Former members of Mexico student movement join Televisa talk show

Genaro lozano youtube screenshot promo televisa 

MEXICO CITY -- They rallied and railed against the dominant media duopoly in Mexico during a crucial election campaign, but now former members of the student movement known as #YoSoy132 are set to appear on a new talk show produced by the Televisa network.

The revelation Wednesday startled observers and sparked outraged and mocking commentary on Twitter in Mexico, where #YoSoy132, or "I Am 132," was founded in May.

The leaderless movement emerged in protest of Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential candidate who went on to win the July 1 election, and against Televisa and TV Azteca. Together, the media conglomerates nearly monopolize the airwaves in Mexico, making them a target of protests by #YoSoy132 for what it called the networks' biased and favorable coverage of the candidate.

"Sin Filtro," or "Without Filters," is slated to be a weekly Sunday night program on ForoTV, an arm of Televisa. The format is a round-table of university students who will discuss, "without censorship," the pressing issues facing Mexico, host Genaro Lozano said in an interview Wednesday.

Lozano, a 36-year-old international relations professor and frequent political commentator  on Mexican news outlets, is not a former member of the student movement, but he helped moderate a presidential debate that #YoSoy132 organized. The unprecedented unofficial meeting with three of the four presidential candidates (Peña Nieto declined to attend) was noteworthy for being organized by citizens and not the federal electoral authorities.

The first installment of "Sin Filtro" is expected to feature Antonio Attolini, a former #YoSoy132 campus representative and one of the most prominent and recognizable student voices during the election. Later, however, Attolini was effectively booted out of #YoSoy132 after other students regarded his many media appearances -- including on Televisa -- as detrimental and distracting to the group's agenda.

Lozano said he understood the criticisms of the new program but added that he would make efforts to reach out to students from a range of public and private universities in Mexico for future on-air panels. 

"There is a phobia toward the networks, and that's a historical issue in Mexico," Lozano told The Times. "But I think opening a new space of dialogue is always a good thing, and I hope other such spaces open up on other networks."

He added that he previously had taped a pilot for a similar program on another network, but only within the last two weeks did a contact with the Televisa conglomerate lead to "Sin Filtro." Lozano said he expects to sign a contract for the show with Televisa on Thursday.

Online, the official Twitter account of #YoSoy132 distanced itself once more from Attolini, saying: "#YoSoy132 does not have leaders precisely to avoid that the contradictions of one affect us all." Other Twitter users were less generous, with some dubbing the student panelists who appear on a "Sin Filtro" promo on YouTube as "traitors." (Links in Spanish.)

The promo itself is a study of what might arguably be called unintended irony.

Lozano identified the participants as all former members of #YoSoy132, now sitting before cameras belonging to the largest mass media company in the Spanish-speaking world, which is also currently tied to a trafficking ring investigation in Nicaragua.

"I'm tired of the fact that the old news media class gives us information in the same manner, and with bias," one panelist, a young woman wearing heavy-framed eyeglasses, emphatically declares. "That is bad for freedom of speech in the country and that's why we're here, to discuss what interests you, without filters."

Attolini, meanwhile, broke his silence on Twitter on Wednesday as the virtual booing and hissing rained down on him. By the afternoon, he tweeted: "The struggle will be infinite if we don't start gaining territory. Now we have it inside the wolf's cave. Let's say the things that are concealed."

"Sin Filtro" is scheduled to premiere Sunday, Oct. 28. Lozano said the likely topic will be media democratization, a central issue for the student movement during the campaign.


Accused Mexican drug ring posing as media on trial in Nicaragua

Crowds in Mexico protest against leading presidential candidate

In Mexico, Yo Soy 132 ponders next step

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: Moderator Genaro Lozano appears in a screenshot of a promo for "Sin Filtro." Credit: Via YouTube

Israeli Army Radio ban on protest song raises controversy

JERUSALEM — A leading Israeli radio station's decision to ban for broadcast a protest song is stirring controversy and underscoring the sensitive intersection of art, politics and freedom of speech in the country.

"A Matter of Habit," recently released by veteran Israeli musician Izhar Ashdot, describes the slippery slope Israeli soldiers go down, from fear and confusion to complacency, until "killing is a matter of habit."  The lyrics, written by Ashdot's life partner, novelist Alona Kimhi, reportedly were inspired by her tour with Breaking the Silence, an organization of former combat soldiers whose website says it is dedicated to exposing the "reality of everyday life in the occupied territories." 

The song was welcomed by liberals as a protest of Israel's actions in the West Bank but fiercely criticized by others, who defaced Ashdot's official Facebook page last month, with one angry reader referring to Ashdot as a "draft-dodging dog" — though he didn't evade mandatory service.

