The New York Times ran a great piece Feb. 28 by Andrew Jacobs and Jonathan Ansfield about how the internal security forces of China pull out all the stops when it comes to “maintaining” order. This is well worth a read for anyone who wants to understand what is happening in China today. It is not as black & white as detractors nor as positive as apologists says.
The events that led to this article being written were calls from anonymous Tweeters for people to gather in places around the country to demonstrate for an end to corruption.
I raise this issue here — in a press freedom blog — because there is a direct connection between using social networks to communicate grievances against the government and free press.
The people in North Africa and now China used microblogs and SMS to spread their protest plans because they had no other outlet to express their grievances. The government did not depend on the popular will for legitimacy and the media were closed to only pro-government views.
Bottom line: The people of North Africa, China, Iran, Cuba, etc would not have to resort to passing messages of discontent via mobile phones or social networks if those countries had media that allow for the freedom to address social and political issues without fear of beatings and/or jail time.
An unfettered and independent press allow people the chance to vent their concerns and to seek solutions without having to resort to violence or socially disrupting activities.
Despite what the Chinese government says, stability is not maintained by repressing a free and open discussion of issues in the press. I — and others — have made this point over and over. By suppressing the media, the government leaves only rumor and word of mouth to spread news. And we all know how well the game of “Telephone” works.
The calls for demonstrations against corruption and dictatorships are symptoms of much larger issues. For the rulers of these countries, it is easier to address the symptom because dealing with the underlying causes could easily mean an end of their rule.