Correctional Insights

Journalists Facing Hard-Time Abroad

“I was in a solitary cell for five days, only allowed one hour in the courtyard. You could go crazy after a while,” Asli Erdoğan wrote of her time in a Turkish jail. “I spent 48 hours without water when I first arrived. I was in shock, which worked a bit like an anesthetic.”

Erdoğan, a Turkish writer/journalist, was arrested for terrorist propaganda in 2016. Wordsmiths, like Erdoğan, have a hard time expressing opinions in their own country, let alone a foreign one.

Journalists can incur the wrath of the public by investigating events, writing less-than popular opinion pieces or by criticizing the wrong people. Reporters travel the world to cover events and interesting topics, like a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse or a civil war in Syria. It’s a sad fact of life that they aren’t always safe while working overseas.

Press Rights are Important for Freedom

While journalists from all backgrounds are subjected to scrutiny, those from the United States get to enjoy certain freedoms which others may not. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlines the freedom of the press. This amendment essentially allows U.S. citizens to write about any subject without fear of imprisonment, though that is not always true.

Founding fathers of the U.S., James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, started the National Gazette to criticize officials and their newly-formed government. Freedom of the press has been essential since the founding of the United States and continues to be pertinent to the American way of life. While Americans may be able to criticize their government and live without fear, doing the same in other countries can carry significant consequences. However, the rest of the world isn’t only worse-off compared to America.

Though the U.S. has freedom of the press, it isn’t even in the top ten countries with the most press freedom. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Jamaica, Belgium, New Zealand, Denmark and Costa Rica make up the top ten countries with the best freedom of press laws. The United States sits at 45 in 2018, which is a decrease from 43rd place in 2017. China, Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea are the bottom five countries with the worst freedom of press laws.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, there are currently four imprisoned journalists and 36 who have been attacked here in the U.S. These figures are small potatoes compared to Turkey’s 73 imprisoned journalists and China’s 41. So while we may not be the best, we’re far from being the worst.

Turkey has Largest Number of Imprisoned Journalists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule has been problematic for journalists as well as academics, elected government officials and human rights workers.

According to IRIN, “50,000 people have been jailed for suspected ties to the attempted takeover.”

A coup was started in July 2016 which resulted in mass imprisonments and overcrowded prisons. Journalists, like Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, have been jailed for allegedly sending concealed messages to those who participated in the attempt to overthrow Erdoğan. The brothers face the possibility of life in prison.

“Allegations of torture and mistreatment in prisons have also increased over the last year. Prisoners have reported being held in stress positions over prolonged periods, while also being subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual abuse, and threats of rape,” wrote IRIN staff.

Agencies in charge of the oversight of prison conditions have been disbanded since the coup, which has allowed the Turkish prison administrations and guards to operate without constraint.

Turkish political prisoners are reported to be treated more harshly than other prisoners since Erdogan became president. They are often transferred to prisons far from their family and court proceedings, thus weakening their resolve and defense.

Sometimes journalists aren’t subjected to hard-time while abroad, only to experience horrifying treatment within their home countries.

Journalists experience hard-time abroad

American journalists do have a hard-time abroad and face comparatively little resistance within the U.S. When American journalists are captured or arrested, it is widely-broadcast across the country.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two journalists from the United States, were arrested in North Korea in 2009. The duo was accused of entering the country illegally in March 2009 and later found guilty. Lee and Ling were on assignment reporting about North Korean women being trafficked out of the country.

According to an Associated Press article, “The Central Court in Pyongyang sentenced each to 12 years of ‘reform through labor’ in a North Korean prison after a five-day trial, KCNA said in a terse, two-line report that provided no further details. A Korean-language version said they were convicted of ‘hostility toward the Korean people.’”

North Korea is vastly different from every other country in the world as their leader, Kim Jong-Un, is fiercely private about the way their country works. The borders are heavily guarded, and all punishments are severe.

Lim Hye-jin, a former North Korean prison guard, described the inner workings of the North Korean prison system in The Daily Mail. If found guilty of some crime, the punishment is often hard labor. Within the prison, prisoners are often beaten, tortured, raped or killed. Punishments can be collective, as to warn other inmates not to repeat anything perceived as wrongdoing. Hye-jin said most guards did not see prisoners as people and treated them horrendously.

While Lee and Ling were released before being sent to a hard labor camp, they could have faced similar punishments. Not only do journalists face a hard-time abroad, tourists can as well, in cases like Otto Warmbier’s and Kenneth Bae’s.

Reuters journalists jailed for archaic law

Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are two journalists working for Reuters, an international news agency. The pair are from Myanmar and cover controversial issues within the country.

In December 2017, Soe Oo and Lone, were investigating the massacre of Rohingya villagers in the Rakhine state at the hands of the Myanmar military. The Rohingya are an ethnic minority group and predominantly practice Islam in a largely Buddhist country.

