News media in 2013: Covering the coverage

Al Jazeera’s media review show looks back at media freedoms over the past 12 months.

The Listening Post has been on the air for seven years. Ours was one of the first shows on Al Jazeera English when it launched in 2006 and we have been reporting the debates, debacles and developments in global media ever since.

We started the year in China, looking at a plucky newspaper based in the south of the country – Southern Weekend – where journalists have been steadily pushing the limits on what can and cannot be reported. The media scene in China is a real barometer of political sentiment in the country and we returned to the story in November, reporting on the tightening of the screws on both mainstream news outlets and online media. The government, led by Xi Jinping, has been tough on foreign media as well.

In the Arab world, we were pulled repeatedly to Egypt, where the media has become deeply entwined in the messy twists and turns of the country’s politics. In April, TV satirist Bassem Youssef was facing charges of insulting President Mohamed Morsi. By November, he found himself under attack again – however this time, many of the very people who had rallied in support of him against Morsi, were soon accusing him of disrespecting the Egyptian army which had formed a new, post-Brotherhood government.

Another country we’ve kept a close eye on is Turkey, a well-known jailer of journalists. When Istanbul erupted with protests in May, we saw how government influence works in other ways too; media outlets owned by conglomerates that feared for their relationship with Ankara, were reluctant to put the unrest on air.

But it was Edward Snowden who gave us what was, without doubt, the biggest media story of 2013. We saw how many in the mainstream decided initially to shoot the messenger rather than investigate the material of the leak. Since then, the opponents of transparency have argued that journalists who publish state secrets could be putting national security at risk even while the revelations have sparked an international outcry. We’re sure that the Snowden story will continue to keep us busy in the year to come.

The Listening Post team also looked at some of the stories behind the headlines. We asked our team of producers to nominate their favourite features from the year:

  • Hailing from South Africa, Nic Muirhead, always has his continent firmly in his sights and he nominated a story on Ethiopia as his top story of 2013. However, he’s also a keen cameraman and so we thought his piece on the growth of post-processing in photography deserved special mention.
  • Perhaps it’s her Latin American heritage, or her background in academia but Marcela Pizzaro’s feature on how drug barons became the popular anti-heroes of Colombian ‘narco novelas’ was one of the highlights of Listening Post’s year. The crossover between culture and the media — especially in Latin America — is Marcela’s home turf.
  • Meenakshi Ravi keeps a close eye on media in south and south-east Asia. While India and its neighbouring countries are the main focus of her interest, she also reports on countries further afield. This year, Meenakshi reported on the fears and hopes of private media outlets in Afghanistan as well as the deadly challenges of being a reporter in the Philippines.
  • Syria is a country that’s been covered from multiple angles but the risks and sometimes scant rewards for journalists working there are rarely reported. Gouri Sharma took on that challenge in a feature on freelancers in the Syrian conflict zone that gave at least a few intrepid journalists some of the recognition they deserve. 
  • And finally, Will Yong has been keeping an eye on technological developments in the world of journalism. Inspired by the number of stories he’d seen reported by tech-savvy eyewitnesses, his feature on user-generated content looked at how mainstream media is engaging with citizen content like never before. And between drone wars and drone parcel post Will also investigated the growing discussion surrounding the use of drones in journalism.
Source : Al Jazeera

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