Tag Archives: Press Freedom

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

New campaign to free journalists

Thanks to Roy Greenslade at The Guardian for pointing out the new Reporters Without Borders campaign to help journalists in Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and China.

Press freedom body highlights plight of Eritrea’s jailed journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, has launched a fund-raising campaign based around the plight of jailed journalists inEritrea, China and Saudi Arabia.

The Eritrean prisoner is Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned without trial for 13 years after being arrested along with other newspaper editors in 2001.

Isaak is reported to be dying slowly in a prison camp where detainees are tortured by being shut inside steel containers during periods of intense heat. And RWB has used that image of a container to publicise its campaign.

Read full article here.

 

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Filed under Africa, China, Middle East, 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

Nice to know China’s hatred of criticism is not limited to free media. (NOT!)

I really have a hard time understanding how the rulers in Beijing think they can get away with dissing the world and not get more bad press.

Once it became difficult to shut out the world completely, the rule makers/breakers in Beijing decided that Western news organizations that act, well, like Western news organizations, will have a harder time getting visas for their reporters. The latest is the ongoing battle the New York Times has staffing its offices in China.

The “problem” with the Times came to a boiling point when the paper ran a story about the wealth accumulated by the families of the ruling elite. (Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader)

Beijing delayed renewing visas for Times’ reporters in place and denied visas for their replacements.

And it is a situation that just keeps getting worse: New York Times editor on China visa problem: ‘We’re a little bit hostages’

And now, Beijing says certain British members of Parliament are not allowed into Hong Kong. (China Says British Lawmakers Would Be Banned From Hong Kong)

Maybe Beijing did not understand the terms of the agreement that turned Hong Kong from British rule to that of China. The agreement guarantees 50 years (from 1997) of protection of the civil, political and economic rights of Hong Kong residents. In addition, because the agreement is an international treaty, the British government (and members of Parliament) along with other governments — the U.S. included — may conduct investigations into any violations of that agreement.

Beijing might argue that investigators do not need to go to Hong Kong. In fact, they do argue that all the other countries have to do is take Beijing’s word for what is the problem and that Beijing has the best solution.

And just to be clear that Beijing does not want any “trouble makers” in their territory, they have denied visa requests into China proper by other members of Parliament, members of the Occupy Central movement, students in Hong Kong who supported the demonstrations for more democracy in Hong Kong and the odd journalist here and there.

Basically, anyone who has raised a critical voice about the way China is being run.

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No surprise: China builds fake sites to promote its policies. It’s just this time they got caught.

One of the nice things about freedom of press and expression is that it is easier to track down lies and the lying liars who tell those lies. (Sorry, Al Franken. Couldn’t resist using a bit of the title of your book.)

The latest comes from that bastion of efforts to control everything: China.

Seems, no one was believing the official Beijing line that the residents of Tibet are overjoyed to be under Chinese rule and have no desire for any other kind of leadership. So some one (the government in Beijing quickly came to mind for many) created dozens of fake Twitter and YouTube accounts to promote the Chinese line about Tibet.

According to a story in International Business News, the fake accounts were all identified with Western names and faces. In once case, a fake Twitter used the picture of Brazilian model Felipe Berto without his permission.

The story — YouTube Suspends Fake Tibet Propaganda Accounts After Investigation — highlights the fake accounts and how they were found out.

And, as the headline notes, the social media companies suspended the fake accounts. In addition, YouTube took down the videos that showed happy and content Tibetans posted by the fake Twitter accounts.

Alistair Currie, the press and media manager for Free Tibet, summed up the situation nicely:

“China’s emphasis on manipulation of western public opinion is a sign of how important that public opinion is.”

In the past, China and the ex-Soviet Union used “friendship” assocations to do their propaganda dirty work. The problem was that it soon became clear these groups were really nothing but fronts for those governments. With the rise of the Internet the source of comments and material is much harder to track down.

And just like the dog in the classic New Yorker cartoon, no one knows who is a party dupe.

Fortunately, organizations and media without government control are free to look into who is saying what and why.

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Pro-Beijing Forces Block Pro-Democracy Paper in Hong Kong

I am no big fan of Apple Daily in Hong Kong, other than for its strident support of democracy and press freedom.

The best description I have seen for Apple Daily comes from the HuffPost report by Matt Sheehan: “Apple Daily is known for its defiant pro-democracy positions, shrill and sensational reporting style, and occasionally lax standards for fact-checking.”

Saying “occassional” is bieng kind, but its pro-democracy stance cannot be questioned. It is real and it is strong.

Now, because of its support for the student demonstrators in Hong Kong, Apple Daily is facing blockades by pro-Beijing crowds.

The latest tactic is for the pro-Beijing demonstrators to sit down in front of the Apple Daily delivery trucks, causing the paper to be late on the streets.

People in the anti-Apple Daily say they are only doing what the pro-democracy demonstrators are doing. And then they toss in how the pro-democracy crowd is really an American plot to undermine China and all the students are traitors.

The funniest response came when an Apple Daily reporter came out to interview the demonstrators. She asked if the demonstrator was being paid to be there. He responded that of course he was but so what? Wasn’t the Apple Daily paying the reporter to be there as well?

Kinda misses the point, doesn’t he?

Here is the HuffPost report on the confrontation at Apple Daily: Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Newspaper Under Siege

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Case against licensing journalists

In the United States the First Amendment protects journalists from being “banned” by government edict — or by any type of edict for that matter.

Journalists in other countries, however, are not so lucky. The latest example of why this is a bad idea comes out of Honduras.

Seems commentator Julio Ernesto Alvarado of Globo TV has been hit with a 16-month ban on “doing journalism” by the Penal Appeals Court in Tegucigalpa.

Now, I know the Globo people. They are serious anti-government types — unless the government is the leftist Libre party. The commentators are passionate in their denunciations of the ruling party. And even sometimes go over the edge of good taste.

But that all pales in the outrage that a government agency can tell a person he/she cannot be a journalist.

Whenever governments get involved, all sorts of bad things have the potential to happen. And Mr. Alvarado is seeing the results.

The issue stems from episodes of Alvarado’s show that discussed corruption in the national university. A dean was accused of corruption by teachers in the school on the show. The dean filed charges of defamation of character against Alvarado and the teachers and lost.

Under appeal the dean won , even though the court operated under the assumption that the dean had indeed engaged in corrupt practices.

With the dean’s victory came the ban on Alvarado from doing journalism.

So we have a cowonurt deciding who can be a journalist. Not a good idea.

And we have a system where truth is not an absolute defense for libel and defamation. (As it is in the States.)

In addition to the court ruling Alvarado has been receiving threats that — according to Globo — have not been taken seriously by the government. (On this point, I have serious questions. Some of the leadership brought in under the new government take protection of journalists VERY seriously.)

What is clear, however, that free and independent journalism is threatened by any law or system that allows a government agency of any type to determine who can be a journalist. Likewise, it is a danger when a court or other government entity can ban someone from “doing journalism.” And it is a danger when any private group — such as a journalism association — has the power to determine who can “do journalism.”

The bottom line is that the way to fight bad journalism is with more (and better) journalism, not by denying anyone who wants to from entering the fray.

Read more about the Alvarado case at PEN: Honduras: PEN member barred from journalism after covering corruption in state university

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Filed under Honduras, Press Freedom