Monthly Archives: April 2015

Freedom House Press Freedom Report Released

The annual Freedom of the Press report from Freedom House is out. And things don’t look good.

Conditions for the media deteriorated sharply in 2014 to reach their lowest point in more than 10 years, as journalists around the world encountered more restrictions from governments, militants, criminals, and media owners, according to Freedom of the Press 2015, released today by Freedom House.

“Journalists faced intensified pressure from all sides in 2014,” said Jennifer Dunham, project manager of the report. “Governments used security or antiterrorism laws as a pretext to silence critical voices, militant groups and criminal gangs used increasingly brazen tactics to intimidate journalists, and media owners attempted to manipulate news content to serve their political or business interests.”

The worst thing is that the decline is not just because of one or two things. The attack on free and independent media is coming from all sides.

Governments are making it more difficult for reporters to interview government officials, restrictions on free movement limit reporters’ access to conflict areas, violence is threatened from government agents, pro-government agents and just plain thugs, and the list goes on.

The summary of the report is depressing enough.

Percentage of population with access to free media:

  • Americas: 38 (with Latin America at 2 percent)
  • Asia-Pacific: 5
  • Middle East-North Africa: 2
  • EurAsia: 0 (18 percent Partly Free, 82 percent Not Free)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 3
  • Europe: 66 (but in a downward slope for past 10 years)

Read the report. It is not the most cheerful document you will read, but it is important.

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Filed under Press Freedom

Nepal Turns Down Help From Taiwan. Beijing Factor?

Really? More than 3,000 people are dead with the number rising, and Nepal turns down help from Taiwan?

Nepal turns down Taiwan’s offer of quake assistance

Too often when a country turns down anything from Taiwan it is because that country is afraid of pissing off Beijing. The article mentioned above does explain why Nepal turned down the offer. but the implied reason is clear to anyone who has spent time paying attention to the China-Taiwan history.

It would be nice to know if the rejection is because of Nepal’s fear of China or for some other reason.

Just as the mere mention of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton now gets Tea Partiers frothing at the mouth, for many years any mention of Taiwan doing anything would send Beijing into apocalyptic fits. The leadership in Zhongnanhai would start threatening governments who played nice with Taiwan and claimed any acceptance of Taiwanese help “hurt the feelings of Chinese everywhere.”

In recent years, the relationship has gotten more civilized, but Beijing is ever wary of Taiwan making too many friends.

A bit of background:

Ever since the Kuomingdan government was tossed off the mainland and onto the island of Taiwan in 1949, the Communist leaders in China have seen Taiwan, under the name Republic of China, as wayward province that needs to be reintegrated into the China fold. And the 1949 government of Taiwan saw itself as the real leaders of all of China.

That is were it all sat until the 1970s — with the US siding with Taiwan — when Nixon went to Beijing and Taiwan was booted out of the United Nations as the Chinese delegation and replaced with Beijing.

Now Taiwan is recognized by about a dozen countries, mostly because of the large amount of development aid (and other funds) the Taipei government has been able to spend on those countries.

By the early 1990s Taiwan moved toward democracy. (Although in 1992, the government still referred to China as “the Mainland” rather than China.)

By 2000 Taiwan had free and open elections, bringing about the first peaceful change in government leadership in China’s 5,000 year history.

At the same time China and Taiwan came to a tacit agreement to stop the public sniping at each other. That is unless Taiwan wanted into international organizations.

During the 2003 SARS scare in south China, Taiwan had a lot to offer the World Health Organization but was refused entrance by China. After a few more years of leaning on the door and engaging in lots of diplomacy, Taiwan was finally invited to observer status in the WHO in 2009.

What has been clear over the years that even though the level of the rhetoric has eased in the past few years, other countries are still fearful of facing Beijing’s wrath if they do anything with Taiwan. That fear may be why Nepal turned down expert help.

And turning down help in a natural disaster is not something any good government should do. (Just as the PRI in Mexico how that worked out for them following the 1985 earthquake. — They lost their monopoly status as the ruling party in Mexico shortly after the earthquake.)

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Filed under China, Connections

Local-Global: Fairfax County Rescue Alerted for Nepal Earthquake Help

The Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue team has a global reputation for its work. And now, once again, it is being called up to help people half a world away.


VA-TF1/USA-1 has been alerted for the Nepal earthquake. All media inquires should report to 14725-H Flint Lee Rd. Chantilly, VA 20151

This is one of the best examples of how something in another country has an impact on something local.

Specifically Virginia Task Force 1 has worked to provide rescue and relief in just about every major disaster around the world. (See their work around the world here.)

There is no better connection to the rest of the world than one that helps save lives.

And now they have been alerted to provide assistance to the victims of the Nepal earthquake.


 Following the Haiti earthquake I noted how the Fairfax team was involved.

At the time I said the Fairfax teams deserved more coverage — as did all the SAR teams. And I stand by that still.

Maybe some local news organizations might want to step up and do something about it.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

China’s Censorship: It’s not just on the Internet

We all know about the Great Firewall of China and how it tries to block anything the leadership in Beijing doesn’t like. As in anything they don’t declare is “safe” for the Chinese people. That means Twitter and Facebook with their free-flowing way of communicating is blocked. (See for yourself at Great Firewall of China, where you can test any website to see — in real-time — if it is being blocked by Chinese censors.)

Just because China has gotten all high-tech, does not mean they have forgotten about good old traditional media, such as books and academic papers.

The New York Times reports on how the daughter of retired party leader Li Rui is fighting to get the government to own up to its censorship practices. (Lawsuit Over Banned Memoir Asks China to Explain Censorship)

The book being held hostage by Chinese authorities is a memoir by her father. Basically it is a no holds barred look at the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party and government.

It seems Chinese censors have stepped up their efforts to prevent so-called subversive material coming into China from Hong Kong. They even have a code name for the operation — Southern Hill Project.

Chinese academics and dissidents have been able to get papers and memoirs published in Hong Kong because the former British colony and now Special Administrative Region of China still enjoys civic and human rights the rest of China does not. According to the Times’ article, border crossing agents subject incoming luggage to X-ray scans to look for hidden books and documents, in addition to random searches of bags being brought into the country.

And this is the problem with censorship. If a country really wants to impose its views on its people by blocking any outside ideas, the effort keeps getting harder and harder. Also, it weakens whatever trust the people might have had in their government and lessens its legitimacy.

So if the rulers in Beijing really want to bring about an unstable society, they are doing all the right things to undermine any support they may have had with the people of China.

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Filed under Censorship, China

Real mature India! Al Jazeera shutdown over map.

The Indian government pulled the plug on Al Jazeera this week over a map: India takes al-Jazeera off-air in Kashmir map row

Yes, I know it is all about protecting national pride and all that. But really? 

India is the world’s largest democracy. It should act like one. Pulling the plug on a news organization that shows a map not to the government’s liking is hardly the sign of maturity or democratic principles.

Rather than issue a statement expressing their concern that maybe Al Jazeera had wrongly portrayed who controls what part of Kashmir, the Modi government gets all huffy and kicks over the table.

But to be fair, it is not just this government.

Past governments have gone just as crazy in calling any deviation from the official Indian map “cartographic aggression”.

In 2011, the previous government in India forced Economist to cover up a map used to illustrate a cover story about the border between India and Pakistan because it did not show full Indian sovereignty over Kashmir.

At the time, the magazine said the government was engaging in censorship.

And they were right then. And would be right again today.

Time to grow up India.

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Filed under Censorship, India