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Churnalism: Discover When News

Copies from Other Sources


April 23, 2013, 8 a.m.

The Sunlight Foundation's Churnalism US web tool and extension.Churnalism US is a new web tool and browser extension that allows anyone to compare the news you read against existing content to uncover possible instances of plagiarism. It is a joint project with the Media Standards Trust.

Simply feed in a link or block of text to the Churnalism site or let the browser extension run in the background to notify you of any matches of text from Churnalism’s cache of documents. They include most articles in Wikipedia, press releases from PR Newswire, PR News Web, EurekaAlert!, congressional leadership offices, the White House, a sampling of Fortune 500 companies, prominent philanthropic foundations and much more. The browser extension available for Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox (full approval pending) allows Churnalism to extract article text from a whitelist of common news sites and lets you know when something you’re reading may be copied from another source. It’s a rare occurrence, but it’s not unprecedented. Just last week Tom Lee, a noted Churnalism beta tester and Sunlight Labs Director, found through Churnalism that Reuters’ prematurely published obituary of still-alive-human George Soros borrowed heavily from the collection of quotes on his Wikipedia page.

For a video walkthrough of how to use the Churnalism web tool and extensions please watch this two minute tutorial on Sunlight Academy featuring Kaitlin Devine, a developer on Churnalism:

Sunlight’s Churnalism is based on a UK site of the same name and is driven by open-source text analysis technology dubbed SuperFastMatch, both developed by the awesome Media Standards Trust. For a deeper dive into the underlying technology and process behind the project, check out this detailed post from Drew Vogel, another developer on Churnalism.With the extension installed, you can learn about the sourced and unsourced flow of text copied from somewhere else. For some anecdotal evidence from my experience using Churnalism, I’ve found a number of instances of articles about science topics relying heavily on press releases and study summaries. For example, take this piece on the BBC website about epilepsy and migraines. Churnalism found a significant portion of the text came from this press release in EurekaAlert! and let me know with a ribbon notification on the top of the page. By tapping the Show Me button on the notification, Churnalism overlays a side-by-side display of the article and the possible match with copied text highlighted for easy comparison:

The Sunlight Foundation's Churnalism US shows overlap of a BBC article and a press release.
Using the Churnalism browser extension it’s easy to see the overlap between the article shown on the left linked to the corresponding text copied from a press release on the right.

The best way to detect influence and language sharing from other sources is to install the browser extension and continue consuming news. You’ll slowly start uncovering overlaps of language seen in this CBS News report, this NY Daily News article, this piece on NBC News or maybe uncover a reverse application of Churnalism, like this New York Times article that is cited heavily in a Wikipedia article.

We understand the privacy sensitivities with an extension extracting text from what you read, so we’ve designed Churnalism to be quite customizable and never retain identifiable information such as your IP address. You can easily change which sites Churnalism runs on by going into the settings for the browser extension. We’ve provided a basic whitelist of major news sites, a listing of local news affiliates and the ability to let Churnalism run on any site with news or article in url, but all these can be removed or paired down (or expanded!) to whatever sites you’re interested in.

We’re very excited to get this project out into the public and hope to continue to improve the underlying software as there are some excited potential applications for large corpus text matching. We used the SuperFastMatch technology to look at model legislation and it drove stories like our look at how ALEC distributed the ‘Stand Your Ground’ legislation for adoption in a number of different states.


Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu wins 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

© IWMFEthiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu wins 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

Imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu is the winner of the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Ms Alemu was recommended by an independent international jury of media professionals in recognition of her “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.”

The Jury took note of Reeyot Alemu’s contribution to numerous and independent publications. She wrote critically about political and social issues, focusing on the root causes of poverty, and gender equality. She worked for several independent media. In 2010 she founded her own publishing house and a monthly magazine called Change, both of which were subsequently closed. In June 2011, while working as a regular columnist for Feteh, a national weekly newspaper, Ms Alemu was arrested. She is currently serving a five year  sentence in Kality prison.

The UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was created in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board. It is awarded annually during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, which will take place this year in Costa Rica.

The Prize honours the work of an individual or an organization which has made a notable contribution to the defence and /or promotion of freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if risks have been involved. Candidates are proposed by UNESCO Member States, and regional or international organizations active in the fields of journalism and freedom of expression. Laureates are chosen by a jury whose members are appointed for a once renewable three-year term by the Director-General of UNESCO.