Army Radio stuck by an advance invitation that Ashdot perform in its studios but expressly vetoed the playing of this song. The station later issued a statement saying there was no room on the military station for a song that "denigrates and denounces those who have sacrificed their lives for the defense of the country."

"I am worried when songs are banned for broadcast in a democratic country," Ashdot told Israeli media, adding he was shocked by the "incitement" against him that the statement encouraged. The decision and statement were issued by Yaron Dekel, a veteran journalist appointed to be the station's military commander in February.

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Live from the Holy Land ... our rival's logo!


JERUSALEM — The Holy Land rivalry between U.S. televangelism giants Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television is getting a little ugly.

As reported Monday, both broadcasters recently bought expensive new Jerusalem studios — located next-door to each other — as part of a competitive race to expand their footprint and programming in Israel. Both prime properties feature sweeping, unobstructed views of the Mount of Olives, Old City and Mt. Zion.

In the report, TBN accused Daystar officials of working behind the scenes to prevent TBN from obtaining its own channel on Israel’s leading satellite television provider Yes. Daystar, which already has its own channel on Yes, declined to comment on the allegations.

But on Tuesday it sent a not-so-subtle message to TBN, hanging a large “Daystar” sign off its balcony in a position where for the most part it can only be seen from TBN’s balcony 15 feet away.

The sign, which a Daystar crew member said may be permanent, will make it nearly impossible for TBN cameras to get a clear picture of Mt. Zion — without also capturing its rival's name and logo.


Afghanistan bomb blast kills U.S. soldier

Russia court bans anti-Islam film 'Innocence of Muslims'

Jewish extremists suspected of vandalizing Jerusalem monastery

— Edmund Sanders

Photo: The sweeping view of Mt. Zion from Trinity Broadcasting Network's new Jerusalem studios is now partly obstructed by a large sign installed Tuesday by rival Daystar, which owns the studio and terrace next door. Credit: Edmund Sanders / Los Angeles Times

Cambodia radio broadcaster jailed 20 years for inciting rebellion


A Cambodian radio broadcaster was sentenced Monday to 20 years behind bars for stirring up an insurrection against the state, charges that human rights groups say are a fig leaf for the government squelching dissent.

Mam Sonando, the 71-year-old founder of Beehive Radio, was found guilty of instigating rebellion and inciting people to take up arms against the government, among other charges. The insurrection charges were tied to a land dispute in Kratie province during which security forces fatally shot a teenage girl.

Local activists have denied the government description of the Kratie clashes as efforts to stop a secessionist rebellion, calling it an excuse to eject families from land sought by a corporation. Sonando was abroad when security forces stormed the village in May, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

“Not a shred of evidence has been submitted in court that proves any connection between Mam Sonando and these bogus charges,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, calling the verdict “embarrassingly unsophisticated and brazen.”

His alarm was echoed by Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, who warned the conviction of Sonando and two other people by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court “raises severe doubts about the impartiality and independence of the court.”

Media freedom groups pointed out that Prime Minister Hun Sen began calling for Sonando's arrest the day after Beehive Radio broadcast a report about Cambodian activists accusing Hun Sen of human rights abuses in a complaint filed before the International Criminal Court. Sonando had been arrested in 2003 and 2005 for allegedly defaming the prime minister.

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Senior British police officer faces charges in phone-hacking scandal

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, a senior British counter-terrorism officer appeared in court to face charges tied to the police investigation into phone hacking by tabloid journalistsLONDON -- A senior British counter-terrorism officer appeared in court Monday to face charges tied to the police investigation into phone hacking by tabloid journalists.

In a brief pretrial hearing, Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, the former head of Scotland Yard's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, was accused of breaching Britain's Official Secrets Act.

Authorities allege that in September 2010 Casburn took home secret police documents relating to an inquiry into phone hacking and contacted the News of the World tabloid, offering it information on the police probe, then known as Operation Varec. 

Police at the time had new information from the New York Times concerning illegal phone tapping by journalists from the News of the World, although authorities did not reopen the phone-hacking investigations until July 2011.  

Casburn, 53, is also charged with misconduct in public office following a police investigation into illegal payments to public officials by journalists in return for information. That probe, known as Operation Elveden, is one of three police inquiries into the suspected widespread use of phone and computer hacking by the media over the past decade.

Casburn, who is reported to be the first defendant facing charges related to the Elveden probe to appear in court, was released on bail and ordered to appear in the Central Criminal Court on Nov. 2. She has been suspended from duty.

Trials are just beginning after more than a year of investigations and civil inquiries into illegal communication interceptions by the news organizations, which have resulted in more than 70 arrests of high-profile figures in the media and public service.

