New Virtual CPE Supports VNF Hypervisor Solutions for SD-WAN

The virtual SmartNode (vSN) family of Virtual CPE products simplifies, accelerates, and lowers costs for SIP–trunk, hosted–PBX, SDN, IP–Access and VPN service deployments

SmartNode VoIP… More than Just Talk!

GAITHERSBURG, Md., April 11, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND: Patton Electronics—a time–tested, brick–and–mortar manufacturer of IP network equipment—has officially released its virtual SmartNode (vSN) line of virtualized network function (VNF) software CPE products, the company announced today.

The SmartNode virtual CPE offering for hypervisor implementation streamlines SD–WAN service deployment by providing a set of cloud–native software CPE products for download and deployment with bare metal on–premise hardware—a.k.a. universal CPE (uCPE).

Unlike many competing virtual CPE products the Patton vSN puts no limit on the number of registered users or sessions. Call capacity is easily scaled up or down as needed using a floating license model that automatically distributes licenses from the Cloud to SDN hypervisors wherever they are located.

Patton’s announcement comes in the wake of an anticipated 45.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the virtual CPE market that could reach $16.4 billion in 2022, according to a recent IDC forecast.

Offering all the benefits and none of the performance limitations of a shrink–wrapped CPE device, the vSN can be remotely provisioned, configured, managed, and monitored as a virtual machine (VM) using the Patton Cloud.

Thanks to simplified operation, reduced CapEx and OpEx, and faster service delivery, virtual CPEs are key drivers of the growing network function virtualization (NFV) deployment trend, according to techtarget.

Currently offered SmartNode NFV use cases include:

  • VPN server
  • IPv6–to–IPv4 network gateway
  • IP access router
  • Enterprise session border controller (eSBC) for hosted PBX or SIP trunk applications

With a software download from the cloud, hypervisor virtual machines may be repurposed for any of Patton’s available VNF options as required by the network administration.

>>Patton will offer a webinar covering the vSN use cases. Attendees can join the webinar offered at the most convenient time for their location:

  • EMEA  >>REGISTER
    TUE 05.07.2019 | 11:00 CEST

  • AMERICAS  >>REGISTER
    TUE 05.07.2019 | 11:00 EST
  • APAC  >>REGISTER
    WED 05.08.2019 | 12 NOON SGT            

In related news, Patton recently announced its new cloud–managed VoIP ATA with optional Power–over–Ethernet.

Media Contact: Glendon Flowers | +1 301 975 1000 | press@patton.com

Revealed — A Roadmap to Defeat Tobacco Tax & Keep Indonesians Addicted

By Ulysses Dorotheo
BANGKOK, Thailand, Apr 11 2019 – The image of a smoking toddler from Indonesia horrified the world but did little to motivate local policy makers to enact measures to protect children and youth from the harms of tobacco use. Indonesia has one of the world’s highest smoking rates where two out of three men and about 40 percent of adolescent boys smoke.

Cigarette prices in Indonesia are among the cheapest in the region, where a pack of Marlboros is sold for as little as US$ 1.70, while local brands or loose sticks are dirt cheap ($ 0.05 per stick), easily affordable to the nation’s 65 million smokers.

Indonesia has a complex tobacco taxation structure of 12-tiers, dividing between machine-made white cigarettes, machine-made Kretek cigarettes, hand-rolled cigarettes, size of manufacturing factories, and more. Annual increases in tobacco tax are small, having little impact on cigarette prices to reduce consumption, especially among the poor, who form the bulk of smokers.

In 2017, the Ministry of Finance issued a Regulation on Tobacco Excise Tax to increase tax for 2018 and at the same time stipulated a roadmap for the simplification of tax tiers, reducing from 12 tiers to 5 tiers by 2021.

The tier simplification roadmap was viewed as a win for public health, as fewer tiers will close the tax and price gaps and reduce the incentive for smokers to switch to cheaper cigarettes. However, a year later, in November 2018, the simplification roadmap was suddenly revoked thereby cancelling the tax increase and tier reduction.

