“Journalists are not terrorists”

first_img Receive email alerts News RSF condemns NYT reporter’s unprecedented expulsion from Ethiopia RSF_en May 18, 2021 Find out more Reporters Without Borders has just visited Ethiopia, where two Swedish journalists, Kontinent news agency reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson, were sentenced to 11 years in prison on 29 December on charges of entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism.During the visit, from 9 to 12 January, the two Swedish journalists decided to request a presidential pardon instead of appealing against their conviction. “In Ethiopia, there is a long tradition of pardons and we have chosen to leave it to this tradition,” they said, announcing their decision on 10 January in Addis Ababa’s Kality prison.“Persson and Schibbye were arrested with members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front but they never supported terrorism,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They went to the Ogaden as journalists. We are now in a new phase, one of political negotiation, and we hope that the Ethiopian authorities, the National Pardon Board and everyone else involved can reach an agreement under which they are released quickly.”During the visit, Reporters Without Borders also assessed the current state of media freedom in Ethiopia and the constraints on its journalists, two of whom were convicted on terrorism charges on 19 January in Addis Ababa.A repressive legislative arsenal and dwindling room for expressionEven if recent years have been marked by tension between the government and privately-owned media and surveillance of the most outspoken journalists, Reporters Without Borders recognizes that there is space for freedom of expression in Ethiopia. As well as two state-owned dailies, the Amharic-language Addis Zemen and the English-language Ethiopian Herald, there are also privately-owned newspapers such as the Amharic-language Reporter, Addis Admas, Sendek, Mesenazeria and Fitih, along with the English-language The Reporter and The Daily Monitor. The privately-owned newspapers are routinely critical of government policies and at times provocative.But, in the course of its observations and the interviews it conducted during this visit, Reporters Without Borders confirmed that freedom of expression has been on the wane for some time. This has been seen, for example, in the fact that two Amharic-language weeklies, Addis Neger and Awramba Times, ceased to publish when their journalists fled the country, in December 2009 in the case of the first, and November 2011 in the case of the second.In the course of the past three years, Ethiopia has adopted laws targeting civil society and combating terrorism that have arguably rode roughshod over rights guaranteed by Ethiopia’s constitution. It is partly this legislative arsenal that has had the direct effect of reducing the democratic space and freedom of expression.Taboo subjects and working as a journalistSpeaking on condition of anonymity, an Ethiopian journalist who works for one of the weeklies told Reporters Without Borders: “There are red lines we cannot trespass while covering news stories. For example, the Oromo Liberation Front, which has long been a separatist movement, announced a few days ago on a website based abroad that it was abandoning its demand for autonomy. This is big news for Ethiopia but we cannot cover it in the local press because the authorities regard the OLF as a terrorist organization and referring to it might get you arrested.”The journalist added: “We cannot publish the views of certain people, either. The journalist Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger, for example, is wanted on a terrorism charge. As he is living in exile, he can still write articles and offer them to newspapers in Ethiopia. But who is going to take the risk of publishing them? You could possibly be picked up at once and face charges. The law forbids it, so it is indirect censorship.”Reporters Without Borders is concerned that when journalists with the privately-owned media dare to persist with their fierce criticisms of the state, it happens that they become the targets of criticism or smear campaigns in the state-owned or pro-government media.Widespread self-censorship and fear of arrest have also at times led journalists to flee the country. After those who fled in December 2009, at least another three left in November 2011. They were Abebe Tola, also known as “Abe Tokichaw,” a well-known columnist for the Fitih and Awramba Times weeklies, his colleague Tesfaye Degu of Netsanet and Awramba Times editor Dawit Kebede.Journalists facing a possible death sentence on terrorism chargesReporters Without Borders wrote to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August 2011 requesting an investigation into the condition in which two journalists were being held – Awramba Times deputy editor Woubeshet Taye, who was arrested on 19 June, and Fitih columnist Reyot Alemu, who was arrested on 21 June. The letter did not get a reply.In Addis Ababa, Reporters Without Borders asked the NGO “Justice for all, Prison Fellowship Ethiopia” to make enquiries about their situation and work with the government to assure that they are held in acceptable conditions while in detention.On 19 January, an Addis Ababa court found these two journalists, along with a number of opposition figures, guilty of participating in a terrorist organization and preparing a terrorist attack. The charges carry a possible death penalty or life imprisonment. The court is due to issue sentences on a later date.“Was there any irrefutable evidence of their involvement in terrorist activity produced in court?” Reporters Without Borders asked. “As showed by the prosecutor, both may have been in contact with opposition figures, which was risky, but the court should have considered the possibility that it could have been done in the exercise of freedom of expression. We are very disturbed by the idea that these two journalists may well receive harsh sentences just for expressing opinions. “The Ethiopian government says the court just followed the law, but this law could violate journalists’ freedom to practice their profession, a freedom guaranteed by the constitution. A journalist carries a tough duty to proving information to the public. He needs special protection in order to fulfill this duty. This law in Ethiopia no longer allows journalists to do their job in that sense.” Follow the news on Ethiopia News February 10, 2021 Find out more Journalist attacked, threatened in her Addis Ababa home Newscenter_img Help by sharing this information Ethiopia arbitrarily suspends New York Times reporter’s accreditation May 21, 2021 Find out more News Organisation EthiopiaAfrica to go further EthiopiaAfrica January 24, 2012 – Updated on January 20, 2016 “Journalists are not terrorists”last_img read more

