This article was first posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.
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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This item first appeared on the website of the Washington, DC, chapter of the SPJ
By Alice Ollstein
How do you distinguish between trustworthy news and propaganda? Is it ethical to accept gifts from a source? How can we keep publishing serious stories when our readers and editors are demanding clickbait?
These were some of the many questions tackled in a cross-cultural discussion in early June between SPJ members in DC and a team of four journalists from Kazakhstan who came to the U.S. on a study tour organized by the State Department. Dan Kubiske, the co-chair of the SPJ’s International Committee, and newly elected local board member Alice Ollstein represented the SPJ at the meeting.
The four Kazakh reporters, who work for various print, radio, TV and digital outlets, offered a window into their lives, including their experiences with government censorship.
“We have to use code words,” explained one. “For example, if the value of the currency is falling, we call it a ‘correction.’”
Another added she routinely gets angry calls from government officials who sometimes demand a critical story be taken down or a photo changed to one that’s more flattering. “”But at least we can post a critical report, and it will be up for a few hours before we are forced to take it down.”
Kazakhstan ranks poorly on press freedom indices by Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders. Journalists can be jailed or heavily fined for “defaming” the president or other elected officials, and dozens of reporters were charged in the last year alone. This has created an environment where outlets self-censor out of fear of legal retribution.
Kubiske told the Kazakh just about the only time reporters in the United States go to jail is to protect an anonymous source. Ollstein added denial of access is also a major problem reporters have covering the government.
Over all, the meeting focused ethical, economic, and organizational challenges that are universal to reporters in every country, from the allure of easy clickbait to the difference between the appearance of a conflict of interest and the genuine article. While the discussion revealed that what might be an ethical and normal practice in one country could be verboten in another, fairness and accuracy are valued across national borders.
Meetings such as these give U.S. journalists better insight into under-covered parts of the world and help dispel stereotypes about the U.S. and its press corp. In addition, they can foster invaluable connections and help build a strong international community of journalists all struggling for free and independent media.
This was first posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi decided that any questions about China’s human rights record is not something he likes being asked. Likewise, he figures no one else should be asked about it either.
An old friend, Frank Ching in Hong Kong reported about a little dust up during a joint press conference Yi had with Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Stephane Dion.
Seems a reporter asked Dion aobut China’s human right’s record. Yi jumped in, preventing Dion from answering the question. Yi then proceeded to give the usual lies about how people in China enjoy all sorts of human rights, he then added no one but the Chinese people have a right to talk about the situation in the Middle Kingdom.
Yi then began berating the Canadian reporter for daring to ask a question about human rights in China.
- “Do you understand China?
- “Have you been to China?
- “Do you know that China is now the world’s second-biggest economy, with US$8,000 per capita?”
Frank hits the nail on the head: “If that is the way China behaves when it is the world’s second-biggest economy, what is one to expect when it becomes No. 1?”
He is also right when he wrote:
The media’s response should be to keep peppering him with questions everywhere he travels about China’s treatment of human rights advocates, the Hong Kong booksellers, the imprisonment of the Canadian missionary Kevin Garratt and the South China Sea.
Since these are the questions Wang doesn’t like to hear, these are the questions that should be asked.
Over and over again until they get a proper airing.
The problem is that only reporters who never hope to get to China are the ones who can ask those questions.
Journalists already in China who push as Frank urges will find out their visas are suddenly “out of order” or will not be renewed when they expire. Journalists outside China who ask these kinds of questions will find they will not be able to get a visa to visit China, even as a tourist. And forget about being on any agreed-to list of journalists to cover any event that involves the Chinese government any where in the world.
Frank looks into the big picture of the Chinese attitude that it has the right to impose its form of press repression around the world. (Think China’s application for the 2022 Olympics.)
June 4 is remembered as the day the Chinese government brutally shut down a peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square in Beijing that was calling for reforms in the ruling Communist Party and in the government.
One of the most famous scenes is the lone man with shopping bags standing up to a column of tanks.
