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from Jack Shafer:

Dear Obama, spare us the press-freedom lecturing

Wearing his best straight face, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney lectured China on press freedom yesterday. In a redundant official statement, he accused Beijing of restricting "the ability of journalists to do their work" and "imped[ing] their ability to do their jobs."

If the Chinese cared about public opinion, they would have called a news conference of their own and read aloud from former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.'s comprehensive October report for the Committee to Protect Journalists, which cataloged the Obama administration's hostility toward the press. Downie found that although President Barack Obama promised a more open government, his administration has prosecuted sources under the Espionage Act, imposed delays on and denials of FOIA requests, and closed its doors on reporters, systematically blunting the press. And recent revelations about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency and the secret subpoena of reporters' phone logs and emails have contributed to a climate of fear in some newsrooms.

Carney's jawboning, in which he also called for the unblocking of Western news sites, was precipitated by the slowdown game China's visa offices have been playing with U.S. foreign correspondents. Two New York Times reporters have had to leave the country in the past 13 months because their visa applications went unprocessed, and Bloomberg News's China-based reporters "have also experienced visa delays," the Times reports today. Nearly all observers agree that the slowdowns and denials directed at the Times can be attributed to its aggressive coverage of crony capitalism in China.

But Carney isn't the only member of the Obama administration agitating for freedom of the press in China. The Times also reports that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. "warned" Chinese leaders during his visit there last month that there would be consequences if the country continued its efforts to oust U.S. reporters. What consequences? Congress might get mad about it, Biden told the Chinese, and retaliate somehow.

from Breakingviews:

Doubly dysfunctional press hinders China cleanup

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By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Graft hurts growth; transparency helps. It sounds simple, but in China, the arrest of a domestic journalist for defamation and heavy-handed treatment of foreign news organisations suggest the message isn’t getting through. A free press can’t make corruption go away on its own. Without one, however, the economic benefits of any clean-up will be limited.

from Jack Shafer:

Governments worldwide buried in the Snowden avalanche

If the U.S. and British governments could stop the press from publishing stories based on the National Security Agency files leaked by Edward Snowden in June, they probably would have acted by now. Oh, the Guardian was coerced by the British government into destroying the hard drives in London containing the leaked files, and London police used terrorism law to detain the partner of Glenn Greenwald -- one of the journalists to whom Snowden leaked -- at Heathrow Airport and confiscated computer media believed to contain leaked files.

But these measures were largely for show. As Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger had earlier reminded officials, other publications and individuals possess copies of the files, and "doomsday" copies exist that will be released "if anything happens at all to Edward Snowden," said Greenwald in June. Greenwald wasn't so much blackmailing the U.S. and British governments as promising retaliation, Capone-style, should harm come to his source.

from John Lloyd:

China’s great firewall grows ever higher

This week I was scheduled to attend a seminar on new and social media in China with other British journalists, but first I needed a visa. It never came. Consular officials told me that I was denied entrance because I didn’t have an appropriate letter of invitation -- but others in my party traveled with the same documentation that I provided.

So why couldn’t I visit? I fell back on an explanation that seemed rational: the authorities hadn’t liked my journalism.

from India Insight:

Indian television getting too hot to handle

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Comedy Central was back on Indian television screens on Tuesday, getting what appeared to be a court-ordered reprieve four days after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting banned the network for 10 days for showing content deemed unsuitable for Indian audiences.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Censors are still China’s newsmakers

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

China’s censorship system is in good working order. Despite recent protests and the advent of new media, the country’s propaganda machine is far from broken. As a new book makes clear, the news is made by the state and for the state.

from India Insight:

“Vishwaroopam” touches yet another Indian nerve

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

Actor and filmmaker Kamal Haasan’s film "Vishwaroopam" was supposed to open in cinemas last Friday, but that's not happening in Tamil Nadu after Muslim groups protested against scenes that they consider offensive.

from The Great Debate:

Social media and the new Cold War

There is a new Cold War starting. It does not involve opposing military forces, but it does involve competing ideas about how political life should be organized. The battles are between broadcast media outlets and social-media upstarts, which have very different approaches to news production, ownership and censorship. And some of the biggest battles are in Russia, where the ruling elites that dominate broadcast media are pitted against the civil society groups that flourish through social media.

Whereas broadcast media is most useful for authoritarian governments, social media is now used by citizens to monitor their government. For example, in early 2012, rumors circulated that a young ultranationalist, Alexander Bosykh, was going to be appointed to run a Multinational Youth Policy Commission. A famous picture of Bosykh disciplining a free-speech advocate was dug up and widely circulated among Russian language blogs and news sites, killing his prospects for the job (though not ending his career).

from India Insight:

Cleaning up TV’s dirty pictures

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I was watching a documentary on Greta Garbo on television. The film was in English with English subtitles for people more comfortable following written English than quick spoken English. Every time the word "sex" or something related to it would come up, the subtitles avoided it. "Heterosexual" became "hetero." "Her sexuality" became "her femininity." Dedicated channel surfing revealed similar evasions. In a conversation about breast cancer on an English channel, the station inserted an asterisk to partially mask the word "breast" in the subtitles, even though you could hear it onscreen.

TV stations and networks in India, similar to broadcast TV channels in the United States, remove objectionable content (sex scenes, nudity, some foul language and violence) from movies and other programming (see this recent Reuters story about how it works). This is thanks to the Indian Broadcasting Federation's Broadcasting Content Complaint Council. The idea is to make sure that public airwaves remain friendly enough for the ears of children and sensitive adults, though it can result in unintentional bloopers like the breast cancer example.

from Anthony De Rosa:

Lingering concerns about Twitter’s censorship policy

There's a bit of a debate going about whether Twitter's new censorship policy is reasonable or not. My colleague Paul Smalera wrote one of the better posts leaning toward Twitter's policy having some merits, in the way it makes it easier for those outside censoring countries to see what's being censored. But I also see some flaws with this, which Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin helped me realize. She calls it "a polite step down a slippery slope"

First, the very act of tweets being censored in those countries, even if those outside the country can read them, removes an early warning system for the folks in country to know of incoming danger. Let's say, for example, there is a riot on the march toward the village they live in, or there is police activity by an oppressive regime under which they're force to live headed their way. Twitter's supposedly enlightened method of censorship isn't going to protect them.

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