Parly raises flag on State media

Parliament will use its last session on May 7 to compel the state media to uphold media ethics and fair coverage of all political parties ahead of the general elections.

Settlement Chikwinya, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media and Mbizo MP, told The Zimbabwean in an interview from Washington, that the state media ought to operate within the limits of the law.

This comes in the wake of a complaint put before the Zimbabwe Media Commission by PM Morgan Tsvagirai’s office on the “demonising campaign” launched by state media against MDC-T officials.

Some of the reports allege that Tsvangirai’s political adviser, Alex Magaisa, was in trouble for ill-advising the Prime Minister. Another story accused Edgar Gobvu, one of the Premier’s aides, of defrauding the State of $1, 500 through an alleged fake trip.

However, according to Luke Tamborinyoka, the PM’s spokesperson, the reports were false and aimed at reducing the esteem of MDC-T. “We shall invoke all tools to ensure compliance with the law by the state media, especially during this election period,” said Chikwinya.

He reiterated that each time there was an election, the official media resorted to a smear campaign of opponents of Zanu (PF), a trend that is in breach of local legislation and SADC guidelines as well as the Global Political Agreement.

“ZBC must adhere to Statutory Instrument 33/2008 and state print media must also be guided by article 19 of the GPA as legalised by Section 4 of the new constitution,” said Chikwinya.

The laws stipulate that state media should not be biased but seek to be fair to all parties and candidates participating in an election. SADC guidelines on election reporting also state that all parties should equally access the state media in the build up to elections. In the March and June 2008 elections, the country witnessed a monopoly of the state media by Zanu (PF) and the Media and Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe recorded hundreds of cases where the party’s leadership was given acres of space churning out hate speech to opponents.


Use algorithms, not interns, for newsroom grunt work

    by Margaret Looney

It’s a common sight in newsrooms that practice data-driven journalism: interns with dark circles under their eyes and a glazed look that comes from spending hours combing through each entry in a vast database, trying to standardize it so it can be analyzed for patterns.

Derek Willis, interactive news developer for The New York Times, believes there is a better way. “Interns are great, but this is a way to kill them,” he told attendees at the Online News Association (ONA) June meetup in Washington, DC. Instead, he and his fellow presenter suggest saving time by letting a computer algorithm deal with this grunt work.

Essentially, an algorithm is just a “glorified how-to list,” said Justin Myers, interactive producer with The Chronicle of Higher Education. Likened to a recipe, it’s a set of instructions your computer will repeatedly follow at your behest.

Algorithms offer journalists value that goes far beyond time-saving benefits. Reporting methods are essentially the same across beats, following a typical ask-a-question-then-receive-an-answer system. A major advantage of teaching a computer to do these tasks is that it’s creating a replicable system that can continue long after a reporter decides to move on to another job, Willis said.

The Times uses algorithms for stories such as its campaign finance tracker, to make simple comparisons of political campaign donors based on name, recipients, occupation and other demographics. There is a motivation behind any political campaign donation, and they typically follow a pattern that an algorithm can identify.

Once you’ve used an algorithm to eliminate manual tasks and you start collecting data on an ongoing basis, you will be able to ask better questions based on the trends the computer spotted for you.

Algorithms can unearth stories the human eye might have missed. Willis noted how journalists can use algorithms to monitor the routine actions of political figures, by tracking their social media feeds, where their press releases are distributed or how often they use a key phrase in a speech. This could lead to story ideas explaining the “why” behind the politician’s strategic actions.

Embracing the efficiency of algorithms is also a great way “to kill stories that suck,” Willis said. By having a machine learn to gather the cold hard facts for you, you can avoid anecdotal stories that lack ongoing significance.

While there will always be things that journalists (and their beleaguered interns) need to check by hand, if you choose a good threshold for error (somewhere around a 90 percent certainty that your data is clean, Willis said), algorithms can reduce the list of items to check and decrease the chance that your interns flee the scene.

You can check out an in-depth Storify recap of the ONA event, along with more tips on using algorithms in the newsroom here.