Calculating possible fallout of Trump’s dismissal of face masks

first_img Medical, political analysts ponder Trump’s coronavirus battle, and what it means for the president and the nation “Causality here is not a billiard ball hitting another billiard ball. It’s a statistical thing. Causality in the same sense that tobacco causes lung cancer,” Hahn explained. But, “If any of those [25, 50, 75 percent] assumptions is correct, yes. Because we know that wearing a mask reduces the likelihood of infection or exposure and we know the proportion of people who die once they’re infected, so yes.”Trump wields such an unrivaled megaphone to reach the public and is especially good at getting his supporters to follow his advice, Hahn said he thought it was a useful exercise.“I think it’s important for people to know what the consequences of these messages from authority figures are,” he said. “Usually you look at what proportion of deaths are due to cigarette smoking or air pollution, not public statements, so that’s why I did this.”Even those public health officials who disagree with his views do not think presidents must take a back seat to the scientists.“In times of crises, especially public health crises, you want to encourage people to work together in a cooperative way,” said Viswanath. “But he is questioning the advice of his own scientific experts. Nobody is saying science gets it right all the time. Because this is such a new disease, everyone’s learning as we go along and developing the science for it. That calls for even more caution in what you tell people rather than undermining it.” Related ‘Viral history’ tool VirScan offers new insights into antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 Healthy buildings expert Joe Allen from the Chan School of Public Health weighs in on ways to help protect yourself from coronavirus When COVID and the election collidedcenter_img Using population attributable risk, an epidemiological method that estimates the proportion of an outcome that is attributable to a given cause, Hahn examined reported COVID deaths between April 3, the first date Trump spoke about the CDC’s new mask recommendation (“It’s voluntary. You don’t have to do it”) and July 21, when he momentarily endorsed masks (“I will use it gladly. And I say: If you can, use the mask”) before scorning them again and periodically forgoing them.Hahn took into account several factors, including rates of rarely or never wearing masks and relative risk of infection of those who do and do not mask up. He then calculated the number of non-mask wearers, along with those whom they infected, who died between April 3 and July 21 as a consequence of the president’s comments.“If you assume that 25 percent of the people who don’t wear masks are doing so because of Trump’s statements about masks, whether they hear it directly or whether they hear it through the media, then we can calculate that more than 4,200 people have died as a consequence of the president’s statements,” he said. If 50 percent or 75 percent did not wear masks because of Trump, 8,356 or 12,202 of those deaths, respectively, can be attributed to Trump. Hahn said 75 percent is “probably high” while 25 percent is “probably low.”Hahn cautions his is only a hypothetical estimate that rests on a number of assumptions that are “difficult, if not impossible” to verify, like the proportion of people who rarely or never wear masks solely because of the president’s comments and would otherwise wear them, or who never wear masks for different reasons. As COVID-19 deaths in the nation top 225,000, President Trump continues to downplay the severity of the pandemic, belittle government infectious disease experts such as Anthony Fauci, and display a cavalier attitude at times toward key public health measures like wearing face masks, despite having contracted the virus himself, along with about two dozen in his inner circle.Public health officials say that Trump’s attitude undermines their efforts to get Americans to embrace safety guidelines to prevent spread of the disease. “Whether it is his intention or not, the consequence is that he’s undermining scientific authority, trust in science, and trust in scientists,” said K. “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH). “We know from our data and other data that the greater the trust in scientists and researchers, the greater the likelihood of compliance with public health mitigation measures.”Trump’s remarks also set Robert Hahn, Ph.D. ’76, to thinking. He’d heard the president blithely suggest disinfectants, UV light, and hydroxychloroquine as potential COVID treatments during White House briefings in April. The veteran Centers for Disease Control (CDC) epidemiologist began wondering how Trump’s many scientifically unsupported pronouncements might be influencing public behavior, particularly with admirers. He was especially intrigued about the wearing of face masks because of how regularly the president questioned their efficacy and mocked those who wore them, despite that both the CDC and World Health Organization have urged their universal use.“While I know there’s no direct evidence of how many people act in response to his statements, I wanted to try and quantify this,” said Hahn, who published his estimates in a new paper in the International Journal of Health Sciences.Hahn estimates that as many as 12,000 COVID-related deaths can be attributed to Trump’s negative or false assertions about face masks, but he readily acknowledges that his results hinge on sets of assumptions of how much influence the president’s comments had on mask-wearing behavior. “Usually you look at what proportion of deaths are due to cigarette smoking or air pollution, not public statements, so that’s why I did this.” — Robert Hahn, CDC epidemiologist Infection detection How masks and buildings can be barriers to the coronaviruslast_img read more