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Bloomberg Abandons “Politically Risky Reporting on China”

Protestors in Paris (Pic. courtesy RSF)


Even as French citizens and international press freedom monitor Reporters without Borders (RSF/RWB) mounted protests against visiting Chinese president, Xi Jinping in Paris, US financial news giant Bloomberg decided the “company was abandoning politically risky reporting on China.”

Freedom House reported that Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP speaking in Hong Kong, Thursday, said, “[t]hat the sheer size of the Chinese economy meant that ‘we have to be there.'”

The move follows reporting by Bloomberg journalists in 2012 of massive wealth accumulated by the relatives of then president designate Xi. China retaliated by blocking the site, which was a huge financial loss to Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s biggest source of income is its financial data service, which was now barred from customers in the world’s second largest economy.
Before Thursday’s announcement, Bloomberg unexpectedly pulled out an investigation in late 2013 on Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, and Communist Party leaders. Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief reportedly told in a conference call “Bloomberg could be ‘kicked out of China’ if it ran the piece.”
In a hard-hitting critique of Bloomberg’s course of action Freedom House said, “Elite corruption, the topic that Bloomberg seems to have specifically shied away from, is perhaps the most volatile and important factor of all, affecting company performance, government functions, and social stability. Businesspeople and other readers will want to know if a company must buy influence and protection from officials, navigate a market warped by corruption-driven spending priorities, or weather eruptions of public anger at official graft.”
Meanwhile in the high-visibility protest in Paris on Thursday, five trucks with photomontages of Xi giving the finger were to be driven near the city’s iconic landmarks to emblemise the Chinese president’s contempt for freedom of information in his country.
“The disconnect between the official discourse about the Chinese dream and the ruthless persecution of independent journalists shows the degree to which Xi Jinping is making fun of the world,” RSF’s secretary general, Christophe Deloire said.
“Article 35 of China’s constitution says that its citizens enjoy ‘freedom of speech [and] of the press,’ but more than 100 Chinese citizens – professional journalists and netizens – are currently in prison simply for trying to report the country’s reality,” he said.
However of the five trucks, four were stopped before entering the city, although one passed in front of the Eiffel Tower. Activists on bicycles weaving the smaller versions of the banner were also in the procession, RSF said.  

What Makes Beijing Paranoid?

Paul Mooney (Pic Business Insider)



Veteran reporter Paul Mooney was denied a visa to enter China to work as a journalist by Beijing in November. He was getting ready to cover China as correspondent for Reuters. He was earlier correspondent for The South China Morning Post.
“China has been my career,” Mooney told the New York Times. “I never thought it was going to end this way. I’m sad and disappointed.”

Reuters said Mooney had had “spent three decades covering Asia, the last 18 years based in Beijing, said Saturday in a phone interview.”
  
Business Insider giving reasons for the visa denial said that when asked his views about sensitive issues such as the Dalai Lama, Tibet and Chen Guancheng, “He answered frankly but politely and told them that he didn’t see them as threats to the Chinese government. He told them he thought they were being paranoid.”
In an article to the winter 2014 edition of Nieman Reports, published at Harvard University, Mooney looks at the state of journalism in China 25 years after Tiananmen Square – in other words why the Chinese government is paranoid.
“Hundreds of thousands of websites from around the world are blocked inside China. Major social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn, cannot be accessed, and advanced software is used to search and destroy “sensitive” words on the Internet,” says Mooney.
Please read the article here

Another Assault On Hong Kong’s Media

Banner at a rally for press freedom in Hong Kong (Pic courtesy BBC)


Two senior executives of a media organisation about to launch a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong were attacked in broad daylight on March 19 provoking disturbing questions about press freedom in this semi-autonomous region of China, while memories of the attack on Ming Paoeditor Kevin Lao remained fresh in people’s mind.

