CAMEROON, Cameroon — The main opposition challenger in Belarus’ disputed presidential election urged the United Nations on Friday to call for a halt to “violence and lawlessness” in the country, including media censorship, internet shutdowns, website blockages and cancellation of accreditation for journalists.
Former presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council that since September the situation in her nation “has only worsened” and the media remain under assault from President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
Mass protests have gripped Belarus, a former Soviet nation of 9.5 million people, since official results from the Aug. 9 presidential election gave Lukashenko a landslide victory over Tsikhanouskaya. She and her supporters refused to recognize the result, saying the vote was riddled with fraud.
Authorities have cracked down on the largely peaceful demonstrations, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Police have used stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons to disperse the rallies, and thousands of people have been beaten. Nevertheless, the protests have continued.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, in 2020 independent journalists were detained over 470 times, 97 served administrative arrests, 50 media websites were blocked, and 15 journalists are currently facing “false criminal charges,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
But the former English language teacher said the assault on the media “is just part of the bigger picture of repression in Belarus,” where she said more than 32,000 people have been detained and about 900 are suspects in politically motivated criminal cases. She said the U.N. has reported 400 cases of torture and eight activists have died “in relation to state-backed violence.”
“Not a single government official has been held responsible,” she said.
“In spite of this violence, Belarusians continue protesting every day,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “This demonstrates courage, dignity and resilience.”
Among journalists under arrest are four members of the Belarus Press Club, including its founder, Yuliya Slutskaya; Ihar Losik, administrator of the most popular social media channel in the country who has been on hunger strike for over a month; and three female journalists imprisoned on charges of organizing mass protests and disclosing information about a protester, Roman Bandarenka, who was “killed by the regime’s cronies,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
She said her husband, prominent video blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, “is charged with organizing mass protests but his guilt is telling the truth and running for president.” She said she and their two children haven’t seen him for almost eight months.
Tsikhanouskaya became a presidential candidate after her husband’s arrest on May 29, and she fled to neighbouring Lithuania after the election in fear of repercussions.
Pavel Latushka, a member of the Belarus opposition’s Coordination Council, highlighted examples of “the essential role of independent media that show the abuses perpetrated by the Lukashenko regime.” Several journalists spoke of their ordeals and their colleagues’ courageous reporting.
Tsikhanouskaya said the U.N. should “take a vocal stand to stop the violence and lawlessness in Belarus,” including against the media, and she called on the Security Council to put Belarus on its agenda — a move strongly opposed by council member Russia, which is Belarus’ neighbour and ally.
The virtual council meeting was organized by Estonia and co-sponsored by France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu expressed alarm that “representatives of free media — journalists, cameramen, bloggers — have been turned into a target for the government’s repression along with the protesters.”
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, called the meeting “a clear provocation and a blatant attempt of interference into internal affairs of a sovereign state.”
He said claims where a losing side doesn’t accept election results and claims they were “fraudulent” and “rigged” aren’t rare. He pointed Donald Trump’s refusal to concede that he lost the U.S. presidential election to Joe Biden while claiming widespread election fraud.
Polyansky said there are further similarities between the United States and Belarus.
“The losing side instigates popular protest,” he said. “But there is a big difference in how these cases are presented by the Western media.”
“Whereas actions here (in the United States) are characterized as criminal, the actions of Belarusian opposition are being praised and its appeals are supported with sanctions while self-proclaimed leaders are being presented as legitimate leaders of the country `a la (Juan) Guaidó’” in Venezuela, Polyansky said.
Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Western Hockey League unveils Bob Ridley Award for Media Excellence – WHL Network – Western Hockey League
Medicine Hat, Alta. – The Western Hockey League announced today the Bob Ridley Award for Media Excellence, a new WHL Award which will be presented annually to a distinguished member of the radio, television, and print journalism industry in recognition of their outstanding contributions to sports journalism and the WHL.
Bob Ridley, the longtime radio play-by-play voice of the Medicine Hat Tigers, is the first recipient and the namesake for this prestigious honour. Bob Ridley was recognized by WHL Commissioner Ron Robison and the Medicine Hat Tigers during a special ceremony at Co-op Place in Medicine Hat on Saturday, the day of Ridley’s 4,000th career WHL game.
