Monthly Archives: August 2011

Dominican journalists push back — And why it matters to the USA

Fighting corruption and malfeasance in the Dominican Republic is a task of Sisyphusian proportions.

The government — not wanting to seem to be too corrupt — pushes back when the media focus on the corruption and poor management that goes on.

The private sector — wanting to keep their sweet ride going — also push back with economic boycotts of media outlets that dare to call out the corruption and illegal activities of the companies.

And then there are the individuals — in both government and business — who decide the only good journalist is a dead journalist or at least one who is severely wounded.

Freedom of press in the Dominican Republic was a hard-won freedom. Not only from the Trujillo dictatorship but also from the subsequent governments that thought any criticism should not be aired for the public to hear.

Recently the DR has faced a number of attacks and killings of journalists for doing their jobs. (The latest was August 3 when José Agustín Silvestre, was found dead after being beaten and then shot. He was critical of corrupt politicians and the growing influence drug cartels were exercising in Dominican society.)

Well, the journalists are pushing back publicly and naming names.

Dominican Republic journalists again rail the Government

Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with life in the United States?

Let’s look at the basic numbers first: There are about 9 million Dominicans in the world. About 7.5 million live in the DR. Another 500,000 live in Europe and South America. that leaves about 1 million (mas o menos) living in the United States. (And many of them illegally.)

The corruption and crime of the Dominican Republic drive out people and investments. With fewer job opportunities in the DR (investments are being driven out, remember), the people who want to work go where the jobs are. And believe it or not, they are coming to the United States.

Now remember that those Dominicans already in the States are here for economic reasons: They want more opportunities for work.

But what would happen if the economic refugees were joined by others fleeing a dictatorship? What dictatorship, you ask…

The journalists right now in the Dominican Republic are doing what journalists do in a democracy, they hold the feet of the power-holders to the flame of public opinion and transparency.

The corrupt political and business leaders know that if the journalists keep pursuing corrupt practices, they will soon be out of work and out of power. So the corrupt forces must fight to control the media.

Once the news media are no longer free (or find it safe) to report the news of corruption and malfeasance, democracy will die in the Dominican Republic.

Now think about how many refugees the U.S. will face then.

So, it is in the best interest of the United States for its news organizations to keep an eye on what is going on in the DR. And it is in the best interests of the US government to support those fighting to defend free media in the DR.

Seems like a pretty obvious set of connections between LOCAL! LOCAL! LOCAL! and the rest of the world to me.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Story Idea: How AID and State Dept benefit Americans

The oft-heard complaint that the U.S. government should “spend money to solve our problems at home instead of throwing it away overseas” indicates that the speakers really don’t know much about U.S. development assistance. (This has been a point raised here before.)

The Huffington Post provides another look at how U.S. aid actually benefits the U.S. economy and how the State Department serves the American people.

10 Things You Should Know About the State Department and USAID

And #1 is We create jobs.

Sounds like a LOCAL story to me!

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Filed under Connections

Political arrest in Hong Kong upsetting

Many thanks to Global Voices for this report.

China and Hong Kong: Citizen Arrested for Wearing Political T-shirt

Li Keqiang, China’s current vice premier and premier-to-be, began three-day visit to Hong Kong on August 16, 2011. On the first day of his visit, Li tried to show concern for Hong Kong people’s livelihoods by visiting a center for the elderly and a residential campus in Lam Tin district. However, Li’s “friendly” gesture turned into a performance of political brutality when a male resident was forcibly dragged away and arrested by a number of “men in black”, because he wrote a political t-shirt with the slogan “Vindicate June 4“.

For rest of story, click here.

I thought the use of  blog postings about the incident added to an understanding of the situation and the reaction of the politically active and aware in Hong Kong.

For the uninitiated (or forgetful):

  • June 4 is the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre when Chinese troops crushed a growing democracy movement.
  • While Hong Kong is a part of China, the region enjoys political, social and economic freedoms unheard of in mainland China. It is the only place under Beijing’s rule that allows for freedom of the press, speech and assembly.
  • Hong Kong is also the only place under Beijing rule that has annual June 4 commemorative ceremonies.

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Filed under Censorship, China, International News Coverage

Sometimes I think this conversation REALLY takes place in most newsrooms

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Filed under International News Coverage

Missing the man bites dog story (Again)

So many complain about how much the US imports from other countries. Yet, when a change occurs for the US to export, the story gets lost or ignored.

Well, that is not completely fair.

