Monthly Archives: August 2012

Hong Kong is and isn’t China

NPR did a short piece today (Sunday, August 26) on how PCCW is providing Internet connection to Syria, thus keeping the rest of the world informed about the fighting taking place there. (Hong Kong Keeping Syria Online)

The headline is correct. It is a Hong Kong company keeping Syria on-line. The problem is that NPR identified the company as a Chinese company. Several times. PCCW is, in fact a Hong Kong company and that is a BIG difference.

PCCW is indeed outside the Great China FireWall but because it is in Hong Kong, not mainland China.

Yes, Hong Kong is part of China. But under the 1997 handover agreement, until 2047 the Hong Kong-China border is a hard border and Hong Kong retains its civil society — including freedom of speech and press. So it is no surprise that PCCW can provide service to Syria that mainland Chinese residents can’t get.


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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, International News Coverage

Assange Latin American supporters major free speech violators

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy while his supporters denounce the U.S., the U.K. and Sweden.

Assange’s supporters see him as the champion of free speech and expression and praise Ecuador for “protecting” him. They kinda miss the fact that Ecuador has a horrible record when it comes to freedom of press, speech and expression.

And then came the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). The organization set up in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela is hardly a bastion of countries that believe in the values Assange and his followers speak of.

Let’s look at the members of ALBA and their press freedom records:


Freedom House Press Freedom Ranking

Freedom House Political Freedom Ranking

Reporters Without Borders Ranking

Antigua and Barbuda Partly Free Free N/A
Bolivia Partly Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems
Cuba Not Free Not Free Very Serious Problem
Dominica Free Free N/A
Ecuador Partly Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems
Nicaragua Partly Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Free Free N/A
Venezuela Not Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems

And for the record, the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden are all ranked as FREE politically and with freedom of the press and expression in the Freedom House rankings.

It is ironic that people are so willing to turn a blind eye to the violations of freedom of press, speech and assembly done by Ecuador if it means sticking their fingers in the eyes of the US and UK. Do any of Assange’s supporters really think that he could get away with what he has done and what he advocates in Ecuador? Venezuela? Cuba?

If they do, then they are just as delusional as those on the right who think the world in only 6,000 years old and that rape victims can’t get pregnant.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Press Freedom, South America

Surprise: Correa is a hypocrite on free expression

So Julian Assange is seeking asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London from sex-crime charges in Sweden.  And, typically, his supporters are singing the praises of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa for protecting Assange and standing up for freedom of expression.

The problem: Correa is hardly a supporter of freedom of expression in his own country.

Maite Rico, a columnist for El Pais in Madrid, wrote about Correa and his move: Correa maneuvers

Ecuador’s government “grants asylum to hacker Julian Assange Australian-and forced into exile director review the Universe, “said the newspaper El Comercio , in reference to the journalist Emilio Palacio, who took refuge in the Embassy of Panama in Quito (and, remember, refused at the time the pass ). “I wish that human rights and freedom of expression that invokes the Government for the respect of asylum without restriction in the country,” says the newspaper Hoy.

And then there is the Committee to Protect Journalists: As it backs Assange, Ecuador stifles expression at home

President Rafael Correa’s press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas, and providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder won’t change the repressive conditions facing Ecuadoran journalists who want to report critically about government policies and practices.

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

Brazil court back reporter on leaks case

Finally, good news on the journalism front from Brazil.

A court in Sao Paulo ruled that journalists have the right to publish material leaked to them by government employees.

The ruling came in the case of attorney Susan Volpini in lawsuit against TV Globo.

Volpini complained about the leaking of information that linked her to an organized crime syndicate. She was later acquitted of the charge.

Volpini sued Globo for US$700,000 in moral damages.

The judge tossed the case, saying it is the responsibility of the government agencies to protect information. It is the responsibility of the journalists to test the veracity of the source and information.

The press has the right to report to the content [of the documents],” the judge wrote. He added that action can only be taken against the person who leaked the information, not the reporter or news organization.

This is good news in Brazil. The country is still dealing with the legacy of the dictatorship in some of the laws still on the books. And it is dealing with “popular” movements from the left. In both situations, press freedom is not a high priority.

