Tag Archives: Press Freedom

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.

 

 

Leave a comment

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

TOR: Software that helps keep journalists safe

TOR is a piece of software that was developed by the US Navy and then got support for further improvements and distribution by the Electronic Frontier, Google and the State Department. (Here is a short video explanation at MIT.) 

The value of TOR is that its encrypts data that allows human rights activists and journalists to get around the censorship and monitoring of dictatorships. It is such a robust piece of encryption software that even the NSA has been unable to crack it.

IFEX interviewed  Andrew Lewman, Executive Director of the TOR Project.

Keeping writers safe online: An interview with the Tor Project

 

1 Comment

Filed under Censorship

Russia continues crackdown on freedom of expression

Russian president Vladimir V. Putin signed a new law into effect that requires bloggers to register with the government.

Russia Quietly Tightens Reins on Web with Bloggers Law 

The new law states that any blog site with more than 3,000 followers is the same as a newspaper or broadcast outlet, and thus, is required to register with the state. The law also bans anonymous bloggers.

It is this last point that has many critics of the Putin government troubled. Russia is already in the NOT FREE category by Freedom House (and other freedom of expression organizations.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom

Censorship for hire: China’s corruption hits the Internet

Sometimes the government officials in China — from the national to the local levels — just make it too easy to find more and more reasons why censorship doesn’t work.

First, corrupt officials can use the censorship rules to block any mention of their malfeasance;

Second,  eventually the information gets out.

And so we have the fun case of the deputy chief of the Internet team at the Haikou City Public Security Department who was caught accepting bribes and got 10 years in prison. 

It seems he used his authority to censor the Internet to make sure any references to his own corrupt activities were deleted from chat rooms and blogs.

What is the Price of Press Censorship?

The fact that Chinese media don’t dare report is that in the larger context of corruption within the propaganda regime, these web police are actually insignificant. The golden goose is the propaganda department and its local branches. The propaganda department controls not just the internet, but also newspapers, television and book publishing. It has not just the power to order the deletion of web posts, but can also tell all of the media under its shadow what needs to be reported.

Moreover, the propaganda department also controls personnel issues for the vast majority of media. It can order the punishment of media staff, remove publishers or editors in chief, and even tell media to fire journalists. Many local propaganda departments even have the power to impose economic sanctions on media.

Full article

Once again many thanks to the China Media Project for bringing details of this case forward.

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

Press Freedom at Lowest Point in Decade

Freedom House released its 2014 Press Freedom Report today. And the news is not good for lovers of free and independent media.

The decline was driven in part by major regression in several Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Libya, and Jordan; marked setbacks in Turkey, Ukraine, and a number of countries in East Africa; and deterioration in the relatively open media environment of the United States.

“We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments’ efforts to control the message and punish the messenger,” said Karin Karlekar, project director of the report. “In every region of the world last year, we found both governments and private actors attacking reporters, blocking their physical access to newsworthy events, censoring content, and ordering politically motivated firings of journalists.”

A quick glance at the map makes it clear that press freedom is in danger. (FYI: Green is good! And you will notice that there is blessed little green on this map.)

You can view the panel discussion when the report was released here:

Leave a comment

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

Proof censorship is bad for business

The ProPublica headline and story says it all:

Weibo IPO Reveals a Company Struggling With Censorship

Weibo, “China’s Twitter,” started offering shares on NASDAQ yesterday. Its regulatory disclosures reveal a company’s balancing act between censoring too much and too little.

As required under SEC regulations, the company must list for investors potential risks that might affect its share price. Weibo is up front about the risk the Chinese government’s regulation of content poses to its ability so succeed. “Failure to [censor] may subject us to liabilities and penalties and may even result in the temporary blockage or complete shutdown of our online operations.”

