Monthly Archives: October 2009

Watch out for who you might think of as allies

Defending media freedom is a real problem. Sometimes your allies say or do things that just aren’t right. But that is price one pays.

The left and right all make noises about the importance of press freedom. But as soon as the extremes in either side get the power to shut down they free press they take it. Pinochet and Duarte hardly tolerated criticism of their governments. And we all know how much Cuba and China tolerate independent media.

So it was interesting to read a story from Miami, National Circle of Journalists from Cuba Passes on Honoring a Cuban Journalist that started out great and then fell flat on its face at the end.

For the first time in its 15-year history, the National Circle of Journalists from Cuba did not give out an award recognizing a heroic colleague on the mainland when they commemorated Cuban Journalist Day on October 25.

It wasn’t that reporters on the island were no longer risking arrest by stealthily passing information to a foreign correspondent. Or that there weren’t still those posting anonymous blogs on the tightly State-controlled Internet. Or even that mimeographed dispatches were no longer being surreptitiously distributed.

The problem, group leaders say, was that the circle couldn’t contact any of the candidates to inform them they would be winning an award that could place them “at great risk.”

So far so good.

The concern are real. Cuba is one gigantic prison for journalists. With 21 journalists in jail it is only surpassed by China with 28. But on a per-capita basis, Cuba is #1. (BTW, Burma is #3 with 14 journalists behind bars.)

Then at the end, according to the article, the Circle stuffed its collective feet into its collective mouths:

There, in the back room, after singing the American, Honduran and Cuban national anthems, Carreño presented the award to “Roberto Micheletti and his valorous Honduran people who have made manifest their love of liberty with courage and determination” for keeping Mel Zelaya out of power.

Micheletti is hardly a small “d” democrat. And by saying that does not imply support for the whack job Zelaya.

But the coup was outside the limits of the constitution. If the so-called freedom loving people wanted to remove Zelaya, there was a process for that within the constitution. And Micheletti was not in the line of succession.

That’s the politics of the situation.

For a journalist Zelaya was no rock solid friend. Chances are, given time, he would have followed his buddy and free media rapist Hugo Chavez. But he hadn’t done that yet.

Micheletti, on the other hand, moved quickly to suppress media freedom. He even went as far as announcing suspension of the constitution. That last action got him in hot water with many of his supporters. (But not all. Did anyone hear complaints from the Micheletti supporters in the States? I thought not.)

So now a deal has supposedly been cut to end the crisis in Honduras. Let’s see if the guys making the deal also protect press freedom.

National Circle of Journalists from Cuba Passes on Honoring a Cuban JournalistNational Circle of Journalists from Cuba Passes on Honoring a Cuban Journalist

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Filed under Censorship, Cuba, Honduras, Press Freedom

Let’s be fair about it all

To hear most of the reporting from the US media, China is the top “green” country in the world.

Yes, they are using new technologies in many areas. But let us also not forget China is now the #1 greenhouse gas emissions country.

And it is one of the most air, water and land polluting countries.

Chinese photographer Lu Guang just received the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his work on pollution in China.

See Lu’s work.

Now let’s see how fast he is denounced by Beijing.

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Filed under China, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

This is rich: China accuses GOOGLE of censorship

The country that is ground zero for censorship and the most blatant violations of copyright laws is now claiming that GOOGLE is censoring material AND might be violating the copyrights of Chinese authors.

Pot to kettle: Guess what color you are.

I don’t know if anyone has ever visited The People’s Daily site, but when I visit, my virus scan software ALWAYS warns me that the site is a know virus transmission site. So Google’s argument certainly holds water for me.


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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of Information

Zimbabwe media surpressed: No surprise to people willing to listen

The Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity of the government of Pres. Robert Mugabe has ordered the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and other state-controlled newspapers to stop covering ministers belonging to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T). The MDC-T is a partner in the Zimbabwe government and headed by prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The ministry’s directive came down after the MDC-T suspended its power-sharing arrangement with Mugabe’s party, ZANU. The reason for the suspension was because of Mugabe’s unwillingness to live up the the agreement hammered out last year to prevent a civil war.

See IFEX report on the ministry directive.

Anyone who has paid attention to the Zimbabwe situation will know that Robert Mugabe has never been one to support free media or any other democratic institution. This was clear from the beginning when he was the leader of one of two rebel groups trying to overthrow the white government of Ian Smith in what was then called Rhodesia.

Once Smith and the ruling white forces realized they had to make changes to avoid a bloody revolution, Smith negotiated a series of elections to transfer power to the black majority.

Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, another rebel leader, rejected the elections.

So did the Carter administration and many U.S. groups.

Observers of the elections, however, saw something different. They saw black voters turning out in large numbers to move their country toward real majority rule.