“The WHL and our member Clubs are honoured to pay tribute to Bob’s remarkable career with the Medicine Hat Tigers by establishing the Bob Ridley Award for Media Excellence,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “Bob has made an incredible contribution to the WHL and the Tigers over the past 50 years and as he gets ready to call his 4,000th WHL game it is only fitting we recognize his legacy with this new league-wide award named in his honour.”
Since the Tigers began play during the 1970-71 WHL Regular Season, Ridley has been the only play-by-play voice in team history, calling every single game the Tigers have ever played, with the exception of one. In 1972, Ridley missed one Tigers game after he was sent out on assignment to attend the Women’s National Curling Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.
Ridley has been synonymous with Medicine Hat Tigers hockey for 50 seasons, with the 2020-21 WHL Regular Season representing his 51st campaign at the mic. Ridley called the Tigers WHL Championship victories in 1973, 1987, 1988, 2004, and 2007, and was there to tell the story of the Club’s two national titles at the Memorial Cup in 1987 and 1988.
In addition to his work as the Tigers play-by-play voice, Ridley also served as the Club’s bus driver for 45 seasons. His unique role helped forge everlasting bonds with players across more than five decades.
Ridley’s contributions to Major Junior hockey in Western Canada have been recognized on a number of previous occasions:
- 1995 – Medicine Hat Civic Recognition Sports Award
- 2005 – Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Bell Memorial Award
- 2005 – Alberta Centennial Award
- 2006 – WHL Distinguished Service Award
- 2007 – Lifetime Achievement Award, Radio Television Directors News Awards
- 2011 – Inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame
- 2019 – Inducted into the Western Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame
In 1995, he was the recipient of the Medicine Hat Civic Recognition Sports Award. In 2005, Ridley was named the recipient of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Bell Memorial Award, and he was also presented with the Alberta Centennial Award by the Government of Alberta. In 2006, Ridley was recognized with the WHL Distinguished Service Award.
A 76-year-old native of Vulcan, Alta., Ridley began his pursuit of broadcasting working weekends at CJDV Drumheller while attending Mount Royal College in Calgary. From there, he moved on to CKSW Swift Current, working as a rock disc jockey and calling play-by-play for an intermediate baseball team in Swift Current, Sask. Ridley then spent two years at CKKR Rosetown before joining CHAT Radio and settling in Medicine Hat.
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 375 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.
Several wounded in Myanmar protests – media – National Post
Several people were hurt in Myanmar on Sunday as police cracked down on protests against military rule by firing stun grenades, tear gas and by firing into the air, witnesses and media said.
Several bloodied people were seen being helped away from protests in the main city of Yangon in images posted by media outlets, but it was not clear if they were hurt by rubber bullets or live fire.
The Myanmar Now media group said people had been “gunned down” but it did not elaborate. (Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
Do ‘Likes’ Cause Social Media Addiction? – Psychology Today
A recently published study suggests that ‘likes’ on Instagram work in similar ways to the delivery of food to a hungry rat pressing a lever in a Skinner Box1. The faster that ‘likes’ are received, the more postings are made. The results have led to some media speculation that this is the source of obsessional or addictive use of social media, and about the dopamine-related nature of such behaviours2. In themselves, such suggestions are not novel, as I have discussed previously3, but the results from this new study are interesting for the assumptions they reveal about the way reinforcement impacts behaviour during conditioning. This sparks a number of considerations about whether reward-directed actions are the only mechanism that explain high rates of social media use.
At root, reinforcement theory sounds very simple (the word ‘sounds’ should be a clue that what is to follow isn’t simple at all). You make a response, you receive an outcome, and, if the outcome is ‘good’, then you make the response more frequently. This can be called ‘instrumental conditioning’ or ‘operant conditioning’, and it is associated with the work of B.F. Skinner. Taking this concept further, the authors of the manuscript1 (more or less) correctly claim that the higher the rate of reinforcement (‘likes’), the higher will be the rate of response (or, in their terms, the shorter will be the gap between postings). This relationship between the rate of response and the rate of reinforcement is called ‘The Matching Law’, and it has been used for many years to explain many aspects of behaviour, both human and nonhuman4.