Under a section titled “Risks Relating to Doing Business in China,” the company cites as a material risk not being able to censor user content quickly enough for the Chinese government, and describes a three-day period in March 2012 when Weibo disabled commenting completely so censors could “clean up” all content regarding a topic. The company did not disclose the topic but the Wall Street Journal reported in March 2012 that China put temporary restrictions on Sina, Weibo’s parent company, as well as Tencent, a rival microblogging service, and that it was “detaining individuals that it accused of spreading rumors of a coup attempt in Beijing.” That week, according to the Journal story, Sina and Tencent placed identical notices on their web sites, warning users that the ability to comment on posts was being shut down for three days.

Rest of article.

And that does not even take into account the amount of money wasted dealing with rumors because no one trusts the state-run media to fairly report news.

Social media sites offer a chance for people to swap stories, but like the game of “Telephone,” what starts out at the beginning is not  necessarily what comes out at the end. If the Chinese government were really serious about preventing social unrest, it would drop its censorship and let reporters freely and accurately report what is going on. It would also stop blocking open discussions among the people in China.

But then again, that might destabilize the iron grip the Communist party has on everything. They would have to give up power. And that — to them — is too destabilizing and dangerous.

Leave a comment

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

Lack of Free Media and Free Elections: Subtext to Missing Malaysia Jet

Loads of people are speculating as to what happened to MH370.  The speculation has so dominated the news that satirist Andy Borowitz noted CNN APOLOGIZES FOR BRIEFLY AIRING NON-FLIGHT 370 STORY.

All joking aside, while the media report every bit of information put out by the Malaysian government (and others), the shortcomings of that information are clear.

The leadership of the primary countries initially involved in the search — Malaysia, Vietnam and China — were hesitant to reveal information at first, partly because — as we all know — initial information often wrong needs to be corrected or fine-tuned.

In the end, for these governments to admit they made errors could undermine their authority. You see, none of these three governments rule by the consent of the people. Media are strictly regulated. Independent sources of information to challenge and question the authorities are virtually non-existent. And opposition leaders are tossed in jail.

The New York Times touched on this issue — at least as far as Malaysia goes — March 12: Amid Search for Plane, Malaysian Leaders Face Rare Scrutiny.

The article points to all the factors that made — make — the Malaysian government nervous about their current situation in the international spotlight:

  1. Authoritarian laws that keep the opposition in check
  2. Policies that favor the ethnic Malays
  3. A patronage system that excludes Indians and Chinese from policy positions. (Combined these groups constitute a majority)

What was missed in the article is the highly censored media.

The Malaysian government has never had to face hard questions from local reporters. And if they get questioned too fiercely by opposition parties, the leadership of those parties find themselves in jail such as Anwar Ibraham and Karpal Singh.

Malaysia is listed as having media that are Not Free by Freedom House. As are China and Vietnam.

Perhaps there is nothing that any country could do in the search for MH370. What is clear, however, is that the the initial three main players in the search were unable to deal with the situation, partially out of fear of being corrected later. Maybe they figured that questioning the veracity of one agency could lead to questions about other agencies and eventually the government itself.

It is odd how countries with no fair elections or free media fear any questions about the effectiveness of government agencies. (Look at the NYT article to see how the Malaysian government reacted.)

So that is the subtext to the search for MH370: The lack of free media and unfettered political opposition makes the governments look ineffective. In other words, it makes them less stable. And so, information is fragmented or withheld out of fear.

On another note:

As noted above, the Borowitz Report mentioned at the top pointed out how the US media have been all over the story. That piece was satire. But nothing, Borowitz could think of could have matched what CNN’s Don Lemon did. This was perhaps an all-time low for CNN when Lemon wondered if the disappearance was related to supernatural forces

UPDATE (3/19 18:32)

Okay, Fox News beat CNN for silliness.

Fox News host Bill Hemmer went on about how long it is taking to find the plane. He cited 100 years for the Titanic and 2,000 years for Noah’s Ark.

Yep. Hemmer cited a long-debunked claim that Noah’s Ark was found in Turkey. (Even Fox News knows the Ark story was a fake.)

The competition between CNN and Fox continues.

Leave a comment

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