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Asia

2012

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Tom Heinemann with his wife and camerawoman, Lotte la Cour (Paul Gomes)

In 2005, we deliberately violated the immigration laws of India. We broke the law by producing a documentary film even though we had entered the country on a tourist visa. We broke the law because we wanted to show that Scandinavian companies were in violation of many other laws in India.

Tibetan monks lead a prayer vigil outside the Chinese Embassy in London Wednesday. (AFP/Justin Tallis)

China's investment in high-tech Internet surveillance technology is well known, and the byzantine rules of its Central Propaganda Department have inspired books and academic treatises.

But among the many tools in the box for media control, there's one that's very simple and low-tech: Keep journalists away.

Wang Lijun, until recently a deputy mayor and police chief, has been put on a medical "vacation." (Reuters)

The website of Xinhua News, China's state media flagship, leads today with EU's threats of sanctions against Syria. Elsewhere on their Chinese-language site, one can read about Wen Jiabao's remarks to the visiting Canadian prime minister, or look at photos of pretty white ladies lounging around, if that's your style. 

We have been posting a lot about the challenges facing the Internet in India recently--see Mannika Chopra's "India struggles to cope with growing Internet penetration." On Tuesday, Angela Saini, a guest blogger on The Guardian's Comment Is Free site, posted "Internet censorship could damage India's democracy," with the subhead "Google and Facebook have been asked to remove offensive content, but it's not just out of a fear of stoking religious hatred." Saini makes the point that the official resistance to the increasing penetration of the Internet goes beyond fears of religious or ethnic violence:

Pakistani journalists protest the killing of Mukarram Khan Aatif in Peshawar. (AP/Mohammad Sajjad)

CPJ award winner Mazhar Abbas penned a strong Sunday op-ed piece, "Death is the only news--Challenges of working in conflict zones," for The News. It's about conditions for journalists working in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan. As Abbas says, "The killing of one journalist is a message for another." He goes on to describe the situation in FATA:

Can selective blocking pre-empt wider censorship?

A screen shot showing part of a Twitter blog post in which the company announced it could now censor messages on a country-by-country basis. (AP/Twitter)

Last week, Twitter provoked a fierce debate online when it announced a new capability--and related policy--to hide tweets on a country-specific basis. By building this feature into its website's basic code, Twitter said it hoped to offer a more tailored response to legal demands to remove tweets globally. The company will inform users if any tweet they see has been obscured, and provide a record of all demands to remove content with the U.S.-based site chillingeffects.org.

Rebecca MacKinnon, shown here in Tunisia last year, asserts in a new book that citizens and governments must decide the power of the Internet. (AFP/Fethi Belaid)

The Internet doesn't bring freedom. Not automatically, anyway.

That's one of the main messages of Rebecca MacKinnon's new book, Consent of the Networked, which had its New York launch at the offices of the New America Foundation last night. In a conversation with CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, MacKinnon, a CPJ board member, said it's up to concerned citizens, governments, and corporations to make decisions about how the Internet is used. She contrasted the Twitter-powered revolt in Egypt last year with the "networked authoritarianism" of China, where corporations are collaborators in a system designed to preserve Communist Party rule.

Visitors wait for Salman Rushdie's video conference at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which was called off after Muslim groups protested. (AP/Manish Swarup)

Because of criticism from Hindu fundamentalists, the showing of a documentary by filmmaker Sanjay Kak at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune has been indefinitely postponed. The conservative student organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parisha protested Kak's film, "Jashn-e-Azadi" (How we celebrate freedom), which is critical of the Indian army's role in Kashmir. In fact, the whole conference, scheduled to start Friday, has been postponed, according to the investigative magazine Tehelka and the BBC.

The sky over Beijing, as it turns out, isn't quite as blue as the government long claimed. (Reuters/David Gray)

In China, state control over the media hasn't become more lax in recent years. Each year brings a new excuse for Communist Party censors to tighten the screws. The year of the rabbit brought the Arab Spring, and fears of a Jasmine Revolution. The year of the dragon brings a major political transition

The case of a cartoonist charged with treason and offending India's national sentiments reflects a growing debate over what constitutes freedom of expression in India. His accusers argue that while it is permissible to make fun of politicians, you cannot make fun of the state. Not everyone agrees.

2012

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