Quelle déontologie dans les medias arabes en général et libanais en particulier ?
C’est à cette question que je devais répondre dans l’un des séminaires du congrès de l’IFEX à Beyrouth. Je reprends dans cet article un résumé de mon intervention.
Avoir de l’éthique et respecter les codes de la déontologie nécessitent au préalable d’être libre. Quand on n’est pas libre on ne peut pas être responsable de nos faits et on ne peut pas exprimer nos propres convictions.
A partir de là, il est très difficile d’évoquer le thème de la déontologie des journalistes dans les pays arabes. Ces pays, dont la majorité écrasante est gouvernée par des régimes autoritaires ou totalitaires, n’autorisent pas une liberté de la presse et ne laissent pas de grande marge à la conscience du journaliste.
A part le Liban et le Koweit, la plupart des organes de presse dans les pays arabes, sont officiels ou officieux, ou au moins subissent la censure directe des autorités. C’est dans ces deux pays où la presse est pluraliste et jouit d’une liberté totale à l’égard du Pouvoir.
Dans les autres pays arabes la situation varie entre liberté surveillée comme c’est le cas en Egypte, ou un contrôle total de l’Etat comme en Syrie et dans les pays du golfe. L’Irak constitue un cas à part, où la presse est passée du contrôle total de l’Etat sous l’ancien régime, à une liberté chaotique où les partis politiques et les grosses fortunes cherchent à l’utiliser comme un outil de contrôle de l’opinion publique.
Dans ces conditions de travail, le métier de journaliste s’approche de celui de fonctionnaire. Le journaliste a du mal à exprimer ses propres pensées, il subit l’orientation du pouvoir ou des propriétaires des organes de presse. Par la suite il ne peut pas être responsable de ses écrits, et ne peut répondre à quelconque question concernant l’éthique ou la déontologie.
Au Liban, la situation parait différente. La presse libanaise a toujours jouit d’une liberté très large, du au régime démocratique qui règne dans le pays depuis l’indépendance (1943), et au pluralisme politique, culturel et religieux garantit par la constitution, ce qui constitue un cas unique au Proche-Orient.
Mais cette liberté totale qui a constitué durant des décennies un pont entre l’Orient et l’occident, et qui était à la base de la renaissance arabe depuis la seconde moitié du 19 eme siècle, a attiré les convoitises des régimes arabes qui ont cherché par différents moyens à s’approprier cette presse ou au moins à acheter sa collaboration.
A cela s’ajoute un marché libanais réduit (4 millions d’habitants), où se font la concurrence une dizaine de chaîne de TV locales, des dizaines de radios, une dizaine de quotidiens politiques, des dizaines de revues et magazines, plusieurs sites d’informations electroniques…dans un marché publicitaire en crise. Ce qui fait qu’aucun des medias libanais, absolument aucun, n’arrive à équilibrer ses finances, et doit par la suite faire appel à la générosité des « frères » arabes ou à des partis politiques ou financiers divers.
A cela s’ajoutent des salaires de misère qui n’assurent pas aux journalistes une autosuffisance nécessaire à leur liberté. Les études montrent que plus de 80% de journalistes assurent que leur salaire ne satisfait pas leurs besoins, et qu’ils pratiquent l’autocensure. A partir de là on rejoint la situation des pays autoritaires où règne l’absence de liberté, et par la suite l’absence de responsabilité.
Ce qui fait que la liberté de la presse au Liban ne profite pas aux journalistes, mais plutôt aux propriétaires des titres et aux partis politiques qui transforment les medias en outil de propagande politique et de conditionnement de l’opinion publique.
Réflexions à partager :
Lors du séminaire de l’IFEX consacré au « printemps arabe », deux points de vue se sont exprimés concernant l’avenir des révolutions arabes :
Nora Younes, d’Egypte, exprimant un doute sur l’avenir de la révolution dans son pays, voyant que rien n’a changé jusqu’à maintenant, et que le départ du Président à lui seul ne constitue pas de changement.
Naziha Rejib, une activiste tunisienne, fait remarquer qu’elle a une autre analyse de la situation, elle dit: Nora est jeune, la jeunesse réclame tout et très vite… En Tunisie le changement constaté est que, avant la révolution, les gens dans les rues discutaient du football, maintenant ils parlent politique. Et de constater : c’est un indicateur du grand changement qui se dessine.
