Monthly Archives: July 2011

Getting US journalists to cover journalists in jail

Bruce C. Swaffield offers a good look at the number of journalists in jail just for being journalists in the latest issue of the Society of Professional Journalists’ magazine Quill: Journalists in jail: Locking up the truth 

The numbers are frightening and should be better advertised. The problem is that American coverage of these jailings is non-existent or, when it is reported, no context is given as to why it matters to an American audience.

I am the first to admit that it is difficult to make that connection in a separate story about persecution against journalists. But, is it so difficult when reporting on other human rights issues in countries such as China and Iran to include a line about how these two countries top the list of journalists in jail?

Or maybe mentioning as background how Cuba has more exiled journalists than many other country when doing a story about the changes reportedly taking place in that island country.

These are issues that can be included in any story about are ones that any journalism group should be encouraging their members to include in stories.

But they do not.

And even Swaffield has little expectation that the SPJ would do anything. In the close of his article he encourages his readers to get involved with other organizations:

You and I can help these people. We can get involved with RSF or CPJ. We can even send letters, faxes and emails (not to mention phone calls) to embassies, government officials and the United Nations. Pick a country and make your voice heard. It could mean the difference for one person or for the future of our profession in that nation.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Story Ideas

The last shuttle launch

This has nothing to do with international journalism other than it is a real shame that the main stream media no longer see science as a dedicated beat. (Kind of like how poor the international coverage has become by U.S. media outlets.)

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at

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Filed under International News Coverage

China’s actions again prove free press better for society than censorship

The censors in China are going crazy again.

This time the operators of the Great Firewall of China are blocking any mention of “Jiang,” “Zemin” and “heart attack.”

Yep, the rumor mill is flooded with reports that former leader Jiang Zemin died of a heart attack. And the media masters in Beijing are working overtime to deny it.

The rumors started with a report from a Hong Kong television station that Jiang had died Wednesday. Reuters followed up with a report that Jiang was alive but just barely after a massive heart attack.

Government officials issued a standard denial on the report, saying the reports “are pure rumor.” (At least they did not quote Mark Twain.) Here is the FULL text of the statement:

“BEIJING – Recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin’s death from illness are ‘pure rumor,’ Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, citing authoritative sources.”

When no one seemed to believe that proclamation, the words “Jiang Zemin,” “heart attack” and related words were blocked on the most popular microblogging sites.

China Digital Times has pieced together a great article about the situation and the reaction of the “Ministry of Truth”:  Rumors of Jiang Zemin’s Death Circulate Online; Censors Respond (Updated)

Is Jiang dead or not? That is not the issue right here. The issue is that Hong Kong media and mainland rumors have more credibility with the people of China than do government pronouncements and the mainland media. (Reminder: Hong Kong media enjoy all the freedoms of a Western democracy thanks to the civil society protections included in the treaty that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.)

This is proof once again that free and independent media are a stronger force for stability and security than censorship. While there are kooks and wackos who believe odd things (Iraq had WMDs, the US government masterminded the 9/11 attacks, Obama was born in Kenya, etc.), that group is a distinct minority at the fringes of democratic societies with free media.

Why? Because media outlets  free of censorship  are allowed (bean counters permitting) to investigate any and all allegations.

Censorship and state control of media only encourage people to look for other outlets of news and information. If the main source of information turns out to be unfounded rumors, the society is weakened and made less stable.

The real role of censorship is to keep power in the hands of a few. The actions are designed to protect their stability and security, not society’s.

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Filed under Censorship, China

Mexican migration to US less push and weaker pull

How about that.

Improving a country’s economy and political systems encourages people to stay in that country.

Building bigger and more deadly fences and adding more guards at the border don’t seem to be the answer.

Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North

American census figures analyzed by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center also show that the illegal Mexican population in the United States has shrunk and that fewer than 100,000 illegal border-crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004.

The dynamics changed.

The decision to leave home involves a comparison, a wrenching cost-benefit analysis, and just as a Mexican baby boom and economic crises kicked off the emigration waves in the 1980s and ’90s, research now shows that the easing of demographic and economic pressures is helping keep departures in check.

Over time, the “push” from Mexico because of political instability and the lack of economic opportunities changed.