The new study of the impact of ‘likes’1 suggests the idea of reinforcement could be applied to understand social media usage. In a series of different studies, patterns of social media postings were analysed in terms of the relationship between the speed at which successive posts were made, and whether or not the preceding post received a ‘like’. As would be predicted, receiving a ‘like’ was related to shorter latencies to make the next post. A good feature of this study was that this pattern was seen in both analyses of real world Instagram responses (albeit from quite specialised sets of posts), and in an experiment where the rate of ‘likes’ was manipulated. These are good data, corroborating what many people have suggested for some time3, but the question is: do they show that reward learning drives social media use? There are some caveats that need thinking through – there are always such caveats with a study, so that is not an issue, in itself, but they are worth considering, nonetheless.
From a reinforcement theorist’s perspective, perhaps of even greater interest than the basic result, which might have been predicted, was that the relationship between posting and ‘likes’ differed between different sets of individuals. There were individuals who showed patterns of responding very strongly related to the rates of ‘likes’, and others who did not show this pattern. The authors suggest that these groups differed from one another in personality, and one group did not value social reward. Whether personality is involved, or not, is a debatable point, but the fact that the data show this pattern suggests the possibility that responses are under reinforcer control. Only when there is a reinforcer do we see a predictable pattern – if ‘likes’ are not reinforcing, then the pattern does not occur – it does not just happen for everybody. Identifying what an individual values before the study, using some functional assessment procedures, would add weight to this suggestion.
An aspect of reinforcement theory, not given as much analysis as it might have been in the published model1, is that, in such complex reinforcement situations – where organisms are free to make responses without constraint (that is, on free-operant schedules) – not all responses are controlled directly by their outcomes. This has implications for whether reward of behaviour represents all that there is to be understood about social media use from the perspective of learning theory. In fact, the degree to which these ‘like’ rewarded responses are involved in social media use, and, potentially, social media addiction, could be profitably analysed further.
It has long been suggested that some responses on free-operant schedule situations are directed towards the outcome (sometimes called goal-directed actions), while some responses are driven by the stimuli that are present at the time the response is made (sometimes called habits)5,6. The authors of the new study1 discussed, with some insight, the role of ‘likes’ in producing behaviour, and implicitly equated these ‘likes’ with rewards controlling goal-directed actions.
However, by positively conditioning the stimuli associated with social media, ‘likes’ also make it more likely that the sight of these stimuli (the mobile phone, for example) will drive people’s behaviour – a sort of habitual response, emitted when those stimuli are present6. This process has been suggested to play a role in gambling addictions (the sight of the slot machine, with its noisy and bright attractive stimuli drives gambling). Such conditioning in the context of social media would require the presence of reinforcers, such as ‘likes’, but they do not always act to produce reward-directed behaviours, and the neural pathways of these stimulus-driven habits may be different to reward-related dopamine pathways. Such habitual behaviours may also be harder to remove7, and they have been shown to differ between personality types8.
Some responses in free-operant schedules are neither goal-directed actions nor stimulus-driven and habitual, but rather are ‘schedule-induced’. Put very loosely indeed, schedule-induced responses are emitted when an organism has to fill in the time between the deliveries of reinforcements9. There is somewhat more to it than this, but it is a good enough description to allow understanding of another cause of excessive social media behaviour. When reinforcers are spaced out, behaviours, which can be emitted in that context, will be emitted between the reinforcers – behaviour expands to fill the time available. It may be that the reinforcers in question are not even connected to social media (e.g., real chats with friends), but, in the gap between these other reinforcing events, social media is a behaviour that can fill the time, so it does.
Our understanding of schedule-controlled behaviour is vast, being derived from nearly a century of empirical work. It is widely, and unjustly, ignored in Psychology – but it always seems to have incredibly informed and interesting suggestions about the sources of behavioural control. It always suggests that things are more complicated than people think – and the area of social media use is no exception – and perhaps that is why schedules of reinforcement aren’t invoked as much as they should be.
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