Monthly Archives: August 2009

A local story with a global twist

I was cleaning out some old links and files and ran across this

New York Manhole Covers, Forged Barefoot in India from 2007.

Granted, this story comes from the New York Times’ New Delhi correspondent but it could have come from a New York City reporter just as easily.

So many bean counters and “less than enlightened” editors keep shouting the way to save newspapers is to go local local local and ignore international (and for some) national news.

What a crock.

I’m not going to get into the business models of newspapers v. the Internet.

Rather I want to look at the content. And as Austin Kiplinger recently told the Society of Professional Journalists, we are in the content business.

With so many things that we depend on coming from other countries, why aren’t we looking at what is going on in those countries?

There are a lot of us freelancers who would love to write more stories about the links between Main Street and the rest of the world. Now if the publishers and editors would just make the space.

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Filed under Trade

Taiwan and free press

Earlier I posted a piece about how the only press Taiwan is getting now is related to the typhoon and the complaints against its president for the way disaster relief was handled.

Let’s go back a few a bit and also talk about how the free press of Taiwan (a political entity that democratically elects its leaders) is barred from covering the United Nations and any of its affiliated bodies.

Seems Beijing is determined to keep Taiwan isolated so it pushed through rules for press credentials that ban ANY journalist working for a Taiwanese publication.

Yes, ANY. Not just Taiwan citizens.

If I applied, I could not get credentials to cover the U.N. for a Taiwan-based news organization.

It wasn’t until this year that the WHO relaxed its rules to allow Taiwan to observer the WHO proceedings. But as far as I know, Taiwanese journalists are still banned from covering the WHO.

Too bad we are not seeing more complaints about this from journalism groups and the mainstream media.

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Filed under China, Freedom of access, Press Freedom

For once Taiwan gets international coverage, but the president is not happy

Poor Taiwan.

Ever since 99.9% of the governments in the world recognized Beijing instead of Taipei as the capital of China, Taiwan only gets into the international press if a natural disaster happens or if some TV news program wants to close with a funny clip. (Usually the clip is of the members of the combative legislature throwing chairs are each other.)

What so many in the international media missed is the fact that Taiwan went from a brutal dictatorship to a democracy without one shot being fired or without massive riots. It was a slow process but once started it picked up steam.

Taiwan became the ONLY Chinese-speaking location to elect its leaders in fair and open elections.

Now, with the flooding from the most recent typhoon, the shortcomings of the current administration are coming out in full force. (Think of all the good publicity Pres. Bush got after Katrina. That gives you an idea of what is going on with Taiwan.)

So now the international media focus on Taiwan to cover a natural disaster and the political aftermath.

Too bad that same media did not feel the transition to democracy was important.

I remember living in Taiwan at the time of the transition. There was a massive opposition party demonstration. I worked at the English language radio station at the time. We geared up for a massive counter-strike by the ruling party followed by a massive violent reaction from the crowd.

It didn’t happen.

This demonstration was the largest ever seen in Taiwan and it was peaceful. The government provided proper protection along the parade route. The demonstrators refrained from provoking the police and military.

The people and the government showed remarkable political maturity. (As opposed to many of the anti-global trade demonstrators today.) And yet, I could not get one US publication to take the story.

The common line was: “If it is important, we can get it from the AP.” (And at the time, besides me — a simple freelancer — the only Western news service in Taiwan was AFP and an AP stringer.)

To me, that showed a complete lack of interest in what was going on in Asia. (Unless it was China.)

How are Americans going to know why things are happening in the world unless we tell them? How are they going to understand how things happen unless we tell them?

Unfortunately, the bean counters in corporate media do not feel it is important to keep Americans up to date on events in the world.

Unless the event is a war, disaster or (violent) revolution.

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Filed under China, Press Freedom

Venezuela gov’t vows to prosecute attackers; journalism groups skeptical

Earlier this month 12 journalists were beaten by an apparently pro-government mob during a demonstration against a new education law. The journalists were accused of being “defenders of the oligarchy,” one of the phrases regularly used by pro-government gangs.

Article 19 called for the government to honor its word.

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Filed under Harassment, Press Freedom

Venezuela rebuffed at Unasur, Brazil dodges responsibility

Just catching up on an old item that got me excited.

Venezuela’s proposal to regulate the media rejected at Unasur

O Estado de Sao Paulo reported back in July that a Venezuela tried to include a paragraph on the “ethical responsibility” of the mass media in the final statement of the recent round of talks by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR in Spanish, UNASUL in Portuguese).

Brazil’s ministry of foreign affairs was alarmed by the proposal but was spared the need to actually do anything about that alarm when Uruguay and Chile spoke up.

Unanimous consent is needed for Unasur/Unasul statements.

According to Estado, the Brazilian delegation was worried that the wording of the Venezuela proposal could allow governments to shut down news outlets or otherwise restrict press freedom. (Well, “Duh!” the proposal came from Venezuela where Hugo Chavez is on a role in shutting down media outlets that don’t agree with his policies.)

Brazilians are fiercely proud of their press freedom. It is too bad that the Brazilian government was not willing to add its name and force to the principled stand of Uruguay and Chile.

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Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom

Journalist killed in Pakistan

Occasionally we see stories in the U.S. media about the chaos along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Usually the stories center around action by the Pakistani military on their side or the Allied troops on the Afghan side.

Rarely is the chaos put into human terms or who is targeted by the Taliban.

Here is a story about a reporter who was the target.

Pakistan is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places for reporters to work.

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Filed under Killings

More harassment in China

The BBC reported today — I am still trying to find a good link for the story — that a team of their reporters were detained in Shaanxi province as they tried to follow up on the lead smelter/town poisoning story.

The lead reporter said once he and his team entered a town they were stopped and told a local “emergency decree” required them to submit their credentials to local authorities. The journalists were put in a local hotel until their bone fides could be verified.

The reporters were later released but told to leave town. It seems there was no local decree. The local party leaders just wanted to stop the reporters from covering the health and environment disaster in the area.

The reporters were followed until they left town to ensure they did not talk to anyone.

Unfortunately for the party leadership, the reporters were able to talk to some local people by mobile phone.

This has got to be driving the party cadres crazy. Land line phones can be cut and tapped. Mobile phones are much more difficult to control. And once people can more easily talk to each other, the censors loose.

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Filed under China, Freedom of access