Last week saw the pretrial appearance in court of a dozen high-profile editors and executives from Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World and from News International, the paper’s publisher and the British branch of the huge News Corp. conglomerate.

The tabloid was closed down by the Murdoch family following public outrage over revelations that News of the World journalists in 2003 had hacked into the mobile phone messages of a missing teenager who was later found slain.


 Vatican court blocks evidence in trial of pope's ex-butler

 Unfortunately for Germany, it's "a wonderland for raccoons"

 Ex-tabloid editors Brooks, Coulson in court for British phone-hacking case

 -- Janet Stobart

Photo: pril Casburn arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Monday. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press



New film takes 'quiet' look at Mexico's drug-war violence

MEXICO CITY -- A new documentary on drug-war violence in Mexico is perhaps most remarkable for what it does not portray.

There are no shootouts, no decapitated bodies hanging from highway overpasses.

Instead, award-winning filmmaker Natalia Almada takes her audience into the quiet, busy world of the Humaya Gardens cemetery in Culiacan, the Sinaloa capital considered the historic center of Mexican drug trafficking.

Here death is relentless. With its garish mausoleums and extravagant crypts, the cemetery is the final resting place for numerous drug cartel capos and their legions of mostly young henchmen.

The film, "El Velador" ("The Night Watchman"), follows Martin, who works the graveyard shift, so to speak, at Humaya Gardens. He arrives at sunset, sits or dozes through the night (it is too dangerous to actually patrol the grounds after dark, he says, because of partying, trigger-happy drug goons) and tidies up in the morning, picking up beer bottles and sweeping before walking off in the yellow daylight.

"I fell in love with him as a character," Almada said, citing Martin's "quiet, stoic presence."

"He asks us to live with him, in the cemetery, at his pace," she said. "He is the clock of the cemetery."

Almada said her goal in making "El Velador" was to offer a "more contemplative" view of the violence that dominates Mexico today, not the sensationalistic portrait too common in the daily media.

"I wanted to humanize it, to put it on a more human scale," she said in a telephone interview from the U.S., where the documentary has been screening this week.

Almada's film is stark and sparse. There is virtually no dialogue. Martin occasionally offers a comment; we hear a single conversation among gravediggers about whether the latest kingpin has really been slain, as authorities claim.

What we do hear are the sounds of daily life amid the dead: a shovel hitting earth, a priest's intonations, a child playing hopscotch on tombs. And, from the radio in Martin's beat-up truck and his wavy black-and-white TV set, we hear the litany of drug-war mayhem as broadcasters read the "nota roja," the crime news. Bodies dumped roadside, young men kidnapped; "Culiacan has become a warzone," the broadcaster says.

And at times it seems the cemetery can barely keep up. In one sequence, the builders are finishing a gravesite even as a body waits in a hearse and a woman is heard wailing for her son; the concrete crypt is drying as mourning wreathes are being gathered.

"It's also the futility of it all," Almada said. The death toll rises and rises. Martin waters the dirt. A widow mops her husband's mausoleum, over and over again.

Almada filmed in Humaya Gardens off and on for several months in 2009-2010.

"El Velador" is a co-production of Altamura Films, Latino Public Broadcasting and American Documentary/POV. It begins airing in the Los Angeles area Friday on PBS affiliates. Check local listings.

You can watch a trailer here, and the film will be streaming on the POV website until the end of the year.


In drug-trafficking hub, artist is in demand

Mexico drug war displaces families in Sinaloa highlands

In Sinaloa, the drug trade has infiltrated "every corner of life"

-- Tracy Wilkinson

Video: A trailer from the documentary "El Velador."  Credit: Altamura Films

BSkyB hangs onto broadcasting license; James Murdoch criticized

This post has been updated. See the notes below for details.

LONDON -- British Sky Broadcasting, the satellite TV network partially owned by Rupert Murdoch, remains a “fit and proper” holder of a broadcast license despite the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Murdoch’s media empire, Britain’s communications watchdog said Thursday.

However, the regulatory agency harshly criticized James Murdoch, the former head of BSkyB, for his lackadaisical response to the hacking scandal, saying that he “repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of him as a chief executive officer and chairman” of News International, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch’s giant News Corp.

Although BSkyB was not directly involved in the phone-hacking scandal, which has centered mostly on the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, its operations have come under scrutiny by media regulators because of News Corp.’s 39% stake in the network. The Murdochs had hoped to win full control of the broadcaster but were forced to ditch their takeover bid last year when the hacking scandal exploded over revelations that News of the World reporters had tapped into the cellphone messages of a kidnapped teenager.

The announcement by Ofcom, the communications watchdog, that BSkyB could hang onto its license came as a relief to the broadcaster, whose highly lucrative sports and entertainment programming reaches millions of homes in Britain.

