NASA spacecraft lands on Mars after six-month journey

By MARCIA DUNN AP Aerospace Writer|AIWA! NO!|CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –A NASA spacecraft designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile (482 million-kilometer) journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.


Watch the NASA team react as the spacecraft InSight lands on Mars

After waiting in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive from space, flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in that the three-legged InSight spacecraft had successfully touched down.

NASA team reacts as InSight sends back the first image from Mars after landing

People hugged, shook hands, exchanged high-fives, pumped their fists, wiped away tears and danced in the aisles.

“Flawless,” declared JPL’s chief engineer, Rob Manning.

“This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind’s eye,” he said. “Sometimes things work out in your favor.”

A pair of mini satellites trailing InSight since their May liftoff provided practically real-time updates of the spacecraft’s supersonic descent through the reddish skies. The satellite also shot back a quick photo from Mars’ surface.

The image was marred by specks of debris on the camera cover. But the quick look at the vista showed a flat surface with few if any rocks – just what scientists were hoping for. Much better pictures will arrive in the hours and days ahead.

“What a relief,” Manning said. “This is really fantastic.” He added: “Wow! This never gets old.”

RELATED: NASA finds more evidence that Mars could have once supported life

InSight, a $1 billion international venture, reached the surface after going from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines. Radio signals confirming the landing took more than eight minutes to cross the nearly 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York’s Times Square.

NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.

“Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration,” InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, said before Monday’s success. “It’s such a difficult thing, it’s such a dangerous thing that there’s always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong.”

Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions. Up to now, the success rate at the red planet was only 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the U.S., Russia and other countries since 1960.

The U.S., however, has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades, not counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown. No other country has managed to set and operate a spacecraft on the dusty surface.

InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas.

RELATED: NASA’s Curiosity rover takes ‘selfie’ during Mars dust storm

The stationary 800-pound (360-kilogram) lander will use its 6-foot (1.8-meter) robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet’s internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

No lander has dug deeper on Mars than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on the planet.

Germany is in charge of InSight’s mole, while France is in charge of the seismometer.

An ecstatic Philippe Laudet, the French Space Agency’s project manager, said at JPL that now that the seismometer is on Mars, a “new adventure” is beginning.

By examining the interior of Mars, scientists hope to understand how our solar system’s rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they turned out so different – Mars cold and dry, Venus and Mercury burning hot, and Earth hospitable to life.

InSight has no life-detecting capability, however. That will be left to future rovers, such as NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which will collect rocks that will eventually be brought back to Earth and analyzed for evidence of ancient life.

Facebook In Turmoil; Denial, Tension And Finger-pointing As Crisis Builds


tal arrogance,” one Facebook employee said of company leadership’s willingness to blame its communications team for recent crises.

Image: Mark Zuckerberg appears before the House and Energy Committee

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appears before the House and Energy Committee about privacy and election meddling on Capitol Hill on April 11, 2018.David Butow / for NBC News

By Dylan Byers, cnbc news

|AIWA! NO!|As challenges to Facebook mount from consumer organizations, politicians and journalists, the company’s leadership remains convinced that its recent crises are primarily public relations problems, according to people at the company.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer, and Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, believe Facebook’s negative image is a public relations problem that stems from a bungled press strategy and sensational media coverage, not a structural or philosophical shortcoming that requires a wholesale course correction, six Facebook sources familiar with their thinking told NBC News. The sources asked not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

As a result, some inside Facebook believe the company’s leaders are likely to respond to the current controversy in the near-term by revamping their communications strategy, not by making drastic changes to personnel or the platform.

To critics from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill, that is likely to be seen as a continuation of the “delay, deny and deflect” strategy covered by The New York Times that got them into hot water in the first place.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 5, 2018.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 5, 2018.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images file

In recent days, Zuckerberg and Sandberg have both publicly blamed the company’s communications team for the decision to hire a conservative public relations firm that included what one former employee called an “in-house fake news shop.” Both leaders also publicly claimed ignorance about the decision, even as Sandberg privately told staff that she “fully accepted responsibility.”