IFEX members were asked the most pressing FOE issue in their countries. Here are their one-minute responses:
Ramsey George of the Tactical Technology Collective conducted a session (several times, and in English and Arabic) on new media and advocacy strategies. Basing his talk partly on Tactical Tech’s excellent “10 Tactics for Turning Information into Activism” film (copies of which were offered to participants), he made the point early on that what people are doing online is very similar to what they’re doing offline when it comes to activism. Or, in other words, an authentic online campaign ties in “real life”, but uses new tools.
Ramsey defines info-activism as: “when rights advocates turn information about their issue into action that addresses it”. He asks us: “Does anyone know the difference between data and information? Data is raw numbers, it has no meaning; when it starts to mean something, it becomes information.” He says that what Tactical Tech does is turn data into stories.
“We don’t want to focus on tools too much,” he says, “because they’re the means, not the end.” Targeted advocacy has a goal; the activist knows what she wants to do. She then adds data–numbers, words–turning it into information, and packaging it. “It’s got to be based on something; it has to have a goal,” says Ramsey.
Evidence-based campaigning is the end goal, and Tactical Tech works with individuals and organizations to make that happen. Images, such as the one below from Egypt, play a huge role.
One of the ten tactics is “witnessing.” An example given is that of the Moroccan “Targuist Sniper,” who in 2007 videotaped police agents in the south of the country taking bribes from drivers. The activist’s videos received hundreds of thousands of views.
Though witnessing may not have a huge impact within a country, it can draw global attention to a cause. This happened with Burma’s “Saffron Revolution,” but also more recently with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and across the Arab world. In both Egypt and Burma, the regimes–recognizing the threat of digital tools–cut off Internet access.
Safety is also a huge concern for activists using online tools. As WITNESS’s Sam Gregory puts it in Tactical Tech’s video, “we don’t want to double-victimize people who’ve experienced human rights abuses.” Important is helping activists understand potential implications of their work and help them stay safe online.
There are also ways that info activists can ensure their stories aren’t discredited. A recent example from Syria involves a young man whose video was discredited by the regime; the activist then went back and re-recorded himself at each location in the video, showing his identification as well as a newspaper that displayed the date, thus validating the original video.
Ramsey share another video that is a particularly strong example of info-activism:
In the session, we discussed the potential audience for the video–young people, policymakers, gun advocates–as well as what’s particularly effective about the messaging (one thing pointed out: the watermelon is the same size as the young man’s head, causing viewers to visualize the possibility). More information on the campaign is available here.
The ensuing discussion: You need to know who you’re targeting and where your video or image fits into the larger picture; this video, for example, leaves nowhere else to go–it’s essentially the end of a campaign. “This to me fits into a larger strategy,” says Ramsey, “for example, part of the reason young people aren’t afraid of guns is because they don’t understand what could happen.”
Ramsey points out the three-pronged strategy behind rhetorical analysis: Who’s the audience? What’s the message? What tools or strategies are being used?
The next example in the session is TahrirDocuments.org, an Egyptian project that has collected various materials used during the January 25 uprising. One document, leaked early on to the Atlantic, was meant to be kept offline and provided all sorts of images and tactics teaching people how to, for example, deal with tear gas.
Lastly, Ramsey shares the Lebanese Khede Kasra campaign, which advocates for gender equality by tackling gender in the Arabic language (the kasra is placed below the word to address a female and above to address a male, but people default to the masculine). “Khede Kasra” has the double meaning of “getting things moving.” The campaign first approached people on the street, offering them a word without the kasra and seeing where they put it by default. The campaign then moved to television, and became very popular, and thus, effective.
Ramsey says: “They took a really simple idea and built a campaign around it.” The campaign even got the attention of Lebanon’s Prime Minister. “What are some of the strategies that made this effective?” asks Ramsey, “they took a good idea and put it on a ton of platforms, but the key bit is that it was participatory, allowing people to act and be a part of the change. It went beyond the things that they produced.”