While no official death toll has been released by the Chinese government, estimates are that hundreds died in the army attack on the demonstrators. An additional 10,000 or so were arrested.
Each year in Hong Kong there is a major commemoration ceremony — the only place in China that has such a thing, thanks to the protection of civil rights enshrined in the handover treaty of 1997.
Also each year the Chinese government tries to censor any reference to June 4 or the demonstration. And each year it fails, because the Netizens of China stay one step ahead of censors.
One of the earliest work arounds was a call to honor the dead of May 35. Or Remember the Square of 8. (For the math-phobic, 8×8=64 and 64=June 4)
The good people at China Digital Times have been keeping track of the code words and phrases the Chinese censors have banned on the Internet. One of the more humorous items is how the ban on “64” caused reporting on the Shanghai stock market fell 64.89 points. (Yes, that looks like 6/4/89) Rather than risk anyone thinking it was a Tiananmen remembrance, the government doctored the stock report for public consumption.
Here is the China Digital Times list. It is well worth the read.: Five Years of Sensitive Words on June Fourth
Be sure to pay close attention the ASCII cartoon of tanks rolling over a person.
The Committee to Protect Journalists was denied observer status at the United Nations after China and a few other anti-free press governments stepped in.
The CPJ has been trying to get accreditation as an observer in the Economic Social Committee — ECOSOC — Non-governmental consultative body. Groups that are included under the ECOSOC NGO group umbrella include the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, Greenpeace, and other “dangerous” groups.
Those voting against allowing CPJ into the NGO group were China and Azerbaijan, Burundi, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, and Venezuela. India, Iran, and Turkey abstained. In other words, no surprises there.
Reports on the denial:
Originally posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World
If you ever wondered why there is a better selection of tortillas in your local store or why getting good garam masala is suddenly much easier, the Pew Research Group has a quick way to look at immigration and emigration.
The Pew Group has a GREAT interactive graphic to look at immigrant and emigrant movements during the past 25 years at Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, from 1990-2015
Along with an interactive map, the Pew Group added a table so you can see with real numbers migration movement.
I’ll let the Pew Group explain what its wonderful graphic depicts:
The figures in this interactive feature refer to the total number (or cumulative “stocks”) of migrants living around the world as of 1990, 2000, 2010 or 2015 rather than to the annual rate of migration (or current “flows”) in a given year. Since migrants have both an origin and a destination, international migrants can be viewed from two directions – as an emigrant (leaving an origin country) or as an immigrant (entering a destination country).
According to the United Nations Population Division, an international migrant is someone who has been living for one year or longer in a country other than the one in which he or she was born. This means that many foreign workers and international students are counted as migrants. Additionally, the UN considers refugees and, in some cases, their descendants (such as Palestinians born in refugee camps outside of the Palestinian territories) to be international migrants. For the purposes of this interactive feature, estimates of the number of unauthorized immigrants living in various countries also are included in the total counts. On the other hand, tourists, foreign-aid workers, temporary workers employed abroad for less than a year and overseas military personnel typically are not counted as migrants.
And for those wondering, the total number of migrants living in the United States in 2015 came from:
- Mexico – 12 million
- China – 2.1 million
- India – 1.9 million
- Philippines – 1.7 million
- Puerto Rico – 1.7 million
- Viet Nam – 1.3 million
- El Salvador – 1.2 million
- Cuba – 1.1 million
- South Korea – 1.1 million
- Dominican Republic – 940,000
- Guatemala – 880,000
Remember, this is the TOTAL number of people from these countries living in the United States, NOT the number arriving in 2015. And I would personally put the migration from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland as internal migration rather than international. (That is why I have a Top 11, rather than Top 10). Seems the United Nations has its own way of looking at these things.
And in case you are wondering, in 2015 there were 180,000 people from Iraqi living in the United States and 70,000 from Syria, both up from 40,000 each in 1990.
Local reporters can follow-up on this information for a local angle by using material from the U.S. Census Bureau.