In a company-wide meeting on Friday, Zuckerberg blamed the media for fueling “bad morale” and called “bulls—” on The New York Times report, which insinuated that the company had tried to cover up its problems with Russia-based disinformation efforts. He also said he would not hesitate to fire employees who leaked information to the media.

Internally, the leadership’s decision to blame the media and the press shop has driven a wedge between them and members of the communications team who feel as if they’ve been thrown under the bus, the sources said.

Cummings: People ‘should be allowed to come in, seek asylum. That is the law.’

Cummings: Minority won’t get subpoena power on House Oversight

“It’s total arrogance,” one Facebook employee said. “Everyone is pissed.”

On Sunday night, a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that the leadership “takes full responsibility for the issues we’re facing. They’ve been vocal about that internally and externally. No matter where people sit at Facebook, everyone wants to move forward — and that’s our plan.”

In recent months, Zuckerberg has taken a war-like attitude toward dealing with Facebook’s problems and with its PR strategy, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Zuckerberg, 34, believes his company didn’t move quickly enough to handle its problems in the past and has “expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year.”

Former Facebook Security Chief on what happened at Facebook in 2016

But Facebook’s critics worry that the leadership still has yet to internalize the full scale of the problem.

“It’s important for Facebook to recognize that this isn’t a public relations problem,” Sen. Mark Warner told The New York Times on Sunday. “It’s a fundamental challenge for the platform and their business model.”

LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS -Tackling the Information Crisis, A new Report


By Professor Charlie Beckett, CJR|AIWA! NO!|What kind of information society do you want? How should we reduce the amount of misinformation? How can we protect democracy from digital damage? How can we help people make the most of the extraordinary opportunities of the Internet while avoiding the harm it can cause?


India’s unprecedented news and information crisis


India’s unprecedented news and information crisis

For a year the LSE Truth, Trust and Technology Commission (T3) has been grappling with these key questions. Sparked by the anxieties caused by so-called fake news, the Commission has now come up with a policy agenda for tackling the information crisis.

Working with politicians, technologists, journalists, academics and others from a range of sectors and the general public, we have published this report that sets out a wide-ranging strategy to build a more resilient media system fit for the information ecosystem in the UK.


India’s unprecedented news and information crisis
Read the full report

The key proposal is for an Independent Platform Agency (IPA) that would be a watchdog – rather than a regulator – which evaluates the effectiveness of platform self-regulation and the development of quality journalism, reporting to Parliament and offering policy advice. It should be funded by a new levy on UK social media and search advertising revenue. The Agency should be a permanent forum for monitoring and reviewing the behaviour of online platforms and provide annual reviews of ‘the state of disinformation’.

The report also suggests ways to support the traditional news industry to develop innovative ways to combat the information crisis.

The report calls on the Government to mobilise and coordinate an integrated, new programme in media literacy. This should focus on children in schools – for example, a compulsory media literacy module in citizenship classes – but also on adults in further and vocational education.

The report also addresses the recent problems around media and elections in the UK. It recommends that Parliament urgently brings forward legislation to introduce a statutory code on political advertising, as recommended by the Information Commissioner.

The central message from this report is that the information crisis is causing real problems – in health for example, as well as politics. Any approach to deal with it must be structural because this is a systematic problem that needs a coordinated, comprehensive response.

This is a rapidly evolving set of issues so any policies must also be flexible. Above all, they must avoid causing any damage to the diversity and openness of debate and freedom of expression.

Prof Charlie Beckett, Director of the LSE Truth, Trust and Technology Commission

The LSE T3 Commission will continue its work on this and welcomes your input.

You can access the background papers and a range of online resources at our website.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #LSEt3

There will be a public event to discuss the report on Tuesday 20th November at the LSE

International Declaration on Information and Democracy: governments need to open information and communication space. And more …

– International Declaration on Information and Democracy –

In a historic step in the context of the Paris Peace Forum today, 12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – a process based on the declaration issued last week by an independent commission that was created at the initiative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

|JAVIER PALLERO, accessnow|AIWA! NO!|On November 2, an independent commission set up by Reporters Without Borders published a new declaration on issues relevant for human rights in the digital era. The “International Declaration on Information and Democracy: principles for the global information and communication space“ addresses difficult and pressing issues such as misinformation, privacy, and the role of tech intermediaries in ensuring freedom of expression.

