tv Listening Post Al Jazeera February 1, 2014 7:30pm-8:01pm EST
>> this week, let the p.r. games begin. the global media are descending on sochi. what stories are they going to tell there? al jazeera journalists in egypt. five are already behind bars. now the authorities have issued arrest warrants for many more. the next time you're at a news event, look up. you might see a drone looking at you. and office etiquette. the good and the bad. next week, russia will be hosting the world and the global
news media at the winter olympics in sochi. consider the cost. $51 billion. then compare it to what came before. vancouver in 2010 at just $8 billion. it has been a huge endeavor for the kremlin that amounts to a public relations megaproject. in the news coverage may well determine if the russians get value for money. journalists in sochi are using these games as a news peg to get at other stories about russia. there is the contentious gay propaganda law, the environmental impact of the sochi development projects and of course, the enormous costs to the taxpayer. most of the russian news media haven't waited for the torch to get lit to declare sochi a triumph. step by step through the putin years, the russian media particularly on the broadcast side have been brought to heel. the president and his inner circle can manage the message through media through directly or indirectly controlled by the state. journalism can be a dangerous game in russia. pushing the boundaries can get foreign reporters expelled and
get russian reporters killed. these are the olympics that the kremlin wanted. now, we're about to find out how it likes the news coverage that always comes with hosting the games. our starting point this week is sochi. >> the 22nd olympic winter games in 2014 are awarded to the city of sochi. >> the main target was to show the kind of new face of russia. >> because cold war stereotypes and negative attitudes toward russia are still ripe in the west. >> there is a blizzard of allegations of unsavory ties. >> state television, the games are presented in a positive light and putin is the star. >> you have immense political pressure to you, the pro-government line. [ speaking foreign language ] >> and they don't have to be reminded of what that line is.
>> to be fair to president putin, there isn't a political leader anywhere who, when the olympics come to their country, doesn't try to transform the games into personal political capital. but vladimir putin has taken that notion and run with it, skied with it, and skated with it. always with a dutiful russian cameras in tow. >> putin is everywhere. we see him visiting the venues in sochi. inspecting the area. we see him skating with president belarus and former nhl stars. he's in the heart of the action. these are his games. we see this in a positive light because this is his project. it is time to show the world that russia is a strong nation. it is a modern one. that it can win on the international stage as well as at the rink and on the slopes. [ speaking foreign language ] >> for moscow, for president putin and for the russian people, it represents amongst
other things, the opportunity to show what the country has achieved in recent years. to demonstrate, once again, russia's influence is growing. >> it would be good to ask the residents of sochi what they make of it all but you're hardly likely to find coverage of that. the reaction has been unambiguous. for them, to call it natural disaster would be too much but they see it as something like that. especially the people who are evicted from their homes and who, if they were paid any compensation, it was almost nothing. >> complaints over olympic grade construction projects are not unique to sochi. they come with the games wherever they are held. but official russia is not interested in the reporting of that story. over the past three months, news crews from norway and the czech republic say they've been repeatedly detained in sochi and threatened with jail time. and back in 2010, ntv, a channel
observe -- owned by the energy giant, tied to the kremlin said sochi residents critical of the games were malcontents out for some of the olympic money. >> who owns ntv? it is clear if this had stood out as the only program of its kind, perhaps it would have generated some surprise irritation or even protest. but it is by no means the only such program on the channel. there is a whole brigade, a whole part of ntv that's long stopped working as a news outlet, as journalists but are now instead propagandists of the very worse sort. >> they want to show to the audience, which still has faith in the state-run media, that there are no legitimate objections to what they're doing. anyone who complains or raises
issues connected to the olympics is doing so either because they're being paid by foreigners or because they're malicious. all of these people are legitimate targets in the eyes of the regime for defamation and discredittation. >> david satter would be in a position to know. he recently became the first american journalist expelled from russia since the cold war. the authorities say it was over visa issues. he says he was told his presence was undesirable. between last year's riot and greenpeace story which led to the jailing and release of groups critical of the government, the kremlin is taking a hard line with its political opponents. on those stories and the gay propaganda law, the bulk of the russian media have backed government. when russia one invited an american journalist to discuss the law on homosexuality, the moderator sounded considerably less than moderate.
