want to improve their life prospects and those of their children. Long-term improvement requires genuine partnerships with local partners built on trust, sustainable support, and sharing of resources and knowledge.

Partners must, where appropriate, support existing national and regional capacity, scaling it up and complementing it when necessary, rather than replacing national systems with heavy international ones. This should be done without impinging on the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity.

In the right context, humanitarian cash-based programmes should become the norm, not the exception, and they should build on national and regional safety nets that can strengthen social-protection systems. World Vision and many others offer assistance in the form of cash in responses as diverse as Lebanon and Jordan, South Sudan and Nepal. Going forward, cash assistance will be increasingly crucial to promote the resilience and dignity of children, families and communities affected by disasters.

We must also transform the way that we invest in reducing vulnerability. It is common sense to act early to reduce risk rather than waiting for full-blown crises to play out. Predictable multi-year funding would enable better strategic planning for impact, rather than the current model that focuses on agencies’ outputs. We need the transparency of medium-term goals for assessing whether we are truly reducing needs. To achieve all this, we must stop supporting isolated projects that prolong the fragmentation of services and the chaos after a crisis.

Businesses, civil society, faith groups and youth each have a vital role in bridging the divide between relief and development. OCHA and World Vision are engaged in relationships with a variety of partners that are giving better outcomes. Examples are diverse and include the private sector in East Africa, faith groups in West Africa as part of the Ebola response, and civil-society leaders and youth in the Central African Republic. We are sure that as we scale up these relationships around the world, we will increase the quality, reach and effectiveness of our responses.

Starting with the commitments we make at the World Humanitarian Summit, we must all agree to stop simply providing supplies to the world’s most exposed, defenseless people. Instead, we must listen to them and their calls for self-sufficiency and help in reducing their vulnerability over the long term.

At the Summit, World Vision will put forward bold commitments relating to financing, urban response and innovation, child protection, peacebuilding and partnerships. The UN Secretary-General is calling for strong commitments from global leaders, donors, business, investors and aid agencies to make the necessary changes that leave no one behind, and which close the relief-to-development divide once and for all.

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AFGHANISTAN: Afghan teenager braves threats, family pressure to lead women’s orchestra

 Mon, 18 Apr 2016  By: Mirwais Harooni  Reuters

Mina Salarzai, a member of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practises at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Mina Salarzai, a member of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practises at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

KABUL, April 18 (Reuters) – Like many teenagers, 19-year-old Negin Khpalwak from Kunar in eastern Afghanistan loves music, but few people of her age have battled as fiercely to pursue their passion in the face of family hostility and threats.

Playing instruments was banned outright during the period of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and even today, many conservative Muslims frown on most forms of music.

Negin took her first steps learning music in secret, before eventually revealing her activity to her father. He encouraged her, but the reaction from the rest of her conservative Pashtun family was hostile.

“Apart from my father, everybody in the family is against it,” she said. “They say, ‘How can a Pashtun girl play music?’ Especially in our tribe, where even a man doesn’t have the right to do it.”

Now living in an orphanage in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Negin leads the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women at the Afghanistan National Institute for Music that plays both Western and Afghan musical instruments.

When she went home on a recent visit, her uncles and brothers threatened to beat her for a performing appearance on television, and she had to return to Kabul the next day.

“Compared to women outside Afghanistan, we feel we are in a cage,” she said.

In a country notorious internationally for harsh restrictions on women in most areas of life, Negin’s story highlights a double challenge.

“The formation of the orchestra is an achievement in itself,” said Ahmad Naser Sarmast, a musicologist who returned home from Australia after the fall of the Taliban to help found the National Institute for Music in 2010.

“I WILL NEVER ACCEPT DEFEAT”

While children at the school have the support of their parents, they often face pressure from their wider family as well as from religious authorities, he said.

“The bravery of the girls sitting in the orchestra and the leadership of a young female conductor is an achievement for Afghanistan,” he said.

