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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

BBC Crew Forcibly Prevented From Speaking To Sri Lanka President

BBC’s James Robbins prevented from speaking to Rajapakse (Pic.BBC)

Freedom of the foreign media to cover events in Sri Lanka reached a new low on Wednesday. A BBC camera crew was physically restrainedby security personnel to prevent them getting close to the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapakse, to ask him questions. The incident occurred at an event associated with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which Sri Lanka is hosting between November 15 and 17. 

Heightened security appears to follow an incidenton Tuesday, when a journalist of UK’s Channel Four television asked Rajapakse a question as the latter was getting into his car after opening the Commonwealth Business Forum. Media culture in Sri Lanka discourages reporters questioning officials and politicians except at press conferences or with an appointment.
The occurrence reflects the growing culture of intolerance of criticism and impunity in Sri Lanka. The country is ranked 163rd among 179 countries in the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index with journalists killed, made to disappear, imprisoned and forced to flee overseas.
“Critical or opposition journalists continue to face intense intimidation in Sri Lanka. Our research shows that at least 26 journalists have gone into exilein the past five years, which is one of the highest rates in the world. And while work-related murders have declined since 2009, the slayings of nine journalists have gone unpunished over the past decade, which is one of the worst records of impunity in the world,” wrote Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urging Commonwealth leaders to press Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapakse, to unshackle the media.
Meanwhile, on November 13, Channel Four journalists who were on their way to northern Sri Lanka where much of the fighting took place in 30-year civil war that ended in May 2009 were not allowed to enter the area to film. The train in which they were travelling was blocked by pro-government protestors.
“Hundreds surrounded the train and some boarded it, a witness said, adding that police made no attempt to clear the crowd. The Channel 4 television news team, which has previously reported on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, had to return to the capital Colombo…,” said Reutersquoting Channel Four and the local police.
Channel Four is particularly shunned by the Sri Lanka government for three documentaries it made on the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war known as ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ that show civilians caught up in savage combat between government troops and rebel LTTE fighters. Political and military leaders of the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE hierarchy are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The spotlight on Sri Lanka from CHOGM has also shone on Sri Lanka’s long history of suppressing media freedom. Among the victims is Prageeth Ekneligoda, a columnist and cartoonist who disappeared on the eve of the presidential election on January 26, 2010.
Prageeth’s wife Sandaya in a piece to The Independent UK wrote, “In Sri Lanka there is almost no independent media. What are journalists there allowed to write about? Peaceful elections, new initiatives to keep the streets clean, how well the government is doing and CHOGM.  When CHOGM comes to Sri Lanka there will only be positive stories for the visitors to read. Positive stories, smiling billboards and hidden secrets.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will raise human rights and media freedomissues with host Rajapakse. However Sri Lanka’s Media and Information Minister Kehiliya Rambukwella angrily dismissed the suggestion.
“The invitation to Prime Minister David Cameron was not based on that (raising human rights concerns).We are a sovereign nation. You think someone can just make a demand from Sri Lanka? We are not a colony. We are an independent state,” Rambukwella told the BBC.
However Cameron has said he would insist on taking up the issues with Rajapakse.
CHOGM that Colombo hoped would help its leaders consolidate their badly-eroding legitimacy at home has turned out to be PR nightmare both within Sri Lanka and overseas.

China Represses Media at Home and Manipulates it Overseas

Tibetan Activist protesting in Front of the UN, Geneva (Pic Reuters)

Western governments, Tuesday, criticised China at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the suppressing freedom of information and speech, including those of netizens, and the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities. Meanwhile, on the same day a Washington think-tank released two reports on China’s bid improve its international profile by manipulating and coercing institutions and individuals overseas.    