Over the past 15 years, [Mexico was] once defined by poverty and beaches has progressed politically and economically in ways rarely acknowledged by Americans debating immigration. Even far from the coasts or the manufacturing sector at the border, democracy is better established, incomes have generally risen and poverty has declined.

And, of course, the “pull” from the U.S. changed as our own economy weakened.

But what really changed in Mexico was the realization by the current young generation is that education and not physical labor was their way out of poverty.

Still, education represents the most meaningful change. The census shows that throughout Jalisco, the number of senior high schools or preparatory schools for students aged 15 to 18 increased to 724 in 2009, from 360 in 2000, far outpacing population growth. The Technological Institute of Arandas, where Angel studies engineering, is now one of 13 science campuses created in Jalisco since 2000 — a major reason professionals in the state, with a bachelor’s degree or higher, also more than doubled to 821,983 in 2010, up from 405,415 in 2000.

Similar changes have occurred elsewhere. In the poor southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, for instance, professional degree holders rose to 525,874 from 244,322 in 2000.

Maybe now more people will pay attention to the value TO the United States of development programs and educational support in other countries.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Pakistan agency involved in journalist’s killing. But what about the rest of the world?

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday that the Obama Administration now believes that Pakistan’s spy agency ordered the killing of  journalist Saleem Shahzad, May 29 because of his scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in the military.

Pakistan’s Spies Tied to Slaying of a Journalist

It is good that people are staying on top of the Shahzad case. He did what all good journalists should do: follow the facts and report without fear or favor.

And it is good that there is international coverage about this situation. Think about all the money being pumped into Pakistan by the United States and the rest of the developed world. Kinda disheartening to see that some of that money might have been used to repress the values of freedom of speech and press.

But where is the similar global outrage when Miguel Ángel López Velasco, 55, a columnist with the Veracruz daily Notiver, his wife, Agustina Solano de López, and their son Misael, 21, were killed by unidentified assailants June 20?

Or the condemnations of the unsolved murders of journalists is Russia, Colombia or Somalia?

How about the dozen or so journalists killed in Honduras this year? (Five of whom were killed because of their profession.) Or the continued threats to  journalists while the government stands by?

Bottom line:

Threats to journalists exist around the world. The case the Shahzad killing got a lot of attention. But maybe covering that case was just easy for the non-Pakistan media. They were already in the country covering Afghanistan and the Bin-Laden take down. The Shahzad case was personal to them and it was low-hanging fruit.

The  journalists in Mexico, Somalia, Honduras, Colombia are largely unknown to the major media players. So, unfortunately, they get little or no attention. (Until, like in some of the Mexican cases, there is a direct U.S. connection, such as the journalist asking for asylum. But even then…)

No one is asking for 24/7 reporting on the harassment and killings of journalists. But it would be useful to the readers/viewers/listeners if the death of a prominent journalist at the hands of a state agency could be put into a global perspective.

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Filed under Connections, Harassment, International News Coverage

Chomsky turns on Chavez

It took a while but Noam Chomsky looked at the situation in Venezuela and decided that his once buddy Hugo Chavez was amassing too much power and of making an “assault” on Venezuela’s democracy.

The Guardian published a piece on their interview with Chomsky that included the denunciation of Chavez: Noam Chomsky denounces old friend Hugo Chávez for ‘assault’ on democracy

He…faulted Chávez for adopting enabling powers to circumvent the national assembly. “Anywhere in Latin America there is a potential threat of the pathology of caudillismo [authoritarianism] and it has to be guarded against. Whether it’s over too far in that direction in Venezuela I’m not sure, but I think perhaps it is. A trend has developed towards the centralisation of power in the executive which I don’t think is a healthy development.”

It’s nice to see someone whose view of the world is seen as being driven by idealogy see the facts of a situation and respond accordingly.

And despite this major turn, the U.S. coverage is about Chomsky asking Chavez to show compassion for a persecuted judge. (New York Times: Chomsky Urges Chavez to Show Mercy to Judge) The only mention on the U.S. side about the split between Chomsky and Chavez is coming from conservative blogs that are practically giggling with glee.




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Filed under Harassment, Press Freedom, South America