Category Archives: Harassment

Catching up: Chinese president says press had it coming

Chinese president Xi Jinping was forced to take an unscripted question from a Western reporter during President Obama’s visit to China last month.

After first seemingly ignoring the question, Xi doubled back to address the issue raised of visas for Western journalists by the reporter.

Mark Lander of the New York Times reported:

After first taking an unrelated, clearly scripted, question from a state-owned Chinese paper — which drew a quizzical facial expression from Mr. Obama — Mr. Xi circled back, declaring that the visa problems of the news organizations, including The Times, were of their own making.

Mr. Xi insisted that China protected the rights of news media organizations but that they needed to abide by the rules of the country. “When a certain issue is raised as a problem, there must a reason,” he said, evincing no patience for the news media’s concerns about being penalized for unfavorable news coverage of Chinese leaders and their families.

So basically Xi’s excuse for not issuing visas to Western reporters is the same excuse a husband gives when accused of beating his wife: It was all the other person’s fault.

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Harassment, Press Freedom

Now Beijing is going after puns

Seems the language purity police in Beijing are going after anyone having fun with words. (Nowhere to Pun Amid Crackdown on Wordplay)

The official target seems to be advertising copy that plays on famous Chinese idioms. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television calls these puns and twisted words an affront to Chinese culture.

The problem is that wordplay is a classic form of Chinese humor.

For example, a standard greeting in Mandarin for the New Year is Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wishing you wealth.) But by making a small change to Gong Xi Bai Cai (Wishing you white cabbage), you can bring down the house. (And it works in Cantonese as well.)

Of course, the real target might be the millions of Netizens who use puns to attack government officials and policies.

One of the classic plays is using May 35 (5/35) to denote June 4, the day in 1989 of the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. (Of course, eventually the censors began blocking “May”, “35”, and “35th”.

The Grass-Mud Horse is a great example of how the Netizens in China started wordplay to express their feelings toward the government.

One of my favorites is bird anus. This one is dedicated to government spokesman Qín Gāng.

Because the names of government leaders and officials often become sensitive words, netizens frequently invent creative (and pejorative) homonyms to sidestep scrutiny and censorship. A career diplomat, Qin Gang (秦刚) has held a number of official posts at China’s Foreign Ministry since 1992. He is currently a ministry spokesperson and head of the ministry’s information department. The characters in his name are homophonic with those meaning “bird anus.” A netizen explains why this nickname fits Qin:

The anus is from where one farts and shits. In other words, if the bird wants to fart, the anus must let the fart pass—the anus cannot decide what kind of fart to fart. That is why he is called “Bird Anus.” [In Chinese “to fart” can also mean “to speak nonsense.”]

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Few killers get caught

The Committee to Protect Journalists has a new report that is depressing.

Breaking the Cycle of Impunity in the Killing of Journalists looks at the how too many governments do little to seriously track down the murderers of journalists.

Of course, this failure also makes it nearly impossible to determine if the killing of a journalist was directly related to his/her profession or if there were other issues involved.

The demand for proof that a journalist was killed in the line of duty is one of the things I really like about how CPJ prepares its list of murdered journalists. Some organizations just list the names of journalists killed. They leave the assumption that they were killed because of their profession. But there is no way this can ever be verified.

The weak political and legal systems in the countries where this issues is the greatest are what need to be addressed along with the name and shame campaign of impunity. Perhaps a major step forward in finding the murderers of journalists (and human rights lawyers and taxi drivers and reform politicians) is finding ways to help those governments who want to improve and strengthen their legal systems, instead of cutting off aid and support.

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Filed under Harassment, Killings

25 years since Tiananmen Square demonstrations

The Chinese government is pulling out all the stops to make sure the official party line on the Tiananmen Square killings is the only one heard in China.

Besides the usual heavy-handed directives from Beijing to all media outlets on what to say and what not to say, the government has also moved against the Internet community in China, known as Netizens.

So, of course, anyone making any comments that challenge the official line gets in trouble: Professor’s Microblog Axed After Tiananmen Comment

For many, it is difficult remembering how things were 25 years ago. China Digital Times is running a series of articles and observations from that turbulent period in modern Chinese history

And while the rest of the world will be looking back at what happened then, the government leaders will just keep on doing “business as usual” rather than deal with the wound created 25 years ago.

And I should add that the ONLY place under Beijing rule that is allowed to openly discuss what happened at Tiananmen Square and is able to have demonstrations calling for a full investigation into what happened is Hong Kong.

And here is the famous “Tank Man” who stood up to the Chinese tanks heading to the square.

 

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

China channels Casablanca: “Round up the usual suspects.”

It’s that time again and Beijing has repeated the order Louie gave to his underlings at the Casablanca airport: “Round up the usual suspects.”

Activist arrested for planning Tiananmen hunger strike

Two prominent activists in the eastern city of Hangzhou have been taken into police custody since Friday for attempting to draw attention to the military crackdown on June 4, 1989 during which more than 200 protesters are believed to have died.

Each year the security police round up anyone who has called for an accounting of the government’s action in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

I watched it in action during my time in Shanghai (1992-1994). Our phone lines suddenly had more static and some lines, like those for Western reporters, temporarily “had difficulties.” Extra “security” put in front of the Western consulates and housing enclaves of Western diplomats and businessmen.

Editors and reporters regularly get transferred to other positions to make sure they do not have the opportunity to print or air anything that might call into question the government’s official line that is basically: “Nothing of interest happened in the Tiananmen Square area June 4.”

Things have not changed since then.

And thanks to China Digital Times for pointing the latest outrage.

 

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Filed under China, Harassment, International News Coverage

Not much love for freedom of expression in Turkey

Politics has always been a bare-knuckles and elbows blood sport, but the blood now seems to be from freedom of expression in Turkey.

Reuters: Turkey’s Erdogan threatens Twitter ban as vote looms

Al Jazeera: Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to ban Twitter

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threat to shut down Twitter and other social media platforms came after audio recordings were posted on social media exposing corruption in his inner circle.

Even as Erdogan railed against social media, he added that he did not care about the international response.

Recently Turkey has tightened control of the Internet under the guise of “protecting privacy.”

Freedom House ranks Turkey’s Internet as “Partly Free” in a report that states:

  • Turkish authorities added several thousand websites to its blocking list, increasing the total to almost 30,000.
  • Ruling in favor of a Turkish user, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights for blocking access to the hosting platform Google Sites

 

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Filed under Censorship, Corruption, Freedom of Information, Harassment

PA and Hamas Violating Palestinian Press Freedom

Once again Al Jazeera has a great piece on an issue that is not getting a lot of coverage in the U.S. media.

In this case the issue is press freedom in the West Bank and Gaza. Seems the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are engaged in numerous violations of press freedom and harassment and arrests of Palestinian journalists. The charges against the journalists from each government  is pretty much the same: The reporters where asking questions.

Palestinian journalists decry intimidation

The PA and Hamas have committed at least 500 documented press violations since 2007, including arrests, detention, torture, physical violence and censorship, according to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA).

Journalists are consequently forced to work in a political climate that has increasingly “led to the promotion of self-censorship among journalists, and media outlets”, the MADA press release observed.

Rest of story

What Hamas and the PA apparently have not yet figured out is that for there to be a democratic and independent Palestinian state, there has to be free and independent media.

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Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Middle East, Press Freedom