Speaking during the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, during China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labour said, “We’re concerned that Chinasuppresses freedoms of assembly, association, religion and expression…, harasses, detains and punishes activists…, targets rights defenders’ family members and friends and implements policies that undermine the human rights of ethnic minorities,” reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, protesting the crackdown on Tibet, Tibetan activists in Geneva displayed on top of a building a banner that read, “China fails human rights in Tibet – U.N. stand up for Tibet.”
Among the victims of the Chinese authorities’ cracked down in recent weeks are three Tibetan writers detained for “political activities aimed at destroying social stability and dividing the Chinese homeland.” These writers were sources of information to the outside world on what was happening within Tibet, which is subjected to surveillance and harsh travel restrictions – especially for foreign non-Chinese.
“Instead of trying to turn Tibet into an information black hole, the Chinese authorities must put an immediate stop to these arbitrary arrests and release those detained without delay. We urge the international community to forcefully condemn their detention,” the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said.
RSF released the names and brief description of the three detainees: Kalsang Choedhar, a monk from Palyul monastery, arrested in eastern Tibet, on October 12 for circulating information about a two-week-old crackdown by the Chinese authorities in Driru county; Tsultrim Gyaltsen (27), a Tibetan writer and former monk, who has written two books about Tibet and used to edit a Tibetan-language magazine called The New Generation,arrested in Driru province on October 11; Yulgal (25), a former Security Bureau officer who resigned because of the “political” nature of his work, arrested on October 12.
In another recent incident, this time in Guangzhou, Chinese authorities charged Liu Hu, an investigative journalist working for the daily Xin Kuai Bao with defamation on September 30. Hu was arrested on August 24, for posting on his Sina Weibo account about Ma Zhengqi, a senior official of the Chinese bureaucracy and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of negligence of duty and implication in corruption.
“We condemn the way investigative reporters are being hounded, seen again in this decision to charge Liu. This is being done to deter journalists and netizens from investigating embezzlement and other illegal practices by officials protected by the party. We call for Liu’s immediate release,” said RSF.
While this onslaught against the independent media goes on in China with its repercussions in the UNHRC, the Centre for Media Assistance (CIMA), a part of the Washington DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) launched two studies on Tuesday that examine the working of the Chinese media overseas. They are, ‘CCTV’s International Expansion: China’s Grand Strategy for Media‘ by Ann Nelson, who teaches at New York’s Columbia University’s International and Public Affairs and ‘The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How the Communist Party’s Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World‘ by Sarah Cook, senior research analyst at Freedom House, also in New York.
 â€˜CCTV’s International Expansion: China’s Grand Strategy for Media,’ makes the case that “On one hand, CCTV (China Central Television) produces sophisticated long form reports on complex international issues such as climate change; at the same time, its reporting on the Chinese Communist Party echoes the party line.
“In an era when Voice of America and BBC World Service budgets are battered by funding cutbacks and partisan politics, China is playing the long game. CCTV’s content is defined by the same ideological directives and limitations that govern the country’s university debates, feature films, and microblogs. The limitations have been exercised for decades; what’s new is their implication for global media markets.”
‘The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How the Communist Party’s Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World’ points out that “In many cases, Chinese officials directly impede independent reporting by media based abroad … (But) the interviews and incidents analyzed in this study suggest a systematic effort to signal to commercial partners and media owners that their operations in China and access to Chinese citizens will be jeopardized if they assist, do business with, or refrain from censoring voices the CCP has designated as politically undesirable.”

Bradley Manning, Eskinder Nega Victims Of Moral Wilderness Of Their Times

Pfc. Bradley Manning

 Private Bradley Manning, 25, was sentenced today. Thirty-five years in jail. The 1,182 days he has spent in confinement from the time of his arrest will be reduced from his sentence, and 112 more days for abusive behaviour by his tormentors at Quantico. Under the law he will have to spend at least eight years and credited with good behaviour in prison before parole.
Manning was sentenced Wednesday, August 21, by military judge for multiple offences, including under the Espionage Act, for leaking over 700,000 US government documents to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks. Among the material that came to light was a video of a US military operation in Iraq where an Apache helicopter attack killed civilians including two Reuters journalists.
For someone who faced 90 years behind bars, 35 may be seen almost a relief. And that seemed the tone of Manning’s lawyer David Coombs. “Coombs told a group of supporters gathered outside Manning’s courtroom on Friday that the conditions at Fort Leavenworth [where Manning will be incarcerated] ‘did not look anything like Quantico,’ where Manning spent months in solitary confinement and was forced at times to strip down naked at night,” the HuffingtonPost reported.
Although a relief in some ways there are a couple of issues that need to be seen in the right perspective here.
First is that Manning’s treatment at Quantico was pronounced by Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, “as at the minimum cruel, inhuman ad degrading treatment… If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture.”
Second, although Fort Leavenworth does “not look anything like Quantico” he is being punished for publicising classified documents that brought to light serious wrongdoing by the US Government. In a statement Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said, “Following the targeting of Edward Snowden, the disproportionate sentence for Manning hits hard at whistleblowers and shows how vulnerable they are … The Army is sending a clear message to them and to all journalists who dare to report whistleblowers’ disclosures: the United States will strike back severely at anyone who uncovers information of public interest concerning the exercise of official powers.”

