Monthly Archives: December 2013

Chinese government continues to misunderstand what press freedom means

David Bandurski at China Media Project continues his excellent record of poking holes in the falsity of the words and deeds of the Chinese government when it comes to dealing with the media and the concept of press freedom.

His latest contribution — “Media control” in the United States — looks at a blog by an unknown writer who — conveniently — says the opinions are his own. (But the widespread coverage it has been given say otherwise.)

China has learned that international reports — such as the New York Times report on how the families of Chinese leaders amassed a fortune — have a serious play in domestic politics.

Rather than deal head on with the issue of corruption and nepotism, the Chinese government instead decided to twist facts and outright lie to show that the U.S. press is not free and is really controlled by the government and financial elite.

And the fun part is that this commentator from Beijing agrees with the US Tea Party:

[The US media] are particularly inclined to draw their information from liberal and reform-inclined special interest groups

 

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China steps up war on foreign correspondents

The rulers in Beijing have never liked having Western reporters in their country. Those pesky reporters just keep asking too many questions and refuse to just accept the government press releases as gospel truth.

In the wake of the November 13 Bloomberg and New York Times reports on how family members of leading government officials got rich, the government of China has been withholding visa renewals — normally a routine thing — for Bloomberg and NYT journalists.

Here is the latest from Foreign PolicyIs Beijing about to Boot the New York Times?

There have been previous kerfuffles, such as when the Times reported on the wealth accumulated by then prime minister Wen Jiabao in 2012.

Bloomberg got into trouble when it disclosed the family wealth of former party boss Bo Xilai and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In retaliation, the governemnt ordered local financial institutions to not buy Bloomberg terminals, which are the main profit-generating engine for the news organization. Censors also blocked its website.

The Foreign Policy article notes:

If Beijing actually does plan to expel both bureaus it would constitute the government’s biggest move against foreign reporters at least since the upheaval following the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Evan Osnos, a staff writer for the New Yorker and a long-time China correspondent, called this recent move “the Chinese government’s most dramatic attempt to insulate itself from scrutiny in the thirty-five years since China began opening to the world.” Paul Mooney, a longtime China-based chronicler of that country’s human rights abuses, had his visa rejected in early November, in another sign of tightening for foreign correspondents in China. Reuters, Bloomberg, and the New York Times “don’t have the ability to influence the Chinese government,” said Mooney. “I think we really need to have some kind of action. Maybe against media executives in China, or officials — to give the message that this is not acceptable.”

Foreign Policy quotes New York Times’ reporters as saying if the paper is kicked out of China, reporting would continue from Taiwan and Hong Kong. While not ideal situations, there is still a lot of information that can be gleaned from China in these two locations where press freedom is respected.

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Human Rights Day posting removed by Chinese censors

Weibo got nervous about a posting on Dec. 10 about Human Rights Day and so it removed it, even though the posting said nothing about China.

The China Media Project reports a post by Old Mu on Various Topics, a media executive with more than 1.7 million followers on  Weibo, was deleted early morning Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

CMP posted the “offending” item:

[Today is a big day] December 10 — World Human Rights Day. Every life is precious, regardless of whether one is rich or poor. No one’s rights can be infringed, whether they are high-level officials or ordinary people. No one’s right to free speech can be infringed, no matter whether they are famous or obscure. On World Human Rights Day, let us embrace equality, embrace human rights! Today, let us salute all those brave people who have sacrificed in the pursuit of human rights. Let us salute all the brave people who fight for human rights.

Read more at: World Human Rights Day post deleted

Guess discussing things such as freedom of speech are just too sensitive for the leadership in Beijing, even on Human Rights Day.

Oh, and the theme for this year’s Human Rights Day was “Working for your Rights.”

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WordPress goes to bat for blogger in censorship case

Real quick from PBS MediaShift: WordPress Goes to Court to Defend Censored Bloggers by Parker Higgins.

The blogging platform WordPress.com has taken the unusual — and welcome — step of going to court to defend its users against bogus copyright claims aimed at silencing their speech on the platform. Automattic, WordPress’s parent company, has joined two separate lawsuits that seek to hold the would-be censors of legitimate lawful speech accountable for their attempts.

WordPress is suing Straight Pride UK for sending bogus takedowns.

One of the targeted bloggers, Oliver Hotham, is a U.K. student journalist who wrote about a group called Straight Pride UK. That group issued a press statement explaining its concerns about the “homosexual agenda” and holding up Vladimir Putin as symbol of straight pride. When Hotham’s article quoting that press statement started to get attention, he was slapped with a takedown notice and told his quotes constituted copyright infringement.

The other case involved a website called “Retraction Watch,” run by two noted science journalists. The site tracks instances of published scientific papers being criticized or retracted, for reasons ranging from honest error to falsified data, and covering some controversial situations that may be embarrassing for the scientists involved.

Rest of story

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Biden chastises China for media policy

We have all known for a long time that the rulers in China do not like to have people looking into their business. Along those lines we also know that the basic rule is that the media need to be tightly controlled.

Unfortunately for the boys and girls in Beijing, once they opened up their country to the world, they also opened themselves to global scrutiny by the Western media.

