Tag Archives: Iran

Prejudice: A Natural Outcome of Censorship

China Digital Times pulled a great item from an interview with Chinese publisher Bao Pu and writers Guo Xiaolu and Hao Qun (who goes by the pen name Murong Xuecun) from the June 3 issue of Foreign Policy.

The blockage of the Internet by the Chinese government means, said the authors and publisher, that people are not getting enough information to make rational decisions.

[R]elatively few people actually bypass censored information on the Internet. But why? Censorship in the long run breeds prejudice. Once you have this prejudice, you think you know everything, but you don’t. That’s why they’re not actively seeking — because they think there’s nothing out there. It’s a vicious cycle.

I have long argued that censorship means the people of a country will begin to rely more on rumors and prejudices than on cold hard facts. China’s rulers, however, say too much unregulated (censored) information leads to social instability.

What they really mean is that once people start thinking critically, the iron-heel rule of the Communist Party in China will be weakened.

And what goes for China goes for other dictatorships. Think Iran, Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe. Even the leaders in proto-dictatorships such as Singapore and Malaysia want to control all forms of media to protect their hold on power.

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Middle East, Press Freedom

Forbidden Voices: A film about women standing up to dictators

Three women who are standing up to dictators are featured in a new documentary “Forbidden Voices” by Swiss director Barbara Miller.

The women come from Cuba (Yoani Sánchez), Iran (Farnaz Seifi) and China (Zeng Jinyan)

Seems to be a film worth watching.

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Filed under Censorship, Connections, Cuba

No one said dictators were stupid, just brutal

Fareed Zakaria brought to the forefront the real issue in dealing with dictatorships. (How dictators have evolved with the times)

It is just not possible anymore for the bosses in China or Iran or Cuba to pull off a good old fashion purge by killing hundreds or thousands of people. Too many people have access to mobile phones and the Internet.

So the dictators need to be more subtle. Instead of constant crack downs, the repression is focused.

Zakaria explains it best:

Consider China. There’s a new study out this week by three political scientists at Harvard. They’ve devised a way to analyze millions of social media posts in China. What’s special is that they claim to do this before the Chinese government gets to censor them – so it provides a unique insight not just into what the Chinese people think, but also what the government deems necessary to censor.

What do they find? Contrary to what you’d think, it turns out criticisms of the state are not more likely to get censored. Even vitriolic criticisms are allowed. Instead, the focus is on stopping mass mobilization. Last year Beijing blocked internet searches for Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” to prevent discussions about the Arab Spring. Similarly last week searches for the numbers 4/6 were censored – the numbers represented June 4th, the anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

But for anyone following what the leadership in Beijing has done for the past few years, this is no surprise. It is nice to have it put in context.

Other ways, of course, are to follow the path of Hugo Chavez Venezuela. His government enacts laws that make it a crime to criticize the government in the media. And, at the same time, he sends out party loyalists to threaten and vandalize the independent media that is left.

Like I said: Just because they are dictators doesn’t mean they are stupid.

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, Press Freedom

People’s Daily Admits: “Chinese media must sing the main theme”

No more hiding behind democracy with Chinese characteristics or “our own of version of press freedom.” The mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China said it straight out: There cannot be free press in China as long as the Communist Party rules.

Thanks to the China Media Project for Who is Beijing Daily speaking for?

CMP reports that an editorial in the paper criticized “commercial newspapers and magazines” in China of being infected with Western notions of journalism. (That would be things like asking questions instead of taking dictation and seeking out views other than the official version of a situation.)

The  editorial says Western concepts of the media’s role do not suit China’s unique “circumstances”.

 “Chinese media must sing the main theme,” the editorial said, a reference to the media’s role as propaganda vehicles for the CCP. “This is determined by China’s political system, and accords with the realities of China as a nation of 1.3 billion people. The fact is that for China to develop it must maintain social stability, and it must create a public opinion environment conducive to stability.”

So it is the same old meme that party/government must control the media to ensure stability.

They seem to keep missing the point that NO ONE in China trusts the state-controlled media. More people depend on word of mouth, text messages and Internet chatrooms/micro-blogs for news.

And we all know how reliable all those outlets are. (Ever play the game of “telephone” with 10 people? Try it with several hundreds of millions.)

Here is the bottom line for the folks at Zhongnanhai: Controlling the media leads to rumors. Rumors lead to inaccurate reports. Inaccurate reports lead to distrust in the government. Distrust of the government leads to instability.

The “Western” alternative: A free press dispels rumors with facts. With facts people see potential solutions to problems and tend not to panic. When people don’t panic stability is achieved.

Maybe these concepts are too simple for the party leadership to grasp.

Oh, and this goes for all dictatorships. You listening Syria, Cuba, Iran and Saudi Arabia? (Freedom House Press Freedom Index)

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Filed under Censorship, China

Top 10 Censored Countries.

CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney counts down the 10 countries where the press is most tightly restricted

China didn’t make the list but not from lack of trying.