The two journalists met police for a meal after which they were arrested on suspicion of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, due to their possession of information about the Rakhine state. They pleaded not guilty and were held in custody for more than 300 days.

After suspicious happenings throughout the proceedings by officials, the Reuters journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison on Sept. 3. There has been no information to where they are or how they will be detained.

Myanmar’s most notorious jail for political prisoners, Insein, is widely-known for its torture and inhumane treatment of inmates.

A former inmate, Philip Blackwood, was in Insein for more than a year. At the beginning of his sentence, he was kept in a small cell with no windows and a hole leading to an open sewer for a toilet. Blackwood endured a hard-time abroad and lived through a nightmare of less-than livable conditions in a prison known for its inhumanity.

For a free world to prosper, there must be freedom of press. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved.”

Journalism itself faces a hard-time abroad in countries that oppress voices critical of power. Reading and writing contribute to societies by offering alternative perspectives, whether it be a first-person account of a war zone or retelling tales of an elderly person’s youth. These alternative perspectives must be protected in order for humanity to progress.

Freedom of speech has been restricted in every country across the world at some point in history, and the free-thinkers are always the persecuted.

Tips & Facts

Admin Soft Skills: Public Speaking

Can you recall the last time you gave a speech or got up in front of a crowd to make an announcement? While these moments are usually accompanied by feelings of anxiety, nervousness or fear, we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to participate in some form of public speaking.

For some, this sought-after skill comes as naturally as breathing, but for the rest of us speech-giving is a terrifying task. As daunting as this endeavor may be, there are a few tricks of the trade that can improve your skills. These tips will ensure a smoother delivery and explain why public speaking is such a vital skill to possess, particularly for Jail Administrators.

Empathy and Engagement

We’ve all heard it before: “Just imagine the crowd in their underwear, and you’ll be fine!” That is a bunch of bologna. Not only does this strategy leave you wide open for a burst of nervous laughter, it often distracts you from the main points or purposes you’re trying to convey to the audience. Who wouldn’t be distracted by a small crowd of nudists?

The really important thing is to understand and empathize with your audience. In doing so, the specific message you are trying to send will be concise and coherent, and will really resonate with the crowd. Empathizing with your audience grabs their attention and makes your speech more engaging.

For jail administrators, public speaking is an important skill to master. Whether you are informing inmates of policy and rules, updating staff on new schedules or regulations, or delivering reports and statistics to your sheriff, good communication skills will pay dividends in the long-run. These skills are so necessary that the State of Washington jail administrator requirements literally spells-out how important effective oral and written communication skills are.

Since it is the jail administrator’s job to manage the systems, procedures and policies that govern facility operations, these individuals often play a key role within their sheriff’s executive team. As a member of this executive team, it is vital that jail administrators voice their concerns and priorities in organizational meetings. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Sheriff’s Guide to Effective Jail Operations, “Three keys to establishing a collaborative climate are:

  1. Clear roles and responsibilities
  2. Strong lines of communication
  3. Positive relationships

Preparation is Paramount

The phrase “practice makes perfect” isn’t a proverb for nothing. While absolute “perfection” may be an unattainable goal, putting in ample time to prepare for your speech will ultimately optimize delivery. According to Arina Nikitina’s book on Successful Public Speaking, “the outcome of a speech is largely predetermined by the weeks of preparation undertaken.”

Ample preparation is crucial for jail administrators preparing to give a speech in front of subordinates. People are generally hostile and unreceptive towards figures of authority, but by establishing credibility through preparation, administrators can make a greator impact on their audience. In order to establish authority, speakers need to take time to think like their audience does. What do they like and dislike, how will they respond to a given statement, how can an idea be made more palatable; these are the questions a speaker should ask themselves during the preparation phase.

Preparing a speech beforehand and really understanding your target audience will aid tremendously in getting your message across. This proves especially useful when it comes to clarifying complicated rules and regulations. Over time, the rules you routinely preach may begin to fall on deaf ears. Ensuring that your message is delivered in a prepared and candid way will inspire your audience to listen. To ensure your speech is eloquent and direct, follow these steps during your preparation phase:

  1. Form a goal for the speech
  2. Choose a target audience
  3. Choose the most efficient delivery method
  4. Give your speech a test-run

Public Speaking on the Job

Efficient communication is necessary to establish any rule or regulation. Even with new technologies like CIDNET’s electronic mail app, the best way to send a clear message is still face-to-face. It requires zero technology and is a learned skill that anybody can acquire with adequate time and practice. Jail administrators have their own goals when it comes to facility operations, but in order to work towards those objectives, jail staff have to understand the priorities of their superiors.

The ability to speak eloquently in front of a group is an extremely beneficial and lifelong skill, but few can say they actively practice it. The fact is that all professionals would benefit from better public speaking skills, and jail administrators have more opportunities than most to utilize them on the job.