Editor’s note: The name of the journalist in this story has been changed for his protection.
Shahid’s eyes fill with tears as he recalls his story of persecution and imprisonment for a crime he says he didn’t commit in Pakistan’s Peshawar region. A famous journalist in northern Pakistan, he and his newspaper were accused of blasphemy against Islam, a charge he vehemently denies.
Denials rarely stop persecution or the punishment.
“It’s as if they took my soul,” he says, wiping his eyes. “They crushed my will and have left me less than the man and journalist I used to be.”
Updated Aug. 31, 2015
When journalists make the news as much as they cover it, something has gone wrong. Lately in Egypt, journalists have been in the headlines with disturbing regularity.
On Saturday two Al Jazeera journalists, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian cameraman Baher Mohamed, were again sent to prison after being retried on charges of broadcasting false news. The two, who had spent more than 400 days in prison, were widely expected to be cleared of charges. Instead, they received a 3-year sentence. Mohamed received an extra six months for possession of a spent bullet casing.
Unfortunately the two are not alone. The Committee to Protect Journalists says Egypt remains one of the world’s leading jailers of media workers (22 at last count, up from 12 in March).
Celebrated blogger Alla Abd El Fattah in February received a five-year sentence for what prosecutors called illegal protest. Reporters covering mass protests in Cairo this January were questioned and detained; one was handed over to pro-government demonstrators, who dragged her to the ground, punched and slapped her, she reported. The crackdown came days after President Albdel Fattah Al-Sisi promised to release several jailed journalists.
It was also Cairo in 2011 where 60 Minutes reporter Laura Logan was gang raped by a crowd of protestors while covering the Arab Springs uprising.
Except for a brief hiatus after the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, journalists in Egypt have had negligible media freedom. For years, they have faced harassment and obstructionism when reporting. Their stories can be weighty, such as the killing of 20 protesters at the rallies in January. Or, as I know well, the topics can be politically benign — like whether garbage pickers outside of Cairo have any legal claim to land on which they are squatting.
Journalists can’t help themselves. The calendar begins to turn and we feel the need to reminisce about the year that was.
At the Kiplinger Program, we couldn’t resist telling you about what we accomplished in 2014. We put our heads together this week and thought about our achievements, and well, even though we were elbow deep in all this work, we allowed ourselves a moment to realize what we accomplished and enjoy what we think is an impressive list.
“These are great. This shows great progress in the program,” director Doug Haddix said.
Of course, nothing on this list is accomplishable without the contributions of so many journalists who worked with us as supporters, trainers, advisers, fellows and participants. So, the program’s successes are linked to the great people we work with from January to December.
In no special order, here are our Top 10 Moments for Kiplinger in 2014:
“Are you two the Americans?” she asked with a smile.
I had been watching her make her way from the front of the bus to the last row of seats where I had been with my travel companion, Joe Skeel. Obviously we stood out in a bus filled international journalists.
“Yes, we are.”
“Do you have anything with you, anything you are wearing, that is a symbol of the United States? Do you have an eagle, flag?”
“No,” we answered, not entirely puzzled by the questions. We were, after all, sitting in the DMZ moments from disembarking and walking into North Korea.
“Good, because you are not allowed to have it where we are going.”
Where we are going? You mean North Korea in 2007, that oppressive country which hated the United States and pretty much anything that resembled democracy? That North Korea led by dictator Kim Jong Il who always seemed to have his finger inches from a nuclear launch button?
Where we were going was only half the story. The rest unfolds in a bizarre 36 hours that involved a drunken Chinese leader, two hours on a bus while Czechs were detained for filming soldiers, and the near arrest of a surly Italian reporter who was generally uncooperative with our hosts the entire week. And there was lots of undistinguishable, high-octane alcohol.
Boyboye Onduku poses next to a drone at the Kiplinger Digital Media Summit.
A short year ago, Boboye Onduku, the editorial director for Leadership Group in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, had only dreams of extending his journalism career beyond his country’s borders.
But, he knew that if he was to improve his newspaper and its five websites, he was going to need more training. So, like many Africans, he cast his eyes toward the United States and its vast media sphere. Here was the model of the free press, digital and social media, training and experts.
While it came as a surprise to many of the 80-plus attendees at this year’s Kiplinger Digital Media Summit that an African journalist showed up, it’s become second nature for Onduku to make plans to go where the training is.
Already in Atlanta for a Society of American Business Editors and Writers convention Oduku said he learned of the Kiplinger event through Eventbrite and decided to spend the extra money to come to Columbus for the two-day summit.
“I saw this and I wanted to come. I looked at the program and there were so many things that I needed to learn. It was worth it to me to pay for the extra flight and to change my old flight to come here,” he said.
He has also applied for Kiplinger’s Fellowship Program in April and hopes to make a return trip to central Ohio.
“You don’t grow and you don’t learn if you stay in one place,” he said.