In his review of hundreds of news articles, Mouhamad Bigwanto, a public health researcher from the University of Muhammadiyah Prof. Dr. HAMKA, saw pro-tobacco industry groups unfold a systematic, tactical plan that led to the defeat of the tobacco tax increase and tiers simplification.

Documented in Tobacco Industry Interference Undermined Tobacco Tax Policies in Indonesia, released by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), his findings illustrate the tobacco industry’s plan to present the industry as being crucial to the economy, while simultaneously undermining and derailing the tobacco excise policy through a coordinated multi-pronged strategy.

In mid-2018, the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs released a new Tobacco Roadmap on the importance of the industry. This Tobacco Roadmap was the product of Independent Research and Advisory Indonesia (IRAI), a think-tank that the Ministry engaged, whose founder and head was the former CEO of Sampoerna Foundation, the charity arm of PT HM Sampoerna, which is owned by one of the world’s biggest cigarette manufacturers. IRAI lists Sampoerna Strategic, a tobacco-related entity, as one of its clients.

The pro-industry Tobacco Roadmap rationalizes the importance of the tobacco industry to the economy and argues for its protection and growth until 2045, rehashing past arguments used by the industry to oppose tobacco control.

It formed the basis to initiate and support measures to reject tobacco tax increase and simplification. The Roadmap was introduced and explained to various government departments including with the Ministry of Health.

Various pro-tobacco industry front groups were mobilized to build support and create public pressure. These groups vocalized a consistent main message that increasing tax will ruin the industry that employs 6 million workers, resulting in massive unemployment and reduction in government revenue.

The messages of these groups were all well-aligned, echoed, and re-echoed to reinforce one another. Media coverage of their messages reached a crescendo at the appropriate time. On cue, academics and research institutes generated and released evidence that rejected tax increase and tiers simplification.

A prominent religious organization which has a powerful voice in the Muslim majority country issued a clear message that the government must revoke the excise simplification plan. Champions from relevant government ministries, such as Labor and Industry, made pro-industry statements that influenced the decision-making process up to the highest executive level (President’s level).

In contrast, voices from health groups supporting tax increase and simplification were less in frequency and magnitude compared to the pro-tobacco industry voices, such that at the end of 2018, following strong pressure from various pro-tobacco industry groups and institutions and systematic interference from the tobacco industry, the Government announced it will not increase the excise tax in 2019 and revoked the simplification roadmap.

The cancellation of the tax increase and annulment of the simplification roadmap show both the might of the tobacco industry in influencing policy makers and the vulnerability of the Government to industry interference.

While the tobacco industry’s strategy to defeat tax increase may not be new or novel, the willingness of policy makers to respond positively to the industry is astounding when juxtaposed against current global awareness on the harms of tobacco use.

Across the globe countries are setting target dates to become tobacco-free, but the Indonesian government is moving purposefully in the opposite direction to protect the tobacco industry for the next two decades, unmindful that about 230,000 Indonesians are killed annually by tobacco-related diseases.

Paradoxically, at high level meetings, Indonesia has committed to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a target to achieve health for all by reducing tobacco use.

Clearly other measures are needed to protect public health policy from being undermined by commercial interests. These include:

    • • Adopting a government code of conduct that regulates interactions with the tobacco industry and its affiliates to ensure transparency and prevent industry interference.

 

    • • Prohibiting institutions and individuals with tobacco industry ties from developing tobacco control policies because of their clear conflict of interests.

 

    • Requiring political parties to disclose their funding sources as part of good governance.

*SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.

People Do Not “Deserve to Die”: Injustice of Death Penalty Persists

Exterior wall of the Welikada Prison, Colombo. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he would reinstate executions after more than 40 years and apply death sentences to those convicted of drug offences. Credit: Ranmali Bandarage/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2019 – While figures have dropped, the “inhuman” use of the death penalty still remains too common worldwide, a human rights group said.