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

How to write broadcast news stories

   by Jessica Weiss

Writing for television, radio or video requires a different set of skills than writing text. Clear and condensed writing is key. After all, a radio listener or TV viewer can’t go back and re-read a sentence.

To improve your broadcast writing, multimedia producer Jehangir Irani recommends that you open a major newspaper, pick any news article, and try reading the first paragraph aloud.

You’ll probably find that “it’s long and dry,” he says, “and you’ll run out of breath before finishing it.”

To help you hone your broadcast writing skills, IJNet recently spoke to Irani and media trainer Estel Dillon. Here are their key tips:

  • Write like you speak: Write in your own voice, in a conversational tone, as if you’re speaking to only one listener. Keep sentences short. If you have a long sentence, follow it up with a short one. When you go back and read your narration aloud, do you truly sound like yourself?
  • Keep it simple: Allot a sentence to each idea. Be clear and concise, stick to the story and don’t try too hard to be “clever.” Too much detail can become irrelevant and make the story lose focus. Avoid most multiple-syllable words, words that are tough to pronounce and long, convoluted sentences. “Treasure small words,” Dillon says.
  • Provide specificity: Although the goal is to write clearly, you must also avoid being too general. Dillon says reporters should provide context for anything that may cause confusion or “raise eyebrows.” When describing people, don’t label them. Tell exactly what they do as opposed to using their official title.
  • Tell stories in a logical order: Make sure that your content has a beginning, a middle and an ending. Don’t bury the lead; state the news near the top, without too much buildup.
  • Use the present tense and active voice: You’re writing for flow and to express what is going on now. Broadcast strives for immediacy. To convey this to the listener, use the active voice whenever possible. In English, try to use a subject-verb-object sentence structure. For example: “Police (subject) have arrested (verb) 21 activists (object) for staging a protest at Merlion Park on Saturday afternoon.”
  • Write to the pictures: TV and video audiences will see why something happened. In television, the phrase “write to tape” is used to describe the way a story script is built around the visual images you have gathered. Don’t write any longer than the story or pictures warrant.
  • Use imagery: Radio audiences need to imagine the people, places and things in your story. With your words, create powerful and straightforward imagery. Use descriptive verbs instead of adjectives. For example, if you say “he struts or saunters” you’re giving a picture without using an adjective. But don’t let vivid, imagery-rich writing turn verbose. Use words sparingly.
  • Let the speaker speak: If you’re hosting a show or an interview, be the host. Don’t overpower the subject of the story. When interviewing, “Don’t ‘mm hmm’ them and don’t keep talking and talking about yourself,” Irani says. “You’re just a conduit whose job it is to relay a story/experience/emotion from the guest to the audience.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, through a Creative Commons license.

Jessica Weiss is a Buenos Aires-based writer.

Are young journalists more prone

to plagiarism and fabrication?

by IJNet

 At just 31, Jonah Lehrer has published three bestselling books and had been a Rhodes scholar and journalist with dozens of bylines at major U.S. publications.

He’s also the latest young journalism star to be brought down by accusations of plagiarism and fabrication. After being caught recycling his own work at the New Yorker, he was forced to resign after it was discovered he had made up quotes for his book “Imagine.”

Craig Silver man writes on the Poynter website that newsrooms are asking young reporters to produce more work than ever, but offering them less support. “They expect performance, but devalue oversight and mentoring,” he writes. “When a young colleague struggles to handle the pressure, to match the output of others, he may be tempted to find unethical ways to catch up. It’s a sign to give her more support, not to demand more.”

What do you think? Is there too much pressure on young or inexperienced writers to produce more content?

How have you used social media in

your reporting?

by IJNet

Reporters can find a wealth of information on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but most journalists could get even more story ideas from social media.

Krista Canfield, LinkedIn’s senior manager of corporate communications, told IJNet that journalists often overlook stories they can find on LinkedIn by using its advanced job search and company search functions.

How have you used LinkedIn or other social networks to find stories? What stories did you find?

Photo CC-licensed, courtesy of TheSeafarer in Flickr.

Related content: 5 mistakes journalists make on LinkedIn.