“Ofcom is right to conclude that Sky is a fit and proper broadcaster,” BSkyB said in a statement. “As a company, we are committed to high standards of governance and we take our regulatory obligations extremely seriously.”

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French court: Kate Middleton topless photos to be turned over to her

In a victory for Britain's royal family, a French court ordered that published photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless be handed over to her and her husband, Prince William, within 24 hours
PARIS -- In a victory for Britain's royal family, a French court Tuesday ordered that published photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless be handed over to her and her husband, Prince William, within 24 hours.

The court also said the glossy celebrity magazine that published the pictures, Closer, would be fined $13,000 every time it republished or distributed the offending images.

The royal couple was said to have been "profoundly shocked and troubled" by the photos of them vacationing in the south of France at a secluded villa belonging to a relative of the prince. They had demanded that the pictures be turned over to them after what they called a "grotesque" invasion of their privacy.

They asked the court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre to order the magazine to remove the pictures from its website and ban Closer from republishing them under threat of punitive fines.

At a hastily arranged hearing Monday, the lawyer for Closer, Delphine Pando, argued that the controversy raging over the pictures was a "disproportionate response" to an "ordinary scene."

However, Aurelien Hammelle, the lawyer for the royal couple insisted that the pictures were "profoundly intimate" and "shocking." Applying for an immediate injunction, he reminded the panel of three judges Monday that the photos had been taken on Sept. 5, almost 15 years to the day that William's mother, Princess Diana, had died in a "morbid, cynical and pointless chase" by paparazzi in Paris.

Hammelle asked that the magazine hand over the equipment on which the digital photos were stored and that the images be banned from sale in France or abroad.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as William and his wife are known, have also filed a criminal complaint under France's privacy laws, which could see Closer fined tens of thousands of dollars and its editor serve up to a year in prison. They also filed a complaint against "persons unknown," referring to the photographer, who has not yet been identified.

Hammelle told the civil hearing at the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Nanterre that the photos revealed "particularly simple and deeply intimate moments in the life of this couple that have no reason to be on a magazine cover."

"In the name of what did Closer publish these 'shock' photos? Certainly not in the name of information," Hammelle said. "The Duchess of Cambridge is a young woman, not an object ... and I ask you to put yourself in the place of her husband, Prince William, ... and the place of her parents."


British critics see "lopsided" U.S. extradition treaty

NATO force orders teamwork with Afghans cut back

Hamas court in Gaza Strip convicts killers of Italian activist

-- Kim Willsher

Photo: Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, on a royal visit Tuesday to the South Pacific. Credit: Tony Prcevich / AFP/Getty Images

Indian cartoonist's arrest on sedition charges sparks outcry

India finds itself in the middle of a new free-speech controversy after authorities arrested cartoonist and anti-corruption activist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges
NEW DELHI -- India finds itself in the middle of a new free-speech controversy after authorities arrested cartoonist and anti-corruption activist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges.

The move over the weekend came after Trivedi displayed caricatures of India's constitution, parliament and the national emblem on placards and posted them on a social networking site.

As outcry spread Monday among media and civic groups, the police in Maharashtra state appeared to back down, telling Trivedi they would let him go if he applied for bail. He refused, however, saying he would remain in custody as a matter of principle. His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24.

"If telling the truth makes me a traitor, then I am one," Trivedi told reporters outside the court late Sunday on his way to a hearing. "Even Mahatma Gandhi was called traitor, and if I am booked under sedition for doing service to the nation, then I will continue to do so."

Most of his allegedly seditious cartoons were displayed last year on a website that Trivedi launched, called The government blocked the site in December during a demonstration by anti-corruption leader Anna Hazare.

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Rebekah Brooks appears in court on phone-hacking charges

Rebekah Brooks appears in court on phone-hacking charges
LONDON -- Rebekah Brooks, former News International executive and editor of the now defunct Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World, appeared in court Monday to hear three charges against her relating to illegal phone hacking.

Brooks, 44, was charged earlier this year along with a private investigator and seven other executives, editors and journalists of the paper. The group was charged with conspiring to hack into the phones of 600 potential victims.

In Brooks’ case she faces two more specific charges of hacking into the phones of murdered teenager Milly Dowler who died in March 2003, and of Andy Gilchrist, a former militant leader of the Fire Brigades Union who lead a controversial firefighters’ strike in 2002. She has denied the charges.

Brooks, wearing a short-skirted dark suit, made no comment as she walked to and from Westminster Magistrates court in central London. Throughout the brief hearing she listened in silence as presiding judge Howard Riddle Brooks read out the three charges.  

Her seven former colleagues who appeared in court last month, included Andy Coulson, former chief press officer to Prime Minister David Cameron, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator.

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