INDONESIA BANS AUSTRALIAN JOURNALIST
Indonesia has banned a senior foreign journalist from working in the country, the first such move since the downfall of the former authoritarian ruler, President Suharto, almost four years ago.
Authorities have refused to renew the visa of Lindsay Murdoch, correspondent of the Australian newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. No reason has been given for that action, the BBC reported.
However, Murdoch said he has no doubt he has been banned because of his coverage of human rights violations committed by the military.
Murdoch and the editors of The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne-based The Age have condemned the move by the government. They describe it as a serious blow to press freedom.
The two newspapers have been particularly angered by the requests from Jakarta that they now appoint a new correspondent to replace Murdoch.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists has asked Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to intercede on Murdoch’s behalf and see that his work visa is restored. CPJ is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1981 to monitor abuses against the press and promote press freedom around the world.
ZIMBABWE TO LICENSE, LIMIT JOURNALISTS
Just days after his re-election, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe signed into law sweeping controls requiring all journalists to be licensed by the government and imposing severe limits on foreign correspondents.
The March 15 action was his first major executive decision since the disputed presidential election the previous weekend.
Mugabe has formally enacted the Access to Information Act, widely criticized as a draconian attempt to muzzle media criticism of the government, according to The Associated Press.
His action was unexpected and appeared to show the government’s determination to push through restrictive legislation after Mugabe’s election to a fourth six-year term.
Under the new legislation, it is illegal for journalists to operate without government accreditation. It also restricts visits by foreign journalists and requires specified assignments to be cleared first by Zimbabwe’s embassies in the journalists’ home countries.
Previous laws already enacted allow for the prosecution of journalists who criticize Mugabe and the government.
Saudi editor apologizes for anti-Semitism
A Saudi editor said that his newspaper should not have published an article that disparaged Jews and perpetuated anti-Semitic myths about their holidays and customs.
The March 10 article depicted the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates the saving of the Jews from genocide in ancient Persia, as a bloody, violent and racist holiday, The Associated Press reported.
Saudi writer Umayma al-Jalahma, a professor at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, described Jewish people as vampires who bake cookies with the blood of non-Jews.
In a second article, published on March 12, she wrote that the Torah, the Jewish holy book, requires Jews to demonstrate their joy by eating pastries mixed with human blood.
A week later, Al Riyadh’s editor, Turki Abdullah al-Sudeiri, wrote that he regretted the publication of the article, which appeared while he was away.
In Saudi Arabia, newspapers and other forms of the press come under strict government control. However, a Saudi official, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, said that the article did not reflect government thinking.
CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS RUSSIAN NETWORK BID
A team of journalists thrown off the air in January won the right to start a new television network in a deal blessed by President Vladimir Putin, who has sought to eliminate criticism from Russia’s independent media.
The government licensing commission’s March 27 decision will return controversial anchorman Yevgeny Kiselyov to the airwaves along with a group of journalists chased from one network to another over the past two years, The Washington Post reported.
However, the journalists have teamed up with the Kremlin, which has raised questions about the independence of the new network as Russia’s sixth channel.
Kiselyov refused to discuss what accommodation his group had reached with the Kremlin.
Asked whether the new network could operate free of political interference, he responded, “The future will judge.”
Several of the 12 bidders for TV-6’s frequency complained that the outcome had been preordained by the Kremlin and expressed doubts that Kiselyov’s team could run a network free from government interference, according to The Post.
But the journalists later said that rules had been rewritten, giving them more say over the editorial policy and management, The New York Times reported.
RUSSIAN BROADCASTERS QUIT OVER INTERFERENCE
The editor of Russia’s most influential radio station said in February that he and dozens of other journalists are quitting rather than work for a news outlet that he said is becoming another voice of the state.
Alexei Venediktov, editor in chief of Ekho Moskvy, announced his resignation less than three weeks after a subsidiary of a state-controlled monopoly moved to seize control of the station’s board of directors, according to The Washington Post.
“I am not going to work for a radio station that belongs to the state,” said.
Venediktov, 46, was a fixture at Ekho Moskvy for more than a decade. “I prefer to keep my reputation but not my job.”
His decision may spell the end of an era for Ekho Moskvy, the first radio station to broadcast from Russia without state control.
Since its initial broadcast in 1990, Ekho Moskvy built a reputation for breaking news, hard-hitting analysis and interviews with key political figures, including visiting presidents. It broadcasts in 70 cities, reaching an audience of 4 million to 6 million.
In June, Ekho Moskvy lost financial independence when Gazprom-Media, an arm of the state-controlled natural gas monopoly, took over 51 percent of the station’s shares. However, the station’s board remained autonomous until February, when Gazprom-Media exercised its right as majority shareholder to name five of nine directors, The Post reported.
Venediktov said he believes that a change in editorial policy is not far off. He added that the only hope for him and the station’s reporters to practice objective journalism is to find another frequency.