We also looked at the Tunisian Presidential Airplane campaign, which Sami Ben Gharbia has highlighted as an early Tunisian info-activism campaign that helped activists in that country build their skills over time, later contributing to the effectiveness of digital tools in the January uprising.
“In Western thought, we’re taught three basic ways to argue something: ethos, logos, and pathos,” says Ramsey, “but they left out a fourth one: mythos. Mythology: a belief in something you can see, you don’t know if it’s right and it may not pull on emotion or make logical sense, but it attracts you. This is an incredibly effective way to argue.”
“Also,” points out Ramsey, “Perception is everything; if people believe something to be real, then it is to them.”
Ramsey also argues that you should take time to identify your active allies, allies, neutral parties, opponents, and active opponents, so you can be prepared to know who to work with, against, and so you know who to challenge.
An effective campaign, argues Ramsey, must be participatory, engaging, easily accessible, and simple, but this is sometimes threatening to organizations, because they have to respond to people. When the audience can engage, so too does the organization. “And the simpler the better,” says Ramsey.
Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about how to leverage digital tools for info-activism can visit Tactical Tech’s website or get in touch with Ramsey.
(Kristina Stockwood, IFEX MENA Outreach Coordinator) At a meeting of 20 rights groups including IFEX members attending the GM in Beirut on 2 June, Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights joined the group by skype to give an overview of the current situation in Bahrain. He says, “My people began to protest peacefully since 14 February. They didn’t want to remove the government but just have democratic reform, respect for human rights and anti-corruption. For that the government has responded with a bloody crackdown with troops from Saudi Arabia, Emirates and Jordan. They have been arresting people, raiding homes and mosques. People wanted democratic reform but then the government wanted to try to frame it as a religious dispute.”
As Nabeel is speaking he can hear the helicopters overhead above his house.
He continues, “At least 2 people for every thousand people are in jail all of them systematically tortured. At least one editor and blogger have been tortured to death. There are journalists, photographers and editors all in detention, many have left the country. Anyone who criticises the government is jailed. Many people have been interrogated including myself for 6 hours on 31 May for interviews with international media.”
Zainab Al Khawaja has been called for interrogation right now [but then released.] Nabeel syas, “Her crime is doing an interview with CNN and other TV stations. Her father, husband, brother in law and uncle are all in jail All of the people who were jailed are tortured badly. All of them – if they come out of jail – they are silenced. All bloggers are silenced except a few people still blogging with fake names.”
Only a few brave people are free – in the sense that they are not in jail, but not in any other way- except for a few like Nabeel and Zainab. Thousands have been fired from their jobs. University students are in court for tweeting or Facebook criticism and saying they would go to pearl roundabout to protest. Nabeel says, “Harassment is severe for rights defenders.”
Nabeel was arrested 2 months ago and tortured in a car and then let go after he was woken in the night with masked men pointing guns in his head, at 2 oclock in the morning. “My daughter had to experience this – she was there with me,” he says, noting she is very young and has been tramautised. On 21 March, there was a teargas attack on his house which hurt his mother but they saved her an gave her oxygen. His house was last week again attacked by teargas which happens he says “every time I go on the tv and do interviews.”
Nabeel repeatedly thanked the IFEX members and Clearing House staff for their support, along with other international NGOs like Frontline. He said, “Thank you for the statements by ANHRI and Maharat (http://ifex.org/bahrain/2011/05/31/travel_ban/) about these attacks. The Bahraini people feel happy that people are watching and happy to stand with them. We are a victim of the foreign policy of governments. People feel alone. We can be arrested and tortured and sexually assaulted all the time. We see silence from the west because this region has a lot of friends, especially Saudi Arabia which is a known human right violator. This region is the worst region for violations. We are victims of the west who won’t criticise the Bahrain government even though they criticised Libya and supported the revolutions in Egypt or Tunisia. But the international human rights groups with the help of IFEX give us support. You don’t know how much those statements mean. It sounds easy to sign a statement but it’s very important, influential and touching, people really feel very happy that people are watching these crimes and are getting very angry about these violations. Human rights groups are angry at their governments’ policy towards this region. For how long will they be silent? Can the rights groups influence their own governments?”