One of the ways Beijing tries to keep prying eyes away is to deny Western journalists visas to work in China.

The use of the visa process is not unique to China, but they way they do it is typical of dictatorships trying to keep control of the message.

Recently China has been ticked off at The New York Times and Bloomberg after these two news organizations published articles about how the families of the ruling elite got wealthy. To retaliate over good and honest journalism, Beijing is holding up the normally routine process of renewing the visas for journalists from these news services.

On his recent trip to China, VP Biden took Beijing to task for their petty and childish actions.

“Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences,” Mr. Biden declared.

One of the nice things about the way Pres. Carter inserted human rights into the foreign policy dialog is that U.S. government officials feel obliged to speak out against political and press repression even as they work to have closer relations with countries such as China.

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Corruption, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

More political freedom=More press freedom=Less corruption

There really is something to be said for political and press freedom when it comes to fighting corruption. Each year groups come out with rankings of each of these but few have put them together.

And there is a link.

In those countries with limited or no political or press freedom, government officials get away with corruption with impunity. Ending corruption also means protecting political and press freedoms.

Journalists unencumbered by political dictates from corrupt government leaders can go where ever the story leads. They can call into question government policies by informing the public of questionable practices.

Of course free media depend on political freedom as well. The information dug up by enterprising reporters means little unless the public can act on it. And for that public to act, it needs political freedom.

The equation is easy: More political freedom=More press freedom=Less corruption.

Let’s take a look at the bottom of the list for corruption, as listed in the 2013 Transparency International Index.

Corruption Index 2013 Bottom 20

Rank

Country

2013 Score

2012 Score

157

Burundi

21

19

157

Myanmar

21

15

157

Zimbabwe

21

20

160

Cambodia

20

22

160

Eritrea

20

25

160

Venezuela

20

19

163

Chad

19

19

163

Equatorial Guinea

19

20

163

Guinea Bissau

19

25

163

Haiti

19

19

167

Yemen

18

23

168

Syria

17

26

168

Turkmenistan

17

17

168

Uzbekistan

17

17

171

Iraq

16

18

172

Libya

15

21

173

South Sudan

14

0

174

Sudan

11

13

175

Afghanistan

8

8

175

North Korea

8

8

175

Somalia

8

8

Now let’s look at the bottom of the political rights/civil liberties list from Freedom House.

Freedom House Political Freedom Bottom 20

Edition *

2013

Year(s) covered

 

2012

 

 

PR

CL

Status

Iran

6

6

NF

Iraq

6

6

NF

Rwanda

6

6

NF

Tajikistan

6

6

NF

United Arab Emirates

6

6

NF

Yemen

6

6

NF

Zimbabwe

6

6

NF

Belarus

7

6

NF

Chad

7

6

NF

China

7

6

NF

Cuba

7

6

NF

Laos

7

6

NF

Equatorial Guinea

7

7

NF

Eritrea

7

7

NF

North Korea

7

7

NF

Saudi Arabia

7

7

NF

Somalia

7

7

NF

Sudan

7

7

NF

Syria

7

7

NF

Turkmenistan

7

7

NF

And finally, the bottom of the press freedom group, also by Freedom House.

Freedom House Press Freedom Bottom 20

Press Freedom Edition

2013

Year(s) Covered

2012

SCORE

STATUS

Ethiopia

82

NF

China

83

NF

Congo, Democratic Republic of

83

NF

Gambia, The

83

NF

Kazakhstan

84

NF

Laos

84

NF

Saudi Arabia

84

NF

Somalia

84

NF

Vietnam

84

NF

West Bank and Gaza Strip

84

NF

Bahrain

86

NF

Syria

88

NF

Equatorial Guinea

91

NF

Cuba

92

NF

Iran

92

NF

Belarus

93

NF

Eritrea

94

NF

Uzbekistan

95

NF

North Korea

96

NF

Turkmenistan

96

NF

Basically we see a rogues list of repressive regimes in each of these groups.

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Connecting corruption and traffic lights

I really like it when experts (and journalists) take a complicated issue and connect it to something John and Jane Doe on Main Street can understand.

And Alejandro Salas, Regional Director for the Americas at Transparency International, has done just that: CPI 2013: TRAFFIC LIGHTS IN THE AMERICAS – LIFESAVERS OR URBAN DECORATIONS?

Salas notes that in Latin America there are some pretty tough traffic laws and really draconian laws against corrupt practices. And yet in most of Latin America a red light is a suggestion to stop rather than a command. Likewise, business and government officials see the need to engage in corrupt practices because, “it is the way to get things done” thus making the anti-corruption laws suggestions rather than anything that should be enforced.

If you look at the Transparency International Corruption Index for 2013, you can see a correlation between corruption and traffic deaths, granted not a perfect 1:1 but enough to draw some useful conclusions.

Country TI Ranking Deaths per 100,000
Canada 9 6.8
United States 19 11.4
Uruguay 19 21.5
Costa Rica 49 12.7
Brazil 72 22.5
Peru 83 15.9
El Salvador 83 21.9
Ecuador 102 27.0
Argentina 106 12.6
Dominican Republic 123 41.7
Honduras 140 18.8
Venezuela                160 37.2

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