Eskinder Nega

Third is the agony of imprisonment. Another whistleblower, the imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, gives a powerful account of it in a letter smuggled out of jail. Pen America notes that Nega was arrested under the country’s wide anti-terrorism laws in September 2011 for questioning the Ethiopian government for holding journalists under the same legislation. A week before, he had published a critical account of the arrest of another government critic Debebe Eshetu also on terrorism charges. Nega was detained at least six times before. His wife Serkalem Fasil, who was also imprisoned in 2005, gave birth to their child in jail.
Sentenced for 18 years and after he lost his appeal, in a letterhe wrote titled ‘I Shall Persevere’ he said: “The government has been able to lie in a court of law effortlessly as a function of the moral paucity of our politics. All the great crimes of history, lest we forget, have their genesis in the moral wilderness of their times. The mundane details of the case offer nothing substantive but what Christopher Hitchens once described as ‘a vortex of irrationality and nastiness.'”
Manning at Fort Leavenworth might be more comfortable than Nega who says he sleeps in the “company of lice.” But nothing can take away the fact that both are victims of the “moral wilderness of their times.”  

Egyptian Military’s Attack Leaves Two Journalists Dead

While two journalists were shot dead and at least as many injured when the Egyptian military stormed pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo, Wednesday, an incident last week, resulted in Muslim Brotherhood supporters detaining and assaulting two reporters.
BBC reported that Mick Deane (61), a cameraman working for Sky News was killed while covering the military storming the sit-in protest by supporters of ousted Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, near Rabaa al-Adawiya. Meanwhile Gulf News confirmed that Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz (26), a journalist with its sister publication Xpress was also killed. Abd Elaziz was not official duty. Both were shot dead.  
In other reports of violence, the Huffington Post carried the tweet of Mike Giglio of the Daily Beast, who tweeted, “I’m fine and thanks to all for the concern. Was arrested, beaten by security forces at Rabaa and then held at a local arena. Just out now.”  Huffington Post also reports a tweet from freelance journalist Haleem Elsharani that a Reuters journalist was wounded in the attack: “Reuters photojournalist Asmaa Waguih is being moved to the international medical center after she was shot in the leg.”
BBC said, “Sky’s foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall described Deane as ‘a friend, brave as a lion but what a heart… what a human being … He died doing what he’d been doing so brilliantly for decades.'”
In a separate story BBC commented that reports by Egypt’s media on the attacks was polarised depending on whether they backed the deposed president, or the military that overthrew him. “State-run media and some private TV stations are fiercely anti-Morsi, stressing that his supporters were armed and have caused casualties among the police. Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated stations, on the other hand, reserve their ire for the army that deposed the president. They highlight deaths among the protesters, showing gruesome pictures of the dead and wounded.”
This does not mean Morsi’s supporters are cleaner. An August 12 statement by Reporters without Borders (RSF) highlights the experience of two reporters seized and beaten up by supporters of Morsi while covering a march to Nahda Square on August 9. RSF said that Mohamed Momtaz of the newspaper Veto had his camera seized and assaulted repeatedly. He was then dragged to a vehicle, forced to undress and interrogated as a spy. Aya Hassan of Youm 7, who was photographing the incident, was also dragged away, blindfolded and assaulted while under interrogation. “During interrogation, she was ordered to admit political affiliation and to provide the names of people she knew in the interior ministry, the armed forces and in the opposition to Morsi,” RSF said.
Hassan’s account posted on YouTube of the assault as transcribed by RSF: “‘One of the men dragged me by my hair along the ground into an adjacent tent,” she said. “He kicked me in the face until my nose began to bleed. He then gave me a piece of cloth covered in blood, and warned me that I was going to suffer the same fate as the person who had been punished in this place before me.’The Union of Journalists said he was apparently referring to Momtaz.”
The RSF statement also gives another instance of pro-Muslim Brotherhood activists disrupting the work of a journalist. Ironically she worked for Sky News. “On 8 August, for example, Muslim Brotherhood supporters interrupted Sky News correspondent Rufyada Yassin while she was covering a demonstration live,” RSF said.

The Egyptian government has declared an emergency for one month following the violence in Cairo and elsewhere. Media freedom, if anything, will continue to be in great peril.