In the past few years there have been a number of proposed laws and presidential initiatives that threaten press freedom and media independence.

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Filed under Harassment, Press Freedom, South America

Despite the publicity, Honduras is NOT the most deadly place for journalists

Research from the International News Safety Institute listed the top five deadliest places to be a journalist. The number one slot may surprise people not paying attention to such things because it is Brazil.

Given the murder rate in Honduras and all the publicity of murdered journalists there, surely that Central American country must be a close second, right?

Wrong. In fact, Honduras is not in the top five.

According to the INSI, after Brazil comes Nigeria, Somalia, Indonesia and Mexico.

Brazil among most dangerous countries for journalists during first half of 2012, research shows

As noted from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas:

In Brazil, seven journalists were killed from January through the beginning of July: Laércio de Souza, Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes, Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, Onei de Moura, Divino Aparecido Carvalho, Décio Sá, and Valério Luiz de Oliveira. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country has an impunity rate of 75 percent.

Mexico is the most hostile country for freedom of expression in the American continent, with eight killed journalists during the first half of the year, and a series of armed attacks against news outlet buildings.

According to INSI director Rodney Pinder, fire arms and bombs continue to be the preferred method for censorship in many countries. “Journalists are more than ever in sight of the enemies of freedom of expression. Every and any killing suffocates the flow of information, which no free society can function without,” he said in a press release.

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Filed under Killings

Ministry of Truth Latest Directive: Stop hyping nude picture of Anhui official

The latest installment of Ministry of Truth from China Digital Times:

State Council Information Office: All websites must stop following and hyping the so-called “Lujiang Indecent Photos Incident.” Interactive platforms must quickly remove all related photos.


 O.M.G. CN Anhui officials’s 5p nude sex pictures circulating on Sina Weibo.…

— XQ (@MissXQ) August 9, 2012

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Filed under Censorship, China

International meeting on journalism security in Honduras

The situation in Honduras is bad for journalists — 31 killed since 2003. In some of the cases the murders are directly related to media work — five, according to the Committee to Project Journalists. The rest of the cases are unknown because the Honduran legal system is so weak that basic investigations are difficult if not down right impossible.

The killings of the journalists also has to be put in the context of the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world — 86 per 100,000 people. In some cases, the killing of a reporter could be something as simple as “wrong place; wrong time.” Or the reporter could have been singled out for reasons other than that reporter’s work.

Whatever the reasons, the fact that journalists are being killed is of concern in the larger community. We expect journalists to be upset when a large number of our own are killed — for whatever reason. But we are also seeing the rest of the civic society groups express concern.

Non journalists are worried because the killings and threats against media workers could lead to less independent reporting or no reporting about crime and corruption at all. The NGOs, the government leaders and the journalists all make the same point: Without free and independent media, democracy is threatened.

This past week the issue of journalism safety was the focus of series of meeting organized by  Inter American Press Association and Media Association Communication.

The sessions — “Security, protection and solidarity for the freedom of expression” — led to commitments from the Honduran government to protect journalists and to fully prosecute killers of journalists.

Among the commitments from the government:

  • The creation of a special prosecutor for crimes against journalists because of their professional work.
  • The deputy national prosecutor said he supported reforming the Criminal Code to increased the penalty for killing a journalist from 20 to 30 years.

The IAPA session also called for the creation of a special court to hear charges brought by human rights violations and implementation of concrete actions to protect, investigate and prosecute any crime against freedom of expression.

The conference final document also called on media companies and individual journalists to take steps to enhance journalists’ security:

  • Exercise  safe and responsible journalism.
  • Strengthen measures of self-protection, including workshops and ethics.
  • Encourage journalists to assume individual responsibility for their training in journalistic ethics and understanding their exposure to dangerous assignments.
  • Urge journalists to report any threats they receive to human rights organizations and the authorities.

The conference was held in Tegucigalpa August 9 and 10. Besides journalists and representatives of  media organizations; academics, civil society members, government prosecutors, businessmen and members of the Army attended.


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Filed under Central America, Harassment, Honduras, Killings, Press Freedom