China not most censored, but may be most ambitious

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Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage

Arab and Persian Winter Not Good For Freedom of Expression

Looks as if the Syrian and Iranian governments are dead set against allowing their people express their opinions. Two stories in recent days make it very clear.

Syrian media awaken despite clampdown


Iran Mounts New Web Crackdown

The Syrian action makes it more dangerous each day for professional and citizen journalists to report on the government’s attacks on demonstrators.

Now, journalists documenting the uprising are prime targets of the security forces, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.

“They are snatched from their homes, off the street or place of employment and held incommunicado,” he said. Although the contributors to Syria Wants Freedom and Hurriyat have not been arrested, all kinds of media workers have been detained, including those who worked as reporters before the revolution, bloggers such as the activist Razan Ghazzawi, and people who are not journalists in the traditional sense but have documented protests on mobile phones and uploaded the footage online, he said.

In Iran, the government is taking a page out of China’s book and tightening control of the Internet, including placing cameras in Internet cafes.

In the most sweeping move, Iran issued regulations giving Internet cafes 15 days to install security cameras, start collecting detailed personal information on customers and document users’ online footprints.

Until now, Iran’s cybercafes have been a youth-culture mainstay of most towns and neighborhoods, used not only by activists but also by other Iranians who believe the security of their home computers is already compromised.

None of this is surprising or unexpected. But it is clear — in both countries — that there is plenty of pushing back against the threats and intimidation from the governments.

What is clear is that like most dictatorships the Syrian and Iranian leadership are most fearful of their own people.

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Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage

Difficult places for visitors to get into

Budget Travel published a list of the 8 Most Complicated Countries to Visit

For anyone who pays attention to international travel, the list is no big surprise:

  • India
  • Russia
  • China
  • Brazil
  • Bhutan
  • Iran
  • Kazakhstan
  • Saudi Arabia

From my view, some cause problems just because the governments are bureaucratic nightmares (India and Brazil). Others are problems because the governments want to limit the influences of outside thinking (Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and Bhutan).

It should be no surprise that six of the eight countries on this list are either partly free or not free according to the 2011 Freedom House Survey of Freedom. Only Brazil and India are free.

From a free press perspective the countries listed are either partly free or not free.

From a perspective of the “not-free” countries such as Iran and China, making it difficult to get in is understandable. They don’t want their people getting any “strange” ideas from foreign visitors. And tourism is a far better way to export “dangerous” ideas about freedom and free speech than any other form of activity.

Tourists from democracies just can’t help acting differently from tourists from less free places. A tourist ministry person in Brazil once told me he could tell the difference between the Chinese-American tourists in Brazil from the Chinese tourists just by looking at them. He said the walk and demeanor of the Americans was more confident while the Chinese tourists were more hesitant and cautious.

And we see the same with journalists. Those who are used to working in an atmosphere of freedom tend to be a bit more confident and willing to challenge assumptions and beliefs so as to better understand the situation.

And to be fair, let’s look at the U.S. visa situation.

Here is the official US government line: (Emphasis mine)

International visitors add greatly to our nation’s cultural, education and economic life. We continue the proud tradition of welcoming visitors to the United States, with secure borders and open doors.

Visa Processing Time Inforation

Recent changes in U.S. laws governing visa policy and procedures have increased the amount of time it can take to obtain a visa. Apply early! Even with the visa processing improvements that have been made and will continue to be made, it is inevitable that delays will sometimes occur. Processing times will vary.

The State Department’s goal is visa delivery no more than 30 days from the time of application in most cases, although cases that require administrative processing could take longer. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of application. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case. Therefore, before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants or their representatives will need to wait at least 90 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.

If you want to visit the U.S. and require a visa, plan to schedule your visa interview well in advance of your departure date. Learn more by reviewing this website information and contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for detailed “how-to” instructions.

At least there is the visa waiver program that allows citizens of about 30 countries to get in without a visa:

Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States (U.S.) without a visa if they meet certain requirements. All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the U.S. without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. See important information about additional digital photograph and e-passport requirements for VWP travelers. Other foreign citizens will need a nonimmigrant visa.

To hear it from people not in waiver countries, the US is just as restrictive as any of the difficult eight listed in Budget Travel. And the process may seem unfair to many who are rejected. But by and large, the US process is transparent and consistent. (Yes, there are the odd times when a visa adjudicating officer has a bad day, but those are becoming less common than in the past.) The biggest problem for many is this whole “plan ahead” idea. (But we see that issue with a lot of Americans trying to go to Brazil and China as well.)

Lastly, the US government — along with state and local governments — have finally woken up to the major economic benefit  foreign tourists bring. (This is replacing the old idea that all visitors want to stay illegally in the States.) A while back a study showed that for every 82 visas issued in Brazil, one job in Florida (mostly in the tourism trade) was created. And the US issues hundreds (if not thousands) of visas a week.


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Filed under Connections, Story Ideas