Digital Media Mash Up

by the Center for International Media Assistance


Tips for journalists on Facebook, a look inside the Internet archive, and more are found in this week’s Digital Media Mash Up, produced by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

Here are IJNet’s picks from this week’s stories:

14 Tips for Journalists on Facebook

Vadim Lavrusik, journalism program manager for Facebook, shares his advice for those getting started at using the social network professionally. PBS MediaShift

Inside the Internet archive

What it takes to digitize the world’s knowledge — from books to websites to cable TV. The Atlantic

Is digital reporter the worst job of 2013?

Storify’s recap of this week’s #muckedup Twitter chat on digital reporting. Storify

An heir for Google Reader emerges

A column to help those who used Google Reader, whose news aggregation service will end July 1, and those who never even knew what it was. The New York Times.

CIMA offers the Mash Up free via email. Sign up here.


How journalists can use interactive

storytelling tool Zeega

face by Margaret Looney



Not every newsroom or journalist has the resources to take on projects like the New York Times’ Snow Fall or the National Film Board’s Pine Point.

Whether you want add a multimedia extra to your text post or create a web documentary, digital storytelling tool Zeega makes it simple to create immersive, interactive stories with a slew of multimedia features and a professional feel.

The tool aims to “democratize the web as an interactive audio-visual medium,” said Ahmed Kabil, Zeega’s community manager, during a NewsU webinar that gave a step-by-step tutorial on using the platform. Here are some key features and how journalists can use them:

Link to images, gifs, video or audio on the web. Essentially, Zeega is just a new format for previously existing audio and video on the web that you’ll link to in the cloud. You can search within the Zeega editor for images on Flickr, video in YouTube, audio in SoundCloud, or gifs from Giphy, and add these directly to your Zeega.

Upload your own images. You can also upload images directly from your desktop – no videos or audio just yet. If you want to use your own soundtrack, or perhaps a voiceover, Kabil suggests recording audio with the SoundCloud app and linking to it there. Just keep in mind that audio would then be public. When you’re uploading videos to YouTube, you can opt for each video to be unlisted. This way only people with the link will be able to access it; it won’t be publicly searchable.

Add text. You can enter text directly – up to 160 characters – on each frame, with style options like opacity, color layers, sizing and background images. Zeega limits text length so that the focus stays on the interactive elements. If you want to repeat the same style across frames, you can simply copy/paste the layer to each page.

Contextualize videos with images and text. When you’re uploading a video, an automatic thumbnail doesn’t appear as it would on YouTube; you only see a black screen with the red “play” button. But Kabil suggests contextualizing your video with cover images. You can add a background image that will rest beneath the YouTube video, essentially providing a thumbnail image for it.

Link between frames. Create links between frames to enhance interactivity. This feature lets users hover over and click on certain images or text that will lead them to a different frame. Argentina’s newspaper La Voz took advantage of this feature in its Zeega about reptiles in Cordoba. You can click on each species, and it will take you to a frame with information about that animal. It’s a cool feature, but Kabil suggests not overusing it. If you flood a screen with links, it could overwhelm the user with too many choices.

Automatic citation. You don’t have to worry about copyright issues; nothing is being actually housed on Zeega. Each time you link to content that exists elsewhere on the web, a citation icon is discretely generated at the bottom of each page linking you to the original source, whether on SoundCloud, YouTube, Instagram or another platform.

Share your Zeega. Zeegas stay in the cloud; they cannot be downloaded. But you can embed your Zeega across many different platforms or share it on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Speaking of sharing: want to check out Zeega while at the same time finding out how newsrooms are using it? I created this Zeega to let you do just that. Keep an eye out for clickable hotspots, so you can see the linking feature in action.

New features coming to Zeega soon. At this point, you can only link to one soundtrack and can only tell stories in linear fashion, therefore limiting the current possibilities for interactive documentaries. But Kabil said these features will be expanded soon.

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.


Mapping platform CartoDB is a

powerful data visualization tool

anyone can use

maitefernandez_small_0 by Maite Fernandez


When a meteorite fell on Russia in February this year, surprising many in the city of Chelyabinsk and the rest of the world, several questions arose: How often does this happen? When was the last time a meteorite of that size fell on Earth? And where have other meteorites fallen in the past?

The Guardian data team rose to the challenge, and mapped every known meteorite that has landed on the planet. Using data from the Meteoritical Society, the Guardian initially used Google Fusion Tables to display the data, but ended up publishing a map made with the same data by the staff of CartoDB, one of the most powerful visualization tools available.

