Monthly Archives: July 2012

“Donate my ass” – Blocked in China

I love the “Sensitive Words” section of China Digital Times.  This is a section that points out the words and terms currently being blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

This week “Donate my ass” is blocked because that term came out many times in response to a call for charitable help from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs for flood recovery.

Of course, a lot of discussion about the flooding of Beijing — referred to as the “Katrina of China” — is being blocked.

For full report: Sensitive Words: Beijing Flood (2)

And there is the Anti-Social List from the China Media Project in Hong Kong: Post comparing Beijing floods to SARS deleted




Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

Free media vital to anti-corruption campaign

Transparency International issued a new report on steps to fight corruption in the Visegard countries — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

The outlook is not good. But the report does have some bright points. Specifically, the report notes that strong civic society organizations and free media are important players in the anti-corruption battles.

Non-state institutions, especially media and civil society, are key anti-corruption actors because for corrupt interest groups it is much harder to influence and control them than state institutions.

As noted before in this site, countries without free and independent media are often right at the top of the list of most corrupt.

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Filed under Corruption, Europe, Press Freedom

March in Hong Kong; Serve time in Jiangxi

Two people from Jiangxi traveled to Hong Kong as part of a group of 57 petitioners from mainland China to protest unofficial detention centers used to hold those who complain about the government.

Once Song Ningsheng and Zeng Jiuzi returned to China, they were handed one-year sentences in a labor camp.

The sentences were issued without a trial.

It seems penalties for participating in demonstrations opposing the central government policies can be handled administratively with no need for a trial. (That ought to warm the hearts of all those who complain about lawyers gumming up the judicial process.)

According to Radio Free Asia, Zeng’s son Liu Zhonghua was given the news verbally by police in Jiangxi’s Ningdu county.

“The police said that my mother and Song Ningsheng went to Hong Kong and took part in an illegal demonstration,” Liu said. “They had also petitioned illegally in Beijing a number of times.”

“I asked [the officer] whether they would give me an official notification document, and he said there was no need, because they could just do this with a nod to the people at the labor camp,” he said.

For those who have forgotten, while Hong Kong is part of China, the people in Hong Kong enjoy civil liberties such as free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. (That is why anti-Beijing rallies can and are held there.)

In addition, the border between Hong Kong and China is considered a “hard border.” Passports are checked as people move between mainland China and Hong Kong, just as if Hong Kong was another country.

So, what the authorities in Jiangxi have done is send a couple of people to a forced-labor camp for participating in an action that was legal in the place where the action happened. This kind of “justice” has a serious dampening effect on the freedoms in Hong Kong and needs to be watched closely.

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Filed under Censorship, China

Really? China, Russia and Bahrain. Hardly free media places

I get it. It is important for people of similar industries to meet in a global manner on a regular basis. So it is not surprising to see the BBC, the AP and Al Jazeera to team up with less reputable media outlets such as Xinhua to have a World Media Summit.

But do the news media leaders have to keep meeting in places that brutally repress  independent media and actively suppress bloggers and online citizen jorunalists?

The first summit was held in Beijing. The most recent in Moscow.  And the 2014 summit will be in Bahrain.

Really? All three places have no free and independent media. And the governments of all three keep tossing journalists in jail for not toeing the official line. (Comments summarized from Freedom House)

  • China: China’s media environment is extremely restrictive. 2011 featured one of the worst crackdowns on freedom of expression activists in recent memory.
  • Russia: Journalists are unable to cover the news freely, especially topics such as human rights abuses, corruption, organized crime, police torture, the opposition parties and the country’s economic crisis
  • Bahrain: There is an ongoing campaign of intimidation by the government against journalists, bloggers, and other media workers.

I’m not saying don’t have international summits or conferences sessions that include state-run (and directed) media organizations. But how about holding a summit in a place that actually allows free press?

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

Chinese editor shuffles continue

David Bandurski reports on the China Media Project website that the publisher of Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post has been dismissed, and one of its deputy editors has been suspended.

This action is on the heels of other recent shuffling of newspaper editors.

In the most general sense, the two actions — though not in any way related or coordinated — can be read as stemming from an all-round tightening of press controls in China ahead of the crucial 18th Party Congress later this year.

Read Bandurski’s full report: China’s media and “death by uncertain causes”

As noted in the article, maybe the following comments from the Oriental Morning Post had something to do with the firings:

China has reached a point where public power must be checked, where public power cannot be allowed to be held ransom by vested interests, which cannot be allowed to wield monopoly power, the power to control massive amounts of limited resources.

Wielding monopoly power is what the leadership in Beijing is all about.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

The former Soviet republics keeping to the old ways

Many thanks to Roy Greenslade at The Guardian for an excellent summary of the state of press freedom in the former Soviet Union.

Bottom line: It is not good.

How political leaders in former Soviet states threaten press freedom

That absurd but sinister arrest in Belarus of a website editor for publishing pictures of teddy bears is just one example of the way in which the former Soviet satellites have failed to allow freedom of the press to flourish.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), which keeps a watching brief on affairs in many of the countries, has now registered a “growing concern” about the treatment meted out to journalists by the authorities.

Though nominally “republics”, few of them are truly democratic. Several are nothing more than autocracies without any respect for human rights for their citizens let alone press freedom.

Rest of story.

My favorite is the one where the Romanian interim president labelled the Washington Post as “contaminated.” He blamed the Post and other international publications for the country’s deteriorating international image. (Sounds like he has a lot in common with the U.S. Tea party.)

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Filed under Censorship, Europe, Press Freedom

Predicting Indian monsoons can help Main Street USA

Scientists in the USA, Britain and India are working to “crack the code” of the summer monsoons in India.

The monsoons are necessary for crops in India. All told, 75% of the annual rainfall comes in the June-September period. These rains are needed to ensure good crops, especially the all-important rice crop.

According to an Al-Jazeera story, the reason for better understanding the monsoons is simple:

This would help India conserve depleting water resources and agricultural output would get a boost as farmers would be able to plan their crops better. Armed with more precise forecasts, state governments would be better prepared, in theory, for disasters such as the recent floods in Assam

Besides the international cooperation effort on the scientific side, there is also a direct connection to better agricultural planning in India and U.S. consumers.

When the monsoons are on time, India buys several million tons of fertilizer from the global suppliers. When the monsoons are not so great, those tons sit in warehouses as excess material.

The United States is another major buyer (and producer) of fertilizer.

Better predictions of the monsoons will allow Indian farmers and fertilizer importers to better determine how much fertilizer will be needed in any given planting season.

Depending on how much India buys often determines how the price moves in the global market. So when the U.S. buyers start talking about making purchases the price is often determined by how many tons India bought or are planning to buy.

Simple equations:

  • Good monsoon season in India=More fertilizer purchased
  • More tons of fertilizer purchased by India=Higher prices to the US (and other international) buyers
  • Higher fertilizer prices=Higher food prices.

See how easy that was to go from the monsoons to an American grocery store?

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Filed under Connections, Story Ideas