A man and a woman identified as Lei Iun-han, director and vice-president, and Lam Kin-ming, news controller of Hong Kong Media Group were attacked by four masked men in Kowloon’s tourist spot of Tsim Sha Tsui with metal bars and suffered injuries to their to their face, arms and legs.
The suspects escaped and the Wall Street Journal said the police had not attributed motive nor had any arrests been made.
The China Post described the newspaper to be launched as “independent.” It quoted pro-democracy lawmaker James To telling reporters “I suspect the attack has something to do with the work they have put into this newspaper. Does someone not want this paper to come out?”
WSJ said “The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned the attack, saying Hong Kong upholds the rule of law and the city won’t tolerate any violent activity.”
The China Post quoted the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong statement: “After the attack on Kevin Lau, who remains in hospital with grave injuries, this latest incident only underscores the deepening shadows being cast over the media landscape in Hong Kong from violence, intimidation and interference by political and commercial interests.”
The attack is the latest in a series that media monitors say is orchestrated by interested parties in mainland China to force Hong Kong’s media to conform to the political interests of parties on the mainland. Hong Kong that was a British colony was transferred to Chinese control in 1997.
In February Kevin Lau, who was forced out of editorship of the Ming Pao a month earlier was assaulted during daylight hours on the streets by two youth riding a motor bike. Police arrested nine persons in connection with the incident and charged two earlier on Wednesday. Police sad they were connected to organised crime, WSJ said.
February also saw two protest demonstrations by people demanding greater media freedom.
“This latest assault further confirms the worsening climate for press freedom in Hong Kong,” said Joel Simon, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) about the most recent incident. “Authorities must launch a swift and thorough inquiry into this attack and bring those responsible to justice.”

Liberals And Conservatives Clash Over Iran’s Internet Control

(Pic courtesy AP)


The conservative hardliners and the more liberal moderates in Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s government are divided over how closed they can keep the internet. The differences are part of a larger issue of balancing the distribution of political power between the liberal and conservative wings of the regime.
Rowhani and his supporters favour selective dismantling of restrictions to the internet and to information in general. The conservatives however believe it will clash with Islamic values.

“We cannot restrict the advance of [such technology] under the pretext of protecting Islamic values,” Ali Jannati, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance was quoted by The Washington Post as observing at a meeting with Iran’s chamber of commerce. The Post said he had described Iran’s post-Revolution attempts at controlling the information, including the internet, as “ridiculous.”
Among the restrictions are government licensing of newspapers, books and film as well as content control. The Post said that moves to issue licences to reporters however had resulted in 400 journalists writing to the government in protest.
The tug-of-war between the conservatives and liberals is also seen in the announcement some weeks ago that Iran was going to set up its own internet which it described as “clean internet” and for which it had enlisted China’s help.
In an article on February 12, in The US News and World Report, Mark Eades said that Iran had announced recently that it had received Chinese help “to implement its closed ‘National Information Network’ or ‘clean Internet.'”    
Praising China for its “four decades of good experiences in the application development services for information technology,” Iran’s head of internet and communication technology Nasarollah Jahangard said. “We hope to use these experiences.”
The words of Jannati and Jahangard delineate the stark difference in outlook between the conservatives and liberals. 

Concern For Lives Of Journalists In Hong Kong

Journalists of Ming Pao at Sunday’s rally (Pic. Reuters)

As thousands of protestors in Hong Kong on Sunday condemned the knife attack on Kevin Lao, believed to be because of his hard-hitting writing on corruption and human rights abuses, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) launched the Chinese version of its ‘Journalists Security Guide.’

“The guide has been available in other languages for more than a year but, frankly, we didn’t see a Chinese version as a priority… The Chinese version has been up for a few days, but now, in the wake of Wednesday’s attack on former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to in Hong Kong, seems a good time to draw attention to it,” writes Bob Dietz, director Asia programme at CPJ.
Reuterssaid that over 13,000 demonstrators had participated in the march which was 8600 strong at its peak. Journalists, wearing black with blue ribbons, had carried a large banner saying, “They can’t kill us all,” while others read “Freedom from fear” and “Protect press freedom.”
Lao was stabbed in his back and legs, Wednesday, by two men riding a motorbike who are yet to be apprehended. It is believed the motive for Lao’s attack, and others on media organisations and journalists recently, is to stifle mounting criticism in the Hong Kong media of the anti-democratic practices of Beijing and Hong Kong SAR.
“We’re not going to bow to the intimidation,” said Shirley Yam, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, one of the organizers of the protest, reported Reuters. “That’s the strong message we want to send whoever it is that the Hong Kong media is going to stand firm and do whatever’s best for press freedom and the right for our citizens to be informed.”
While journalists on Sunday came together to protest repression and the stifling of free speech, CPJ’s ‘Journalists Security Guide’ deals with more immediate concerns of journalists protecting themselves while doing their job.
“There are several sections of the guide that deal with being aware of one’s surroundings, varying one’s routes (Lau was apparently attacked outside his regular morning restaurant stop), and responding to threats – though there have been no reports of threats directed toward Lau. There is also a valuable section on information security, and for Hong Kong journalists working under ever-closer scrutiny, it is a useful resource,” says Dietz.
Click for Journalists Security Guide in English hereand in Chinese here