Monthly Archives: June 2012

NYTimes blocked on Chinese partner’s site

Gotta wonder how much a partnership between a US media outlet and a Chinese outlet is really worth.

Thanks to a Joyceyland Facebook posting of an article at Tech In Asia, we learned that the New York Times‘ Weibo has been suspended. (Well That Was Fast: New York Times’ Weibo Account Now Suspended [UPDATE: Or not])

According to the article, within 24 of the partnership announcement, the New York Times‘ Weibo page was suspended with no clear reason why. But in China, no reasons are the norm.

Tech in Asia reported an update that the site was up and running as of this morning. But again, no explanation why there was the outage.

One quick (cynical?) reason is that the Chinese censors had a typical knee-jerk reaction. They say “New York Times” and hit the BLOCK button. They must have missed the press release that said this was an approved deal.

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FCCC No Longer Posting Incident Reports

The short statement from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China June 26 kinda says it all about operating in the Middle Kingdom:

Important Information: Why we are not posting material

To ensure the continued operation of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, we are currently not posting incident reports or statements on our website. We are, however, still collecting this information on behalf of our members. If you have an incident to report or want further information about these matters, please contact us directly.

They did the same thing back in February as well.

The Incident Reports section of the FCCC website was a useful window into the problems journalists face working in China.

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China: Voice or Voices?

Beijing’s latest directives are to clean up the media and to make local party officials aware that the rest of the world is watching.

On the first point, once again Beijing wants to get rid of “pay for play” journalism. The problem is that the biggest violators are state-run media outlets.

The second point is the more interesting one for me.

The dramatic rise of mobile phone use and now smart phone use in China means very little of what happens in the Middle Kingdom is kept secret.

Last week, the Party’s official People’s Daily ran an interesting piece exhorting Party cadres at the “grassroots level” — those officials at the bottom rungs of the power bureaucracy — to be mindful of the international implications of their handling of local incidents. The bottom line was that local leaders must recognize that their decisions about how to handle a “sudden-breaking incident” on their turf could impact China’s international image and the country’s ability to engage on global issues.

In The Dictator’s Learning Curve,  William J. Dobson mentions how a massacre of Tibetan monks and families in a remote mountain pass by PLA troops was spread by YouTube from a person’s mobile phone.

It is not surprising that the leadership in Beijing gets the problem they face. They are still in the mode, however, that multiple voices — that is to say, the voice of the people — is not conducive to “stability.” And so there must be one Chinese voice rather than many Chinese voices.

One another — more familiar issue — once you strip away the efforts to control what people say and do, the fact that the Chinese government sees the connection between local events and global repercussions is something the United States could learn.

Not the control part. The connection part.

It is still amazing to me to see how so few people in the United States (even highly educated ones) really don’t see connections between domestic and international events.

While the main issue is getting more Americans to understand why international events are important, I am seeing more people whose sole focus seems to be international events with little regard as to how their ideas about what should be a U.S. foreign policy could affect Main Street USA.

But more on that another day.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Connections

Bad news in Europe

Freedom House released its Nations In Transit report for 2012.

And things don’t look good for civic and press freedoms in central and eastern Europe.

The failure of virtually any of the countries of Eurasia to shed old governance habits and end monopolies on political and economic power has been one of the greatest disappointments of the past two decades. Regimes in countries as diverse as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, and Uzbekistan have taken steps—some brutal, others more subtle—to adapt to new circumstances and maintain power.

Read rest of Introduction to report.

The change in independent media is pretty disturbing:

Independent Media

↓ 5 declines: Hungary, Lithuania, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Ukraine

↑ 3 improvements: Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Slovakia

This is in addition to the authoritarian regimes in Russia, Belarus and all the “-stans.”

Overall, not good news for democracy or free press.

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As elections loom, Venezuelan journalists face threats

Journalists looking to cover the October Venezuelan elections in a fair manner face all sorts of hurdles. Not the least of which are the laws and regulations set up by the Chavez government to silence criticism.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers presented the concerns of the few remaining independent news outlets in Venezuela.

[A]s elections approach, many in Venezuela fear the grip might tighten yet further. “Attacks against journalists peak during election years,” explained Marianela Balbi, executive director of Press and Society Institute of Venezuela (IPYS), a local media watchdog. “This election is the most important one since Chavez’ arrival to power, and therefore we fear the highest peak ever recorded”.

The increasing electoral tension is already translating into an increase in attacks against the media. A team of journalists from daily newspaper El Universal received an anonymous threat on 1 June demanding they stop investigating conditions in Venezuelan prisons. Their reporting was initiated by a two-week-long riot in April by prisoners in La Planta jail in Caracas, which resulted in the death of nine people. Journalists María Isoliett Iglesias, Deivis Ramírez, Tomás Ramírez González and Luis García filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office demanding protection, which was granted by the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office.

Read the full report: Violence and self-censorship risk undermining media’s role ahead of historic Venezuelan election

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Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage, Press Freedom, South America

Mexico enacts new law protecting journalists

Real quick:

Mexico enacts measures to protect reporters, activists

One of the decrees establishes the Law for the Protection of Journalists and Defenders of Human Rights, by which the federal and state governments eliminate jurisdictional divisions in cases of people who are “victims of threats and persecution,” [President Felipe] Calderon said.

International journalism groups also commented:

IAPA welcomes enactment of law to Protect Journalists in Mexico

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Expressed satisfaction at the signing Into law today by President Felipe Calderon Mexico’s measure of a That will serve to Protect Journalists and human rights defenders. At the Same time, the IAPA urged the Government to speed up actions to put Into effect a constitutional Amendment That Brings Crimes Against members of the press under federal jurisdiction.

In the meantime, journalists continue to come under fire from the narcos and corrupt local officials.

And there is some good news.

Journalist Stephania Cardoso and her 2-year-old son were found alive and are now under police protection.

Cardoso, a police beat reporter, was kidnapped June 12.

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Self-censorship raises its ugly head in Hong Kong — again!

Once again the leadership of the South China Morning Post are being accused of soft pedaling “sensitive” issues so as to not upset Beijing.

The latest complaints came from senior sub-editor Alex Price complained to editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei that the SCMP was downplaying the suspicious death of dissident Li Wangyang in Hunan. Other papers in Hong Kong were giving Li’s death plenty of play, but the SCMP seemed to think it deserved nothing more than a small inside story.

The complaints are nothing new.

The latest round — once again — left a bad taste in the mouths of people who would really like to see the SCMP live up to its reputation as a major newspaper.

In response to the queries about why the Li story was downplayed, editor Wang said: “I don’t have to explain to you anything. I made the decision and I stand by it. If you don’t like it, you know what to do.”

Needless to say that did not go down well with the rest of the staff. Nor with the general public of Hong Kong.

Read the full story at the Asia Sentinel: Journalistic ethics questioned at SCMP

As I said, the issue of the SCMP going soft on events in China is nothing new.

Even before this century began the paper was weeding out people who were too critical of China. Gone was the wit of Nury Vittachi and Larry Feign. And later gone were the editors and reporters who covered stories out of China honestly and fairly. (Of course, to the pro-Beijing crowd, that meant the articles were biased against Beijing.)

The issue is a big one in Hong Kong because the territory is supposed to enjoy freedom of press, speech and assembly for another 30+ years.

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