For example, I know from the American FactFinder, there are a lot of Ethiopian restaurants in Fairfax County, Virginia (population 1.1 million) because Ethiopian immigrants are the largest African group in Fairfax – 6,000 out of 31,000 African native-born residents.
You can get good papusas because Salvadorans make up the largest single group of Latin American residents — 32,000 out of 102,000 from Latin America.
We all know Annandale, Va., is known as Little Seoul. Well, the Census numbers bear that out, of the 170,000 people born in Asia in Fairfax County, 30,000 are from Korea. But what should be evident to anyone paying attention, the Indian and Vietnamese presence is also big. Fairfax has 29,000 people who were born in Indian and 23,000 born in Vietnam.
Not to leave out Europe, but let’s face it, the numbers are weak compared to the rest of the world. Fairfax has 25,000 people born in Europe. The single largest group are the Germans with 3,600.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a foreign story, start in your own neighborhood.
This posting first appeared in Journalism, Journalists and the World.
Despite all the complaints about how poorly “the media” covered the Wall Street shenanigans that led to the 2008 Great Recession, people still turn to the unfettered and independent media outlets for news about stocks, bonds and the general state of the economy. In fact, the whole system of savings and investment would not work without a free press.
The media — and this includes knowledgable bloggers — provide the public with loads of information about what is going on in the marketplace. They look at government regulations, company news and the overall status of the market.
One of the reasons there is global support for the U.S. stock markets is because there is such a strong tradition of free and unfettered media. (And perhaps, part of the trauma of the 2008 collapse was because how poorly the market was covered at the time.)
In fact, one of the most important part of any successful stock market is a free press that is allowed to dig into company records and government actions. Look at London, Paris, Tokyo and even Hong Kong.
So is it any wonder there are uprisings and complaints about how things are going in the Chinese stock markets?
China Digital Times summarized a series of articles of how people across China are complaining about their losses in Chinese investment instruments.
According to the [Wall Street] Journal, some 1.6 million investors lost a total of at least $24.3 billion to collapsing wealth-management products over the past year. Many say they invested because of the perceived endorsement of government officials and state media, and are now demanding reimbursement from authorities.
Rather than move to make sure people got the best and most accurate information about where and how to invest their money, the Chinese government, instead, has decided to restrict even more information.
A series of leaked media directives published by CDT further illustrates efforts to manage discontent. Trying to steer a course between inciting panic and stoking further exuberance in June, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Film, Radio and Television told broadcasters not to “join the chorus of the bull or bear market. Rationally lead market expectations to prevent inappropriate reports from causing the market to spike or crash. […] Do not conduct in-depth analysis, and do not speculate on or assess the direction of the market. Do not exaggerate panic or sadness. Do not use emotionally charged words such as ‘slump,’ ‘spike,’ or ‘collapse.’”
Additional directives instruct editors to focus on “illustrative examples of steady growth,” while downplaying or holding back on anything negative about the property and stock markets.
Wall Street Journal reporter Laurie Burkitt retweeted one of the best reactions to the Chinese government actions:
In China, “the markets are like K-Y Jelly. They can play a decisive role, but they aren’t the main actor.” – Jim McGregor @AmCham_China
— Laurie Burkitt (@lburkitt) April 15, 2016
And yet, the government continues to see it self as the main actor.
Why does this matter to journalists or even the people in the United States?
A great misunderstanding of how the Chinese markets work led to a global run on markets. And yet, only after the Western markets started falling because of what was happening in China, did people start figuring out the fall was an overreaction.
There is not enough foreign investment in the Chinese market for it to be a major problem. The London consultancy Capital Economics has said foreigners own just 2% of shares. — BBC 1/7/16
The smoke and mirrors situation in China built up by the ruling elite created a situation where otherwise strong Western investment instruments collapsed in just a matter of days. To be true, the collapse of the Chinese stock markets did indicate the Chinese economy was slowing. But again, had there been better reporting in China — that is had the government NOT restricted what reporters can cover — then the news about the slowing Chinese economy would not have come as such a shock.
