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In Year of Uprisings, Reporters Brave Crackdowns from Wall St. to Tahrir Square

6:40 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

(Photo: shortstackblog)

Cross-posted from In These Times.

You wouldn’t think handling a notebook or a camera could be a hazardous line of work. But according to the latest global Press Freedom Index, abuse and oppression of reporters has made journalism an increasingly risky job in many countries. The past year has even left a notable taint on the U.S. press, despite the country’s mythos as a beacon of free expression.

While the United States certainly hasn’t descended into the ranks of the most oppressive regimes, the watchdog group Reporters without Borders observes that in 2011 the political barriers and outright attacks facing reporters had led to a steep drop in the rankings—27 places down, to number 47:

In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.

The most high-profile violations of press freedom took place during the Occupy protests, as reporters were abused by police and otherwise stonewalled by authorities.

Ever-faithful to his 1% cronies, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg moved swiftly to restrict press coverage of Occupy Wall Street actions, barring journalists from Zuoccotti Park. Authorities justified the “media blackout” by insisting that the purpose was “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.” The safety assurances presumably weren’t much comfort to the many reporters who got roughed up and arrested while trying to do their jobs.

But as usual, the crackdowns only challenged activists to push back more fiercely as digital images and reports of police brutality and oppression went viral. And much of the heavy lifting was accomplished by a deft, if somewhat chaotic, grassroots media sphere.

Josh Stearns at Free Press tracked dozens of arrests across several Occupy cities through Twitter dispatches.

From cartoonist and journalist Susie Cagle (an occasional contributor to this website), who was arrested during the Occupy Oakland strike actions and “held for over 14 hours”: Read the rest of this entry →

Documenting Undocumented Youth

6:55 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Photo: Adrian Gonzalez

Cross-posted from CultureStrike, a new project that fuses art and activism in the struggle for immigrants’ rights.

A few years back, Julio Salgado and his friends graduated from college and found themselves, like many of their peers, adrift: no good job prospects, hard-earned diplomas gathering dust under a slumped economy. But their drift was anchored by a heavy secret: they didn’t have papers, so every post-college hurdle that young people commonly face was thickened by the politics of a broken immigration system.

An epiphany came on the Day of the Dead, the Día de los Muertos that celebrates mortality and the afterlife. In the spirit of the holiday, Salgado and his colleagues, Jesus Iñiguez, Fernando Romero, and Deisy Hernandez, decided to create an altar in memory of their dreams. And the video they made of the mock memorial inspired them to keep going and see where their art would take them.

Today, the California-based team of four “DREAMers”–named for the thus far-failed DREAM Act legislation, which would provide legal status to undocumented immigrants who get a college education in the U.S.–run a nationwide media project devoted to telling stories about life as an undocumented youth.

Despite the name, DREAMers Adrift has a serious mission: to give voice and vision to an emergent political movement through media, ranging from spoken word to visual art to blogging. And despite their legal quagmires, they’ve made the plight of countless young people visible with a video series called “Undocumented and Awkward,” which whimsically depicts the absurdities of everyday life without papers. Read the rest of this entry →