In a new report, Amnesty International found that global executions fell by almost one-third last year, making it the lowest rate in at least a decade.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realise the death penalty is not the answer,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo.

“This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs,” he added.

For instance, Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty in 2018, while both Malaysia and the Gambia declared an official moratorium on executions.

In Iran, where the death penalty is an all too common form of punishment, executions fell by a whopping 50 percent.

Despite the positive news, the use of the death penalty has continued, violating basic human rights including the right to a fair trial and the importance of ensuring dignity and respect.

According to Amnesty International, there were 2,531 death sentences globally in 2018, just a slight decrease from 2,591 reported in 2017.

Though there was some progress, Iran still continues to account for more than one third of all recorded executions.

In fact, approximately 78 percent of all known executions were carried out in just four countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Hồ Duy Hải is among 600 people under the death sentence in Vietnam, and still remains at risk of execution.

Convicted of theft and murder, Hồ Duy Hải said he was tortured and forced to sign a “confession” which he later retracted.

In 2015, the Committee on Judicial Affairs of the National Assembly found serious violations of criminal procedural law in the handling of Hồ Duy Hải’s case.

“It has been 11 years since he was arrested and our family was torn apart. I can no longer bear this pain. Just thinking about my son suffering behind bars hurts me so much,” his mother Nguyễn Thị Loan told Amnesty International.

“I would like the international community to help reunite my family. You are my only hope,” she added.
While exact figures are unknown, China is still the world’s top executioner with potentially thousands of people sentenced to death each year.

The death penalty is applied in a range of offences including non-violent offences which violates international law and standards as they do not classify as the “most serious crimes.”

In June 2018, authorities in Lufeng city in southeastern China conducted a “mass sentencing rally” where 10 people were charged for drug-related offences and executed.

Elsewhere, the use of the death penalty has been reintroduced which, in some cases, is happening in countries that have had a decades-long moratorium.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he would reinstate executions after more than 40 years and apply death sentences to those convicted of drug offences, like the Philippines.

The government even posted a job advertisement seeking an executioner with “excellent moral character” and a “very good mind and mental strength.”

Sudan resumed the implementation of death sentences after a hiatus in 2017, including the sentencing of Noura Hussein.

Hussein, a young Sudanese woman, was married against her will to Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad at the age of 16 and was raped when she refused to consummate the marriage.

When Hammad tried to rape her again, Hussein defended herself and in the struggle, he sustained a fatal knife injury and died.

Despite evidence of self-defence, Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death, prompting global outrage.

“I was in absolute shock when the judge told me I had been sentenced to death. I hadn’t done anything to deserve to die. I couldn’t believe the level of injustice – especially on women,” Hussein told Amnesty International.

“My case was especially hard as at the time of sentencing, my family had disowned me. I was alone dealing with the shock,” she added.

Though the death sentence was overturned, it has only been replaced with a five-year prison sentence and financial compensation of 8,400 dollars. Still, prosecutors are pushing to reinstate the death sentence in her case.

The global struggle is still far from over, Naidoo noted.

“Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty…from Burkina Faso to the U.S., concrete steps are being taken to abolish the death penalty. Now it’s up to other countries to follow suit,” he said.

“We all want to live in a safe society, but executions are never the solution. With the continued support of people worldwide, we can – and we will – put an end to the death penalty once and for all.”

Attacks on Media in the Balkans Sound Alarm Bells for Democracy

By Susan Wilding
GENEVA, Apr 11 2019 – Anti-government protesters invading Serbia’s state-owned television station, demanding that their voices be heard. Journalism bodies writing to the Albanian prime minister over plans to censor online media outlets. A Belgrade corruption-busting reporter forced to flee his house that had been torched; a Montenegrin investigative journalist shot in the leg outside her home.