The anti-free press fixation of the Chinese government is not just morally wrong, but it clearly also has a direct impact on U.S. investors, including a lot of retirement funds.
By the way, this has all happened before.
Back in the early 1990’s — when I lived in Shanghai — the government opened stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The party and government leaders encouraged people to invest. The people, figuring that the government has always taken care of them in the past will guarantee they will be taken care of in the future.
When the market collapsed in early 1992, millions of people lost their life savings. Men and women in their 60s discovered they had to now work many more years and save a lot more of their earnings to prevent starvation in their old age.
At that time the government did not step in to make good the losses. Deng Xiaoping was effectively in charge and forbade any bailouts. (Except for key companies, of course.) He made it clear the people will have to learn about the ups and downs of a marketplace economy with Chinese characteristics. He even allowed for and encourages small private companies to be set up.
The new leadership, however, has seem hell-bent to restore the all-pervasive nature of the Communist Party in Chinese society. They have apparently become nervous about the growing middle class. Seems once people get a taste of economic freedom, they tend to want political and social freedom as well. And that is not allowed.
So the government stepped up it campaign to crush freedom of speech and expression — including reminding the media their job is to represent the party — and stepped up its campaign of the government being mother and father.
The Chinese leadership claims they are concerned with preserving stability and avoiding social unrest. Yet the keep taking steps that lead to more social unrest.
By restricting the media to being only mouthpieces of the government, people will turn to rumors and whispering campaigns for information. And, as anyone who has played the “telephone game” will know, what goes in at the start is not necessarily what comes out the other end.
This was first posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.
When things start going bad the first thing dictators do is limit information about just how bad things are. And China is acting according to the same script.
As the global economic slowdown started to hit China, President Xi Jinping stepped up pressure on the media. Then more cases of corruption started popping up all over the country, including in the upper echelons of the party. To stop people seeing party leaders living well while many are losing their jobs, Xi figured the only thing to do was to prevent the people from seeing or hearing about such things.
The crackdown has been building. In 2013 Xi started clamping down on traditional media as well as online services. In January 2014 he put himself in charge of a new committee to keep an eye on the Internet.
The South China Morning Post reported:
News that Chinese President Xi Jinping will take charge of a new panel overseeing internet security and information technology development has sent a shiver down the spines of Chinese media practitioners and net users.
Many have expressed fears that the launch of such a high-level task force would deal another blow to press freedom which had already been suffering after Xi’s administration tightened controls on the internet in recent months.
Along the way Xi also said it is the responsibility of journalists to follow the Communist Party line and to promote government policies. He also launched a campaign against any dissent by not only going after dissidents in China but also those who have been driven into exile because of their views. The government has also started rounding up family members of Chinese living abroad who have expressed critical views of the government. The event that seemed to cause an increase in the repression was a letter that circulated just as the rubber-stamp People’s Congress started its sessions calling for Xi’s resignation. (China Digital Times has a good summary.)
The latest victim is an editor from Southern Metropolis Daily.
Yu Shaolei posted a resignation note online, saying he could no longer follow the Communist Party line. His message wished those responsible for censoring his social media account well.
Yu posted a photo of his resignation form on his Sina Weibo microblog account Monday evening. It was quickly taken down, but a few resourceful people saved a screen capture of the note.
From the BBC:
Under the “reason for resignation” section, he wrote: “Unable to bear your surname”.
This was a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tour of state media outlets in February, when he said journalists must give absolute loyalty to the Communist Party, and “bear the surname of the Party”.
Instructions to the media and Internet censors have included not only hyping good news about the Chinese economy and leadership, but also what stories not to allow out.
Again, China Digital Times does a great job of keeping track of the censorship directives under their “Ministry of Truth” section. Here are a few examples:
- Don’t Report on “Saudi Arabia Uncovered”
- Don’t Hype Article on Illegal Vaccines
- Control Malicious Commentary on Zuckerberg
All in all, despite China’s efforts to become a major global player, the leadership is still acting like a group of 19th century petty dictators who think they can control all aspects of the lives of the people inside their borders.