China increasing Internet censorship: AP report

An Associated Press story takes a look at increased surveillance and censorship in China in the lead-up to the Communist Party Congress next week. “”For China’s 162 million web users, surfing the Internet can be like
running an obstacle course with blocked websites, partial search
results, and posts disappearing at every turn,” said the story by reporter Alexa Olesen. The piece also looks briefly at how one blogger, who is also a lawyer, is suing his Internet Service Provider over censorship. An excerpt:

In the lead-up to the sensitive Communist Party Congress, which convenes Monday to approve top leaders who will serve under President Hu Jintao through 2012, authorities have been casting an even wider net than usual in their search for web content they deem to be politically threatening or potentially destabilizing.

“What you see now is unprecedented,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. “They are forcing most of the interactive sites to simply close down and have unplugged Internet data centres. These are things they haven’t done before.”

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U.S. has detained AP Pulitzer winning photog for 18 months

American authorities have now detained Iraqi news photographer Bilal Hussein, who worked for the Associated Press and is a Pulitzer Prize winner, for 18 months.

The AP’s web site today has a special feature on Hussein, which includes a long list of links with comprehensive information:

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein since April 12, 2006, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing. “We want the rule of law to prevail,” says AP President and CEO Tom Curley. “He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable.” Military officials say that Hussein was being held for “imperative reasons of security” under United Nations resolutions. A Pentagon spokesman reiterated that stance Sept. 18. Hussein is a 35-year-old Iraqi citizen and a native of Fallujah. AP executives said an internal review of his work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system. Hussein began working for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained.

Bilal Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide — 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom. In Hussein’s case, Curley and other AP executives say, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him. 

 Reporters Without Borders is outraged. And the Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on the U.S. to release him.
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China’s Big Brother techniques

Reporters Without Borders and “Chinese Human Rights Defenders” says their new joint study “reveals how that country’s government censors the Internet and how the Internet Information Administrative Bureau controls the leading news websites.”

Reporters Without Borders calls China the world’s biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissident. Reporters Without Borders also has a petition, announced in 2001, to boycott the 2008 games in Beijing.)

Also this week, Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists gave a speech in which he called on the Chinese government to release the 29 journalists now imprisoned in China and to begin dismantling the country’s vast censorship system. Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, urged China and the International Olympic Committee to meet the free-press promises made when the 2008 Games were awarded to Beijing. The Games are less than a year away. Here’s a link to the speech, before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Media concentration: the Irvings versus an upstart

Irving family companies control most of the media in New Brunswick. Now, they’re in court trying to stop an upstart from setting up a competing newspaper. CBC has a story about the case, and the Irving company’s complaint that a former publisher is using confidential information obtained while he worked for them to go into business. Excerpts:
A former newspaper executive with Brunswick News Inc. in western New Brunswick says the company is trying to prevent him from starting a competing title in Woodstock.

In court documents obtained by CBC News, Brunswick News alleges William Kenneth Langdon is using confidential information he obtained as one of their publishers to establish his own newspaper in direct competition with the Woodstock Bugle-Observer.

Langdon resigned on Sept. 19 after working as publisher of the Bugle-Observer for four years. He worked for Brunswick News, which is owned by J.D. Irving Ltd., for 10 years.    
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Rejigging the news for the Web

Today’s New York Times has a piece about how American broadcaster ABC is reshaping its news cast for the Internet. There are some differences, and some innovations. Excerpts:

Executives at the broadcast networks know they have opportunities online that they do not have on television — namely, to take chances by testing new forms of news delivery and new types of storytelling. They are also mindful that making their content relevant online is a good way to attract the younger audiences who are less likely to tune in to the evening news on television.

But ABC is the only major broadcast network that is using the staff of its evening newscast to produce a separate and distinct daily program for a Web audience. The 15-minute Webcast often features (Charles) Gibson in the anchor chair, but the similarities end there: the segments can run long, and they purposely look raw and personal, as if they were made for MTV rather than ABC.

Over the course of 20 months, the Webcast has evolved from a basic distillation of the day’s news into an original program that incorporates video blogs, first-person essays and interviews. It covers many of the same stories as its television sibling, but often in a different way: in one example, the day after President Bush announced gradual troop cuts in Iraq, Mr. Gibson was shown debriefing the network’s chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz, in the Webcast for a full 3 minutes and 20 seconds — an eternity on a half-hour television newscast.

