Reuters blog archive
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.
China’s press is doubly dysfunctional. On one hand, journalists face heavy-handed strictures on what they can do. China’s foreign ministry rejected a visa application by Reuters for veteran reporter Paul Mooney, without giving a reason, the company said on Nov. 9. Mooney has reported extensively on human rights in China. Other organisations face intense pressure to toe the line. According to the New York Times, editors at Bloomberg - which competes with Thomson Reuters, owner of Reuters Breakingviews - decided against publishing an investigation into links between a wealthy businessman and the families of Chinese leaders amid concerns about how the government would respond.
Corruption is endemic in the domestic media too, which further de-fangs the watchdog. Reporters commonly accept money for turning up at events, and sometimes demand it for writing favourable stories. Hong Kong, which battled corruption in the 1970s, found that success depends on the whole of society accepting that paying or taking bribes is wrong. When guardians of public opinion are on the take too, there is little chance of that philosophy gaining traction.
from Jack Shafer:
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:
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:
(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.
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:
(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:
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:
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:
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.
from Paul Smalera:
Twitter’s announcement this week that it was going to enable country-specific censorship of posts is arousing fury around the Internet. Commentators, activists, protesters and netizens have said it’s “very bad news” and claim to be “#outraged”. Bianca Jagger, for one, asked how to go about boycotting Twitter, on Twitter, according to the New York Times. (Step one might be... well, never mind.) The critics have settled on #TwitterBlackout: all day on Saturday the 28th, they promised to not tweet, as a show of protest and solidarity with those who might be censored.
Here’s the thing: Like Twitter itself, it’s time for the Internet, and its chirping classes, to grow up. Twitter’s policy and its transparency pledge with the censorship watchdog Chilling Effects is the most thoughtful, honest and realistic policy to come out of a technology company in a long time. Even an unsympathetic reading of the new censorship policy bears that out.