Monthly Archives: October 2010

Internet use and freedom

Earlier this week InventorSpot had an article on the issues facing companies using social media to target certain countries. (Social Media Strategy Targeting China, Japan, India & Brazil)

It linked to the June 2010 Internet World Stats report that showed a country by country break down of Internet use.

Not surprisingly China is #1 with 420 million Internet users, accounting for 21.4% of the world’s Internet users. Then comes the United States with 12% of world users, Japan at 55, India at 4.1% and Brazil at 3.9%.

The article also noted that before starting an online marketing campaign, the first thing a marketer needs to know are the censorship laws.

A grasp of censorship and state control issues in countries such as China need to be understood fully. Prohibited words, sensitive political issues and acceptable topics should be reviewed and curtailed in one’s communication.

This got me thinking about the Internet, its potential and how few people really get a chance to use that potential.

Let’s look at China. (Such an easy target.)

It has 420 million Internet users. That is more than the entire population of the United States and only 80 million short of the number of Facebook users in the world. We also know that Chinese Internet users are not adding to Facebook because — wait for it — Facebook is blocked in China.  As is Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. (To be clear, this is mainland China. Not Hong Kong or Taiwan. And, yes, people are able to work around the blocks but not easily.)

In fact, according to the OpenNet Initiative, China engages in pervasive and consistent filtering.

And China is always near the bottom in any objective survey when it comes to press freedom or other freedoms.

So, China has the most Internet users but are they getting the whole benefit of that use?

The answer really has to be in the negative.

Seeing the degree of censorship and number of people using the Internet in China reminds me of how some people would praise Cuba for achieving nearly 100 percent literacy but not see the irony that the people in that island nation are only allowed to read what the government allows.

As I told my journalism students over and over: “Context matters.”

Yes, it does matter that 420 million Chinese have access to the Internet. But it also matters that this is not the same Internet that folks in the United States, Japan, India or Brazil enjoy. It is a carefully monitored and controlled medium.

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Filed under Asia, Connections, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, Press Freedom

Threats growing against Ukrainian journalists

First posted at the International Journalism Committee site of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has a detailed story about the dangers facing press freedom in Ukraine.

Ukraine: Journalists Face Uncertain Future

Since February of this year, journalists in Ukraine have complained of censorship pressures from the government. Reporters Without Borders issued a report in April that included:

“Many TV news reporters say they have been censored. Either their reports have been suppressed outright, or they have been changed substantially, always in such a way as to favor people of influence. They cite new formats or editorial directives that interfere in their reporting.”

Independent journalists report being targeted by police and security agents and even physically assaulted.

Blogger Oleh Shynkarenko criticized the president in July and the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) interrogated him for allegedly threatening the president’s life and insulting him. In September Artyom Furmanyuk, a journalist in the Eastern city of Donetsk, said he was severely beaten by police in an incident outside his home just hours after Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ran his article on local government corruption.

It is beginning to look as if Ukraine is moving back to the bad old days of the Soviet empire. This is really something we need to keep our eyes on. (And that includes pressuring the U.S. government and the European Union to speak out.)

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Filed under Europe, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Brazilian columnist comments on my blog. How cool is that?

Last week a Brazilian news anchor resigned on air because of pressure by a state governor to prevent the news organization from interviewing a political rival. And I posted a blog about that case and the larger issue of press freedom in Brazil: Brazil: Elections and censorship

I didn’t think much of it at the time. But…

Today in O Globo,Ricardo Norblat dedicated his blog to my posting.

Norblat read my posting from the SPJ International Journalism Committee blog site. (I often cross post there.)

Here is the original article: Controle da mídia no Brasil preocupa jornalistas dos EUA

And here is a Google translation:

Portuguese to English translation

Control of the media journalists in Brazil worries U.S.

The Globe

Responsible for Code of Ethics of American journalism, the Society of Professional Journalists has published in its blog network an article criticizing the proposal for social control of the media in Brazil.