The declaration, endorsed by a number of important figures in journalism and human rights, has valuable references to freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, and it calls for a better technological ecosystem for information exchange. Today at the Paris Peace Forum,12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – an initiative based on the declaration.

While we share that goal, our analysis offers a word of caution with regard to the recommendations on the role of internet information intermediaries. We explain why this part of the declaration may be problematic for the freedom of expression online if poorly implemented or interpreted by decision-makers.

A necessary call for better conditions for journalism

At the request of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Eiffel Tower’s lights were turned off for a minute at 6:30 p.m. today on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists to pay tribute to Saudi newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi and all the other journalists in the world whose murders have so far gone unpunished.

The declaration takes stock of the current challenges for the free press, which are shared by traditional and digital journalism. It reinforces the key role that journalists play in democratic societies, and makes a call to increase their safety. From our point of view, this clearly includes strengthening digital security, a challenge that journalists face in light of the illegal eavesdropping by both governments and private actors. Journalists need to be able to rely on technology that works for them and protects their sources. That’s why we view the protection of strong encryption as fundamental for the work of journalists, and we commend the declaration’s call for privacy for those participating in the public debate.

Privacy facilitates the exercise of the freedom of expression, which comprises the right to impart and receive information. Both technology and the press play an important role in facilitating our access to information in the public interest. The declaration recognizes this and stresses the social function of the press. We add that our ability to access the internet in times of political and social unrest is also essential in fulfilment of that role. Therefore, states should abstain from ordering internet shutdowns or blocking applications. Despite growing public awareness of such network interference, this dangerous trend is nevertheless escalating, as we recently indicated in a joint report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. We also call for increased attention to the wave of repressive legislation that is targeting online expression and putting journalists’ work and lives at risk.

Another laudable inclusion in the declaration is its call for further transparency. This includes transparency as a means of improving the quality of information but also as a way to understand more about how the content curation algorithms in digital platforms work.

Cautions and considerations regarding free expression

The declaration raises concerns about issues including liability for content dissemination, bias in digital platforms, and the proliferation of misinformation on the internet. We acknowledge and share those concerns. However, we worry that some parts of the declaration may be misinterpreted by decision-makers to adopt solutions that, without further analysis, could harm free expression.

Liability for expression — some important distinctions

The declaration makes note of liability for those participating in the public debate, particularly for content they disseminate or “help to disseminate.” There are critically important distinctions to be made in this area in order to avoid ill-informed implementations of this idea. First, there are technical intermediaries on the internet that help disseminate content, but, as a general rule, should not be held liable for third-party expressions. That is the case with regard to hosting and domain name providers, for instance, which do not participate in the curation or prioritization of content and merely provide technical infrastructure to web pages and apps to function. Legal sanctions for these intermediaries for the content they host would represent a disproportionate measure at odds with internationally recognized human rights principles.

When we consider social media platforms, there is no clear solution and any efforts in the area must be evidence-based. When platforms use algorithmic curation of content, it implies making a decision about the dissemination of information, but that decision is typically informed not only by the creators of the algorithm but also by the conduct of users. Further, design choices and decision-making for curation that rewards user engagement may create an incentive for companies that use these platforms for advertising to track and surveil users, which implicates other rights. The bottom line is that we need more information to understand how content consumption and dissemination really works. Before we engage in any public policy consideration of liability for digital intermediaries on content, which raises clear and significant risks for free expression, we must have clarity on the extent to which different actors in the information ecosystem exert influence over content creation and dissemination.

Neutrality — what kind?

