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Blog   |   Internet, USA

Google+ for journalists at risk

A Google developers conference in May. (Reuters/Beck Diefenbach)

When they're creating new features, software designers talk in terms of "use cases." A use case describes steps that future customers might perform with a website. "Starting a group with friends," would be a use case for Facebook. "Buying a book" would be case for Amazon's designers. 

Blog   |   Bahrain, Denmark

Kings, queens, and torture in Bahrain

 The Danish queen pays a visit to her Bahraini counterpart. (AFP/BNA)

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark visited Bahrain in February at the invitation of King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa. As part of the official program, the queen honored Hamad with the "Storkorset af Dannebrog," the second highest Danish royal order. Although the visit took place about two weeks before Bahraini authorities began a violent crackdown on protesters, Bahrain has long had a troubled human rights and press freedom record. The current crackdown includes serious attacks on the press

Blog   |   Internet, Syria

Syria's Assad gives tacit OK to online attacks on press

President al-Assad appears to have encouraged hacking attacks. (AP)

On Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave his third public address on the vast unrest that has roiled his nation. Reporters described him as nervous. He, the reporters, or perhaps both, may have been thinking about the significance of speech No. 3. Both Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak were overthrown shortly after they delivered their third addresses on tumult in their countries. My interest, however, was on a sentence buried near the end of his address. Here's the official translation:

June 24, 2011 2:20 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe

CPJ's exiled journalists survey: Behind the numbers

Berhane (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star)

In 2007, my colleague Karen Phillips suggested we do something to mark World Refugee Day. Initially planning to publish a brief statement, I set about reviewing our data for background, checking in with older journalist cases about their current situation and looking broadly for trends to highlight. As the number of cases began counting into the hundreds, it became clear that what we had was a new indicator of press freedom conditions. Today, we're marking our fifth year of publishing the CPJ survey of journalists in exile, which is based on 10 years of data on 649 cases. 

Blog   |   Internet, Syria, UAE

Beyond the Amina hoax: Real cases in the Middle East

A Gay Girl in Damascus was a personal blog, said to be written by a young woman named Amina Arraf, that appeared to give an everyday record of being a lesbian in modern-day Syria. Following the events of the Arab Spring, as the political situation in Syria grew less stable, the blog attracted more readers and media coverage. Its compelling descriptions of Syrian life gave many a way to connect emotionally to a distant crisis. On June 6, the author's "cousin" wrote that the blogger had been seized by the security services.

June 15, 2011 6:07 PM ET

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Blog   |   Lebanon, Pakistan, Russia

November 23 becomes International Day to End Impunity

The IFEX conference in Beirut put a focus on impunity in journalist murders. (Lidija Sabados/IFEX)

Members from around the world of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange met in Beirut last week. On the second day of our conference, amid discussions of the daily problems journalists face, we received word of the abduction and murder of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad. A day later, the conference buzzed with news of an arrest more than five years after the murder of iconic Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. As news unfolded in both cases, impunity--a recurring theme in official meetings and hallway conversations--loudly made its way to the forefront. And on June 2, IFEX members announced that they would join forces to globally put an end to journalists' murders and impunity for their killers, making November 23 the International Day to End Impunity.

Blog   |   CPJ, Security

In journalist security field, maturing and understanding

Journalists are facing increasing risk at public demonstrations. Here, a March rally in Islamabad to denounce the CIA. (Reuters/Mian Khursheed)

Journalist security is still a maturing field, but news organizations are devoting more attention to preparing their reporters and photographers for the dangers particular to the profession. That means understanding risks that are constantly evolving. The brutal attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan at a Cairo demonstration has drawn worldwide attention to the issue of sexual assault against journalists--CPJ issued new guidelines on the threat today--but the case also points to an emerging, if lesser-known threat. In the past 18 months, more journalists have been killed covering violent demonstrations and other non-military events than at any time since CPJ began keeping detailed records two decades ago.

June 7, 2011 8:57 AM ET

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Blog   |   Internet, Syria

Syrian Facebook users develop strategies against online threats

Jennifer Preston in the New York Times reports on some stories that we also have been hearing from Syrian Internet use. She documents incidents of passwords extracted by force, and the deliberate defacing of social networking pages by security forces, apparently in order to sabotage reports of unrest from that country.

A man in his 20s living in Syria said that the police demanded his Facebook password late last month after arresting him where he worked and taking his laptop. "I told him, at first, I didn't have a Facebook account, but he told me, after he punched me in the face, that he knew I had one because they were watching my 'bad comments' on it," he said. "I knew then that they were monitoring me."

The man, who asked that his name not be used because he fears that talking openly could cost him his life, gave up his password and spent two weeks in jail. After he was released, he said that he found pro-regime comments made in his name on his Facebook account. "I immediately created a new account with a fake name and so did most of my friends," he said.

A strong password is not much protection against what computer security types drily call "rubber-hose cryptanalysis" -- the use of violence to extract login details. We know that Syrian security forces also threaten users that they will violently punish anyone who changes their password after they leave.

Instead, Preston reports on new strategies developed by those on the ground. They share their passwords with colleagues, so if a Facebook user is arrested and his account misused, colleagues can log in and remove personal information or delete vandalised content. Distributors of content also create multiple Facebook accounts so that when threatened, they reveal an innocent account, instead of the one they use for dangerous activities.

Can Facebook and other US companies help their users working under these conditions? They could remind readers in that region to set their Account Security settings to force secure browsing, login notifications, and explain how to monitor account activity. And they may want to be more cautious in pro-actively taking down apparently fake accounts, in case these are being used as decoy accounts.

May 24, 2011 8:36 PM ET

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Blog   |   Libya

Journalists under attack in Libya: The tally

Rebels outside the city of Ajdabiya. (AP/Anja Niedringhaus)
CPJ has documented more than 80 attacks on the press since political unrest erupted in Libya last month. They include five fatalities, at least three serious injuries, at least 50 detentions, 11 assaults, two attacks on news facilities, the jamming of Al-Jazeera and Al-Hurra transmissions, at least four instances of obstruction, the expulsion of two international journalists, and the interruption of Internet service. At least six local journalists are missing amid speculation they are in the custody of security forces. One international journalist and two media support workers are also unaccounted for. Here's a running list of all attacks on journalists and the media in Libya since February 16:

Blog   |   Iran, Syria

Parvaz says Syria detained her for Al-Jazeera work

Al-Jazeera has interviewed Dorothy Parvaz, the network journalist who was held for 19 days in Syria and Iran. Parvaz describes how the Syrian government told her at first that she was believed to be a U.S. spy, but later it became clear, she said, that she was being held because she worked for the network.  Watch the video--in which Parvaz talks about hearing "savage" beatings from her Syrian jail cell around the clock--below.

May 19, 2011 4:27 PM ET

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2011

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