Nabeel also notes the silence of regional media. He says, “Al Jazeera took a leading role in giving voice to the revolution in other countries, like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt but silent on Bahrain (Al Jazeera English is much better but the Arabic one is influenced by Gulf policy). In the last couple of weeks, we are seeing a bit of movement in media. A few newspapers and TV channels that are pro-democracy will mention it. But really compared to other democracy movements we are not getting coverage.”
He says there are protests going on now in Bahrain: “I am supposed to be in the street right now protesting with my people where I always am. But I wanted to talk to you now because I couldn’t be with you since we met at the IFEX meeting in Oslo in 2009.”
He closes, “Thank you, your support is like air for us, it’s like hope for us. It is lifting our spirit. I admire IFEX members and IFEX staff for their help. I am proud to be a part of the IFEX family.”
He says if the government is serious about dialogue now that the state of mergency is lifed, they must stop persecuting people for doing their human rights work, lift bans on blogs and newspapers, allow newspapers to publish freely.
His message to international NGOs: “You are the only hope we have.” The group was visibly moved by his comments and we went around the room as each person promised their solidarity. Some of the people will join a fact-finding mission – colleagues from Europe, Tunisia, Egypt will all try to go to Bahrain. Watch for upcoming news on IFEX about Bahrain, including trial monitoring of rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and blogger Abdulhadi AlKhawaja who will be sentenced on 22 June – they are in jail and being tortured for peacefully protesting. IFEX members have repeatedly called for their release: http://ifex.org/bahrain/
Courageous Bahraini free expression campaigner Nabeel Rajab finally got to make his contribution to this week’s IFEX General Meeting on Thursday evening, not in person as planned, but via skype and laptop.
The Bahraini government had prevented Nabeel, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), from flying to join his IFEX colleagues in Beirut on 29 May.
Fellow free speech and human rights defenders gathered for a 40 minute call, during which Nabeel thanked them for their support and welcomed plans for an IFEX mission to Bahrain in the days to come.
Nabeel also brought them up to date with the rounds of arrests, detentions, assaults and threats that both preceded and followed the Bahraini king’s call for ‘national dialogue’ on reform this week.
This left King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s call for talks with “all parties” from 1 July ringing hollow in his ears. “The King said he would cancel the state of emergency but wanted a dialogue,” he told the group.
“How can there be a dialogue when people even this morning are being detained?” The people who were needed to be on the other side of any talks were being ruthlessly targeted.
“Stop persecuting people for doing their human rights work, allow journalists to publish freely, stop the bans on blogs.” What dialogue can you have in these circumstances, he asked.
Daughter of detained human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a former BCHR president, she had written an open letter to Barack Obama, warning that she would hold the US president “personally responsible” if any harm came to her father while in detention.
Her husband Wafi was arrested and held without charge 55 days ago and his welfare and whereabouts remain unknown. The authorities will not allow him to see his family or a lawyer.
Like Zaynab and many Bahraini rights activists, Nabeel also argues that the West is bowing to Saudi and Bahraini royal family pressure to moderate its criticism of the crackdown.
The King’s speech Wednesday did not slowed the repression. Poet and student teacher Ayat Alqurmozi, 20, was arrested the same day for reading a political poem Wednesday at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, and was due to face a military tribunal the next day.
Defence lawyers Mohammed Ahmed, Hafedh Hafedh and Mohammed al-Jishi were also interrogated by the police on 1 June. They were threatened with prosecution for ‘illegal assembly’ – groups of more than five people cannot meet in Bahrain without state permission – and ‘inciting hatred’ against the government by protesting outside the justice ministry.
Hundreds more people have been detained during the days between the imposition of the state of emergency on 15 February and 1 June, about whom nothing has been heard of since.
Many injured have been lifted by police from hospitals against the wishes of doctors, some of whom have been targeted for treating them.
The session on emerging online threats to journalists on day 1 was an eye opener to members of the IFEX network. This is especially that it brought to the fore a number of emerging threats targeted at bloggers, journalists and Internet users. To give prominence to the power of the Internet and how it has provoked a backlash against online reporting from repressive states and organized crime, Danny O’Brien led the session and unpacked a number of case studies on censorship, surveillance, cybercrime against journalists, and the defenses available.