Since then, the meteorite map has been featured in HackerNews, The Verge and Digg, and it has become a success story for CartoDB, a cloud-powered database mapping platform that allows users to map, analyze and build applications with data.

Launched in April 2012 by tech company Vizzuality, based in New York and Madrid, CartoDB was created to make it easier and faster to work with geospatial data and big data. It allows users to create beautiful dynamic maps, like this visualization of 50 years of Rolling Stones’ concerts or this map showing Iceland contour lines.

And CartoDB wants to expand its target audience from developers to users with no coding experience who just want to map (and make sense of) geographic data. CartoDB is intended for developers and people who create mobile apps, “but it’s also for people who have geospatial datasets, and they want to create those visualizations and be able to really derive deep insights from whatever data they have,” said Jacek Grebski, former head of marketing at CartoDB and founder of Exversion.

CartoDB allows you to drag and drop data or upload a data set, do advanced styling with CartoCSS (a language specific to CartoDB but similar to CSS), perform queries with SQL and embed your map in your site or WordPress blog.

With almost 20,000 users, including news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and National Geographic, CartoDB is meant for any user with any skill. “You don’t need to know how to code to create a visualization,” he said.

Other popular mapping tools, such as Google Fusion Tables, also let users create visualizations from data, but CartoDB offers more firepower, Grebski said.

“Google Fusion Tables is not technologically as powerful as people had wanted. While they can render 100,000 points on a map, we are able to do millions. In terms of scalability and the volume of geographic data that CartoDB is able to process, it really makes the product stand out,” he said.

Version 2.0 launched in November and expanded the base maps from Google Maps to OpenStreetMaps, Mapbox and Nokia maps. It improved the sharing options and also added a new JavaScript Library, Cartodb.js, that makes it easier to create applications.

This open source platform has had a good run in the past few months: earlier this year the EU gave Vizzuality a grant of US$392,000 to map biodiversity and endangered species with CartoDB.

CartoDB follows a freemium model, offering a variety of plans: the free option allows users to upload up to five tables and offers up to 5 MB of storage space, while the priciest option costs US$149 a month and offers unlimited tables with up to 500 MB of space.

Although no coding is required, using CartoDB can seem a little bit daunting if you have no coding experience, especially if you want to take advantage of all the features the platform has to offer. But it’s not hard to get used to it, and tutorials on the site and on CartoDB’s blog make it easier to find your way through the platform.


Freelance conflict reporters organization launches

profile  by Jessica Weiss

screen_shot_2013-06-07_at_11.08.29_amReporters who cover conflicts without the backing of news outlets have a new source of community and financial support.

Membership in the Frontline Freelance Register, or FFR, is now open to all freelance print, photo, digital, radio and video journalists reporting in conflict zones or outside their own countries. The registry is an independent entity supported by London’s Frontline Club Charitable Trust.

“A lot of freelance journalists that end up hurt or in horrible situations get accused of being reckless,” says Anna Day, a founding board member of FFR and an independent journalist in the Middle East. “So we are looking at how to take constructive steps forward, to fight for the safety and protection and responsibility of this industry. And to show that the vast majority are not reckless.”

Each registered member has a profile on the FFR site that is visible to other members. Members must also sign a code of conduct, which expresses their commitment to industry-established safety standards.

Members commit to complete recognized industry first aid and hostile-environment training courses, carry protective ballistic clothing while reporting, adequately plan and prepare for assignments, complete a risk assessment, leave next of kin details with FFR, and more. They also agree to uphold and defend the highest ethical standards when reporting.

The code allows journalists to see the precautions expected of them by colleagues, Day says, and encourages a commitment to high standards to avoid putting themselves or others in danger.

The FFR team is working in tandem with a number of journalist safety organizations. Its primary goal is to find donors to help reduce the costs of trainings and insurance.

“Hostile environment training and health insurance are two things the industry hasn’t been willing to consistently provide for its freelancers,” Day says. “And these are things we need to be safe.”

Register at frontlinefreelance.org.


