Category Archives: Eric Freedman

Eric Freedman is the director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism

Knight Center director studies journalists after prison

World Press Freedom DayJournalists around the world face prison for practicing their profession in ways that antagonize regimes, militaries, oligarchs and other powerful interests. What they do after their release — whether in their home country or in exile — is the topic of a new study that Knight Center director Eric Freedman recently presented at the Academic Conference on the Safety of Journalists in Jakarta, Indonesia, sponsored by UNESCO and Hong Kong Baptist University.

His paper is based on in-depth interviews with eight journalists who had been imprisoned and then returned to journalism, communications or journalism education.  Six were jailed in their home countries — Syria, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.  Two American journalists who had been imprisoned in other countries, Iran and the Soviet Union, were interviewed as well.  The study also incorporates interviews with psychologists Hawthorne Smith and Katherine Porterfield, who work with journalists through the Bellevue Hospital/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture.

While each journalist’s experience during and after prison is unique, some common themes emerged from the interviews:

  • Psychological aspects, including post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Fear
  • Not working after release
  • Self-exile
  • Being back on the job
  • Resilience
  • Continued commitment to journalism’s mission
  • Understanding the risks
  • Career changes
  • Being the news

“The findings may help press rights advocates, news organizations, professional groups and fellow journalists better assist released journalists to transition back into their careers,” Freedman said.

The study is part of his research for the past 15 years about constraints on journalism and press freedom internationally.

Interviewed were:

  • Ali Al-Ibrahim, an investigative journalist and war correspondent, was detained twice in Syria, first by the Bashir al-Assad regime in 2011 for two months and then by the Islamic State in 2013 for two months. He is now an investigative documentary filmmaker and freelancer.
  • Housam al-Mosilli, a Syrian journalist and translator, was arrested and tortured three times in 2011-2012. Now in Sweden, he writes political articles for magazines and works as a translator.
  • Shane Bauer, an American freelancer based in Damascus, was arrested in 2009 after allegedly straying across the Iranian border from Iraqi Kurdistan while on holiday. He was convicted of espionage and illegal entry and sentenced to eight years and is now a senior writer for Mother Jones magazine.
  • Dessale Berekhet, a columnist and author from Eritrea, was jailed for six months and tortured before release in 2008. He now works in Norway.
  • Nicholas Daniloff, an American, was the U.S. News & World Report magazine bureau chief in Moscow when the KGB arrested him in 1986 on suspicion of espionage. He was jailed for two weeks and then held under house arrest for 1 month. He is now a retired Northeastern University journalism professor.
  • Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative reporter and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Azerbaijan, was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 7½ years on fabricated charges, including tax evasion and embezzlement. Authorities conditionally released her in May 2016 but barred her reporting at the time of my interview. She later resumed journalism in her country.
  • George Ngwa was editor-in-chief of Radio Cameroon when he was arrested in 1983. Authorities interrogated him for two weeks. He is now chief of the meetings coverage section of the UN News and Media Division.
  • Tesfalem Waldyes, a freelance journalist in Ethiopia, was arrested in 2014, charged with terrorism and freed in 2015. He now works for Deutsche Welle in Germany

The academic conference was part of UNESCO’s annual World Press Freedom Day conference, “Critical Issues for Critical Times: Media’s Role in Advancing Peaceful Just and Inclusive Societies.”

 

Two high schools win journalism-environmental science grants from the Knight Center

The Knight Center is awarding $2,000 grants to two Michigan high schools for collaboration between journalism and environmental science classes.

The winning projects were selected in the center’s second statewide competition.

The Knight Center also has matched the schools with professional journalism mentors to work with the students and teachers for guidance and advice on the projects.

The grants go to:

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Women, water, work and inequality

Uzbekistan. Image: Embassy Uzbekistan, Washington D.C.

Uzbekistan. Image: Embassy Uzbekistan, Washington D.C.

By Eric Freedman

Water is a precious commodity in rural Uzbekistan. It’s in short supply but essential for the cotton and wheat that are the landlocked Central Asian country’s “strategic export commodities” providing 30 percent of its gross domestic product.

Water is just as essential for peasants who grow most of their own food.

Now a new study shows the interconnection among water, women, work and gender inequality under Uzbekistan’s government-mandated water management system that overwhelmingly favors private farms owned by men.

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Eric Freedman. Image: Scott Pohl

Knight Center director discusses African perspective on environment, U.S. election

By Kevin Lavery

This story originally appeared on Current State and is republished here with permission.

The world is watching as Donald Trump prepares to become the 45th President of the United States. As he selects his team of advisors, many are waiting to see what policies will emerge under Trump’s leadership. Environmental regulation is just one issue.

A year ago, the U-S joined more than 100 nations in signing the Paris Agreement, which sets forth actions to slow the effects of climate change. Now, some analysts believe a Trump administration may be poised to withdraw U.S. participation in the agreement. Such an action could significantly roll back greenhouse gas emissions standards.

Current State talks with the chair of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University. Eric Freedman is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who formerly wrote for the Detroit News. He’s recently returned from an environmental journalism workshop in Kenya, an area of the world that’s keenly watching America’s next moves.

Image: Scott Pohl