(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of the press

Special “The Irony of It All” Edition…

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Yesterday, in the midst of a wholesale effort to squelch Wiikileaks (e.g., here), The U.S. government announced that it will be hosting World Press Freedom Day in 2011.

Meantime, one can perfectly easily use a Mastercard (or Paypal or Visa) to buy counterfeit products, download porn, purchase guns… but not to donate to Wikileaks…

“Jonathan Swift!  Calling Dr. Jonathan Swift!…”

Ignorance is strength…

From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

- George Orwell, 1984

China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO), an arm of the Central Propaganda Department, operates an “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all web sites that publish news, both the official sites of news organizations and independents.

This Internet Affairs Bureau sends very specific instructions to all large news web sites,  often multiple times per day. Sometimes these instructions ban contents outright, but often they instruct web sites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information– in a very detailed manner.  Consider these directives (issued March 23, 2010; translated by the China Digital Times):

(The link to “China’s princelings” goes here.)

On the subject of Google’s exit from China (well, to Hong Kong; excellent background piece from PRI’s The World here), the Bureau had very specific instructions (again, translated by the CDT):

But technology marches on…  these government directives are meant to be confidential.  But while they are not showing up on web sites per se in China, some of their recipients– the web editors at whom they are aimed– are using Twitter, Sinaweibo (Sina’s popular micro-blogging service), and other social media to slip them into cyberspace.  To wit, the CDT coverage.

It should come as no surprise then that the SCIO is expanding:  an “Internet Affairs Bureau 2″ is being established to control social media and other Web 2.0 services driven by user-generated content.  (More background on Chinese “management of web content” here.)

As we remark that a vigorous independent media is the infrastructure of democracy, and that it is an issue of some valence not just in China, but essentially everywhere in the world,* we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a German referendum ratified Deutschland’s armed occupation of the Rhineland earlier that month, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  Hitler acted when he did for a variety of reasons, main among them that France, the most directly-affected/threatened other nation, was in internal political and financial disarray, and that Germany was in the midst of an economic crisis of its own, from which the Fuhrer needed a foreign policy distraction…  the Chancellor’s timing was good: France’s response was limited to a strongly-worded condemnation, and 99% of the votes cast in the German referendum (44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters), were in support.

Fuhrer and Chancellor

* For peeks at two very different examples of action that can matter, check out The Censorship Research Center and The Media Development Loan Fund

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