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The Tickle File is ftm's daily column of media news, complimenting the feature articles on major media issues. Tickle File items point out media happenings, from the oh-so serious to the not-so serious, that should not escape a shorter, more informal format.

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Week of March 12, 2018

Broadcaster focuses attention on harassment
out of order

International broadcaster BBC World Service captured the debate at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) this week in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHRC meeting (March 12) discussed a report issued last October by special rapporteur on freedom of religion and on human rights in Iran, the late Asma Jahangir. Threats toward and intimidation of BBC Persian reporters, staff and their families by Iranian authorities were included in Ms Jahangir’s report. News coverage of the BBC’s appeal to UNHRC has been wide and deep.

"The BBC took the unprecedented step of appealing to the United Nations because our attempts to persuade the Iranian authorities to stop their harassment have been totally ignored,” said BBC Director General Tony Hall in an advance statement, quoted by Reuters (March 12). During 2017 Iranian authorities froze assets of over 150 BBC Persian staff and families, referring to the services as violating the country’s national security. Harassment of BBC Persian employees began as soon as the service was launch in 2009. The BBC approached UN special rapporteur David Kaye, co-author of the report on Iran, through human rights and media law barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Jennifer Robinson.

“Iran has been conducting a coordinated campaign of persecution and harassment against foreign based Iranian journalists, not just the BBC,” said Ms Robinson, quoted by Arab News (March 12). “Similar issues have been reported by (German international broadcaster) Deutsche Welle, but the BBC is the very worst example of it. By providing impartial and independent coverage of events inside and outside of Iran in Farsi, BBC Persian is perceived as a threat to the Iranian authorities.” (See more about international broadcasting here)

The Islamic Republic of Iran representative at the UNHRC Mohammad Javad Larijani called the complaints "dictated in Washington, France and London and other places,” quoted by Bloomberg (March 12).

Denials notwithstanding, politicians and their friends target public broadcaster
"I got used to it"

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has a variety of problems, largely stemming from the parliamentary no-confidence vote this past January. His ANO political party needs to form a government and potential partners are getting cold feet. The last thing he wants, or so he said, is uproar over public TV broadcaster Ceske Televisi (CT).

Following a Sunday night interview on CT, he told reporters CT is safe. "As for myself, I definitely will not attack the public media in any way, although I may have critical opinions about some reports or reporters, but I have got used to it,” quoted by news agency CTK (March 11). Recently the ANO MP Stanislav Berkovec asked to examine CT’s last two annual reports, 2016 and 2017. If rejected, the CT council can be fired, which PM Babis said was the intention. (See more about media in the Czech Republic here)

Czech President Milos Zeman, recently inaugurated to his third term, has lashed out at CT and public radio broadcaster Ceske Roholas, suggesting staff and management changes and an end to the household license fee.

Ceske Televizi has come under relentless criticism from pro-government media. TV Barrandov, owned by Jaromír Soukup, has broadcast two recent news features targeting CT General director Petr Dvorak. Mr. Soukup also owns publisher Empresa Media. He has his own TV talk show which regularly features President Zeman.

Censors can't hear the music
Another take on teaching the world to sing

It’s another day. Many of us will go about it, accessing all the news and information we want, unfettered, through the internet. Some will not.

It is March 12th, World Day Against Cyber Censorship, a day of reflection first organized by Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) and Amnesty International in 2008. RSF takes the occasion to publicize its list of “Enemies of the Internet.” Some people will hear nothing of it.

And listening is everything.

RSF Germany with the ad agency DDB Germany and production house MediaMonks came up with an idea for breaking through the censors reach. Music streaming services, they learned, are less likely to be censored than news outlets. Therein lies the genius opportunity.

Writers from China, Egypt, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam provided texts, which were turned into pop songs using local and international musicians. The ten songs - presented as the Uncensored Playlist - are distributed through streaming music portals Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music. The songs are presented in English and the original languages of the writers.

“We used a back door,” said RSF Germany spokesperson Matthias Spielkamp, in a statement (March 12). "In many countries, the rulers deny people free access to the Internet, but music streaming services are widely available almost everywhere.”

A promotional video, worth watching, is available at

Two years ago RSF partnered with AdBlock to present messages on World Day Against Cyber Censorship from Russian free speech collective Pussy Riot and Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei.

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