Some of the women say their relatives are proud of their achievements, but they face suspicion from others, as well as intimidation.

“When I have my musical instruments with me, people talk a lot behind my back,” said Mina, a trumpeter in the orchestra, whose mother is a policewoman in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

“There are a lot of security problems, and if we go from one place to another with our instruments, then we have to go by car,” she added.

The dangers awaiting performers in Afghanistan were brutally highlighted in 2014, when Sarmast was nearly killed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up during a show at a French-run school in Kabul.

He has not been discouraged, however. The formation of the girls’ orchestra was the best response to extremists, he said, adding that the school was trying to help Negin continue her education, despite the family problems.

Negin remains fiercely determined to continue on a path that has given her a new sense of identity.

“I am not that Negin anymore,” she said. “I have been leading this orchestra for six months now, and leadership takes a lot of effort.”

She is ready to leave her family behind for the sake of her music, she said, although, in Afghanistan, family is crucial to most people’s sense of their position in the world.

“I will never accept defeat,” she said. “I will continue to play music. I do not feel safe, but when people see me and say, ‘That is Negin Khpalwak’, that gives me energy.”

(Additional reporting by; Sayed Hassib; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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ON THE MEDIA: INTERVIEW: Citizen journalists in Syria ‘risking their lives’ for news

13 Apr 2016   By: Tristan Martin  Reuters

Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim poses for a portrait at the office of Index on Censorship, an NGO that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression, in London, Britain April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Thomson Reuters Foundation/Tristan Martin

Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim poses for a portrait at the office of Index on Censorship, an NGO that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression, in London, Britain April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Thomson Reuters Foundation/Tristan Martin

LONDON, April 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A series of short films, “Syria’s Rebellious Women,” by Zaina Erhaim tells the stories of women who stepped into positions of leadership and responsibility usually reserved for men.

If such remarkable women went undocumented, the Syrian filmmaker says, “the male winners will be writing the history, and the heroines will be forgotten.”

Erhaim, being honored with a 2016 Freedom of Expression award from Index on Censorship, has trained more than 100 citizen journalists in Syria and helped establish a number of independent newspapers and magazines.

In an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, she discussed their challenges and how Syrians carry on despite the war and chaos around them.

THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION: At the beginning of the Syrian conflict, there were many foreign journalists reporting from the country. As they began to leave, what kind of space did this open up for Syrian journalists?

ERHAIM: It created the need for Syrians to do the journalism work themselves and to be citizen journalists. But sadly, this didn’t make the citizen journalists credible enough for the international media to take them seriously and deal with them as actual journalists.

It’s very sad to see that an agency is dealing with the same citizen journalist for four years, taking all their credible news from him, but when it comes to payment or to health insurance, or to considering him as a correspondent, they don’t.

TRF: What were your aims with the training courses you ran in Syria?

ERHAIM: When the revolution started, many of my friends who had no experience in journalism at all, they started looking for a journalist that they can trust. I decided that I’m going to do my best to give them those skills that I gained so they could be taken seriously.

They’re risking their lives so that this news can go out.

So what I have been trying to do, mainly, is just to help them be more professional and be taken seriously.

TRF: What challenges do female citizen journalists in particular face in Syria?

ERHAIM: I think movement is a big thing. You always need a male guardian to be able to move. At checkpoints you’re going to be asked, ‘Where is your guardian?’ If you’re seen alone on the street, they would look like, ‘Why is she moving on her own?’

For me as a trainer, I had to do lots of efforts to be taken seriously by the male trainees, like ‘How could a woman know better than a man?’

And everything that the woman is doing is much more in the spotlight, compared to the man. The smallest mistake she makes would have a huge impact, while a man could kill someone on the street by mistake and no one would question him.

TRF: What do you think will happen to the status of women when the war is over?

ERHAIM: I believe when a woman goes to the street and starts working, and being financially independent, it’s impossible to get her back to be a housewife waiting for her husband to give her cash. Many of them have become opinion leaders.