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Screams of panic: the revolution in journalism

 “The screams from newsrooms are those of panic,” Jim Lehrer, the well known American public television anchor, told a group of university students at Northwestern. Journalism is going through an “unpleasant” revolution, he said — but argued that the demise of mainstream media may be exaggerated.

Lehrer is a guy usually worth listening to, imo.

Hat tip to Press Notes from the Society of Professional Journalists

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Protest against European photo censorship

From today’s pres release about the “Perpignan Call,” a petition to oppose privacy rights that amounts to censorship of photojournalism in Europe.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, today announced its support to the “Perpignan Call,” a petition in favor of the right to information through pictures and the right to publish news photographs.

The petition was jointly launched by the International Festival of Photojournalism ‘Visa pour l’Image’ and by the French weekly magazine Paris Match, following a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights in the Erignac case. The Strasbourg-based court ruled that the right to show and publish the photograph of an attack, even when it is a political event, must receive prior authorization from the relatives of the victim(s) to respect their right to grieve.

“This ruling goes against the principle of press freedom and deprives the European public of its right to be informed,” said Arne König, EFJ chair.

Claude Erignac, the highest official representative of the French State in Corsica, was assassinated in the street in 1998 for political reasons. This event had a considerable impact on public opinion and people in Corsica demonstrated for the first time ever to demand that law and order be restored. Shortly after the assassination, Paris Match published a picture of Erignac’s body lying in the street after he was shot in the back. Erignac’s family brought the magazine to court for publishing the photograph, claiming it was an intrusion on their right to privacy.

“Photographs such as the one of Mr. Erignac may cause distress but they have news value,” König said. “They stand witness to the attacks suffered by our own democracies in Europe and they often prove to be a crucial way to bring European citizens’ attention to forgotten conflicts in another part of the world.”

The “Perpignan Call” says the right to take and publish news photographs in Europe is of great importance.

Here’s the website (in French) of Perpignan’s International Festival of Photojournalism which includes a link to sign the petition.

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Newspapers holding their own, says report

There’s cause for optimism among print journalists in a new report from the Canadian Newspaper Association:
        TORONTO, Sept. 19 /CNW Telbec/ – Newspapers are continuing to hold their own in Canada’s increasingly fragmented media environment, Anne Kothawala, President and CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association said today in a statement responding to the release by NADbank (Newspaper Audience Data Bank) of readership data in four Canadian markets.
        “The data confirms that newspaper readers continue to find value in the pages of Canada’s daily newspapers, whether in print or online,” Ms. Kothawala said.
        “The story the numbers don’t tell, but that needs to be underscored, is who our readers are, and how are they reading the newspaper,” she continued.
        “Newspaper readers are an important demographic group with higher levels of disposable income. They crave information, whether editorial, news, or advertising. They talk about what they read and see, and influence their friends and family. In assessing the continuing vitality of newspapers, we must also measure the quality of our readership and their level of
engagement,” she said.
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Engaging writing

One way I judge “good” print journalism is whether a story grabs me, sucks me in and holds my attention until the very last word, no matter my underlying interest in the subject. It helps if the story includes storytelling phrases that delight while delivering solid reporting. A great example of such writing is this Canadian Press story by Dean Bennett, about a public opinion survey. The poll assessed shared values among Canada’s four western provinces — potentially eye-glazing stuff. Bennett, however, wrote the piece around interviews with comedians. He included such lines as, “a frustrating exercise in Silly Putty stretchability” and “like making a fist in a bowl of oatmeal.” And he had some comedy fun himself, ending the story with: “How many Torontonians does it take to change a light bulb?” And no, I’m not going to spoil it — you have to read the piece yourself for the punch line.
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Neo-conservative Standard closing

The ideological Western Standard magazine will stop printing after three years and 82 publications, and remain an online entity only, says founder Ezra Levant according to reports.

“It’s not that we’re an important part of independent journalism, sometimes we’re the only independent journalistic voice,” Levant told CanWest. “Sometimes we were the only people who had an impact because we were the only ones who were independent enough to do it.” (I suspect those at the Tyee, Straight Goods, local weeklies and publicly-owned and mainstream outlets like the Georgia Straight would disagree.)

One thing the Standard did do independently, and nearly alone in the Canadian media landscape, was to re-print the so called “Mohammed” cartoons that originated in Europe and caused a worldwide kerfuffle.

There’s only one thing that I really want to know: will the cruises for conservatives continue? The website says only that the 2008 cruise is postponed.

October 5, 2007: More from Levant in the Western Standard blog.
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