These are just some of the violations emerging from the western Balkans as a clampdown on media freedom – and civil liberties – undermines Serbia’s and Montenegro’s bids to join the European Union.

It’s little wonder that Serbia tumbled 10 spots to rank 76th on the 2018 Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index, which states bluntly: “Serbia has become a country where it is unsafe to be a journalist.” Its neighbours fare little better: Albania is in 75th place, Kosovo is ranked 78th and Montenegro is a dismal 103rd.

Smear campaigns against courageous journalists; impunity for those assaulting media players; collusion between politicians and brown-envelope reporters; high levels of concentration of media ownership in a few hands; threats of cripplingly expensive litigation; the chilling effect of self-censorship on reportage. The list of media abuses in the Balkans goes on and on.

Belgrade, Serbia is playing host to International Civil Society Week, running thro Friday April 12, bringing together over 900 delegates to debate solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Some of the questions on the agenda will be: What more can we, as civil society, do to ease this stranglehold on free expression? How can we raise our voices to protect individual and media liberties?

Such restrictions on the media are incompatible with participatory democracy, which depends on three fundamental human rights – freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression – which are also protected under international law. Any government that claims to have free and fair elections, and claims to be a democracy, cannot deny its citizens access to information and the right to be heard.

According to findings by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in 196 countries, states are generally using two types of tactics to restrict civic freedoms, and the crack down on media freedoms is no exception.

The first is legal: imposing or enforcing laws that restrict democratic freedoms and criminalise free speech. For example, this includes bringing trumped-up judicial charges against journalists or media houses, thereby diverting energy and resources from watchdog journalism.

The second type comes in the form of extrajudicial means and are even more contemptible: including intimidating the media into submission through carefully coordinated smear campaigns and public vilification, and sometimes through physical intimidation and outright repression.

While such states may make an elaborate show of using (or abusing) the laws of the land to rein in the media, such censorship is clearly a perverse parody of democracy – an expression of a growing trend in which the ‘rule by law’ replaces the rule of law.

Sometimes these attacks on media are coming from “strongmen” leaders with the ambition of concentrating power and eliminating any checks and balances. In other instances, we see these kinds of restrictions imposed by governments that feel threatened and see media clampdowns as another way to hold onto power.

A weakened state or leaders who came to power through dubious means or with a small majority are likely to mute the civic space to cling to power. It may therefore, not be surprising that it’s happening in the Balkans, given the area’s fraught political history.

When popular dissent swells against unpopular policies and actions, a vulnerable state’s first target is the media, because of their potential role in unseating power. It is also something we see as a classic copy-and-paste tactic: questionable leaders see their regional neighbours getting away with it, with few if any repercussions, and follow suit.

Even the online space – the ultimate democratic arena of the 21st century, where the gladiatorial thrust and parry of views is essential to robust debate – is not being spared in this battle to seize ideological control of the marketplace of ideas.

Some countries have already shown that it’s entirely possible to shut down or control social media platforms, denying citizens their fundamental right to participate in debate and in policymaking.

The reasons that States give for silencing media vary but often include similar statements such as journalists are writing “defamatory” articles or disseminating “fake news”. Often, they maintain, the reportage is “unpatriotic”, “goes against our culture or values” or “does not advance our nationalist agenda”.

With the restrictions on media freedoms increasing in the Balkans, we should be highlighting the situation and sharing tried and tested strategies for pushing back and opening the space for a free and independent media.

We should be concerned that the world so easily shifted its attention away from the region after the terrible conflict that claimed so many lives 20 years ago. Why did we not linger a while to monitor the aftermath? Do we turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, as is the case in China and elsewhere, as long as there is peace, development and economic prosperity?

Shining a Spotlight on the Strengths & Challenges of Civil Society in the Balkans

Credit: CIVICUS

By Lysa John
BELGRADE, Apr 11 2019 – It is an incredible privilege to welcome you all to the ‘International Civil Society Week’. I am going to remind us of the reasons that make it so important for us to be here in Belgrade this week.