[ speaking foreign language ] >> russian media has taken something that was not necessarily an issue and made it an issue. he said that hearts of homosexuals who die in car accidents should be burned and buried in the ground. you have the homophobic comments from state-owned media and actors who supported it, that's when it becomes problematic. >> the state-controlled media is important because it reaches to all parts of the country. it reaches out to outside moscow and leningrad. it is important because russians get their news from television, not from the press or the internet. something like 80% of russians get their news overwhelmingly from the state-controlled national media. television media. so it is very powerful instrument. >> the listening post contacted the creme lib and four other government offices for comment
on this story. none replied. and neither the state owned russia or tv made anyone available. we did get interviews with journalists at two outlets. the editor-in-chief of russia direct. on government control of the media in general and sochi coverage in particular. >> i myself as editor-in-chief of russia direct have never experienced any form of pressure. i've never been told what to write or what not to write on the olympics. we've just published a whole series of articles, a special issue about sochi. safety, investment, the cost and the benefits to russia in the long run. we found experts and we put the questions to them. we didn't tell them what to write or what not to write. >> probably half a year ago, there were a lot of criticisms regarding preparation to the games but i think that the games
focus of media coverage has started to shift toward -- people always want to hear how miserable the process of preparation is and they want to hear more, some success stories. >> and that's what the russian media both state-own and nominally independent will give them. in a few short days, the world will tune into the winter olympics. it will be a tale of one city and two stories. news narratives that, like the athletes, will be in competition. >> our global village voices on the news coverage of the upcoming sochi games. >> olympics in sochi, seen by many in russia as an opportunity to effect the conditions.
>> the olympic chapter actually mandates that the international olympic committees and the whole cities ensure the full range of media coverage. what will be interesting, however, will be the social media outpet from the people on the ground. and with that comes the increasing realzation that the spectators are reflecting their problems so it is an issue in things that they're seeing with the olympic movement. so the games are being more and more co-authored and coproduced by audiences.
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>> time for listening post news bytes. at last, some clarity on the legal status of al jazeera journalists held in egyptian jails. the news is not good for them or their colleagues. five al jazeera journalists have been behind bars awaiting trial and now the authorities say arrest warrants have been issued for another 12 unnamed employees who they say either currently work for al jazeera or have done in the past. the prosecutors have said the al jazeera staff had undermined national unit why i by broadcasting false information. most of the accused are said to be egyptian nationals charged with membership in a terrorist organization. the muslim brotherhood. al jazeera said it had no journalist reporting from egypt since the day that al jazeera
mohammed facny as well as correspondent peter were all arrested. two more employees from the network's arabic language channels, have been in detention for more than five months already. al jazeera calls the charges absurd and continues to demand the prisoner's unconditional release. the network has been backed on that in a petition signed by nearly 50 journalists from international media outlets. media watch organizations have condemned the egyptian government over the allegation that al jazeera is colluding with terrorist groups. >> edward snowden, the former nsa contractor who blew the whistle on mass surveillance by u.s. and british spy agencies has taken a bruising in the meed ya, particularly the u.s. snowden used an interview with the new yorker magazine to accuse the u.s. mainstream media of abdicating their ability to hold power to account. he was talking about interviews done january 19th by mike rogers and dianne feinstein. >> i believe there is a reason he ended up in the hands -- the
loving arms of an fsb agent in moscow. >> the two had congressional intelligence committees both muse allowed on the possibility that snowden, exiled in moscow has been working for the russians all along. snowden denies that and says it is not the smears that mystify me. it is that outlets report state. s that speakers themselves admit are pure speculation. it is interesting the institutions don't have an editorial position on this. these are pretty serious allegations. "the associated press" says it will no longer work with an award winning photojournalist after he admitted to digitally tampering with a picture taken in syria. mexican photographer contreras was one of five journalists awarded a pulitzer prize. the photo was taken four months ago in the northwestern city. it shows a rebel fighter ducking for cover. the original shows a camera in the bottom left-hand corner but in the image contreras submitted, the camera had been removed. it breached ap's editorial
policy. its director of photography said ap's reputation is paramount. deliberately removing elements from our photographs is completely unacceptable. contreras eventually admitted it saying he did it because he felt the camera would be a distraction. he said i took the wrong decision when i removed the camera. i feel ashamed about it. i have to assume the consequences. >> when someone says the word "drone," it is usually followed by the word "strike." given the stories we keep hearing out of pack stab and yemen, we've become conditioned to think of drones as weapons of war. they're becoming tools of the journalistic trade. whether you realize it or not, more and more news stories, particularly those on television include images shot by drones. there are still a lot of issues to be worked out. some technological, some ethical. however, drones are becoming part of the news gathering process. and because they can provide a different perspective and they're not as expensive as one might think, you can bet they're here to stay. will the isening post's will
young on the potential and pitfalls of the media's unmanned eyes in the skies. >> november 2013, typhoon in the philippines. a camera carried by an unmanned vehicle floats overhead. high enough to capture the scale of the destruction yet close enough to convey the detail and depth of the tragedy. >> it seems obvious at the moment that if you want to show widespread devastation after a fire or environmental problems, drones can help illustrate that. if you're at a protest and you have a drone, you can, for example, put a drone up in the air and see the tactics the police are using and really give a whole different illustrative angle to the coverage that you're trying to produce. >> and it is a political protests where drones are getting closest to where news is breaking. a drone shot the demonstrations that shook bangkok at the end of last year. the footage quickly became part of the mainstream media coverage.