Released on the blog “journalism around the world”, the words “Brazilian anchor resigns under pressure from the governor of censorship” displays the video in which journalist Paul Behring resigns during his TV program in Central Brazil, Goias issuing government, citing pressure to not interviewing the PSDB candidate for governor Marconi Perillo, to remind the proposed creation of social control of the media and criticism of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the press.

“The Brazilian journalists have been feeling quite proud of their freedom and independence,” writes Dan Kubiske, a journalist living in Brazil and member of SPJ. “But some politicians have not gotten the message.”

Kubiske argues that the discussion on control of the press must be followed in the United States, because of the weight of Brazil in the international arena, making it important for other countries learn about the internal situation, for stories that are not controlled.

He repeats the editorial section of the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo “which says that social control of the media is a” euphemism for tying the free flow of information “to the government.

“What happens in Brazil affects the U.S. economy, and in some cases, domestic affairs,” argues Kubiske. “For the common man, which is the country of origin of the owner of Budweiser? Yes, Brazil,” quotes the columnist. “And for government planners in Florida, specifically Orlando, which country currently sends more visitors to the area? Yes, Brazil.”

Nice to see my work is read and appreciated.

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Filed under Press Freedom, South America

Seeing the Tea Party movement with foreign eyes

Welcome to the world of the foreign press trying to explain to their home audiences the U.S. Tea Party movement.

It’s about the same as that story of the five blind men trying to describe an elephant. Each described the part he was touching but failing to understand the whole animal.

The Horror, The Horror… and the Pity: How the international media is covering the Tea Party.

In a way, each national report is accurate and yet not accurate.

  • PAKISTAN: The Tea Party is an Islam-bashing political front
  • GERMANY: The Tea Party is about fear of American decline
  • CHINA: The Tea Party will lead to U.S.-China conflict
  • FRANCE: The Tea Party is a movement of conspiracy theorists, reactionaries, and anti-elitists
  • SPANISH-SPEAKING WORLD: An ultra-radical right-wing movement in the mold of authoritarians of another era

Many thanks to Foreign Policy for posting this. Even with the Internet and access to media from around the world, it still takes time to review all that material.

And it is interesting to see how each media outlet sees the Tea Party movement with the prejudices, biases or domestic agenda of their readers/viewers/listeners. And I would expect howls of complaints from the TP crowd — if they cared about how folks overseas see them.

But would they see that maybe the news from the rest of the world as written by American journalists might also have a cultural bias? (And not just the “liberal, lame-stream media” bias the claim on domestic affairs.)

UPDATE

Sorry, I missed an accompanying article by Kate Zernike who has spent a lot of time investigating the Tea Party and who spent lots of time explaining it — as best she could — to the foreign press.

The Tea Party, Exported: How do you explain Christine O’Donnell to the French?

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage

The song that never ends. People’s Daily seems to slam Wen

The People’s Daily — mouth piece of the Chinese Communist Party — apparently doesn’t think much of the pronouncements of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The New York Times reports that the paper rejected any calls for political reform. People’s Daily published a front-page commentary that said changes in China’s political system should not follow Western ideas but rather should “consolidate the party’s leadership so that the party commands the overall situation.”

To be honest I was waiting for the battle to become more public between the reformers and the hardliners who control the propaganda arm of the CCP.

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, Wen stated clearly that China could not progress unless it loosened its censorship rules.

In a bit of bad timing — from a PR perspective — one week after Wen made this dramatic statement, the Nobel Prize committee awarded its Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Lu Xiabo for arguing exactly the same thing.

But it is one thing when the premier says it and another when a “convict” says it.

The first step came when the Chinese censors ordered all Internet sites to remove the CNN/Wen interview.

And now the party’s paper is attacking the party leadership.

“The idea that China’s political reform is seriously lagging behind its remarkable economic development is not only contrary to the law of objectivity but also to the objective facts,” it stated.

It later added: “In promoting political reform, we shouldn’t copy the Western political system model; shouldn’t engage in something like multiparty coalition government or separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. We should stick to our own way.”

And I guess “our own way” is “shut up or be jailed.”

