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Watergate revisited: Is it fundamentally unethical to guarantee a source confidentiality?

Originally posted on journlaw:

A shorter version was published 22-6-15 in The Conversation as:

How surveillance is wrecking journalist-source confidentiality


Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward famously used cloak and dagger methods to communicate with his secret source – “Deep Throat” – in the 1972 Watergate investigation which led to the Nixon administration’s downfall.

Woodward said he would move a pot plant on his balcony to signal to his confidential, high-level source that he wanted a meeting. If Deep Throat wanted a meeting, he would draw a clock face on page 20 of Woodward’s newspaper to indicate the time they should rendezvous in a disused underground car park.

These very 20th-century…

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Pope quote: environment

“We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”

Journalists, whistleblowers and the law – the end of the era of the confidential Watergate-style source? My #AusCERT2015 address

Originally posted on journlaw:


My speech to the AusCERT2015 conference on the Gold Coast, Queensland, on Friday June 5.


The practicalities of protecting confidential sources are a huge challenge for journalists in the modern era. New shield laws excusing journalists revealing the identity of a whistleblower in court seem pointless if litigants or government agencies have already been able to detect them using the surveillance regime that is ubiquitous in modern society. It prompts the serious questions: Could the Watergate investigation by the Washington Post three decades ago happen in the modern era? How long would Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s White House source ‘Deep Throat’ remain anonymous today? This presentation considers the toll of the era of geo-locational tracking, phone and social media e-records, CCTV in private and public spaces, email logs, surveillance technologies and…

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Rhino money makes trust hard: Mongabay article

By Mic Smith

What’s really happening in the rhino poaching crisis plaguing South Africa! A must read for anyone interested in conservation and rhinos. Shines lights on the corruption, the fear, the violence, the poverty and the desperation fueling this crisis:  Read about it in my latest article at Mongabay.

Towards a mindful approach to media law and ethics

Originally posted on journlaw:


Our bookMindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach (Shelton Gunaratne, Mark Pearson and Sugath Senarath eds; Routledge, NY, 2015)  explored the possibilities of applying mindfulness techniques to journalism practice.

How might we begin to apply Buddhist ethical systems to the analysis of media law and ethics?

I explore this question in an article just published online and to appear in a forthcoming print edition of the International Communication Gazette.

It is titled ‘Enlightening communication analysis in Asia-Pacific: Media studies, ethics and law using a Buddhist perspective’. Its abstract and link to the full article is available here.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.08.59 pmThe article backgrounds important critiques of the Western approach to communication  studies, and considers how globalized communication and media studies has become, before exemplifying how a secular Buddhist perspective might offer 2,500 year-old analytical tools that can assist with media…

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Satao – the enigma

Originally posted on Mark Deeble:

obeisance with fb tag

Alive, Satao was almost unknown; dead, he became legend.

How did it happen?

A year ago, Satao fell to a poacher’s poisoned arrow in a remote corner of Tsavo East National Park. When news of his death became known early in June 2014, it circled the globe at a speed any publicity agent would have been proud of. The international press, from Le Monde to The New York Times carried news of his death. It generated millions of tweets and Facebook page reads. There were YouTube tributes, news reports, articles, blog posts… two online petitions signed by 180,000 called for presidential protection for the remaining Tsavo tuskers. A week later, a tribute released on YouTube by the Great Elephant Census – created from the last footage we filmed of Satao, was seen by 135,000. ( ) News of his death went viral in a way normally reserved only for…

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Canadian Software Company, RhinoFit, to Partner with the International Rhino Foundation

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Originally posted on The International Rhino Foundation Blog:

white-rhino-cutoutWeighing up to two tons, yet able to run fast enough to get a speeding ticket on a city street, rhinos symbolize what it takes to be “tough” and “strong.”  But, sometimes a thick skin isn’t enough. Sometimes even the toughest among us need help.

The International Rhino Foundation is dedicated to the conservation and protection of the world’s five remaining rhino species, while also supporting research projects that can help improve the species’ potential for long term survival.  “The IRF is a small but feisty organization that funds and operates field programs in Indonesia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and India,” said Susie Ellis, Executive Director.  “We aim to protect the rhino species most in need of conservation, and to put our precious resources where they can do the most good.”

Canadian based software company, RhinoFit, recognizes the plight of the world’s rhino populations and has become the newest corporate…

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Ustad: The Tiger. What a Maneater means to India

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Originally posted on indiEnvironment:

Ustad means Boss.

In Ranthambore tiger reserve, a big male tiger has just been shifted. Formally called T-24 (Tiger 24), but known much better as Ustad, he is accused of killing four people.

The Forest Department says they gave Ustad many chances, and he has repeatedly killed people, and eaten them. Another section of activists says that Ustad has been wronged. For instance, this plea to bring Ustad back stresses he should be reunited with his family.

While I welcome the fact that people care enough for a tiger to write these things, not all of them are based on logic.

I quote:

“There were days when I walked in my territory carefree
My life was beautiful as we were the happy family of one plus three
Often living at the edge, we basked in the glory of life;
While my babies made most of their play, my meals had love from…

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Recent Spike in Large Seizures of Ivory, Rhino Horn, Pangolin Scales

Singapore intercepts tusks and rhino horns bound for Vietnam

By Mic Smith

3.7 tonnes of ivory and 4 rhino horns discovered in a container of tea leaves in Singapore on its way from Kenya to Vietnam

3.7 tonnes of ivory and 4 rhino horns discovered in a container of tea leaves in Singapore on its way from Kenya to Vietnam

Singapore authorities have seized nearly 2000 pieces of ivory tusks and four rhino horns from shipping containers from Kenya on their way to Vietnam.

It is the second largest seizure of illegal ivory in Singapore since 2002.

Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) with the support of Singapore Customs and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority acted yesterday from a tip off to intercept the illegal haul weighing 3.7 tonnes valued at S$8 million.

The shipment, which was declared as tea leaves, was shipped in two 20-foot containers from Kenya and was transiting through Singapore for Vietnam.

“The Singapore Government has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle  endangered species and their parts and products,” said Ms Lye Fong Keng, Deputy Director of AVA’s Quarantine & Inspection Group, Wildlife Section.

The maximum penalty for the illegal wildlife is a fine of S$50,000 per scheduled specimen (not exceeding S$500,000) and/or imprisonment of up to two years.

“The illegal trade of endangered animal parts is fuelled by increasing demand and poaching. Tackling the illegal wildlife trade requires concerted efforts by the international community,” Ms Lye Fong Keng said.

The animal parts, which also include 22 canine teeth believed to be from African big cats, will be held AVA for further investigations. Each piece was concealed among tea leaves.

In April 2014, AVA and Singapore Customs intercepted a shipment of illegal ivory, estimated to be worth S$2 million. The container was declared to be carrying coffee beans.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Singapore is a signatory, elephants, rhinoceros and big cats (e.g. leopards and cheetahs) are endangered species. International trade in ivory, rhinoceros horns and certain species of big cats’ teeth are banned under the Convention.

Anyone with information on illegal wildlife trade can contact AVA through the feedback form on AVA’s website (


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