As a journalist and media freedom activist, I found it enriching to listen to experts from Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries narrating how the Internet has being used to impact change in those country. Surely, this is evidence enough to show that the internet and new media has brought a shaper focus on the quicker way of freedom of expression and how it can be used to impact social change in the lives of people.
It can as well be agued from a democratic point of view that with all these new modes of communication it is imperative for everyone to use them to speak our minds on issues affecting our lives. If people fail to grab such opportunities and freely express themselves, surely it means in one way or the other, their opinions and ideas would have being kept behind bars. At least, gone are the days that policy makers could feast on public resources with impunity while the grass roots are languishing in poverty, with barely anything to quench their silence.
Now, with the emerging usage of technology through new media and social networks to break their silence, people from one end of the world to the other can stand together and use a common gun dubbed “Voice Weapon” to break loose any detractor on their way.
I am also tempted to believe that, after the overthrow of dictatorship in Tunisia and Egypt, followed by the uprising in the Middle East, many such like-minded dictators might have turned around and declared a curse on the inventors of Internet technology. Oooops, believe it or not, to them keeping the people silent was a best choice of keeping themselves and their thrones aloft for ages. Certainly this might be the reason why Moammar Gaddafi once invited all kings in Africa to Tripoli to confer upon him a crown of king of Kings, a title only rendered to God. Wow, just wondering! Surely this is insanity, and I guess his hold to power might have darkened his thoughts and made him fail to blink to the reality that only God could rule forever.
Anyway, I do not have anything personal against Gaddafi, but I am thrilled to notice that the revolution in the Arab world has shaken the comfort zones of many dictators around the world. Many would agree with me that the arrest of protesters and activist in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Uganda, and Angola bear testimony to this.
Freedom of expression through the use of new media, social networks, and blogs are real proof that words can change the world indeed. Instead of spending money to buy expensive weapon of mass destruction to dethrone valiant dictators, to journalists it has become ideal that one would rather buy a computer or a phone. These technological tools have become the means for the voiceless to voice their idea.
These means must therefore be protected to allow for the free flow of information among societies. However, one thing that seemed a lot more disturbing was to listen participants and facilitators unpacked practical examples on the tools used by online oppressors to suppress free expression. From the session, it was evident that these oppressors are adamant to use any tool through web blocking, precision censorship, denial of access to internet infrastructures, attacks on exile-run sites, malware attacks, state cybercrime, internet kill switches, detention against bloggers and instituting violence against online journalists.
Therefore, given the importance of information sharing, it would be vital for people from across the world to unity and fight against these crimes against freedom of expression.
(Erin Woycik, Action Alert Coordinator)
As an Alerts Coordinator I have spent the last two and half years emailing with many of our IFEX members, asking questions about their alerts, learning from their websites and reading their reports. These past few days have allowed me to FINALLY put faces to names and to truly be inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm of our network. Seeing so many representatives here in person has given me a fresh perspective both on my work and the strength of IFEX.
Yesterday I went to a Campaigns Strategy session with Rafael Barca where people from Hong Kong, Uganda, Thailand and Russia worked together to help set possible objectives for each others’ campaigns. At the Clearing House I have helped with the Campaigns section of the website, but I was so glad to have the opportunity to see Rafael bring that content to life. He was very frank about setting objectives that are achievable and making sure that organisations do not set themselves up to fail. We discussed potential allies and opponents and how to evaluate their attitudes and influence. You can read about these tools on the IFEX Tools and Resources pages.
Today I was able to listen in on discussions participants were having with Gilberto Cutrupi and Ramsey George from the Tactical Technology Collective. Their tips on changing passwords to pass-paragraphs and not leaving online login information on post-it notes have been circulating by word of mouth – I’ve now heard about them from at least 5 different people!
Thanks to everyone for their energetic contributions to these past few days. I look forward to seeing your names in my email inbox when I get back to Toronto and continuing our conversations online until we meet again!
The ethical journalism session danced lightly over a range of tricky issues, but none can of them can be ignored.
The session concluded that we can never let governments off the hook for the range of threats that journalists face, but many of the ethical problems in the newsroom are self-inflicted.