but it was at the occupy protests of 2011 where journalists first saw how a drone could help report times of civil unrest. >> i've known about drones and remote controlled airplanes and blimps and all of that stuff but it wasn't until there was this particular protest in boston where the police formed a line and they were blocking the press from being able to film the arrests happening behind them, that i started to think what can i do that's legal to circumvent their blockade? a friend of mine suggested we grab a couple of these drones, we'll have an aerial shot, totally legal. we'll get a better vantage point. how can we incorporate this? >> in the park protests in turkey, when tens of thousands of people were clashing with police, the whole time i was there, i did not see a single news camera flying over the place. >> there was another guy, goes
by the name of jenks, online, who used a dji phantom like this where he flew around protests in istanbul, turkey. and was actually getting some really amazing shots of confrontations between the police and protestors. >> so in that case, the aerial shots from the drones were the only ones we got of the whole park. and they were -- as far as i know, they were put on youtube and websites. >> i believe on the second day that he was flying it around, police shot it out of the sky. you can hear semi-automatic weapon fire and then it just falls to the ground. >> the park showed how contentious journalism drones can be over politically sensitive situations but the technology better known for its military applications in the world of commercial photography and footage, the argument has been settled. drone pilot toby pocock has
never flown his helicopter to cover breaking news. he puts cameras in the sky for corporate customers instead. >> we've got quite a varied range of clients ranging from the likes of rolls-royce right through to -- when it comes to drones, they want to put a camera into a position which hasn't been possible before. helicopters are restricted to how low they can fly and obviously because we make a lot less noise. it means that we're much more responsive. >> a lot of news organizations will pay for exclusive access to the roof of a building or sending up a helicopter could cost thousands of dollars. drone technology is tremendously cheaper. the model i use is only a few hundred dollars. it can be flown with a mobile app. so the point of entry at which a journalist can figure out how to use it is very low and the cost is very low. >> journalists armed with easily-available drones, have already run into the long arm of the law. in june 2013, a south african
filmmaker was arrested after flying a drone around the hospital where the late nelson mandela was being treated. in august, swiss police confiscated images taken by photographer who flew his drone over the wall at a celebrity wedding. in both cases, journalists were criticized for chasing famous faces and given that the media are often accused of invading the privacy of public figures, could drones give image-hungry news hounds another way to dog their targets? from above. >> people ask me all the time what if the paparazzi gets these? one, they already have them. there are laws that bar people from looking in other people's windows like sneaking up to somebody's house and looking in those but the laws are predicated on you being physically on the property. with the uav, you don't have to be there anymore. >> it seems like a natural right not to be photographed in your backyard. but drones are promising to violate that. a lot of people will be quite
understandably creeped out by the idea that if you're outside, anywhere, anywhere in your home, in your backyard, if you're just outside, you may potentially be photographed. >> with so many issues unresolved, mainstream media have used drones sparingly. far away from built up areas where safety issues and regulation are unlikely to be an issue. >> there's something about the culture of mainstream media which is normally fairly cautious about pulling in and risking things with new technology. mainstream media at the moment has been very hesitant to take up drones. the bbc, for example, has gone step by step, training their people very slowly. it is also -- there's aspects of drones that slow things down. you've got battery life on small drones is normally quite low. so you can really only fly around 15 to 20 minutes. it is hard -- you've got to practice to get a really good, steady shot that tells the story
that you want to tell. >> coming at it from a flying point of view and the fact that we have to be ca qualified for this, immediately, i think of all of the restrictions that we would have on us, before you could use it for journalism, of course, yeah, great, stick a camera up in the air. there's a riot going on down here or there's something that we need to go and check out. it is fantastic. but they may be breaking rules and regulations. >> over the coming months, the organization responsible for regulating airspace in the u.s., the faa, will consider revising laws that restrict drone use. that could mean more experimentation to see how a drone's eye view can enhance news coverage. because, as with any be new technology, it is not about what drones can do, it is about what journalists can do with drones. >> i think you're seeing a period of experimentation. i think the limitations right now, primarily have to do with law and safety.
but once those begin to relax, i think you're going to see a lot more creative in how they're used. >> the best scenario would be genuine discussion about safety and privacy. so we had a reasonable compromise that could exploit these technologies without surrendering. i think it is much better for policymakers to be pro-active rather than look at technology as some force of nature that just is going to happen because it's not. we make these things. we can decide how to use them. primetime news. >> i'm john seigenthaler in new york. >> stories that impact the world, affect the nation and touch your life. >> it's like a brawl here in the waters around monterey. >> only on al jazeera america.
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check check >> welcome to al jazeera america. i'm jonathan betz of new york. >> the united states and e.u. stand with the people of ukraine. >> secretary of state john kerry backs ukraine's protesters while russia accuses the west of undermining the government. gun battles in the streets of bangkok as thailand prepares for national elections. california takes steps as