Media and Civic Participation assignment

Defending Free Journalism and Free Information

Against Corporate and State Control


Media and journalism scholars have been addressing critical issues and underlining the importance of free journalism and free information through disseminating research findings and using classroom education as a tool of critical pedagody praxis. This year, we witnessed that they also formed a petition as an outcome of research conference titled Freedom of Information Under Pressure. Control – Crisis – Culture which was held in Vienna. The participants of the conference are not limited with academics and researchers, but also include media practitioners, activists, librarians, lawyers and policy makers.

Even though the conference presenters were mainly from Europe, the scope of the conference and the final petition are beyond Europe. In fact, the main focus of the conference was the challenge of freedom of information, and was related with the recent surveillance revelations and the following control of journalists and whistle-blowers in Europe and beyond.

The conference theme announces that:

We consider Edward Snowden’s revelations as a wake up call. His story is not about one man leaking classified information; rather it is about privacy, civil liberties, power and democracy. But also about the future of the Internet itself, the nature of democratic oversight – and much more.

We condemn the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex, in which the American, British and other European states’ intelligence services conduct mass surveillance of the Internet, social media, mobile and landline telephones, in co-operation with communications corporations such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, Yahoo!, Aol as well as private security firms.

We express our solidarity and support to whistle-blowers, journalists and organisations, including Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian and others, for their efforts towards fostering transparency and public accountability. We denounce their oppression and prosecution that we consider as a major threat to freedom of information.


Here is the petition open to sign. The participants of the Future of News and Participatory Media are invited to sign the petition and inform the people about the petition:


We call for media reforms and a deeper and more sustained public discourse that equip critical, alternative, independent and public service media with adequate resources, help establishing a resource-base for alternative Internet, social media, software and open access projects, and limit the dominance of advertising culture in the media and on the Internet. We also call for legal and safety protections for news journalists, mechanisms that protect users from the commodification of personal data, and put in place effective measures to safeguard free and independent media as well as journalists’ and citizens’ physical safety against violence and harassment.



‘It is just an accident’


I could not concentrate on this assignment mainly because of my 8 year old daughter being injured at the PE class recently. Her face under her eyes was cut and ended up 11 stiches being operated at the ER which suggested us that we should consider aesthetic operation after one year to reduce the visibility of the scar.

The responsible PE teacher accused me to ‘have nerves to write rude messages’ after I question the safety measures taken in the class. The vice Principal of Graham and Parks school said that ‘That is just an accident. No one is responsible. There are children breaking their legs and arms every year at schools’. Yes, indeed.

“In 2009, an estimated 2.6 million children aged 0–19 years were treated in U.S. EDs for sports- and recreation-related injuries” as “unintentional injury”. According to National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), only in 2012 (there are no figures later than that) total 573 children are injured at PE classes at schools in the US, according to the simple data search I made. Well, in 2014, one of the victims was my child.

Sorry for this highly personal and not developed assignment. This was a limited attempt to make a connection between data and human dimension.

photo Bahar accident after photo Bahar accident before operation

“Put the laptop down slowly”

Internet Control against Turkish Leaks

Mine Gencel Bek

“Put the laptop down slowly from your hand”.

This was a reaction of a twitter user who makes a reference to American action films where we hear police saying “Put the gun down” against a suspect or a criminal with a gun. The slogan revealed the criminalizing official treatment on the  internet which was seen as a gun against the new Internet law numbered 5651 passed on the 6th February with the justification of privacy. The law approved by the President authorizes the Telecommunications Communications (TIB), to block access to websites without court authorization in 4 hours. A person who feels being insulted by a website will be able to apply to the court directly and ask for the blocking the access of the related part in 24 hours. If this timing is too late, the Minister or the Telecommunications Communications will be able to obstruct accessing the related parts in the websites.

The minister responsible of communication and transportation Lütfi Elvan defended the law by arguing that with the authorization of the Telecommunications Communications (TIB) the sufferings of citizens will end:

“Our citizens will not go door to door to the service providers. What will they do? The decision will go to the TIB which will take the necessary steps. Thus the torment of  our citizens will end”.

It was no wonder the PM was in a hurry to control internet with the law. A series of hidden telephone conversations revealed that the PM Erdogan ordered media companies what to write and what not to write, kept shouting at media owners following those news he did not like, many corruptions,  scandals…etc. PM Erdogan claimed these records were not his voice, and fake.


The law is not sufficient. What is next? Banning youtube and facebook?


After the law was enacted and series of scandals were revealed through internet, PM Erdogan increased the tone of anger in his speeches  “There are other steps we will take after the 30 March” (after local elections).


He declared that they may ban youtube and facebook soon. The Minister of Transport defended that as such:


“Think about this. Almost all things about your family, your private life are subjects. There are statements that you would be embarrassed even to read…These really do not suit us, especially to the nation’s moral values”.

(The assignment says no comment, so I should stop here).


Interview with Ravi Nessman and on Making Stories to Connect

Interview with Ravi Nessman and on Making Stories to Connect

By Mine Gencel Bek

Special thanks to Ravi for devoting one hour for me to conduct a semi-structured interview and also for supporting me in this really difficult task with such an accomplished and experienced journalist.

Unfortunately, there was no time to transcribe the whole interview because of time limits (interview could be conducted on Wednesday morning). Therefore, I had to summarize it by relying mostly the notes I took during the interview. Since I am not a native speaker, the notes are limited as well. I felt like concentrating on listening and interacting him rather than taking notes.