This is our 16th global convening of civil leaders and 4th edition of the International Civil Society Week in particular – following on from events held in South Africa, Colombia and Fiji.

Our first World Assembly, as it was known then, was held in Hungary in 1997, and this time we have gathered in the Balkans – and we are very grateful to our peers in Serbia for hosting us.

Serbia currently features on the CIVICUS Monitor’s “Watch List” which draws attention to countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.

By hosting ICSW 2019 in Serbia, we hope to shine a spotlight on the strengths and challenges of civil society in this region, and find ways to amplify and support their efforts.

Civic freedoms are currently under attack in 111 countries. In other words, over six billion people face serious challenges in the exercise of freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly which are essential to an empowered and enabled civil society.

There is a continuing crisis facing civil society organisations and activists across the world – a global civic space emergency. Our job is to find ways to ensure this does not become the ‘new normal’.

We cannot be the generation that lost the fight to protect civic freedoms and democratic values. We owe the citizens, civic leaders and communities of the future a significantly stronger basis to organise for and achieve their rights.

There aren’t many people in the world who can genuinely claim to wake up every morning thinking about how to make the world a more just, more honest and more compassionate place. And yet, we have close to 1,000 people in this very room who do just that.

With over 900 delegates from 100+ countries gathered here, you can safely expect to meet every major form of civil society that works to defend and promote human rights worldwide – ranging from community groups, social entrepreneurs, academic organizations, campaigning networks, think tanks and foundations — in one place over the next few days.

We have the opportunity to connect lessons and inspirations while we are together here. Yet it is the changes that we will test and activate when we return to our personal and professional spaces that make being here worthwhile.

This could be refreshed strategies to challenge discrimination and exclusion or new ways to demonstrate innovation and accountability as a sector.

Our deliberations must reflect the urgency and intent required to make the changes we need to see in the real world – and in this gathering right here we have exactly the kind of determination and optimism needed to see this through. Thank you for being here – we wish you a truly inspired week!

I cannot end without thanking again our hosts in Serbia, Civic Initiatives and the Balkans Civil Society Network, for their warm and generous hospitality without which we wouldn’t be here.

A special mention is also due to the hosts of the previous ICSW held in Fiji – the Pacific Island NGO Forum – who are also here. Thank you for the lessons and achievements of our last gathering, which has enabled us to be more prepared and more ambitious this year.

No Story Worth Dying For?

Infringements of press freedom and the targeting of journalists is one of the topics being discussed at the International Civil Society Week (ICSW 2019) – an annual gathering of civil society leaders, activists and engaged citizens taking place in the Serbian capital Apr. 8-12. Courtesy: CIVICUS

By A. D. McKenzie
BELGRADE, Apr 11 2019 – “Stay safe. There’s no story worth dying for.”
That’s the message to journalists from Nada Josimovic, programme coordinator of Amsterdam-based media rights organisation Free Press Unlimited.


Most journalists would agree with her. But beyond the threat of physical harm, women reporters and journalists of colour run another risk: being harassed online, with the spouting of sexist and racist venom.

This, of course, happens to rights defenders as well, all over the world. But in the case of women, the harassment is “sexualised … sometimes with threats of rape,” said Josimovic.

“How does one protect oneself?” she asked, during a panel discussion on press freedom at International Civil Society Week (ICSW 2019) – an annual gathering of civil society leaders, activists and engaged citizens taking place in the Serbian capital Apr. 8-12.

Co-hosted by the Johannesburg-based global civil society alliance CIVICUS, the meeting is focusing on a range of issues that include infringements of press freedom and the targeting of journalists.

As the event took place, news surrounding the deaths of media workers continued. On Apr. 11, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, issued a statement condemning the killing of a sports reporter in the north-western Mexican town of Salvador Alvarado on Mar. 24.

