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Defying Pakistan's Media Crackdown; Spanish Cartoonists Fined

Aired November 16, 2007 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, the show must go on. How some journalists are defying Pakistan's media crackdown. And later, censorship or an insult to the royal family? Two cartoonists are fined over a sketch poking fun at the heir to the Spanish throne.

We begin this week in Pakistan and the journalists defying a media ban imposed under the country's state of emergency. The restrictions have had the greatest impact on independent broadcasters. And while some news channels have been allowed back on air, leading stations are still blocked.

Dan Rivers now on the measures some journalists are taking to get their message out.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): GEO TV is literally on the front line of a media war in Pakistan. In March, their newsroom was raided by police. According to the station, part of a concerted government campaign to silence this privately owned independent news channel.

The most recent raid, police looking for satellite equipment to stop one of Pakistan's best known anchors from broadcasting his show.

HAMID MIR, JOURNALIST: One government administrator told me just a few days ago that Mr. Mir, please behave otherwise you can be killed in a small road accident.

RIVERS: The government spokesman told CNN he was unaware of any such threats. Still, Hamid Mir goes to extraordinary lengths to get his show on air.

MIR: We go for a secret location from where we have set up our satellite system. And then we transfer our recorded program to our Dubai office. And then from Dubai, it is aired all over the world. And I'm also changing my sleeping place every night. I'm not sleeping at my home.

RIVERS: The show must go on, even though it's being taped in a safe house. Most Pakistanis can't see it. Cable transmission's being blocked by the government.

This show was taped with opposition politician Imran Khan, who's in hiding.

Hamid Mir is used to taking risks. He was one of the first journalists sent to the remote Swat (ph) Valley after insurgents took control of some areas last month. And he managed to get an interview with Osama bin Laden after 9/11.

Now he's taking a risk just visiting his own newsroom.

MIR: This is the assignment desk Mr. (INAUDIBLE) is working.

RIVERS: Conscious that at any moment, the police could burst through the door.

(on camera): Journalists like Hamid Mir are not only challenging emergency law in their broadcasts, they're bringing their defiance out onto the streets. The black flags to mourn the end of freedom of speech.

(voice-over): Hamid Mir has united rival anchors, writers, and academics in his defense of independent journalism. Successive governments have tried and failed to silence him.

MIR: When Benazir Bhutto started fighting with Medea (ph), our government was finished. Then Musharraf started fighting with Medea (ph), his government was also finished. Now it is Pervez Musharraf who is fighting with Medea (ph) like enemy. And I think his days are numbered.

RIVERS: And Hamid Mir is determined he'll be there to report it, even if he has to abandon his studio for a secret location.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Islamabad.


SWEENEY: Pakistan's state of emergency was declared on November 3rd. Well, let's get more on this situation now and how news outlets are reporting the story.

And for that, I'm joined by Shahed Sadullah, editor of "The News."

Given the events of the past few weeks in Pakistan, how do you see events unfolding for journalists in the coming weeks?

SHAHED SADULLAH, EDITOR, THE NEWS: Well, one hopes very well that the restrictions that have been put in the media, they will be lifted very soon. But just at the moment, that doesn't seem very likely to happen. I mean, the president has given his opinion that the election would be held under a state of emergency.

Now I do not think that those elections would have a great deal of credibility at all. Some of the restrictions that he has imposed on the media are very difficult to understand.

For example, GEO Television is one of the leading television stations in Pakistan. You can say the leading television station in Pakistan, but it has sports channels. It has music channels. Even they cannot be seen by people in Pakistan. At the moment as you.

SWEENEY: What would you say is the purpose of that? I mean, one could perhaps see what targeting news outlets but.

SADULLAH: Exactly. That is something, as I said, was very difficult to understand. I mean, GEO Sports is now not visible in Pakistan. At the moment, there is an India-Pakistan one day cricket series going on. As you probably know, sport doesn't get bigger in the sub continent than in the Pakistan cricket series. And GEO Television has not been able to show that. And they have had to incur a loss of something like $40 million in the process.

SWEENEY: Is the target the actual station - network itself, GEO TV and others? Or is it the point of view that it's journalists not express?

SADULLAH: Well, it's a difficult thing, you know, to differentiate between the two. There might be just one or two journalists in the particular channel who are expressing a view, which the government may find as offensive, but you know, obviously, because of that, it is the whole channel that has to blame for it.

That may well be the case that is happening here. But it is, I think, counterproductive because - entirely counterproductive because, you know, I mean, just look - just take the example of the cricket. If the cricket was on air and people were watching it, I think that would have been a very good thing for the government as well, because so many people would have been distracted away from the politics onto something which is entirely harmless.