One of those leaders was U.S. civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. (Rustin was the organizer behind the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.)

In a July 1979 article Rustin talked about the election and why the critics were wrong. He also said of Mugabe:

Mugabe, even more than Nkomo, favors totalitarianism out of ideological conviction. He has made no secret of his belief that “the multiparty system is a luxury,” and he has announced that if the blacks of Zimbabwe do not like his ideology, “then we will have to reeducate them.”

The War Against Zimbabwe

Otherwise reasonable people ignored Rustin’s view of Mugabe and pushed through policies that doomed the transitional government and condemned the people of Zimbabwe to 30 years of poverty, dictatorship and violence.

Only recently have people begun to see what Rustin and others like him saw 30 years ago.

If a person rises to power with a background of anti-free press, anti-democratic views, the rest of the world should not be surprised when that person sets up a dictatorship.






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

Debunking: Social stability through censorship

The Chinese government — and many of its supporters — say over and over that social stability is the most important thing in China. To get that stability, they says, the government must control as much as possible — and especially control the media.

The problem is that the people quickly learn not to trust what ever is reported and put more faith in rumors. So the following episode from China should not surprise anyone.

Parents lynch bookseller over abduction fear

Tue Oct 27, 2009 10:02am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) – A mob of angry parents lynched a book salesman and badly injured four of his colleagues after rumors spread that the men were part of a human smuggling ring, the official Xinhua agency said late Monday.

The attack at the Chumen Primary school, in prosperous eastern Zhejiang province, occurred in the early morning as the group handed out leaflets about a lecture to be given nearby, the agency quoted a police official as saying.

After gossip spread that a gang was trying to ensnare the young pupils, parents surrounded the group and set upon them until police intervened. One man died in hospital and the others were undergoing treatment, Xinhua said.

Rest of story.

So fear and gossip got a person killed. Maybe a system of open communication and a trustworthy media could have saved that life.


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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access

CPJ Awards Set For Nov. 24 in NYC

Each year the Committee to Protect Journalists honors journalists who face danger around the world for the protection of free media.

This year the CPJ honors

The Burton Benjamin Award goes to Anthony Lewis, Journalist, United States

For more info on the awards go to the CPJ site by clicking here.

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Hong Kong LegCo to discuss press freedom

One of the great things about Hong Kong — besides the food — is that it still has civil liberties. It is the only place in China where demonstrations against government policies are not broken up by the police and it is the only place in China that has free medial.

The Legislative Council in Hong Kong is taking up the issue of how government officials in mainland China — where civil liberties are severely restricted — are treating Hong Kong journalists.

Note that that the LegCo is also concerned about how the media companies treat their journalist employees.

Here is the notice as published by the Hong Kong government:

Department: Legislative Council

Serial No.: SER200910190209

LegCo to Debate Defending Freedom of the Press

The following is issued on behalf of the Legislative Council Secretariat:

The Legislative Council will hold a meeting this Wednesday (October 21) at 11am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building. During the meeting, Members will debate a motion on defending freedom of the press.

The motion, to be moved by Hon Emily Lau, states: “That some Hong Kong journalists, while covering news in Xinjiang, were assaulted, handcuffed and detained by law enforcement officers, and even accused slanderously by the local information office of inciting disturbance and violating the rules on news coverage; also, some Hong Kong journalists covering news in Sichuan were alleged by law enforcement officers of suspected possession of drugs and prohibited from going out; the above incidents have seriously undermined the freedom of news coverage and the public’s right to know as well as damaged the core values of freedom of the press; this Council condemns such acts and urges the Government to adopt the following measures:

(a) to solemnly reflect to the Mainland authorities that the law enforcement officers on the Mainland be requested to respect civic rights and freedom of the press, refrain from illegally detaining, arresting or assaulting journalists, and request the Mainland authorities to impose severe punishment on the offenders and ensure that similar incidents will not happen again;

(b) in regard to the unjust investigation of the abovementioned incidents and the slanderous accusation against journalists by the Mainland authorities, to request the Mainland authorities to make clarifications and apologies, conduct a just investigation afresh and release the investigation results to the public; and

(c) to enquire with media organisations about the problems and difficulties encountered by journalists when covering news on the Mainland, so as to provide as much assistance as possible;

this Council also urges media organisations to adopt the following measures to safeguard the security of journalists when covering news on the Mainland:

(a) to provide training to journalists to enrich their knowledge about the laws of the Mainland and enhance their abilities to handle unexpected serious incidents;

(b) to send more experienced journalists to take up news coverage of a more sensitive or dangerous nature; and

(c) to review the remuneration, insurance coverage and working hours of journalists and safeguard their personal safety, so as to avoid journalists leaving the profession and attract talents to pursue a career in journalism.”

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Filed under China, Harassment