“I condemn the killing of Omar Iván Camacho Mascareño,” stated Azoulay. “I trust the investigation underway will enable the authorities to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.”

Mascareño, of local radio broadcaster Chavez Radiocast, was found dead with signs of severe head trauma and injuries indicating that he had been beaten to death, according to media reports.
UNESCO issues its “condemnations” on a regular basis, given the frequency of attacks.

The UN agency has the mandate to promote the safety of journalists and does so “through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions, notably the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”, according to the organisation.

This includes a module on Combatting Online Abuse: When Journalists and Their Sources are Targeted, but Josimovic and others stress that enough isn’t being done to end the specific harassment of women journalists.

“I think that media outlets don’t have good support systems for this kind of attacks,” she told IPS. “The legal aspect is also complicated.”

Social media companies, for instance, will not reveal the address of the perpetrators when the targeted individual complains, she said. Additionally, there is sometimes a lack of solidarity from editors and colleagues who have never experienced the harassment.

“Because it’s not happening in the real world, people kind of minimise the effect,” she added. “But women in general face more harassment on-line. In every sector, it’s there.”

Anyone who has doubts about this has only to look at some of the reports via the International Women’s Media Foundation, she said.

Rights activists say that broad coalitions were needed to promote the protection of rights and that journalists and human rights advocates need to work together. Courtesy: CIVICUS

Because of the similarity in methods used to attack rights defenders globally, press freedom groups and civil society organisations should increase ways of working together, said some delegates at the ICSW meeting.

Vukasin Petrovic, senior director for programme strategy at Washington DC-based rights monitoring organisation Freedom House, said that broad coalitions were needed to promote the protection of rights.

“Journalists and human rights advocates are the centrepiece of any strategy,” he told IPS. “The protection of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are in the interests of both.”

Responding to a question about required journalistic “distance” and impartiality, he acknowledged that sometimes the relationship between the media and civil society can become too close.

“We do need transparency and accountability on all sides,” he said. “But building coalitions can make advocacy more powerful.”

For Dragan Sekulovski, executive director of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia – a country that’s “a champion when it comes to wiretapping” – part of the defence of media needs to come from the sector itself.

That includes promoting quality journalism and “leaving this to the audience to judge”, he said. In this way, public opinion may swing in favour of the media, helping to deter attacks and harassment.

“Quality” journalism requires resources, however, and as various media groups point out, the sector has been ravaged over the past years by job losses, low pay, copyright abuses and other ills.

This is compounded by declining public trust – because of a range of factors, including smear campaigns, accusations of purveying “fake news”, journalists’ own behaviour, and, of course, calling media “the enemy of the people” as American President Donald Trump has done.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, many of Trump’s tweets so far as president has “insulted or criticised journalists and outlets, or condemned and denigrated the news media as a whole”.

It has thus become an uphill battle to get some sections of the public to see the importance of journalists’ work, and to engage actively in protecting media freedom, said activists at the ICSW meeting.

“Media organisations need to engage with citizens to make them understand why (citizens) need them,” said Josimovic.

Whether this would stop the attacks and harassment, especially of women journalists, is anyone’s guess. The issue will no doubt be raised again during discussions May 1-3, when the “main celebration” of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

No Story Worth Dying For

Infringements of press freedom and the targeting of journalists is one of the topics being discussed at the International Civil Society Week (ICSW 2019) – an annual gathering of civil society leaders, activists and engaged citizens taking place in the Serbian capital Apr. 8-12. Courtesy: CIVICUS

By A. D. McKenzie
BELGRADE, Apr 11 2019 – “Stay safe. There’s no story worth dying for.”
That’s the message to journalists from Nada Josimovic, programme coordinator of Amsterdam-based media rights organisation Free Press Unlimited.


Most journalists would agree with her. But beyond the threat of physical harm, women reporters and journalists of colour run another risk: being harassed online, with the spouting of sexist and racist venom.