SWEENEY: CNN and the BBC have been off the air in Pakistan. We're now speaking it is back on the air. Do you think that the president makes a distinction between which might be a greater threat international media outlets or domestic media outlets?

SADULLAH: Well, all the sort of domestic and international media have been off for some time, but now as you say, the BBC and CNN are off. And the only interpretation one can give to that is that it probably thinks that the internal media may be a greater threat because, you know, the foreign media, after all, they would not be concentrating on Pakistan all the time. There might be a news broadcast in which there may be two or three minute news bulletin about Pakistan. And that would be the end of it.

Discussion programs, once in a while might feature Pakistan. There were - so many other things would be the focus. But in the Pakistani media, it's just be the situation in Pakistan, which would be the entire focus.

SWEENEY: And in terms of how the print media is being allowed to publish in Pakistan, there are those that say that the print media operates under different regulations to the broadcast media. Do you yourself, being an English based newspaper albeit, have you seen any restrictions imposed on their newspaper?

SADULLAH: Well, I think the key word there to use was English. In the English language newspapers, I don't think there's those restrictions are not as the restrictions are not as severe, let's put it like that. I mean, I get copies of the paper that come from Pakistan. And they seem to be saying quite a lot of things.

But then, you know, one has to keep in mind that the English reading public in Pakistan is so, so, so small that in terms of percentage figures, it would be almost negligible you could say. So it doesn't matter what that section of the media says.

The Jung (ph) group of newspapers was raided when they were bringing out a supplement in Urdu. So I think there was a much greater sort of emphasis on the Urdu press.

SWEENEY: I hate to tell you, there we have to leave it. Thank you very much indeed.

Well up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, honoring journalists that go to the extreme. We'll hear from a reporter who put himself in the hands of a smuggler to understand the hardships of illegal immigrants. That's next.


TIME STAMP: 2042:01

SWEENEY: Welcome back. Freelance reporters can go to great lengths for a story. The Kurt Short Awards recognize excellence in the bravery of those that go to the extreme. It's an annual event set up in honor of Kurt Short, a freelance reporter who died while on assignment for Reuters in Sierra Leone.

Well, this year, the award in international journalism in the local category went to another journalist who paid the ultimate sacrifice for her work. Sahara al Hadiri, an Iraqi reporter, was gunned down in Mosul in June. She died after receiving numerous death threats. A war judge has recognized her series of campaigning stories highlighting the influence of religious extremists, especially in curtailing the rights of women.

Also recognized this year is Mario Kaiser, a contributor to Das Spiegel, awarded in the freelance category for his reporting on a Mexican woman's journey as an illegal immigrant heading to New York.

Mario Kaiser researched his article by putting himself in the hands of a smuggler. He joins me now. And also with us is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent and host of the Kurt Short Awards held on Wednesday here in London.

Mario, first of all, congratulations. Where did you get the idea to do this story?

MARIO KAISER, JOURNALIST: I was always very much interested in migration. And I used to live in New York for seven years. And I met quite a few people from the Mexican community there. And they kept telling me these stories about how they got to New York. And so at some point, I really wanted to know what it's like to do the journey from a Mexican village to New York.

SWEENEY: And being a freelance journalist, how easy was it to have this story commissioned by a magazine or a newspaper?

KAISER: There was a lot of interest in the story, but no editor wanted to take responsibility for putting me in the hands of a smuggler. So in the end, I had to do it myself and then sell the story when I had written it.

SWEENEY: And thereby highlighting the difficulties of being a freelance journalist?

KAISER: No, I mean, I made a point - I did not think that should be part of my story. Obviously, the editors were aware of that, but I didn't want to put that in the story. I didn't want to write a first person story. This was a story about a migrant. And I was with her, but it was not a story about me. It was a story about what it's like for a young woman to go from a village in Mexico to New York.

SWEENEY: Christiane Amanpour, obviously you knew Kurt Short very well. And we're talking about here with Mario is the risks that freelance journalists take because they can, because they want to, and perhaps partly because no other organization would want them to go without adequate protection into a particular situation. What do we gain in news by that?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we gain a lot by journalists such as Mario, who are determined to tell the story, even though they don't have the same kind of protection and set up logistically than we, for instance, at CNN do or anybody else who works for an organization.

The Kurt Short Awards are designed to reward that kind of enterprise and that kind of personal risk for the story, because we believe it's important. We believe that a lot of these stories might not get done because there's a lot of restrictions on how people can do stories right now, even those who work for big organizations.

And there aren't that many stories, frankly, of the type that you have done in much of the official press. We haven't, you know, seen much of that on television or in the newspapers. And it's a very, very important thing.