But I think for regular women, especially in the last two years where the society has become very militarised, they had this kind of ‘We need to stay at home, we’re too afraid, our children are not secure.’ So it became more and more closed.

Those few activists who are still active, they are trying to break these barriers, they are trying to get these women out and to tell them that like us, you are also capable of doing things.

TRF: One of the striking things about your series of short documentary films is the humour. How do Syrians carry on under such difficult conditions?

ERHAIM: Humour is a huge part in our daily lives. We even make jokes of death, of anything you wouldn’t imagine, like torture. We mock ourselves, we mock our fears. I think this is one of our ways of resisting and going on. Otherwise, we would really become much more insane than we are already.

We live, we go for trips, we go for picnics, although on the last picnic I went to, we had three snipers who were on the Aleppo castle. We were exposed to a machine gun – an M16 – but we just had a picnic. We hid among the grass. We had lots of food and drinks, and we enjoyed the picnic.

TRF: There is a whole generation in Syria now that has never known peace. What future do you see for these children?

ERHAIM: The most frightening scene for me is when you see how comfortable they are dealing with death, with graves. Like a kid was playing on his father’s grave in one of the parks in Aleppo city, and then he found some grasses on it, and he cut some of them and said, “Mama, could we put that on the salad?”

The whole idea that you are so at ease with your father’s tomb, and you could just eat something that’s been planted on it. I really fear what these kids are going to be doing in the future.

(Reporting by Tristan Martin, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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DEVELOPMENT: Global inequality may be much worse than we think

By:   Friday 8 April 2016

Protesters in the Phillipines were dispersed by police as they demonstrated over inequality in 2011.

How do we measure inequality? From some angles, things appear to be improving, but from others the situation is getting worse and worse

It’s familiar news by now. Oxfam’s figures have gone viral: the richest 1% nowhave more wealth than the rest of the world’s population combined. Global inequality is worse than at any time since the 19th century.

For most people, this is all they know about global inequality. But Oxfam’s wealth figures don’t quite tell the whole story. What about income inequality? And – more importantly – what about inequalities between countries? If we expand our view beyond the usual metrics, we can learn a lot more about how unequal our world has become.

The first thing to say about Oxfam’s numbers is that they present a very conservative picture. Given that the rich hide so much of their wealth in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, it is impossible to know how much they really have. Recent estimates suggest that up to $32tn is stored away in tax havens – around one sixth of the world’s total private wealth. If we were to add that to Oxfam’s metrics, inequality would look much, much worse.

But that’s wealth. Many analysts object that we shouldn’t be measuring wealth inequality, but rather income inequality. This has been a major criticism of Oxfam’s numbers. And when you look at income inequality, it doesn’t seem so bad. At least not according to the dominant narrative. Branko Milanovic, one of the world’s leading experts in global income inequality, argues that while inequality is getting worse within countries, on a global scale it is actually getting better.

We can measure income inequality with the Gini index. A score of 0 represents total equality and a score of 1 represents total inequality, where one person has everything and everyone else has nothing. According to Milanovic, the global Gini index has decreased slightly, from 0.72 in 1988 to 0.71 in 2008. So perhaps we shouldn’t be overly worried about inequality.

The Gini index is a troublesome measure, though, because it only captures relative changes. If the incomes of the rich and the poor increase by the same rate, then the Gini index remains the same, even though absolute inequality is increasing. In other words, if person A has $10k and person B has $100k, and then both of them double their income, the Gini remains the same, even though the income gap will have grown from $90k to $180k.

Economist Robert Wade argues that this is a highly misleading measurement, as it obscures the true extent of inequality. We should be using the absolute Gini index, he says. So what happens if we do that? We see that inequality has exploded over the past few decades, from 0.57 in 1988 to 0.72 in 2005.

