Weekly Media Law Roundup

Welcome to this week’s Media Law Roundup, a summary of developing media law and policy news.

Iraq Pulls Plug on ‘Misleading’ TV Networks

Earlier this week, the Iraqi government ordered 10 television networks off the air for broadcasting “misleading” information. The government alleges that the information is leading to more sectarian violence by airing “exaggerated” information about violence against the Sunni tribes in the country. The networks ordered to be shut down by the government include Al Jazeera, eight Sunni outlets, and one Shiite network, all based outside of Iraq.

The order comes during the fifth month of protests by Sunni demonstrators who feel they are being treated like second class citizens in the Shiite-led country. Criticisms of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have increased since fighting between Sunni tribes and government forces led to over 100 deaths in northern Iraq last week.

Burma’s Journalists Chip Away at Restrictive Publishing Bill

Journalists from Burma’s Press Council are talking with the Ministry of Information about the draft of the Printers and Publishers Registration Law, which would require news agencies register with the ministry’s department for copyrights and registration. This would allow the Ministry of Information to revoke publication for various offenses. The Press Council feels the draft law would give the government too much power over the news and media, but government officials responded that the law is meant to prevent “hate speech, pornography, and [protect] public safety.”

This law is different than the Press Law that the Press Council plans on submitting to Parliament later this month, which would protect journalists and their freedoms while also promoting media ethics. Earlier this week 11 news organizations representing Burma’s ethnic minority requested that they be included in the Press Council and that the journalistic rights of ethnic minorities in the country be protected in the new law. The group, called Burma News International, feels the right to publish in their native language should be protected through the proposed law. There were no ethnic-language news outlets until 2010, Burma’s military regime had banned ethnic-language radio when it assumed rule in 1962.

Malawi leader refuses to commit to repeal colonial media law

Malawi President Joyce Banda refused to endorse the Declaration of Table Mountain, which asks African nations to repeal laws that undermine press freedom on the continent. The declaration, which was written in 2007 by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), has been signed by Niger’s President Mahmadou and Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Banda said she would consider endorsing the declaration before meeting with representatives from Misa, but decided to decline citing negative coverage of her and her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, which she feels led to his heart attack last year.

Hawaii Shield Law Likely Dead as Chambers Differ

Hawaii Legislation failed to extend the state’s media shield law that protects journalists who refuse to reveal sources or information they gained while developing or disseminating the story. The law is considered one of the strongest in the country and was originally passed in 2008, but included a sunset provision that would result in the expiration of the law on June 30, 2013 unless it was renewed.

Lawmakers disagreed on the scope of the law, since it protected all journalists, even those contributing to digital and free publications. The Senate, led by Judiciary and Labor Committee Chair Sen. Clayton Hee, drafted several amendments that would have limited the scope of the law and limited protections for journalists, particularly those working for digital publications. At the last minute, the House of Representatives removed the amendments and extended the law for two more years, to allow more time to study the impact. The Senate passed its own version of the bill hours later rather than respond to the House’s version of the bill. Since both chambers have to pass the same bill for it to become law, it is likely that the media shield law will expire at the end of June.

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Attribution Some rights reserved by Chatham House, London

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