You know, Kurt himself was the proponent and the practitioner and the real friend of real news. And as we see real news really under assault in so many branches of the media, with sort of sensational and tabloidism, it's really important to get the word out to journalists such as Mario that there is this home for them. If they - well, first of all, to go and do the story.

But to get the word out far and wide for, you know, people like Mario to submit their work and to get it looked at, potentially rewarded, and awarded. We give out cash awards, which are, you know, medium sized cash awards. But nonetheless, it could help, you know, a little bit in trying to get people to go out and be able to pay their own expenses, and do their own work on their own.

SWEENEY: But there are also scenarios where we've heard, you know, the beginning of the Iraq War, for example, where people spoke about the fears of freelance journalists, who maybe aren't journalists in what we would call the traditional sense, you know, young reporters, young photographers, who wouldn't be hired by a company or an organization going into dangerous war zones, because they thought they could get the story and then paying themselves usually the ultimate price.

Do you still believe that there's a gateway or a distinction to be made between obviously people like yourselves who are very trained and very responsible and the attractions that there are for journalists who want to make a name for themselves by doing it for themselves?

KAISER: I wouldn't compare what I did on the Mexican border, but what journalists are doing in Iraq. It's certainly more dangerous to be as a journalist, especially as a freelance journalist in Iraq today. But I think it shouldn't keep them from trying to tell the stories.

What I think is important about Iraq, just as much as about the issue of migration is that we don't just report in general, but that we also get close to people. I mean, I wanted to tell the story of one person that tells a story about much more. Even though it's a unique story, it's also a story about hundreds of other - hundreds of thousands of other people. And I think the same is true for Iraq.

AMANPOUR: You know, I don't think we can emphasize enough the massive importance, in fact the vital importance of freelancers today. If you look all over the depressed environment right now, with expenses so high and escalating so much, we do rely a lot on freelancers, who go out and get whatever it is, the picture, the video, the text, the actual story.

And if you look at Iraq, for instance, many, many organizations rely entirely on local, whether they're freelancers or now hired on to the organization. So yes, it's dangerous. Yes, it's difficult to go out and put yourself in that kind of situation. Yes, perhaps an official news organization like Mario found is reluctant to take that responsibility.

But without people like Mario and others who go out and do it, well, the organizations wouldn't have the stories.

SWEENEY: But Mario, I'm wondering when you had to pretend that you wanted - you were Mexican yourself and you went to great lengths by finding - pretending you came from another part of Mexico where there are lighter skinned people, and that you had a German mother, and so somehow you passed off as being a legitimate migrant, were you at any point concerned about what the smugglers who were - who knew who you were, were going to say about you afterwards if you reveal too much of their story?

KAISER: Well, the smuggler didn't know the real story. I was introduced to the smuggler by the local police chief of that town.


KAISER: And he did all the talking. So I didn't have to tell much to the smuggler. And it was the same - it provided some security for the both of us, because a lot of the smugglers that I had approached, and it was easy to find them to approach them, but all of them either thought that I was an undercover border patrol agent or FBI agent, or when they found out that I was a journalist, they tripled the price.

And that way, for the smuggler, he had the security. He knew that the police chief wouldn't bring some undercover agent to him. And I knew if something happens to me, the smuggler is in trouble with the police chief. And I knew that he wouldn't want to take that risk.

SWEENEY: So he thought you were a legitimate migrant?

KAISER: Yes. The only person that knew.


KAISER: .that I was a journalist was the young woman that I had (INAUDIBLE).

SWEENEY: .travel globe. And briefly, you said you had difficulty at the beginning coming - some uncommissioned story to you to do.


SWEENEY: Afterwards when you went to the various organizations, were they jumping at the bait?

KAISER: They weren't, no. One reason was because it's a very long story. And there are only so many places that publish these long stories.

The other reason is that the Mexican border to many German editors seems far away. But I was lucky I found one editor. In the end, that's all it takes, one editor, who believes in story, and then who protects the story against internal opposition at the magazine.

SWEENEY: All right, well, we have to leave it there, but thank you very much indeed. Christiane and also Mario Kaiser for being here.

KAISER: Thank you.

SWEENEY: And still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, two satirists are fined for insulting Spain's heir to the throne. Critics have called the conviction a form of censorship. We'll have that story when we return.


TIME STAMP: 2052:19

SWEENEY: Welcome back. The sketches are usually topical and by their very nature, they can be controversial. In Spain, two cartoonists have been fined over a drawing depicting Crown Prince Philippe in a sexually explicit drawing.

From Madrid, Al Goodman reports.


AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: The satirical magazine has a small following, but just about everyone in Spain saw the controversial cartoon last July when the court confiscated that issue. The two cartoonists said in depicting the Crown Prince having sex with his wife, that they were just criticizing a government plan to pay 2500 Euros or $3500 to parents for each child born in Spain, which has a low birth rate.

But at the trial, the judge said it was incomprehensible and unnecessary. He convicted the cartoonists of liable. Some analysts say the bigger issue here is whether Spain's traditionally soft love approach to the royal family is changing as they come under closer scrutiny.

Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.


SWEENEY: Media groups have labeled the prosecution of the cartoonists as a form of censorship. Well, let's get more on this. And for that, we turn to William Horsley, journalist, writer and chairman of the U.K. branch of the Association of European Journalists. He joins me in the studio.

Media censorship or just something that went too far in bad taste?

WILLIAM HORSLEY, ASSOCIATION OF EUROPEAN JOURNALISTS: No. It's censorship. It's a blow for media freedom. By the way, it's a cracker of a cartoon. It's got everything. It's wicked. It makes two political points very sharply. And it makes you laugh, but it's a blow for me for two reasons.

First of all, it was censored. It was taken off the newsstands instantly. They ordered the magazine to take it off the Internet.

SWEENEY: Who are they?

HORSLEY: That's the judge. There was an order - a court, the national court ordered this to be done instantly. And tens of thousands of copies were - this is the equivalent of the Canon Orshanet (ph) in Paris or the private eye here. It's immensely popular.

And the second thing is that another area now in Spain is off limits, has been called off limits by the judges. It follows the Mohammed cartoon row of early last year and other episodes.

So comment is getting restricted. And journalists are already being cajoled, wooed by politicians in various ways not to write about things across Europe. This now is a throwback in time to the old blasphemy laws or something, protecting the rich and the powerful.

SWEENEY: But how much of this particular case was prosecuted or brought forward by the judicial system, as much as the royal family?

HORSLEY: Well, what I read, and I don't know this for a fact, is that the Crown Prince himself and the royal family have not complained about this. This is a meddling judge, who wants to impose law and order. So.

SWEENEY: And he clearly found some legal basis to do that.

HORSLEY: Well, the point is in Spain, they have a special law protecting the royal family from insult. And the quote was that the crown was vilified in a gratuitous and unnecessary way.

Well, I mean, this is extraordinary in a democracy like Spain that you have special laws protecting the rich and the powerful, who any way don't care about it.

SWEENEY: How far - Britain has often gone very far in Britain's cartoonists and journalists in (INAUDIBLE) royal family, for example. And politicians get slated every week, but has anything been as - let's just say as obvious as this in British cartoon history?

HORSLEY: Yes, I think so. I mean, any way, if you consider the scandals concerning the royal family, you know, the Camilla gate tapes, the Diana interview and so on, there's nothing that would shock the British about any of this.

In fact, British cartoons every day of the week are full of scatological shapes and disgusting images like (INAUDIBLE) which is what a satire, what a cartoon is supposed to be like. Look at Gerald Scott.

SWEENEY: Let me.

HORSLEY: .who was doing it for 40 years.

SWEENEY: When you talk about the Diana gate tapes, and we read about those, and we read about the Camilla gate tapes, but actually portraying.

HORSLEY: Well, the point is in the U.K., sometimes the royal - the palace will ask for an injunction if there's a story - and they appeal to a judge just like an ordinary person. And they may get it. But there's no special privilege for them.

Whereas according to my research, I mean, my association is pretty - this journalist position produced this "Good-bye to Freedom" book, which lists - it surveys 20 countries. We found that in more than half of them, the special laws protecting the (INAUDIBLE) rulers, the military and spies, and the mullahs and priests.

SWEENEY: Have they (INAUDIBLE) the laws?

HORSLEY: They get - yes, there's criminal defamation in nearly every country in Europe, despite the fact that it's against the Council of Europe. Rules against human rights laws accepted by the whole of Europe.

But in addition to that, for example, the French president, the Turkish president and prime minister, his extra penalties for lampooning or criticizing these people. Luckily, in the case of the Polish president who was described as a potato, the Turkish president didn't like being cartooned as a horse. They haven't been taken up.

But in fact, it's quite amusing that in Turkey, you know, the Article 301 banning talking about.


HORSLEY: .insulting Turkishness, I question the argument of the Turkish government on this. They say, well, there are laws like that in Western Europe and France, for example. And I was told when it's true that in some Western countries there are those laws, but it's like the laws in certain states of the United States, that all sex between married couples is banned. It's on the statute book, but no one uses it.

But in this case, it has been used in Spain.

SWEENEY: We have to leave it there. William Horsley, thank you very much.

And that's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.