Just in case anyone ever thought good blogging (hell, even bad blogging) about events is not a form of journalism, they should look at China.
The Chinese government has been on a two-year rip against bloggers. The campaign matches the massive efforts to tighten the screws on press freedom.
In the case of bloggers, the problem is much greater. With the news outlets, the government can fire or re-assign reporters and editors who do not bow to their wishes. Bloggers, however, are individuals. That means the government has to go after each person one at a time and figure out how to apply pressure to get that person to stop. Failing that, out comes the hammer of prosecution and jail time. (Yep, in China “violators” of the rules of what can and cannot be published are given a fair trial, just before they are sentenced to jail. Funny how one always follows the other.)
China Digital News has a great summary of a larger piece by the Australian Financial Review on how the Chinese government has cracked down on bloggers.
From China Digital Times: How China Stopped Its Bloggers
Original Australian Financial Review piece: How China stopped its bloggers
Just like anywhere else in the world, China’s popular bloggers ply their craft via social media and are an eclectic mix of lawyers, academics, celebrities, investors, public intellectuals, food critics and journalists.
Yet they occupy a unique position in China as the only alternate voice to the party, and they speak to the world’s biggest internet population of 650 million people. And while they have never been accepted by the party, these so called “opinion leaders” were once tolerated, in what many saw as a necessary loosening of control in the age of social media and mobile internet.
That was until mid-2013 when the party resumed its previous role as the sole arbiter of what information the public should be told.
One example China Digital News brings up is the prosecution of Wu Gan, a provocative online campaigner.
From the South China Morning Post:
Observers said the government wanted to incriminate Wu Gan, 43, an influential online campaigner famed for his loud and colourful protests, to warn other activists not to target and embarrass even low-level officials.
Yan Xin, Wu’s lawyer, said prosecution authorities in Xiamen told him on Friday that they had granted police permission to arrest his client on two criminal charges – “inciting the subversion of state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
Remember that the Chinese government considers any discussion of a controversial issue or any questioning of government action to be “provoking trouble” and subverting state power.
The bottom line is that the administration of President Xi Jinping will not allow any dissent during his term. And he is going after not only the mainstream media but anyone who has an opinion not cleared by the central committee of the Communist Party.