Monthly Archives: October 2012

NYTimes blocked in China after article revealing wealth of leader

Very nice piece in the New York Times about how the family of Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao has made millions during his term.

Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader

To no one’s surprise, China blocked the Times’ site.

New York Times blocked by China after report on wealth of Wen Jiabao’s family

Seems the Chinese government still isn’t ready for free press yet.

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Filed under Censorship, China

Better journalism could help

Foreign Policy magazine has a great online piece on how the campaigns play on the basic ignorance and fear of foreign affairs by the American people.

Clicking This Will Make You Stupider

The 10 worst foreign policy campaign ads of 2012.

One of the reasons so many political groups and politicians can get away with whoppers on foreign affairs is because most Americans have no clue what is going on in that area. (Other than this war or that earthquake.)

And that is a shame because the American people can be better informed if only more news organizations would look at the connections between Main Street and the rest of the world.

It is all well and good to describe the murder rate in Honduras or the economic melt down in Greece. But most people think: “What has that got to do with me?”

And that is a fair question. There are links if only reporters look for them.

To be fair, with the cut backs in newsrooms, each reporter is now doing the work of 10. The real problem lies with management that stresses Local! Local! Local! and cuts back on staff. So it becomes more important for a reporter to dig just a little deeper to see how the problem at the local bank is tied to the problems in Greece.

And then there is just plain old education.

Most Americans think that 25% of the federal budget goes to overseas’ aid. A majority also think an appropriate amount is 3-5%. The actual number is less than 1%. The ENTIRE non-military foreign affairs budget is about 1.1%. That includes all of the State Department, the Agency for International Development and all the foreign affairs arms of the Commerce, Agriculture, Justice and Labor Departments.

People don’t know how much work is being done for such a little amount and how that work directly affects them because no one is telling the story.

To be sure, the agencies are terrible at telling their own stories. But in an ever globalized world, it is also the responsibility of journalists to explain how those Granny Smith apples at the Safeway got into the States from Chile. Or how American parts get included in a Spanish government-sponsored wind energy development program in Honduras.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

#FOI requests up where law advertised. has a great little piece on a series of studies about how the use of freedom of information laws seems to be tied to how well publicized the laws are.

Level of FOI Requests Varies With Awareness of Laws is well worth a read for people who are interested in how the rest of the world is dealing with freedom of information laws.

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Filed under Freedom of Information, Story Ideas

Time to Rein in #Bahrain

Excellent look at the situation in Bahrain.

Time to Rein in #Bahrain.

 The Kingdom of Bahrain is not presented to the world as a major power, or a serious threat to peace and stability. Quite the opposite. So why is it continually allowed to get away with human rights abuses? Those responsible should be charged and tried, along with the chain of command. Countries which are entitled to pride themselves on their human rights record – I am aware this is a shrinking list – should be ashamed to have any dealings with Bahrain until it changes its policies and adjusts its attitude. Citizens of countries which pretend towards any form of democratic government should use their right to speak out against these abuses.

Rest of posting

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Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Middle East, Press Freedom

Saudis pushing for Internet censorship. They just don’t learn from history

While the term “censorship” is nowhere to be found in the Saudi statement, the intent is clear: “Control free speech.”

Saudi Arabia Suggests Global Internet Regulations To Preserve ‘Public Order’

Internet censorship is line with the kingdom’s muzzling of its national media. Overall restrictions have worsened since the Arab Spring popular revolutions of 2011, one of which occurred — but did not succeed — in neighboring Bahrain.

Outside the Box

Saudi Arabia is now seeking a broader approach — not only to prevent its people from seeing the “Innocence of Muslims” clip, but to head off similar incidents in the future.

The country is looking ahead to the World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum, or WTPF. This annual gathering is presented by the International Telecommunications Union, a branch of the United Nations.

For dictatorships — such as the Saudis and the Cubans — censorship by any name is the first response to anything that disrupts their social order. (Or as that other “bastion” of free expression, China, calls it, social stability.)

The tighter the dictators try to clamp down on dissenting views — whether it is political or religious — the more violent the reaction eventually becomes. The lessons of the former Yugoslavia should have been enough of a case study for people to have learned this lesson.

While Tito provided a veneer of a peaceful society to the rest of the world all the problems among the ethnic groups kept simmering, just like with a pressure cooker. After the iron heel was removed after the fall of communism in Europe, various ethnic groups finally were free to “right” all the real and perceived “wrongs” done over the years.

And we all saw the results of that, with issues still to be settled in the war crimes’ courts.

The plan the Saudis want approved by the WTPF will only provoke more and more violent reactions.

I gotta to back to Louis Brandeis, paraphrasing now: The answer to bad speech is more speech.

Eventually people figure out who the idiots are and they stop listening. When was the last time a city seriously considered ending fluoridation of the water supply because it is part of a commie plot? And people are beginning to understand how stupid the anti-vax movement is.

Yep there are still people who promote these wacko ideas, but they do not move public policy they once did.

Same is true for xenophobes and others who promote hate speech.

And in the final analysis, if the idiots don’t get freedom of speech, how soon will it be before less idiotic people have their speech restricted?

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Filed under Middle East, Press Freedom

Russia keeps up pressure to eliminate independent media

The march away from the democratic aspirations that came following the collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia continues. The latest attack on free media is reported by the International Press Institute:

Independent Russian television channel may be forced to stop broadcasting

MOSCOW, Oct 12, 2012 – Independent Russian television channel Sovershenno Sekretno (“Top Secret”) TV said it is facing closure after a state-owned broadcaster indicated that it would terminate a contract to carry the channel’s signal next March, some 20 months early.

The 24-hour channel – which was launched six years ago and reaches 15 million people in Russia, the CIS, the Baltic States and Israel by cable and satellite – is known for its independent reporting, openness, high professional standards and high-quality on-air hosts.

Rest of report.

The attacks on freedom of speech, press and assembly have been well documented. Freedom House assesses the situation in Russia in its annual reports.




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Filed under Censorship, Harassment, Press Freedom

T&T withholds public info in fairy tale effort to end crime

On the theory that if you don’t talk about something, that something won’t happen the national security minister of Trinidad and Tobago ordered the police to stop releasing murder statistics. Minister Jack Warner said the reports of violence encouraged people to commit more crime. Jack Warner bans Trinidad and Tobago murder figures

Yeah. Bizarre thinking. If all it takes to end crime is to not let the people know what is going on, then one of the most repressive countries — China — should be crime free. (We know it isn’t) and the most liberal — the United States — should be nothing but a cesspool of criminal activity.

As we see with Honduras, the regular reporting of criminal activity does not promote more crime. Rather, the reporting is helping build a public outrage of poor and corrupt policing.

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Filed under Censorship, Corruption, Freedom of Information