When I typed his name on the web, 12.600 results appeared. Tough task! I liked preparing and asking questions more than searching the web. I should think more about the meaning of this. Is it because I do not like browsing internet too long, or I like interviewing and face to face communication more?


Ravi Nessman is graduated from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He started to work at AP as soon as he graduated in 1994. He is from New Jersey. He worked as the South Asia bureau chief for the Associated Press between 2009 and 2013. Currently, he is 2014 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University

He won an award from the South Asian Journalists Association for his coverage of the Sri Lankan civil war. He also was part of an AP team that won a Sigma Delta Chi Award for its coverage of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. He has recently been assigned to be the the deputy of AP’s South region encompasses news in 13 states in the US. He will start his new job in Atlanta as soon as he finishes the sabbatical at Nieman. His job involves all including editing, management, writing, taking photos.

He worked in Chicago, Newark,  Philadelphia, New York, Jerusalem, Sri Lanka, New Delhi, South Africa, He lived in 10 cities in 20 years. His wife and children also accompany him around the world eagerly. His wife is a human rights lawyer. As a reply to my question ‘What did he learn about living and seeing so many cities in the world as a journalist?’, he said that he learned life time worth of lessons and added: ‘We all share a common humanity. It does not matter if you live in a tiny village or a city, we can relate to each other’.

I asked to what extent he uses twitter as news source. He said that he uses a lot but added that who tweets is important. Therefore, he talked about the importance of credibility and verification by giving the examples from Israel (The military commander tweeted in 2011 that the military attack was over). The question of how you know is important, for him. For example, there were unreliable tweets in Mumbai about a terrorist bombing (I can add more from records).

I asked about the difficulties of news agencies in this age and the new forms of journalism in digital age.  He stated that since 1999 and 2000, AP does not limit itself with inverted pyramid fact journalism, 5 What and 1 Who. Instead, they create more feature stories, investigative reporting and deep and engaging stories. He gives an example of Indian suicide reports (I can add more from records).

How does he cope with all these situations, being a close witness of the horrible events, war, conflict, poverty in the world? What are his mechanisms to survive psychologically? He said that he had choosen to see and show them. He tries to move after that. I got an impression that his family is also a big source of support for him reports (I can add more from records).

I asked how he will study “the responsibility of governments and communities to help the most vulnerable members of society the responsibility of governments and communities to help the most vulnerable members of society.” as mentions on the Nieman’s web. What is the solution. according to you?  He stated that to show people what they are not seeing, not necessarily in different countries but even in the same place they live in. This should be in new forms, though. He gave the example of hunger in Africa by underlining the importance of not showing extreme but instead make a story that everyone can connect (I can add more from records).

So, for me Ravi is a journalist who commits himself to create stories which people can relate. That is an admiring task.




Your job

To what extent and when (if any) there is an optimism and hope in yourwork/profession? How do you cope with all these situations, being a close witness of the horrible events, war, conflict, poverty in the world? What are the mechanisms to survive psychologically?

Which issues would you like to cover?

What is your focus in Nieman now?

How will you study “the responsibility of governments and communities to help the most vulnerable members of society the responsibility of governments and communities to help the most vulnerable members of society.” as you mention on the Nieman’s web? What is the solution. According to you?

Are you happy to work at AP? Where else would he like to work?

Comparison of American journalism and South East Asian (is there such a homogeneus thing) journalism?

We used to give the evidence of leading news agencies controlling the news flow in the world and creating a knowledge monopoly. What do you think of that? Is it still the case?

Difficulties of news agencies in this age? How do they reply?

What is the future of journalism?

What are the new forms of journalism in digital age?

Can journalists in the world create any kind of solidarity network?

Journalism education and the future?



Posted in All

my news spaces


My News spaces:

Mine Gencel Bek

The graph attached at below titled news spaces shows my differing news consumption according to the lines of geography, themes and identities. The separation is made for analytical purposes and may not reflect the real percentage values. It is possible to say that I do consume the news mostly on Turkey and the local (Boston. Cambrige) though. My US news consumption, the last one, I believe is less as the world news. It depends on the conjuncture though. Still, it is a tough finding I find difficult to face though as someone who is supposed to negate nationalism and value the other nations politically. Truths hurt! Still self-reflexivity is a must for an academic, I believe. So nothing to feel shamed about to share with you.


The graph also include information on my identities. As a world citizen and journalism scholar, I tend to read political and academic news. Nieman lab news is the one I certainly follow everyday regarding the news industry in the US and the world.


There are of course other media I consume but here I mentioned only the most regular ones. At the moment, it is just so unbearable to follow the government supported media every day, for example. Therefore I stick to t24 news. That is also because of the fact there are a lot of news every day in Turkey.


My local news consumption also involves politics but still mostly related with being mother and consumer. I follow some free websites to find out activities for my daughter during the weekend mostly.


news spaces
This is also what came out from rescue time:

Over the past week, you logged:

13h 42m

Your productivity score:


very distracting! neutral productive very productive!
Very distracting time!

Very productive time!

Most of your time went towards:

Communication & Scheduling
Design & Composition
Reference & Learning
News & Opinion

It seems that gmail takes a lot of time but it is not only talking and networking as recscue time coded. I receive RSS from many newsblogs and I read though g-mail. So. g-mail finding is not so bad.




















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