The Americus, Ga., media covered the event. NPR covered it. VOA covered it. Even the Economist covered it.

But the Atlanta Journal Constitution missed it.

It was: U.S. company exports chopsticks to China.

Yes, there is a giggle factor here but there is also a serious story of how US exports create local jobs.

Click here  to see the search page for “chopsticks”.

Now look at these stories:

VOA: Chopsticks Carry ‘Made in America’ Label 

NPRGeorgia Company Exports Chopsticks To China

WALP TV10Chinese will eat with GA chopsticks

Even China Daily picked up the story: US firm joins the dinner table

Now if I missed the AJC story, it was not from lack of trying to find it. (Here is the Google search.)

This is a small story. But it does have irony and — like I said — a certain “giggle” factor. But more importantly is shows that even in a small town a company can reach into a foreign market. That company can create LOCAL jobs that help the LOCAL economy.

More importantly, once you get past the irony, maybe (but I doubt it) some enterprising reporter might look at other small companies in the area that might be doing more mundane exports that also create or maintain US jobs.

Chopsticks to China is the hook for a series of larger stories if only people would look for them and look beyond the damned “Local. Local. Local” mantra.

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Filed under China, Connections, Story Ideas, Trade

Rumors run wild when the public doesn’t trust the news

The high-speed train crash in China last month killed 35 people and was a major black eye for the Chinese government.

In most countries when a crash of this magnitude occurs the first step is to secure the crash site, gather evidence including the mangled remains of the train and launch an investigation.

But the leadership in China has their own way of doing things.

When an accident happens to a high-priority project, bury the evidence and then make sure the local media are forbidden to write or broadcast anything outside the party line.

From the central government: [Highlights are added by me for emphasis]

Central Propaganda Department: In regard to the Wenzhou high-speed train crash, all media outlets are to promptly report information released from the Ministry of Railways. No journalists should conduct independent interviews. All subsidiaries including newspaper, magazines and websites are to be well controlled. Do not link reports with articles regarding the development of high-speed trains. Do not conduct reflective reports.

Additional directives for all central media: The latest directives on reporting the Wenzhou high-speed train crash: 1. Release death toll only according to figures from authorities. 2. Do not report on a frequent basis. 3. More touching stories are to reported instead, i.e. blood donation, free taxi services, etc. 4. Do not investigate the causes of the accident; use information released from authorities as standard. 5. Do not reflect or comment.

Reminder on reporting matters: All reports regarding the Wenzhou high-speed train accident are to be titled “7.23 Yong-Wen line major transportation accident.” Reporting of the accident is to use “ ‘in the face of great tragedy, there’s great love’” as the major theme. Do not question. Do not elaborate. Do not associate. No re-posting on micro-blogs will be allowed! Related service information may be provided during news reporting. Music is to be carefully selected!

And the result of such control is distrust of the government — which leads to instability, by the way — and more belief in rumors and uninformed speculation.

Poll: 98% Say Wenzhou Train Buried to Destroy Evidence

Of course the growing army of netizens in China outed the lies and evasions from the government. Adam Minter at Bloomberg did a great piece on how the Internet just keeps being a thorn in the side of the propaganda ministry.

Train Crash Proves Debacle for China’s Propaganda Machine: Adam Minter

Eventually the leaders in Zhongnanhai will understand that the genie is out of the bottle. In the meantime, their actions lead to more instability and social unrest, the very things they claim they want to prevent by censoring information.

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

Working around the Great Firewall: How well do you know the lingo?

Chinese netizens have used a lot of different terms that sound like something else to express their opinions about the Chinese government and society. By not using such “hot” words as “Tiananmen,” “Ai Weiwei,” “Jasmine,” etc the online community in China gets their point across and stay out of jail.

Now China Digital Times has a test to see how well new China hands understand what the Chinese netizens are saying:

Quiz: How Well Do You Know Chinese Netizen-Speak?


China Digital Times has added many new entries to the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon and updated a number of older entries.

Take this quiz to see how well you understand the colorful and constantly evolving language of China’s netizens.

Take the test at China Digital Times

And just to prove that there is a journalism angle, here is question #4

The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson told foreign reporters who had attempted to cover the “Jasmine Revolution” in China that:

A. They could interview whomever they wanted as long as they agreed to only publish Xinhua news reports.

B. They should carefully consider how much they cared about getting visas to China in the future.

C. The law would not act as a shield to protect them

D. The protestors had ulterior motives and did not understand the actual situation.




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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom