Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NAHJ Condemns Venezuela Government Shutdown of Radio Stations; Opposes ‘Media Crimes’ Law

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Hispanic Journalists condemns the Venezuelan government’s shutdown of 34 private radio stations and strongly opposes a proposed law that would put journalists behind bars for a broad swath of supposed “media crimes.”

By its own admission, the government’s targeting of these 34 radio stations is a first step in considering similar actions against some 200 other stations across the country. President Hugo Chavez’s declared war on certain opposition media reached a new level of aggressiveness Monday when 35 pro-government militants stormed the Globovisión television station, brandished weapons, threw two tear-gas canisters, and injured two people.

NAHJ calls on authorities to investigate the incident at Globovisión and arrange effective protection for the station’s journalists and employees. (Press reports indicate that the leader of the violent incident, Lina Ron, was arrested Tuesday afternoon.) NAHJ also urges the government to reconsider its attempt to pass the Special Law Against Media Crimes, which we consider a true and far-reaching attack on freedom of expression and a free press.

The draft of the bill presented to the country’s legislature by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz calls for jail sentences varying from six months to four years for journalists and media owners who publish or broadcast “false news,” or who “manipulate or distort the news” resulting in “generating a false perception of the facts or creating a mindset among society, so long as such action has damaged the social peace, domestic security, public order, and public health or public morality.”

It also calls for jail time for journalists or media owners who refuse to identify their sources or “who willingly and without any justification refuse to report on facts or situations whose lack of dissemination may harm the right to information” under the country’s constitution. In essence, journalists would be jailed for publishing the “wrong” information in the government’s view, or failing to publish what the government wants them to.

Government officials have said that the crackdown on the radio stations and some television stations are an effort to “democratize” the media and take back for the people airwaves controlled by particular interests in Venezuela.

Although there is a place and a necessity for government-sponsored media, increasing government control of media is another matter. It is clear that the sustained campaign against certain private-owned media is an attempt to silence dissent and criticism of the government. As attorney general Ortega herself stated, “The Venezuelan state must regulate freedom of expressions. I demand that a limit be placed on this right.”

We stand with our colleagues marching in Caracas or broadcasting in protest over loudspeakers in a public square in denouncing this as an attack on freedom of the press, which is not conducive to civic dialogue and the free airing of views essential for a healthy democracy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

FBI Report Documents Hate Crimes Against Latinos At Record Level

Hate crimes rise as anti-immigrant campaigns fill the airwaves and fuel anti-immigrant local ordinances

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation Hate Crimes Statistics Report released today demonstrates the real societal impact of anti-immigrant campaigns launched over the airwaves and through anti-immigrant legislation. The report shows a sharp increase in the number of hate crimes reported against Hispanics based on their ethnicity or national origin to the highest levels since the reports were first mandated by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.

According to the report, in 2006, Hispanics comprised 62.8% of victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin. In 2004, the comparable figure was 51.5%. Since 2004, the number of victims of anti-Hispanic crimes increased by 25%.

“Anti-immigrant hatred heard on the radio and cable shows reaches America’s neighborhoods with real consequences,” stated MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña. “Heightened anti-immigrant sentiment has blocked immigration reform and seeks to turn local police into immigration law enforcers thus making it more difficult for victims to report crimes. The FBI report should serve as a wake up call to our nation’s leaders to take action on comprehensive immigration reform, reduce tensions and safeguard the basic civil rights and liberties of all Americans.”

The report goes on to demonstrate the steady growth of anti-Hispanic hate crimes after 2004.

2006: 576 anti-Hispanic crimes against 819 victims

2005: 522 anti-Hispanic crimes against 722 victims

2004: 475 anti-Hispanic crimes against 646 victims

2003: 426 anti-Hispanic crimes against 595 victims

2002: 480 anti-Hispanic crimes against 639 victims

Friday, November 2, 2007

No Treats for FCC Chair and Media Monopolists

By John Nichols, The Nation

Federal Communications Commission chair Kevin Martin is doing everything he can to prevent public input that would challenge his rush to have the commission radically rewrite media ownership rules before Christmas. His latest tactic was to schedule a last-minute Halloween hearing on the proposed rule change -- which would allow one media conglomerate to own the daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, television and radio stations and primary internet news sites in a community.

But Martin's trick earned no treats for the media monopolists he seeks to serve, as the sneaky chairman was called on the carpet by his fellow commissioners, members of Congress and one of the nation's largest and most vigilant religious groupings.

Dissident commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein appeared at a rally outside the FCC's office in Washington to object to Martin's chicanery. "Neither we nor the public received any confirmation that the hearing would occur until ... just 5 business days before the event," the commissioners said before entering the building for the hearing. "This is unacceptable and unfair to the public."

Joining Copps and Adelstein were political, labor and community leaders who condemned Martin's assault not merely on media diversity but on the basic standards for making regulatory shifts.

"We cannot and we will not let the FCC shove new media ownership rules down our throats," said Congressman Maurice Hinchey, the New York Democrat who chairs the Future of Media Caucus in the U.S. House. "It is our constitutional obligation to stand up and demand that we see greater media ownership diversity, not less."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said in his role as president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition,"We have a media diversity crisis -- too few, own too much, at the expense of too many. Stopping media consolidation is the most important way to help minority ownership. But the FCC is trying to fast-track media consolidation instead of creating policies that expand ownership opportunities. The FCC should be serving people, not profit."

L.A. Times story on FCC Hearing

NAHJ's Letter on Broadcast Minority Ownership Task Force

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rick Rodriguez Resigns

The Newspaper Guild raised questions about the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Sacramento Bee Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez over what a story in the newspaper called "a disagreement with the publisher over the paper's long-term direction." Guild officials noted the "lack of candor" when notifying newsroom employees and the public about his departure and wondered what it meant for jobs and newsgathering. Click below for the Guild's statement.

Publishers Released After Public Outcry

Late last week, two co-founders of the Phoenix New Times were arrested for "publishing details of a grand jury subpoena" demanding reporter notes and information regarding visitors to the alternative weekly newspaper's Web site. It was a case we at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists might have spoken out on, had officials not wisely reversed course less than 24 hours after news about the subpoena was released and an overwhelming backlash from the public.

At NAHJ, our concern is with what appears to be a blatant abuse of prosecutorial authority against the press. They sought, according to the New Times, "all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present." Prosecutors also wanted "detailed information on anyone who has looked at the New Times Web site since 2004," the paper reported. It baffles us that any prosecutor would think this was an acceptable request. I, for one, congratulate the New Times on its legal victory.

Rafael Olmeda, NAHJ President

Friday, October 19, 2007

NAHJ Urges Reporter’s Reinstatement

NAHJ urges Dallas' KDFW-TV Fox 4 to reinstate reporter Rebecca Aguilar immediately. Aguilar was suspended after interviewing a 70-year-old man who shot and killed two burglars at his business. She was suspended after a deluge of calls and criticism by bloggers. NAHJ affirms that journalistic principles, not special-interest driven community response, should determine if a reporter stays on the air.

UNITY Journalists of Color statement of support
Aguilar's first interview since suspension - click and scroll down
An alternative weekly's commentary supporting Aguilar

What do you think?