This, of course, happens to rights defenders as well, all over the world. But in the case of women, the harassment is “sexualised … sometimes with threats of rape,” said Josimovic.

“How does one protect oneself?” she asked, during a panel discussion on press freedom at International Civil Society Week (ICSW 2019) – an annual gathering of civil society leaders, activists and engaged citizens taking place in the Serbian capital Apr. 8-12.

Co-hosted by the Johannesburg-based global civil society alliance CIVICUS, the meeting is focusing on a range of issues that include infringements of press freedom and the targeting of journalists.

As the event took place, news surrounding the deaths of media workers continued. On Apr. 11, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, issued a statement condemning the killing of a sports reporter in the north-western Mexican town of Salvador Alvarado on Mar. 24.

“I condemn the killing of Omar Iván Camacho Mascareño,” stated Azoulay. “I trust the investigation underway will enable the authorities to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.”

Mascareño, of local radio broadcaster Chavez Radiocast, was found dead with signs of severe head trauma and injuries indicating that he had been beaten to death, according to media reports.
UNESCO issues its “condemnations” on a regular basis, given the frequency of attacks.

The UN agency has the mandate to promote the safety of journalists and does so “through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions, notably the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”, according to the organisation.

This includes a module on Combatting Online Abuse: When Journalists and Their Sources are Targeted, but Josimovic and others stress that enough isn’t being done to end the specific harassment of women journalists.

“I think that media outlets don’t have good support systems for this kind of attacks,” she told IPS. “The legal aspect is also complicated.”

Social media companies, for instance, will not reveal the address of the perpetrators when the targeted individual complains, she said. Additionally, there is sometimes a lack of solidarity from editors and colleagues who have never experienced the harassment.

“Because it’s not happening in the real world, people kind of minimise the effect,” she added. “But women in general face more harassment on-line. In every sector, it’s there.”

Anyone who has doubts about this has only to look at some of the reports via the International Women’s Media Foundation, she said.

Rights activists say that broad coalitions were needed to promote the protection of rights and that journalists and human rights advocates need to work together. Courtesy: CIVICUS

Because of the similarity in methods used to attack rights defenders globally, press freedom groups and civil society organisations should increase ways of working together, said some delegates at the ICSW meeting.

Vukasin Petrovic, senior director for programme strategy at Washington DC-based rights monitoring organisation Freedom House, said that broad coalitions were needed to promote the protection of rights.

“Journalists and human rights advocates are the centrepiece of any strategy,” he told IPS. “The protection of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are in the interests of both.”

Responding to a question about required journalistic “distance” and impartiality, he acknowledged that sometimes the relationship between the media and civil society can become too close.

“We do need transparency and accountability on all sides,” he said. “But building coalitions can make advocacy more powerful.”

For Dragan Sekulovski, executive director of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia – a country that’s “a champion when it comes to wiretapping” – part of the defence of media needs to come from the sector itself.

That includes promoting quality journalism and “leaving this to the audience to judge”, he said. In this way, public opinion may swing in favour of the media, helping to deter attacks and harassment.

“Quality” journalism requires resources, however, and as various media groups point out, the sector has been ravaged over the past years by job losses, low pay, copyright abuses and other ills.

This is compounded by declining public trust – because of a range of factors, including smear campaigns, accusations of purveying “fake news”, journalists’ own behaviour, and, of course, calling media “the enemy of the people” as American President Donald Trump has done.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, many of Trump’s tweets so far as president has “insulted or criticised journalists and outlets, or condemned and denigrated the news media as a whole”.

It has thus become an uphill battle to get some sections of the public to see the importance of journalists’ work, and to engage actively in protecting media freedom, said activists at the ICSW meeting.

“Media organisations need to engage with citizens to make them understand why (citizens) need them,” said Josimovic.

Whether this would stop the attacks and harassment, especially of women journalists, is anyone’s guess. The issue will no doubt be raised again during discussions May 1-3, when the “main celebration” of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.