The contributions from Khady Cisse, Ziliania Otero and Georges Sadaka were revealing about how media corruption, political bias and incompetent reporting provide a massive global challenge to the media development community.
If we want a journalism fit for democracy we will have to invest in more ethical training and more credible forms of accountability that will build public trust. That will not be easy, but we can make a start through practical co-operation.
On that note it was good to sit with a group after lunch that rolled out some ideas for follow-up work on overturning the recent Hungarian media law which is little more than a charter for political control of journalism.
One idea is to draft a counter-manifesto setting out the case for an independent and credible accountability system that will respect ethics and keep political hands off the controls of media. Given the need to build a culture of responsible journalism in the new world of information it’s an idea that should be taken up across the globe.
It’s Day Two of IFEX’s Strategy Conference and the first session delved into a heavy topic: the murder of journalists.
The session, “Stopping the Killers Before They Strike,” focused on CPJ’s fourth annual Impunity Index that listed 13 countries where journalists were killed and their murderers left to wander off.
Tragically, Iraq, the highest ranked in terms of unsolved murders (92), is in the Arab world.
According to the report called “Getting Away With Murder,” Russia and Mexico, “two of the world’s most murderous countries for the press, are heading in different directions in combating deadly anti-press violence,” but other countries in the last year weren’t so lucky, and impunity remained a major issue. It’s a must read.
Although Lebanon has, fortunately, not witnessed any more murders of its journalists since Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni were brutally blown up in their cars in 2005, their killers have also managed to escape prosecution.
The discussion moderated by CPJ’s Joel Simon zeroed in on how journalists’ murderers should be brought to justice and how countries that fail the impunity test should be shamed.
Speakers Owais Aslam Ali, Peter Bouckaert, Farnaz Fassihi and Andrés Morales agreed that quite often reporting incidents of death threats or harassment to the police or other security authorities was an exercise in futility since such agents would not come to the journalists’ rescue, or would, in fact, be among the tormentors. Journalists in Iran, for example, fear the different layers of security, Fassihi said.
I was particularly attracted to a second session — a seminar — entitled “Keeping the Faith: Ethical Journalism in a World of Conflict and Crisis.”
Having organized several international media ethics conferences in Beirut, and making sure that media ethics are hammered into every workshop I conduct or course I teach, it’s a subject that will continue to present challenges to practitioners across all platforms.
A speaker I once hosted at a conference said: “You can’t do ethics in 250th of a second,” the presumed time it takes to shoot a picture.
Naturally, photography speeds differ, but the idea was that shooting a provocative or gory photo, or dwelling on gut-wrenching footage may make the front pages and top the newscasts, but is there always value added to the story, or is it pure voyeurism?
A common thread woven by Georges Sadaka of Lebanon and co-speaker Khady Cisse of Senegal was that journalists in developing countries are woefully underpaid and easy marks for bribery or pressure from political or business-related (often one and the same) groups.
In Lebanon, Sadaka added, journalists are also beholden to politicians in a highly sectarian environment, which adds to the lethal mix.
Moreover, journalists exercise self-censorship to avoid retribution, or to appease benefactors and bosses. “Most Lebanese media belong to politicians, so journalists become propagandists,” Sadaka said.
While moderator Aidan White urged participants to pursue ethical standards and strive for a community of informed journalists, it’s important to provide those poor oppressed reporters with alternatives.
Bribes, gifts and junkets may be anathema, but if poorly paid journalists need to put food on the table, educate their children, and pay the rent, how does one persuade them not to follow their fat cat bosses’ example?
I’m often asked that question by well-intentioned journalists who would like to abide by codes of conduct but who find themselves in untenable situations.
Media transparency comes with a hefty price tag in countries not accustomed to accountability. Much work needs to be done to instill such values in journalists and, more importantly, their superiors.
Before leaving for the day, I checked in at the “Skills Exchange: Digital Security and Privacy” Marketplace to learn more about staying secure online. To say that it’s an endless quest would be understating matters.
Journalists, bloggers and activists must constantly look over their cyber shoulders and the “Security-in-a-box” kit I got was chock-full of helpful hints on staying safe and survival in the digital age.