CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Bob Dietz

Bob Dietz, coordinator of CPJ’s Asia Program, has reported across the continent for news outlets such as CNN and Asiaweek. He has led numerous CPJ missions, including ones to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Follow him on Twitter @cpjasia and Facebook @ CPJ Asia Desk.

In Pakistan, reporting on the military intelligence services or insurgent groups or machinations within political parties is the normal grist for the media mill. A lot of the coverage relies on reporters with inside sources. The sources use the media as a battleground for their infighting, relying on sympathetic reporters to put forward their positions. It keeps the wildly popular TV talk show hosts occupied and tends to fill the inside pages of newspapers, if not always the front pages. It's not a problem unique to Pakistan, but the country's media have taken it to a very high level.

Prominent dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, shown here in a Hanoi court in 2011, has been released and allowed to leave Vietnam, but most journalists do not have his connections. (Reuters/Thong Nhat/Vietnam News Agency)

Dinh Dang Dinh, a former Vietnamese schoolteacher and blogger, died on April 3 from cancer of the stomach. Near death, he had been released from his six-year prison sentence on March 21, and allowed to return home to die in Dak Nong province in Vietnam's Central Highlands. His crime, to which he had pled not guilty, had been to blog about corruption and environmental issues.  He was found guilty under Article 88-1 (c) of the Criminal Code for "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam." 

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to form a commission on journalist safety. But there are steps that could be taken more quickly. (Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte)

On March 28, gunmen sprayed the car of TV anchor and widely-respected analyst Raza Rumi, a member of the Express Group of media organizations. He escaped serious injury, but his driver, Mustafa, died. It was the fourth attack on the Express Group in eight months, with four people dead. There has been no serious police investigation into the events which took place in Karachi, Peshawar, and now Lahore, where Rumi's car was "bathed in bullets on one of city's main arteries," as The Express Tribune put it in an editorial on Sunday. 

Journalists from Ming Pao hold up front pages of the paper to protest an attack on their former chief editor, Kevin Lau Chun-to. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

CPJ's Journalist Security Guide is now available in Chinese (PDF). 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. Last year, after a university professor in China asked if he could translate some sections for his class, we began working on a Chinese version in simplified characters. We felt it was our responsibility to take care of the task ourselves. 

Chinese policemen manhandle a foreign photographer outside the trial of Xu Zhiyong, founder of the New Citizens movement, in Beijing on January 26. (AP/Andy Wong)

Since CPJ blogged on Monday that tougher tactics are emerging in China toward local and foreign media--and the situation looks to get worse--a few more developments have arisen.

Late in 2013, Time's Hannah Beech posted a great blog on the magazine's website around the time that about 24 foreign journalists were worried that the visas allowing them to work in China might not be approved: "Foreign Correspondents in China Do Not Censor Themselves to Get Visas," she told readers. She's right, of course, and some more proof that they won't dial back their coverage arose last week. 

Everyone agreed at the panel discussion I took part in yesterday in Washington that the fate of about two dozen journalists working for The New York Times and Bloomberg News in China is unresolved. No one knows what will happen by the ostensible deadline of midnight, December 31, 2013, for their expulsion. I say ostensible, because maybe the deadline can be extended under some arcane rule known only to China's immigration officials. For now, those journalists are dangling in what has come to be called "visa purgatory," a term attributed to me but which really came from one of those journalists in purgatory, that is to say, waiting in Beijing for his visa to be renewed, with whom I spoke recently.

To the group of developed democracies, such as Britain and the United States, each with increasingly restrictive attitudes toward press freedom, add Japan, which appears to be on the brink of passing a new state secrets protection law. If passed by the upper house of the Diet today, it would broaden the criteria the government uses to determine which information will be secret. Jake Adelstein, a Tokyo-based reporter who has blogged several times for CPJ, calls it "an ominous new bill" which would "give the government expanded powers to classify nearly anything as a secret and intimidate the press into silence."

I've known Paul Mooney since we worked together at Time Warner's Hong Kong-based magazine Asiaweek, which closed in December 2001. After that we'd overlapped in Beijing for several stints. A lot has been written about China's refusal to give him a visa to let him go back to Beijing to work as a features writer for Reuters --- a dream job for a reporter with as many clips as he has built up over the years. He's been quoted widely about what happened, but I haven't seen his full account anywhere else. So here is an email exchange with him from today (I've dropped a reference to some foreign journalists Mooney named who are also having visa problems and most likely wouldn't want to be mentioned):

With two weeks to go until the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the government's anti-media policies remain a pressing topic. There are two links below to statements by media support groups today relating to the government's wrongful and heavy handed response to a media workshop held in Colombo this week.

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