But hold on, you might say. Income inequality among individuals might be getting worse, but surely the gap between poor countries and rich countries is narrowing. The international development industry is helping to bridge the chasm between the west and the rest, right? This is a common opinion; I hear it all the time from students at the London School of Economics, where I teach. After all, “convergence theory” holds that, because poor countries grow at a faster rate than rich countries, over time the gap between the two will automatically diminish.

Unfortunately, it’s not true. In fact, history shows exactly the opposite. Inequality between countries has been increasing by orders of magnitude over the past two hundred years, and shows no signs of slowing.

There are a few ways we can look at this. Probably the most common way to think about global inequality is to measure the gap between the richest and poorest countries in real income per capita. Using data from the Maddison Project, we see that in 1960, at the end of colonialism, people living in the world’s richest country were 33 times richer than people living in the poorest country. That’s quite a substantial gap. But then by 2000, after neoliberal globalisation had run its course, they were a shocking 134 times richer. And that’s not counting extreme outliers, like small oil-rich kingdoms in the Middle East or tiny offshore tax havens. This isn’t convergence. To quote Lant Pritchett, it’s divergence, big time.

If we look at it in absolute terms, it’s just as bad. From 1960 to today, based on the data from the Maddison Project, the absolute gap between the average incomes of people in the richest and poorest countries has grown by 135%.

Of course, this metric overstates inequality by focusing on countries at either extreme. We can correct for this by looking at regional differences. The best way to do this is to measure the gap, in real terms, between the GDP per capita of the world’s dominant power (the United States) and that of various regions of the global South. Using World Bank figures, we see that since 1960 the gap for Latin America has grown by 206%, the gap for sub-Saharan Africa has grown by 207%, and the gap for South Asia has grown by 196%. In other words, the global inequality gap has roughly tripled in size.

Over the past few decades inequality has become so bad that, in 2000, Americans were nine times richer than Latin Americans, 72 times richer than sub-Saharan Africans, and a mind-popping 80 times richer than south Asians. These numbers give us a sense for how unfairly the global economy distributes our planet’s wealth.

It doesn’t matter how you slice it; global inequality is getting worse. Much worse. Convergence theory turned out to be wildly incorrect. Inequality doesn’t disappear automatically; it all depends on the balance of political power in the global economy. As long as a few rich countries have the power to set the rules to their own advantage, inequality will continue to worsen. The debt system, structural adjustment, free trade agreements, tax evasion, and power asymmetries in the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO are all major reasons that inequality is getting worse instead of better.

It’s time we face up to the imbalances that distort our global economy. There’s nothing natural about extreme inequality. It is man-made. It has to do with power. And we need to have the courage to say so.

  • This article was amended on 7th April 2016. Due to a mathematical error an earlier version said that “since 1960 the gap for Latin America has grown by 306%, the gap for sub-Saharan Africa has grown by 307%, and the gap for South Asia has grown by 296%. In other words, the global inequality gap has roughly tripled in size”. The gap has indeed tripled, but the percentages should read 206%, 207% and 196%.
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AFGHANISTAN/ON THE MEDIA: A FLICKERING TRUTH

Dir: Pietra Brettkelly
New Zealand / Afghanistan / 2015 / 91mins

We’re delighted to announce a Q&A with director Pietra Brettkelly, via skype, on Saturday 30 April following the screening at 18:30. Click here to book.

As Afghanistan teeters on the edge of an unpredictable future, A Flickering Truth unwraps the world of three dreamers, the dust of 100 years of war and the restoration of 8000 hours of film archive.

Afghanistan’s rich film history might well have been lost forever, if not for the brave custodians revealed in this doc, who risked their lives to conceal films from the Taliban regime. The journey through thousands of hours of dusty film reels yields new surprises every day. Watching rediscovered material sparks youthful recollections among the archive staff – of the films they saw or made, and of the society they have lost. As the caretakers thread old projectors with film from unmarked reels, the country’s history comes alive with images of former leaders, beloved actresses, and landmarks that have since been destroyed.

A Flickering Truth is a testament to the urgency and necessity of film preservation.

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