Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hong Kong journalists object to new law

A while back the New York Times and Bloomberg used public data to show how wealthy the leaders of China are. And where their wealth is stashed away.

Lots of that information came from documents in Hong Kong. The pro-Beijing forces in Hong Kong just could not let that continue.

So the new government in Hong Kong put forth new laws that would restrict access to information about directors of companies listed on the Hong Kong exchange.

Under the proposal, corporate directors could apply to have their residential address and full identity card or passport numbers blocked from public view — a bid the government said was meant to protect their privacy.

But the plan has sparked an uproar among journalists as it comes amid concerns over Beijing’s meddling in local affairs and after a number of reports focusing on the wealth and assets of China’s ruling elite grabbed headlines.

And so journalists in Hong Kong have spoken up: Hong Kong journalists publish press freedom petition

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong reminded Hong Kong Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung of his promise to not restrict press freedom. (FCC Letter of Concern on a Proposed Change to the Companies Ordinance)

In your address to us last month you pledged to uphold the importance of a free and open media in Hong Kong and we believe that the ability of foreign correspondents and journalists to legally access information about individuals and their companies is vital to our role of reporting on issues of public interest.

We call on the government to withdraw this amendment and to maintain its support for the free flow of information in Hong Kong.

And seeing how the Hong Kong exchange is linked with markets in Europe and the Americas, it seems that any law that restricts vital access to information about Hong Kong companies also affects American and European companies.

Looks like what goes on in Hong Kong does indeed have an impact on what goes on in the United States. (There’s that old Local-Global thing again.)

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, Harassment, Press Freedom

Censorship rules on Hillary’s call for Internet freedom in China

In honor of the departure of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, here are the censorship rules issued by the Chinese government following here 2010 call for an end to Internet censorship.

(Many thanks to China Digital Times Directives from the Ministry of Truth)

Censorship Vault: Hillary on Internet Freedom

Carry only domestic Xinhua copy regarding U.S. Secretary of State Hillary [Clinton]’s remarks on Internet Freedom. All other coverage must be deleted without exception. Keep close tabs on forums, blogs, instant messaging tools, and social networking services. We urge websites in all locales to earnestly implement these measures. There are still websites which have not implemented related requests with regards to Hillary’s remarks on Internet freedom, and have republished coverage against regulation. We urge websites in all locals to seriously and thoroughly investigate their main and subsidiary sites. Documents not in compliance with these requests must be deleted without exception. (January 22, 2010)

Not only did Clinton call for Internet freedom on January 21, 2010, she also asked China to investigate the hacking of Gmail accounts that lead Google to stop censoring its search engine and eventually end its mainland Chinese operation. China’s Foreign Ministry retorted that “China’s Internet is open” and that Clinton’s speech was “harmful to Sino-American relations.”

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Filed under Censorship, China

Social media picking up slack in Mexico war zones

A study conducted by Microsoft investigates the emergence of “war correspondents” in Mexico. The study looked at how citizens are using Twitter to disseminate information about gang attacks and potentially dangerous situations to large numbers of people.

InSight Crime reported on the Microsoft study:

The study, titled “The New War Correspondents: The Rise of Civic Media Curation in Urban Warfare” (pdf), analyzed Tweets relating to the Mexican cities of Reynosa, Monterrey, Saltillo, and Veracruz over a 16-month period. The study identified a group of people, dubbed “curators,” who published a high volume of Tweets related to drug violence, sharing information and warning other users. The report argues that in some ways, these individuals are taking on the role of a new generation of “war correspondents.”

For the authors of the report, the importance of these citizen curators points to a deficiency in more traditional sources of information, namely the government and established media outlets. Local governments and newspapers often face intense intimidation from organized criminal groups, with many forced to cooperate with them, or to refrain from printing stories on criminal violence.

The independent media have been attacked by the narcos for reporting on any deaths related to the gang warfare taking place in Mexico’s northern regions. Likewise, government officials have also been threatened (some bribed) to prevent them from taking any action.

The intimidation of media and government sources leaves a vacuum of information. And that is where the citizen journalists step in. But there are problems with this as well.

No matter where citizen journalists operate — Mexico, Syria, New Orleans, etc — the bottom line is the credibility of the reporter. With no way to check the veracity of the information, receivers of the news have to make their own judgments about credibility.

As InSight Crime points out:

There are risks in leaving the gathering and dissemination of crime news in the hands of these non-professional curators. One question is how to assess the reliability of the information. Using Twitter allows these contributors to avoid the dangers faced by traditional media outlets, as they can remain anonymous, but this very anonymity makes it difficult to know if their information can be trusted.

And, as the Microsoft authors point out, some of the curators of information gain credibility and trust.

Social media curators seek to spread information to new audiences by selectively identifying and sharing content coming from the broader stream. These curators develop reputations with their audiences based on the perceived value of the information that they spread. Some curators simply pass on information posted by others, while other curators add commentary or insert their own interpretations or updates.

For journalists, tapping into this Twitter exchange could help develop stories and gain a better understanding of what is happening in the drug wars in Mexico. (And maybe even learn how there are cross border issues involved.)

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Filed under Connections, Mexico

Colombian group issues pamphlet to help in libel cases

Colombia — like in too many places in the world — criminalizes libel.

According to the Free Press Foundation (FLIP in Spanish) there have been 48 criminal charges filed against journalists during the last seven years and 25 lawsuits for crimes like slander or libel.

To fight this situation, FLIP released “Outside Justice: a manual for journalists facing slander and libel charges.”

Press freedom group in Colombia releases guide for reporters facing libel, slander charges

FLIP website

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Filed under Harassment, South America

Cuban Internet link activated?

The BBC reports that maybe– just maybe — a high-speed Internet connection into Cuba has finally been activated. The report adds there appears to be no lag in transmission time due to censorship software, such as what happens in China.

But it is not all that great.

‘Curious’ Cuban net cable has activated, researchers say

Curiously, researchers noted traffic via the cable seemed only to be flowing into the country, not out of it.

“In the past week, our global monitoring system has picked up indications that this cable has finally been activated, although in a rather curious way,” wrote Doug Madory, Renesys’ senior researcher.

He explained that in the past week it had been noted that Telefonica, the Spanish telecoms company, had begun appearing in their data for Cuba.

When contacted by the BBC, Telefonica was not able to confirm that the activation had taken place.

But Renesys’ data is a strong indicator that the cable is beginning to show signs of life – be it over five years since its original inception.

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of Information