How journalists can keep their mobile phones secure

sierrajpeg5    by Jorge Luis Sierra


Mobile phones are becoming an essential tool for journalists, who use them for interviews, contacting editors and sources, taking photographs and storing important files related to their stories. The devices’ small size, light weight, power and flexibility mean that they rival desktop or laptop computers in utility.

But the features that make a reporter’s phone such a useful tool can also make it an attractive target to governments, hackers and criminals.

Reporters, especially those working in high-risk areas or in repressive environments under corrupt leaders, must take precautions to prevent spying as well as the loss and theft of their devices.

When someone steals or spies on a journalist’s mobile equipment, he or she is likely to gain access to the entire portfolio of the reporter’s sources. In professional terms, this is bad news. Many reporters agree to protect the anonymity of their sources and do not reveal their identity in the stories they publish. But that promise cannot be kept if the reporter loses control of his or her mobile device.

That loss can also jeopardize family security if, for some reason, the journalist uses and stores personal information, pictures of their friends and relatives or holds conversations with them via text message.

All journalists should take several precautions related to their mobile phones:

Minimize the damage that can occur in case of theft or loss.

Keep track of and carefully control any information you use on mobile equipment. Avoid uploading confidential information on a phone that is at constant risk of theft or robbery.

Some journalists who travel in regions frequented by the military, police, insurgent groups or criminal gangs should take extra care to keep phones “clean” and devoid of sensitive files. They should also consider using separate phones for personal and professional use.

Other journalists must simply protect their phones with security measures such as a personal identification number or pattern for starting the phone. Here is a tutorial to teach you how:

In the Security in a Box guide, you will find good advice for encrypting your phone and adding measures to protect privacy.

Protect yourself from spying.

Those who want to pry into what a journalist has on his or her phone don’t need to actually steal the device. Electronic data theft is now one of the biggest risks facing journalists. Consider encrypting your device if you can. If you use an Android device that uses a newer Gingerbread operating system (OS 2, 3, 4 or newer), your phone can be completely encrypted. This article gives good recommendations on how and why to encrypt a phone.

Abaigeal Quinn wrote about signs your cell phone is being monitored. Among the signs:

  • A significant drop in the volume of calls you receive, or if you have trouble dialing numbers.
  • The battery runs out more quickly than normal.
  • Your phone is hot even if you haven’t been using it.
  • You hold your phone to a speaker and the brief, sharp sound you hear lasts for several seconds.
  • The phone turned on when not in use
  • The phone makes unusual noises when you use it.

Here are some additional resources and tools for protecting your privacy:

For Android OS devices: Orbot: Connect the mobile device to a proxy server that hides the device’s IP.

Orweb: Browser that connected to Orbot, allows anonymous Internet surfing.

Gibberbot: Encrypts the content of instant messages.

For iPhone and iPad Devices:

Covert Browser: Available in Apple’s iTunes Store, this app lets you surf anonymously on your phone.

ChatSecure: An application that lets Apple users chat in encrypted form.

Jorge Luis Sierra is a Knight International Journalism Fellow developing digital tools for citizens and journalists to map crime and corruption. He focuses on digital and mobile security.

This post was translated from Spanish to English and edited by Jennifer Dorroh.

Photo CC-licensed, courtesy of Yutaka Tsutano on Flickr

Ensuring transparency: Senate panel finalises draft Right to Information Act



A parliamentary panel on Thursday finalized a draft law that would soon allow public access to government records and information.

The move is being made in the interest of transparency and good governance.

Following an eight-month hiatus, the Senate Sub-Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Thursday, proposed amendments to the draft Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013 and directed the defence ministry to withdraw its objections.

A three-member sub-committee of the Senate had been set up in September last year to finalise a freedom of information law, which had been drafted by the information ministry.

The committee chaired by Senator Farhatullah Babar and comprising Senator Zafar Ali Shah and Senator Muhammad Daud Khan Achakzai, in its meeting, proposed amendments to the draft law.

The committee also advised the information ministry to finalise the draft act by the first week of July so that it could be tabled before parliament after the ongoing budget session.

Earlier, the defence ministry had raised objections to the proposed law and asked the Senate sub-committee to “keep the subject Act pending till a no objection certificate (NOC) was received by defence authorities.”

