Media Law Roundup: October 9, 2015

Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a weekly digest of the latest in global media news. In this issue: Paksitan internet Governance School, Turkish Journalist Acquitted, selected headlines from October Cybersecurity Awareness Month. 

Cisco Uncovers $30 Million Hacking Operation

This week, US tech behemoth Cisco discovered an ongoing cybercrime operation that is estimated to produce $30 million a year in revenue. The company’s security team unveiled the scheme during a wide-reaching investigation into Angler, the exploit malware used in the operation. According to the report, the malware capitalizes on vulnerabilities in Flash, Java, and other browser plugins to break into systems. Once in, the malware can take over a computer and demand a ransom to be paid by the user in order for the user to regain control. The cybercriminals are thought to be targeting 90,000 people per day through the operation. Security expert Graham Cluley says the measures taken by the company will not be a significant blow to the operation, but will be enough to disrupt its course. Cisco’s investigation team has said that they are able to ‘cut off the malware at the knees,’ although they expect it will only take a short time for the malware writers to find a workaround. Angler Exploit is known notoriously as one of the most powerful tools available for operating such large and complex cybercrime schemes. Cisco has issued a patch and published guidelines on its website on how users can protect their devices.


HEC Launches Pakistan School on Internet Governance

This week, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan launched the Pakistan School on Internet Governance (PkSIG) with its first event, a four-day workshop on a wide variety of topics related to internet governance. At the launch, which took place October 5 in Islamabad, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed called for a task force “comprising representatives of government, academia, industry, and civil society that [would] devise the future strategy for proper internet governance in the country,” Pakistan Today reports. In his speech, Hussain also emphasized the need for addressing current problems related to internet governance in Pakistan and commended HEC and its partners for creating such an initiative. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, chairman of HEC, said that the school will help individuals gain access to knowledge about various aspects of governance and its social, legal, economic, and political implications. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a contributing partner in the development of the new school, explains that the project is intended to enlighten participants on best practices with regards to internet governance, which remains a heavily contested topic in Pakistan.


Facebook Announces Plans for Satellite Internet

Facebook announced this week that it plans to launch a satellite in 2016 that will provide internet access to remote regions of Africa. The announcement comes after a satellite launched in French Guiana last week to bring broadband to rural regions in Australia. Facebook will partner with French broadband operator Eutelsat as part of its heavily-criticized project. The project aims to provide affordable internet access to rural parts of developing countries that are currently difficult for internet service providers to reach. The company promises that no new technology will be developed for the satellite, but rather it will be built entirely with “off the shelf” products to access service when it launches. Since Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement on October 5, the project has already received criticism, particularly from Indian businesses who worry the move will give Facebook and its partners an “unfair advantage in developing internet markets.” The idea’s umbrella project,, is aimed at addressing the obstacles to internet access for much of the world’s population. “We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world,” says Zuckerberg, “even if that means looking beyond our planet.”


Turkish Court Acquits Journalist in Trial over Critical Tweet

Sedef Kabaş, a prominent Turkish journalist, was acquitted on October 6, 2015 in a trial over a critical tweet that she posted in December 2014. In the tweet, Kabaş expressed views critical of the government’s handling of a major corruption investigation, Today’s Zaman reports.  Kabaş initially faced up to five years in prison for targeting individuals involved in the fight against terrorism. In late 2014, Turkish officials searched the journalist’s house, located in the Çekmeköy district of İstanbul, and seized her computer as evidence in what would be upcoming trials. Kabaş was also acquitted in the first hearing of the case, where she was charged with keeping police officers waiting at her house when they came to conduct the search. Kabaş said of her Tuesday acquittal, “the decision given today shows that Turkey still has [some] justice.” In a series of statements at the trial, she went on to express concern for the state of freedom of speech in Turkey. “We will criticize corruption and bribery when we witness them within the frame of our constitutional rights,” said Kabaş, “this country belongs to all journalists.”


Singapore to Up Cybersecurity Spending

Singaporean government officials announced this week that 10% of the state’s IT budget will be spent on efforts to improve cybersecurity. The announcement was made by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim on October 6 at the opening of the GovernmentWare Infocomm Security Conference, a three-day workshop series held in Suntec City. In his address, Minister Yaacob underscored the need for the allocation, citing examples from Israel and South Korea, who have both recently made similar decisions to invest more government money in cybersecurity. The Minister also urged the private sector to follow suit, “highlighting the need for a substantial cyber security budget as one of the nation’s three thrusts to shore up its defences,” Straits Times reports. Shaun Chong, chief technology officer at Ninja Van, said that the Minister’s proposal is reasonable and necessary, stating that Chong’s own company already spends 10-15% on cybersecurity. In an effort to achieve the cybersecurity goals laid out by the Minister, the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore has signed a memoranda of understanding with three companies. The agency plans to use the newly allocated funds to work with FireEye, Check Point, and Singtel to develop security systems and train cybersecurity professionals.


Syrian Journalist Awarded for Human Rights Work

Kholoud Waleed, a 31 year old investigative journalist from Syria, was presented with the Reach All Women in WAR Anna Politkovskaya Award on October 7 in recognition of her work in “keeping Syrian people informed about the war, and for speaking out against violence,”  Voice of America reports. Waleed has worked to document atrocities in the Syrian war despite lethal risks, starting an underground newspaper in 2012 with a small group of female friends. Enab Baladi aims to convey truthful portraits of what is happening in Syria to the international community and the people living in Syria, many of whom are without access to non-biased information.  The message from the regime is, “the sun is shining, the birds are chirping,” says Waleed. The newspaper highlights the atrocities of the war, but also stories of its survivors and citizen voices. Elena Kudimova, sister of Politkovskaya, for whom the award is named, called the work Waleed does ‘insurmountably brave.’ “The newspaper she runs is a rare source of truthful facts for the people in Syria, who are left either in an information vacuum or are subjected to heavy state propaganda,” said Kudimova. Despite the dangers causing her to live in hiding, Waleed will continue to report on Syria as she says it is her ultimate responsibility to deliver the truth.


Lebanese Facebook Users Jailed Following Critical Posts

On October 6, 2015, political activist Michel Douaihy was released after being detained for nine days following a post he made on Facebook, Global Voices reports. In the post, Douaihy criticized what he called ‘special treatment’ of Lebanese cleric Ahmad Al-Assir during his arrest. Al-Assir, after going into hiding following his run-in with the law, attempted an escape to Nigeria and is thought to have been treated with more dignity than most fugitives. Douaihy’s post mirrored views of many activists, who have criticized the treatment of Al-Assir, claiming he was treated better than that of most activists, who are often beaten upon detainment in Lebanon. Douaihy was charged with incitement of sectarianism, libel and defamation by the General Security office. Nearly identical charges were brought upon Al-Akhbar journalist Mohammad Nazzal, who has been sentenced to six months in prison and a $600 fine. Although Douaihy was released, says Global Voices, his indictment fell under Article 386 of the Lebanese penal code which criminalizes libel and defamation against the president. Online activists have taken to twitter, using the #FreeMichelDouaihy hashtag to raise awareness about his case. Many have used Facebook and Twitter to post messages of support for both Douaihy and Nazzal.


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