The declaration also calls for “political, religious, and ideological neutrality.” It states that platforms should be neutral on those issues when “structuring the information space.” While we understand the concerns regarding possible bias in the curation of content, public policy actions based on the call for neutrality in the ”structuring” of the information space may leave room for abuse if important questions are not answered first. There is no doubt that arbitrary discrimination is an obstacle for the exercise of free expression. But, what could neutrality mean in the digital information context? Would that mean equal treatment for different kinds of information that are fed into a curation algorithm? Or would that mean striving for an ideal of a balanced output in search results or social media feeds? The definition of neutrality, as we can see, can be tricky. It implies a neutrality of information input, treatment, and output that is hard to achieve across diverse information systems. Take a search engine, for instance, and compare it with a social media service. A search engine indexes a broader range of information not directly influenced by the user, but its processing and presentation of search results is indirectly influenced by user behavior. That’s how search services offer personalized results. Should a search engine’s neutrality efforts be focused on non-discriminatory crawling of sources? Or should it be non-discriminatory in the processing and presentation of results? How is neutrality in a search engine compatible with user personalization? If this is a matter of degree, how much personalization or neutrality is enough, and who gets to decide that?

The question of “neutrality” for social media platforms is perhaps even more complicated. Users themselves input content, and users tend to follow the people and pages that they like. The choices they make reflect their own ideas, religious beliefs, and more. Should companies or governments intervene in the choices of users? To what degree? Should some content or user posts be sponsored to promote “neutrality” or diversity of opinion? Who makes that decision?

The information ecosystem today has characteristics that appear to be promoting polarization and reactivity, which in turn can have a negative effect in democracy. However, confronting this challenge will take much more than asking companies for “neutrality.” It requires addressing business models, information literacy, design for user choice, and social and educational problems. Consider the reports about the use of WhatsApp, a closed communication channel, to spread misinformation in Brazil before the recent elections. This could be considered a “neutral” channel since there is no algorithmic prioritization of the messages that run through the platform. Yet in the broader context of the information ecosystem in Brazil, including the dominance of this channel because WhatsApp is often “zero-rated” and therefore free to use, its use may also have increased the challenges for information diversity and fact-checking.

We agree with the declaration’s emphasis on the idea that with the greater influence, there is more responsibility and a corresponding need for increased transparency. However, given the considerations outlined above, assigning editorial responsibility or possible liability may not be an appropriate answer in all cases. Platforms should, instead, provide users with effective tools to exert the maximum amount of control over their information experience. By default. This could include options such as giving users the capacity to turn off prioritization in a news feed, or adjust it with their own preferences, for example, or to disable tracking and behavioral advertisements. This might represent the type of “neutrality” for platforms that would benefit users.

“Reliable” information — a difficult quest in the digital space

Finally, the declaration’s call for platforms to favor reliable information also raises complex issues for free expression. The declaration recommends as tools in this endeavor transparency, editorial independence, verification methods, and journalistic ethics. In addition to the challenges we explore above related to editorial responsibility, there are also challenges when it comes to a platform’s use of verification methods and journalistic ethics. The expression of opinion is protected as a fundamental human right, and opinion pieces are not necessarily “verifiable.” Speculation, theorizing, satire, and opinion present challenges to fact checking, online or off. It is also vital that neither states nor companies define journalistic ethics. On a number of social media platforms, one’s news feed contains a mix of personal opinion, news items, editorials, and advertising. Although journalistic ethics could play a role in the design of a news feed or help inform the development of a content curation algorithm, independent and human rights based human intervention is essential to mitigate the spread of misinformation on communication platforms.

Conclusion: in assigning responsibility, take care not to deputize platforms as guardians of truth or neutrality

All the issues we have explored are difficult, and a thorough analysis of all their implications would exceed the bounds of this post. The challenges the declaration seeks to address are only starting to be adequately researched and there is a need for more information from internet platforms.

However, we can start with one initial recommendation to those seeking to apply the content of the declaration to public policy decisions: avoid deputizing social media companies or any internet intermediary as a guardian of the truth or neutrality, as this risks consequences for free expression and other protected human rights. Social media platforms, and the dominant players in particular, must take heed of their responsibility to consider the human rights impacts of their products. If by encouraging them to take more responsibility, we also make them the arbiters of truth, however, we put those same rights at risk. And we transfer even more power from the people to dominant platforms.