Taking exception to the remarks, Babar strongly criticised the objections put forth by the defence ministry and highlighted that eight months had passed since the ministry had been asked to give its views on the proposed law but it had failed to give its comments. He added that despite their failure to provide their views on time, the ministry had the audacity to ask parliament to keep its work pending.

Asking the ministry to withdraw its remarks, Babar said that no executive organ had been so contemptuous towards a committee of the house before. Talking to reporters after the meeting, the committee chairman said that the freedom of information law had been in limbo since 2002. He said that General Pervez Musharraf, acting under pressure from foreign donors seeking freedom of information law for transparency, had in fact provided a draft law that was conversely designed to obstruct access to information.

He added that in light of these difficulties, a new law was drafted in 2008 by the information ministry in consultation with all stakeholders including media organisations, provincial governments and members of civil society. Despite the hard work, Babar revealed that the draft law could not be tabled in parliament for one reason or the other. He added that after the 18th Amendment, the right to information had been made a constitutional right under the new Article 19-A.

Article 19-A reads, “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”

After referring to the constitutional provisions, Babar said that this necessitated revisiting the proposed law yet again to bring it in conformity with the letter and spirit of the new constitutional provision.

Until recently, he said, Senator Pervez Rashid as member of the Senate Information Committee had been vociferous in supporting the right to information law. He expressed the hope that as federal minister for information, Rashid would now play an active role in bringing to a close an issue that has been lingering for over a decade.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2013.


“A dead cattle is equal to the death of a person”

I had found this sentence while making an important story of mine. After the story I just forgot it. But the Last night I bring to mind the whole story again during my stay at Chak#26/m Tehseel Dunya Pur district Lodhran (A remote area in lower Punjab). I heard many lament voices while sleeping at the night. I immediately woke up. The instant retort of my mind was the sudden death of any person of surrounding. I came out and I was just stunt when I came to know about the death of an OX. The whole family was there around the OX in circle from the elder to younger from the male to female. They were crying bitterly. “Who will let me for the school” a voice was there in my ears, who will earn for us an old man was crying by tendering his body, their eyes were fill with tears. All their neighbors and relatives were with them for sympathy support towards the whole family. But all those were in the ocean of deep but all those were in the ocean of deep woe. Obviously they were thinking about their earning hand, obviously they were thinking about the expecting fasts which they had expect in near future, obviously they were thinking about the cold burner in their kitchen. Last but not the least they were thinking about their family member who let them alone in the very critical situation. That time the sentence came alive “A dead Cattle is equal to the death of a person”.





Journalist Associations/Organizations:

ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) www.asne.org

Canadian Association of Journalists www.caj.ca

Committee to Protect Journalists www.cpj.org

Commonwealth Press Union www.cpu.org.uk

National Freedom of Information Coalition http://nfoic.org

IAPA (Inter American Press Association) www.sipiapa.org

World Association of Newspapers www.wan-press.org

Journalism Magazines:

American Journalism Review www.ajr.org

Columbia Journalism Review www.cjr.org

Editor & Publisher www.editorandpublisher.com

IPI Report (International Press Institute) www.freemedia.at

Romenesko’s Medianews www.poynter.org/medianews

Salon Media www.salon.com/media

USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review www.ojr.org

Slate Magazine www.slate.com

Additional Programs available to journalists:

ICFJ’s Guide to International Journalism Fellowships www.icfj.org

Poynter Institute for Media Studies www.poynter.org

Reuters Foundation Fellowships www.foundation.reuters.com

World Press Institute Fellowships www.worldpressinstitute.org

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program www.iie.org/pgms/hhh

Institute of International Education www.iie.org

IWMF Fellowship Program for International Women Journalists http://iwmf.org/programs/7666

Nieman Fellowships www.nieman.harvard.edu/nieman.html

Fulbright Scholar Program www.cies.org

Michigan Journalism Fellowships www.mjfellows.org

John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists (Stanford University)

Knight New Media Center www.KnightNewMediaCenter.org

Duke University Visiting Media Fellows Program pubpol.duke.edu/centers/dewitt/fellows/index.html

Other Resources for Journalists:

ICFJ’s International Journalists’ Network www.ijnet.org

Chris Callahan’s website www.reporter.umd.edu

Index on Censorship www.indexoncensorship.org

Freedom House www.freedomhouse.org



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