Wonder how long Wen will last. Or is he a slick enough politician to out maneuver the hardliners?

This is going to be fun to watch.

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Filed under Censorship, China, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Schlesinger: Future of journalism in less facts, more information

Editor-in-chief of Reuters News David Schlesinger told a Hong Kong audience Oct 15 that journalism today is less about delivering straight facts than providing actionable information.

“That’s why this is the age of the publisher,” he said. “Journalists who understand this will survive. Those who don’t will be irrelevant.”

Schlesinger was speaking as part of a  regular series sponsored by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hong Kong University.

When readers/viewers/listeners can easily snag online the basic facts to any event, it is important for professional journalists to  provide insight and interpretation. Or, to use a term I hammered into my J students, context.

This kind of journalism has three pillars, Schlesinger said: journalistic excellence, presentation and utility to the client.

Schlesinger’s remarks to the JMSC crowd reinforces the idea that readers/viewers/listeners are now seen as “clients” and “users.” Professional journalism is no longer about sending information to a passive audience.

Journalists must continue to report breaking news, Schlesinger said, but that alone will not make it. Journalists, he added, need to produce stories that have an impact and address an audience’s interests and habits. Obviously, he said, this will be more difficult for a wire service such as Reuters.

For individual journalists, however, it offers an opportunity. Schlesinger said modern journalists need to think of themselves as individual brands.

“You’re nothing without your own brand. You have to establish yourself, what you stand for, your expertise.”

Besides knowing how to use social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, modern journalists need to be serious about knowing a subject inside out.

Knowing a second language doesn’t hurt either.

“Take some risks as well. It’s the new angles and the new stories that will help distinguish you.”

Again, this is something I have been arguing for some time. Except the risk in U.S. journalism is often making a connection between local and global events.

The local reporter who can see the global links in a local event or a local connection to an international story will provide more than just information to his/her local audience. Context and connections — or as Schlesinger said, “utility to the client” — will help the reader/listener/viewer better understand why a story is important.

Publishers and station owners who chant “Local! Local! Local!” as if that alone will save cash-strapped media organizations fail to see that while news consumers want news about their local areas, they also want context. And maybe more Americans will start paying attention to international news — other than wars, riots and disasters — if they see there is a link to their local community.

And the links exist. It just takes a journalist willing to “take risks” and an editor with some smarts.

Here is the full Schlesinger presentation:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=16231965&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

What in the world are you studying journalism for? Reflections on professionalism and relevancy in an age of seismic change from JMSC HKU on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Matt Driskill in Hong Kong for his link to Schlesinger’s presentation to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Spam cut thanks to Russians

Hardly journalism but…

The Russian government moved against e-mail spammers in their country and lightened the load of the world’s inboxes.

The New York Times reports that a major effort by the Russian government shut down a major spam operator this week.

On Tuesday, police officials here announced a criminal investigation of a suspected spam kingpin, Igor A. Gusev. They said he had probably fled the country.

Moscow police authorities said Mr. Gusev, 31, was a central figure in the operations of SpamIt.com, which paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, sometimes quite lewdly. SpamIt.com suddenly stopped operating on Sept. 27. With less financial incentive to send their junk mail, spammers curtailed their activity by an estimated 50 billion messages a day.

Not that this will end the spamming but — as you can see on the left — it did allow our spam filters to work just a bit easier.

Now, if you want to deal with the “please help me get money out of my country” scams…

Go to Scam-o-rama to see what the folks there do to the Lads from Lagos. The real fun comes when people submit their letters that string along the scammers.

Personally I like the “Good Grief!” counterscam:

Charles Brown has a plan to smuggle US$7.5 million out of Nigeria, and he thinks he has found the man for the job – Malcolm Reynolds… I threw it off script. Hoo-rah!

And then some other 419 scammers found themselves drawn into this tale… They didn’t know what they’d got into.

With the passage of time, I wove other baits into the tale… mostly as long as Charles Soludo was somehow involved; thus creating what I call a ‘cascade bait’.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Corruption, International News Coverage