Today, people access, create, share, comment on, and react to information in complex ways. In the challenges that this poses for our democracies, we must find solutions that empower us to deal with information in a constructive, but also fundamentally free way. This means putting users in control, by giving them more options for how they find, consume, and share content free from manipulation. It also means providing more transparency, especially with regard to ads, including political advertising. Finally, it means looking at the bigger picture and developing business models that do not reward poor quality information that increases “engagement” by playing on basic human instincts of fear, alarm and discord.

Continue reading International Declaration on Information and Democracy: governments need to open information and communication space. And more …

Google overhauls its sexual harassment policies after employee walkouts against workplace culture

The company will end its policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, enabling lawsuits in these matters.

|SCROLL -IN|AIWA! NO!|Google on Thursday announced a number of changes to its sexual harassment policies a week after thousands of employees walked out of their offices as part of protests against the company’s treatment of women.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that was published on its blog. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Pichai said the company will end its policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, enabling lawsuits in these matters. Google will provided enhanced care and resources, including counselling and career support, for complainants and will also dock performance reviews for employees who fail to complete the mandatory sexual harassment training. The company will also provide more details and clarity about the outcome of sexual harassment allegations.

Ending forced arbitration was one of the several key changes that employees had sought. Their other demands included equal pay and opportunity for all, a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, and a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.

Alcohol consumption was one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints and the note said that “harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse”. Leaders at the company are “expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged”, it said.

The protests on November 1 began at 11.10 am from Google’s Tokyo office and were organised under the #GoogleWalkout. Employees walked out of their offices in several places including London, Dublin, Singapore, Berlin, Haifa in Israel, and Zurich.

They were organised days after a report published in The New York Times claimed that Android creator Andy Rubin received a $90 million (Rs 660.19 crore at current exchange rate) exit package in 2014 despite facing sexual misconduct allegations. It also alleged that Google protected two other unnamed executives accused of sexual misconduct, removing one with a severance package while retaining another.

While #GoogleWalkout organisers commended the progress, they expressed disappointment that the company had ignored other core demands, including elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on board.

“We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are black and brown women,” organiser Stephanie Parker said in a statement.

The company should also address issues of systemic racism and discrimination, including pay equity and rates of promotion, and not just sexual harassment. “They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top,” Parker said.

SAUDI JOURNALIST JAMAL Khashoggi murder turns focus on violence against journalists across the globe

Friday, 2 November 2018 marks the United Nations’ International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, chosen to commemorate the murder of two French journalists in Mali on November 2, 2013.

#TruthNeverDies

Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul on October 2.
Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul on October 2.

|Jack Guy, CNN|AIWA! NO!|Recent killings of well-known journalists have shone a light on increasing concerns over press freedom around the world.

The question of impunity for crimes against journalists became more prominent following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. The Turkish chief prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that the Washington Post columnist and moderate critic of the Saudi regime was killed as soon as he entered the consulate October 2.
His murder follows on from the killing of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bomb in October 2017.
Caruana Galizia had been involved in the Panama Papers investigation into offfshore wealth and was looking into alleged corruption in Maltese politics at the time of her death.
Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in October 2017

Her sons, Matthew and Andrew Caruana Galizia, have led the campaign to find out who was responsible for the their mother’s murder and frequently speak out on the issue of press freedom.
“You cannot expect justice from a tyrant,” wrote Matthew Caruana Galizia in a Twitter post. “Jamal Khashoggi’s family and fiancée depend entirely on the international community. I know because so do we.”
“These last weeks have demonstrated once again the toxic nature and outsized reach of political incitement against journalists, and we demand that it stop,” the UN said.
You can read more about journalists who have been killed for doing their job using #TruthNeverDies

SAUDI JOURNALIST LATEST – The world Should Read His Final Article Published Before He Was ‘Murdered’

The world needs to read the final article Jamal Khashoggi wrote before he was murdered

|AIWA! NO!|On 19 October, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. This followed two weeks of speculation after he vanished on 2 October, following a visit to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. But although there’s been huge international outrage over Khashoggi’s death, he’s not the first journalist to die; and sadly, he’s unlikely to be the last.

