But at least it is not as bad as 2013.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China conducts an annual survey of its members (and a few outsiders) on the visa renewal process.
The bottom line for the 2014 survey period: “In general, the visa renewal process went more smoothly this year than last.”
The survey of 2013 was a damning indictment of the pettiness of the Chinese government authorities:
This year it became more obvious than ever that the Chinese authorities abuse the press card and visa renewal process in a political manner, treating journalistic accreditation as a privilege rather than a professional right, and punishing reporters and media organizations for the content of their previous coverage if it has displeased the government.
The most public cases were the denial of visas (or slow walking of the paperwork) to the New York Times and Bloomberg for their reports on how wealthy family members of prominent Communist Party members became and where they are hiding their money.
(See summary here.)
The 2014 report showed that while the visas were handled in a more professional manner, there were still cases of intimidation and out-right threats.
“In one run-in with the authorities, they made perfectly clear they would see us again at the end of the year for visa-renewal. In that sense it was a covert threat.”
“In case of new hire, visa delay was explained by MOFA in a meeting with bureau chief as being the result of concerns about bias in her previous job.”
“I had two interviews where I was questioned about my reporting on Xinjiang and told that the Foreign Ministry would need to be satisfied with my attitude in order to approve my press card. In the end they said they were and that my card would be approved.”
Animosity toward Western media (and Japan is counted in that group, oddly enough) has been a standard feature of how Beijing deals with the press. When we lived in Shanghai — 1992-1994 — the two Western journalists allowed to live there (Reuters and — I think — Asahi Shinbun) had their phone lines cut and received extra shadows in the lead up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
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.
There is little I can add to this piece by Roy Greenslade at the Guardian. Just click on the headline and read the piece.
Arrested Turkish TV chief writes an open letter from his jail cell
ANGELA KÖCKRITZ, a correspondent for Die Zeit describes the hell she and her Chinese assistant were put through by Chinese authorities. None of it should suprise anyone, except those who think things really have changed in the way the Chinese government operates.
How my assistant got into trouble with Beijing’s security apparatus and I got to know the Chinese authorities
This is the really scary part of the story: “Zhang Miao is a completely normal Chinese citizen. And we will treat her like we deal with Chinese citizens.”
Believe me, that is not something to make one feel comfortable.
Once again Freedom House does a great job of putting things into perpective with thos nasty things called FACTS:
Democracy Is the Best Defense Against Terrorism
Just off the top of my head I can see a handful of useful articles that tie in domestic and international issues.
- What are the conditions that lead to this conclusion? (If poverty is a major contributing factor — and in many cases it is — then maybe development aid programs and greater diplomatic involvement are a more cost-effective way to address terrorism and security. That means a closer look at the non-military international affairs budget.)
- Why are there fewer attacks in democracies? (I would argue becuase there are fewer domestic terrorists. People have a legitimate way to fight back against the government.)
- How do adherence to human rights and civil rights affect violence and terrorist acts? (Again, if a society offers decent treatment to its people in a fair and equitable manner, there are fewer reasons to engage in terrorism or any acts of violence against society.)
- How are free and independent media operations important to democracy and limiting home-grown terrorism? (Access to information not slanted for poltical or governmental purposes goes a long way to easing tensions.)
I am sure there are more, but I am still groggy after a 10-hour drive back home.
Two attacks took place against Jimmy Lai, owner of Next Media in Hong Kong.
The attackers tossed Molotov cocktails at Lai’s house and office.
Lai is a well-known supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and a vocal critic of Beijing.
Here are some stories about the attack:
Once again proof that all it takes is some encouragement and a few — VERY FEW — bucks to put together a major effort to expose violations of human rights, including freedom of speech and press.
Advocacy groups in Mexico and Brazil map attacks on journalists to counteract threats
The crowd-sourced maps will help journalists know more about the risks they might face as the enter an area before they start “doing journalism.”
The Mexican map — Perriodistas en Riesgo — was created in 2012 and focuses on where journalists are under threat.
According to the Knight Center:
Attacks are divided into four categories: physical, psychological, digital and legal. Each category can then be modified by multiple subcategories. For example, a physical attack could be a kidnapping, beating, disappearance, murder, etc, and one attack, such as a reporter being mugged and having his cellphone and laptop stolen, could be categorized as a physical and a digital attack.
The Brazilian map — Violacoes a Liberdade de Expressao — casts a much wider net. It only started in November 2014 but does look at all forms of violations of freedom of expressions, including attacks on journalists and legal proceedings designed to silence human rights advocates.
The items on the Brazilian site are confirmed by Article 19 before being posted to the site.