Globally, the number of journalists in prison is rising. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may have led the global outcry when Khashoggi vanished, but he ignored the plight Turkish journalists are facing in his own country.

Sadly, this is also part of a wider global crisis for freedom of speech.

READ RELATED: Saudi prosecutor says journalist’s killing was premeditated

On 17 October, the Washington Post published the last column Khashoggi wrote before his death. Everyone should read his heartbreakingly powerful writing because it goes right to the heart of a “global crisis in freedom of the press”. In 2018 alone45 journalists have died – many in incredibly politically complex areas such as Palestine. Of those 45, 28 deaths officially count as murder.

We might not know their names, but Khashoggi’s words create a powerful narrative to explain why we don’t.

“What the Arab world needs most is free expression”

Headlined ‘What the Arab world needs most is free expression’, Khashoggi’s last column is tragically prophetic. He pointed out that according to the latest ‘Freedom in the World’ report, most countries “in the Arab world” are “not free’”. As a result, he wrote people are:

either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

He goes on to discuss the “hope” that followed the Arab Spring in 2011. This was a time, he wrote, when many people in Arab countries:

expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

Repression

This is certainly the case in Saudi Arabia. Since coming to power in 2017, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has courted the west as a ‘reformer’. But as Human Rights Watch reported:

behind the image of a daring reformer, carefully cultivated by the Saudi Crown Prince, hides a dark reality. In fact, he is a leader with an iron hand who despite facade reforms has plunged his country into increased repression and leads a now-three-year war in Yemen rife with war crimes.

As Middle East Eye reported, Saudi Arabia is infamous for its human rights abuses and many people in “Saudi… are one social media post away from death”. And yet, despite this, the UK and US see Saudi Arabia as a key ally and continue to sell arms to the regime.

“Silencing the media”

As Khashoggi explains, another Saudi Arabian journalist – Saleh al-Shehi – was jailed and the Egyptian government censored Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent outlet. But there was no “backlash from the international community” in response to these acts. As he says “these actions may trigger condemnation” but this is “quickly followed by silence”. He’s absolutely right.

Despite widespread media coverage of Erdoğan’s posturing about Khashoggi’s murder, there has been little international outrage about the four journalists murdered since 2015 under his regime in Turkey. Or the Kurdish journalist, Rohat Aktaş, whose cause of death is still unknown. In 2018, the Guardian reported:

According to the P24 press freedom group, there are over 160 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested under the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt in July 2016.

Yet, as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted:

Far from isolating repressive countries for their authoritarian behavior, the United States, in particular, has cozied up to strongmen such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan…

Precisely because of the lack of international condemnation, Khashoggi argues: “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate”.

But his words apply equally to Turkey, China and Egypt. They also resonate for the 60 journalists who are “missing” and the 262 journalists who were imprisoned in 2017. As CPJ noted, the number of journalists in jail is at “a historical high”. On 23 October, Erdoğan said, “covering up this kind of savagery will hurt the conscience of all humanity”. Yet, there was little global coverage of the extensive media control in Turkey.

“There was a time when journalists believed…”

And when Khashoggi goes on to discuss wider press freedom his words take on an even greater significance globally. He wrote:

There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

He may be speaking about Arab countries – Saudi Arabia in particular – but this is a growing issue.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has led the call for ‘justice’. But Erdoğan’s regime has shut down 180 media outlets and “independent journalism has been all but obliterated”. Where is the global outrage about this? Increasingly, the censorship of a free and independent media seems a ‘vital first step’ for oppressive regimes.

Liberty

Khashoggi’s murder was brutal and horrific. But we need to ask why we don’t also know the names of the five Turkish journalists murdered since 2010. They didn’t write for the Washington Post, they didn’t have “the privilege of western connections” and so the West was able to sustain silence.

But we also need to read Khashoggi’s words through the lens of our own countries and look at the current shifts in our media culture. As George Orwell said, “if liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. Tragically, Saudi Arabia murdered Khashoggi for doing just this. But truly investigative and independent journalists around the world won’t stop pursuing this ‘right’.

Get Involved!

Support  AIWA! NO! so we can keep holding the powerful to account

%d bloggers like this: